Tag Archives: constructed

A Modern Criticism

Authour’s Note: The Majority of this article was written pre-nationals, and has since been slightly revised to include recent developments from mtgo, etc.

Hello everyone, and welcome to my first text article in quite some time. Over the past few weeks I’ve been preparing hard for Canadian Nationals which take place the weekend of August 20 in addition to my full-time summer job so I haven’t been able to write all the articles I’d have liked. I write on the way from Fairmont Hot Springs in British Columbia to the Calgary airport where I leave for the national championships in Toronto, after a week of family vacation (aka me testing on Magic Online in every spare waking moment). Anyway, now that I have a 3 hour drive, I finally got down to writing an article.

Recently, Wizards of the Coast announced he next step in their development of the modern format, a nonrotating format which starts at Mirrodin/8th Edition. This format was debuted at the Magic Online Community Cup where notable members of the Magic community took on Wizards staff in a series of nontraditional formats. When I first heard about this format, I was ecstatic. This format seemed like a great new thing: a format with the nonrotating nature of legacy, and the power level and accessibility of old extended. Most importantly, this format would be unhindered by the reserve list, and older cards which became expensive could be reprinted. The initial ban list seemed reasonable, eliminating the Dark Depths/Vampire Hexmage and Sword of the Meek/Thopter Foundry combos in addition to several other overly powerful effects. I was very excited to have a format where I could play my older, more powerful cards, as we are unable to get 8 people for a legacy tournament at my local game shop because very few people can afford the cards. Like most people, I enjoy playing with powerful cards. I was thrilled at the concept of playing Dark Confidant, Bitterblossom, Stoneforge Mystic, Cryptic Command, Mulldrifter and many more.

Fast forward to this past week. Wizards announces that the extended portions of the upcoming Pro Tour Philadelphia and the team portion of Worlds will be changed to Modern, and they announce a new banlist for the format. What Wizards banned were in essence the most powerful combo and control cards that I was excited to play with. Now there are two methodologies I think may have been behind this banlist, in addition to what has already been said on the mothership. First, they may have wanted to make a completely new and open format, where deckbuilding genius would be rewarded in an environment without powerful “must play” cards like Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Stoneforge Mystic or Bitterblossom. However, while this is a reasonable goal for a format, allowing both Tarmogoyf and the Punishing Fire/Grove of the Burnwillows interaction is orthogonal to that goal. Tarmogoyf, of course, being among the top 3 2 drops of all time (the others being Dark Confidant and Stoneforge Mystic), playable in almost every non-combo deck. It’s the best aggressive 2 drop any aggro deck could hope for, while at the same time being the most cost effective finisher a control deck could want. With the giant combo banning spree, I think we’ll see Goyfs in a significant number of top 8 decklists. Punishing Fire is also one of the most effective methods of dealing with creatures, as well as providing a nice mana sink for the late game. Decks in a format where the combo is legal are forced to either play mostly bigger creatures like Kird Ape and Wild Nacatl, play very few creatures, or play dedicated hate for that combo, possibly in the mainboard when it won’t even be effective a nontrivial amount of the time. Without those bannings, as well, I would say that this format is not one which is wide open.

The second paradigm I feel the new banlist may have been developed under was the “Ban everything until aggro is the best deck” paradigm. There are no aggro cards on this banlist, unless you count Stoneforge Mystic, but as we learnt from pre-banning Standard, Stoneforge is more at home in a control deck than in an aggressive one. Maybe it’s because control cards are traditionally more powerful than aggro cards, or that it’s harder to design fair control cards, but If control players like myself don’t get to play with some of our powerful cards, I don’t see why aggro decks should get the best aggressive creature ever printed, even called a mistake by Wizards. While I think that Wizards should ban as few cards as possible and let the format sort itself out, numerous pros including Patrick Chapin have said that it is better to err on the side of too many bans instead of too few. If this were the case, I’d also ban both Tarmogoyf and Punishing Fire. I think that the Grove of the Burnwillows cycle could be a perfectly reasonable in an expert expansion as reverse pain-lands, so getting rid of Fire would be preferable. However, if this combo is in the format, I see no problem with Bitterblossom being unbanned. Look at last year’s Pro Tour Amsterdam – the main reason nobody played faeries was because it got absolutely crushed by Punishing Fire. Without Riptide Laboratory or a similar effect that a faeries deck would play to fight the easily-splashable Fire-Grove combo, I think Bitterblossom would be fine in this format. In addition, the Cloudpost deck has been tearing up the Magic Online meta, usually in mono blue, mono green or blue-green variations. This deck is also absurdly powerful, easily casting Primeval Titan into various eldrazi quite quickly depending on its draw. At this moment, Vesuva or Cloudpost could be a potential ban candidate, depending on whether wizards would want to neuter the deck or kill it completely. If Wizards were indeed trying to promote an aggressive format; it wool appear that they missed ‘post, which is believable coming from the same people who didn’t realize that Spliter Twin/Deceiver Exarch was a combo for standard.

These are just a few of my personal quips with the banlist and the methodology behind it. However, I believe that for the most part, the banlist is surprisingly spot-on. Cards like Glimpse of Nature, the core of affinity, the dredge deck, and even Stoneforge Mystic are extremely powerful and could easily dominate the format, and can lead to games of magic which can lead to one person not being able to play Magic. I’m not a fan of banning cards because they are unfun. (Un)fun is in the eye of the beholder, and if I’m playing current Caw-Blade against a pre-con, neither of us are going to have fun. Is that anyone’s fault? No, the decks simply aren’t built with the same goal in mind. However, when you have the highest levels of decks competing against each other and you still have games that are significantly unfun, then we have a problem and a banning is usually in order. A great example of this is in one of my favourite formats: Pauper. Flash back to a couple months ago, before Jace and Stoneforge were banned in Standard. In Pauper, just like Standard, there was a dominating deck: Esper/Frantic/Twiddle Storm. The deck used a combination of the “free” spells from Urza block such as Cloud of Faeries, Snap, and Frantic Search. Normally, these cards untap lands equal to their casting costs, but this deck bent that to it’s advantage in two ways. First, using Nightscape Familiar and Sunscape Familiar makes your blue spells cost less mana, so your paying less mana to untap the same number of lands. Second, using the Ravnica bouncelands as a part of your manabase (Dimir Aquaduct, Azorious Chancery, etc.) lets you net more mana when you untap those lands. Used in conjunction, the “free” spells are no longer free, and they actually give you mana, acting as rituals in addition to bouncing a permanent, giving you a 1/1 flier, or letting you filter cards. All that extra mana can be funnelled into draw spells like Mulldrifter and Deep Analysis, which let yo draw more “free spells”. Eventually you cast a giant Temporal Fissure and bounce all of your opponent’s permanents in addition to a Mnemonic Wall to do that every turn and beat them down with incidental creatures. This deck was extremely hard to disrupt, and was quite clearly the best deck in pauper. The only reasons that stopped every single pauper player from playing this deck were that it cost over 50 tickets to put together because of its power, and that the deck was boring as hell to pilot, as well as play against. I will state on the record that if it were cheaper, Esper Storm in pauper would have been more dominating than Caw Blade was pre-ban. That’s how good this deck was, but it was mostly only good because of the fact that there was no way to fight it. If we had a Rule of Law or something at common, the deck would have been fine, but due to the fact that such complex cards aren’t printed at common, Esper Storm had a stranglehold on the pauper metagame. So many matches would be you sitting there trying to attack or accrue card advantage, while your opponent pretty much masturbated for 10 minutes each game while they comboed off. To exacerbate the matter, the deck had a low, but nonzero chance of fizzling, so you couldn’t concede like you can to a giant Grapeshot. Even worse, if you have a counterspell or removal spell that you need to time perfectly mid-combo to give yourself the best shot at stopping them, so you couldn’t even f6. You were not playing magic. Then, on the eve that Jace and Stoneforge were banned, my face lit up with glee as I saw on the Magic Online group that Frantic Search had been banned. This was exactly what I want from a ban – the overwhelming power of a deck to be crippled, but for the deck to still have a place in a newer, more diverse metagame. Esper Storm still frequently appears in the top pauper decks, but to a much less extent, and we have a meta where everything from storm variants to all-out infect or burn aggro to a fog deck are viable and capable of taking down a tournament. I think to a great extent, the modern banlist accomplishes this task, and commend wizards on getting most of the banlist right.

My final criticism of Modern lies in the format’s place in Magic and how Wizards has chosen to implement it. Being that the format is nonrotating, the format that it immediately appears to be in contention with is Legacy, which is currently at the peak of its popularity thanks to the SCG opens. So my immediate question is this: Why should I play Modern instead of Legacy? When I sit down and think about it, there’s really no reason. There are no modern FNMs (yet), no modern PTQs (yet), and I’m not on the pro tour (yet). In order to justify me sinking a ton of money into it, there needs to be some incentive for me to play the format at a high level. Comparing Modern and legacy, I don’t find there to be enough of a positive difference between the two to justify the extra investment.

It’s no secret Legacy is expensive. With format staples like Wasteland, Force of Will, and the dual lands easily exceeding the $50 range and sometimes breaking $100, the format is undoubtedly expensive to play. I started playing Magic in Planar Chaos, and I didn’t play competitive standard for several years. I simply couldn’t fathom spending that much on a hobby. However, I got a part time job while in high school, went to FNM every week, got in with a good crowd of players who gave me a solid foundation in the game. When I had become proficient at Standard, I looked to extended, and then Legacy, and I picked a deck and gradually started picking up the pieces. I had played Merfolk in both standard and extended, it seemed only natural to get into legacy. For over a year I picked up a Force of Will here, some Wastelands there, and gradually built up the deck to the point where I have a fully functional deck. Now with Modern, the prices are lower, but not by a huge margin. We’re seeing shocklands at $35 a pop, Bobs at the same, Goyfs at $80, and the list goes on. With Modern, I need to buy into a whole new deck complete with an expensive land base and format staples. Unlike when Jace was $100 in standard, I can’t just go draft Ravnica Block or triple Future Sight at FNM. The whole reason that people wanted a new, nonrotating format was that it would circumvent the issues created by the reserve list and powerful and expensive cards could be reprinted. However, if Wizards doesn’t do that – we’re going to have the same problem as Legacy, albeit on a slightly smaller scale. Without shockland reprints, I really can’t justify buying a full set of 40 shocklands for a format I’ll play only a few times a year.

For players that have not bought into legacy or vintage, at least in part, then I can see why modern would be a fantastic starting off point as a player wishes to play older formats. But for players who have sunk some sizeable amount of cash into a legacy deck or 2, there is no real allure to the format. Why pay a bunch of extra money so that I don’t get to play with the cards I love? Unless the format has something to offer me more than legacy, I really won’t be looking to pick up all the staples any time soon, because it’s terrible value. For standard, one could easily justify acquiring jaces pre-ban because you would easily win more than your $400 with them back from standard tournaments. For older formats, that’s not true, as there are not any frequent local legacy or modern tournaments. I bought into legacy because I wanted something to play, and acquired the deck because I knew I could sell it for a reasonable portion of what I paid for it if I ever got bored (Turns out the deck quadrupled in price since I bought the pieces). With Modern, I can’t see shocklands going any higher unless Wizards puts a gargantuan amount of emphasis on the format with no support behind it. However, there is the possibility that Wizards does reprint Goyf, Bob, shocklands, etc. in which case I would lose a ton of value off a $1000 set of shocklands, a $400 set of goyfs, etc. Sad as I am to say it, this is one situation where the reserve list is good for someone like myself. If they’re not going to reprint staples to lower the cost of entry to a format, why wouldn’t I buy the ones that are backed by a guarantee to no be reprinted, and therefore most likely retain value?

However, my main gripe with the reserve list is that there is not enough reasonable supply of older staples to allow more than a few people in an area to play the format. The people that play legacy are those that are dedicated to the game and have extra money to spend on higher value singles, or they are those who have been playing the game for long periods of time. With modern, I don’t see how the target audience changes, except by lowering each of these barriers. Instead of a dual land costing you $60-$120, they now cost $20-$40. Instead of powerful lands coming from Revised, they come from Ravnica. While there are still reasonable supplies of shocklands right now (and even then I don’t think there are enough to make up for all the growth that Magic has seen through these past few years), as time goes on I can see the same problems occurring with Modern as Legacy. Yes there will be a few players but the format won’t be accessible enough to have a weekly tournament for it.

When I buy cards, I buy them for a certain purpose and format(s). I also like playing with powerful cards, as they make the game more fun for me. If I had the card base and the crew, I’d love to play some high-level vintage, but alas I have neither. I’ve discussed the banlist above, but I want to play with cards like Stoneforge Mystic and Jace, the Mind Sculptor. If I can’t play the cards I paid nontrivial sums of money for from recent expansions in standard or modern, I’ll play older formats like Legacy. I’ve talked about the banlist a great deal, but a great deal of the allure of modern was lost on me when I found out that almost all of the cards in the format I was excited about had been banned. Whereas Legacy is often touted as being a format where almost anything is possible (at least it was until the printing of Mental Misstep, but that’s a topic for people more qualified than I am), Modern seems to be pretty contained at the moment, with the biggest decks being Zoo and post variants. From a logical standpoint – there is nor reason why I would want to play modern instead of Legacy – fewer decks means similar games and I think that one of the most important things about a nonrotating format is the diversity of decks such as what legacy had before the printing of Mental Misstep.

In short, these are the reasons I don’t think that modern in it’s current incarnation will succeed:
1) High price of entry, most notable $30-$40 dual lands, $80 Tarmogoyfs, & $40 Bobs. These are staples which people will have to buy many copies of to be able to build competitive decks. While I don’t mind having a couple high priced/high power cards, I do mind having those in addition to land bases which can be hundreds of dollars.
2) Fewer deck choices. With the current ban list, only a select few decks seem to be able to compete when compared to legacy.
3) Little support. While this could change in the future, as of now it’s not worth investing time and money into the format without being able to regain value from tournaments.
4) The format isn’t fun. I’ve played several games with mono green post and I’ve been skipping some Magic Online games while my friend plays Zoo and the format isn’t enjoyable. Decks are currently very un-interactive (e.g. Zoo tries o just beat you down quickly, post tries to cast something huge, etc) and there doesn’t seem to be a consistent control deck as of yet.

These are just my first thoughts on Modern as it exists now. However, it is still a new format, and I hope that with data from the upcoming Pro Tour and Magic Online events, that wizards can make the right choices regarding the format and how they want to proceed with it. I’m sure I could love modern, but just not this modern.

As always, feel free to post in the comments below, or you can contact me via email at zak-AT-power9pro.com, via twitter at www.twitter.com/zturchan. Also, I stream magic online matches of a variety of formats every Monday at 5pm Mountain (7pm Eastern, 4pm Pacific) at www.twitch.tv/zturchan.

Cheers,

Zak

td60_cobraSplash

Tales From Nationals Qualifiers: Bant Caw Blade (Top 8)

This past week, myself and 4 other friends made the 3 hour drive from Edmonton to Calgary for one of the 4 8-slot nationals qualifiers. In the weeks beforehand, I was testing every variation of Caw Blade possible, and I knew I wanted to play the best deck for this event. However, I was quite wary of the fact that I would be paired up against the mirror several times, and wanted to have an edge in that matchup.

On the Wednesday beforehand, I played a variant of Gerry Thompson’s Darkblade, which I liked. However, I lost in the finals to blue/white because I didn’t have a good plan for sideboarding, that is, I had lots of cards to put in, but so few to take out. This is an example of how not to give yourself the best shot at winning. I really liked the black splash for Inquisition of Kozilek and Creeping Tar Pit, but it still felt like the edge I had wasn’t enough to make the matchup decisively in my favour.

Sometime about midweek, my good friend (and recent PTQ winner) Brian told me of a Bant Caw blade deck that splashed green for Lotus Cobra and Explore. Apparently normal cawblade was one of your best matchups, because a turn 2 Cobra is so much better than a turn 2 stoneforge.

I kept the idea in the back of my mind, knowing that I really didn’t want to audible at the last minute, as I had been practicing with Darkblade and felt more or less comfortable with it, once I had wrinkled out the sideboard plan against blue-white.

On Thursday, I netdecked Gerry’s list for straight blue-white and went to another tournament, which I 3-0ed. The competition was not exactly fierce, and so I took my results their with a grain of salt. I liked hwo the deck played, but I still was unsure.

The one thing I knew I had going for me was that whatever I had been practicing, it had been some form of Caw-Blade. I knew how the mechanics of the deck worked, and despite the differences in colours, I knew I was a competent pilot who could do well with it. However, I did have to make a decision.

Friday night was a draft at Wizard’s, my local store. We had about ~20 people in the smalls store, but the draft fired with 8. The rest of us were testing for the day after. Since I was spending the night with some friends before we drove down the night before, I had brought my 2 binders of standard rares and of tournament-quality commons/uncommons. These binders effectively let me build any deck I need to on the fly. I tested the various cawblade mirrors and got to understand them more, and then Brian asked me if I had done anything with the bant deck. I told him I hadn’t, and that I was probably going to play Darkblade. He said I should sleeve it up and give it a few games just to try, and so I built the deck.

I was pretty amazed.

We started out testing against RUG. I was on the play. I cast a turn 2 Lotus Cobra. He cast a turn 2 Lotus Cobra. I cast Explore into a fetchland and a normal land, cast Preordain, cast Stoneforge Mystic, fetched and cast Mortarpod and killed his cobra. The game was won shortly thereafter.

Now obviously this was an example of a nut draw, but that in and of itself speaks volumes. The one thing that normal caw blade doesn’t have is a ‘nut draw’. Rather, you have a very consistent deck that does powerful things, but not absurdly powerful things. The Cobra package changes that. At the heart, you’ve still got the same old cawblade shell, but you’ve added more speed and explosiveness to the deck.

So I was really happy with that game. Obviously I realized that I wouldn’t always draw like that, but that fact that it could happen was what attracted me to the deck. We played some more matches and drew up the sideboard and this is what we came up with.
Snakes on a Blade


Sideboard

Besides the green splash, there are a few things which make this deck stand out from your typical cawblade deck.

Frost Titan is a card which was in the original version of the list that Brian had found, and after trying it out I was happy to leave it in. Being able to tap down opposing titans, Creeping Tar Pits, or even Gideon Juras proved to be invaluable, and the demi-shroud certainly helped as well. Some lists run Sphinx of Jwar Isle, but I’d much rather have a guy which can do combat with titans, and tap stuff down than full-fledged shroud. As well, who doesn’t love a Titan wielding a sword?

Instead of a second Sword in the mainboard, we run a Bonehoard. Because we run 7 more creatures than normal (4 Cobras and 3 Titans), Bonehoard is more effective. It also helps a great deal in the mirror if I need to take down a Gideon Jura in the late game, or if I just really want another sizeable blocker against aggro decks.

The deck’s mana base is a little awkward, if only because we have so many green sources and not a ton to use them for, but it works out reasonably well. Because of the mana acceleration provided by Lotus Cobra and Explore, this deck is less weak to Tectonic Edge than say Darkblade.

The sideboard is pretty straightforward, but one thing I like is the pair of Tectonic Edges. Note that we don’t ever board out lands for these; rather you treat them as spells so that our mana is still consistent. They’re obviously good against Valakut but also can be very helpful against control decks like Darkblade, espeilly if their game plan involves manlands.

So, after switch to the Bant version of cawblade, I was ready to go crush the tournament the next day.

Other than myself, the group that we brought down had a Valakut player, a blue-white caw blade player, a RUG player (who top 8ed) and a mono white eldrazi player. As soon as I heard about one person playing mono white, I tried to convince him to play Caw Blade but to no avail. Oh well, you can’t win ‘em all.

Round 1: vs Michael (Tezzeret Caw Blade)
In game 1, I never saw any extraneous artifacts so I assumed he was on plain old Darkblade. I get an early Stoneforge Mystic but he Inquisition of Kozileks away my Sword of Feast and Famine. However, I soon cast a Frost Titan and tap down his Tectonic Edge so that he can’t take me off double white for Gideon Jura. He then punts by casting a Squadron Hawk, which resolves, and then attempting to Go For the Throat my titan with no mana up. I cheerfully indicate that it’s countered and he succumbs to the combine power of Titan and my follow-up Gideon.

Sideboarding: Caw Blade
In this matchup, I board out Mortarpod, a Mana Leak, a Frost Titan and a Day of Judgment. Aside from Mana Leak, these cards don’t do nearly as much as some of the cards I have post-board, and in this style of deck I’d rather play more spells than leave leak mana open in this matchup.

I board in the second sword, because they’re most likely bringing in Divine Offerings or something like that, as well as Voltion Reins for either their sword or their planeswalkers, as well as Into the Roil and Condemn. Spot removal is very useful in this matchup if you can get them to spend their early turns on equipping someone with a Sword, and then you can prohibit them from untapping and get ahead.

On the draw, you can board out 1-2 more leaks for Tec-edges if you feel they’re warranted. In this match I brought 1 in.

In game 2, Michael leads off with a Stoneforge Mystic for Sword of Body and Mind. Because I can’t see him boarding in body and mind against me, I just assume he’s playing a 1/1 split and has Sword of Feast and Famine in his hand. I play a turn 2 Lotus Cobra, hoping to explode on turn 3, but to my surprise he plays a Contagion Clasp[. I didn’t know he was Caw-Tezz at that moment, so I concluded that he might have seem green mana game 1, and inferred that I would have Cobras and then have boarded in Clasps. Of course, he was not next-leveling me, and jut never drew them in game 1. He establishes a board of Squadron Hawks and starts pecking me to death, and when I finally land a Gideon he simply kills it with birds and a Celestial Colonnade. I can only survive being hit with sworded birds for so long and I fold without dealing him any damage.

In game 3, I keep a hand with double Lotus Cobra. My opponent, conveniently enough has double Go For the Throat to dispatch them. He tries to Memoricide me, and while I tank as to whether or not I should counter it he announces Frost Titan. Seeing as I have a titan in hand I snap counter. If any of you are playing with Memoricide, know that you don’t name a card until the spell has resolved, so as not to give away any extra information to your opponent. I stick the titan soon after and he resolves a Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas and starts using the +1 ability. He whiffs for several turns in a row while I add a gideon to my team, and tap down his Creeping Tar Pit. When Michael lands a Tumble Magnet and makes it a 5/5 with Tezzeret, I happily force the magnet to attack Gideon and ride my titan to victory.

1 – 0

Round 2: vs Chris (Black-Red Vampires)

Chris is one of the better players in Alberta, so I knew this game wasn’t going to be easy. In game 1, I have double Stoneforge Mystic, which fetch Mortarpod and Sword. The first mystic gets hit by a Lightning Bolt, while the second one sticks. I flash in the Sword and equip it to the germ token and bash in, untapping and forcing a discard. Searching for an answer, Chris activates Viscera Seer, saccing itself to scry. He scrys first, and then attempts to nug me for 2 with Kalastria Highborn. I call a judge and the judge tells him that he can’t do that. This is because you activate the seer’s ability by paying the cost (sacrificing a creature) and putting the ability onto the stack. Highborn triggers and its ability is put on to the stack above the scry ability, and must resolve first. Because it’s a may ability and Chris scryed first, it’s assumed that he didn’t pay for the highborn and by the time he’s already scryed, it’s too late as the ability has already resolved. With an active Sword, it wouldn’t have made much of a difference anyway and and I quickly take the game.

Sideboarding: Vampires

Against vampires, I board out Cobras, 2 leaks and a jace. They have so much removal that Cobra will die almost instantly, and it trades poorly in combat with things like Bloodghast and Viscera Seer. Leaks sometimes don’t do enough, but since I had seen Captivating Vampire in game 1, I reasoned that keeping one in would be better than the 4th Jace.

I boarded in the 2 Kor Firewalkers, the Sylvok Lifestaff, both Ousts, the Condemn, the Day of Judgment and the Into the Roil.

In game 2, I mulligan and keep a slow hand. Chris punishes me with a bunch of vampires, and I can’t stabilize. My notes show him going to 18 and then to 21, and me getting slaughtered, so it wasn’t very close.

Game 3 was where I determined I was running good enough to top 8. I’m on the play and I mulligan down to 5, and all those 5 cards are land. Begrudgingly, I keep 5 land, reasoning that I could hit an absolutely unplayable 4 and at least this way I can play most everything I draw. Chris starts off fast with a Viscera Seer, Kalastria Highborn and a Captivating Vampire. Luckily, I hit a Day of Judgment and reset the board. I then draw into a Jace, the Mind Sculptor, which brainstorms into a Kor Firewalker and Mortarpod. I suit up the firewalker, content to sit back and brainstorm for a few turns, and when Chris attacks me with a 2/2 vampire (I forget which one), I promptly block with my 2/3. To my chagrin, Chris casts a Crush. to force the trade. Eventually I hit a Squadron Hawk and Gideon, which gives me enough card advantage and firepower to win the game. If I could get there off of 5 land, there was nothing that could stop me on my way to nationals.

2 – 0

Round 3: vs Chris (different guy; Valakut)

In game one, Chris misses his 5th land drop with no Overgrown Battlement nor Lotus Cobra. This lets me get a Sword of Feast and Famine online pretty quickly, and force him to start discarding. He manages to eventually resolve an Avenger of Zendikar, but I force the attack with Gideon Jura, and since he doesn’t have a land immediately, I strat killing off plants with Squadron Hawks. I Assassinate the Avenger with gideon on the following turn and he has no gas to stop me.

Sideboarding: Valakut
Against Valakut, we want to be boarding out Squadron Hawks, because not only do they have Inferno Titan and perhaps Slagstorm, but they have enough pressure that you can’t just sit back on massive card advantage from Jace and Hawks and hope they run out of steam. We also want to board out the Bonehoard, as it really doesn’t do anything, along with a Frost Titan and a Gideon Jura. It might be correct to board out the second Gideon and keep in all the Frost Titans, but being able to soak up a hit from Avenger and friends is relevant enough that I don’t mind the 2/1 split postboard. The reason we board out some top-heavy cards is that the only way they really have to interact with our finishers is through their own finishers. If we focus more on ensuring that they don’t stick one of their bigger threats (or if they do, that they are delayed), we really only need 1 or 2 threats to finish the game. Finally, we board out Mortarpod if we don’t see Lotus Cobra, but if we do we leave it in.

From the board we want to add in all the copies of Flashfreeze, both Tectonic Edges, both Ousts, and the second Sword. The first two are pretty obvious, but Oust is really good against either their cobras or battlements, as it not only slows their mana production, but it gives them a semi-dead draw in the later turns. A turn 4 Overgrown Battlement is a lot worse than one on turn 2. The sword is good because they might bring in something along the lines of Natures Claim, and because we’re boarding out 2 equipment and we don’t want extra Stoneforge Mystics to not give us advantage.

In game 2, Chris misses his 5th and drop before drawing and casting a Cultivate. He then resolves a Primeval Titan, which is a lot less effective when his lands at the time were 5 forests and a mountain. He grabbed double Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, and I happily locked down his Primeval with a Frost Titan. Not to be outdone in the haymaker department, Chris threw down an Avenger and dropped a land. I Ousted the avenger and then Stoneforged for a Sword, and attached it to Frosty. Unable to deal with my 8/8 titan, he quickly packed it in.

3 – 0

Round 4: vs Andrew (UW Cawblade)

Andrew leads off with a turn 2 Stoneforge Mystic for Sword, while I have a turn 2 Lotus Cobra. He quickly Mortarpods away my snake and I have to play my own Stoneforge for sword. I resolve my first hawk and get in good with my sword after chumping his, and although he has an Elspeth Tirel and triple Gideon Jura, my collonades and titans manage to take it down.

I sideboarded in much the same way as in round 1.

Game 2 was an interesting affair, with me having turn 2 Lotus Cobra, although it got Ousted twice. Andrew then cast a Gideon Jura and double Tectonic Edge me. I played a Gideon of my own but then he bricked on land and I was able to stabilize of my lands and lotus cobras to eventually kill him. I’m sorry if my notes were a little sparse but the matches were more intense than the brief notes I’ve marked down. However, this game does showcase one awesome thing about this deck. The cobra plan is so different than the stoneforge/squadron hawk plan that you have opponents who bring in things like Oust which while fine against the cobra plan, isn’t nearly as good against stoneforge, hawks, or various planeswalkers. The only card that’s really good against the cobra plan while not being totally divergent from their normal plan is Mortarpod. However, if your opponent fetches Mortarpod to deal with cobra, it means they’re not gettinf a sword to put pressure on you, and when you drop your own stoneforge you get to be the aggressor.

4 – 0

Round 5: vs Michel (UW Venser Control)

I’m excited, because a win here means I can double-draw into top 8. I start off with a strong opener: Lotus Cobra into Stoneforge Mystic, which gets Mana Leaked. Unfortunately I don’t hit my 4th land drop until several turns and Preordains have elapsed, while Michel is more than content to accumulate card advantage through a Jace Beleren while sitting behind a Wall of Omens. Once I get a Squadron Hawk online and equipped, Michel has a Tumble Magnet to stop me form getting it in. He finally resolves a Venser, the Soujourner, and continues to Flicker out his magnet, ensuring I can’t get in an attack. When he finally ultimates venser and starts casting a bunch of spells, while his Celestial Colonnades get in for damage, I know it’s game over.

Sideboarding: Non-Caw based control
So for this matchup I board out pretty much all my creature removal, as the only creatures I saw were Wall of Omens and manlands. So I bring out Mortarpod, Day of Judgment, as well as Bonehoard and one Stoneforge Mystic in favour of Voltion Reins, the Into the Roil, and 2 Tectonic Edge.

In game 2 Michel keeps a land-light hand and has no outs to me swining with unsworded hawks. Not much of a match.

In game 3 we have a slow control match, where I manage to stick a Jace, the Mind Sculptor and start fatesealing. When Jace gets to 13 loyalty, I put a Preordain on the bottom and Michel rips the [card]Jace Beleren to stay alive. He eventually gets a Venser the Soujourner and goes ultimate. This game was about as “draw-go” as you can get, and in the end the deck with 7 Jaces won the Jace war, and by extension the game.

4 – 1

Round 6: vs Mat (Aggro Valakut)

We both have relatively slow starts, and Mat misses his 4th land drop. I try and get ahead with a jace but it quickly dies to a burn spell. Mat hits his 4th land drop, but he only has one forest, and I cast a Frost Titan to lock him out of his only green source and the game.

For sideboarding, I boarded the same way as round 3, except I took out Explores and 2 leaks for Kor Firewalkers, Condemn and the Sylvok Lifestaff. These cards are much better agains the aggro plan while shaving off some of the slower, less effective cards.

On the draw in game 2, I mullligan to 5 and get hit by Lotus Cobra into double Hero of Oxid Ridge. Again, not much of a match.

In game 3, I mulligan to 6 and keep possibly the ideal 6 card hand. I keep Seachrome Coast, Razorverge Thicket, double Oust[card], [card]Kor Firewalker and Stoneforge Mystic. I throw down an early firewalker, and hit my land and Oust his [/card]Lotus Cobra[/card] and fetch Sword of Feast and Famine. I put the sword on the Firewalker, and start swinging in for huge value. He eventually draws a Tumble Magnet to stall, but I eventually just wear down the counters and get through for my souped-up firewalker.

5 – 1

Round 7: vs Adrian (Valakut)

I’m in 6th, paired against the 5th place guy and we intentionally draw. I’m reasonably confident I’m in for top 8.

5 – 1 – 1

When everything is said and done, Jason Ness (the TO) informs everyone that one person at 5-1-1 did not make top 8. He reads them off in descending order and slowrolls us on the 8th seed, by thanking the judges and players and doing announcements just before he makes the announcement. Thankfully, he calls my name and I’m headed for nationals this summer in Toronto.

Because this was a large nationals qualifier, we didn’t play out the top 8. My good friend Attila also made top 8 with RUG, so we were happy that we’d have 4 people from our store headed to nationals this summer.

The deck played very well, and my only loss was to a great player with a great deck. I’m certainly looking forward to trying the Venser deck out once I can get some Vensers of my own. I felt noticeably ahead at almost all times in the mirror, and Frost Titan did more than his fair share of work. If I could change anything, I would probably cut a green source, most likely a Verdant Catacombs for another white source, perhaps a Stirring Wildwood or just another basic plains. Other than that, the deck performed extremely well and I highly recommend it to anyone playing in their local nationals qualifiers in the coming weeks.

I’d love to give a shout out to my testing group from Wizard’s Comics: Attila, for grinding MWS matches with me for hours on end in the preceding weeks; Brian, for convincing me to try the deck and helping me with the sideboard; Stephen, for driving all of us down to Calgary despite the horrid road conditions, and everyone else for helping me along the way – you guys are awesome.

If you have any questions about Bant cawblade, or anything else, feel free to post in the comments below, or email me at zak-AT-power9pro.com or via twitter at www.twitter.com/zturchan.

Cheers,

Zak

Jace, the Mind Sculptor.full

Jace the Mind Sculptor: Ban-Worthy?

Shortly after the culmination of GP Dallas-Fort Worth, a plethora of magic players expressed their concern about the perceived dominance of Jace decks in standard.  For those of you who were not aware, the top 8 of this most recent GP boasted a top 8 which contained 32 copies of both Jace, the Mind Scluptor and Preordain.

The presence of 32 copies of a card in the same top 8 is something that happens very rarely.  In fact, there have only been 2 large events where such a thing has happened before.  The first was GP Kuala Lampur 2010, where the top 8 was comprised of 6 Jund decks, 1 Boros deck, and 1 Mono-Red deck, which eventually won.  Each of these decks was packing a full set of Lightning Bolts, one of the most efficient removal spells ever printed.  The second time was in a Magic Online Championbship Series tournament (which are in essence the most competitive tournaments on MODO) which had 32 copies of Bloodbraid Elf in the top 8, as Jund was almost certainly the best deck in Shards of Alara block constructed.

Let’s examine these two previous incidents.  In the first instance, I don’t think anyone was ever calling for the banning of Lightning Bolt, and we certainly didn’t have #banbolt as a twitter hashtag like #banjace has become.  In the case of 32 Bloodbraid elves, Alara block constructed wasn’t exactly a popular format, and as such didn’t get the attention that a large standard event would.  While there were most certainly people calling for the banning of Bloodbraid Elf in standard, there was always at least one non-bloodbraid based deck in every top 8.

So what makes this instance of 32 Jaces different?  Why has this one event created a huge cry for the banning of the blue planeswalker?  We all know that Jace is extremely powerful, but all of a sudden people are saying that it should be banned in standard.

So let’s run through the case that the #banjace team has put forward.

1. Lack of viable competitive archetypes

The top 8 of Dallas contained an even split of RUG decks and UW Caw-BLade decks.  Previous to this top 8, the best decks in the format were generally assumed to include those 2, in addition to Valakut and Boros.  However, many people are now discounting non-jace based decks for competitive play, and might stop attending standard tournaments if they either don’t have Jaces.  The pro-ban argument likens Jace’s dominance to Affinity back in the original Mirrodin Block, where affinity had a stranglehold on the standard environment.

2. Price

It’s no secret that Jace is the most expensive card standard has seen in recent memory (I can’t speak for the early days of type 2, as I wasn’t there).  He was initially sold at $25, and then worked his way up to the $90-$100 interval that he now rests at.  Some blame this price on mythic rares, some blame it on a conspiracy by Star City Games, while others have their own theories.  Regardless, many people believe that it’s not in the best interest of the game to have to pay $400 for a set of cards to be competitive, especially when they will rotates in the fall.

Taken together, these arguments form a syllogism with the following premises and conclusions.

1. Jace is prohibitively expensive.

2. Jace is necessary to win at competitive standard.

Therefore:

3. People who can’t afford Jace can’t win at competitive standard.

Finally, the supposed solution to this problem is to ban Jace from standard play.

The magic community is pretty firmly divided on this issue, and I’m going to outline my views on why Jace should not be banned.  There are some problems with what the #banjace side is arguing and I’ll address their points one by one.

1. Jace is prohibitively expensive.

I agree.  That’s right – as someone who owns 4 Jaces, I’m disappointed that a Jace costs $100.  I acquired my jaces at varying price points: opening 1, buying one at $35, trading for one at $50 value, and buying one for $85 worth of store credit.  Now I have $400 worth of Jaces, and I don’t think they should be worth that much.  This is a problem, and I wholeheartedly agree that something needs to be done.

I propose a promotional reprint of Jace 2.0.  Similar to the situation in legacy with Candelabra of Tawnos, there are many players who can’t afford to play the decks they want because they are priced out of them.  While I have several hundred dollars worth of Jaces, I would be terrifically happy if they reprinted him and he tanked to $20-$30.  Why?  I’m a magic player at heart, and the more people that cna play magic and play the decks they want, the happier I am because it means the game will survive longer.  I’ve seen new players leave my local game store because they hate getting beaten by a card they can’t afford.  This game should be first and foremost about the players, and you have to cater to them.  The problem with this is getting the right number of jaces out to the right people.  We can’t do an FNM promo, because that only rewards players who have them already, and a judge foil is even more limited.  I think something like a duel decks would be perfect, but produced in numbers to satisfy demand so that stores don’t artificially jack up the prices a la From the Vault.

The reason that the idea of a standard format is so good is that new players can break into competitive magic relatively easily, without having to put down a huge investment.  Once a player is sufficiently immersed in the game, then they begin to invest in older formats like legacy once their tournament winnings keep them more or less self-sufficient.  Thus, it’s in the best interest of the game to reprint Jace, and slightly upset a few players but make it possible for those who understandably don’t want to invest $400 in a set of cards which will rotate in October.

Some of you are probably saying, “But a mass reprint will make people who did pay the $400 angry!”  While this can be true, I don’t think anyone who wants this game to grow can say that having to pay $400 for playset of Jaces is a good thing.  If we consider the option of either reprinting or banning Jace based on price, we realize that we’re going to piss someone off.  If you ban jace, not only has a great deal of value been lost, but now people can’t even play with the cards they worked hard to obtain.  Rather, a reprint would allow more people to play with one of the most powerful cards in magic’s history.

In short, people need to be able to take a hit to the value of their collections for the game to grow.  The same argument could be made about the reserve list, but that’s a topic for another day.

2. Jace is necessary to win at competitive standard

Yes, there were 32 Jaces in the GPDFW top 8.  However, one event is a very small sample size and we cannot draw this conclusion from one top 8.  Yes, Jace decks are dominant, but that doesn’t mean they’re unbeatable.  Remember when Jund was super dominant?  How did the magic community begin to beat it?  We learned to attack the mana base, and I top 8ed provincials with a Gerry Thompson list that was designed to utterly destroy jund by exploiting that weakness.

Similarly, jace decks are weaker to creatures with haste and/or shroud, because they usually only pack a few board wipes and their creatures aren’t very beefy.  A card like Vengevine does very well against Jace because he comes out of nowhere and is very resilient.  With the prevalence of UW Cawblade in lieu of the UWb variant, creature based strategies are more powerful, because you blank your opponent’s Spell Pierces.

Recently, over twitter, director of Magic R&D Aaron Forsythe has been discussing with LSV and others about what would happen if a card like Lightning Greavesor Fires of Yavimaya were to be reprinted.  Of course myself and certain others realized that reprinting Greaves would be very dangerous, as giving Titans haste and shroud is ridiculous – especially when you have Stoneforge Mystic in the format.  Something like fires is more reasonable, because not only does it not work well in a Jace deck, it lets you push through for (hopefully) enough damage to kill Jace.  Unfortunately, neither of those cards are legal in standard, but we do have an effective haste-granter who shines against jace decks.

That’s right, a turn 2 Renegade Doppelganger can be used not only with Vengevine, but a great deal of other creatures to put large amounts of pressure on the opponent.  The synergy it has with Hero of Bladehold is phenomenal, and with a turn 1 Birds of Paradise, you can be attacking for 7 as early as turn 3.  Even with just a Vengevine, having a Doppelganger is an aggressive play that can help pressure a caw-blade opening.

As well, Doppelganger invites Fauna Shama, giving you a tutor as soon as you drop Ms. Survival-on-a-stick, which helps mitigate the shaman’s vulnerability to removal.

I don’t take credit for this deck idea; rather, it was my good friend Attila who brewed up these synergies into a deck that has been performing very well against various cawblade variants.  This deck is very fast while also being able to play a long game with lots of pressure.

Standard Bant Aggro by Attila Fur

Sideboard

While this deck is still undergoing development, it gives you an idea of how one can do well at a tournament when they build their deck with the cawblade matchup in mind.

Consider how many hours have been put into the development of Jace decks.  A deck like caw blade has been played and developed so much that not only are most lists close to optimal, but the actual gameplay has been developed extensively.  In addition to the sheer number of hours that have been put into developing Jace-based decks, these hours have come from the best of the best.  Many pro players test Jace decks because they are both powerful and mesh well with their playstyle.  This high-quality testing results in Jace decks that are extremely powerful when played by the best.

However, compare that amount and quality of testing with the amount of testing put into beating Jace decks.  Because all of the pros have advocated using Jace (mostly by playing it themselves) many people are going to simply do that – play Jace.  Hell, even I would play a Jace deck if I were going to a standard tournament.  However, that’s chiefly because I am a control player, and I like that style of deck, which is where jace fits in perfectly.  Were I an aggro player at heart, I might sleeve up something like the bant deck above, or maybe Boros, or even mono red.  Because I have jaces, I haven’t spent a great deal of time trying to beat jace decks – I won’t sugar-coat it.  However, if I didn’t have them, I’d be brewing and testing against jace decks a lot more than I test right now, simply because new decks have to prove themselves against the field, which at the moment contains several jace decks.

I think it’s very possible to have a favourable matchup against jace decks, but it means that players are going to have to accept that pros will not do their work for them and they will have to build their own decks and test them out.  This is not a simple task, as many deck ideas flounder after their initial draft.  However, tight play and a solid game plan against Jace can be enough to take it down.  One thing I’ve been wanting to try is a red/green aggro deck with both Koth of the Hammer and Vengevine to ensure that you’re attacking for 4+ damage on turn 4.  However, I haven’t started sketching out a list yet, but it’s ideas like this that that need to be thought of and collaborated upon by the magic community.

3. Jace needs to be banned

Banning a card is a very serious thing, and is not something that should be done lightly.  Tom Lapille of Wizards R&D has said that they will not emergency ban Jace – something that has only been done once before, with the absurdly broken Memory Jar.  Rather, any announcements will be made on June 20th as scheduled.  Lapille has addressed many of the arguments for not banning Jace, such as the faith that people have when they buy modern boosters that they will be able to play what they open.

However, one thing that Lapille neglects to mention is that, as a company, WotC has an enormous stake in Jace.  Let me elaborate.  The planeswalkers are a new card type, and have been integral in the re-branding of magic over the past few years.  Specifically, they have used Jace as the poster boy for magic.  He was the subject of the first planeswalker novel, and is the first person anyone thinks of when they hear the word ‘planeswalker’.  Because of this notoriety, banning a card with the word ‘Jace’ on it is much different than banning ‘Gideon’ or ‘Chandra’, because you’re banning the face of magic.

Banning cards sets a dangerous precedent, especially if Jace is simply one of the best cards in the format, and not the be-all end-all.  Again, comparing Jace to the affinity menace from the original mirrodin block – our standard seems varied and diverse.  Will every “best deck” have its linchpin card banned?  I’m a member of the camp that thinks that valakut would dominate a jaceless standard, and that it would be even less fun than some people say current standard is.  I for one enjoy the jace-mirror much more so than the valakut mirror.  The reason being that Valakut is a deck which attempts to ignore whatever your opponent is oding in favour of just killing them.  In, say, the caw-blade mirror, the matchup is very interactive and skill intensive, with players needing to evaluate threats and decide which answers they should use and when; when to tap out and when to leave mana up; when to play around certain spells and when to go for it.  I find the matchup very enjoyable, but that’s just me.

After everything’s said and done, I agree that the current situation of standard is not ideal.  However, I think there are numerous things that can be done to address this without resorting to banning Jace.  On the part of wizards they can either reprint Jace in some form (but not in a regular expansion), or they can print  more answers to planeswalkers that aren’t too narrow.  Something like Oblivion Ring is an excellent example of a card that is well designed and can answer planeswalkers but can do so much more.  While Hex Parasite from the New Phyrexia is promising, I hope to see some more answers as well.  On the part of the players, new decks need to be built and tested, and players must not simply say: I don’t have jaces, I’m not going to bother testing.  If you brew a deck and don’t test it and go into a tournament and get smashed, is it really the fault of jace?  Or is it your fault for not testing against that deck, not sideboarding correctly, or not knowing what’s important in the matchup?

A lot of the players I see who get smashed by players with jaces are players who don’t practice outside of tournaments, and players who do said smashing are usually those who spend a great deal of time researching the meta and practicing outside of tournaments.  I’ve seen players with Jaces lose games to worse decks because they aren’t as experienced with the card, the deck, or even the game in general.  All in all, I don’t think we’ve reached the circumstances where a jace ban is warranted quite yet.

As always, feel free to post in the comments below, or message me on twitter (twitter.com/zturchan) or via email (zak-AT-power9pro.com).

Cheers,

Zak

Pauper Deck Tech – UB Teachings

Hello everyone! Recently I started playing a great deal of Pauper on MTGO, and I’ve prepared a few videos about this format. It’s a very fun and skill-intensive format that I enjoy immensely. This first video is a “Deck Tech” where I explain the deck and how it runs. Shortly I’ll post 2 sets of videos of me playing the deck, each from a Thursday Night Magic tournament. They should be up within a day or two.

Enjoy!

UB Teachings Deck Tech

Scars of Mirrodin – Impact on Standard (Type 2)

Scars of Mirrodin.  Looming large over the horizon, Wizards’ newest expansion is set to hit the stores on October 1st.  With the release of Scars of Mirrodin new strategies will emerge and once powerful decks will disappear to the realm of Extended.  With all of the available spoilers it is time to speculate on what changes will occur to the Standard (type 2) meta-game.  This shift will be important with the 2010′s State and Provincial Championships on October 9th.  We will see if we can figure out which cards will make the biggest impact in the post Shards of Alara/M10 tournament world.  It is a time of new beginnings and a time to revisit places in our past.  Thinking about our past, I would like to take one moment to say goodbye to all of our Shards of Alara friends:

So long, Jund!

Time to hang up our Putrid Leechs and Sprouting Thrinaxs.  No deck was more dominant in the Shards meta-game than this B/G/R build.  High powered threats and spectacular removal made Jund the most feared and prepared against deck since the Faeries of Lorwyn.  The biggest loss?

Bloodbraid Elf

Forget Maelstrom Pulse and Broodmate Dragon, this Elf provided amazing card advantage to steal games all by herself. Without Bloodbraid, Jund would not have been remotely viable. This Elf Berserker found a home in every deck that could support her colors. Easily the best uncommon in the set. Now for a few more farewells:

It’s been fun, but now we need to move on. See you in Extended!

Out of the dozens of cards that have been spoiled already, I have picked up on a few that seem like they will make an impact on the Standard Meta currently dominated by U/W Control, FauNaya, Valakut-Ramp and Mythic Conscription.

U/W Control
Come rotation on October first U/W Control will loose a few pieces, most notably Elspeth Knight-Errant. It will be interesting to see if Elspeth Tirel will be able to replace her old incarnation. The new Planeswalker costs one more and cannot generate counters and token together. I think that the five mana casting cost will not prevent the switch initially but might come to really matter since the meta game is so fast right now. On the flip side, Elspeth’s new ultimate is very powerful. The next option in Planeswalkers is the powerful Venser the Sojourner. Also comining at a casting cost of five, the U/W walker has some interesting abilities. Being able to exile your Baneslayer Angel and following that up with Day of Judgment is a strong play in control. The other loss is the token generating Martial Coup. This loss should not impact the archetype to significantly since most build will only include it as a one-of. Path to Exile is another big loss to U/W, the role will need to be filled by the more situational Condemn.

FauNaya
This archetype is on the way out in my opinion. Scars of Mirrodin does not offer anything to this deck that is on par with Knight of the Reliquary or Noble Hierarch. The deck also looses Oblivion Ring, Qasali Pridemage, Realm Razer and the superstar Bloodbraid Elf. I am sure that the Vengevine/ Fauna Shaman engine will still be around but I think the deck will look vastly different.

Valakut-Ramp (Titan-Ramp)
The plan is simple; ramp into Primeval Titan and use him to set up a kill with Valakut the Molten Pinnacle. This is the big dog in the yard, Valakut-Ramp only looses Rampant Growth in the rotation. However, nothing in the new Standard will fits the curve of this card. Cultivate might work. I like Strata Scythe as an alternate win condition if you need to play around Spreading Seas. I also think that Genesis Wave fits nicely in the deck. Valakut-Ramp will be the archetype to beat early in the season until new strategies are discovered.

Mythic Conscription (Eldrazi Conscription, Mythic)
The biggest loss for this deck is Sovereigns of Lost Alara. The Exalted Spirit let you search up your Eldrazi Conscription in order to put the game away. Without the ability to tutor for the key enchantment, Mythic should no longer be a threat in Standard.

What’s Next?
Scars of Mirrodin offers us a vast selection of powerful spells that are sure to have an immediate impact on the new Standard. Take a look at some of the things you should be hoping to pick up at your Pre-release event this weekend:

Scars of Mirrodin will offer us plenty of new options and old favorites will soon go by the wayside. I am really looking forward to playing Phylactery Lich with Darksteel Axe. I recommend going to a Pre-release this weekend since there will not be much time to prepare for States coming up in October. The 2010′s State and Provincial Championships will be the first big events to play with the new Standard. Study your spoilers and see what you can do to deal with U/W control and Valakut-Ramp. Goodbye Bloodbraid Elf, and thanks for all the fish.

The Championship Chronicles – Part 1 (Standard)

Throughout the past 3 months, I (and several other Edmonton players) have been racking up points in an effort to qualify for the Wizards Comics Championship Series. Wizards Comics is my local came store of choice where I play and occasion judge and/or TO, and they also have a store in the neighbouring town of Sherwood Park. At the beginning of June, the staff announced the championship series which would gather the 8 best players from each store, and have them compete, for free, in a multitude of different formats.

The point structure worked as follows.

For each tournament at a given store that one attended, they would receive 1 point.
For each 3rd place won, a player received an additional point.
For each 2nd place won, a player received 3 extra points.
For each win of a tournament, a player received 5 more points.

Note that players couldn’t amalgamate points from both stores, so players would generally stick to whichever store was closest. Here are the final standings for my store.

56 Attila

53 Zak

46 Jim 

45 Brian Bo

36 Blaine

28 Blake 

26 Adam 

21 Aaron

Aaron didn’t show up, and Marcel, the 9th place seed was at GP Portland (where he won a PTQ for Paris), so Stephen, a player who’s returned to the game with a vengeance, took the last seed for our store.

For this day, we weren’t told much, except to bring a Standard deck, as well as sleeves for a draft. I sleeved up a variation on Gerry Thompson’s BantVine list, a blue-white-green take on the dredgevine concept where one uses Hedron Crab to mill themselves of their Vengevines, and uses cheap creatures to reanimate them. Gerry T’s list originally played 2 Lotus Cobra and 1 Meddling Mage mainboard, but I replaced them with 3 Renegade Doppelgangers. This change allowed me to, in effect, give my Fauna Shamans and Knight of the Reliquarys haste, weakening the effectiveness of my opponent’s removal spells. They’re also fine when a bunch of Vengevines come back.
Here’s the list I ended up playing.

Dredge-uh-Vine (Bant version)

And the sideboard:

I chose this deck for 2 reasons. First, I expected a lot of blue-white, and Dredgevine typically has a solid matchup against them. Between scouting people at FNM and lending out Jaces, Colonnades and Elspeths to at least 3 different people, I had a good idea of the field. With this in mind I debated for a while on whether to play this version or one with Extractor Demon. However, the allure of Ranger of Eos and huge Knight of the Reliquarys swayed me to the bant list.

The second reason I played this deck was because it was an archetype I knew relatively well. I’ve played Dredgevine in almost all of its incarnations since its debut, and even though this was a newer take on it, I was familiar enough with the archetype to know what I was doing.

After I filled out my decklist, they announced that the first round pairings would be cross-store based on standings. For example, the number 1 seed from my location would play the number one seed from Sherwood Park, etc.

Round 1

I sat down across from Andrew, a solid player who’s also a great guy to play with. I had a hunch he’d be playing Grixis control, as that seems to have been his deck of choice at the last few tournaments I’ve played in with him.

I win the die roll and elect to go first, hoping for an explosive start of either a Hedron Crab or a mana accelerant. I get the latter, and start off with a turn 1 Noble Hierarch. He plays a Dragonskull Summit, tapped, and I reply by playing a Hedron Crab and starting to mill myself. He quickly casts Lightning Bolt on my crab, but then I augment my forces with a Fauna Shaman. She starts doing her thing, pitching a Vengevine and getting another, while I drop a Knight of the Reliquary.

After playing his 5th enters-the-battlefield-tapped land in a row, Andrew casts Jace, the Mind Sculptor and bounces my knight. I’m more than happy to replay it, and kill the planeswalker with my Fauna Shaman. He made the same play next turn, and I replied in an identical fashion, also dropping 2 small creatures to rebut a Vengevine and start hacking away at his life total. I continued to attack him while he played a removal spell to kill my 7/7 knight (one of the lands that made him so big was my only Sejiri Steppe), and he eventually slammed down a Grave Titan. I immediately used my Path to Exile to dispatch it and continued to attack with my Vengevines, forcing him to chump with a token. By the time he resolved a Cruel Ultimatum, he was at a low enough life total that my vengevines overwhelmed him.

Game 2 was a short affair with him getting stuck on 2 lands and me playing a pair of Noble Hierarchs and a Vengevine, which eventually went the distance, swinging in for 6 a turn.

1 – 0

Round 2

In round 2 many of us had to play against players from our own stores. I sat across from Brian, one of the best players in the area and a very good friend. I knew he was one of the many players battling with blue-white control, so I thought I should have an alright time with it.

I made a mistake in my first game where I kept lands, Fauna Shaman, Renegade Doppelganger and Vengevine. As soon as the word “keep” left my lips, I knew it was a mistake, especially on the draw. The problem with this hand is that if he counters or removes my Shaman, I just straight-up lose. If it does resolve and I manage to untag with it, my game will probably go well, but that’s a fatal assumption to make against blue white. I didn’t have a blue-producing land (that’s what I get for changing the spell configuration and not the manabase) so I slammed down the shaman which predictably got Mana Leaked. After that it was pretty much Brian goldfishing as he resolved a Jace, the Mind Sculptor and ticked it to 13 loyalty, with me unable to mount any sort of offense. When I managed to get a couple guys on the board, he used Gideon Jura to make sure I couldn’t attack Jace, and he milled me out.

I resolved to keep a better hand in game 2, and I was happy to play a first-turn Hedron Crab. Brian retaliated with an Oust, and I cast a Noble Hierarch. On his turn 2 he has a Meddling Mage, naming the Hedron Crab that I was about to draw. The game state didn’t evolve beyond there, as I drew 2 un-castable Hedron Crabs in a row, and Brian made matters worse by casting a Relic of Progenitus. The game was over quickly from there.

1 – 1

Round 3

I was now back to facing a player from the other store, this time Travis playing a variation on Jund with Magma Phoenix and Inferno Titan. I had watch Brian beat him in the first round, so I knew that I should be able to out-aggro him.

I won the roll and game blazing out of the gates with a turn 1 Hedron Crab and consecutive fetchlands. My turn 2 Fauna Shaman got Terminated, but I backed it up with a Knight of the Reliquary, which also died, this time to a Maelstrom Pulse. Travis made an early attack with his Raging Ravine that signalled to me that he didn’t have much gas left, and on the next turn I was able to Ranger of Eos some more creatures to reanimate a pair of Vengevines. Although he tried to mount a defines with Putrid Leech and Sarkhan the Mad, I kept swinging in for lethal until he just died.

In game 2 I get off a first turn Noble Hierarch, and reply to his Putrid Leech with a Knight of the Reliquary and a Fauna Shaman on consecutive turns. I tutor up my Meddling Mage and name Maelstrom Pulse. He manages to Jund Charm most of my board, and then Pulse my knight. However, I manage to cast another Vengevine which is able to go the distance as he doesn’t hit enough mana to play his more expensive threats.

2 – 1

Round 4

For the final round of standard, I’m facing Sean, the number 1 seed from the rival store. He’s playing Soul Sisters, a deck which I have never had the chance to play against. The one thing I knew going into the matchup was that the only way I can win is to keep milling him, as the Vengevine route will not be able to break through. I get the first turn Hedron Crab, and enjoy the look of surprise on Sean’s face when I announce “mill you”. I quickly get a Knight of the Reliquary online and have to fetch up my Sejiri Steppe to protect my crab from a Path to Exile. The milling continues as he taps out for a Ranger of Eos, fetching a pair of Serra Ascendants. I punt the game here because I have a Path to Exile in my hand. I looked through his graveyard and see that he has only 1 copy of Brave the Elements after milling 3/4 of his deck. For some reason, I think that I might have to path one of my own dudes to mill 3, but don’t realize that I straight-up die to him if he does have the Brave and his ascendants go unchecked. Sean untags, attacks, I path, he braves, I lose. Simple enough.

While sideboarding I overhear my friends Blaine and Jim talking. Blaine has one win, and Jim has 2 draws (his deck went to time a lot), and they’ve agreed to draw. I realize that not only can I boost Jim’s tiebreakers by losing this match (he played Sean earlier), but I can reduce Andrew’s in the same vein, as he is also in contention for elimination. I decide that I’ll concede even if I win, but we play it out. The match goes pretty quickly, with me not getting a Hedron Crab until much too late, and I pretty much die.

2 – 2

After the final standings are posted, Jim beats out Andrew by 5 percent, so I’m happy I lost the final game and that my friends are advancing. Those who were eliminated receive consolation prizes of intro packs and theme decks, and we’re off to the next format.

Matt (The TO) arranges everyone around a set of tables and numbers us off. We’re wondering what he’s doing, as we can’t really have a 14 man draft. He then announces: “Players with an odd number look to your right, players with an even number look to your left. This will be your partner for Two-Headed Giant Draft.”

I’m paired with Buddy, a local player who I’ve played with in the past, and I’m ready to try a brand-new format.

Expect Part 2 within the next day or two.

Cheers,

Zak

Here Fishy Fishy: Developing Merfolk in the New Extended

Hello everyone, and let me start by apologizing for my lack of articles over the past few months. I’ve been grinding through both International Baccalaureate (IB) exams and my high school diploma exams, leaving precious little time to devote to Magic. However, I’m officially done high school and intend to play a ton of Magic over the summer, which hopefully means more articles here.

In case you haven’t heard, Wizards has implemented some radical changes to extended, giving us only 4 years worth of cards to work with instead of 7. I’m a huge fan of this change, although Extended was one of my favourite formats for the last few years. This change makes Extended a much more accessible format, as well as giving us a whole new format to dissect and discover.

For those who don’t know, my Extended season this year culminated with a 5-2 record at a PTQ with Merfolk. This deck has a special place near my heart and I’ve played it in standard, extended, and legacy over the last few years. It’s my pleasure today to outline an adaptation of Merfolk for the new extended, which uses cards from Time Spiral, Lorwyn, Alara, and Zendikar blocks, with Core Sets from 10th Edition to Magic 2011 inclusive.

To use as some sort of base, let’s take a look back at my Merfolk list from the last extended PTQ.

Here Fishy Fishy

The first thing we must decide is what colours we want to play. Without the aid of the Ravnica shocklands such as Hallowed Fountain, we can’t easily play white for Sejiri Merfolk. However, due to the nonexistance of Dark Depths in this format, the need for 4 maindeck Path to Exile is mitigated. Therefore I think we can make a first draft using only blue spells.

The only other loss from the above list is the always-awesome equipment Umezawas Jitte. This card was part of what made merfolk so great was that you would be able to have the edge on your opponents both in terms of creature power but as well as having a stream of removal for their chump-blockers.

So let’s go through the shell of the deck we want to use:

Lords
A part of every merfolk deck is its lords: creatures that give a global pump to all your other merfolk. There are 4 merfolk lords we can consider for this deck: Lord of Atlantis, Merrow Reejerey, Merfolk Sovereign and Coralhelm Commander. Lord of Atlantis is good because it’s cheap, and Merrow Reejerey is good because of the degenerate tapping/untapping shenanigans you can pull off with it. There’s an amazing synergy between the Sovereign and Wake Thrasher, but sovereign can be less than stellar if you have them in multiples. I tend to dislike the commander because each mana you spend on leveling him up is another mana you could leave up for a counterspell or some other merfolk that will have a more immediate effect of the game state. The 10 lord configuration has always worked well for me, so I think it’s fine for this deck as well.

Countermagic
Countermagic is essential in maintaining the aggro-control mixture that is the merfolk deck, and having a good suite of counterspells is critical to ensure that your army of fish can take out the enemy. This last week saw the spoiling of Mana Leak for Magic 2011. Prior to that, I was distraught as to what might take it’s place, contemplating Negate or Spell Pierce. However, with one of the most solid counters in recent memory in the new Core Set, playing a playset should be no question.

Of course, no mono-blue deck would be complete without the addition of Cryptic Command-The counterspell that does it all. I tend to play this card very aggressively, using the tapping ability to get in for some serious amounts of damage. However, the ideal play can be to counter an opponent’s spell and tap their guys on their turn, so always be questioning how you can most effectively play the command, not just considering your opponents turn, but how you’ll follow up on your net turn.

To give our deck a solid one-drop, we can add Cursecatcher. How many get played is very much a metagame-dependent decision, and with no tournament results for this new format, the number of instants and sorceries which get played cannot be determined. Even if more aggressive decks become the norm, I would not have a problem with playing some number in the mainboard because they’ll gain the bonuses from lords. We’ll try playing 4, but this is one of the most variable slots.

Support Merfolk
I don’t have words to describe cards like Silvergill Adept and Wake Thrasher except for “Awesome”. Drawing cards and making huge guys is always good, and they’re the grease that makes the giant merfolk machine run smoothly.

Support Spells
What’s a good blue deck these days without the aid of planeswalker Jace, the Mind Sculptor? Not only will Jace be able to bounce opposing blockers, but he will be able to net us more merfolk to keep up the pressure. He’s an awesome card that finds a welcome home in this deck.

These last slots had me scouring gatherer for all the blue cards that will be legal in the new extended. Hot off it’s success in standard, Spreading Seas not only has the potential to slow an opponent’s mana base, but it will help our islandwalking merfolk get in unhindered. Again, these slots are very much a meta call depending on the colours and mana bases of the most popular decks. If decks like 5 colour control and Reveillark proliferate, this choice will be much better than if faeries and other decks just play islands anyway. As well, the addition of Spreading Seas gives us another 2-drop which draws us a card, giving us a high pro

Lands
The land base for this deck is pretty simple. Mutavault is a great attacker who only gets better as we play lords. A plethora of fetchlands will allow us to not only thin the deck (which is usually insignificant) but also shuffle away our dregs from Jace’s Brainstorm ability. Because we have 8 spells which gost 4 mana, I think that adding an extra land from the original list is warranted.

Without further ado, let me present the final list:

Here Fishy Fishy

I hope to test this deck out sometime soon, and will probably purchase it on Magic Online so I can put up some videos. As always, feel free to sound off in the comments, or contact me at zak -AT- power9pro.com, or contact me via twitter at www.twitter.com/zturchan.

Cheers,

Zak

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

Rise of the Eldrazi Set Review and Analysis: Colorless

Power 9 Pro is excited to bring you another set review for Magic the Gathering’s expansion set Rise of the Eldrazi. With Pre-release and Release tournaments coming up over the next two weeks and a full spoiler available, the Power 9 Pro Team is putting in a collaborative effort to review and analyze the entire set. We’ll be looking at the cards from the vantage point of limited, affects on standard, extended or legacy-formats and whether Rise will have any new must-haves for Elder Dragon Highlander. This post is for the colorless portion of Rise of the Eldrazi.

James

Board sweepers are inherently strong so I imagine this is no different. I was a bit disappointed that Planar Cleansing never went anywhere (that I’m aware of); however, this could be a one-sided Day of judgment. Artifacts use to be safe until wotc started printing colored artifacts so saying this will see play in artifcat decks isn’t even the case anymore. Neat but is there enough colorless cards to build around this as the sweeper? Maybe this would be a good SB option against Open the Vaults style decks? That would be pretty narrow…

Joe

This looks like an amazing Wrath of God variant. Akromas Vengeance saw play at 6, and with even one of the new eldrazi support lands, this will cost the same. Seems a bit niche, but probably still powerful since it can be one-sided outside of the mirror.

Zak

I really like this card, because it’s a sweeper that doesn’t require a specific colour. I don’t think we’ve had one like this since Oblivion Stone. The ability to take out noncreature permanents is a big plus, and I believe that this could possibly see play in non-Eldrazi themed decks. Think of all the control archetypes that don’t use white. This could be extremely valuable to something like Grixis control, which doesn’t quite have a full sweeper at its disposal, but has all the other elements of a solid control deck.

Bryan

This card is very interesting and will see some play in the future. Akroma’s Vengance but easier to cast? I like it, but dont know how good it will be in the coming standard season. Obvious note should be taken that it is a tribal spell so it gains bonuses for the reduced pricing from Eye and Temple.

Dillon

This card deals with Planeswalkers, Colored Artifacts, Enchantments, Creatures, including indestructible ones, and ones with Totem armor, and fits in any color. It is truly incredible. Black finally gets a way to destroy Enchantments and Blue gets to kill creatures. Very powerful.

Rob

I suspect there will be a colorless deck after Rotation with Colored ramp spells and removal and Colorless Permanents so it can break Symmetry. Awesome with Artifact control, but playable by any deck, which brings me to a concern. If we have truly powerful Rare or higher Colorless spells, expect back breaking prices. A card playable by any deck, with any set of colors, and be a decent finisher is going to demand a price. Might also be playable in a Standard 43land-esque deck? This card will see price increases once the Scars of Mirrodin block starts dropping. Get them before then.

Mike

This takes board destruction to an entirely new level. Making it Sacrifice Colored Permanents instead of destroy them gives the card great interplay with some of the other Eldrazi cards and gets around normal tricks like Regeneration and Indestructability.

Justin

OK, this big sweeper is the first card I have seen that makes an Eldarzi deck plausible. This card goes into artifact themed EDH decks (I’m looking at you Karn). Are Urza’s Lands still in Extended? What about Cloudpost? Seems like some brown style fun to me.

  • James

    Wow. That’s pretty sick. Seems like an amazing way to get back a Broodmate Dragon or even one of these crazy Eldrazi cards. This a pretty efficient way to spend 9 man.

    Joe

    The eldrazi that can exist in your graveyard should prove to be good reanimator targets. Also, at a “mere” nine mana, and at uncommon, this seems like a likely candidate to see at least SOME limited play.

    Zak

    I think that this card shows just how swingy the Eldrazi can be. Assuming you have a worthwhile animation target when you hit 9 mana (which you should), this card is almost impossible to deal with without an opponent also casting an Eldrazi. It’s hard enough to have a removal spell in limited that can take down something of this size, but with another free creature along with it, Artisan promises to wreck limited (in a good way).

    Bryan

    Rise from the grave effect is cool, but this guy costs so much that I dont see him seeing competitive constructed play. Bomb in limited.

    Rob

    One thing I like about this guy is that if your opponent has sent one of your great guys to the bin, you get to return it regardless of any possible counterspells and if he resolves, you’ve doubled up the threats and pressure, likely enough to crack through. If expensive mana costs become par for the course, this guy seems pretty good.

    Mike

    This seems like it has a minimal effect on other Eldrazi cards, which only trigger when you cast them. Though returning a double digit P/T creature with Annihilator is nothing to slouch at.

    Justin

    This guy is a must in Eldrazi themed decks. Probably best as a 2 of. Recursion is always powerful and with the mana commitment inherent with Eldrazi, it is important to keep tempo.

    [card]

  • James

    I’m a bit sad to see this doesn’t have the new Totem ability. I’d really hate to invest 8 mana more into a creature and then have it removed from the battlefield immediately there after…or before it resolves.

    Joe

    Wow. I’m glad I have a set of nomad mythmakers! This is an excellent aura, costing very little from an Eldrazi perspective, and enchanting a creature already on the board, essentially giving you pseudo haste with your 10/10 +, trample, annihilaor beats. Should often be GG the turn you play it.

    Zak

    I love this card. Finally Arcanum Wings has a home, and a darn good one. just switch off a measly flying aura for this, and you’re golden. Too bad Extended season is winding down…

    Bryan

    When you read this card the first impression i have is “Win”. this card is pretty crazy in the sense that it can make any creature on the battlefield a complete threat. Of course the fact that it is an Aura will reduce this card from seeing any sort of competitive play. Especially when we have so many good pieces of spot removal currently in standard.

    Rob

    Nomad Mythmaker, Auratouched Mage, Zur the Enchanter all put this thing to use in older formats to voltron together some suddenly scary creatures of doom, but in standard we have Sovereigns of Lost Alara which can make any random dork into a true monster late game. EDH will make the most use of this, seeing as Auras usually mean too great a risk for too little a reward in competitive, but I wouldn’t rule this out completely. Unlikely, but not impossible to see play.

    Mike

    If the new locations that make Eldrazi Spells cheaper actually work, this could be crazy in limited, but as card types usually go, it doesn’t get much worse than Aura-Rare.

    Justin

    Auras have to be pretty great in order to see play. An 8cc aura should be amazing. This one is not.

    James

    pretty insane. I like how this continues the Lorthos (or Vorthos theme as Joe discussed on Power 9 Pro) and Darksteel Colossus theme of making really huge, mythic creatures. This one is a bit off the hook. Any way of cheating this out is great. Hypergensis loves this; as do Polymorph and Summoning Trap. Insane.

    Joe

    I am very excited about this mythic, mostly because it’s the pre-release foil, so I’m sure to get my hands on a couple. It’s also looking like one of the better Eldrazi to use in a Sneak Attack type deck. Outside of this kind of cheat-onto-the-battlefield kind of strategy, this seems like a very high CMC. I’m dusting off my copies of warp world and summoning trap.

    Zak

    My inner Johnny wants to use this with Maelstrom Archangel, because it would be that awesome. I find it extremely hard to believe that this will ever be cast normally, even with the aid of Eye of Ugin. It seems like Progenitus just got replaced in extended Hypergenesis, because this does all it does and more.

    Bryan

    Of course all the abilities on this card are crazy, but the chances of me casting this 15 mana dude are very slim. Fast decks such as Boros and allies are still viable and the likely-hood that you live to cast this is slim. Having this guy in your opening hand is a mulligan.

    Rob

    This guy is cute. So expensive, but most likely it will be cheated into play or abused for its casting cost. I’m looking at you, Djinn of Wishes, Polymorph, Lurking Predators, Riddle of Lightning and Explosive Revelation. If you are hard casting and your opponent can’t counter, the card might as well just say “You Win”. Though, a lone Vampire Nighthawk can bring the giant down… @Zak: Protection from colored spells is nowhere near as strong as Protection from Everything, but on all other accounts, yes this is scary in that role, unless it is just chumped blocked with random flying dorks.

    Mike

    This guy is obviously a Baller amongst ballers. Emeria wins the Eldrazi god-war. If you can slap this guy down it’s good game. I mean you take an extra turn just by casting him and he can’t be countered. 15 mana is so hefty though.

    Justin

    This is Kozileks’ angry drunken uncle. No one wants to see this guy resolve. Again it seems like Eldrazi are all about mana acceleration. If my Eldrazi deck curves out at 15 then this is my finisher. Concordant Crossroads, Cloudstone Curio and Emrakul’s nephew Kozilek seems like fun.

    Joe

    With all the Eldrazi Spawn generators, this seems among the most likely of the Eldrazi to see the light of the battlefield in limited. Alas, it’s only annihilator 1, and has no evasion. I’m not planning to run this guy without tons of the spawn generators.

    Zak

    This is the weakest of the Eldrazi, but albeit one of the easier ones to power out. In limited, I can see these guys getting picked much higher if you can amass many spawn generators. The best part is that all these are common, and if you can land this guy early, you can steadily decrease the probability of an opponent dropping an eldrazi by making them sacrifice their lands. If they opt to sacrifice other permanents, congratulations, you just gained card advantage!

    Bryan

    not that bad of a dude. Annihilator is going to be intersting to play with. I always like having options with how to cast my spells.

    Rob

    This could be the fastest little colorless guy you can get out. Shame that doesn’t mean much.

    Mike

    This guy is interesting, he might be the easiest guy to cast in limited b/c of all the cards that produce Eldrazi Spawn, but after looking at some other creatures here, 7/7 with A1 sauce isn’t anything to write home about.

    Justin

    This guy screams tempo in the Eldrazi deck. I think he is a great fit. I like how Shapeshifters from Lorwyn also count as Eldrazi Spawn.

    James

    This is pretty well priced. I’m not sure how all these mega-costing creatures are going to shape up. Are we stuck playing 18, 19 lands in limited? Seems like it would be really slow. Anyway, if this sticks around, it’s hot sauce. The draw ability is pretty tits.

    Joe

    I think Kozilek will prove to be a bit of a dud. He can’t sit in the graveyard, and his best benefit, the draw 4, doesn’t trigger when he’s cheated into play. He has a high annihilator count though. You have to commit to casting this guy. Now, that said, in limited you might find yourself awash in Eldrazi Spawn, in which case, kozilek is quite castable as early as turn 5 or 6 in some cases. In that situation he’ll surely shine.

    Zak

    Looking at all the eldrazi, Koxilek seems like one of the best. He’s a reasonable (I use this term lightly, and only in the context of Rise) 10 mana, and just wrecks face when you cast him. If you open him in limited, you should have no trouble winning games. Constructed might be a different story, because the sheer amount of removal that exists will make it hard for the annihilator to trigger. However, at least you get a free Tidings!

    Bryan

    In my opinion, one of the better Eldrazi. his casting cost isnt that far off from playable and the rewards are pretty good. Refulling late game hand and getting a large creature is always nice.

    Dillon

    This will probably be the one hitting the most battlefields out of the Eldrazi cycle. He completely reloads your hand and then wrecks your opponent. 10 mana actually seems doable rather than 15 mana for Emrakul.

    Rob

    When first spoiled this guy seemed pretty silly, then Emrakul was spoiled and put him in perspective. If you are going to cheat, go all the way. If you are going to hardcast, go lower and get more done with less risk.

    Mike

    10 Mana actually seems reasonable for this guy. You draw four cards, he’s pretty big, he might end up being played in blue based control decks because of his relative cheapness and his card drawing.

    Justin

    I am assuming that drawing 4 cards is good. I thought of something when I saw Annihilator… sacred ground? Also in extended (for now).

    Joe

    This guy can live in the graveyard and therefore be reanimated. Seems like a natural for black decks that run one of the ubiquitous sacrificial edicts, such as cruel edict. Just animate dead and you’re on your way.

    Zak

    I’m loving having some Eldrazi that will make decent reanimation targets. And if they weren’t powerful enough, this card has intense synergy with itself and other Eldrazi, netting you a reward for attacking with cards with Annihilator. However, the odds of getting 2 Eldrazi out at the same time seem so low that this appears to be a “win-more” card. Time will tell, though.

    Bryan

    the obvious point on this guy is the lack of a graveyard clause. This gives him the ability to be reanimated. Pretty cool if you ask me. Could this card be good with Maelstrom Pulse?

    Rob

    High Casting cost, niche ability. Yes, Annihlator will be running about, but once you have 12 mana to drop guys, you probably have better and more reasonable advantages to expect out of your cards than stealing a few of you opponents permanents. Wish this ability was on a cheap Enchantment or Artifact instead.

    Mike

    This guy is pricey, but his ability is crazy with all the annihilator running around. I just don’t know if it will matter since if you’re annihilating your opponent’s entire board aren’t you already on the path to victory?

    Justin

    It That Betrays has the coolest name in the set. Its ability seems a little too win-more for my taste. You should already have the game in control by the time this ability is relevant.

    Joe

    I dig the flavor of a free [card]hindering light]/card] kind of effect for eldrazi themselves, but a normally Eldrazi-costed spell for lesser beings and spawn. Unlikely to make the cut in any limited deck I run though.

    Zak

    If an Eldrazi-specific deck emerges, you can bet that this will play a key part. However, on it’s own it’s just a terrible counterspell. I eagerly await a deck that can drop an Eldrazi, bait the opponent’s removal spell, and then cast this. Unfortunately, it does nothing to stop Day of Judgment, which is something the Eldrazi must all fear.

    Bryan

    Not good. situational cards like this are never good. You could play hindering light and atleast not be completely out of the game the whole time.

    Rob

    Playablity would be this not being a Hindering Light, being 3 or 4 mana cheaper, or working on power 5. As it is, it is very niche and people will shoehorn it into more than just Eldrazi control decks (if such a thing can really exist). On the plus, if you are tapping out to drop a big guy, you have a free counter to keep him from getting a Path to Exile before you untap.

    Mike

    If you’re only playing Eldrazi then I could see this being decent? Depends on how badly you want to swing in with these guys, but the good ones do crazy stuff just by casting them so who knows? I could see being really frustrated if you just sac’d a bunch of Eldrazi Spawn only to get blown out by doom blade though.

    Justin

    Counter magic in a color other than blue is pretty sharp. I would like to see this in an Extended Eldrazi build. Probably wont. Situational at best.

    James

    Hmmm. Uncommon. Probably a first pick uncommon. Players will be hard pressed to deal with this. Problem is that it’s not “crazy” to think of there being two of these in a draft pod. Colorless means that anyone casts it too. Man, I just don’t see this not being the shit in limited. For constructed, there are better Eldrazi at about the same cost.

    Joe

    Yikes, that’s nifty evasion, especially since they must sacrifice 3 to the annihilator. 11 is pushing it, requiring a bunch of spawn to get him out there, but it’ll probably happen. Not bad for an uncommon. This will probably turn out to be a common curve-topper for people with spawn but no rare or mythic top dog in their pool.

    Zak

    I really don’t know how relevant the blockers clause is. If all my opponent wants to do is to sit and chump-block my Eldrazi, I’m happy to just sit there and whittle away their board presence. however, it could be relevant if one wants to come out victorious when both players have Eldrazi out; whoever’s Eldrzai goes unblocked the longest will win out.

    Bryan

    This guy has a pretty cool ability that we’ve seen before. The requirements for blocking should make this guy almost completely unblockable after a few turns.

    Rob

    Uncommon Eldrazi like this guy are going to warp the way we understand Limited. He is every bit the bomb. Guys like these should really only lose to someone sitting on removal or who plays a bigger badder Eldrazi when the turn comes back. Which brings me to the thought, “Where is all the Removal?” Oh well, more cards yet to be spoiled.

    Mike

    Annihilator 3 combined with his blocking limitations makes this guy a real beater, better at attacking than anyone other than Emeria.

    Justin

    This fatty is a nice high end creature. Especially when you look at his rarity slot. In limited this guy is nuts. Not as good as other Eldrazi we have seen, but he’s not a mythic. I could see taking this guy really early in draft but I doubt the Pathrazer can find the road to constructed.

    James

    Seems like filler. I mean, why pay 7 mana to get 5 back? For the blockers I guess…There are a lot of these spawn-mana dudes in this set so maybe it’s a way of cheating the mana requirements? Hmm, after thinking through that, I guess I can see this having a use. It’d be a role player at most though. One or two of these spawn guys and a mega eldrazi could work out pretty well. I like the concept of not having to run 20 lands in limited.

    Joe

    This makes your turn 8 consist of a 12-drop. So I think this it likely to be a key part of many BigEldrazi approaches. Without a healthy supply of spawn, I just don’t see how the Go Big plan will work.

    Zak

    This is the sort of card that the Eldrazi needed, and while a 7-mana ramp spell may not seem like much. I love the idea of bringing out a Hand of Emrakul on turn 7 or earlier, and this seems like it will help make larger Eldrazi frequent the battlefield a little more in limited. I suspect that these will get passed a fair bit in Pack 1, but will get snapped up more frequently in pack 3, because people will have their big Eldrazi and will be more concxerned with bringing them out.

    Bryan

    one of the better ramp spells to play your eldrazi.

    Rob

    At cost, this is inefficient. With Discounts from Crazy Markov’s Eldrazi outlet Temple and Ugin Optical, it gives a decent chunk of chump blocks, or annihilator chumps, and replaces itself or ramps for the next big spell. Could this type of thing find it’s way into Storm decks in older formats if you get the cost reliably under 5? I think its possible.

    Mike

    If this were an instant I think it’d be incredible, as is it’s probably just awful.

    Justin

    I first I found this card a bit underwhelming. Then I remembered Eldrazi Monument and got a little excited. Then I thought about it a bit more and realized I wanted Coat of Arms instead…. There are better ways to generate mana. I find myself asking “What do I want to be doing when I have seven mana?” The answer is not drop a small horde of chump blockers that can possibly generate some mana. Twincast? Mirari? Not a fan.

    Joe

    Wow. I never thought I’d see an activated ability that just straight up costs 20. This guy’s not bad at spewing spawn, but it begs the question of where you got the 10 for Spawnsire in the first place. Still, he’s a huge wall, capable of fending off the uncommon Eldrazi while he ramps to even Bigger guys. I’m guessing that his “ultimate” will not be activated in any tournaments unless an arbitrarily-large-mana-combo exists in the format. Even then, surely there’s better ways to win.

    Zak

    This guy’s last ability makes me want to make an Extended deck with Cloudpost, Vesuva and the Urzatron to see what could happen. If you don’t automatically win if you resolve this ability, remember that you “cast” the eldrazi, so feel free to cast Tidings, Vindicate, and Time Walk via Kozilek, Ulamog and Emrakul respectively if you manage to get this off, and have devoted sideboard slots to them.

    Bryan

    Crazy abilities that will never be relevant.

    Rob

    Best thing about this guy is the token making. But again, you should be doing something better with your mana at this point.

    Mike

    This guy isn’t impressive at all but he might be a necessary evil when, in playtesting, you realize how hard it is to consistently cast large Eldrazi creatures.

    Justin

    TIMMY! I like this guy as a way to litter the battlefield with tokens. If you are playing Eldrazi then you have the mana to make this guy sing. I think this card has the the raw power that Timmy loves as well as the potential for Johnny goodness.

    James

    I like the idea of knocking out another Eldrazi with this; problem is that if you’re casting this guy to kill an Eldrazi that means you’re already behind in the game. All these cards with Annihilator are just nutso though.

    Joe

    This, and Emrakul, are the eldrazi to hope for. Indestructible will be huge, as all these guys have huge targets on their heads. He’s got a high annihilator count, he goes all angel of despair on the opposing Eldrazi, and he’s got a middle-of-the-road cost for his kind.

    Zak

    Frankly, I’m dissapointed in the last of the three titan Eldrazi. Both Emrakul and Kozilek net you insane amounts of advantage when they hit the field, and destroying a single permanent appears lackluster when compared to the other two. The indestructibility effect is nice against the likes of Jund, but in a format where Path to Exile and Oblivion Ring see plenty of play, I’m not sure how releavnt this guy will be compared to the other Eldrazi goodness.

    Rob

    If only this was when it enters, instead of when cast. The thought of more Hypergenesis fodder is sexy, and I haven’t even gotten the deck built yet, but sadly this fails. It does win the trump war with Kozilek, killing him when cast. but still likely never sees the board against Emrakul. Meh.

    Mike

    The last of the three gods here is pretty good, but I don’t think it’s as good as many of the other Eldrazi creatures who at least have a niche, this guy is a shriekmaw.

    Justin

    This is the annoying cousin to Kozilek. It seems like this Eldrazi Legend is easily the weakest of the bunch. Indestructible is nice but I feel that Kozilek’s ability to draw cards has a much bigger impact on the game.

    James

    And of course, we get to the common Eldrazi that only has Annihilator 2 and is a piddly 8/8. This will be the guy who wins games. This is the card you pick up first and never look back. Man…so crazy. 8 mana for Annihilator 2 on a 2/2 would have been the shizz and they made it an 8/8!! In-Sane!!! And at “only” 8 mana, I bet this could be played in constructed too…without any fancy shennanigans to cheat it out.

    Joe

    Common Eldrazi, annihilator 2, 8 CMC. This guy will be played for sure. He can come out fairly quickly on the back of a few spawn. Holding back on some removal seems likely to be a key play in this limited format.

    Zak

    This seems to be the benchmark for Eldrazi in limited, and an effective deck could easily pack 2-3 copies of this guy. This could see some constructed play as a finisher for decks that relally need one, but I thiink there are probably better options for not a whole lot more mana. Excellent card in limited. He will win games; I guaruntee it.

    Rob

    Common limited bomb? It is going to be so hard to adjust to this limited format because of all the fat. ‘Attacks each turn if able’ as a drawback? Doesn’t Annihilator 2 almost make that a given anyhow?

    Mike

    This is exactly how i’d dream up a common Eldrazi creature. At 8 mana it’s actually castable in a limited game and it’s going to be a pain in the butt to block with annihilator 2 every turn

    Justin

    This guy is a common so he will have a BIG impact on limited. I have yet to see any spot removal spoiled so this guy is a house. Not versatile enough for constructed.

  • James

    I’m not moved or overly excited about this. Kinda tough after the awesomeness I Just went through.

    Joe

    Hmm… pretty un-amazing card drawer. I hope I don’t end up having nothing better to run than this.

    Zak

    Uhh… If this costed 2 it would be much better, but as is it doesn’t seem to do a lot. Compared to Jayemdae Tome, this costs one more to get in the first place, and requires you to lose life to activate it. As much as I love drawing cards, by the time you take enough for this to be relevant, I’m sure some other card would have been better for you, and this will be too little too late. Awesome art though; go Chippy!

    Rob

    The 5 mana cost hurts, but then to only gain back half of the life AND pay 2 mana and four counters to activate it, the card I draw I don’t think really makes up for this super slow late game card. Maybe a Fog/Control Variant with Mirrodin tricks in the future, but for now, I disapprove. Still using the Art as a Wallpaper though.

    Mike

    This card just seems very slow, and on what turn is a control player going to cast it? If you have to take 4 damage to even activate it, how long is it going to be useful for? I don’t like this card much.

    Justin

    The mana cost makes this card unappealing. This card reeks of something that R&D was excited about and then they watered it down when annoying decks popped up in the Future Future League. I’m sure it can find a home in some wacky Johnny build but all in all it seems a bit sub par with all the gigantic creatures running around. I would sac this to Annihilator instead of a plains in a heartbeat.

  • James

    Master Transmuter comes to mind as an abuse outlet. Maybe I’m just a sucker though; I always felt she was just waiting to be super good… The abilities are pretty weird. I don’t like that you have to pay three and then sac to get the 3 cards. Type to draw 3 cards seems sufficient. For limited I’m starting to think cards like this are going to be pretty necessary if we players are ever going to get to 11 mana…

    Joe

    This looks strong, ramping you to Eldrazi, or drawing you into answers. I like it, even if it’s a bit slow and unorthodox for a mana artifact.

    Zak

    Thi card seems fantastic. It’s excellent in limited if you want to power out Eldrazi behemoths more reliably than with temporary sacrifices of Spawn tokens, and in constructed it can go well in a control deck. And do I really need to talk about how awesome this could be in EDH?

    Rob

    Um, ok. Mana ramp for Eldrazi guys, but for those of us trying to win, this accel comes about 4 land drops too late. I’ll enjoy playing with it in Limited and EDH but I’m not likely to play it in any constructed tourneys. Of course all that could change when Scars comes out with a good Artifact Control deck.

    Mike

    This is an interesting ramp card. It’s weird a ramp card costs six, but with everflowing chalice this card is reasonable. The fact that you can draw 3 cards when you’ve caught up to your mana is definitely a cool ability.

    Justin

    I like this card for EDH, especially in colors where card drawing is scarce like Red. It seems too slow for Construted at this point, but that could all change when Shards rotates out.

  • Joe

    Big, slow, not my style.

    Zak

    Sigh… It’s Anodet Lurker‘s big brother. If you’re spending six mana on this in limited, you’re doing something wrong and wil probably get overrun by levelers and/or Eldrazi.

    Rob

    I’d rather have a Lodestone Golem.Otherwise see the same comments for Dreamstone Hedron.

    Mike

    I like this guy, 6 mana isn’t too much for a limited game, he will definitely get you to the late turns when you can start casting your big eldrazi stuff if you go that route.

    Justin

    In a set full of high casting cost, powerful threats, this guy is underpowered. Lame for an uncommon.

  • James

    Sweetness. Rare so not the craziest of them all but it has high utility; especially on an overcosted flier as I’m sure Rise of the Eldrazi has.

    Joe

    Should be hot. Even if you just run out a flier and equip, you can often race before your opponent hits Eldrazi town.

    Zak

    It’s so expensive, but it might just make it as a singleton target for Stoneforge Mystic to tutor up and play cheaply. I have this vision of a Baneslayer Angel attacking with this, but I just don’t know how relevant it could possibly be when another card would probably be more effective

    Rob

    This amuses me. So many guys could be awesome with this on them, but we need to use guys like Stoneforge Mystic, and Kor Outfitter, who have fairly low CMC, thus defeating the purpose largely.

    Mike

    This is equally as pricey as grappling hook and has a lot more potential. The fact that it’s rare is kind of annoying, because if this had trample it’d be outstanding.

    Justin

    Not really impressed with this piece of equipment. The gains are marginal on early drops and the impact is small late game. Do I want to spend 4 mana for this on turn 4? Nope.

  • James

    Kinda neat. I’ve not really played the “mill deck” so I can’t speak to its viability. Maybe this would be a good sideboard option against Dredge? Those decks fill the graveyard up quickly. “5 mana” (after the 6 to play) to mill 20 cards would be pretty off the hook. I’m sure someone will throw this into a control deck to see how it goes.

    Joe

    Auto-mill for 6 + one turn? I like this as a win condition more than any of the Eldrazi. This will be a commonly played card in EDH too, though maybe not as much in multi-player matches as in 1v1.

    Zak

    So we have a Millstone steroids. People might be tempted to play this in limited, but I would caution against it, because in the 4 or so turns you spend casting this and milling them, you’ll probably be crushed underfoot by an Eldrazi or two. I do echo Joe’s sentiments about EDH, this could be pretty awesome.

    Rob

    Strictly EDH and Casual. With three Gaea’s Blessings running around the format, and Milling usually being a subpar strategy (and I love to mill people) this is really kinda worthless.

    Mike

    This card could get out of hand quickly, especially in a limited game, but as for constructed applications, things like archive trap just seem more consistent to base a mill deck around once Font of Mythos rotates out

    Justin

    Holy crap! This goes right into my Szadek, Lord of Secrets EDH deck. YAY! I like it a bunch…. yeah only for that reason. I think it would be funny to play late on a dredge player too.

  • Joe

    Should be awesome in limited, then become a bookmark forevermore.

    Zak

    It lets your more mediocre guys trade with the big Eldrazi, but it shouldn’t be a permanent solution due to it’s intense equip cost.

    Rob

    5 to equip? I’ll pass.

    Mike

    This card would’ve been Kor Outfitter’s best friend if it wasn’t triple ROE draft, otherwise it isn’t awesome

    Justin

    Equip cost is way too high. I would rather play Feast of the Unicorn.

  • Joe

    This feels like a “win more” to me, but sometimes it’ll go on a flier and count all your walls for the boost, so I might play it in such a deck.

    Zak

    The cost for this is way to high for something that resembles Scion of the Wild. If you’re going for the Eldrazi style win-condition, is this gong to be relevant at all? Methinks not.

    Rob

    Cantrips, filters mana, and is a good basic Utility Card. Going to be great fixer in limited.

    Mike

    Well, open the vaults just got a new friend. That deck could definitely come back before Shards of Alara rotates out this fall.

    Justin

    House. This card is powerful in a subtle way. I like it for multi-colored EDH decks. Strong in Limited and I could see it making a splash in Standard. I would not feel bad cascading into this.

  • Joe

    It cantrips, so if you need this fixer, it’s relatively painless.

    Zak

    YES!!! Remember how Time Seive was used in an awesome combo/stall deck before Zendiakr came out? The only thing which stopped the deck’s growth was the rotation of Elsewhere Flask. Well now this deck is back and should be able to make a serious gash in the metagame now that we have another 2 mana cantripping artifact in addition to Kaliedostone.

    Rob

    Cantrips, filters mana, and is a good basic Utility Card. Going to be great fixer in limited.

    Mike

    Well, open the vaults just got a new friend. That deck could definitely come back before Shards of Alara rotates out this fall.

    Justin

    House. This card is powerful in a subtle way. I like it for multi-colored EDH decks. Strong in Limited and I could see it making a splash in Standard. I would not feel bad cascading into this.

  • Joe

    Wow, even artifacts get walls in ROE. This is going to be interesting to see how slow the format really ends up being.

    Zak

    Umm…I guess? This seems like it could be okay in limited, but what good does preventing one damage to you (not a creature) do when there are Eldrazi wrecking your board.

    Rob

    Quick and dirty cleric wall. What’s not to like.

    Mike

    This is a great limited concept. I love the stats and the tap-ability. I love everything about this card getting you to your bombs in a draft or sealed.

    Justin

    Meh. Its a wall.

  • Joe

    Interesting bear here. I’m not usually keen on drawing cards for my opponents, but this guy at least helps any deck with aggressive intentions to be on-curve.

    Zak

    This also could help out the Time Sieve deck in standard, because you’re already using Howling Mine effects. Outside of a deck where you really don’t care what the opponent plays, I can’t see this seeing too much play. The opportunity for your opponent to capitalize by you playing a 2/2 in this environment are just too great.

    Rob

    Another cheerleader for Scars of Mirrodin. I’m soo looking forward to cobbling together a great colorless control deck. 2/2 for 2 colorless plus a card seems about right for letting your opponent get a card, and if you can punish your opponent for that card, or take it back away from him, it is awesome.

    Mike

    Pretty crazy ability. I’m not sure how big the drawback is of letting your opponent draw a card in a limited game. I wan’t to say I don’t want to let my opponent do that, and this guy is just a grizzly bear, so I guess it depends on how badly you need to fill your curve with no mana issues.

    Justin

    I like this guy. Perfect at uncommon. I can see this one hitting the $3-$5 dollar mark pretty quick. Great tempo and card advantage that can fit in any color.

  • Joe

    Way too slow. If it cost 3 or less, this would be fine, but then it might be pretty insane in constructed I guess.

    Zak

    There’s no way this will ever see a great deal of play. It’s a pity that it doesn’t count the instants you cast in order to ramp up to it, and seems like a junk rare.

    Rob

    This is such strange card. Seems like another Casual or EDH player only. It’ll be a buck rare unless someone finds a way to put it where it doesn’t belong, like in a burn deck or some sort of permission deck.

    Mike

    This card might as well just read Bulk Rare. There might be a casual deck out there based off this, or maybe something with everflowing chalice in a blue control deck going on, but 7 is expensive. It is an interesting way to kill your opponent while just sitting on counters though.

    Justin

    This card is looking for the guy who is going to go “OMG! this would be hilarious! I have to build a deck around this card right away!” Not sure if that guy is out there but there is a chance.

  • Joe

    I like this, whether it goes on your flying wall or just a random dork.

    Zak

    I knew that this set would have an Animate Wall variant, and this doesn’t disappoint. At very worse, it’s a slightly more expensive [cxard]Vulshok Morningstar[/card], which was just fine in limited.

    Rob

    Turns walls on. I’m always skeptical of any equip cost higher than 2, but to make a hard to kill and cheaper than normal guy into a swinger can turn a passive game into a race to the end.

    Mike

    It’s a little pricey, but man are there a lot of walls in this block, so this could be interesting on a Gomazoa

    Justin

    Trying to make walls exciting is like trying to make watching paint dry exciting. How does a wall get into a chariot anyway? Poor flavor here.

    We’d love to hear your thoughts. Did we miss anything?
    You can also check out the rest of the set review and analysis. :)
    Colorless White Blue Black

  • What Ways are there to Win at Magic?

    The goal of the game of Magic is obviously to win, right? But there are many ways to accomplish this goal. First and foremost is to make the opponent lose the game, because if you are the last one standing, you win. If there is only one player remaining, that player wins the game. This is important because most games end by causing your opponent to lose the game by reducing their life total to zero. The rules of the game tell us that unless an effect in play would prevent you from losing, if your life total is zero (or less) when state-based effects are checked, that is right before any player would receive priority, you are eliminated from the game.  Of course, this isn’t the only way a player can be eliminated from the game. The rules also tell us that if a player would be required to draw but cannot do so due to having zero cards in their library, they are eliminated. So what can we learn from this?

    In both instances the game looks for the status of a vital resource in the game. When one of these resources, your life or your library, are exhausted you are out. Life total is your vitality and you must protect it from dipping under one. You can use and abuse it up till that point, and with the right application of effects, possibly beyond that point, but once the state in the rules is achieved, you lack the vitality to respond to the game. You can see it as being dead, being knocked unconscious, or whatever you like, but you are no longer a factor in the game. The case for being milled out seems a little more clear on this point. If you cannot draw any further spells to respond to the opponent’s actions and advance your own agenda, you are no longer a reasonable factor in the game, and the game removes you.

    So, when you can’t respond anymore, and cannot advance your own agenda, you lose. This makes sense, but of course there are many ways of creating this situation for your opponent making it so that they’ve lost the game before the game actually kicks them out and declares you the winner. Let’s look at some strategies that do this as an overview of a type of ‘alternate’ win conditions that often crop up.

    You can’t play the cards if you don’t get a turn. This may be the most obvious lockout, but if you are chaining together as many extra turns as you like, your opponent is dead in the water, unable to manipulate the gamestate beyond what few instant speed cards or abilities he has and what mana he has open. He simply waits for you to achieve one of the game ending states.

    You can’t play the cards if you don’t have any mana. This is the goal of land disruption and destruction decks. If you need BRG to cast Sprouting Thrinax, and all you have is URG, thanks to Spreading Seas on your only source of B, you are locked out of that card. If you have none of the mana to cast the cards in your deck, either because they are the wrong colors thanks to your opponent or they keep getting sent to the graveyard or removed from game, you just sit with a full hand as your opponent kills you. You lose.

    You can’t play the cards that leave your hand before you can play them. If you took your favorite deck and pulled out all the cards other than a handful of cheap instants, could you win a game by playing those cards one at a time? Most likely not, and that is why instant speed discard is a rare and powerful thing. With enough powerful discard, you can keep someone in topdeck mode. If you have instant speed discard, you can force them to play the card immediately after drawing it or lose it. Last I checked, unless you have great things on board already, you are not likely to win a game where nothing can ever come out of your hand.

    You can’t play the cards if you can’t untap or are kept from casting. There has been and continues to be a plague that creeps through our beloved game on occasion. The ‘Lock’ type decks aim to ensure that you either never get to untap permanents, keeping you from having mana or other tap abilities to use, or they ensure that you are constantly under constraints that prevent you from casting. Of course, as we can see from above, if you can no longer interact with the gamestate, you’ve loss the game and are simply waiting for the game to declare your opponent the winner.

    Due to the defacto state of win that the above deck archetypes can create, it is important to always look for ways to achieve one of these states when evaluating new cards and working to innovate a new strategy when deck building, Each strategy has a different weak point to exploit and a critical period in which to exploit it. Land destruction, for instance, must come online reliably on your turn three, because after that, too much is done buy three and four casting cost spells and too many lands are in play to stop most opponents plans. Discard should also come online as soon as possible, but is much more tolerant to creating a late game lock if there is instant speed discard in the format. In all of these cases, if your opponent can no longer effect the game, they’ve already loss and all you have to do is pluck away at their life or library until the game kicks them out.

    Now, one quick note. There is another way of winning the game, and that’s with a rules modifying clause that creates a new winning condition other than being the last man standing. Mayael’s Aria, Helix Pinnacle, and Rise of the Eldrazi’s Near Death Experience are all ways of creating a change to the rules to declare yourself a winner. However, there is no inherent removal of your opponent in this strategy, so you opponent can actively attempt to keep you from succeeding up until the final moment. This separates these strategies from those above.

    So, next time you are looking for a strategy outside of just attacking with many big guys, you can consider some of these winning game states and see if you can lock your opponent out of the game. Also, if you sit down across from one of these strategies, understand that they are trying to stop you from interacting with the game, and while annoying that is one of the most powerful ways to win as it is implied right in the rules: make your opponent irrelevant.