I like the Sakura-Tribe Elder.
It’s a great utility card. It hangs out, it blocks, it keeps counters off of Jitte (when that’s relevant), and it accelerates you into four mana on turn three, and it does that in one of my favorite ways — it sticks a land into play.
My preference for acceleration is “put more lands into play.” The “put more lands into play” (PMLIP?) option is my favorite because it’s more or less nondestroyable. Naturally, your opponent could be packing land destruction, but if they were going to do that, it was going to happen and inconvenience you anyway. In contrast, acceleration that lives in the body of a creature, artifact, or enchantment can be removed, and often by cards that decks are simply packing as utility items. Especially creatures. As BDM tells us, “I’ve just been conditioned to burn the Bird.”
Coldsnap – Time Spiral – Lorwyn – Shadowmoor – 10th Standard gave us a host of options, including Search for Tomorrow, Into the North, and Wall of Roots which gets a bit of a pass as a creature because a whole lot of cheap removal can’t easily deal five. With Cold Snap and Time Spiral rotating out, we’re also losing those two sorceries (along, it should be noted, with a couple of low-cost acceleration artifacts). Obviously, Alara may bring us acceleration — I do hope it does — but in the meantime, what’s left in 10th and Lorwyn-Shadowmoor?
More in the extended.
Acceleration in 10th
In 10th edition, we have some very good options — as long as we’re happy with creatures, by and large. Let’s take a look.
Birds of Paradise — The classic mana critter, the Birds are a big win in terms of fixing and acceleration, as one extra mana of any color starting on your second turn is no small thing. On the other hand, everything in the world kills them. While “it dies to removal” is a common and fallacious argument in Magic, “it dies to every single thing ever” is a more reasonable complaint. And, again, peoplel are trained to burn the Bird.
Llanowar Elves — Although they only do green, the Elves one-up the Birds by being able to attack, and by being able to wear a Pendelhaven. They’re also Elves, if you’re feeling tribal, but to my mind, the main value is turn two acceleration that can take a poke at the opponent.
Rampant Growth — A poor Into the North, but it does put an extra land into play. Good enough for hitting four mana by turn three, but kind of painful when contrasted with good old STE. But the Snake’s not in the format, so there we go.
Mind Stone — A turn two accelerator that can be cashed in later on for a card, which is actually a nice feature.
Overgrowth — Acceleration that costs three mana. I’m not so excited anymore.
Acceleration in Lorwyn-Shadowmoor
Heritage Druid — The Druid is awfully, awfully specific acceleration, but in the context of Elf-Bomb-style decks, it counts.
Springleaf Drum — At the moment, the Drum primarily finds a home in Extended Springleaf Affinity builds. I don’t know if anything will really make this a decent card in the absence of Affinity, but it’s there.
Blightsoil Druid — Ugh. A “skill tester” — that is, a bad card that might look useful on first examination. Not a real skill tester, though, as it’s pretty overtly bad.
Smokebraider — Highly specialized, but very effective. A double Bird starting on turn three, the Smokebraider allows the hideously effective third-turn-Horde play. I’d be on the lookout for workable Elementals in Alara block.
Bloom Tender — Doesn’t kick in until turn three, and is potentially quite overpriced unless you’re also laying down other permanents. A Bloom Tender standing next to a Horde of Notions is tremendously handy, of course, but Tenders role appears to be less that of acceleration, and more that of gigantic late game mana.
Bannerets — All the Bannerets come in for special mention as acceleration via cost reduction. This imposes particular constraints on your design — limited acceleration bandwidth, as it were.
Devoted Druid — The Druid has the advantage of letting you hit five mana on turn three, which is no small thing. In terms of early acceleration, the Druid is a solid choice.
Fertile Ground — Good acceleration. Increases the tempo cost of having your lands targeted, whether by bounce or by land destruction. Fertile Ground is sort of an “all your eggs in one basket” approach to acceleration, but you can often rely on people not having the appropriate cards to victimize you for this choice.
Leaf Gilder — Not the most exciting, this is a turn-two drop that adds only one mana and never increases, meaning that it’s fundamentally worse than Druid or Tender. Sure, it’s a 2/1, but that just means it’s going to die to a whole pile of removal, and it came to the party a turn late.
Elvish Harbinger — Sort of a giant, expensive Bird, the Harbinger gives you five mana on turn four, which is okay. The “any color” aspect is nice, and the tutoring is potentially handy — albeit not handy enough to see any Harbingers showing up in the recent block constructed season.
Farhaven Elf — A 1/1 body attached to half of Search for Tomorrow or Kodama’s Reach. I tried these early in the block season and they were too slow and too clunky. You’d honestly rather have a two-mana spell that just grabs a land over a three-mana version that tacks on a 1/1.
Scuttlemutt — Not the most exciting card ever. One mana in an artifact creature on turn three is fragile and a little slow. We are, after all, already not playing Harbinger or Farhaven.
Rosheen Meanderer — I keep expecting someone to pop one or two of these into a deck, then just Profane people right out of games. It’s a four mana 4/4 in green that allows that…surprising that it hasn’t seen more play.