Category Archives: alara reborn

Kicking Off the Standard Season

Here we go again.

It’s another season here on the PTQC and the grinding begins this weekend at the TCGPlayer 5k in Boston followed by a Sunday Funday PTQ.

Right now, public enemy #1 is UW Tapout; a deck that you can barely damage in the early game and is nigh untouchable in the mid-late game due to the hand sculpting card advantage given to the deck by cantrippers Wall of Omens and Spreading Seas, as well as Divination and Mind Spring, and of course Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Those, along with three-time all-star Oblivion Ring, and hall of famer Wrath of God there just isn’t a whole lot you can do to this deck before they resolve Baneslayer Angel or Sphinx of Jwar Isle.

Since I took this gig, I’ve been pushing Jund hard. Play the best deck I always say, and that deck is Jund. Well, unfortunately, it’s not anymore and I’ve been contemplating dumping my Maelstrom Pulses online for a cool 66 tickets though I’m not abandoning the bandwagon just yet. I am however, probably going to sleeve up UW Tapout this weekend at the 5k, so if you’re at the event and you see a better looking guy than you sitting across the table in a bright orange power9pro tshirt, mulligan appropriately.

That isn’t to say that I haven’t been trying like hell to brew up something spicy for one of these two events, because I have. I wish I had a better head start on things but life sometimes gets in the way and I was left with just a couple weeks to prepare for “The New Standard” as you see it called around the internets.

When Prophetic Prism was spoiled, old-school Open the Vaults / Time Sieve popped into my head because of its ability to replace elsewhere flask. I got the team involved because my brother had top 8′d an Australian PTQ with the deck last year and got to seeing if we could make it work in Standard where UW is what everyone is trying to do. We put a list together, tried some different things, and like I suspected it ran shop against UW Tapout. I was struggling against Jund a bit, but I wasn’t really comfortable with what hands I should’ve been keeping and what hands I should’ve been shipping. I passed it across the table to my buddy Steve and he immediately was feeling the deck. One of his big hangups has been that he really didn’t like any deck and he wanted to hit the 5k with something spicy and off the radar. And while Open the Vaults with Filligree Angel is certainly a deck right now, it’s possible to lose despite climbing to absurd amounts of life. The Tezzerator concoction simply never passes the turn back because of Time Sieve.

Mike Siever is not very spicy, and this is pretty much just a drummed up old list with some prophetic prisms and a couple extra glassdust hulk, but it gets the job done. We found that the Hulk is pretty much the key to beating jund. They have so much disruption that it’s not exactly feasable to get the Time Sieve loop going, but if you can beat in for a couple turns with the Hulk while ramping and possibly rocking out an Open the Vaults, you simply catch the Jund Player unawares and tapped out and eventually at 0 life. Depending on how Steve does with this bear I might run it on Sunday.

Another buddy of mine fell in love with a new ROE card: Kiln Fiend. We pretty much spent an entire 24 hours discussing and testing decks with this guy trying to make him work. Sometimes he was just broken. If Jund tapped out for a sprouting thrinax on turn 3, he could straight up end the game with Distortion Strike[card], [card]Lightning Bolt, Burst Lightning; attack take 15, you’re pretty damn dead. Distortion strike makes him very good but in games you don’t draw the card, or in games that your opponent has like, a lightning bolt, things get ugly quick. We sleeved up just about every 1cc spell for red and blue (what’s up Burst of Speed ) and it was just too flimsy against Jund. There’s a possibility that this guy could be really good in Boros because you have a lot of other creatres to use who are strong and Emerge Unscathed takes the place of Distortion Strike, but outside of lightning bolt, burn spells are so underwhelming in standard that Boros doesn’t seem very well placed.

I’ve given MBC some serious thought this week but haven’t had any time to test it, once ROE comes out online I’ll probably sleeve this up virtually at some point and see how it does b/c I have most every card for it and somehow Abyssal Persecutor is like $10 less than it is IRL

I really like Contaminated Ground, this deck is trying to nickel and dime the opponent, and maybe bash in with an abyssal once or twice. Contaminated Ground goes a long way and works as a removal spell for a turn 1 Celestial Colonnade. I love Ob Nixlis and Sorin Markov and this deck is just filled with good stuff. I think if you’re running Mind Sludge (which you should) then just don’t bother with tactonic edge, but this is definitely an archtype that could embrace the edge with a different approach.

My other option this weekend? Mythic Bant. The deck is pretty narrow, but it can sure as shit steamroll people. I haven’t played any games with it, which is against my motto for this season, but it is tournament one with a new set and I have to start somewhere. It does look like a pretty fun deck. If you haven’t seen the version with Sovereigns of Lost Alara and Edlrazi Conscription, I suggest you check it out because that looks like even more of a blast; “does my Sovereigns of Lost Alara Trigger Resolve? +10/+10 trample, Annihilate 2, thanks for playing” sounds like a fun mantra to repeat on the weekend. I think if anything I’d go with the Thronling version because it owns Jund, but I have to come up with a couple Rafiq of the Many if so because nobody ever seems to have that card.

I’ll let y’all know how things go next week, thanks for letting me air out my thoughts on the format and as always feel free to slam me or give me some better ideas.

Mike Gemme
Mike@power9pro.com
Bobbysapphire on MTGO

Regionals Reborn

Bloodbraid Elf, Anathemancer, Zealous Persecution, Soul Manipulation along with old favorites Kitchen Finks and Boggart Ram-Gang make this a regionals that is filled with either aggro or anti-aggro.

Either you are going to be playing those cards or you are not going to be enjoying how the field is looking for you.

The Regional championships are this Saturday and I have made my necessary schedule adjustments and 5 hour road trip plans to attend. I will be crashing on the couch of fellow wordpress blogger Norm over at Casual Magic for the night before the Pittsburgh tournament.

There are some decks that I will be expecting to on the immensely played end of the day and there are some that are pretty dead, let me clarify.

What I am expecting the most: Jund Aggro. I mean this in a big way. It will be pulling in new players who have been picking up the key cards in their Pre-Releases such as Anathemancer, Bloodbraid Elf, Jund Hackblade, Terminate, and Maelstrom Pulse. It is exciting, easily obtainable, and a serious contender.

I am also expecting B/W Tokens, mainly because I think it is the best deck to play in this format. Zealous Persecution is seriously awesome. Let me just Glorious Anthem my guys and nerf yours. For 2 mana. At instant speed. It is awesome in the mirror, it a ridiculous combat trick, not to mention kind of hard to play around, and an awesome answer to volcanic fallout. Save my now 3/3 fliers and kill your Ram-Gangs. Sweet! B/W also gets the Goldmane/Finks awesomeness. Kitchen Finks will be the card to be slinging a solid 4-of in a deck on Saturday. Him and Anathmancer are the 3 drops that you cannot go without in this format in a big way.

Something I am not expecting to see is Boat Brew. They can’t really use Ajani Vengeant successfully the way things are going. All they can try to do is replace him with Murderous Redcap and make sure they have 4 Kitchen Finks and also struggle to keep Reveillark relevant. It just isn’t the right time for Boat Brew. Glory of Warfare is kind of clunky, and the new Intimidation Bolt helps but it is not enough.

Faeries are so-so right now. With Agony Warp becoming their main trick of the trade to stabilize the field and then using Zombie Outlander to fend off Ram-Gang and Bloodbraid Elf on the ground until the smoke it with Volcanic Fallout. I have been playing a stream-lined Faeries build without Thoughtseize and in place of it a Zombie Outlander, an extra Soul Manipulation, and an extra Agony Warp. It attempts to keep up without losing unnecessary life. Attempting to get the most out of Bitterblossom is attempting to keep your life up too. Thoughtseize gives them a free shock on you for a card they can just unearth anyway. Ripping cards from their hand also doesn’t help against Bloodbraid Elf. That thing is really, really annoying for Faeries.

I want to build a G/W deck that can use Kitchen Finks and Dauntless Escort alongside Ajani Goldmane successfully. Martial Coup and the Sigil-Captain are also really cool alongside Elspeth, Knight Errant.

I will be testing these decks and attempt to be expecting some cool variants of each. Definitely expect rogue white decks to surface that have Runed Halos and Story Circles under their belts and in the main. It is a viable strategy against this surge of Jund in the metagame. I still haven’t decided on what I am running for Regionals but I know it will be interesting and new. Probably R/G Elves at this point.

Dillon

Alara Reborn – The Present and the Future

Well, it’s been just over a week since the official launch of Alara Reborn, and this new expansion is already starting to make waves in the Standard environment. Old favourites like Terminate and Meddling Mage are joined by newcomers like Zealous Persecution and Qasali Pridemage to make for a Standard format where more decks are viable than ever in the last few years.

With Alara Reborn being solid gold, the power level of the cards was significantly increased.  It will be interesting to see next year when Lorwyn and Shadowmoor rotate out how many heavily-multicoloured decks will remain, what with the filter lands, vivid lands, tribal lands and reflecting pool all rotating out.  However, the painlands will be replaced by a new set of duals in Magic 2010 that just might be good enough to warrant playing some of these high colour commitment cards from the latest expansion.

However, that is all in the future, and right now we have the advantage of mana bases capable of producing 1UUU, RRBBBUU, and 2GGGG, all in the same deck.  At least for now.

With an all gold set, there are bound to be mechanics that some decks wish they could play so much, that they have little choice as to whether or not to splash an extra colour or two for them.  It becomes not a question of whether or not to play these cards, but how exactly to support them.

An example of what I’m talking about is the new poster-boy for the cascade mechanic, Bloodbraid Elf.  This 4 mana creature is half green, a colour that traditional Blightning beatdown decks never played.  However, due to the highly aggressive nature of Blightning, almost every card you can cascade into will end up helping your end game plan.  Whether it’s Blightning itself, a burn spell, or even a Figure of Destiny, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a card that you really don’t want to cascade into. This is also before considering that the Elf has a 3 power, hasty body that keeps up the pressure on the opponent.

It is because of cards like the aforementioned Bloodbraid Elf that Blightning beatdown is losing its name.  Many players are now splashing green into their Blightning decks, and calling it “Jund aggro,” due to the presence of red, black, and green in the deck.  With dual-lands like Fire-lit Thicket and Karplusan Forest, the mana setback to the deck is not so terrible.

While cards like Bloodbraid Elf are adding a completely new dimension to some decks, others from Alara Reborn have simply slotted in quite nicely as into decks that already play their colours.  Soul Manipulation is a card that I quite like in a Faeries build because of its potential to re-use powerful effects like Mistbind Clique and Sower of Temptation, in addition to doing what the faerie deck already does-countering spells.  In the past, Faeries were usually only fortunate enough to resolve one or two Mistbind Cliques a game, but this new Remove Soul/Raise Dead hybrid is a great way of maintaining both control of the game, and gaining card advantage in the process.

With the release of this latest expansion, it becomes apparent just how much Magic has changed in the past few years.  Although I started playing in Ravnica-Time Spiral Standard, I remember a time when anyone who considered playing a wall was laughed at.  Nowadays, there is a large amount of legitimate debate going on regarding whether the new Wall of Denial is better than Wall of Reverence, and whether M10′s Wall of Frost will have any significant constructed impact.  There are advocates on both sides of the fence, each with very sound reasons for choosing a particular wall in a particular deck.  I personally think that Wall of Reverence is better in a vacuum, but the sheer difficulty of getting rid of Wall of Denial cannot be overlooked.  In fact, the only way to kill a Wall of Denial in standard is through a mass removal spell, a sacrifice effect, or a creature big enough to take down the 8-toughness monstrosity.

Now to finish off this article I want to present my top 5 Alara Reborn sleeper cards.  These are cards that many people will dismiss early on, but I believe that they will eventually weed their way into the Standard environment.

Sphinx of the Steel Wind

Although it is largely a variation on Akroma, Angel of Wrath, I foresee this card becoming part of a reanimation strategy somewhere in the near future.  With Makeshift Mannequin already in Standard, we could easily see this in decks come Magic 2010, if we see something akin to Zombify in the next core set.

Vedalken Heretic

This is a mechanic that has been firmly cemented in blue/green, what with the printing of Ohran Viper and Cold-Eyed Selkie in recent years.  One thing that should be noted is the fact that any damage dealt by Vedalken Heretic will nab you an extra card.  Enchant this with Power of Fire to give yourself a mini Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind.  Using Mage Slayer with this card could give you as much as a one-sided Font of Mythos every turn.  Additional card draw is always welcome, and time will tell if Vedalken Heretic has what it takes to make it into the decks of the pros.

Reborn Hope

This is a card that screams variant format at me.  Whether it be Elder Dragon Highlander or DC-10, this card is sure to make an impact.  It seems less amazing in Standard, but it could still be used to bring back powerful multicoloured spells from the grave.  Many of the cascade cards make for good targets, as well as cards like Wilt-Leaf Liege and Rafiq of the Many.  Because the only stipulation to Reborn Hope is that the target be multicoloured, the card you choose can be selected to best suit the current situation.

Spellbreaker Behemoth

A four mana 5/5 is almost always good, and one that is uncounterable and makes your other fatties so is even better.  This is a smart choice for a Naya aggro deck that seems to have troubles with counterspells, as it can just keep dropping 5 power creatures until your opponent runs out of removal.  This is almost certainly the best rare in all of the Alara Reborn Intro packs, and it will surely see some play in the future.

Ethersworn Shieldmage

One of the problems with Esper decks that rely on the likes of Master Transmuter or Etherium Sculptor is that they die so quickly to Volcanic Fallout.  Ethersworn Shieldmage is a solution that not only serves to “shield” your artifact creatures from damage-based harm, but it can prove to be an effective combat trick when a large gang-block is required to take down a large enemy threat.

Well, this post is over two pages in my word processor, so I’ll wrap it up.  These are just my thought on what Alara Reborn brings to the current Standard environment, as well as what it will hopefully bring in the next year and a half that it is Standard legal.

Sean and I will be at the Wester Canada Regionals this weekend in Calgary, so if you’re planning on attending, stop by and say hi. We’ll be wearing our orange Power 9 Pro T-shirts so we should be easy to spot.

A Standard Review of Alara Reborn

Hi everyone! I’m Sean and this is my first blog here for Power 9 Pro. Before I get on with today’s article I just wanted to briefly thank everyone at Power 9 Pro for this amazing opportunity and fellow Albertan and team member Zak for the warm welcome. Now let’s get started!

As I’m sure you all know, Alara Reborn is being released all over the globe this week and in honor of the occasion I thought it would be nice to review the set. If you follow the blog regularly, I’m sure you know that Joe has already done a full set review. Instead of attempting to replicate his work, I’m going to do a more in depth countdown of the top 10 cards in the set for play Standard play for regionals and the upcoming PTQ season.

#10: Thought Hemorrhage

While obviously similar to cranial extraction, I don’t expect to see this card crop up in too many decks at regionals. The reason? The absence of a combo deck for this card to prey on. On the other hand, taking cryptic command out of a 5 color control player’s deck can be very frustrating and it is possible that 5 color could use this card to combat the sanity grindings in the turbo mill deck.

Overall Assessment: Sideboard Utility

#9 Soul Manipulation

If the card was printed a couple of years ago it would be considered terrible but now, with counterspells being so much weaker, this guy will likely see play as a one or two of in faeries, 5 color control or similar. Many of these decks already play remove soul (in the sideboard, if not the main) and the option to return a mulldrifter, sower of tempation, fulminator mage or spellstutter sprite is pretty powerful against the agro decks, making the switch likely.

Overall Assessment: Maindeck Deck Utility

#8 Behemoth Sledge

Armadillo cloak has been a favorite for years and this guy removes the two-for-one awkwardness that auras have. The mana cost is steep but once online it is an absolute monster. People have been quick to draw comparisons to loxodon warhammer and I find the sledge to be superior in decks already running green and white, particularly with the positive interaction with Doran, the siege tower.

Overall Assessment: Maindeck Singleton

#7 Qasali Pridemage

Viridian zealot was played in a number of formats and this guy has a lot of obvious advantages to him. He can show up, grant exalted then pop before blockers if necessary or arrive on turn 2 and simply attack as a watchwolf. For now he might be relegated to sideboard duty, brought in at the sight of a bitterblossom, but I see this guy as awesome utility.

Overall Assessment: Sideboard Utility

#6 Jund Hackblade

This guy is exactly what I want my aggro drops to do, attack! All of the hackblades are good in limited but only this guy is sick in the right constructed deck. Tatermunge manic, uptap, hackblade, attack for 5? Yes, please! Scroll down to the end of the article if you want to see a decklist of this guy in action.

Overall Assessment: Playset Maindeck

#5 Maelstrom Pulse

Vindicate was a great card. Putrefy was a great card. Does that mean maelstrom pulse will be a great card? No, not necessarily. Vindicate was ridiculous because you could drop creatures on the first two turns then blow up their second land drop and win before they knew what him them. Other times you also had the utility the kill a creature or enchantment when you needed to. Putrefy at instant speed gave you many options, if it was in standard today you could bet that we could see it kill figure of destiny after mana was poured into it, wall of reverence before life was ever gained or plumveil before it could ever block. Pulse can kill multiple things which is strong (particularly versus ranger of eos decks) and can hit a wide range of targets but I just don’t think it quite warrants the $20 price tag. Anyway, it still earns #5 on the countdown.

Overall Assessment: Playset Maindeck

#4 Zealous Persecution

You might not expect to see this card so high on the list but I really believe it will be a standout at regionals. It fits nicely as a three-of in BW token’s sideboard, blowing out the mirror, boat brew and the fae under the correct circumstances. This card is not just a combat trick; you can use it very offensively as well. Kill your spectral procession tokens and get in for 6 with mine? Activate windbrisk heights, flipping out cloudgoat ranger? Sick.

Overall Assessment: Sideboard Standout

#3 Terminate

Target creature dies. Dead. No comebackies. This reprint is no joke and I expect to see a couple of copies slide into 5-color control. The only problem with is card is that it is red, normally not an issue, but it can’t take down burrenton forge tender, which will prevent its play in jund agro at regionals.

Overall Assessment: Maindeck Deck Utility

#2 Meddling Mage

Placing this card at #2 is a bit unfair. Everyone expects it to see play like it once did in extended but that is not going to happen, at least not in the current format. Its first problem is where to place it. It doesn’t slide nicely into any deck right now. It’s possible that a version of esperlark will show up playing a rogue’s gallery of ‘unfair’ cards such as tidehollow sculler, sower of temptation, thoughtseize, lapse of certainity, fulminator mage, reveillark and mage and its also possible that the mage hardly sees play at all pre-rotation. Either way, it’s a huge beating to name volcanic fallout for a lot of decks.

Quick aside: Meddling Mage appears to have had a sex change since last we saw him. I doubt this will have much of an effect on his playability but I like the old art more.

Overall Assessment: Maindeck Deck Utility

#1 Bloodbraid Elf

I’m not going to lie, a 4 mana 3/2, even with haste, is hardly anything to write home about. But of course, cascade is the nuts. It’s just stupid. Ranger of eos is one of my favorite cards in standard at the moment and this guy is like is cousin with extreme anger management issues. My only issue with the card is that the deck that he fits into best is kind of sketchy. Sometimes you have these insane draws where you kill them on turn 4 and others a single mogg fanatic ruins your day.

Overall Assessment: Maindeck Standout

Anyways, the deck:

4 Figure of Destiny

4 Tattermunge Maniac

4 Jund Hackblade

4 Goblin Outlander

4 Boggart Ram-Gang

4 Bloodbraid Elf

2 Tarfire

3 Terror

4 Flame Javelin

4 Blighting

3 Mountain

4 Graven Cairns

4 Sulfurous Springs

4 Fire-Lit Thicket

4 Karpulsan Forest

4 Auntie’s Hovel

Sideboard:

4 Volcanic Fallout

4 Guttural Response

4 Anathemancer

1 Terror

2 Slave of Bolas

The deck’s gameplan is extremely simple, get in early points then finish them off with haste creatures and burn spells. For sideboarding, volcanic fallout comes in against the token decks, terror for the white decks, guttural response for the cryptic command decks, anathemancer for 5 color control and slave of bolas is something I’ve been testing for versus reveillark. Thought hemorrhage could be tested as well but I have the feeling that this deck will want to be more aggressive than that card would allow.

I would consider this deck to be a rough draft, a starting point to improve upon. If you want to play something different for FNM or regionals, without windbrisk heights or cryptic commands, you might consider this deck as an option. If you do give this deck a try please sound off in the comments.

So that ends my first article for Power 9 Pro. I intended to write some honorable mentions to supplement the top 10 but I seems to have run out of time. Please let me know what you thought of the blog entry, either via the comments or by e-mail at sean@power9pro.com, I would be happy to answer any of your questions or comments.

-Sean

Tales from the Alara Reborn Prerelease

I know it’s a week late, but I’m sure you all had fun at last week’s Alara Reborn Prerelease. I got to my sealed pool and was amazed by all the juicy Naya goodness that awaited me. I had both Spell and Spearbreaker Behemoths, as well as a total of eight removal spells. Needless to say, I was pumped, and in the pre-tournament testing, everything seemed to work out fine. With a steady flow of fatties and a surprise performance by Exuberant Firestoker, I was finishing my test games in record time.

My Dragon's Egg and my sealed pool (in pack form).  Kudos to Brian for bringing his traders in a Pokémon binder as seen in the top-right.
My Dragon's Egg and sealed pool (in pack form).

Alas, fate has a way of giving us cards we would rather not have been dealt. In round 1 I was up against Remkes, a local player who specializes in limited, and when I asked him how his pool was before we started, the only answer I got was “Extremely overpowered.” Keeping my cool, I drew my opening seven and was pleased to see my Spellbreaker Behemoth staring me in the face, in addition to a Magma Spray, a Resounding Thunder and a Gorger Wurm.

Unfortunately, while I started off strong, Remkes had an Oblivion Ring for my Behemoth and a surprise Ethersworn Shieldmage to take down my fatties, and my removal was used up. He kept playing Esper threats and eventually landed a Nemesis of Reason that threatened to take my entire deck out. Luckily, Remkes milled me of my Spearbreaker Behemoth, and I was able to use Vengeful Rebirth to both destroy his giant milling machine and play an indestructible threat. It didn’t last long though, because another Oblivion Ring resolved for Remkes, and I had no defense to stop his Etherium army.

Shuffling up for game 2 I failed to pay attention to my opponent’s sideboarding (as I now know I should) while I was performing my own. While I was siding in the likes of Naturalize and its kin, Remkes had (unbeknownst to me) simply switched decks. This was more than a transformational sideboard, because there were no overlapping cards in either deck. With a fattie, a removal spell, and Naturalize in my hand, I thought I was in good shape.

Unfortunately, Remkes came out of the gates with Dragon Fodder and Sprouting Thrinax. These were promptly followed by a Lightning Reaver that was essentially unblockable. Having used my removal spell earlier, the continuos damage from the reaver spelled out my demise as I stared at the useless Naturalize in my hand.

With my first loss of the day under my belt, I went up against Mike, a player who usually only plays EDH and limited. I don’t remember as many of the details of this match, but I remember losing in three games. With such a terrific pool I was disappointed, but I perked up when a call was made for people to drop out for a triple Alara Reborn Draft (which officially now tops triple Eventide as the wackiest draft format ever). I have always preferred draft to sealed, and with two losses to my name, I signed up.

Now one thing I hadn’t considered was the sheer impossibility to send signals in a draft where everything is multicoloured, so it was agreed upon to basically rare-draft until we figured out what we were doing.

I had an idea in my third pick (after taking Sovereigns of Lost Alara and Fight to the Death in my first two picks), and whether or not it was a Stroke of Genius or just a plain stroke that made me do it was unsure at the time, but I started joking around how I was picking really bad cards very high up. What nobody realized was that these cards were all cascade cards, most notably Deny Reality, Stormcallers Boon, and Kathari Remnant. I thought that since I might never get to try this format again, why not do something totally crazy. I picked up a Maelstrom Pulse as my rare for my second pack, with the intent of splashing it off a borderpost in my deck, or just simply cascading into it.

Halfway through the second path, I called over Marcel (who has played on the Pro Tour and is one of the best Edmonton players) and showed him all the cascade I had drafted so far. He laughed and said “Combo!”, and watched the rest of my draft. I also picked up a nice suite of the Shard-Blades, which work very nicely with all the borderposts and other cards I might cascade into.

When I made my deck, I decided to stick to only Esper colours, which gave me a total of 4 Deny Reality, 3 Stormcallers Boon, 3 Kathari Remnant and 2 Ardent Plea for a total of 12 on-colour cascade spells. Coupled with these were around 5 or 6 Shard-Blades, as well as a smattering of other cards to fill our the curve. To be honest, I had no idea how the deck would do, and I was doubtful that I would win a game.

Round 1 I went up against Attila, who unfortunately got mana-screwed both games. I was able to pull of some cascade shenanigans, and won on the back of an alpha strike with a bunch of my pumped up Shard-blades. Game two was very similar, so I didn’t really know how good the cascade deck was at the moment.

When people began to hear how the cascade deck had won a match, they came over to watch round 2 against Zach, or as we call him around the store, Zach the greater, whereas I am Zak the lesser, but it’s all in fun. It was amazing how fast a turn 2 Ethercaste Knight into turn 3 Ardent Plea into turn 4 Kathari Remnant can improve your board position. The clincher in both games was Deny Reality, which I would play as soon as I could to clear the way for my attackers, in addition to landing another one to three extra cards worth of advantage on my side. Again, the deck won 2-0, and Zach was admonished by Lane (another experienced local player) for losing to “that deck”.

In the finals of the draft, I was pitted against Dennis, who was playing a very controlling deck. This worked out great for me as I was able to resolve a series of cascade spells before he managed to play any real threat. When he did start to resolve some late-game threats, I was able to play all 4 of my Deny Reality cards on his blockers. Also, I learned that Sovereigns of Lost Alara can help me shuffle all the cards that were too expensive to cascade into back into my deck, even if I didn’t have an aura to search for. Again, the cascade deck went undefeated, and I won first prize in the triple-ARB draft.

Well, I’ve got an hour before my second Launch Party (I hosted one on Friday before my FNM), so I’ll finish this article by saying that Cascade is an amazing mechanic. This afternoon I intend to try my hand at building a constructed variant of the deck, but only time and testing will see if it will work out.

Alara Reborn Previews – Final Batch

They’re all in, boys, so let’s have some first impressions!  Here’s the remaining cards along with my knee-jerks.  Berate me in the comments section for evaluations you deem piss poor.

Anathemancer – 1BR
Creature – Zombie Wizard (Uncommon)
When Anathemancer comes into play, it deals damage to target player equal to the number of nonbasic lands that player controls.
Unearth {5}{B}{R}
2/2

This guy’s a mashup of price of progress, firebolt, and maybe dregscape zombie?  Some mashups are clear, distinct old cards… others like this one are more like mashed potatoes… you see a bit of peel / skin here and there, but it’s mostly one new whipped up substance.  Anyway, this thing is only capable of shining in older formats where price of progress will usually be superior.  It might lightning bolt someone in limited I guess, but rarely.  As such the unearth cost here is prohibitive, so mainly think of this guy as a gray ogre with an outside chance of doing some extra damage… like 1-3 max.  This makes him marginally playable, but mediocre.

Architects of Will – 2UB
Artifact Creature – Human Wizard (Common)
When Architects of Will comes into play, look at the top three cards of target player’s library and put them back in any order.
Cycling {ub}
3/3

Nice.  If you had some recurring method of achieving this CiP ability (isochron scepter / momentary blink?) then you could “sensei’s divining top” your opponent the rest of the game, giving them the worst of the three each time.  All you’d need then is a way to shuffle their library when the worst option isn’t bad enough.  :-)

I think this is a pretty weak effect when it happens once.  This is a slightly more flexible hill giant.  Again, not superb, not terrible; marginally playable.

Arsenal Thresher – 2{wb}U
Artifact Creature – Construct (Common)
As Arsenal Thresher comes into play, reveal any number of artifacts from your hand. Put a +1/+1 counter on Arsenal Thresher for each card revealed this way.
2/2

Hmm.  Well, let’s assume the “best” case imaginable… you drop this on turn 4 as your first play with 6 or 7 artifacts in hand depending on whether you played or drew.  I say “best” because clearly this slow of a start kind of sucks.  But at that point, this is a 9/9 for 4, which ain’t bad.  However, returning to reality for a moment, usually you’ll only be revealing 2-3 artifacts in a limited deck bent on using this guy.  So he’s a 5/5 for 4, a combination of casting cost, power, and toughness with a long tradition and pedigree, as well as myriad variations on drawbacks and bonuses.  This particular variation (needing artifacts in hand) is somewhat intriguing in the tension it brings to the task of building a deck that wants to max this guy out… but I think compared to other 4-drop fatties, this guy is near the bottom of the barrel.  If I’m already huge into esper by the time I see this guy, I might be intrigued, but seldom if ever else.  He won’t see any play in constructed.

Captured Sunlight – 2GW
Sorcery (Common)
Gain 4 life.
Cascade

Gain 4 life, cascade.  Cascade is interesting to me.  I like it, but they’ve challenged us by making some rather plain jane effects.  With captured sunlight I’m finally not sure the effect is enough… I’m just not sure 4 life is going to be enough to justify this… You still get the bonus 3-or-less-drop, but even still… I’m just not as thrilled by this as by previous cards we’ve seen with this keyword.  I think ultimately, though, there will be some decks that just want as many cascades as possible…. whether such an approach is constructed worthy is anybody’s guess, but I doubt it.

Deadshot Minotaur – 3RG
Creature – Minotaur (Uncommon)
Cycling {rg}
When Deadshot Minotaur comes into play, Deadshot Minotaur deals 3 damage to target creature with flying.
3/4

A weird mix of flametongue kavu and elvish skysweeper maybe?  Worse than either of the two, in my opinion, but still not without merit.  There’s a fair number of annoying fliers that this guy can kill, and only a couple that he can’t.  He has a time and place where he’s relevant, therefore, and cycling for the rest of the times helps as well.

Demonic Dread – 1BR
Sorcery (Common)
Cascade
Target creature cant block this turn.

Another pretty-damn-weak effect that will truly test the power of Cascade.  This is another 3-drop, but I can’t help but think that ardent plea (a 3-drop enchantment with cascade) will end up being far better than this panic variant.

Demonspine Whip – BR
Artifact – Equipment (Uncommon)
{X}: Equipped creature gets +X/+0 until end of turn.
Equip {1}

Hmm.  This is a peculiar equiment.  It’s basically “howl from beyond whip.”  You get a one-mana discount by the time you activate this for the 4th time in addition to the obvious reusability over the original.  I think it’s solid.  Should win some limited games at any rate, providing a fast clock for grixis and jund decks with some fliers.

Dragon Appeasement – 3BRG
Enchantment (Uncommon)
Skip your draw step.
Whenever you sacrifice a creature, you may draw a card.

Oh my.  Well, this has combo written all over it.  There’s myriad ways to enter a loop involving sacrificing a creature… this adds one more card to the combo but in exchange you get to draw your deck… It’s not really instrumental to any combo I can immediately think of though, and seems likely to be a “win more” kind of thing.  I’m guessing this 6-drop does NOT have the goods, even when you’d crafted a devour-centric kind of deck.  Too little, too late in the game.  For 6  mana, you should be finishing the game, not dicking around MAYBE drawing some cards.

Drastic Revelation – 2UBR
Sorcery (Uncommon)
Discard your hand. Draw seven cards, then discard three cards at random.
Every disaster holds mystery, for lack of sane witness.

Is this some weird attempt to make a fixed Draw7?  Lame.  This is a nerfed update of diminishing returns.  If you could choose the discards, it might save this card, keeping it on-par with things like fact or fiction, in addition to making it a more interesting card.  I think with the random clause it will only suffice in decks that don’t care if the best stuff gets binned… maybe you’re on demigod of revenge or something?  Unearth times infinity?  Something.  As usual, “fixing” old broken cards results in new, uninteresting bookmark-type cards.  Alas.

Ethersworn Shieldmage – 1WU
Artifact Creature – Vedalken Wizard (Common)
Flash
When Ethersworn Shieldmage comes into play, prevent all damage that would be dealt to artifact creatures until end of turn.
2/2

As far as ethersworn goes, it’s hard to beat the canonist.  This fog machine doesn’t hold a candle to the original.  Still, it’s a gray ogre with flash, so it can randomly nuke 1/1s, and it’s got the fog thing, so he can jump in front of a train for you as well.  All in all, boring but solid.

Flurry of Wings – WUG
Instant (Uncommon)
Put X 1/1 Bird Soldier tokens with flying into play, where X is the number of attacking creatures.

Nice one.  A great foil to the turn after your opponent martial couped you.  This seems like a pretty “fair” card… I think it has the potential to swing games though, especially if you have effects to pump your team.  Maybe an opponent calculates that the end-game race is in his favor, and you blow this thing and elect not to block, sending your pumped army through the skies the following turn for the win.  I think this scenario will play out quite often with this spell.  As such, I think it’s strong.

Gloryscale Viashino – 1RGW
Creature – Viashino Soldier (Uncommon)
Whenever you play a multicolored spell, Gloryscale Viashino gets +3/+3 until end of turn.
3/3

Hmm, this guy could potentially get nasty.  I immediately thought of casting glittering wish for glittering wish over and over, but that’s kind of lame-ass.  I’m guessing that this 4-drop is a little below the power curve, but will occasionally dole out a wallop with two multi-color spells pumping him huge.  He can probably be counted on to swing as a 6/6 every other turn at least.  He might be just what some 40 card 5-color decks want.

Identity Crisis – 2WWBB
Sorcery (Rare)
Remove all cards in target player’s hand and graveyard from the game.

Okay, this is sort of like amnesia, but it hits lands and the graveyard too, all for a barely-worse mana cost.  So what can we say about this?  Well, for starters, it’s slow for a discard spell.  You’re only going to hit their very last few cards.  Also, there’s way cheaper ways to deal with the graveyard.  My feeling is that this card is tripe and will see no play whatsoever outside of randomly screwing an already-screwed limited player.  I’d be reluctant to run this even in limited under the most favorable conditions.  It seems good, but isn’t.  Only as some weird mirror-match foil for long game constructed decks would this make any sense, and cruel ultimatum seems better… more devastating.  I doubt it will ever see play.

Illusory Demon – 1UB
Creature – Demon Illusion (Uncommon)
Flying
When you play a spell, sacrifice Illusory Demon.
4/3

Awesome.  This guy is sea drake sized, making him no joke.  Drake was so popular because with a mox and an ancient tomb you can get your drake and not have to return any lands.  This guy has to come out on turn 3… maybe turn 2 with the help of noble hierarch or BoP.  Anyway, I think he’s extremely good, especially if you drop him with enough effects on board to avoid casting spells until your opponent deals with him.  He’s tricky though… you don’t want to fall so far behind on tempo and board development that you’re forced to nuke him to play a removal spell or something… that would  be frowntown.  But yeah, I think this guy has some definite applications in which he will shine.  He should have been a djinn.

Kathari Bomber – 1BR
Creature – Bird Shaman (Common)
Flying
When Kathari Bomber deals combat damage to an opponent, sacrifice Kathari Bomber and put two 1/1 red Goblin creature tokens into play.
Unearth {3}{B}{R}
2/2

Immediately I feel like I want to sac this guy then use airdrop condor to throw the tokens at someone… bombs away!  He MUST be sacrificed though, which keeps this flying gray ogre from being excellent.  He’s great if all you need him for is production of devour fodder though.

Kathari Remnant – 2UB
Creature – Bird Skeleton (Uncommon)
Flying
{B}: Regenerate Kathari Remnant.
Cascade
0/1

I’ll take will-o’-the-wisp with cascade for 2U extra!  My intuition says this is a good cascade card for limited.  Blocking is passe in constructed though (someone pass the memo to Gabriel Nassif, would you?).  He’s very strong for limited.

Leonin Armorguard – 2GW
Creature – Cat Soldier (Common)
When Leonin Armorguard comes into play, creatures you control get +1/+1 until end of turn.
3/3

Hill giants are hill giants.  He’s solid.  Don’t underestimate the power of the small boost.  There’s plenty of opportunities to generate tokens in this block.

Mage Slayer – 1RG
Artifact – Equipment (Uncommon)
Whenever equipped creature attacks, it deals damage equal to its power to defending player.
Equip {3}
“When the wielder is strong enough, any sword will do.”
- Kresh the Bloodbraided

Whoa now.  This thing is serious!  This will end stalls in a hurry, provided you have some mega beefy guy.  And forget blocking with metallurgeon and friends!  I think this is a very solid piece of equipment, doubling the speed of evasive clocks and enabling you to break through creature stalls with your fatties for value.  Solid stuff.

Magefire Wings – UR
Enchantment – Aura (Common)
Enchant creature
Enchanted creature gets +2/+0 and has flying.

Beware of auras and 2-for-1s.  That said, flying and a boost is nothing to sneeze at.  Still, I’d almost always rather have a flier in place of this.  Or if I’m set on dorks, I’d probably rather have removal than this.  What I’m saying is that this is decent, or passable at least, but I wouldn’t WANT to play it.  I’ll reluctantly do so in some cases, but I don’t want to go there.

Mask of Riddles – UB
Artifact – Equipment (Uncommon)
Equipped creature has fear.
Whenever equipped creature deals combat damage to a player, you may draw a card.
Equip {2}

It’s a bargain for fear and curiosity.  That’s all I can say really.  Why not have your best guy also play looter il-kor while he’s putting your opponent on the clock?  This equipment is very good.

Messenger Falcons – 2{gu}W
Creature – Bird (Uncommon)
Flying
When Messenger Falcons comes into play, draw a card.
2/2

Okay, flying 2/2 4-drops have a long pedigree of being “good enough” in limited.  So the cantrip here is gravy on top of a decent flier.  It’s nothing like tower gargoyle, but what can you do?

Mind Funeral – 1UB
Sorcery (Uncommon)
Target opponent reveals cards from the top of his or her library until four land cards are revealed. That player puts all cards revealed this way into his or her graveyard.

Hmmm… my initial scan of obvious eternal format combos came up blank… you might bin your whole library, which would obviously set up some kind of lethal combo or other… but hermit druid is equally fast, and I only know a few decks that really do that.  So it’s not really adding anything new per se.  Ichorid decks just dredge themselves along, so they don’t need this… I think it’s a somewhat abusable effect with no real home.  I don’t think there’s enough unearth guys, nor enough non-land mana sources to really make a deck work that tries to combo with this.  Maybe I’m missing something.  I’m just confused about what you want to do with this.  Maybe you use this in sanity grinding decks?  How much will it mill for?  It only has one blue mana symbol in it, diluting that deck some… plus it needs black… so yeah, I think it’s homeless.  In limited, if you get two, and you already have milling going, you might have a monster on your hands I guess.

Morbid Bloom – 4GB
Sorcery (Uncommon)
Remove target creature card in a graveyard from the game, then put X 1/1 green Saproling creature tokens into play, where X is the removed card’s toughness.

Nice.  This should regularly put 5-8 tokens in play, making it well worth the 6 mana.  You need to have decent removal here though.  Seems good to me any time you can consistently get 5 or more tokens.

Nulltread Gargantuan – 1GU
Creature – Beast (Uncommon)
When Nulltread Gargantuan comes into play, return a creature you control to the top of its owner’s library.
5/6

Interesting drawback!  I think this is a well balanced card.  I tried to think of a combo with aluren and/or future sight, but realized both cards have way better options already.  He’s fast in limited if you have the one-drop, but he slows you a little.  Still, he kills bull cerodon dead, as well as woolly thoctar, etc… and he lives to kill the next guy.  I think he may be worth the tempo loss, but the loss is not insignificant.  All in all, a well made card, IMO.

Predatory Advantage – 3RG
Enchantment (Rare)
At the end of each opponent’s turn, if that player didn’t play a creature spell this turn, put a 2/2 green Lizard creature into play.

Lizard tokens, here we come!  This one seems lame to me… another effect you can’t really control and isn’t all that incredible even when it’s working on full blast.  I think I’d be pretty sad to open this rare.  Still, you probably play this in limited.  I would.  I just want more.  I’m greedy.  This thing will definitely put out some tokens over the course of a game though.  Your opponent will eventually get to topdeck mode, and this really shines there, letting you break stalls and block all day.  But again, it’s not really devastating, and the benefits are elongated and predicated over many many turns.  You’d rather, in my experience, have a concentrated benefit RIGHT NOW that dramatically changes things, not a slow trickle of marginal improvements.

Sangrite Backlash – {bg}R
Enchantment – Aura (Common)
Enchant creature
Enchanted creature gets +3/-3.

Good stuff.  Mostly this will be used for removal I suspect.  But every so often you’ll let a 5/5 go large to finish the game.  Marginal to decent as pump, solid as removal.  Compare to agony warp.

Sewn-Eye Drake – 2{ur}B
Creature – Zombie Drake (Common)
Flying, haste
3/1

Vulnerable but hasty and evasive.  I like to play cards like this, but this does look like pinger bait.  Use with caution.

Shield of the Righteous – WU
Artifact – Equipment (Uncommon)
Equipped creature gets +0/+2 and has vigilance.
Whenever equipped creature blocks a creature, that creature doesn’t untap during its controller’s next untap step.
Equip {2}
Illus. David Palumbo
#11/145

Decent defensive equipment.  I prefer offensive.  This will grind things to a halt though, if that’s your intention, buying you time and letting you slowly get in there with your flier(s).  Middle-of-the-road in power.  Not my kind of card.

Sigil Captain – 1GWW
Creature – Rhino Soldier (Uncommon)
Whenever a creature comes into play under your control, if that creature is 1/1, put two +1/+1 counters on it.
3/3

Very interesting.  This could be sicko with the various token cards.  Damn.  Can you imagine spewing out 15 power worth of saprolings with spore burst?  6 power with dragon fodder?  25+ power with martial coup?  This guy has potential.  Plus, he’s a hill giant!  Yay!

Skyclaw Thrash – 3UR
Artifact Creature – Viashino Warrior (Uncommon)
Whenever Skyclaw Thrash attacks, flip a coin. If you win the flip, Skyclaw Thrash gets +1/+1 and gains flying until end of turn.
4/4

You know… usually the coin flip stuff bugs me.  Somehow, I don’t mind this as much… maybe because he’s not useless without the luck factor.  I’d rather have a legitimate 5-power guy like mosstodon here, but he’s in esper / grixis colors.  I’m not sure what to think about this guy, but I think I want to give him a chance.

Stormcaller’s Boon – 2WU
Enchantment (Common)
Cascade
Sacrifice Stormcaller’s Boon: Creatures you control gain flying until end of turn.

This is huge.  In a fatties deck, this is mega-huge.  Game winning.  Cascade is a bonus on this card, as levitation costs the same.  Once should be enough with this effect!  Damn good in limited.

Stun Sniper – RW
Creature – Human Archer (Uncommon)
{1}, {T}: Stun Sniper deals 1 damage to target creature. Tap that creature.
1/1

Oh wow.  This is great stuff.  Such a sick effect, going prodigal sorcerer and master decoy all at once.  The one-mana ability cost is a trifle.  This is hot.  A great addition to vithian stinger, and in my opinion, superior.

Talon Trooper – 1WU
Creature – Bird Scout (Common)
Flying
“The volcanic winds make a maze of the skies of Jund. If we mean to invade, we must first learn their invisible paths.”
2/3

Flying gray ogre plus!  Definitely playable on color.  Aven trailblazer is at least as good, but probably better.  But so what?  This guy’s good!  Skies is really going to be viable in limited I think.

Thopter Foundry – {wb}U
Enchantment (Uncommon)
{1}, Sacrifice a nontoken artifact: Put a 1/1 blue Thopter artifact creature token with flying into play. You gain 1 life.

Very cool.  This should super-charge some glaze fiend strategies.  The life gain is gravy… mostly this is about getting dorks.  I’m trying to think of older artifacts that can get around this cost by coming back to life somehow… drawing a blank.  I suspect some shenanigans may exist here.

Unwinding Scale* – 2WU
Artifact (Uncommon)
{T}: Untap another target permanent.
#15/145

Icy Manipulator is awesome.  This is like the opposite.  Voltaic Key was good enough to be banned in many formats, but it cost 1.  I’m guessing this will be a solid addition to many different decks in limited.  It might be too clunky to make the cut in constructed, but that depends on the most powerful tap effect around.

Vectis Dominator – 1WB
Artifact Creature – Human Wizard (Common)
{T}: Tap target creature unless its controller pays 2 life.
0/2

Hmm… too conditional I think.  This will never save you when it really matters, and the shocks… well, the shocks might add up, but in every case the opponent will accept the shock when he knows he can shock you or better, so I think this is just a speed bump at best.

Vedalken Ghoul – UB
Artifact Creature – Zombie Vedalken? (Common)
Whenever Vedalken Ghoul is blocked by a creature, that creature’s controller loses 4 life.
1/1

Needs lure!  This guy seems strictly worse than the same 1/1 body with something like shadow instead of this 4 life loss thing.  Personally, I think this is trash.

Vengeful Rebirth – 4RG
Sorcery (Uncommon)
Return a card from your graveyard to hand. If it is a nonland card, Vengeful Rebirth deals damage equal to that card’s converted card mana cost to target creature or player.
Remove Vengeful Rebirth from the game.

Nice… so this is going to brain your opponent as it regrowths your biggest dork.  Nice!  Sign me up!  It’s a late game thing, mostly for when they nuke your meglonoth or whatever, but it’s great then!  Two good cost-effective effects.

Violent Outburst – 1RG
Instant (Common)
Cascade
Creatures you control get +1/+0 until end of turn.

Okay, here’s a team pump effect with a bonus.  I think this is right on the line of playable… if I’ve got any kind of swarm / token capabilities, I’m instantly more stoked about this card.  I wonder whether the fact that cascade comes first here is accurate / intentional… this way you could potentially cascade into more tokens or creatures, and then the pump would occur.

Vithian Renegades – 1RG
Creature – Human Shaman (Uncommon)
When Vithian Renegades comes into play, destroy target artifact.
3/2

This looks like an improvement to viridian shaman, other than losing the elf creature type and gaining R over colorless.  Still serves the same kind of function, but clearly there are times when being an elf is far better than an additional point of power.  This is a needed effect with all this crazy equipment.

Sigil of the Nayan Gods – 1GW
Enchantment – Aura (Common)
Enchant creature
Enchanted creature gets +1/+1 for each creature you control.
Cycling {g/w}
As the elves learned the hymns of angels, the knights learned the roars of the titans.
Illus. Warren Mahy
#78/145

Interesting.  This is an aura that can easily boost a creature by 4-6 points.  That’s not too shabby.  This improves with the number of evasive guys you have paired with swarmy tokens and the like.  Once again, cycling marginally improves the flexibility of the card.  I’m okay with this spell in the context of an evasive / swarm strategy.

Tainted Sigil – 1WB
Artifact (Uncommon)
{T}: Sacrifice Tainted Sigil: You gain life equal to the total life lost by all players this turn. (Damage causes loss of life.)

Sigils corrupted by outsiders do not lose their power, only their purity.
Illus. Chippy
#83/145

Whoa momma.  This can be nasty, particularly in multi-player games.  Earthquake for 5, then sac this gaining 20?  Reminds me of an old combo I once saw go down in multiplayer involving blood of the martyr, inferno, and reverse damage.  This spell is best when you have ways to do symetric damage (duh).  Not bad.  Might have a deck around it.  Probably not though.

Cloven Casting – 5UR
Enchantment (Rare)
Whenever you play a multicolored instant or sorcery, you may pay {1}. If you do, copy that spell. You may choose new targets for the copy.
#86/145

Yikes.  Well, at 7 mana, you won’t have a lot of multicolored instant or sorceries left in your hand.  But this mirari effect sure is cheap… to activate that is.  My guess is that this is way too slow to be relevant… probably even for limited.  Junk.

Etherwrought Page – 1WUB
Artifact (Uncommon)
At the beginning of your upkeep, choose one – You gain 2 life; or look at the top card of your library, then you may put that card into your graveyard; or each opponent loses 1 life.
An unbound page is a riddle, free of cover and of context, a favorite of the hegemon.
Illus. Howard Lyon
#108/145

Hmm.  Three weak effects to choose from!  For one colorless mana, this would be worthwhile.  In this form, this is pretty shitty.  You overpaid for the effects, regardless of which you choose.  Until you get about six activations, this is a losing equation.  I’d probably just recommend gaining life the whole time, or maybe if you’re in a pinch filter some cards.  Better yet, don’t even play this card.  It’s shite.

Well, that’s the whole set.  A little disappointing to me, but with a few fun cards in there… I’ll try to put together a top 5 or something soon… my picks for money rares maybe.  Cheers!

Alara Reborn Previews Batch 4

I love taking lunch and seeing 40 or so new cards to check out.  Here’s my first impression of the cards.  Think I’m nuts?  Leave me a comment!

Bant Sureblade – {gu}W
Creature – Human Knight? (Common)
As long as you control another multicolored permanent, Bant Sureblade gets +1/+1 and has first strike.
2/1

Okay, so worst case he’s a tough-to-case bear, basically… even though he dies to pingers.  Far more often, this is a 3/2 for 2, and with first strike, he looks superior to watchwolf.  I’m guessing bant aggro likely prefers the noble hierarch into 3-drops and beyond draws, so the 2cc makes him a little akward for constructed… I’m guessing he’ll ride the pine for the most part, but he’s a sweet early beater in limited.  Lots of these 2-drops seem compelling for certain archetypes.

Glassdust Hulk – 3WU
Artifact Creature – Golem (Common)
Whenever another artifact comes into play under your control, Glassdust Hulk gets +1/+1 until end of turn and is unblockable this turn.
Cycling {wu}
3/4
Illus. Franz Vohwinkel
#7/145

Hmm.  Let’s see.  A 5-drop 3/4 is not making me very hot, and the mini-glaze fiend thing isn’t too stellar either.  I’d have to be deep into the artifact deck to want this guy, and I just don’t end up in that archetype too often (so maybe I’m nuts and this guy is better than I think?!).  At least he cycles so that you can dig for a beefier threat or some removal in a pinch.

Sanctum Plowbeast – 4WU
Artifact Creature – Beast (Common)
Defender
Plainscycling {2}, islandcycling {2}
3/6
#14/145

A 6-drop defender doesn’t make me very thrilled, but he’s a decent fixer if you’re in pack 3 and haven’t found sufficient fixers.  3/6 is nice because he can contain an un-pumped / un-exalted mosstodon and the like.  But yeah, for 6 I’d way rather have something like bull cerodon (or cavern thoctar on common).

Wall of Denial – 1WU
Creature – Illusion Wall (Uncommon)
Defender, flying, shroud
0/8
#16/145

This guy, on the other hand, is a defender I can get behind!  (pun intended).  Seriously though, he doesn’t interact well with wall of reverence, so he won’t put plumeveil out of a constructed job anytime soon.  But in limited, this guy will slow things down enough that your evasive or controlling deck can win the long game.  Nothing short of Godsire / Fusion Elemental is bringing this guy down.  All for a paltry 3 mana?  Seems like a decent wall.  Not my style, but a decent wall.

Brainbite – 2UB
Sorcery (Common)
Target opponent reveals his or her hand. You choose a card from it. That player discards that card.
Draw a card.
#18/145

A cantrip thoughtseize that deals you no damage?  I can see the cantrip adding the U.  And I can see the no-damage adding a colorless… but for 2U?  That’s the cost of spells like frantic search… once I’m thinking in this way, I have to think this 4-drop is pretty lame.  Maybe if you desperately need the spot discard because you have no other way to stop their… what?  Progenitus?  Clearly thoughtseize will oust this from constructed… even absent thoughtseize, I doubt this would see much play.  This is a sick card to cascade into though!  Anyway, it’s marginal in limited and unplayable in constructed without shennanigans of some sort external to this card.

Deny Reality – 3UB
Sorcery (Common)
Return target permanent to its owner’s hand.
Cascade
#19/145

Love it.  I guess I’m turning into a cascade believer… we’ll see if it’s a warranted belief system.  I just think that adding 2B to boomerang is worth cascading into a 4-drop (or even a 1-drop).  I guess that’s the way to think about cascade strategies… think about how you’ll feel if you flip the smallest card possible with the cascade… as long as that’s still a sick play, then you should be fine.  I’m guessing that normal builds will accomodate this fine… you might not want to play many obelisks I guess, as you’ll want all your non-land spells to be devastating if cast for free.  I wish this was an instant, because this would be a lot better on the opponent’s EOT.  But even just stalling a newly-cast attacker and pseudo-time walking yourself with this should be sicko.

Jhessian Zombies – 2UB
Creature – Human Zombie (Common)
Islandcycling {2}, swampcycling {2}
2/4
#20/145

Again… good fixers, less than stellar bodies.  This seems to be the trend in this cycle.  You get earlier flexibility and fixing and a worse body for the end game when you no longer need the fixing.  I don’t think you want to start a draft hoping to use these guys as your fixers… rather, these will be the reluctant fixers you choose when you have no other options late in pack 3.

Etherium Abomination – 3UB
Artifact Creature – Horror (Common)
Unearth {1}{U}{B}
4/3
#20/145

Seems worse than shambling remains.  Way worse.  The difference is that this guy can block a bear or not go on a suicide run… in my book that isn’t worth 2 colorless more initially and one more on the second go-around.  This isn’t to say he’s unplayable, just that the grixis-jund version is better than this esper-grixis guy.  If you’re grixis, hope / look for the uncommon remains instead.

Breath of Malfegor – 4BR
Sorcery (Common)
Breath of Malfegor deals 5 damage to each opponent.
#35/145

Okay, so it’s on par with fireball / lava burst / demonfire / banefire / etc. etc. etc. in terms of damage production.  No X, so it’s not as versatile, and not a true finisher really, being capped at 5.  Still, this isn’t bad, really.  Just not as flexible.  But hey, this is a common!  The others are rare nowadays.  So think of this as a bad lava axe.  You’re paying B more for lava axe.  I’d do it… sometimes anyway.  If my deck were great at rushing and I just needed a few ways to punch through the last few points… I could see it happening.

Deathbringer Thoctar – 4BR
Creature – Zombie Beast (Rare)
Whenever another creature is put into a graveyard from play, you may put a +1/+1 counter on Deathbringer Thoctar.
Remove a +1/+1 counter from Deathbringer Thoctar: Deathbringer Thoctar deals 1 damage to target creature or player.
3/3
Illus. Karl Kopinski
#36/145

Okay, we know this ability can be absurd due to scavenger drake.  Adding the pinging ability and +2/+2 seems to justify the additional mana, despite this guy being non-evasive… For decks that succeed in nabbing this guy after drafting the drake and/or hissing iguanar and/or rockslide elemental?  They should be hooked up P-H-A-T.  Even if all you had were a few devour guys or token producers… I dunno… this seems like it will make some people very happy in sealed and occasionally will serendipitously fall in your lap after you’ve acquired a few of the above-named cards in draft, though clearly you can’t ever count on that.

Monstrous Carabid – 3RB
Creature – Insect (Common)
Monstrous Carabid must attack each turn, if able.
Cycling {rb}
4/4
#43/145

Hmm… 5-drop 4/4 is only barely playable here… he dies to all the 5-power guys, though he takes many of them with him.  This in turn is tempered by not being able to block / having to attack (As an aside, they should keyword this like they did defender… “attacker” maybe?  Lol… to vague.  I dunno… maybe this is why they haven’t.  End Aside.).  Cycling helps a little, but I’m only going to be running this guy when my other options are slim.

Gorger Wurm – 3RG
Creature – Wurm (Common)
Devour 1
5/5
#57/145

This 5-drop is WAY better than the Carabid above.  This guy starts at a more-respectable 5/5 and has an ability which can push him into bomb-proportions.  Gorger wurm is deceptively innocent, but he can gobble up some dragon fodder and turn on all kinds of shenanigans we discussed with deathbringer thoctar a moment ago.  I like this devouring common.

Rhox Brute – 2RG
(Common)
4/4
#59/145

Hmm… 4/4 for 4.  Vanilla.  Not much else to say really.  He’s better than hill giant, so in theory he’s above par.  He’ll probably see play, but I think there’s so much synergy on 5-power, particularly in this guy’s colors, that without some form of exalted to push him to the all-important 5 power, I would hesitate to play this brute.

Valley Rannet – 4RG
Creature – Beast (Common)
Mountaincycling {2}, forestcycling {2}
6/3
#63/145

Another of the fixer / cycler  cycle.  This one’s noticeably better than the previous few because with 6 power he’s not irrelevant and can actually constitute a threat in the late game.  Still, for 6 you can find some pretty devastating dudes.  I’m more willing to run this guy than some of the other dual-cyclers, but he’s still nothing I’m dying to see.

Behemoth Sledge – 1GW
Artifact – Equipment (Uncommon)
Equipped creature gets +2/+2 and has lifelink and trample.
Equip {3}
Those who worship the great gargantuans could hardly be expected to fight with subtle weapons.
Illus. Steve Prescott
#65?/145

Devastating.  Bomb.  Totally a bomb.  And an uncommon!  This does all kinds of things.  This pushes a lot of wimpy-ass creatures into 5-power territory.  Lifelink!?  Are you kidding me?  What a joke!  This is a house of a card, and will be in instant first pick for anyone who can hope to equip it.  Trample is almost like the icing here, and that says something.  The price is cheap as hell too.  You can swing for an exalted-angel-like life swing on turn 4 with your knight of the skyward eye.  This card may be the most influential limited card so far.  I think it’s an absolute bomb and will almost always be played.  It’s shit in constructed, probably.  Just play Rhox War Monk, right?  You won’t have time for this in constructed.  But goddamn!  Watch out for the sledge in limited.

Enlisted Wurm – 4GW
Creature – Wurm (Uncommon)
Cascade
5/5
#68/145

Again, I’m pretty enamoured with cascade.  I think a 5/5 for 6 is just fine, and I’ll be reaching for my library to see what lady luck brings me all day with this uncommon.  There’s a saying, “I’d rather be lucky than good.”  Well, cascade will bring a lot of lucky plays into being.  This guy can easily flip over other 5-power dudes like mostodon and company… so it’s often going to be like a broodmate dragon, getting you two bigass dudes.  That’s some good, folks.  And yeah, sometimes you just get an obelisk… think about that as you build cascade.dec!

Knotvine Paladin – GW
Creature – Human Knight (Rare)
Whenever Knotvine Paladin attacks, it gets +1/+1 for each untapped creature you control.
2/2
#71/145

Nice… so this is like “exalted_attacker™”.  He looks good to me.  First of all, we should formally say that he’s only slightly worse than grizzly bear, due to colors… so he’s roughly on par even as your only dork.  But soon he’s like quirion dryad on the attack, growing to epic proportions from modest beginnings.  Alas, he’ll always die to shock outside of combat.  Still he’s fucking good, IMO.  At rare, he’ll only occasionally and with luck find a place in exalted strategies where he belongs.  He might be too weak for constructed, but I’m thinking he’s probably just about right… he forces a removal spell with a very modest opening… something like noble hierarch into this guy (with path to exile mana up, or another 1-drop… perhaps a second hierarch?), and then a swing on turn 3 for 4 or 5 depending on what you drop that turn…. not bad on turn 3, people!  So yeah, he might be good enough for constructed, but I’m not confident about that without thinking more… I know he’s decent for the right limited deck, but being rare makes him less of a player.  Still, an interesting card.

Sigiled Behemoth – 4GW
Creature – Beast (Common)
Exalted
5/4
#78/145

6-drop 5/4… hmm.  Okay.  Exalted too, eh?  Well, I’m not thrilled here, but he’s certainly mediocre at least.  He can enter play in your first main phase to add another point of damage to your exalted guy… I dunno.  He’s playable, but again, I’m hoping to have more-devastating stuff to do on 6.  He’s not terrible as a backup plan though, for when your pack-1 bull cerodon doesn’t find friends in pack 2 or 3, and you need to fill in the top of your curve…. still, here’s hoping you have better options.  Exalted is nice, though, there’s no denying it.  This guy kills big men too.

Necromancer’s Covenant – 3WBB
Enchantment (Rare)
When Necromancer’s Covenant comes into play, remove all creature cards in target player’s graveyard from the game, then put a 2/2 black Zombie creature token into play for each card removed this way.
Zombies you control have lifelink.
Illus. Thomas M. Baxa
#82/145

Holy Shamoly.  Okay, I think this is good enough for 6 mana.  You can easily swing ahead with what will usually be 2-5 2/2 lifelink zombies.  Also, if you happen to have any of the other zombies anyway, then the lifelink synergy should prove quite potent.  I like this, but again, as a pack 3 rare, it’s hard to plan for this card in draft.  I’m guessing this is not going to be played in constructed.

Fight to the Death – RW
Instant (Rare)
Destroy all blocking creatures and all blocked creatures.
#97/145

Whoa.  Okay, this might change the way some constructed matchups go down.  You always lose something when you play this spell, but it’s pretty easy to imaging trading up spirit or soldier tokens for broodmate dragon and her mate, or a wall of reverence and a plumeveil.  Who knows.  Impact will be limited in limited, but it will still make for some easy tempo swings in your favor.  Neat card.

Winged Coatl – 1GU
Creature – Snake (Common)
Flash
Flying, deathtouch
1/1
#105/145

I love it!  This is a removal spell, and should be thought of as such.  And it’s effective!  “Your dragon got bitten by a flying snake, what do you want from me?!”  Good stuff here.  Sometimes you’ll EOT this guy on their turn 3 and start racing skies style.  Most often this will pop out from the bushes and bite a cerodon or thoctar, sending them to an early grave.  I love it.

Naya Sojourners – 2RGW
Creature – Elf Shaman (Common)
When you cycle Naya Sojourners or it is put into a graveyard from play, put a +1/+1 counter on target creature
Cycling {2}{G}
The elves had entered a land like an open grave – an act of fortitude or folly?
5/3
#122/145

Hmmm… a marginal ability akin to rustic clachan and other reinforcers… occasionally it will make a difference, but often will be a 5/3 for 5, hardly a bargain, but hardly terrible at the same time.  It cycles, so it has flexibility with a bonus.  All in all, this common probably sees play more than the average common we’ve seen here thus far.  If all you do is help yourself draw into the mid-turns while you win a key early combat trade scenario, then you’ve gotten plenty of mileage here.

Bant Sojourners – 1GWU
Creature – Human Soldier (Common)
When you cycle Bant Sojourners or it’s put into a graveyard from play, you may put a 1/1 white Soldier creature token into play.
Cycling {2}{W}
“We must spread Bant’s light before we are shadowed over.”
2/4
Illus. John Avon
#125/145

Wow.  So this guy is cheaper by 1 than the 5/3 above, and he’s a 2/4, more of a defensive early-to-mid game card.  He’ll stall the ground and leave another chump in his wake.  sometimes you’ll cycle him into a chump blocker and hopefully out of a sticky situation.  I like this guy at least as much as the +1 counter version in Naya.  All said, this one looks decent.  You can jump a guy out in front of an attacking iguanar, etc.  I like it.

Maelstrom Nexus – WUBRG
Enchantment (Mythic Rare)
The first spell you play each turn has Cascade.
#130/145

Wow.  This seems potentially ridiculous.  With this you can cast a 2 or 1 mana spell and be certain of what you’ll flip, so the potential for constructed use is there.  Nothing leaps to mind as an obvious combo here, but the ability to play low-cost cascade cards may make the setup worthwhile.  Either way, if you can cast a spell or two with this in play, I think you’ll have a hard time losing in limited.

Grixis Grimblade – {ru}B
Creature – Zombie Warrior (Common)
As long as you control another multicolored permanent, Grixis Grimblade gets +1/+1 and has deathtouch.
2/1
#134/145

Again, you can almost always think of this as a 3/2 deathtouch for 2, and the few times he’s not, he’s a passable bear.  When things go well, this guy outpaces watchwolf, and can make an early beatdown deck really come together.  I’m not sure about constructed, but with tidehollow sculler and figure of destiny out there, maybe so.  I’m guessing not, but maybe.

Dauntless Escort – 1GW
Creature – Rhox Soldier (Rare)
Sacrifice Dauntless Escort: Creatures you control are indestructible this turn.
3/3

Awesome.  I like this guy.  He’s got the normal better-than-hill-giant stuff going for him, making him a decent vanilla power-and-toughness guy, but his ability is pretty neat.  You can cast wrath of god, and sac this guy in response, for example.  Not too shabby!  I think he probably has the goods to see some kind of constructed play or other… we’ll see.  He’s not really that bomby in limited, other than maybe nullifying a removal spell here or there… nobody will walk their martial coup into this I’m guessing.

Double Negative – UUR
Instant (Uncommon)
Counter up to two target spells.

Hmm.  Doesn’t seem like this will usually be anything more than a pricey counterspell.  How often is it relevant to counter two spells?  Still, this is basically cancel, only slightly harder to play.  Probably good enough for a lot of decks.

Esper Stormblade – {wb}U
Artifact Creature – ?? (Common)
As long as you control another multicolored permanent, Esper Stormblade gets +1/+1 and has flying.
2/1

Okay, so this is easily the best of the 2-drop multi-color-dependent dudes.  Flying?!  Wow.  A 3/2 flier for 2.  That’s pretty sick.  Serendib Efreet pops into my head.  This guy’s equally gnarly.  I’d be surprised if this didn’t find a constructed home, and it will definitely be a high pick in limited.  Wow.  High quality here.

Godtracker of Jund – 1RG
Creature – Elf Shaman (Common)
Whenever a creature with power 5 or greater comes into play under your control, put a +1/+1 counter on Godtracker of Jund.
2/2

Hmm.  He’s a common, and he’ll often grow to become a 4/4 or a 5/5 himself.  I think he’s playable.  After all, the traditional benchmark is gray ogre here.  He’s at least gray ogre good.

Grizzled Leotau – GW
Creature – Cat (Common)
1/5

Hmm… a good defender.  Probably will see some play.  He can bring you to the mid-to-late turns where your gang of fatties can come out to play.  I think he’s decent in that role.

Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund – 4BRG
Legendary Creature – Dragon (Mythic Rare)
Flying, haste
When Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund comes into play, gain control of all Dragon creatures in play and untap them.
Dragon creatures you control have haste.
7/7

Nice one!  This is clearly a super-duper ultra-bomb in limited, smacking for 7 hasty flying damage.  If you steal a dragon, it’s just gravy and should mean you can’t lose.  I like the interactions with changeling creatures from Lorwyn, and I think he’s probably the best reanimation target in standard right now, though empyrial archangel can serve a slightly different reanimation role.  Most bomby guys like this are costing 8 these days, so the 7 here is a pretty decent cost.  In casual dragon decks, dragonspeaker shaman can bring this guy to the table as a 5-drop, in which case you’re well on your way to wreaking havoc.  I like this big guy, and I hope I get to steal a dragon somehow, somewhere with this guy.

Kathari Scourer* – 1BR
Creature – Bird Shaman (Common)
Flying
When Kathari Scourer deals combat damage to an opponent, sacrifice it and put two 1/1 red Goblin creature tokens into play.
Unearth {3}{B}{R}
2/2

Very interesting.  This guy is cool… he gets in there for 2 like a flying gray ogre, then he spits out two tokens leaving you on-par with the ogre.  Then you can unearth him for added value, or devour the goblins, or unearth him for more tokens and devour all four, etc.  I think this will see some play in various grixis and jund 40-card decks.

Lords of Forgotten Alara* – 4WU
Creature – Spirit (Rare)
Exalted
Whenever a creature you control attacks alone, you may search your library for an Aura card that can enchant it and put it into play attached to that creature. If you do, shuffle your library afterwards.
4/5

Holy smokes.  Elder Mastery comes to mind right away, and there’s got to be other juicy targets.  This is clearly going to house someone if left unchecked with even a couple targets.  It’s in the same boat as other big exalted guys in that it still does something the turn it hits by boosting your other attacker… exalted is nice that way… it’s kind of like mini-haste.  For 6, this might be too pricey to be worthwhile in constructed, but it’s definitely worth it if you have a couple decent targets (auras) that aren’t dead by themselves.

Marrow Chomper – 3BG
Creature – Lizard (Uncommon)
Devour 2
When Marrow Chomper comes into play, you gain 2 life for each creature it devoured.
3/3

This guy can potentially round out a decent devour strategy, as he grows big and swings your life total.  He should be thought of as comparable to a loxodon hierarch in this kind of strategy, and as such I think he’s appropriately costed to be excellent but not approaching broken.  He’ll be a 5/5 to a 9/9, and will gain you 2-6 life.

Naya Hushblade – {wr}G
Creature – ?? (Common)
As long as you control another multicolored permanent, Naya Hushblade gets +1/+1 and has shroud.
2/1

Shroud isn’t the best on a guy who’s destined to die in combat.  I think the flier is clearly the best of breed in this cycle.  Onward.

Offering to Asha – 2WU
Instant (Common)
Counter target spell unless its controller pays {4}. You gain 4 life.

Awesome spell.  For the price of rewind, you get what’s basically a hard counter, plus 4 life.  Not bad.  Think of it as life burst plus counterspell or something.  I think this spell has a very good chance of seeing play in constructed long-game control decks.  Should be a good role player in limited too.

Reborn Hope – GW
Sorcery (Common)
Return target multicolored card from your graveyard to your hand.

Regrowth is a very strong effect.  This can return a cruel ultimatum or a broodmate dragon.  I think it must have a place somewhere.  In limited it’s very strong as well, as it’s almost always going to get double mileage out of the situationally-best option.  I think it’s strong.

Singe-Mind Ogre – 2BR
Creature – Ogre Mutant (Common)
When Singe-Mind Ogre comes into play, target player reveals a card from his or her hand at random. Singe-Mind Ogre deals damage to that player equal to its converted mana cost.
3/2

I’m so-so on this guy.  Sure, he’ll nail people for 8 randomly in limited, more often for between 2 and 5, but also sometimes for 0.  He’s a hill giant, essentially, or not much worse anyway, so he’s playable.  I don’t know.  His value is related to the archetype your opponent is playing, which isn’t remotely under your control, so I think he’s only unpredictably and unreliably good.

Vedalken Heretic – GU
Creature – Vedalken Shaman (Rare)
Whenever Vedalken Heretic deals damage to an opponent, you may draw a card.
1/1

Nice.  Basically a 1/1 pre-enchanted with curiosity.  As such, he represents value if only as a “free” added effect.  He’s vulnerable and probably worse than something like merfolk looter / looter il-kor.  Still, there may be a time and place for this guy.

Wargate – XGWU
Sorcery (Rare)
Search your library for a permanent card with converted mana cost X or less and put it into play. Then shuffle your library.

Whaaa?  Wow.  So this is chord of calling‘s big dumb brother who doesn’t like to play nice with the other kids (no convoke?)….  The ability to get any permanent makes it very attractive though.  It’s still a pricey tutor effect I guess, but it’s versatile.  There’s not a lot of cheap tutors anymore, so in modern formats like standard and block this is probably playable.  Combo decks based on permanents should consider this.  I’m betting this will see some play somewhere or other… maybe only in EDH though, who knows.  In limited, this should always be able to find you something… just make sure you know your deck somewhat well!

Wisescale Serpent* – 1GU
Creature – Snake (Uncommon)
Whenever you draw a card, you may put a +1/+1 counter on Wisescale Serpent.
2/2

Well, he’ll grow for sure, which makes him attractive.  If you have other draw engines, he becomes very very nice… when you can cantrip and the like in response to damage to save him, or as a combat trick.  Very cool uses are possible for this uncommon.  I think he’s probably a solid snake for bant and esper.  Nice one.  I don’t know if he’s constructed worthy though… probably not.  But I like him as a turn 3 drop in limited.

Zealous Persecution* – WB
Instant (Uncommon)
Until end of turn, creatures you control get +1/+1 and creatures target opponent controls get -1/-1.

This is a very cheap card for its effect.  This will be devastating in combat.  Limited games will be won on the back of this spell alone, so I have to rate it highly.  I think it could be instrumental in breaking the WB tokens mirror too, so it’s got at least one sure-thing constructed application.  I think it’s got the goods in 40 and 60 card piles.  We’ll see.  Very cool.

Join me next time!

Alara Reborn Previews Batch 3

Ardent Plea – 1WU
Enchantment (Uncommon)
Exalted
Cascade
Illus. Chippy
#1/145

Well, on Friday Tom LaPille revealed here that 3cc will be the lowest casting cost for a card with Cascade.  I also like the “vanilla” feel of this exalted card.  Will this see play flipping knight of the white orchid, or wizened cenn, etc.?  A noble hierarch or a path to exile seems likely too… if there’s any trivial way to manipulate the top of one’s library, then I think this becomes even more intriguing.  I wonder if a deck can exist such that only a single spell costs 2 or less, thus ensuring that Ardent Plea has a consistent and predictable bonus spell from Cascase.

Bolt of Intimidation* – 1RW
Instant (Uncommon)
Bolt of Intimidation deals 3 damage to target creature. Other creatures can’t attack this turn.

Interesting.  Immediately, I love the flavor of this.  Since you have to play this in your opponent’s first main phase, it’s indeed got the intimidation flavor just right; the opponent’s creatures see their comrade get zapped, and they’re like, “oh, HELL no!”  Funny stuff.  The fact that it can just randomly be hard-cast thunderclap or whatever, makes this fine removal.

Cerodon Yearling – RW
Creature – Beast (Common)
Vigilance, haste
2/2

I like this bear.  Haste goes a long way in my book, and vigilance is also at times underrated.  A lot of times the early game involves one player with a bear or 1-drop initiating a small early game damage race, and a lot of times you either just watch it happen with no early drops, or you accept the race conditions and swing with your team as well, trading attack steps.  This guy lets you keep swinging AND try to stem the flow from their 1-drops… allowing you to apply pressure while presenting the trade for bears… I just think this card is more strategically rich than it appears at first.  I like him.  He is enemy colored though, so he’s only really well suited to naya… or maybe really-well-fixed 5-color.

Colossal Might – RG
Instant (Common)
Target creature gets +4/+2 and gains trample until end of turn.

Nice!  I like this effect.  A good boost for the money, and trample to boot.  Trample will be the big draw here, letting you power through with bull cerodon or the like for the last few (or many!) points.

Crystallization – {gu}W
Enchantment – Aura (Common)
Enchant creature
Enchanted creature can’t attack or block.
Whenever enchanted creature is the target of a spell or ability, remove it from the game.
I wish I’d never heard of this shard!

This is a very good pacifism effect with the built-in RFG thing.  Should be played heavily in limited.  Bant decks might even have weird uses for it in constructed, but I suspect path to exile will remain the supreme spot removal spell in constructed for the near future.

Mayael’s Aria – RGW
Enchantment (Rare)
At the beginning of your upkeep, put a +1/+1 counter on each creature you control if you control a creature with power 5 or greater. Then you gain 10 life if you control a creature with power 10 or greater. Then you win the game if you control a creature with power 20 or greater.
Some songs soothe the savage beast.
Mayael’s song emboldens them.

Lol.  That’s my first reaction.  What a weird mashup of the oddyssey-era “you win the game if…” type cards, along with some genuinely powerful spike stuff.  The tokens ability will straight-up house people in limited, and given enough time will turn on the ultimate ability here.  This is an interesting little enchantment in my opinion.  On-color, I can’t see myself not playing this as long as I have a couple fatties.  This is a funny card.  I guess you kind of pull your pants down if they can keep you creatureless, but this tokens thing is o ajani goldmane it just seems solid.

Passed Prosperity* – {rw}G
Enchantment – Aura (Common)
Enchant land
Enchanted land has shroud.
Whenever enchanted land is tapped for mana, you may add one mana of any color to your mana pool.

I’m not sure I like this one.  Shroud’s only relevant in that it mitigate’s some of the typical two-for-one worries associated with auras.  So now the card’s essentially fertile ground for a more-difficult casting cost.  Fixers with tough casting costs should be used with care.  I’d look elsewhere for my fixing when possible.

Putrid Leech – BG
Creature – Leech (Common)
Pay 2 life: Putrid Leech gets +2/+2 until end of turn. Play this ability only once each turn.
2/2

An interesting bear… you can speed the game up well with this guy.  I think I like it.  For the early aggro rush strategy, thick with bears, this guy is in line with the r’aison d’etre of the archetype.  Neat.

Sanity Gnawers – 1BR
Creature – Rat (Common)
When Sanity Gnawers comes into play, target opponent discards a card at random.
1/1

Hmmm… Okay, the random part won me over in the end.  This card might be good enough to make the cut.  I’ve been steering clear of hard core discard strategies in limited for the last few years… I don’t know whether there’s a critical mass of rats and such these days, but perhaps.  This is certainly not my kind of card, but it is annoying when you lose your bomb to blightning or something like this rat.

Soul Manipulation – 1UB
Instant (Common)
Choose one or both � Counter target creature spell; and/or return target creature card in your graveyard to your hand.

Awesome.  You’ll usually be able to use this right away in a pinch, returning a dude for a second tour of duty.  Other times, you’ll stop their bomby creature.  Sometimes you’ll be ready to do both, in which cases, the tempo swing should be great.  A sick card for any kind of controlling or aggro-control approach.  CIP creatures are obviously ideal here.

Finest Hour – 2GWU
Enchantment (Rare)
Exalted
Whenever a creature you control attacks alone, if its the first combat phase of the turn, untap that creature. After this phase, there is an additional combat phase.
Illus. Michael Komarck
#126/145

I’ve always liked cards like relentless assault, although that isn’t the same as saying such cards are “good.”  I think this enchantment is probably weaker than, say, angelic benediction, which is also a lot easier to cast.  Still, this will surely rock some limited games, if not being a true bomb.  You’ll still need an evasive beater, but as long as that’s true, this should swing things your way pretty well in terms of damage races.  Seems best suited for skies.  Exalted seems best on cheaper guys.  Noble Hierarch is undoubtedly the best exalted spell.

Slave of Bolas – 3{ru}B
Sorcery (Uncommon)
Gain control of target creature. Untap that creature. It gains haste until end of turn. Sacrifice that creature at end of turn.
For Nicol Bolas, there’s no difference between servants and victims
#136/145

Awesome.  This mashup gives you all the old threaten tricks in one shot; no need for your own sacrificial outlet.  Obviouly this will be a huge removal spell in the new limited formats, and will likely see some amount of constructed play as well, though this will probably be limited to block, maybe standard.

Quick Introduction // The future

When I was first approached by James to get onboard with Power 9 Pro I had only seen the logo from memory, and he was just a fella contacting me about chatting it up on the topic of Magic. I couldn’t refuse. It later turned to a team member discussion and here I am slinging a ringer 9 shirt over top of my shirt and tie from my day at work, while also explaining what a Dragon’s Egg is to various people who use rubber bands as the only form of deck storage. It is quite the friday night life I lead.

Anyway, my name is Dillon and I will posting here fairly often. Be sure to leave me some good comments even if you are just passing through. Onto the future, Marty.

Have you seen the ridiculous cards that are in store for us in Alara Reborn? The thing that is really cool to me is where the mechanic Cascade goes from here. The recent spoiling of Ardent Plea has been setting my teeth on edge for cards like Meddling Mage, Knight of Meadowgrain and Tidehollow Sculler just bouncing out for free. Who doesn’t love a free Springjack riding Kithkin with Exalted bonuses? Or a Volcanic Fallout pushing mage with a sex change from a decade ago? I’m sorry but I will playing with Chris Pikula’s invitational art only.

I will primarily be playing Bant control far into the Standard season because it so far imbedded into my style of play to abandon. Jenara, Asura of War is as efficient as I could possibly ask from my lovely home shard. One thing I see whenever I hear people talking about Jenara is this, “You invest mana into just to see it pathed? It sucks”. You must remember one thing: They can only play it if they have it in hand. It is obviously going to be in every deck in standard. Anything in this creature based format that doesn’t play path is going to be behind in the end. People might think “Just play Meddling Mage naming Path to Exile, you are set!” but it isn’t that easy. You see, Meddling Mage is a double edged sword for naming “Path to #$&!ing Exile” because you can’t play it either. Seeing as how you are obviously running white for him, it allows the skilled players to shine through.

Board position is sometimes a difficult thing to gauge because you are unsure what is in their hands most of the time, and you are unsure what they are going to draw usually. I have killed an Ajani Vengeant for board position and then over extended only to see my opponent to draw into another Ajani Vengeant, zap my Sower of Temptation, gain 3 life, and absolutely turn the game around. How do you even attempt to play around that? The truth is, sometimes you can’t and it hurts to say. There is luck involved, but in most cases board advantage isn’t everything, because allowing your deck to have options instead of just answers is awesome.

Bant gets the bag of tricks which is Bant Charm which will only get better for the GWU clan once Reborn strikes the scene. Meddling Mage has some serious things to attempt to ward off with these guys. We aren’t a one trick pony when it comes to removal. I see Magma Spray getting much more main deck play as well. What a nasty, nasty card. 

It is really Terminate that scares me the most. My guys have some serious toughness, it is usually a two-for-one on magma sprays for me, but Terminate is just awful. It doesn’t care what color I am, how much etherium runs through my body or that I could regenerate. It just destroys me.

Blightning will quickly branch off into mid-range Jund decks. Those green creatures are far too good to pass up. Spellbreaking, Hackblade-ing, Madrushing, beasts. Lets call it Monsters Inc. now and get it out of the way, shall we? An extremely honorable mention for Monsters Inc. would be Maelstrom Pulse. It ruins ideas of Ancient Ziggurat being your racetrack but it is worth every land in your deck. This echoing Vindicate is what Jund has been waiting for. Volcanic fallout is great, but that double red is sometimes annoying in a three color deck and sometimes easier to play around then Maelstrom Pulse. To me, I can’t play Noble Hierarch (with hopes of using her for mana) or Sower of Temptation (with hopes of keeping a creature) with Volcanic Fallout present. I just play War Monk, Rafiq and Kitchen Finks instead. Usually multiples. Playing around both of those cards? Imagine it being played off Cascade. Ouphe.

By the way, Cascade triggers “When you play this spell”, keep that in mind.

The metagame of Standard is much larger then a couple shards in Alara. Faeries, Swans, 5cc, B/W tokens, they all still exist and will be discussed in good time. I have so many other formats to talk about but I am very excited for Alara Reborn and I hope it shakes this metagame upside down. On wednesday night was trivia night and a question was asked there that went as follows: “What is the most common sign thrown at a ‘rock, paper, scissors’ tournament?”

The answer is Paper, want to know why? Rock is the most common sign thrown, so the best players use Paper. With that knowledge don’t you throw Scissors? The metagame then shifts to the standard as Paper  and from there then evolves and shifts accordingly. That is how Magic feels right now. I want more than three options. Give me a standard format that is flowing with originality. I am putting my hopes into Alara Reborn to open that door for the sake of deck builders everywhere.

Best regards,

Dillon

Alara Reborn Previews Batch 2

Here’s the next 15 cards, along with my initial thoughts within ~15 seconds of seeing the card.

Filigree Angel – 5WWU
Artifact Creature – Angel (Rare)
Flying
When Filigree Angel comes into play, you gain 3 life for each artifact you control.
4/4
Illus. Richard Whitters
#6/145

My first thought here is that this is a bit overcosted, and as such will likely only see play as a reanimation target.  That said, while I can imagine a scenario in which I gain tons of life with this thing, maybe using something like momentary blink or the like, I’m thinking that normally, the idea is to cheat something into play in order to quickly win, not simply to gain lots of life and “not lose”… This still might see play in a high-curve, many-obelisk-ed limited pile, but in general, this is a loser.

Lich Lord of Unx – 1UB
Creature – Zombie Wizard (Rare)
{U}{B}, {T}: Put a 1/1 blue and black Zombie Wizard creature token into play.
{U}{U}{B}{B}: Target player loses X life and puts the top X cards of his or her library into his or her graveyard where X is the number of Zombies you control.
2/2
Illus. Dave Allsop
#24/145

Whoa momma.  So right off the bat, this is a decent token producer in a color without a lot of precedent for that.  Thus, being pricier than, say, Selesnya Evangel, is understandable.  The second ability, though, makes the extra cost quite a bargain, as for 4 mana on the next turn  you can mill and drain life for, presumably, two or more.  Furthermore, when you hit 8 mana, you can go double-time with this.  All in all, I think the two abilities are a little at-odds with one another.  Are you trying to develop the board, or are you trying to mill them, or are you trying to reduce their life to 0 with the burn?  It’s a jumble of abilities, and in the case of this mashup card, I think there’s likely a tendency to lose focus and start “doing cool things” instead of winning… but if you remain focused, this should provide you with a concentration of productive things to do as well.  I think he’s probably relegated to 40 card piles though.
Igneous Pouncer – 4BR
Creature – Elemental (Common)
Haste
Swampcycling {2}, mountaincycling {2}
5/1
Illus. Chippy
#40/145

Another in the ally-color land cycling… cycle.  A hasty 5/1 is only worth 6 mana if it’s the final nail in the coffin… like when they alpha strike into your fog or something.  I think this one should only be picked if what you really need is a fixer, not another dude.
Lightning Reaver – 3BR
Creature – Zombie Beast (Rare)
Fear, haste
Whenever Lightning Reaver deals combat damage to a player, put a charge counter on it.
At the end of your turn, Lightning Reaver deals damage equal to the number of charge counters on it to each opponent.
3/3
Illus. Cyril Van Der Haegen
#42/145

Now we’re talking!  So this guy’s a little pricier than a hill giant, but you get haste and fear… already he’s probably worth running and above average.  But you also get this recurring damage feature, making this guy an insane clock.  Assuming you hit the first turn he’s out, you’ve done 3 and he gets a counter, doing an extra point at the EOT, bringing the total to 4.  On his second turn, that number increases to 5 with a 2-turn total of 9 damage.  The next turn it’s 15, then 21.  So it’s a 4-turn clock if left unchecked, and will likely do no less than 4 damage.  If they have a black or artifact blocker, which is likely in Alara, things won’t go as smoothly, but you still have a surprise attacker with recurring damage.

As an aside, he’s even cooler in multi-player, where he damages all your opponents at EOT.  Neato.

I’m guessing he’ll be fun to play with, but won’t make any kind of constructed appearance whatsoever.

Bloodbraid Elf – 2RG
Creature – Elf Beserker (Uncommon)
Haste
Cascade (When you play this spell, remove cards from the top of your library from the game until you reveal a nonland card that costs less. You may play it without paying its mana cost. Put the removed cards on the bottom in a random order.
3/2
Illus. Dominick Domingo
#50/145

Okay, so 4cc is now the lowest casting cost of a cascade card… this one’s not terrible.  You get a decent hasty dork, and a free spell.  I love the idea of flipping this guy with bituminous blast, and chaining into yet another spell… will there be a cascade deck?  Time will tell… and the only thing keeping this guy from constructed play will be the level of support, or lack thereof.  Keep an eye on this mechanic!

Glory of Warfare – 2RW
Enchantment (Rare)
As long as it’s your turn, creatures you control get +2/+0.
As long as it’s not your turn, creatures you control get +0/+2.

Hmm… interesting.  No doubt this will help you attack and block!  Certain decks in limited will be ready to exploit this effect… swarm and skies approaches come to mind.  But I just don’t think this has enough effect as a 4-drop to ever see the light of day in constructed.

Mycoid Shepherd – 1GGW
Creature – Fungus (Rare)
Whenever Mycoid Shepherd or another creature you control with power 5 or greater is put into a graveyard from play, you may gain 5 life.
5/4
Illus. Trevor Claxton
#73/145

Interesting… there’s a flood of 4-drop 5-power guys running around.  This one has a pretty nice benefit.  Life gains of 5 at a time can’t be ignored.  Plus, you get another dude who is eligible for buffs from the myriad “… target creature with power 5 or greater…” effects in block.  I’m on the fence with this guy when it comes to constructed… are there any / enough ways to recur a big dork such that you can repeatedly gain 5?  If so, that might be enough of a defensive strength to warrant exploration of this creature… after all, wall of reverence showed us what recurring lifegain can do in this environment…

Qasali Pridemage – GW
Creature – Cat Wizard (Common)
Exalted
{1}, Sacrifice Qasali Pridemage: Destroy target artifact or enchantment.
2/2
Illus. Chris Rahn
#75/145

No doubt this will see play in bant strategies, as a sideboard card if nothing else.  A versatile removal spell for any format, and a much-needed 3rd pack answer to artifacts!  Very cool.

Lord of Extinction – 3BG
Creature – Elemental (Mythic Rare)
Lord of Extinction’s power and toughness are each equal to the number of cards in all graveyards.
*/*
Illus. Izzy
#91/145

This reminds me of Keldon Warlord or maybe Soulless One.  Clearly it’s drawing on lhurgoyf lineage as well.  What can you really say?  He’s big.  Sometimes really really big, other times, puny… and if Tormod has anything to say about it, he’ll just vanish altogether (or become a 1/1 I guess).  I think this is actually a more-vanilla mythic rare than even the angel we saw in the last batch.

Enigma Sphinx – 4WUB
Artifact Creature – Sphinx (Rare)
Flying
When Enigma Sphinx is put into your graveyard from play, put it into your library third from the top.
Cascade (When you play this spell, remove cards from the top of your library from the game until your reveal a nonland card that costs less. You may play it without paying its mana cost. Put the removed cards on the bottom in a random order.)
5/4
Illus. Chris Rahn
#106/145

A huge cascade guy… a decent sized flier.  I’m trying to justify the 7cc on this guy and having trouble doing it.  I guess his slow self-ressurection aspect is neat… Cascade needs a lesser cc to trigger, so you can’t get cascade on the stack, then sacrifice this guy to get him in the 3rd spot of your deck… that would be a neat trick.  So yeah, I’m not seeing any inherent trickiness that makes this anything compelling in constructed.  In limited, just be happy you have a (decent-sized / flying) guy who will come back to help you after your opponent removes him.
Sen Triplets – 2WUB
Legendary Artifact Creature – Human Wizard (Rare)
At the beginning of your upkeep, choose target opponent. This turn, that player can?t play spells or activated abilities and plays with his or her hand revealed. You can play cards from that player?s hand this turn.
They are the masters of your mind.
3/3
Illus. Greg Staples
#109/145

Whoa damn.  So for a somewhat-tricky tri-colored 5cc mana cost, you get to Orim’s Chant someone (albeit on your own turn), AND you sort-of-mindslaver them… actually the first part is more like abeyance, and the second… well… muse vessel?  This seems very very good to me.  If you can drop a single land, or do something like play their removal spell on their own men… you shouldn’t have much problem winning.  The trick will be getting this Sen Triplets thing to live until your next upkeep.  I think as usual, this fails the path-to-exile test!  I like the idea of the effect, but it is probably too vulnerable and outclassed by other more resilient threats.  Still very cool.  Should wreck some limited games.

Madrush Cyclops – 1BRG
Creature – Cyclops Warrior (Rare)
Creatures you control have haste.
Death comes in the blink of an eye.
3/4
Illus. Wayne Reynolds
#119/145

I like this guy!  Basically a hill giant with slightly bigger butt and concordant crossroads built in.  Whether he sees constructed play or not is a different question, but I think it might happen.  He’s green so he can hit play earlier… he’s hasty, so he can be the exalted attacker on his first turn, but most importantly, he enables lots of bigger threats to suddenly have the surprise factor of haste.  I like him and his prospects.
Retaliator Griffin – 1RGW
Creature – Griffin (Rare)
Flying
Whenever a source an opponent controls deals damage to you, put that many +1/+1 counters on Retaliator Griffin.
2/2
#123/145

4-drop 2/2 fliers are just fine in limited.  Ones that grow and grow and grow when you’re hit?  Those are money, bro.  Probably too weak for constructed, but a solid bomb for pack 3 of limited when he’s on color.

Uril, the Miststalker – 2RGW
Legendary Creature – Beast (Mythic Rare)
Uril, the Miststalker can’t be the target of spells or abilities your opponents control.
Uril gets +2/+2 for each Aura attached to it.
5/5
Illus. Jaime Jones
#124/145

5-drop 5/5 with the one-sided shroud we see on classics like troll ascetic.  Not only that, but he’s like auratog… sort of!  More like he’s got a built-in ancestral mask of sorts.  I doubt he’ll see constructed play, but he’s interesting nonetheless.

Giant Ambush Beetle – 3{bg}R
Creature – Insect (Uncommon)
Haste
When Giant Ambush Beetle comes into play, you may have target creature block it this turn if able.
4/3
#137/145

A weird take on the provoke mechanic I guess… sort of.  Part provoke, part nettling imp?  A 4/3 haste for 5 doesn’t do much for me, but the weird way in which this guy is removal will let him make the cut into some 40 card decks here and there.

Nothing spectacular this time, really.  They posted the picture for Meddling Mage, and it answered my question: they are NOT making this version look like Chris Pikula, unless he happened to have gone through gender reassignment surgery since winning the invitational!  Anyway, more fun in the future.

Glory of Warfare

top 8 magic (brian david-marshall) had the opportunity to preview Glory of Warfare, a rare from Alara Reborn.

it was great that he spent quite a bit of time thinking about where the card might fit in the meta, pointing out its utility confined to standard and potentially block.  his main focus for placing WoG is in the standard block (X-Lor-SoA) R/W Brew.dec–i agree completely.

as for the ideal situation BDM describes as ‘spectral on T3, GoW on T4′ [ouch]), it goes almost-without saying. lots of cards looks great when you say them “xyz on t1, abc on t2 and ghi on t3 for the win baby!” but remain only marginal.

the main problem i see is that the 4-slot in most brew-boat decks is filled with Ajani Vengeant [and sometimes 2x Wrath of God]. i’m not sure it’s worthwhile to drop ajani for a boost in attack. i rarely see matches where ajani isn’t a big signpost reading, “hit me first, not your opponent.” for fairly obvious reasons–he’s either going to be a lightning helix that stabilizes the damage done by alpha-striking your opponent or taps down the fatty used to alpha-strike in the first place. distracting your opponent for a turn is exactly the type of tempo edge that tokens preys on–this means that ajani stays. so then do we look at dropping wrath?

balls-out, no mass removal MD? probably not a good idea. fae is still a force and bb-tokens get out of hand very quickly–not to mention the likely mirror any player piloting brew should expect at any [decent] tournament. would you drop banefires for GoW? assuming you only run 2x banefire, this might not be a bad choice. banefire is useless under a windbrisk, right? [[not paying it's manacost would equate to dealing 0 damage (since x would equal zero at time of playing)]] GoW is not useless under a windbrisk, upping the utility of windbrisk by +2 cards (or close to 5% more “good” choices MD–assuming that 1/1 figure of destiny/mog fanatics are not that hawt compared to a ranger of eos, a seigegang commander or ajani himself. so there is room for testing GoW in banefire’s slot–again, assuming you run banefire. the other advantage over banefire is that its total cc is way less than an uncounterable banefire– AND 3-flying spectral tokens deal more total damage as the 6cc banefire! not freaking bad. (it is counterable so that goes against its arguement against banefire, btw).

maybe in SB then? just doesn’t seem like a good fit. not much to say. i wouldn’t want to drop wraths (2x), i would keep stillmoons–dark bant and it’s lifegain is a whore once it gets going. [lol. i just called a deck a whore.] anyway, keep the volcanic fallouts, keep the celestial purges and

Alara Reborn Previews Batch 1

The elephant in the room is the gold theme, and love it or hate it, it’s what they’re running with in this very Legions-esque end to “Invasion, III”.  Some people have been talking about logistical problems like sorting the cards or describing the hybrid-and-third-colored type gold cards, but I think things will work out just fine.  30 cards have already been spoiled, among them a ton of rares and mythic rares.  Here’s my initial reactions to the cards in a couple pithy sentences or so, each.

Aven Mimeomancer – 1WU
Creature – Bird Wizard (Rare)
Flying
At the beginning of your upkeep, you may put a feather counter on target creature. If you do, that creature is 3/1 and has flying as long as it has a feather counter on it.
3/1
Illus. Jesper Ejsing
#2/145

Crazy wasp lancer / vendilion clique style flying power, and what’s with the quirky ability?  Immediately I think of vithian stinger type effects.  Occasionally you might suit your saproling token up with some wings too I suppose.  Seems like an interesting and decent creature.

Fieldmist Borderpost – 1WU
Artifact (Common)
You may pay {1} and return a basic land you control its owner’s hand rather than pay Fieldmist Borderpost’s mana cost.
Fieldmist Borderpost comes into play tapped.
{T}: Add {W} or {U} to your mana pool.
Illus. Michael Bruinsma
#3/145

How bizarre!  This is like the shittiest mana fixer in history on the face of it as a 3cc, two-color artifact that only gives you mana of the same colors required to play it.  So clearly the question is whether the ability is all that bonkers or not.  Bounce one of your own lands?  It’d be neat with multiple explorations in play, maybe a horn of greed… except the shit comes into play tapped.  I think this is garbage, myself.  I guess it still counts as good fixing.  Playable perhaps in extreme fixer-less situations?

Ethercaste Knight – WU
Artifact Creature – Human Knight (Common)
Exalted
1/3
#3/145

Nice addition to the exalted archetype in limited.  At first I thought I’d like a 2/2 better, but I kind of like the resilience of the 1/3 here… this guy can hold the ground and survive volcanic fallout and infest.

Firewild Borderpost – 1RG
Artifact (Common)
You may pay {1} and return a basic land you control its owner’s hand rather than pay Firewild Borderpost’s mana cost.
Firewild Borderpost comes into play tapped.
{T}: Add {R} or {G} to your mana pool.
Illus. Jean-Sebastien Rossbach

See above commentary.  I’m not sold on how amazing these really are… they seem worse than things like panoramas, tri-colored shard lands, and landcyclers.

Meddling Mage – WU
Creature – Human Wizard (Rare)
As Meddling Mage comes into play, name a nonland card.
The named card can’t be played.
And if it wasn’t for that Meddling Mage, I would have gotten away with it!
2/2

Excellent reprint!  So I wonder what the effect will be on the secondary market price of original Mages.  Those meddlesome mages.  Is this one still going to look like Chris pikula?  I’d feel cheated if I were him and they made him look different.  “Will the real meddling mage please stand up?”

Mistvein Borderpost – 1UB
Artifact (Common)
You may pay {1} and return a basic land you control its owner’s hand rather than pay Mistvein Borderpost’s mana cost.
Mistvein Borderpost comes into play tapped.
{T}: Add {U} or {B} to your mana pool.
Illus. Pete Venters
#27/145

Yawn…. borderpost.

Nemesis of Reason – 3UB
Creature – Leviathan Horror (Rare)
Whenever Nemesis of Reason attacks, defending player puts the top ten cards of his or her library into his or her graveyard.
3/7
Illus. Mark Tedin
#28/145

Nemesis of Reason!  Nice name.  And among the worst creature types married to among the best… leviathan and horror respectively.  Add a rather bizarre milling ability to the first 3/7 creature in Magic, and this is the Nemesis of Orthodoxy as well.  The card is kind of like glimpse the unthinkable on a funky body…

Soulquake – 3UUBB
Sorcery (Rare)
Return all creatures in play and all creature cards in graveyards to their owners’ hands.
Illus. Warren Mahy
#30/145

Hmm.  Seems like a splashy effect at first,  but this is probably pretty marginal.  Evacuation costs BB less and does the most important part of this spell, and it was only marginal, really.  I think this is another skill tester kind of thing… hopefully you can pawn something like this off on a n00b and steal his meddling mages or something.

Time Sieve – UB
Artifact (Rare)
{T}, Sacrifice five artifacts: Take an extra turn after this one.
“I pray that I am never considered useless or old.”
-Sharuum the Hegemon

Illus. Franz Vohwinkel
#32/145

Hmm.  Seems like a bit of a struggle to go infinite with this in standard… you’d want some homonculi, I’m guessing.  In older formats, you might go infinite, but it would be a many-card combo.  For now, I’m going to guess this won’t see much play at all, and will likely not find a combo deck to call home.

Bituminous Blast – 3BR
Instant (Uncommon)
Cascade (When you play this spell, remove cards from the top of your library until you remove a nonland card that costs less. You may play it without paying its mana cost. Put the removed cards on the bottom in a random order.)
Bituminous Blast deals 4 damage to target creature.
#34/145

I love the cascade mechanic.  If they make really cheap cascade cards, then you’d be able to combo with them very much the way oath of druids used to work.  Even without the consistency, though, flipping an Ajani Vengeant with this would seem like quite the deal.  But when you flip Figure of Destiny, do you still like the deal?  I guess I still do, assuming it happens at my opponent’s EOT.  So yeah, I think Cascade has the goods, and can’t wait to see more.

Defiler of Souls – 3BBR
Creature – Demon (Mythic Rare)
Flying
At the beginning of each player’s upkeep, that player sacrifices a monocolored creature.
“Stray not into sin, lest you face the doorman of an insatiable tomb”
-Prayer of Asha

5/5
Illus. Paul Bonner
#37/145

Damn.  This is a super-duper bomb in limited, especially if you have a decent count of multicolor dorks.  I think you could probably build around it in constructed, but then you have to ask whether broodmate dragon is superior, as that’s the flagship 6-drop du jour.  Whereas this guy is less resilient to Path to Exile, it has a potentially larger upside if you nuke a lot of your opponent’s cards… then again, many of the key creatures these days will dodge this effect.  I think it’s bomby in limited, but will have little chance to see constructed play, being overshadowed somewhat by better options on 6 or more mana.

Terminate – BR
Instant (Common)
Destroy target creature. It can’t be regenerated.
#46/145

Another solid reprint and more ammunition in my ongoing arguments that Alara block is Invasion III (and the corollary that Ravnica block is Invasion II).  There’s no question that this will see HELLA play all over the place.

Thought Hemorrhage – 2BR
Sorcery (Rare)
Name a nonland card. Target player reveals his or her hand. Thought Hemorrhage deals 3 damage to that player for each card with that name revealed this way. Search that player’s graveyard, hand, and library for all cards with that name and remove them from the game. Then that player shuffles his or her library.
Illus. Chippy
#47/145

Cranial Extraction meets lightning bolt and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts!  This set has an interesting “Mashup” theme reminiscent of the nostalgia theme of Time Spiral block, only more understated… more subtle.  These mashup cards are among the most amusing to me… it’s really like they just grabbed some popular cards and said, “what if these were one card?”  Sort of a “duh” design, but interesting cards nonetheless.  The cranial effect is what you want here, and it’s still worth the cost.  The mega-lightning bolt is gravy for the slight color requirement over the original.  Very good card here.

Veinfire Borderpost – 1BR
Artifact (Common)
You may pay {1} and return a basic land you control its owner’s hand rather than pay Veinfire Borderpost’s mana cost.
Vein Fire Borderpost comes into play tapped.
{T}: Add {B} or {R} to your mana pool.
Illus. Ralph Horsley
#48/145

Borderpost.  See above.

Blitz Hellion – 3RG
Creature – Hellion (Rare)
Trample, haste
At end of turn, Blitz Hellion’s owner shuffles it into his or her library.
7/7
Illus. Anthony S. Waters
#49/145

Another nasty guy here… it’s obviously great when you have something productive to do with this dude before his built-in death sentence kicks in.  Rite of Consumption or something?  This is a great way to avoid decking strategies too.

Dragon Broodmother – 2RRRG
Creature – Dragon (Mythic Rare)
Flying
At the beginning of each upkeep, put a 1/1 red and green Dragon creature token with flying and devour 2 into play. (As the token comes into play, you may sacrifice any number of creatures. It comes into play with twice that many +1/+1 counters on it.)
4/4
Illus. Jean-Sebastien Rossbach
#53/145

This one is no joke.  6-drop 4/4 fliers are already okay in limited, and this guy pumps out tokens along the lines of verdant force.  The token you get on your opponent’s turn can eat the one you made on your turn, so you can end up with two 1/1s, or a lone 3/3.  Either way, this thing is a house.  But once again, I’m thinking it’s slightly overshadowed by broodmate dragon, which still gives you a 4/4 in the face of path to exile.

Spellbreaker Behemoth – 1RGG
Creature – Beast (Rare)
Spellbreaker Behemoth can’t be countered.
Creature spells you control with power 5 or greater can’t be countered.
5/5
Illus. Jason Chan
#60/145

I got a huge one of these in my player rewards mailing.  I think it’s a great rumbling slum variant, a lineage going back to balduvian horde and even juzam djinn… the 5/5 4-drop.  Control can’t do much about this guy hitting play, but he still rolls over to path to exile.  I think this will probably see some play though, maybe on turn 3 on the back of noble hierarch, despite the color differences.

Knight of New Alara – 2GW
Creature – Human Knight (Rare)
Each other multicolored creature you control gets +1/+1 for each of its colors.
2/2
Illus. David Palumbo
#70/145

Wow!  This can be a GIGANTIC boost to some creatures.  I think it will see play for sure.  8 “power” Doran, for instance, seems appealing.  Not much else to say about this guy…

Pale Recluse – 4GW
Creature – Spider (Common)
Reach
Forestcycling {2}, plainscycling {2}
4/5
#74/145

This will be a staple of limited, at least for its relevant archetypes, helping smooth early mana or hold off tower gargoyles and the like.  It’s a little expensive, but it’s flexible enough that I could see it making the cut.

Wildfield Borderpost – 1GW
Artifact (Common)
You may pay {1} and return a basic land you control its owner’s hand rather than pay Wildfield Borderpost’s mana cost.
Wildfield Borderpost comes into play tapped.
{T}: Add {G} or {W} to your mana pool.
Illus. Zoltan Boros & Gabor Szikszai
#80/145

And the last borderpost.

Spellbound Dragon – 3UR
Creature – Dragon (Rare)
Flying.
Whenever Spellbound Dragon attacks, draw a card, then discard a card. Spellbound Dragon gets +X/+0 until end of turn, where X is the discarded card’s converted mana cost.
3/5
Illus. Jesper Ejsing
#90/145

Another dragon, and another mashup.  This time I see Ironroot Treefolk-like power and toughness, Looter il-kor‘s ability mashed up with Blazing Shoal, and of course, all this smashed into something like Fledgling Dragon or something.  The end result is agressively costed and in this set in particular can do some beefy damage with all the 8-drops running around.  Ability aside, it can hold the skies / ground just fine with its 5-butt.  All said a bomb in limited, and probably too weird / weak to make a huge splash in constructed.

Maelstrom Pulse – 1BG
Sorcery (Rare)
Destroy target nonland permanent and each permanent that shares a name with that permanent.
Illus. Anthony Francisco
#92/145

Insanely good removal here.  Flores pointed out right away that his preview card is best compared to vindicate / putrefy.  This card is very versatile, very flexible, and very very good.  It will definitely see tons of play in constructed, and will randomely be your best removal spell in limited.  It can nail planeswalkers, and can randomly 241 or better an opponent who walks into it.  Also, it’s hell on the ubiquitous tokens decks of modern standard.  So yeah, this is probably a chase rare material.  I wonder if this card will be enough to challenge the dogma of running 4-ofs… will this spur people to run fewer copies of more diverse threats, just to avoid having a potentially bad second copy of something?  We’ll see.  It will at least punish people who don’t play around it in the beginning.

Sages of the Anima – 3GU
Creature – Elf Wizard (Rare)
If you would draw a card, instead reveal the top three cards of your library. Put all creature cards revealed this way into your hand and the rest on the bottom of your library in any order.
3/4
Illus. Kev Walker
#103/145

Wow.  Seems like this might be good enough to throw in an elf deck for testing, though I wonder if it’s not a bit pricey, considering you can get regal force for two more and just draw a metric shit-ton of cards, creatures, lands, and all.  Still, the selection is undeniable, and it seems like it might be enough to build around.  I’m a notorious optimist though… he’s probably constructed garbage.

In limited, this would only help you if you had a very high creature count, and I would think that the preclusion of drawing any more removal might be enough to relegate this guy to case-by-case inclusion in only the weirdest of pools.  Maybe if you’re bomb heavy and removal light, and you plan to just out-man them?  Hell, I dunno…

Sphinx of the Steel Wind – 5WUB
Artifact Creature – Sphinx (Mythic Rare)
Flying, first strike, vigilance, lifelink, protection from Red and from Green
No one has properly answered her favorite riddle: “Why should I spare your life?”
6/6
Illus. Kev Walker
#110/145

Sphinx-kroma, eh?  Well, these abilities are impressive, but without haste, there’s too many ways to nuke this thing before it even gains you any life.  Terror, maybe?  Path to Exile?  And at 8cc, it’s just outclassed once more by WAY more powerful threats.  Wouldn’t you rather have Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker, for example?  Still, an undeniable bomb when it has any kind of time to do something.

Thraximundar – 4UBR
Legendary Creature – Zombie Assassin (Mythic Rare)
Haste
Whenever Thraximundar attacks, defending player sacrifices a creature.
Whenever a player sacrifices a creature, you may put a +1/+1 counter on Thraximundar.
6/6
Illus. Raymond Swanland
#113/145

Besides having an excellent name (you know there’s going to be a kitten out there somewhere named Thraximundar any day now… it’s just a matter of time), I think this guy is pretty flavorful and “neat.”  And with Haste, you can reasonably ensure that the opponent will really have to sacrifice SOMETHING.  The picture on this guy is neat too.  Reminds me of the Shrike from the Hyperion novels.  The mythic rares in this set are, thus far, somewhat Johnny-esque in my opinion… they’re “cool” rather than…  you know… “good.”

Lavalanche – XBRG
Sorcery (Rare)
Lavalanche deals X damage to target player and each creature he or she controls.
Alara’s burning blood cannot be contained by mere earth and stone.
Illus. Steve Argyle
#118/145

Holy crap!  Okay, so you’re paying BG more than for, say, Rolling Earthquake, but for that paltry sum, the whole thing is one-sided!?  Yowza!  The only thing holding this card back from being a powerhouse is that banefire is likely still a far superior finisher, and so this will be a niche card.

Unscythe, Killer of Kings – UBBR
Legendary Artifact – Equipment (Rare)
Equipped creature gets +3/+3 and has first strike.
Whenever a creature dealt damage by equipped creature this turn is put into a graveyard, you may remove that card from the game. If you do, put a 2/2 black Zombie creature token into play.
Equip {2}
Illus. Karl Kopinski
#124/145

Okay, a 4-drop equipment with equip of 2 is already somewhat slow… and I think the effect presented here is probably only enough to make this card a strong limited player…. I can’t see a deck using this in constructed… no way.  But in limited, it’s undeniably strong.  There are limited ways to deal with artifacts, particularly non-creature artifacts.  This will give you a strong defender or striker, and either way, once the opponent is forced to deal with it, the token generation makes it a losing proposition.  I’m just not that thrilled about a 4-mana spell with additional requirements that doesn’t win the game on the spot really… It does create a fast clock if it sticks though and if everything goes according to plan.  Meh… I’m in the air.  I don’t see myself excluding it from a deck that can run it, but I also see myself happily passing it in a draft where I’m not on-color already.

Jenara, Asura of War – GWU
Legendary Creature – Angel (Mythic Rare)
Flying
{1}{W}: Put a +1/+1 counter on Jenara, Asura of War.
Wounded soldiers looked up, grateful for her appearance. But she passed over them, her eyes firmly on their foe.
3/3
Illus. Chris Rahn
#126/145

Interesting card here.  There’s a fair number of quality 3-drops competing for play.  Will the new pulse card above create the room for some singleton copies of this card alongside Rhox war monks and rafiq of the many?  Who knows.  This is about the most vanilla mythic rare yet, isn’t it?  Also it’s among the cheapest angels at 3cc.  Very cool card.  Not necessarily incredibly good, but definitely cool.

Jund Hackblade – {BG}R
Creature – Goblin Beserker (Common)
As long as you control another multicolored permanent, Jund Hackblade gets +1/+1 and has haste.
2/1
Illus. Dan Dos Santos
#138/145

3/2 haste for 2 is going to be built around and probably going to be solid.  The early damage potential is too much to ignore, especially when figure of destiny and tattermunge maniac already see play.  So yeah, this will be strong.  In limited, it’s situationally awesome as well.

Marisi’s Twinclaws – 2{rw}G
Creature – Cat Warrior (Uncommon)
Double strike
2/4
#140/145

Hmm… a 2/4 doublestrike is a mean defender, and can still be ofensively powerful with the right buffs.  Still somehow I’m seeing this as a bit slow maybe… i don’t know… it’s a fine card in the right deck that wants to tie up the ground in the middle turns and build to fatties, I guess.

That’s all for now.  When another 10 or 20 are spoiled, join me again for more knee-jerk thoughts and pithy comments!