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Learn To Be A Spike With Mike: Hostage Taker Sucks

Posted by Mike on October 8, 2017

Hey Spike With Mikers. I decided that from now on, all titles must begin with click bait titles so I hope I have your full attention.

If you’ve been paying attention this past week, you saw this 3 dollar card jump up to 18 dollars in the span of about 24 hours.

Hostage Taker

Hostage Taker 2UB 2/3. When Hostage Taker enters the battlefield, exile another target creature or artifact until Hostage Taker leaves the battlefield. You may cast that card for as long as it remains exiled, and you may spend mana as though it were mana of any type to cast that spell.

This card is a pretty big miss for the MTG community not to get excited about. But I think it was fairly difficult to notice the strength of this card.

Why is Hostage Taker Good?

  1. It has an ETB effect on the battlefield and it takes a creature or artifact off the battlefield. This is a great investment, which puts it on the same level as a slightly better Fairgrounds Warden for 1 more mana. That should have been almost enough on it’s own.
  2. It’s a must answer threat. Thanks to being able to pay mana to steal the card you have imprisoned, you will effectively have made yourself a 3-for-1. You took a card, they have to answer the threat you took, AND they have to deal with the hostage taker.
  3. It’s in the right colors. Blue Black is the color of The Scarab God which is a strong 2 card combo in the same colors. And of the 3 dual land cycles right now, 2 of them are allied colors. So you have your choice of buddy lands, or cycling lands.

So it’s a 4 mana bomb that has an immediate impact, sort of like a Chandra, Torch of Definance. It’s played in 3 of the 5 major decks we saw from last week: Sultai Counters Energy, 4-color Energy, and Esper God Pharoh’s Gift. So it fits into basically most decks at the competitive level.

However.

Is this card really that amazing? When it goes off, it feels godly, but I think what we’re seeing is not pure power.

Why Hostage Taker Is A Pretender To The Throne

1: The format is slower than it should be

The format is SO SLOW. That 4 good-stuff deck doesn’t do much. It plays 2 mana elves. It plays all these 4-5 mana bombs that use energy as a mana sink like Whirler Virtuouso and Bristling Hydra. Look at this Ranumap Red List

Lands (24)
Sunscorched Desert
Scavenger Grounds
Ramunap Ruins
15 Mountain

Instants and Sorceries (10)
Shock
Lightning Strike
Abrade

Planeswalkers (2)
Chandra, Torch of Defiance

Creatures (24)
Kari Zev, Skyship Raider
Hazoret the Fervent
Soul-Scar Mage
Rampaging Ferocidon
Earthshaker Khenra
Ahn-Crop Crasher
Bomat Courier
Sideboard (15)
Magma Spray
Chandra’s Defeat
Sand Strangler
Glorybringer
Aethersphere Harvester
Abrade
Scavenger Grounds
Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Rampaging Ferocidon

This is NOT an Aggro deck. This plays 24 lands! This curve is ridiculous for an aggro deck. What aggro deck plays 4 drops that don’t have true reach (Chandra).

This deck is good, but it’s not a true aggro deck. Ranumap isn’t going to steal games from under the energy deck OR the sultai deck. Fortunately we have a name for a deck like this; an aggro-midrange deck.

Yes, we do not have a true aggro deck in the format right now. If you want to go full aggro, I would cut 2 lands, get rid of chandra, and push in even more 1 drops. Probably play some Rampaging Ferocidon to cap off my curve instead. Check out this black-red aggro list that seems like a good start

Lands (23)
12 Swamp
Mountain
Dragonskull Summit
Canyon Slough
Aether Hub

Instants and Sorceries (9)
Bontu’s Last Reckoning
Fatal Push
Lightning Strike

Creatures (26)
Yahenni, Undying Partisan
Vicious Conquistador
Scrapheap Scrounger
Night Market Lookout
Hazoret the Fervent
Glint-Sleeve Siphoner
Dread Wanderer

Artifacts (2)
Aethersphere Harvester
Sideboard (15)
Bontu’s Last Reckoning
Vraska’s Contempt
Vance’s Blasting Cannons
Unlicensed Disintegration
Gifted Aetherborn
Duress
Doomfall

Yeah this deck is awesome. 4 Night Market Lookouts are a great way to get those last points of damage through, especially when they’re crewing a Harvester. This deck still tops out at Hazoret, but instead of hoping for flood insurance, this deck just goes harder and hopes to hit. This deck runs a Bontu’s Last Reckoning because Yahenni, Undying Partisan can dodge the board wipe and get through that last point of damage. All 8 pieces of removal can handle the Hostage Taker, and if they’re still standing after turn 4, you are certainly making blocks difficult, or closing the game out with Hazoret, which IMO is the best play in the original Ranumap Red Decks anyway.

2: You aren’t playing the right creatures to tackle Hostage Taker

Hostage Taker is amazing against Walking Ballista, who is one of the most popular creatures in midrange decks right now. The walking machine gun is just so flexible, and it makes combat extremely difficult for your opponent. Hostage Taker forces the Ballista to explode, and you’ll almost always lose value against the terrorist.

But what about a card like Regisaur Alpha? You still have another body that the Hostage Taker can’t block, no matter if she takes the token or the card. If she plays it risky, and takes the card itself, you can stand to gain a whole nother dinosaur token by responding correctly.

What about Bloodwater Entity? There’s not a UR tempo right now, but you can get a “free” bolt into Hostage Taker, and when Bloodwater Entity comes back on the battlefield, you can bring the bolt to the top of your deck again.

What about your Noxious Gearhulk? There are so many creatures your opponent doesn’t actually want to take, because their ETB ends up punishing the steal to begin with. We just didn’t see any of those cards last week, but they match up sooooo well that player HAVE to run them into the matchup now, no matter how “less powerful” they are, they’re just more resilient when they get out their hostage situation and back into a normal line of work.

3: Hostage Taker turns your own board wipes into amazing tempo swings

This is kind of a silly interaction, but Hostage Taker turns your board wipes into 1 creature in your favor. Most of the time, people complain about how expensive board wipes mean taking the turn off and not developing the board, so your opponent can still get ahead. Well if they hold your guy hostage, the swindle girl will happily take the fall for her victim. Thanks Hostage Taker! Now we get our best creature back from you. Just for this interaction, I would run 2 sideboard Hour of Devastation going forward.

4: Just don’t play any creatures or artifacts duh

W/U Approach is still a deck that is seeing some play, and thanks to Settle The Wreckage, it’s not getting overrun too much from aggro decks anymore. Just cut all the Torrential Gearhulks out of the deck, and watch how foolish your opponent looks trying to kill you with their 4 mana 2/3

So there are lots of way to get “under” the Taker. Sell your Taker. Enjoy your 18 dollars because there’s no way on earth this card doesn’t come down to the stratosphere. Clever players are going to un-break Hostage Taker any day now.

I hope you enjoyed reading this entry today Spikers! We’re going to be back this Sunday with a Modern Masters 2015 cube sealed event! I have no idea what to expect and I hope to see you there.

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