I want to take a moment to clarify something before I get too far into this. I love clone effects, and I really love this:
This thing is amazingly good, and it’s kind of ridiculous that we are getting it. It is cheap, efficient, and can be almost anything you need it to be. It’s like a repeatable Clever Impersonator that can go in any deck.
Now, to be clear, this is already being touted as an auto-include in every deck, and most of my fellow GDC writers are saying much the same thing in our Slack channel. [EDITOR’S NOTE – Much to the dismay of several of us – Cass]
I, however, am hesitant. Not that I won’t put this in every deck I need to fill a slot in, and not that I don’t want a dozen or more copies of this. Not that I don’t recognise it’s ability to go absolutely bonkers.
In fact, it’s because of all of those things that I hesitate.
Clone effects are great. They allow you to basically get what you need, often for cheaper that the original casting cost, and without filling a slot in your deck for it. They are situational, and can be anything you need at the time that you need it. They are akin to tutors in that regard. Need a creature to stand up to your opponent’s Avenger of Zendikar? Why not your own? Need a Sol Ring? Copy the one your opponent played.
But with this flexibility comes the cause of my hesitation. This effect does nothing for you by itself; without something else in play, clone effects – especially this one – do literally nothing. Now, I get that the chances of a board being empty in an EDH game are slim; with four players, chances are good that somebody has something – but it does happen. I’ve encountered this problem a few times, where I had a Clever Impersonator or a Vesuvan Doppelganger in hand with nothing to target for its ability. Post-Planar Cleansing, a Clone is the worst creature card you could top-deck.
Mirage Mirror is a similar thing. Yes, it copies more than just creatures, and that adds a ton of flexibility. But let’s look at this realistically.
Artifacts are awesome, and we all know this. However, this either comes down before the other artifact, or it comes down after. If it comes down before, it gets killed. Smart players – even kind-of-not-smart players – will kill this with extreme prejudice the moment they see it. So you may get a few activations out of it, but not as many as you would like.
Now, if it comes down after the other artifact, then you’re looking at one of two scenarios; either you’re copying your own artifact, in which case you’re either entering win-more mode, or you’re copying an opponent’s artifact, meaning they get the effect first, and consistently.
This has the same issues as Clone itself. If you drop this and then copy a creature, it costs five and has summoning sickness. And you lose any ‘enters the battlefield’ triggers on the creature, because it entered before it was that creature. If you have it in play for a few turns and then copy a creature, you still lose the ETB triggers, and can likely attack – but again, you’re either in win-more mode by copying your own dude or you’re copying an opponent’s creature that they already got value out of.
This is arguably the best option for this card. Enchantments often have great effects that you want to have. You can copy an opponent’s Privileged Position to ‘counter’ their removal. You can copy a Phyrexian Arena to get some extra card draw during your upkeep. Or you can make it an Aura and slap it onto a creature for a neat effect. Again, though, the target you are copying has to already be in play.
This is neat. Vesuva sees some fringe play, and having the option to have two Cabal Coffers to fuel your crazy black mana dreams is nice. But this costs two mana to activate, and it only lasts until the end of the turn. So you had better be copying something that is very much worth it. If you’re doing this for mana, you limit yourself to a very small list of cards to make it worthwhile. Chances are, you’re targeting utility lands, and that just begs the question – why don’t you just run those lands?
Overall, I like this card. I think it fills a role, and does it very well. I will likely slot this into a lot of decks, and most of the time I will be happy to see it in my hand. But this card also makes me feel bad, because it will always be in the ‘Other’ category of my decklists. It does not further a plan, or shore up a need, or fill a void. It is pure goodstuff, and while there is a good reason to include that sometimes, I like it when the cards I slide into sleeves have a purpose.
There will come a time in a game where the board has been wiped, and we’re all in the exhausted final stages of the game. When I need to topdeck something that will put the table firmly under my thumb, so I can grind out a win. I will go through my untap step, and my upkeep, then look around at the empty boards facing me. I will exhale slowly, mentally running over all of the things I know are left in my library that will make me smile. I will reach out, pluck a card from the top of my deck, and see that it is Mirage Mirror. And I will curse like a sailor, throw my cards down in disgust, and proceed to lose the game.
And that’s my problem with this card, and with all of the cards like it. They won’t pull you out of the fire. In a vacuum, they are dead cards, and I don’t like dead cards. I want every card I draw to be able to do something, even if that is just to increase my available mana.
Now, sometimes, this card will be amazing. It will land, and I will copy things with it, and I will manipulate the stack to get the most out of it, and it will be so hot that my hair will catch fire. Sometimes it will be as terrible as I describe above. Most of the time, however, it will be just another card. It will do some funny things, and it will do some things poorly, but most of the time it will give you a small advantage for a few turns. And then it will die.
In Magical Christmas Land, this will do everything you expect it will do. But we don’t live in Magical Christmas Land. We live in a terrible place where blue mages have access to blue mana, where there are red spells designed solely to blow up your stuff, and where sometimes you only get half of your amazing combo.
This needs other cards, and that is a huge weakness that should not be overlooked. Either you are relying on copying your own cards or you are relying on your opponents to play things worth copying. If you’re looking to copy your own, you already have great cards in play, so you should be good anyway. The other side of that coin is relying on your opponents to do good things, and that brings some obvious risks – mainly that you are letting your opponents do good things. That way lies madness, unless you are super prepared to handle what comes with it. And it also requires your opponents to be playing things that you want. Sure, a Sol Ring is great, but there are other ways to get that on your side of the board. Copying a Maze of Ith is neat, sure, but if you really need that, you should have one in your list already.
Relying on the copy effect is a huge gamble. You are essentially letting your opponents dictate your game. This works with a Judo playstyle, but that is certainly not for everyone, and it is certainly not an exciting way to play. [EDITOR’S NOTE – Hey! >:/ – Cass] It can work, but relying on others is never a good plan. Your deck should play its own way, with its own goals, and use its own cards to do that.
As a result, this card makes me feel bad. I will use it, because it’s too good not to, but that’s kind of why it makes me feel bad to begin with. It’s taking a slot in a deck that could be used to push my agenda, or one that could be on theme, and instead it’s just goodstuff. It’s there because it “has to be”. And I don’t like that.