Tag Archives: alara reborn

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

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 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.

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!

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