Tag Archives: M10

FNM M-10 Draft in Wellington, New Zealand (#2)

FNM Magic Report 7.24.2009

Still in Wellington, and out of work on time, so I make the 6:30 draft.   I get in a 7 man pod and we open packs.

First pack is a Clone and a motley assortment of 1/1 dorks.  There’s a diabolic tutor and I take it.  In retrospect it may have been worth taking the clone since it was splashable, but I was 100 percent certain I did not want to be in blue, so aiming for black and a bomb searcher was the next best thing.

Pick 2 is Tendrils of Corruption, which is good.  Now I just need to see the appropriate creatures.

Pick 3 reveals a Guardian Seraph…. Wait what?  I know it’s sort of underwhelming at first, but four cc flying 3/3’s have always been good all the way back to Phantom Monster and  Roc of Kher Ridges and Seraph has an incredible ability and is lightning bolt proof.  I take it as a signal and go that way.

Then I get passed a Rhino, and three oakenforms… at the end of pack 1 I’m pretty decent green and can go either white or black.

Pack 2 I open Harm’s way, and I’m in white.

1 llanowar elves
2 soul warden
2 blinding mage
1 deadly recluse
1 runeclaw bear
1 palace guard
1 griffin sentinel
1 cudgel troll
1 guardian seraph
1 stampeding rhino
1 craw wurm
1 harm’s way
1 righteousness
1 pacifism
3 oakenform
1 excommunicate
1 safe passage
2 armored ascension

10 plains (to support those ascensions, I’m not making the same mistake with lands like I did last time!)
7 forests

Relevant board:

2 fog

2 regenerate

2 wall of faith

Despite my first round of green crazy stuff I didn’t see much on the 2nd and 3rd pack, and when we lay out our decks I see why – my partners on left and right are green!  – I guess they didn’t value oakenforms, or else they valued creatures higher- perhaps rightly – despite the fact that I have great board control and double armored ascension I’m still only 13 creatures  which is a problem.   We’ll see how much in a bit.

===Match 1 vs. Simon playing mono-red===

Simon hasn’t played magic in a few months and says he’s just getting back into the swing of things.   A mono red isn’t a bad call in that case.

Game 1

I lead out with the early bear, and he immediately has a ball lightning to take me down.  I get down a soul warden followed by Armored Ascension with 3 plains.  5/5 bear, then 6/6 bear followed by Seraph seal the deal for him.

Game 2

I keep a hand with Rhino, two Ascensions, excommunicate, and 3 lands.  I  don’t have an early play, he drops a pyromancer and I excommunicate it for time.  I get Rhino, and double armored ascension.  16/16 flying trample rhino he can’t deal with.

We play a couple matches for fun:

Game 3

He drops a piker and hellhound and I have no blockers.   My life goes  18, 10.  I drop turn 4 Seraph and my choice is trade with the hellhound or block piker and go to 4.  I take 4 from the hellhound and he lava axes me.

Game 4

I drop early Soul Warden, excommunicate a Goblin Artillery and quickly build up a big army of blockers and he builds an army of attackers.  I eventually drop a Griffin Sentinel to break the stalemate.  He never points artillery at my soul warden but he does at my face – I’m probably going to win this fight… I get a blinding mage out which holds down a minotaur of his and pacify minotaur #2.   Again he could have taken out my warden or mage and it might have been a different game.  Instead I draw out the game long enough to drop a rhino, tap his blockers and harm’s way the artillery damage back at his other blockers.

===Match 2 vs. Jason playing B/G.===

Game 1

I lead out with a Recluse and get an Oakenform.  He gets a Wall of Bone with mana to regenerate.  I drop bears, but can’t play any white as I draw and play 4 forest .  Jason drops a bog wraith and equips it with Whispersilk Cloak, then a troll.  Cloak pretty much owns me over time.  I don’t have a flyer or Ascension to race.

Game 2

We both mull to six – I lead out with Soul Warden, Blinding Mage, and Griffin .  He gets an Oryx and tries to race me but I have an Oakenform for the Griffin. He draws troll and cloak but it’s too late for him as the soul warden has given me a nice life buffer, and the 4/5 flying vigilance is too big to stop.

Game 3

Jason starts with Visionary and I have Blinding Mage and Soul Warden.   He doom blades the Warden and drops Troll.  I cast pacifism on the Troll.  He Cloaks the troll (3 times in 3 games!)  I oakenform the Mage and race. He casts weakness on the Mage.   I oakenform the battlemage again and swing in- I just want to race him, but he casts Entangling Vines!

I get a Rhino, and Armor it up and swing him down to 7.  If I draw a plains, an excommunicate, an oakenform, or a fog I have him on my next turn, but it doesn’t happen.  I lose the match.

===Match 3 Darcy playing R/G===

Game 1

I get down Soul Warden, Battlemage and Griffin.  He bolts my Soul Warden (?!) so I Armored Ascension my Griffin and beat him down.   He tried to Seismic strike my battlemage but I figure I’ll keep it with safe passage – good call as he drops an ornithopter.  I suspect a trick and tap it and finish him with griffin.  Good thing I tapped, he had a Might of Oaks!

Game 2

I get down Soul Warden, (20-19) Oakenform it turn 3, (20-15) Troll on turn 4, (20-11) and Oakenform troll turn 5 (20-0)

======

Looking back – did I value oakenform too highly?  I didn’t see many creatures other than the swordsmith but I feel like I made all the right picks. I pack 3 I just didn’t see any green at all and white creatures were slim, but I saw three total armored ascensions which is just bonkers (I took a creature over the 3rd ascension because I realized I was low).    I don’t know, Oakenform showed it’s value by turning all my games into very short ones.  I did pass that 2nd pack pick 2 Cloak – should I have hated it over the very useful pacifism?

If anything I think I valued Righteousness too highly (though I never got the chance to play it) – I probably should have mained fog – might have bought me time in the racing games since I had no defense, but I considered it “removal”.

M-10 Draft Wellington, NZ: Post-mortem: What I did right, What I did wrong

So the first thing you might be wondering (or at least what I wrestled with) is why write about a draft you didn’t enjoy or win at? I believe that ultimately, if my goal is really to improve my game, I need to post-mortem all of my drafts. Ask myself what worked and what didn’t work. I think I have been sort of ignoring this in my better drafts. I mean it’s there if you read between the lines (drafted bombs, made a good deck, mulled when appropriate) but I’m not really calling out what specifically. When I went 1-2 a few weeks ago,  I just wanted to go home and not think about the game at all, but now I’ve had some time to mull it over and my conclusion is that it’s worth dissecting where I messed up and get it out of the way – both so that I can avoid the same mistakes in the future and for the benefit of all of you. There’s so much more to be said than “blue sucks” (and experiences since that draft have revealed other ideas) – In any case  I think the statement deserves to be examined.

Pack 1 pick 1 – I opened and picked Planar Cleansing. – There were some other decent white cards in the pack I could have taken though that would mess with signaling. I wasn’t holding out hope that I could make a great white deck just from that – white is a heavily drafted color and the three white in the CC isn’t great, but I have hopes for the money value on the card and it IS a wrath.

Pack 1 pick 2 – Stampeding Rhino. Wasn’t a lot in the pack to take – some white guys but Rhino stood out – now I’m thinking I can go W/G. I note a phantom warrior in the pack which is pretty bomb – but I’m not confident enough to go W/U.

Pack 1 pick 3 – Mind Control

Here’s where it all goes wrong. From this I figure two guys to my right haven’t taken it so they are not in blue, even if they were rare drafting, and Mind Control is a pretty ridiculous bomb. So I settle into taking the best of blue (which isn’t much!) trying to get more green to supplement the rhino – in the mean time I’m seeing lots of red but I avoid it, I’m getting nothing in green so I figure I’ll cut off my guys on pack 2 (which works).

In Pack 2 and 3 I open Air Elemental and some other green bomb, but I have to take the Glacial Fortress in pack 1, and Sunpetal Grove in pack 2 over them. I also get passed Open the Vaults, which I take (maybe this was a bad call) and Underworld Dreams, but I’ve already sort of given up on my deck so I just raredraft it.

Here’s the deck, roughly.

What I think is wrong with the deck.

· Not enough creatures. 13 is much too low, and there’s virtually no curve. It’s a bunch of 1’s and 2’s and two 5ccs. I started with Sage Owls to get the count up and it wasn’t worth it. I didn’t start with Divination and so I trade out the Owls for that and Giant Growth.

· No removal – I have an ice cage and the very situational Essence Scatter, but that’s it.

· 2 Evasion oriented cards – Levitation is worth it if I get a big Howl, but otherwise most of my creatures won’t break a stall anyway. Levitation actually worked against me in one game. Whispersilk cloak seemed like a great pick early but I didn’t have anything to equip it to in any of my games.

Match 1 vs. Jonas with W/G/R

Jonas seems like he knows what he’s doing as he just won the last draft– he laments over his deck and I lament over mine. But which deck is worse? Read on to find out!

Game 1

Jonas drops a turn 1 mold adder. I have a fist full of blue cards. I try to dig for ice cage with double Sage owls but instead I see some lands and both Howls (of course not enough mana to cast it!) Mold Adder gets massive and quickly rolls over my weenies.

Game 2.

Jonas mulls down to four, but has quick land drops and drops a Giant Spider. I have a Rhino to roll past the spider. He drops some blockers for the rhino but I have a Levitation. He drops Armored Ascension on the Spider making it a 5/7, but I Ice Cage it. I drop more dudes for the win but he Windstorms my entire army! I still have a Howl of the wolfpack for 3 wolf tokens and swing for lethal. He attempts to block, but I remind him about my levitation.

Game 3.

I drop a turn one sprite, he drops a bear. I get out coral merfolk and go for the trade but he has a regeneration for his bear. It’s followed by a Giant Spider, I get down a Craw Wurm, and he drops a spider and a Rhino. Attacking into him will lose me a Wurm to the spider and so I trade my Wurm for his Rhino. I have a howl for two wolves, but he eventually takes me out with the spiders. Sprite had no chance.

Match 2 against John playing UW

John is a young pup and doesn’t seem very confident. He shuffles up his deck and starts drawing but I point out I never cut his deck, so we reshuffle and I give him a free mull.

Game 1

I drop a sprite, a Merfolk, sprite, and get him down to 12 before he drops an illusionary servant and siege mastodon . I cage the servant (it dies), and he drops the 1/3 flying vigilance griffin and I all have are my sprites to block, but he doesn’t attack with it. I keep building up bears – I figure if he attacks me on the board and has any tricks I’ll take the worse end of it, but he holds back. The siege even could have traded well but he doesn’t risk it. Our armies get bigger and bigger. I have an overrun in my hand but (again) no more than 2 forests to cast it. I finally get a levitation rendering all his ground dudes irrelevant, cast a 3 wolf Howl, and Overrun him to break the stall. At this point I don’t care if he has a safe passage, our board is too clogged up. He doesn’t have the passage and dies.

After this I point out to him that his griffin could have been dinging me the whole time, but he insists I had lethal damage in blockers. Considering I have two flyers in my deck that are 1/1, I doubt this. I guess he didn’t realize his Griffin had flying.

Game 2

I side in Unicorn since I expect another stall. He has ornithopther (?!?!) turn 1, and I get a phantom warrior out – he follows with an illusionary servant and 2/2 flying first strike griffon. I mind control the servant (dead), drop a ranger, and follow up with whispersilk cloak . I get a howl for 2 (this is getting depressing – really. It’s a 7cc card and EVERY TIME I have 2 forests? That’s not even the mana ratio of the deck!) . I follow with levitation for great justice, get in a swing, and he mises Divine Offering the next turn, which buys him some time… but I have enough dudes to outrace him.

Match 3 against Leon with G/R

Leon seems pretty cool, I hung with him and his friends the other night and he seems to know his way around the cards.

Game 1.

I drop deadly recluse and he drops piker. I drop merfolk, and essence scatter his Oryx (the 2/3 forestwalk is bad news for me) – He drops craw wurm and cudgel troll. Recluse drops the wurm, but Troll eventually gets in there and I get nothing but lands.

Game 2.

He has turn 1 elf, turn two 3/3 centaur, turn 3 Cudgel troll. He bolts a blocker and he’s definitely got me on the ropes. I draw into a wolf pack and hold off the troll, and he draws Oryx while I’m at 2 life. I have Overrrun but it’s not enough to alpha strike him, and I couldn’t cast it earlier because I’m on two !@#$% forests. I figure I’ve only got Mind Control or cage to deal with Oryx. I top deck Mind Control and take the oryx. He top decks Pyroclasm which owns everything on the table except his centaur and cudgel troll, and that’s game for me.

Match record: 1-2

Game Record 3-4

What went right:

* Rare drafting. – This seems obvious, but it’s also up to luck. I really can’t take any credit for opening money rares, but It’s worth mentioning that it wasn’t a total loss
* Green bombs. – Since I wasn’t getting any green in turn 1 after that early Rhino, I made it my goal to cut green off from my right hand guys. This was rather pyhrric but I did get the overrun and double howl, which either won me games or kept me from losing it too soon.
* Didn’t make any play mistakes. – Aside from the picks of deck and building the deck itself, I feel like I did really well in the play session – I stayed in a few games quite longer than I originally thought I would be able to.

What went wrong:

* Rare drafting – Of course, passing great playables for dual lands will do that for you some times. I really could have used that air elemental.
* Mind Control – To be honest, going into this draft I had a hankering to draft blue just to see how it played. So when I saw mind control I just bit hook line and sinker and was passing ridiculously good stuff in black and red and just wasn’t rewarded back. It’s not that I don’t think it’s a good color – Actually the uncommon in blue are pretty good – it’s that the color isn’t “deep” – you can maybe have two blue drafters at a table compared to 3 or even 4 white or green players.
* Too few creatures overall – The problem with going blue/green is that you have no removal, which is really bad since there are so many silver bullets in the format. On top of which going main with blue, it’s creatures are neither very aggressive or defensive. Blue really works as a supplementary color that helps out other deep colors like White and Red, and I passed ridiculous red. Mind Control just made me blind to all signaling.
* Didn’t support my green bombs with the land they really needed to work. I played 8 forest since I had far more blue spells, and never had more than 3 on the board at any time (and that took divination or the ranger to pull off). I don’t know what the mana ratio would be to make this work – less blue may have hurt my deck.
* Started with the wrong cards – Sage Owls were awful. Divination was a killer role-player card that powered me into the lands I needed to cast my bombs. The first version of this deck had a singleton swamp and Rise From the Grave, but I quickly realized I had no way to get creatures into the graveyard so it was worthless. So I subbed a forest for the swamp. (see land problems above) Sprites were okay but they really didn’t go very far in many of my games.

$5k Standard Tourney — G/W Tokens Report and 3 Lessons

August 7th through August 9th, Superstars Game Center hosted a $5k Standard event. Friday the 7th was an early bird, main flights on Saturday and then the official day 2 on Sunday.

(If you’re looking for my 3 main take-aways, those are at the very bottom of this report).

I played in the Early Bird flight on Friday as well as the main flight Saturday morning.

My Friday decklist consisted of the following:


Saturday:

You’ll notice a few differences first off:
Lack of Sable Stags and a Sunpetal Grove. This was simply a matter of accessibility.

Generally speaking, the difference between a number of G/W decks I’ve seen, there are no mana producers included in the deck. The turn 3 w-w-w for Spectral Procession is great but after careful consideration, I considered the mana producers a dead card after turn 3. This deck archetype really needs to focus on putting out the beats and in a big way. So far as the Nobel Heirarch, the exalted ability is not that great of a factor since I’ll typically be attacking with more than one creature–in fact, as the name tokens implies, I want a bunch of them out there. :)

The turn 3 slot lightens up a bit with Glorious Anthem dropping from standard with the release of M-10. Honor of the Pure easily takes Anthem’s place in this deck.

The G/W tokens builds presented here also have a pretty big curve, from 1 to “7″–counting Martial Coup as a 7cc spell. However, mana-cost for mana-cost, the creatures and threats presented by this deck are extremely efficient. Rather than just one creature that demands spot removal (Cloudgoat Ranger), G/W Tokens can run Captain of the Watch. Even with the removal of the “main creature” (Ranger & Captain), the board still has a bunch of token creatures. With 4x Honor of the Pure, I’m hard pressed to find a game in my notes where it wasn’t a deciding factor–meaning, I had it in play.

The deck also runs 4 planeswalkers, 2x Ajani Goldmane and 2x Elspeth, Knight Errant. If I were to play in the tournament again tomorrow, I would switch it to 4x Ajani. From all the matches played, Elspeth’s ability is slightly under-powered & anti-synergistic for this particular build, whereas Ajani’s ability to give all my creatures vigilance and +1/+1 is ridiculously powerful.

Day 1 I ran 2x Knight of the Meadowgrain, and on Day 2 I ran 2x [card]Gaddock Teeg[card]. There was quite a bit of discussion over these two cards Saturday morning. Despite finally deciding to run Teeg main and K.o.t.M. SB, I do think that the Knight is better for game one’s. Essentially my rational for this comes down to the fact that if I need Teeg against an opponent, I want 4x which I can do at SB anyway. Contrast that to “blindfolded,” I’d rather have a 2/2 first strike, lifelink–which can easily become a 3/3.

There’s also the 2x Harm’s Way with an additional 1x in SB; I believe this card is extremely important. It seems like such a simple spell but the flexibility in it’s execution cannot go under-stated.

I’d like to thank Pedro for helping me come to the realization of how important and how much I need to run Harm’s way and Knight of the Meadowgrain. :)

With all the deck details out of the way, here’s a quick review of all the matches, etc.

Friday:
Rnd 1: Fairies
Game one he wins on the back of a Bitterblossom, Spellstutter Sprite, Broken Ambitions, Vendillion Clique, and[card]Mistblind Clique[card]. Surprise surprise! ;-)
In came the Stags and Gaddock Teeg, out went Martial Coups and Elspeth.
Not much in my notes but I won the next two games. :) Game 2 handidly with him taking huge hits and me ending at 20. Game 3 there was a minor race but I had the faster/bigger beats with him going from 12 to zero.
1-0-0
Rnd 2: R/B Aggro Can Win
His start was a bit slow this game and was fairly uneventful ending with me at 22 and him going from 6 to 0. Game 2 I make a critical mistake and mistap my land (Sunpetal Grove into Windbrisk Heigtts–Sunpetal was my only white source and I had 3 or 4 forests in play!!). Had I had the white open, I could have used a Harm’s Way to take my opponent from 3 to 1 and then had the open alpha on the backswing. Dang! Game 3 he wins with me having a slower start and taking fast early beats from mounting in intensity to my demise.
The loss here is a bit sad because it resulted in me being randomly paired with LSV next match. doh!
1-1-0
Rnd 3: vs. LSV piloting 5cc (list here)
His build features Baneslayer Angel at 3x. Game 2 I was able to use Path on one, but he proceeded to drop another two and then add in the Cruel Ultimatum just for the heck of it. lol. Good times playing with Luis and getting to chat with him a bit. It’s not easy to get attention or one-on-one time with a pro. Funny highlights: Game 1 his lifetotal ending at 46–that includes a bunch of beats from a Baneslayer and a Cruel Ultimatum. Game 2, he “only” got to 24 life. Fun times!
1-2-0
Rnd 4: Jund Agrro
Game 1 I established an early Honor of the Pure and a Finks. He did drop an early Putrid Leech which after two activations was Exiled via the Path. I dropped token generating creatures and smashed face. Game 2 I dropped an early Finks again matched by a Leech. The life swing was too much, especially after I dropped a second Finks. With an Honor out, I was hitting for 8 per turn. Ouch.
2-2-0

With my record at 2-2, I was already out of the contention for the 8 slots open for Day 2 (Sunday, top-32 single elim). I decided to drop from the tournament. I wanted to discuss decks with a friend who just qualified by going 4-0 (and could Intentionally Draw the next two rounds). I also wanted to watch another round of LSV playing and then head home a bit earlier (11:30pm) to hit the sack for an early start Saturday morning.

Day 2: (entering this Sable Stag less. :( )
Rnd 1: Like the day before, Rnd 1 is matched against a Fairies deck
I lose game 1. Game 2, I drop beats quickly and sweep. Game 3 a similar occurrence. Gaddock Teeg was a champ both games.
1-0-0

Rnd 2: G/W Little Kid (not tokens)
First off, I start the round with a game loss. Because I was sitting around yammering and debating away about my build (ie Gaddock Teeg vs Knight of the Meadowgrain as 2x MD), I was rushing when I filled out my deck registration. What’s funny is that the decklist started off with full names, such as Ajani Goldmade and Elspeth, Knight Errant but the judges announced they were taking lists as I was filling it out. Apparently when I reached Windbrisk Heights, I was so pre-occupied with finishing the list, I only wrote “Windbrisk.” Oops.
Anyway, I take the loss in stride and win the next two games in a row.
One was pretty close with me only at 6, and I taking him down to 0 from 12 (Game 2).
2-0-1

Rnd 3: Jund Aggro
Game 1, I mulled to 6 on the Play. He quickly goes from 20 to 14 to 5 to 0. I ended at 13. Game 2, he establishes an early board position and smashes me down from 15 to 8 to 4 to zero. In Game 3, unfortunately, the high land count (25) came to haunt me as a drew 6 lands in a row. Any card other than Honor of the Pure or a land would have won me the match as he was only beating in with a lone Putrid Leech.
2-1-0

Rnd 4: Merfolk
On the Play I have a fairly good 7. The game is extremely close but Wake Thrasher proved superior to my army taking me from 9 to zero. Game 2, he has an extremely good draw with a number of counters and the right merfolk to quickly end the match.
2-2-0 doh. i have to undefeated from here out to q’ for the next day

Rnd 5: Merfolk
This round I start off with a game loss for being a bit late. (Was grabbing a bite to eat and ended up being about 30 seconds late–enough for a game loss. doh!!!)
Despite the handicap, I won both games quickly. There was a bit of a Cryptic Command action game 2 (officially game 3) that was doing a good job of stalling the ground forces of a casted honor of the pure into a sepectral procession into a Captain of the Watch. He simply didn’t have enough outs and I had great, great draws both games.
3-2-0

Rnd 6: Fairies
The only really intersting event occured in game three. Unfortunately for my opponent he had to mulligan to 5. He drops a turn 2 Bitterblossom so I was prepared for an uphill battle. He drops a second Bitterblossom on turn 4 or 5. By this point though, I’ve been able to captialize on his hand-size disadvantage, including the lack of counters that could have potentially stopped an onslaught from a Knight of the Meadowgrain. In the end, I’m pretty sure the double Bitterblossom is what killed him.
4-2-0 (Just one more round to go for qualification!)

Rnd 7: R/B Aggro (with Demigod of Revenge)
First game I was able to get 9 pnts of damage in one swing but he was able to keep the beats coming faster, including the casting of his Demigod.
Game 2 featured my second blunder of the day. I dropped a turn 2 Knight of the Meadowgrain. On my turn 3 (eot actually) he casts Lightening Bold targeting my Knight. I not only had mana open but I had the Harm’s Way in hand (would have targeted him). As the match played out, I’m convinced this mistake cost me the match, somewhat reinforced by the fact that he ended the match at 1 life and me drawing 3 lands in a row. :(
4-3-0
End of my chances at the $5k Superstars had open.

Three Simple Take-aways

  • Play Harm’s Way carefully.
  • Pay attention to board position, mana accessibility and deck registration.
  • Last but certainly not least: Be on time.

New Directions for Standard Post M10

—Authour’s Note–

I wrote this last Monday, but changed and edited it into the below version. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get my graphics just the way I wanted, but any later and this article might become irrelevant.  Enjoy!

As I write this, I’m in the car coming back from a camping trip with my family to the Rocky Mountains, so I’m sorry If I haven’t returned anyone’s emails, comments, or twitter updates, and I promise that I will get to them as soon as I possibly can. Also, I have not seen any decklists for post-M10 lists, so forgive me if I miss some crazy new deck.

Well, M10 has been released for about a week and a half at the time of writing, I’m eager to start playing some more standard, in preparation for Magic Game Day in August. I really wanted to play a new deck that was made possible after Magic: 2010. I developed a list of decks that I thought would be tournament viable. In no particular order, here they are:

Suicide Black
Uw Merfolk
GB(w?) The Rock
Rg Aggro
W Soldiers

I thought that M10 would make a nice stage for Suicide Black to make its return. For those of you who don’t know, Suicide Black is a deck that was originally bent on a turn one Dark Ritual into a Hypnotic Specter. This almost immediately demands an answer from the opponent, lest they risk losing their most important cards. Obviously, a turn-one specter is not a possibility in modern Standard, but the concept of attacking the opponents hand and board position simultaneously is still possible of winning games. I’ve been testing a deck like this that uses a playset of Thoughtseize, Duress, Bitterblossom, Black Knight, and Hypnotic Specter to apply early pressure on the opponent, and provide minimal opportunities for answers. I also use Child of Night and Tendrils of Corruption to mitigate the life loss. Unfortunately, the deck lacks an answer to a Chameleon Colossus, aside from a few Mutavaults and Gargoyle Castles, which can be trouble.

Magic 2010 sees the resurgence of new tribal “lords” which give pump effects to their specific tribes. The one that I’m mostly happy about is Merfolk Soverign, which makes Uw Fish a viable archetype. Although it’s no Lord of Atlantis, it still makes your Silvergill Adepts stronger, which is really what merfolk is all about. This combined with my new favourite card Sleep make for a deadly onslaught of merfolk. Backed up by proper countermagic, even a few merfolk should be able to win the game with the eight tap effects that the deck should run (Cryptic Command and Sleep). After playtesting Merfolk for a bit, it seems like a solid archetype that would definitely be powerful enough to take on a PTQ. It also has great sideboard potential, able to play Flashfreeze, Meddling Mage, Pithing Needle, and Safe Passage based on the deck it’s facing. The deck’s tribal interactions are just icing on the cake, so I highly reccommend playing a Merfolk deck at your next standard tournament.

One card that I’m a huge fan of from M10 is Cudgel Troll. It provides an excellent beater, and now Terror and Incinerate have been ousted from standard in favour of Lightning Bolt and Doom Blade, which allow for the possibly of regeneration. Thus, I believe that a creature that pretty much only dies to Path to Exile is a valuable asset, assuming you have enough green mana. Black Knight is also a card that provides a distinct advantage against many decks, and coupled with Great Sable Stag, this deck just pumps out threats that are hard to deal with. This is another deck that will make use of the newly-reprinted Duress, and although an overall slower deck, I think that it will prove to be quite viable.

With the reprints of both Ball Lightning and Lightning Bolt, red decks have a lot to smile about these days. I envision a red-green build that only splashes green for cards like Bloodbraid Elf, which promise to result on more damage being produced. Just the thought of cascading an elf into a Ball Lightning for 9 points of damage got my inner red mage excited. Unfortunately, I don’t see a lot more than that happening with this deck, as the quality of fast burn isn’t enough to support the deck. I haven’t tested this deck at all though, nor do I have a full List for it, so I would peruse Gatherer a bit more before calling it completely out of contention. Due to the red decks inherent low land count, it demands a large quantity of spells, and if a deck is forced into playing either more land than warranted, or sub-par spells, it will not be powerful enough to be a mainstream contender. That, and the fact that the whole deck does to Burrenton Forge-Tender makes it the deck that I’m least sure of in the post-M10 Standard.

If an aggressive red deck is what I’m least certain of, then I’m putting most of my money on a mono-white soldiers build to dominate the top tables at tournaments. I’ve found that the building of this deck in particular is extremely similar to the building of Faeries. This is because there are some cards that are automatic four-ofs, while others are extremely debatable. However, although many slots can differ, the decks may have a very similar play experience. Cards like Captain of the Watch will be played, because of the sheer power they have to change the game. The new white sorcery Harms Way has a great place in this deck, easily mitigating the potential devastation caused by Volcanic Fallout. The plethora of pump effects make it a more stable tokens build, as making all your guys X/3 is not that difficult.

Without the presence of wrath of god, your army becomes near-impossible to deal with once 3 toughness is reached. Thus, your opponent becomes forced into either wasting spot removal or making unfavourable combat decisions in order to get rid of your threats. Unlike current Kithkin decks, your main pump effects (Honor of the Pure and Veteran Armorsmith) don’t die to a board sweeper before turn 5, so that your tokens will continue to be powerful as the game progresses. The funny thing about this deck is that the longer your opponent staves you off, the stronger your army becomes. Between multiple pump effects and activations of Ajani Goldmane, it’s not uncommon to have 4/4 tokens coming out of Elspeth, Knight-Errant and Captain of the Watch. Eventually, it just proves to be too much for any deck to handle.

I’ve already built 2 of these decks, and next week I’d like to give you some testing results from their matchups. As always, any questions or concerns can be emailed to me at zak -at- power9pro.com, or through my twitter feed at www.twitter.com/zturchan.

Cheers,

Zak

FNM M-10 Draft in Wellington New Zealand

FNM tournament report for 7.16.2009

I show up at 6:30 loaded for bear – we have 18 players so we separate into 2 pods – most of the players seem pretty casual – the binder carrying dudes from last week apparently are boycotting the store and they’re actually outside the store at a table in 8 degree Centigrade weather playing EDH.  Go figure.

It’s a rare draft, so I get to keep what I open.

First pack – HELLO there!

Siege-Gang Commander

!!Woot!!!  baby – this makes siege-gang number 3 this week!
Easy pick – though I pass a pyroclasm.
Pick two:

serra angel

Okay – I’m prepared for crazy now….
I stick to my draft plan and get a pretty sick curve deck – we didn’t see any bolts or pacifisms though, which was odd..

Game 1 vs. Loren playing G/B

Round 1
Loren powers out a Llanowar elf, The lifelink vampire, a warghoul, a spider, doom blades a blocker, and Overruns me turn 7.

Round 2
Loren mulls down to 6, and accidently drops a doom blade, but keeps the hand.
I power out bears and an angel, while Loren drops 6 forest in a row but no creatures.

1-1

Round 3
Loren drops an early Vampire Aristocrat which totally messes up my math.  I got an early Pegasus to race him but he can hit me with the Aristo all day as he has plenty of men to sac to it and save.  I eventually get a Blinding Mage which keeps him down, and the Pegasus goes all the way.

We play a game for fun which is pretty epic – it involves a Howl of the Wolfpack for 6(!?!!) vs. my bear army and that pesky pegasus which carries the day – I win by 2 points.

1-0

Game 2 vs. Mike playing W/B

Round 1
Mike drops a turn 1 plains, soul warden (quickly becoming one the most annoying commons to deal with).  I drop a pegasus (good thing!)  he drops a black knight and throws a harm’s way at my horsie.

I can’t really deal with the Knight, but I what I can do is drop a  truck load of Lions and Pikers race him.  I stay at seven and I get him down from 23 to five, and mise Siege Gang off the top.

Round 2
Mike leads with Black Knight, and I have a white bear.  He plays the 1/3 flying vigilance griffin.  I think a bit and cast Excommunicate on it – this lets me get  a free hit in while keeping him off his harms way – maybe not the best attack but I go for the tempo play figuring I can race him.
I get a minotaur out, but he drops a White Knight for the four power defense.  One of my Pikers beats up a Knight on the attack thanks to Safe Passage, and I get a Serra to break the stall but he’s got a blinding mage for it. – I get a second Serra but he taps it and Assassinates it (combo!) .  He then rises from the grave (Ultra combo!) my own Serra and beats me to death with it.

Round 3
I mull to six.  Mike drops turn 1 and 2 soul warden and a pegasus, followed by the double knights.  He gets double Blinding Mage to hold down my two Serras and I’m never in the game – He ends the game at 32 life.
The entire time I had Act of Treason in my hand and it was never playable.  I mained it because of big bombs like Serra, Shivan Dragon, and Platinum Angel but it was never relevant in a single game.

1-1

Game 3 vs. Richmond playing B/R
Richmond doesn’t seem super confident in his deck and his card choices and play reflect this.

Game 1.
I mull down to six, keeping a 1 land hand on the draw as I’ve got lion, piker, and blinding mage but it takes me until turn 5 to draw a second land.   By the time I get a mage he has inferno elemental, followed by Vampire Nocturnus.  My life goes down in massive chunks and I can’t keep the elemental down and possibly kill the vampire with 3 lands, so I concede at 5.

Game 2.  Did I mention I hate those penny sleeves yet.
I mull down to six again, trying to make sure my deck is sufficiently randomized – this time I get a 5 land hand and a serra on the draw. I sigh and keep.

Richmond drops an early 2/1 bat, and I answer with my Serra, having drawn the pump spell and a safe passage – this isn’t good if he has a doom blade I have no game.. he casts unholy strength on the bat making it 4/2.  I swing in and he blocks (not a good call for him, since I was basically waving a big sign saying I had a combat trick) and I safe passage.  He weaknesses my Serra (!) and casts Soul Bleed on it(!!) I really don’t have anything else so I keep swinging, but he drop a lava axe on my head.  Eventually I get a siege mastadon – and he draws and plays Black Knight for it.
I get Goblin Artillery off the top, and bash the black knight.  I’m at five but I have the other Safe Passage for another Lava Axe, so I swing in with enough damage and a Glorious charge for +3.  No complaints.

Game 3.
Mull down to six with these ridiculous sleeves.

Piker comes down, then armorsmith, and a Piker.
He drops a Bat and a Bog Wrath. I drop a Serra and he drops a dude.
I swing in my whole team and he blocks with his team with no mana untapped.  again, he should have just taken the hit as I’ve the Glorious Charge to kill most of his team.
He drops a couple more bears and I swing in again and he blocks agains and I safe passage my team, basically wrathing him.

I tell him after the game he had nothing to lose as I was attacking with my whole team – he had enough guys to race me and a defensive fog off safe passage is better than safe passage that wraths his men.  So why block me?

2-1

For my 3rd place win I didn’t get an FNM or even a pack.. but I did get the foil Ant Queen and I can’t complain about the rare drafting.

M10 Pre-Release Report From Wellington, New Zealand

Wellington is located on the Northern Island of New Zealand and is the country’s capital.  It’s nestled in a bay and actually reminds me of a very young San Francisco – a cute but manageable little metro area with hills like Los Gatos and little period houses all scattered through them.  I’m assigned to work here for the month, but last night I got word that I had the next two days off and I had no plans. First thing I did was check and see if there were pre-releases – and there were TWO in the city.

I managed to find the card shop quickly – everything I need seems to be within a ten-minute walk of my hotel – but I was way early – they didn’t really have any singles though – they seemed to focus more on Pokemon and action figures.  I said I’d be back, asked them for references to any other card stores and they said there was one down the street – after about half an hour I found it but they were mostly comics and only had some core set boosters – bleh.

After doing a little shopping I rolled back around to the store and after a little wait I got around to opening my six boosters.  I don’t want to go into my whole card selection – it was pretty crazy but without fixing you pretty much have to do two colors – lightning bolt, shivan dragon, and serra angel were calling to me but I had to play the overall most consistent removal and beats.

Black Green Sealed deck.


relevant sideboard

Weakness
Deathmark
looming shade
zombie goliath
enormous baloth
Emerald Oryx

Game 1 vs. Bernie with Mono-black

Bernie had a ridiculously strong black pool but he probably could have splashed a little – he was playing some weaker card but if any deck benefits from all the swamps it’s black – he opened THREE tendrils of corruption, TWO Liliana Vess (one foil) and a demon’s horn – so there went my removal and fear guys.  These games were hilarious.

Match 1.

Turn 3 with nothing on either side, I tap out to play an aggressive Awakener druid, and wake up my only forest to start the smashing next turn. His turn he assassinates the forest.  Ouch.

He gets a warpath ghoul and I rampant growth and sign in blood really fast out of the land screw, and get down a turn 5 stampeding rhino. But he’s bashed me with that ghoul.

His turn he tendrils Rhino.  dammit.

I rise from the grave.  RARRR 4/4 trample black Zombie Rhino!

His turn he tendrils it.  !@#$%.

I disentomb the rhino and recast it. he casts Soul Bleed (!?!?!) on it.  I would never play that card, it’s among my sealed pool and I’m not even including it on my sideboard – but I’m losing one life an upkeep on this rhino.  But rhino is gonna bash.

He drops Liliana Vess and makes me discard a land*   (*Pro tip: – now that I know he had a third tendrils, he should have tutored for that and killed the rhino for good.

In meantime he’s gotten a whispersilk cloak out on the ghoul and has me down pretty low – my turn I mow liliana down.  I can kill him next turn, but I’m at six.

His turn, he would have killed me – he had an unholy strength that he tried to cast on the ghoul, which would have taken me to 1, and I die to soul bleed (sad face here) – EXCEPT he had whispersilk cloak on the ghoul!   Stupid shroud tricks win!

Match 2

I keep a 1 land hand (terramorphic expanse) with a rampant growth on the draw.   This was a bad idea, but I was feeling good about the match up.

Turn 1 he plays swamp, Duress.

/Facepalm….

Turn 2 he plays Demon’s horn.

X2 /Facepalm….

I somehow get 3 lands in a row and drop Howling Banshee.

This eventually dies to something, but I drop Great Sable Stag which lifts it’s leg on his whole deck.

X is 1-0!

Game 2 vs. Gareth playing W/U

Gareth has some great cards but doesn’t seem like a great player – he’s not sure how protection works, and puts his first strike guy in the graveyard when he doesn’t need to.. He’s got a pal who is backseat driving over his shoulder but I don’t mind too much…

Match 1

Gareth drops an early White Knight, I get a Dread Warlock (pacifism)  – but I get a turn 5 Nightmare with the help of rampant growth.

He casts Sleep, and continues beating me with the Knight.  I have no blocker for it that will survive.  I get him low with a 7/7 nightmare but he drops platinum angel and I draw no doom blade for the angel nor a sizable blocker for the Knight.

Match 2

I get Bashing Troll, Bashing Rhino, and Banshee him for the win, while he drops nothing.  His buddy saves him a turn by reminding him to cast the new white Fog, but he isn’t in the game at all.

Match 3

He has an early White Knight again, but he blocks my Great Sable Stag pretty early.  Another pro tip from experience – he should have just held on to the knight and took the damage and keep trying to “race” me by dealing damage back – I couldn’t block it except with Stag, and if he dropped anything Stag couldn’t deal with we would be on equal terms.  By the time he stabilized, I had a Rod of Ruin out and it pinged him to death.

Game 3 vs. Mark with R/G

There’s a group of guys who show up early and have their own table – they’ve got big binders, they’re talking the talk and they definitely seem to know what they’re doing.  Aside from me, Mark and his two friends from that table are undefeated – he mines me for info asking since I’m 2-0 I’ve got a crazy deck – and really I don’t, I’ve got a half decent deck and two good match-ups.

Match 1.

Mark kicks the crap out of me – Bear, 3/3 for 3, lightning bolt my blocker – I drop a Wall of Bone but he drops a deathtouch equipment on the bear and kills me quick.

Match 2 – see above, except he lava axed me to death.

Turns out Mark top 8′d at new zealand nationals – which I guess isn’t saying much since they’ve got 90 people in the whole country who play ;)  do I sound bitter? -_-  (he also wins the pre-release)

Game 4 vs.  Marius playing U/W/r (splash for fireball)

Match 1

Turn 1 soul Warden

Turn 2 plains, soul Warden, Elite vanguard.

- Basically he smashes me with little men and I try to stablize – I mess up slightly as I had awakener druid but he cast Ice Cage on the Forest – basically disabling the land ability.  However I messed up as I had a regenerate in my hand that would have gotten rid of the icecage but I didn’t catch the play until it was already over.  He ends the game with flyers and at 28 life.

- I go to the sideboard and get deathmark and weakness. :D

Match 2

Him: Turn 1 soul warden

Me: Turn 1 weakness!

I get Banshee out which rips him up – he lightning bolts it but I rise from the grave on the Banshee which removes his last 3 life.   Banshee wins: 2

Match 3

Him Turn 1 soul warden

Me: Turn 1 Weakness!

Him: Turn 2 Blinding Mage

me: turn 2 Deathmark!

I get down Dread Warlock, Looming shade, and a nightmare and he has no answers.

results:

3-1,  4th place out of 16 players.  My  Sealed had Great Sable Stag, Lightwielder Paladin, and Haunting Echoes, while the two packs I opened had a Siege-Gang Commander and a Sunpetal Grove, so I can’t complain.

A Limited Analysis: Magic 2010 Sealed and Draft

With the Magic 2010 Prereleases just around the corner, we’re going to have a much more interesting time playing limited with this core set than any other.  So, in order to give you a better shot at winning your tournamnt, I’m going to discuss which common cards you should look out for, in both draft and sealed events.  Let’s start with white.

White has a number of basic utility commons that server their role extremely well.  The first card is the age-old favourite, Pacifism, which I really hope gets some new art (I’m kinda sick of the creepy looking dud from Mirage).  Pacifism is an easy first-pick, and is well worth splashing as it is a solid removal spell.  Any card like this that can deal with annoying bombs (Read Shivan Dragon, Bogardan Hellkite, Baneslayer Angel, etc.), is a terrific card for limited.

Another removal spell that white gets is Divine Verdict, which is a functional reprint of Lorwyn’s Neck Snap.  Again, a sloid removal spell, it is worthy of a first pick in a draft, barring anything stunning at the uncommon or rare slots.  Removal is always good, although this does require you to leave 4 mana open if you want to take your opponent by surprise, which can get annoying if they don’t attack you with something worth killing for a while.

Another pseudo-removal spell that white gets is a functional reprint of Master Decoy.  Being able to tap down your opponent’s most powerful guy is quite a boon, and Blinding Mage does this with flying colours.   This mage also provides a way to free up room for some of white’s smaller attackers to get through, and that is always a good thing.  However, beware of your opponent’s removal spells coming straight for this guy, as he won’t live long once he starts ruining your opponent’s combat plans.

The three cards I’ve discussed have already been seen in some form before, but my 4th pick for white commons is a brand new card.  Veteran Armorsmith is a white Elvish Warrior, but it also gives a relevant boost to your soldiers, which are a sort-of underlying subtheme amongst white’s creatures.

Those are the only commmons that really stand out for me when I’m playing white, so let’s move on to blue.  Blue got hit pretty hard in Magic 2010, with cards like Jump, and Disorient.  However, there are still some cards that will help it out.  Believe it or not, Blue gets 3 counterspells at common, in the form of Cancel, Negate, and Essence Scatter (a reprint of Remove Soul).  Because of the small set size (compared to 10th Edition), it wouldn’t be all to uncommon to get a very nice quite of countermagic.  Paired with some  green fatties, you’re looking at a very nice control deck in a draft.

I wouldn’t pick a counterspell first pick, but I would start to pick them up en masse if I saw that they were flowing my way throughout picks 6 and on.  The few cards I might pick earlier are all under-whelming for blue.  Wind Drake and Snapping Drake both provide some sort of offense in the air, which is how you’re going to have to win if you end up playing blue.

Ice Cage is a variant on a blue Pacifism that seems strong, however a single Giant Growth will destroy the enchantment.  I would still play this card, but only as a half-removal spell, for it is easily circumvented by an ability or spell.

With the new rules changes which are effective as of the Magic: 2010 Prerelease, cards like Unsummon are not nearly as powerful, because you cannot save your blockers after damage has been placed on the stack.  Unsummon is still a powerful effect, but now it has to be played a little bit earlier.  Expect these to go much later than normal, perhaps pick 7-9, but with so few blue cards that are playable, they may be taken earlier.

Black is relatively strong in Magic 2010, primarily because of the large suite of removal spells it has at it’s disposal.  Although Terror has been ousted from the core set after its brief return in 10th edition, a new variant promises to be even better.  Doom Blade allows for the possibility of the target creature being Regenerated, but it can hit artifact creatures.  I believe that this was necessary after the high-volume of artifact creatures that were present in the Shards of Alara Block, so that now there is a black removal spell that can hit the likes of Sharding Sphinx and Master Transmuter.  Almost always first-pick this, and splash it if you open it in your sealed.

Assassinate returns for another year in Magic 2010, and it is still a solid removal spell.  Again, a first-second pick, it’s just really great removal for its cost.

Tendrils of Corruption was one of my favourite cards from back in Time Spiral, and it’s great to see that it’s back, with even more awesome art.  This is probably a ~5th pick, simply because it requires you to be pretty heavily in black.  However, because black is relatively deep in M10, this may get picked earlier.  If nothing else in the pack is promising, don’t be afraid to snap this one up early.

Black also has two common creatures I think are worth laying.  Vampire Aristocrat is a new Nantuko Husk, and Child of Night is a 2/1 with Lifelink.  Both of these cards are fine early drops for a black deck, and should be considered.  Although the Aristocrat is less powerful after the rules changes, it is still a force to be reckoned with.  Expect both of these to go around picks 6 or 7.

Red has basically the best common in the set.  Lightning Bolt can take a chunk out of your opponent’s life, as well as kill a great number of creatures that you may find on the other side of the battlefield.  First pick, undoubtedly.  Simply an amazing card that will always be relevant.

Many people have been dumping on Sparkmage Apprentice.  I personally think he is a fine card to go in a red deck.  He gets rid of cards like Prodigal Pyromancer and Child of Night, as well as providing a small body.  Although a poor candidate for a splash, he is a solid card that will go into most decks that play red.  He’ll probably go around pick 5-6.

Siesmic Strike is a nice piece of red removal that can be played at instant speed, which is always useful.  Like Tendrils of Corruption, it requires a bit of a commitment to red, which does make it’s playability suffer.  Depending on how heavy in red some drafters are, I can see this going between pick 4 and 8.

Red has a nice new beater in the form of Fiery Hellhound.  A 2/2 for 3 with Firebreathing is a solid card that will often get into the red zone for increased amounts of damage unless it is dealt with.  A solid, all-around card that really helps the aggressive side of any red deck.  Keep in mind that this also requires a heavier commitment to red, especially if it is run in multiples.

When we get into green we see some efficient creatures that will hopefully be able to outnumber your opponent’s removal spells.  Borderland Ranger and Centaur Courser are both excellent 3 drops that pull their weight.  Reprints of Civic Wayfinder and Nessian Courser respectively, these are creatures that will be able to outrun the opponent, and in the case of the Ranger, removal spells will be much worse, as you get to fetch a land upon its coming into play.  Any damage he can deal just makes him that much better than a Sylvan Scrying.

We also see that the Dehydration effect has been moved into Green with the addition of Entangling Vines.  This is useful, because Green doesn’t get very much removal, and this will help your efficient beaters to get in for more damage.  It should go around pick 3   in a draft, and is definitely splashable.

The key to a green deck is lots of big creatures, and joining the classic Craw Wurm is Stampeding Rhino, a 4/4 Trampler for 5, which will serve an excellent role as a dumb guy who can bash through blockers, as well as a way to draw removal spells from your opponent, as an undealt-with trampler could spell the end for your opponent.

The artifacts in Magic 2010 are all uncommon or rarer, so I guess all I have to say is that if you see a Darksteel Colossus, draft as many Llanowar Elves and Rampant Growths as you can, as well as lots of Fabricates, and you;ll be on your way.

Have fun at your Magic 2010 Prereleases, and I’ll be back in a week once we’ve all has a chance at playing with the new set!

As always, any questions, suggestions ro comments can be emailed to be at zak – at – power9pro.com, or through my twitter feed at www.twitter.com/zturchan.

Cheers,

Zak

Magic 2010 (M10) set review, Ajani Goldmane through Terramorphic Expanse

The cards in the upcoming release of the Magic core set, Magic 2010 or “M10″ have now been completely spoiled by our pals at mtgsalvation.  M10 is a set which has already proven contentious, generating debate and controversy with the announcement of its accompanying rules changes a few weeks back.  Here are my first impressions and snap judgements upon diving in to this pile of spoiled cards like a child on christmas into a pile of fresh loot!

Ajani Goldmane – 2WW
Planeswalker – Ajani (Mythic Rare)
+1: You gain 2 life.
-1: Put a +1/+1 counter on each creature you control. Those creatures gain vigilance until end of turn.
-6: Put a white Avatar creature token onto the battlefield with “This creature’s power and toughness are each equal to your life total.”
4

(FYI, I’ll put card links around the reprinted cards’ names)  Nice.  So there’s both mythic rares and planeswalkers in this core set.  Very interesting.  Wizards is supposedly trying to make the core sets more intricate and to stop trying to dumb them down or power them down.  Mark Rosewater wrote a couple days ago that in creating M10, they intend to recapture some of that je n’sais pas… that evocative resonance… that certain essence or spirit or Substance™ that alpha cards had by making cards which were very top down, which represented some concrete thing in the mind of the player.  I’d say Ajani Goldmane is a nice way to do just that.  He’s this big feline-manoid planeswalker loyal to you.

As for the card, it’s obviously still a mega bomb in limited and constructed both.  The real bonus here is that he won’t be rotating with Lorwyn block, nor will any of his colleague planeswalkers.  Awesome way to start a set.

Angel’s Mercy – 2WW
Instant (Common)
You gain 7 life.
“Until that day I cursed the angels, those uncaring lights in the sky. They rewarded my scorn with the gift of time, every year of which I’ve spent in devotion to their names.”—Torian Sha, Soul Warden
Illus. Andrew Robinson

I am reminded of bargain, which if we follow the analogy means in exchange for your opponent drawing a card, you’ve paid an extra W.  This seems like a bargain, if you’ll excuse the expression.  However, recall too that heroes reunion has the same effect at half the cost, and you see that this is somewhere between that and kiss of the amesha when it comes to gaining seven life.  I’ve always been more of a vitalizing cascade kind of guy, but I’m a sucker for good artwork.  Anyway, as the first non-reprint, this is kind of a dud to me, though clearly this effect can have some impact on a game played with 40 card decks.  Even still, this has never been my style of card, even though I admit it’s at the threshold of being compelling.

Armored Ascension – 3W
Enchantment – Aura (Uncommon)
Enchant creature
Enchanted creature gets +1/+1 for each Plains you control and has flying.

This is a great reprint in limited.  You set yourself up for a two-for-one (241) when you cast this, but in exchange for your risk, your reward is the likely transmutation of some wimpy dude into an evasive killing machine.  Even if you’re 241′ed, often you were powering up your weakest minion, so you’ve sort of forced your opponent to waste removal on the least threatening man like a Bush era preventive strike.  Then again, you still got 241′ed, which is never fun.  Meh… the reward side of this is often great enough for me personally.  All I can say is, “Wings of shields, Ho!”

Baneslayer Angel – 3WW
Creature – Angel (Mythic Rare)
Flying, first strike, lifelink, protection from Demons and from Dragons
Some angels protect the meek and innocent. Others seek out and smite evil wherever it lurks.
5/5
Illus. Greg Staples
#4/249

Yes please!  Demons and dragons is kind of coincidental / gravy if you ask me.  Consider that in previous core sets, air elemental and serra angel and sengir vampire set the bar for 5-drop fliers, and they were all 4/4s.  Throw in lifelink and an additional eager cadet worth of power / toughness and you have yourself a rocking good deal.  And again, this guy’s soaked in protection from demons and dragons gravy!  Talk about no joke!   This guy seems to indicate that wizards is recalibrating things to make the standard core set creature commensurate with today’s powered up creature base.  McLovin it.  This is so far beyond merely being “sick” that it’s more like “terminally ill,” bro!  (all rights to the phrase “terminally ill” reserved)

Blinding Mage – 1W
Creature – Human Wizard (Common)
{W}, {T}: Tap target creature.
1/2
#5/249

Master Decoy has always been awesome in limited.  Now we have a wizard variety too, a trend in M10… the functional reprint.  Can’t say much about this guy that you don’t probably know.  It’s a darned good effect.

Captain of the Watch – 4WW
Creature – Human Soldier (Rare)
Vigilance
Other Soldier creatures you control get +1/+1 and have vigilance.
When Captain of the Watch enters the battlefield, put three 1/1 white Soldier creature tokens onto the battlefield.
3/3
Illus. Greg Staples
#6/249

The card that first comes to mind is siege-gang commander, which I understand is in this set as well.  Though more expensive than SGC, cards like momentary blink and otherworldly journey are on color here… I think that at one mana cheaper with a built-in reach factor (and by that I mean late game damage-making, not the keyword ability, obviously), SGC is likely stronger than this guy, but that’s not to say he’s bad.  This is by all means a sick card, especially in a universe with token decks like we have, in white today.  Cloudgoat ranger is peeking around SGC’s shoulder when I think of this card.  This can come down for free off a windbrisk heights and completely devastate for, on average in the long term, probably less mana than the retail cconverted mana cost of 5 on old SGC.  So yeah, this card’s got the goods, I’m guessing.  A little steep once Lorwyn is gone, but he may still have a future even then.  I like where this set is going.

Celestial Purge – 1W
Instant (Uncommon)
Exile target black or red permanent.

Another awesome reprint.  Fantastic at what it does, narrow in scope perhaps, but brutaly efficient and effective.  On this one, I kind of question whether it truly posesses that je n’sais pas Rosewater seeks… celestial purge… almost brings images of the gods sticking their fingers down their throats at the heavenly vomitorium doesn’t it?  What’s it supposed to be, in and of itself?  Not 100% intuitive the way, say black knight is.  But whatever.

Divine Verdict – 3W
Instant (Common)
Destroy target attacking or blocking creature.
Giants and pit spawn attempted to topple the cathedral’s pillars. The fine grit of their remains still swirls in the breeze outside.
Illus. Kev Walker

I thought of resounding silence at first, which for several reasons is self-apparently superior to this card.  However, not strictly so… as this can hit a blocker.  Exile is greater than destroy.  Anyway, as an option in constructed this seems thoroughly irrelevant.  It will very likely make the cut in 40 card decks as a solid removal spell.

Elite Vanguard – W
Creature – Human Soldier (Uncommon)
“Simba who?”
2/1
#9/249

Whoa shit!  Okay it’s savannah lions time.  This is an unprecedented functional reprint which will allow old school weenie decks should they wish to play 8 savannah lions plus however many Isamaru, Hound of Konda they want.  Maybe 4 was all they wanted… I suspect we will soon find out.  This is an undisputedly powerful card in constructed.  In limited his value is ironically lessened, but he’s still respectable.  A tad vulnerable perhaps, but a case study in efficiency.  Good stuff.

Excommunicate – 2W
Sorcery (Common)
Put target creature on top of its owner’s library.

This is a soft removal spell which can win you some games.  A good choice as a reprint for a set introducing “exile”… gotta differentiate that from excommunication… which means… um… going back into the head / spellbook of your creator-planeswalker… duh.  Just like the normal meaning of the word… intuitive!  (I actually love the rules and terminology changes, but thought this was kind of funny.  Also, I’m a critic.)

Glorious Charge – 1W
Instant (Common)
Creatures you control get +1/+1 until end of turn.
#11/249

Neat trick, I suppose.  Nice and global.

Griffin Sentinel – 2W
Creature – Griffin (Common)
Flying
Vigilance (Attacking doesn’t cause this creature to tap.)
Once a griffin sentinel adopts a territory as its own, only death can force it to betray its post.
1/3
Illus. Warren Mahy

This one isn’t bad at all.  Decently cheap with evasion and a big butt plus the vigilance to use it on defense.

Guardian Seraph – 2WW
Creature – Angel (Rare)
Flying
If a source an opponent controls would deal damage to you, prevent 1 of that damage.
3/4
Illus. Paul Bonner

I’m a sucker for angels, so I kind of like this right away.  It’s like a reverse serendib efreet kind of, right?  Anyway, this kind of effect can get annoying fast, and a 3/4 flier for 4 is already quite good.  3/3 flying for 4 would be ahead of the magical hill giant benchmark, so yeah, this guy’s pretty decent.

Harm’s Way – W
Instant (Uncommon)
The next 2 damage that a source of your choice would deal to you or a permanent you control this turn is dealt to target creature or player instead.
Illus. Dan Scott
#14/249

I really like this spell.  I think of it as a mini captains maneuver.  This can be just devastating to an opponent looking to save himself with a burn spell to finish off your best creature only to see his own forces further decimated.  Even combat can be a mess with this running around.  I definitely dig this one and hope to get a chance to play some limited with it.

Holy Strength – W
Enchantment – Aura (Common)
Enchant creature
Enchanted creature gets +1/+2.

An oldie but not-so-goodie, but I guess it’s got The Substance™.  This is an example where there’s not enough bang for the buck, and exposure to 241s is not worthwhile.

Honor of the Pure – 1W
Enchantment (Rare)
White creatures you control get +1/+1.
Together the soldiers were like a golden blade, cutting down their enemies and scarring the darkness.
Illus. Greg Staples

Wow.  This is crusade on ‘roids.  Not only is it cheaper in terms of colored mana requirement, making it way more splashable in multicolor W/x decks, but it only affects your creatures.  Sick.

Indestructibility – 3W
Enchantment – Aura (Rare)
Enchant permanent
Enchanted permanent is indestructible.

I love it.  For once the keyword comes before the card it’s based on… or rather a card comes later… aw hell, you know what I mean!  This is an hilarious card to me.  I love the elegance.  It does what it says.  Indestructability grants a creature… indestructibility!  Hey hey!  Surely there are fun and abusive ways to use this.  Also, this seems like a good example of “enough bang for your buck to risk 241 exposure”.  Also, copious amounts of The Substance™.

Lifelink – W
Enchantment – Aura (Common)
Enchant creature
Enchanted creature has lifelink.
(Damage dealt by the creature also causes its controller to gain that much life.)
The spoils of war are not measured only in gold and silver.
Illus. Terese Nielsen

Lol.  Back to back, eh?  Well, who said lightning never strikes twice?  They used to call spirit link swords to plowshares 5-8… does this make lifelink swords 9-12?  Not really… see, lifelink is different than spirit link because if I cast this on an opponent’s creature, they gain the life.  D’oh.  Looks like spirit link will go the way of the dodo.

Lightwielder Paladin – 3WW
Creature – Human Knight (Rare)
First strike (This creature deals combat damage before creatures without first strike.)
Whenever Lightwielder Paladin deals combat damage to a player, you may exile target black or red permanent that player controls.
4/4
Illus. D. Alexander Gregory

Interesting, but I think underpowered.  For 5 mana you can have baneslayer angel, making this a very weird, narrow choice for what… knight decks?  In limited he passes muster.

Mesa Enchantress – 1WW
Creature – Human Druid (Rare)
Whenever you cast an enchantment spell, you may draw a card.
0/2

Interesting reprint… I’m not seeing how enchantress could be a viable archetype… but who knows.  Outside that archetype this is a card without much of a purpose.  You’ll probably never run this in limited without redundant copies of some self-recursive enchantment like rancor or something.

Open the Vaults – 4WW
Sorcery (Rare)
Return all artifact and enchantment cards from all graveyards to the battlefield under their owners’ control.
#21/249

Holy smokes!  Replenish is back!  Well, okay… it costs a full sol ring worth or mana more now.  That’s probably okay.  I personally think replenish was an original genesis of the adage that for 4 mana you should be “winning the game.”  They also nerfed this further by making it symetrical whereas the progenitor was solely the caster’s yard.  Anyway, this is an extremely powerful effect, and if march of the machines or opalescence effects come around, this will likely see some play.

Pacifism – 1W
Enchantment – Aura (Common)
Enchant creature
Enchanted creature can’t attack or block.

There’s nothing wrong with pacifism.  Rife with The Substance™, this is a solid removal spell.

Palace Guard – 2W
Creature – Human Soldier (Common)
Palace Guard can block any number of creatures.
“I’m not nearly as bothered by being outnumbered as I am by their foul stench.”
1/4
Illus. Volkan Baga

Blaze of glory is an effect I have missed from the early days, so I’m glad they’re easing back into it.  This guy is good at what he does: hold down the ground while you stall for the late game, presumably.

Planar Cleansing – 3WWW
Sorcery (Rare)
Destroy all nonland permanents.
A new beginning requires a clean slate.
Illus. Michael Komarck
#24/249

Wrath of God seems to be out of this core set then.  :-(  Well, I guess it might be for the best that this and other big effects are moving from the 4 cmc range up into the 6 cmc range with slight power boosts.  As one of my pals put it when telling me about this over email, “Wrath of Gone, Amirite?”

Razorfoot Griffin – 3W
Creature – Griffin (Common)
Flying, first strike
2/2

This guy is way better than he may seem.  I love a 2/2 flying for 4 in limited, and first strike pushes him way over the top.

Rhox Pikemaster – 2WW
Creature – Rhino Soldier (Uncommon)
First strike
Other Soldier creatures you control have first strike.
3/3
#26/249

Hmm.  His ability is not too bad for a themed soldier deck, but I’m guessing such a deck won’t have the goods.  It’s worth noting that he’s better than Hill Giant.

Righteousness – W
Instant (Uncommon)
Target blocking creature gets +7/+7 until end of turn.

Such a cool card.  This has been a personal favorite since back in the day when I used to enjoy blocking and nuking their peeps, then gaining tons of life by swords to plowshares-ing my own dude.

Safe Passage – 2W
Instant (Common)
Prevent all damage that would be dealt to you and creatures you control this turn.
With one flap of her wings, the angel beat back the fires of war.
Illus. Christopher Moeller

Blah.  Fog / Darkness / Holy Day are way better… the way this differs is the creatures part… you can use this to turn the tide of a land stall I guess.

Serra Angel – 3WW
Creature – Angel (Uncommon)
Flying, vigilance (This creature can’t be blocked except by creatures with flying or reach, and attacking doesn’t cause this creature to tap.)
Her sword sings more beautiful than any choir.
4/4
Illus. Greg Staples
#29/249

Classic Magic: The Gathering.  I love it.  This is a no joke flier.  What can you say?

Siege Mastodon – 4W
Creature – Elephant (Common)
“Defending the citadel is easy. I just take these big fellows outside the main gate and let the enemy take a good long look.”
-Mastodon keeper

3/5
Illus. Matt Cavotta

Not too shabby, but all you get for your extra mana (over the cost of hill giant) is 2 points of toughness.  Just always remember, when considering cards like this for constructed, that for the same mana increase, albeit a colored one, you can get the flying, first strike, lifelink, protection AND +2/+2 of baneslayer angel.  Thus, I can safely say this will never ever ever ever ever ever ever in a million years see serious constructed play.  Not terrible in limited though, and I hear common is easier to come by than mythic rare… go figure.

Silence – W
Instant (Rare)
Your opponents can’t cast spells this turn. (Spells cast before this resolves are unaffected.)
“All the wizardry in the world has to pass through one small and easily sealed door.” -Ajani Goldmane
Illus. Wayne Reynolds
#31/249

This was a preview from long ago.  Orims Chant is the ancestor card here.  This looks fucking good, I’m not sure what else to say.

Silvercoat Lion – 1W
Creature – Cat (Common)

Hunters of every species on the savannah, silvercoats disdain camouflage in favor of total dominance of the food chain.
2/2
Illus. Terese Nielsen

Grizzly Bears!  Hooray!  Grizzly lions!

Solemn Offering – 2W
Sorcery (Common)
Destroy target artifact or enchantment. You gain 4 life.
“‘A relic donation is suggested.’ ‘The suggestion is mandatory.’”
-Temple signs

Illus. Sam Wood

A lot like divine offering, this one will have many useful applications.

Soul Warden – W
Creature – Human Cleric (Common)
Whenever another creature enters the battlefield, you gain 1 life.
1/1
#34/249

Yep, this is good stuff.  There are many decks that can just abuse this guy, and among the seldom played 1/1 for 1 creatures of the world, this is in the small subset that actually see play.  If all you do with him is gain 3 life and hit your opponent for 1 before chump blocking, consider it mission accomplished for this guy.

Stormfront Pegasus – 1W
Creature – Pegasus (Common)
Flying
2/1

An interesting pedigree here, for this flying bear.  Usually such guys have some weird drawback like drake familiar or gossamer phantasm.  It’s a functional reprint of mistral charger though, and even shares the creature type!

Tempest of Light – 2W
Instant (Uncommon)
Destroy all enchantments.

I remember when this took over for tranquility as the enchantment sweeper.  This has narrow applications.  Usually disenchant is better.

Undead Slayer – 2W
Creature – Human Cleric (Uncommon)
{W},{T}: Exile target Skeleton, Vampire, or Zombie.
2/2
#37/249

This will be great with something like trickery charm.  On its own it’s as good as gray ogre.

Veteran Armorsmith – WW
Creature – Human Soldier (Common)
Other Soldier creatures you control get +0/+1.
“Courage is a proud and gleaming shield. It does not bend or hide from sight. To fight with courage, we must forge in steel.”
2/3
Illus. Michael Komarck

Well, he’s not bad as a 2-drop… that’s about all I can really say… he’s slightly above par.

Veteran Swordsmith – 2W
Creature – Human Soldier (Common)
Other Soldier creatures you control get +1/+0.
“Truth is a straight, keen edge. There are no soft angles or rounded edges. To fight for truth, we must forge in steel.”
3/2
Illus. Michael Komarck

Ditto here… slightly above par.  Obviously these guys will appear in some early casual soldier decks of new players all over the place.

Wall of Faith – 3W
Creature – Wall (Common)
Defender
{W}: Wall of Faith gets +0/+1 until end of turn.
0/5
#40/249

I have logistical problems with The Substance™ of this creature.  Wall of faith?!  Bricks, mortar… sure.  Even wall of shadows makes some fantasy sense… but wall of faith… I dunno… somehow doesn’t sit right.  This wall is a pile of shit too, with no flying and a rather small butt for the cost.  Stick to plumeveil and the equally logistically problematic wall of reverence, people.

White Knight – WW
Creature – Human Knight (Uncommon)
First strike, protection from black
2/2

Sick reprint.  Ye Olde Substance™.

Air Elemental – 3UU
Creature – Elemental (Uncommon)
Flying (This creature can’t be blocked except by creatures with flying or reach.)
4/4

Another core set staple for years on end, this set the bar which baneslayer angel has so easily cleared.  Still a good creature for limited.

Alluring Siren – 1U
Creature – Siren (Uncommon)
{T}: Target creature an opponent controls attacks you this turn if able.
“The ground polluted floats with human gore,
And human carnage taints the dreadful shore
Fly swift the dangerous coast: let every ear
Be stopp’d against the song! ’tis death to hear!”- Homer, The Odyssey, trans. Pope

1/1
Illus. Chippy

A turn faster than its obvious ancestor nettling imp, as well as more elegant in its wording, though without the seldom-relevant destruction clause of the imp.  I love the flavor here, and always thought sirens were better for this effect than imps.  tehsubstance™lolroflmaoetc.

Cancel – 1UU
Instant (Common)
Counter target spell.
Illus. David Palumbo
#44/249

This reprint sort of sets the  counterspell precedent.  Cancel is what it is.  Very useful, very powerful, but only in a sufficiently controlling deck.

Clone – 3U
Creature – Shapeshifter (Rare)
You may have Clone enter the battlefield as a copy of any creature on the battlefield.
0/0
#45/249

One of my personal favorite cards and quite an evocative creature as well.  This thing is so versatile and has lots of interesting rube-goldberg-like combo potentials out there, such as the old faceless butcher loops and what not.  I love clone.  Rare since onslaught, this used to be an uncommon.  Anyway, good schtuff.

Convincing Mirage – 1U
Enchantment – Aura (Common)
Enchant land
As Convincing Mirage enters the battlefield, choose a basic land type.
Enchanted land is the chosen type.
“Where are we? You must learn to ask more useful questions than that.”
Illus. Ryan Pancoast

Yay phantasmal terrain!  For the cost of lingering mirage even!  <cough>lame</cough>… excuse me.  This is pretty boring shit.

Coral Merfolk – 1U
Creature – Merfolk (Common)
2/1

If not for the creature type, this would be strictly worse than grizzly bears, generally considered the bear… err… I mean bare minimum of playability.  So yeah, coral merfolk is kind of a dud.  Here’s hoping they keep the excellent Rebecca Guay artwork.

Disorient – 3U
Instant (Common)
Target creature gets -7/-0 until end of turn.
“If it has a brain, even a primitive one, we can most surely scramble it.”- Garild, merfolk mage
Illus. John Matson

They should have called it “disorient like a motherfucker” because Jesus!  -7?  Minus SEVEN?  That’s some serious disorientation… like falling-down piss drunk disorientation… like “where the hell am I?” disorientation.  Hell, maybe even “who the hell am I?”  Anyway, at 4 mana, I hope to god I have better things to do than waste my time with this (way) worse version of the itself-unplayable shrink.

Divination – 2U
Sorcery (Common)
Draw two cards.

Counsel of the Soratami wasn’t evocative enough?  That was a joke.  WTF is a soratami?  Lol.  This is a good card for limited control decks.

Djinn of Wishes – 3UU
Creature – Djinn (Rare)
Flying
Djinn of Wishes enters the battlefield with three wish counters on it.
2{U}{U}, Remove a wish counter from Djinn of Wishes: Reveal the top card of your library. You may play that card without paying its mana cost. If you don’t, exile it.
4/4

Another great 5-drop 4/4 flier that makes serra angel, sengir vampire, and air elemental look kinda like piles of puke.  I guess serra might be better than this in narrow circumstances.  Still awesome in limited.  </goeswithoutsaying>

Essence Scatter – 1U
Instant (Common)
Counter target creature spell.
Some wizards compete not to summon the most interesting creatures, but to create the most interesting aftereffects when a summons goes awry.
Illus. John Foster
#51/249

Now here’s an evocative-or-not decision I’m unsure of.  What was wrong with remove soul?  Maybe it implied that the creature was already there, ensouled, in order to have said soul removed?  I dunno… this is a sick card though.

Fabricate – 2U
Sorcery (Uncommon)
Search your library for an artifact card, reveal it, and put it into your hand. Then shuffle your library.

Tutors are good in this game, no question.  This will see constructed tournament play, I presume.  A very fine reprint and solid card.  If you have some bomb artifact in limited, obviously this gets the nod.

Flashfreeze – 1U
Instant (Uncommon)
Counter target red or green spell.

Narrow but extremely potent.  This has been and will continue to be a constructed sideboard staple.

Hive Mind – 5U
Enchantment (Rare)
Whenever a player casts an instant or sorcery spell, each other player copies that spell. Each of those players may choose new targets for his or her copy.
“All consciousness is one, separated only by a thin veil of the physical.”—Jace Beleren
Illus. Steve Argyle

I love cards like this.  Radiate was fun, imo.  This will cause some great fun and hilarity in multiplayer games and such.  Fun times.  Probably shite for tournament formats.

Horned Turtle – 2U
Creature – Turtle (Common)
1/4

Well, it’s horned turtle alright.  Yawn… Okay, so what should I say?  He’s good at stalling on the ground?  He’s got The Substance™?  I mean, sure, he’s a turtle.  Four toughness = hard shell home?  I can see that.

Ice Cage – 1U
Enchantment – Aura (Common)
Enchant creature
Enchanted creature can’t attack or block, and its activated abilities can’t be activated.
When enchanted creature becomes the target of a spell or ability, destroy Ice Cage.
Illus. Mike Bierek

This is a flavorful one.  I like the flavor of frozen solid better though.  The creature frozen solid, ready to be shattered like a liquid terminator doused in liquid nitrogen.  In this case, it’s the ice itself which shatters, letting the creature thaw back out… like a liquid terminator come to think of it.  Anyway, terminators aside, this is “soft removal” and in this case it seems a bit soft for my liking.  Still, sometimes we have no choice but to run this kind of card and hope for the best.

Illusionary Servant – 1UU
Creature – Illusion (Common)
Flying
When Illusionary Servant becomes the target of a spell or ability, sacrifice it.
“Illusion is a handy but fragile medium. Use it only in a pinch, or against the dim-witted.” – Jace Beleren
3/4
Illus. Dave Kendall

Hmm.  It’s no serendib efreet, but it’s still an undeniably powerful flier.  The problem is that there seem to be plenty of ways in this set to target this guy.  Even something like giant growth will do the trick.  So yeah, I’d only run this as if it were a burn spell I’m hoping will deal 3 to my opponent… seems like half the time you’ll get 3 damage in there, a quater of the time you’ll get none, and a quarter of the time you’ll get more than 3.  It’s an interesting tension, but I’d rather have something with staying power, and would pay more for it.  I was slow to adopt brackwater elemental too though, so I guess I just fear the fleeting.

Jace Beleren – 1UU
Planeswalker – Jace (Mythic Rare)
+2: Each player draws a card.
-1: Target player draws a card.
-10: Target player puts the top twenty cards of his or her library into his or her graveyard.
3
Illus. Aleksi Briclot
#58/249

Mythic planeswalker.  No joke.  Among the greats.  Nothing else needs to be said I think.

Jump – U
Instant (Common)
Target creature gains flying until end of turn.

I’ve played magic since 1994 or thereabouts, and I don’t think I’ve ever cast this spell or seen it cast.  Also, I probably have sixteen billion copies of the card already.  I can’t say it’s terrible, as you could even win a game off the back of jump.  I just don’t ever see it happen.

Levitation – 2UU
Enchantment (Uncommon)
Creatures you control have flying. (They can’t be blocked except by creatures with flying or reach.)

I have mixed feelings about levitation.  The card can be great in limited though, making your squad evasive.  It just doesn’t do anything on its own… you need to already have a decent force assembled.  Would a removal spell be better?  I dunno… sometimes I reach that conclusion when I’m considering levitation… but there’s a time and place where this can certainly shine.  For some aggressive decks, this is the final nail in the coffin.

Merfolk Looter – 1U
Creature – Merfolk Rogue (Common)
{T}: Draw a card, then discard a card.
1/1

A tried and true classic sure to see play all over the place.  Highly recommendable.

Merfolk Sovereign – 1UU
Creature – Merfolk (Rare)
Other Merfolk creatures you control get +1/+1.
{T}: Target Merfolk creature is unblockable this turn.
“The sharks envy our ferocity. The eels envy our cunning.”
2/2
Illus. Jesper Ejsing

You know, I think the cheaper lord of atlantis is superior here, primarily because of being cheaper, but also because his evasion ability is universal, albeit more narrow.  Still, I suspect the sovereign will see play, and with enough merfolk, might even make the cut in limited.  He’s gray ogre, after all.

Mind Control – 3UU
Enchantment – Aura (Uncommon)
Enchant creature
You control enchanted creature.
#63/249

A fixed control magic eh?  Since bribery costs the same, I’m feeling disappointed… or rather power-hungry, when I consider this card, but I know for damn sure this will be played in limited and likely in constructed too.

Mind Spring – XUU
Sorcery (Rare)
Draw X cards.

This card is very good in limited.  Use it.  I think it has seen some marginal constructed play too… but yeah, there’s nothing like restocking your hand in the early late game in limited to pretty much seal the deal.

Negate – 1U
Instant (Common)
Counter target noncreature spell.
Masters of the arcane savor a delicious irony. Their study of deep and complex arcana leads to such a simple end: the ability to say merely yes or no.
Illus. Jeremy Jarvis
#66/249

Another card with tournament sideboard pedigree.  Narrow but brutally effective.

Phantom Warrior – 1UU
Creature – Illusion Warrior (Uncommon)
Phantom Warrior is unblockable.
2/2

This gray ogre will hold some equipment in the near future… this is my prediction.

Polymorph – 3U
Sorcery (Rare)
Destroy target creature. It can’t be regenerated. Its controller reveals cards from the top of his or her library until he or she reveals a creature card. The player puts that card onto the battlefield and shuffles all other cards revealed this way into his or her library.

I’ve wanted to make a token deck with a solitary darksteel colossus in it to use with polymorph… not sure it would be viable, but it’d be fun when you pull it off… there’s my Timmy moment.  I have dug this spell with ten shovels since Mirage, and I love the artwork too… some demon turning into a rabbit… or vice-versa maybe?  Fun times.

Ponder – U
Sorcery (Common)
Look at the top three cards of your library, then put them back in any order. You may shuffle your library.
Draw a card.
#68/249

This card has been restricted in vintage.  Any questions?  It’s very good.

Sage Owl – 1U
Creature – Bird (Common)
Flying (This creature can’t be blocked except by creatures with flying or reach.)
When Sage Owl enters the battlefield, look at the top four cards of your library, then put them back in any order.
1/1

Card selection stapled to a reasonably costed flier makes for a decent card in limited.  Nothing amazing, but good clean fun.

Serpent of the Endless Sea – 4U
Creature – Serpent (Common)
Serpent of the Endless Sea’s power and toughness are each equal to the number of Islands you control.
Serpent of the Endless Sea can’t attack unless defending player controls an Island.
*/*
Illus. Kieran Yanner

I never cared for the sea serpent class of creatures and their shared reluctance to… you know… go up on land.  If I’m paying for a big fella, I want to do more than just block, so then you’re stuck trying to figure out how to make an opponent’s lands into islands, and it’s just not worth it.  Maybe if he had lifelink or something..?  He’s just not reliable enough for my tastes, and if I want a wall, I’ll play a wall and get it cheaper than this most likely.

Sleep – 2UU
Sorcery (Uncommon)
Tap all creatures target opponent controls. Creatures that player controls don’t untap during their controller’s next untap step.

This would be SO unfair as an instant.  Even as a sorcery, I can see this being back-breaking.  This should definitely win some limited games, where board stalls often pop up.  I’m thinking this will see some play.

Snapping Drake – 3U
Creature – Drake (Common)
Flying
3/2
Illus. Todd Lockwood

In limited, even 2/2 fliers for 4 are sometimes playable.  Snapping drake is even better.  Evasion is huge, and should only come second to bombs and removal, so goes the traditional wisdom on the topic.  So anyway, this is a card that can help fill out a “skies” kind of archetype for sure.

Sphinx Ambassador – 5UU
Creature – Sphinx (Mythic Rare)
Flying
Whenever Sphinx Ambassador deals combat damage to a player, search that player’s library for a card, then that player names a card. If you searched for a creature card that isn’t the named card, you may put it onto the battlefield under your control. Then that player shuffles his or her library.
5/5

My oh my.  I like sphinxes.  Seven is pricey, but will hit the table in limited.  5/5 flier is probably the primary benefit, as once you’ve hit them, the 5 damage should be the main thing you’re concerned with at that presumably late stage of the game.  Thus, the ability is kind of just cute.  Also, in limited, there’s far less likelihood of them guessing correctly… so that helps, but it’s still not as sexy as the 5 damage I’m thinking.  I feel weird evaluating mythic rares, as I’m mostly a limited and eternal guy, and only have a passing knowledge of standard.  And let’s be honest, you won’t often have these in your limited pools, and when you do, they’re in the bomb category and you’re likely going to be playing them by default if at all possible with your pool.  So they’re kind of foregone conclusions… it’d have to be a very aggressive deck I’m looking at to leave this guy on the bench.

Telepathy – U
Enchantment (Uncommon)
Your opponents play with their hands revealed.

Information cards are hard to evaluate.  They don’t come cheaper though.  It kind of depends on how much you value this information.  It’s not something I tend to value much at all… and this is a card which doesn’t do much for the cause of winning… it’s kind of like the opposite of a “win more”… it’s like a “lose less” kind of thing… giving you more information and letting you be more careful about your decisions… I dunno.  Now, in tandem with discard spells, this can be very effective… wait until they have their two big bombs left and hit them with mind rot?  I can get behind that logic I guess.

Time Warp – 3UU
Sorcery (Mythic Rare)
Target player takes an extra turn after this one.

This is the classic card that allowed Zvi Mowshowitz’s turboland deck to go infinite along with the unlikely battlefield scrounger.  I like the card a lot.  I think it’s probably the correctly costed time walk, and apparently wizards agrees.  Sometimes this just gives you another attack step and another land drop and draw… and often that’s plenty for 5 mana!

Tome Scour – U
Sorcery (Common)
Target player puts the top five cards of his or her library into his or her graveyard.
Genius is overrated, especially when it’s someone else’s.
Illus. Steven Belledin

I think this could have a place in the sanity grinding deck, which looks to remain largely intact post-M10-launch.  Then again, maybe not… maybe the deck has enough mill elements and would rather keep to larger concentrations of blue mana symbols.  I don’t know.  Five is a lot though.

Traumatize – 3UU
Sorcery (Rare)
Target player puts the top half of his or her library, rounded down, into his or her graveyard.

Okay, so I’ll let the cat out of the bag a little here… this set also contains haunting echoes, and the two have danced their dirty dance before to great effect… look for this to be a fledgeling constructed archetype right out of the gates.  It’s a mean combination.  Also, this could be a limited archetype for those lucky enough to see this in pack 1 of a draft, given tomb scour above.  I dunno… interesting.  Milling half a deck is often enough in limited to get the job done.

Twincast – UU
Instant (Rare)
Copy target instant or sorcery spell. You may choose new targets for the copy.

This is another reason sanity grinding will stick around.  An awesome spell, the descendant of fork, one of my favorite cards back in the day.  I do think the spell makes more sense as a blue spell.  Anyway, the applications here are myriad.  Use the spell when you can.  In limited, you’ll almost always have a devastating way to use it.

Unsummon – U
Instant (Common)
Return target creature to its owner’s hand.

Very effective.  For half the cost you get the main impetus for running boomerang, though sometimes the latter is used primarily for bouncing an early land drop… but unsummon has seen play in the past and may have a bit part here and there in the near future too.  I’m okay with it in limited… you’ll usually come out way ahead on mana, and it will potentially let you sneak the last points through the turn after your opponent taps out for their ass-saving bomb.

Wall of Frost – 1UU
Creature – Wall (Uncommon)
Defender (This creature can’t attack.)
Whenever Wall of Frost blocks a creature, that creature doesn’t untap during its controller’s next untap step.
“I welcome it. The pasture is cleared of weeds and the wolves are frozen solid.” -Lumi, Goatherd
0/7
Illus. Mike Bierek
#80/249

Immediately, I thought of a creature sticking his tongue to the wall, having it freeze, and being thereby unable to untap the next turn while the fire department comes and unsticks him.  Seems decent to me, especially in the kind of skies deck I mentioned above where you’ll want these big dorks to just tie up and stall the ground assault.  In this role, wall of frost will shine, shine, shine on.

Wind Drake – 2U
Creature – Drake (Common)
Flying (This creature can’t be blocked except by creatures with flying or reach.)
2/2

Strictly better than gray ogre, and therefore highly playable in limited.  You basically get flying for free, which is huge.

Zephyr Sprite – U
Creature – Faerie (Common)
Flying
“I’ve never understood why so many beings lumber around on the ground. There are three dimensions, yet they use only two.”
1/1
Illus. Kev Walker

A long tradition here starting with scryb sprites, then flying men (which this is all but a reprint of), then on to lantern kami and suntail hawk.  Finally the circle comes back to blue, where I think it belongs.  This is a faerie too, giving it some extra relevance, and unlike cloud sprite, this has no drawback.  The faeries build with 1-drops is decidedly passe though, so whether this sees play is debatable if not simply in serious doubt.  It’s got a place in limited though… same deck we’ve been talking about, the Ux skies deck, traditionally UW.

Acolyte of Xathrid – B
Creature – Human Cleric (Common)
{1}{B}, {T}: Target player loses 1 life.
Like all priests, she gives her blessings only to those truly worthy of them.
0/1
Illus. Chris Rahn
#83/249

I don’t like this one.  Way too slow.  This is just shit.  Steer clear.  Why couldn’t this have a single point of power?  Then it might be playable… or if it had no activation cost, only tap… ?  Is that too powerful?  I don’t see how, given cards like blightspeaker and stormscape apprentice.

Assassinate – 2B
Sorcery (Common)
Destroy target tapped creature.

Very powerful removal here.  This one is definitely going to see limited play, but I think constructed simply has better options.

Black Knight – BB
Creature – Human Knight (Uncommon)
First strike, protection from white
2/2
Illus. Christopher Moeller
#85/249

The classic, iconic, The Substance™-bearing companion to white knight, this is a very solid 2-drop.  Relevant protection and first strike make him outstanding in his field.

Bog Wraith – 3B
Creature – Wraith (Uncommon)
Swampwalk (This creature is unblockable as long as defending player controls a Swamp.)
3/3

This hill giant is playable simply as a body, and occasionally, against hapless opponents, will spell their doom.  He’s in the great position of being small enough that opponents hate to “waste” removal on him, but large enough that the damage against swampy opponents will add up very quickly.

Cemetery Reaper – 1BB
Creature – Zombie (Rare)
Other Zombie creatures you control get +1/+1.
{2}{B}, {T}: Exile target creature card from a graveyard. Put a 2/2 black Zombie creature token onto the battlefield.
2/2

So long lord of the undead.  This comparable gray ogre body is super-playable, and doesn’t require you to play a lot of zombies to be relevant the way his direct ancestor did… thus, I think I may like this guy even better, at least for limited.  Plus, this guy still pumps out zombies which he makes 3/3, not much fun to come up against I’d wager.

Child of Night – 1B
Creature – Vampire (Common)
Lifelink (Damage dealt by this creature also causes you to gain that much life.)
2/1
#88/249

Ooooh, this is an intriguing grizzly bears.  Lifelink is such a powerful ability, able to swing games.  You have to remember to consider a connection with this guy to be worth 4, since that’s the total life swing.  As such, he’s very efficiently costed.  I suspect he’ll be a mainstay of limited, and might even find his way into a new vampire tribal deck, though I have doubts as to its viability… it might be a contender though.  We’ll see.  2-drops are a big part of limited though, and this one’s quite solid.

Consume Spirit – X1B
Sorcery (Uncommon)
Spend only black mana on X.
Consume Spirit deals X damage to target creature or player and you gain X life.

An upgrade to the old drain life, this proved itself far more powerful than its originator.  This kind of spell is a big part of MBC or Mono Black Control archetypes of the past, serving as mid-range removal and ultimately a win condition.  Versatile and excellent.

Deathmark – B
Sorcery (Uncommon)
Destroy target green or white creature.

Deathmark is another card with a narrow application, but brutal efficiency.  I might even say that it’s the quintessential such card.  It’s certainly in the running.  Blue elemental blast and its red brother and ice age cousins pyroblast and hydroblast may be more-quintessential I guess, but I’m getting off topic here.  Deathmark will see play in sideboards.  Count on it.

Diabolic Tutor – 2BB
Sorcery (Uncommon)
Search your library for a card and put that card into your hand. Then shuffle your library.

Tutors are awesome.  This is the “fixed” tutor they came up with a couple years back… it’s always felt expensive to me.  But its power is undeniable.  What problem are you facing?  Go get the solution.  It’s that simple / powerful.

Disentomb – B
Sorcery (Common)
Return target creature card from your graveyard to your hand.

A direct raise dead reprint.  What was wrong with The Substance™ of raise dead?  This is a decent card, but seldom sees constructed play.  Limited, sure, though.  Also, this card is a misnomer given that entomb takes a card from your library and puts it into the graveyard, then dis-entomb should put it from the graveyard back into your library… right?!

Doom Blade – 1B
Instant (Common)
Destroy target nonblack creature.

How does “strictly better than terror” sound to you?  Like sweet music to your ears?  Mine too!  This is sure to see LOTS of play.

Dread Warlock – 1BB
Creature – Human Wizard (Common)
Dread Warlock can’t be blocked except by black creatures.
2/2

Very doomblade-like in its almost-fear kind of thing, but “now with 100% less artifacts!”  Probably not a bad gray ogre here.  I’d play it.

Drudge Skeletons – 1B
Creature – Skeleton (Common)
{B}: Regenerate Drudge Skeletons. (The next time this creature would be destroyed this turn, it isn’t. Instead tap it, remove all damage from it, and remove it from combat.)
1/1

(Or, if you live in China, “Drudge Very-Emaciated-But-Still-Clad-In-Skin Zombie”)  It’s a good one… very good at defense obviously.  Good at tying up the ground in a Ub skies kind of thing.  It sees play in limited, but not constructed.

Duress – B
Sorcery (Common)
Target opponent reveals his or her hand. You choose a noncreature, nonland card from it. That player discards that card.

Really!?  Wow.  This is super-powered. With thoughtseize legal alongside duress for a while, I think black decks will have their optimal mix of the two figured out and will use them to evil ends.  This has seen and continues to see lots of play in older formats, and it seems that continuum will be extended indefinitely.  Welcome back to standard, old pal.

Gravedigger – 3B
Creature – Zombie (Common)
When Gravedigger enters the battlefield, you may return target creature card from your graveyard to your hand.
2/2

Now that’s The Substance™!  Why didn’t they reprint this as “Disentomber”?  This is a really good card, FYI.  It’s disentomb and a gray ogre in one card.  Card economy, people.

Haunting Echoes – 3BB
Sorcery (Rare)
Exile all cards in target player’s graveyard other than basic land cards. Search that player’s library for all cards with the same name as cards exiled this way and exile them. Then that player shuffles his or her library.

We kind of hit on this one already.  It’s mean and brutal.  However, unlike traumatize, this isn’t even really playable in limited.  Also, it bears mentioning that typically you either build around these two, of you play neither.  They’re narrow.

Howling Banshee – 2BB
Creature – Spirit (Uncommon)
Flying
When Howling Banshee enters the battlefield, each player loses 3 life.
Villagers cloaked the town in magical silence, but their ears still bled.
3/3
Illus. Andrew Robinson

Again, a flying hill giant is almost a must-play.  The free lightning bolts all around is gravy.

Hypnotic Specter – 1BB
Creature – Specter (Rare)
Flying (This creature can’t be blocked except by creatures with flying or reach.)
Whenever Hypnotic Specter deals damage to an opponent, that player discards a card at random.
2/2

Another classic Magic icon, this thing is Bah-Rutal!  Shout out to my homie Colin Crook who top8′ed NM States once with a rogue deck centered on Hippy.  Anyway, this is also pretty much a must-play in limited, unless it’s your only playable black card with no fixers.  It’s occasionally seen in standard, and still plays a part in some old-format decks like deadguy in legacy, though his popularity there has waned somewhat as tombstalker‘s star has risen.

Kelinore Bat – 2B
Creature – Bat (Common)
Flying
The nesting bats of Kelinore sleep soundly while the sun passes, nestled among their grisly collections.
2/1
Illus. Dave Kendall

A passable flying gray ogre, but somewhat vulnerable.  Play it when you need to.  It’ll never make the cut in constructed, barring some awesome bats with tribal themes in the next expansion.

Liliana Vess – 3BB
Planeswalker – Liliana (Mythic Rare)
+1: Target player discards a card.
-2: Search your library for a card, then shuffle your library and put that card on top of it.
-8: Put all creature cards in all graveyards onto the battlefield under your control.
5

Another evil, brutal, effective, mythic rare planeswalker.  What can you say?!  She’s a house.

Looming Shade – 2B
Creature – Shade (Common)
{B}: Looming Shade gets +1/+1 until end of turn.
1/1

Every once in a while, I’m caught with my pants down and get overrun by a shade.  Still, these things are kind of fickle and lame in my mind.  I just don’t like their vulnerability… but they have an upside to balance it.  Meh.  I guess I’m on the fence here, but leaning against the wind which would otherwise blow me off on the “this sucks” side of the fence.

Megrim – 2B
Enchantment (Uncommon)
Whenever an opponent discards a card, Megrim deals 2 damage to that player.

This is the classic “skill tester” card, by which is meant that by playing this you have failed the test of skill.  Please don’t play this card.  It’s not as good as it seems / you think.

Mind Rot – 2B
Sorcery (Common)
Target player discards two cards.

Quality discard at the going rate.  Worthwhile if that’s part of the archetype you’re building.  Even sees play in constructed on occasion.

Mind Shatter – XBB
Sorcery (Rare)
Target player discards X cards at random.

A big role-player in constructed and often the death knell in limited too.  This is an awesome card… the fixed mind twist.

Nightmare – 5B
Creature – Nightmare Horse (Rare)
Flying
Nightmare’s power and toughness are each equal to the number of Swamps you control.
*/*

Classic, iconic, big, flying, scary.  Definitely a bomb in limited, and seldom seen in constructed for its 6 CMC and mono-blackness.

Relentless Rats – 1BB
Creature – Rat (Uncommon)
Relentless Rats gets +1/+1 for each other creature on the battlefield named Relentless Rats.
A deck can have any number of cards named Relentless Rats.
2/2

This is a funny one.  Thrumming Stone anyone?  Not my style, but hey, it’s a…. anyone? …. Bueller? … that’s right, gray ogre!

Rise from the Grave – 4B
Sorcery (Uncommon)
Put target creature in a graveyard onto the battlefield under your control. That creature is black and is a Zombie in addition to its other types.

They nerfed zombify?  Lame-o!  Guess they thought it was too expensive, eh?  Well, I think this will still be played, and it’s still splashable.  Way less sexy at 5 than 4, but hey, that’s like saying men and women are less sexy the more pounds you add to them.  “Duh.”

Royal Assassin – 1BB
Creature – Human Assassin (Rare)
{T}: Destroy target tapped creature.
1/1

My brother’s favorite card, and an oldie-but-goodie.  It should be self-evidently powerful, but in case you missed the memo, reusable removal is pretty damn good in this game, especially so in limited.  Well worth the vulnerability here.

Sanguine Bond – 3BB
Enchantment (Rare)
Whenever you gain life, target opponent loses that much life.
“Blood is constant. Every drop I drink, someone must bleed.”—Vradeen, vampire nocturnus
Illus. Jaime Jones

Interesting flavor here.  I think I like it.  There’s gotta be a decent life-gain and Sanguine Bond kind of deck soon to be put forth.  This is a little pricey and squarely in the “does nothing by itself” category though, so who knows.  I’d play it in limited with a critical mass of lifelink and lifegain spells.

Sign in Blood – BB
Sorcery (Common)
Target player draws two cards and loses 2 life.
“You know I accept only one currency here, and yet you have sought me out. Why now do you hesitate?” – Xathrid demon

Illus. Howard Lyon

Nice.  It’s basically nights whisper, but slightly more black and now can target the opponent.  The original popped up in combo decks often, but the single black helped there… I think this will still see some play, and from what I can tell so far, MBC may make a comeback here in which case this may have a home there.  I like that you can use this to burn someone out for the last two points.  Very cool.

Soul Bleed – 2B
Enchantment – Aura (Common)
Enchant creature
At the beginning of enchanted creature’s controller’s upkeep, that player loses 1 life.
#113/249

Cursed land for creatures, and one cheaper, hey!  Not bad I guess, but all you’re doing is conferring a nuisance and compelling a chump block.  I’d way rather have real removal.  I can’t see myself ever playing this one.

Tendrils of Corruption – 3B
Instant (Common)
Tendrils of Corruption deals X damage to target creature and you gain X life, where X is the number of Swamps you control.

A brutal staple to MBC and some other decks in the time spiral era (when it could be searched up with mystical teachings).  This is huge.  Instant is huge.  The lifegain is great.  This is a very very good card, and will see play.

Underworld Dreams – BBB
Enchantment (Rare)
Whenever an opponent draws a card, Underworld Dreams deals 1 damage to him or her.

A classic from legends originally, this hasn’t really seen a tremendous tournament presence to my knowledge, but I sure like the spell and have long wanted to build around it.  It’s recurring damage that’s hard to avoid.  Unless I was very heavy in black, though, I’d be reluctant to run it in limited, unless I knew my opponent was blue and would be drawing a lot on their own.  Fun and flavorful but maybe not as great as my nostalgia would like.

Unholy Strength – B
Enchantment – Aura (Common)
Enchant creature
Enchanted creature gets +2/+1.

I would love if they reused the old pentagram picutre from alpha before they made the dumb decision to remove the pentagram.  Anyway, this is way more playable than holy strength, but still exposes you to 241s, so use with caution.

Vampire Aristocrat – 2B
Creature – Vampire Rogue (Common)
Sacrifice a creature: Vampire Aristocrat gets +2/+2 until end of turn.
2/2
#117/249

First we had phyrexian ghoul, then nantuko husk, both zombies… I guess it makes more sense for a vampire to eat peeps?  This should still be a good one, though not quite as good as they were in the past due to the new combat damage rules.  I’m sure it will see limited play though as at worst it’s a…. wait for it…. gray ogre.

Vampire Nocturnus – 1BBB
Creature – Vampire (Mythic Rare)
Play with the top card of your library revealed.
As long as the top card of your library is black, Vampire Nocturnus and other Vampire creatures you control get +2/+1 and have flying.
3/3

Nice one!  Hill Giant, eat your heart out…. even though this guy’s fairly color intensive.  You know, I think this guy makes the vampire tribal deck, if there is one.  He’s pretty good.  A 5/4 flier when the moon is full or whatever… Good times for a 4-drop.  I’ll play him if I ever get him in limited… or at least I’ll try.

Wall of Bone – 2B
Creature – Skeleton Wall (Uncommon)
Defender (This creature can’t attack.)
{B}: Regenerate Wall of Bone.
1/4

Old school!  This is what horned turtle wishes he was, imo.  Wall of bizzone.  He has a place, but it’s not usually in my decks.

Warpath Ghoul – 2B
Creature – Zombie (Common)
The battle was over, but the carnage continued for days.
3/2
Illus. rk post

Interesting improvement on Mr. Gray Ogre.  Playable for sure.

Weakness – B
Enchantment – Aura (Common)
Enchant creature
Enchanted creature gets -2/-1.

Soft removal, occasionally real hard removal for those vulnerable creatures we’ve been looking at with 1 toughness.  This is playable removal in limited for damn sure.

Xathrid Demon – 3BBB
Creature – Demon (Mythic Rare)
Flying, trample
At the beginning of your upkeep, sacrifice a creature other than Xathrid Demon, then each opponent loses life equal to the sacrificed creature’s power. If you can’t sacrifice a creature, tap Xathrid Demon and you lose 7 life.
7/7
Illus. Wayne Reynolds

A “Fixed” Lord of the Pit?… Lol, usually fixing cards makes them worse, not better.  This is clearly better and might even be playable in constructed, though I doubt it.  Again, with enough black in my deck, this would make the cut in limited I think… I’d have to have more than 12-13 playable creatures aside from him though.

Zombie Goliath – 4B
Creature – Zombie Giant (Common)
“HULK WANT BRAINS!!!”
4/3

Warpath ghoul, maybe.  But this?  No thanks.  4/4 on the ground should cost 4.  This is one more mana and one less toughness.  Ride the pine, buddy.

Act of Treason – 2R
Sorcery (Uncommon)
Gain control of target creature until end of turn. Untap that creature. It gains haste until end of turn. (It can attack and {T} this turn.)
“Rage courses in every heart, yearning to betray its rational prison.”—Sarkhan Vol
Illus. Eric Deschamps

This has more of The Substance™ than threaten did I guess.  Either way, it’s the same card, and it’s very good.  Play it, especially if you have the vampire aristocrat on board!

Ball Lightning – RRR
Creature – Elemental (Rare)
Trample, haste
At the beginning of the end step, sacrifice Ball Lightning.
6/1
#123/249

Ball lightning is a card with an awesome pedigree.  It’s likely to be found in RDW decks in the near future if monored burn catches on the way I’m starting to suspect it will.  This can also be just grand in limited as a surprise source of much damage.  Don’t hang on to it too long waiting for an opening though, especially against black decks which might have discard spells or red decks which might just burn him on the spot.

Berserkers of Blood Ridge – 4R
Creature – Human Berserker (Common)
Berserkers of Blood Ridge attacks each turn if able.
4/4

5-drop 4/4s don’t make me joyous or anything, but they’re playable for sure, even with mild drawbacks like this one.

Bogardan Hellkite – 6RR
Creature – Dragon (Mythic Rare)
Flash (You may cast this spell any time you could cast an instant)
Flying
When Bogardan Hellkite enters the battlefield, it deals 5 damage divided as you choose among any number of target creatures and/or players.
5/5
Illus. Scott M. Fischer
#128/249

Yikes!  This reprint will obviously crush limited opponents and has seen play in lots of tournaments including worlds, where pat chapin used him to a 2nd place finish.  A bomb for sure.

Burning Inquiry – R
Sorcery (Common)
Each player draws three cards, then discards three cards at random.
Jariad burned the midnight oil, burned through scroll after scroll, and then burned down his laboratory.
Illus. Zoltan Boros & Gabor Szikszai

I like it!  This might even have some great applications in eternal formats since it generates so many draws and discards.  Madness certainly would like to run this card, even though red is not typically the color of choice for that archetype historically.  Then again, the random part hurts its chances somewhat.  I still kind of like this one for constructed.  In limited, it’s risky and luck-based, and I think you’d be well advised to opt out.

Burst of Speed – R
Instant (Common)
Creatures you control gain haste until end of turn.
#129/249

Lol.  Weak.  Not worth a slot in your deck, I promise you.

Canyon Minotaur – 3R
Creature – Minotaur Warrior (Common)
3/3

I could, all along, have compared 4-drop 3/3s to this guy, I guess, but hill giant is the original.  This is the bear minimum for playability, and is quite passable.

Capricious Efreet – 4RR
Creature – Efreet (Rare)
At the beginning of your upkeep, choose target nonland permanent you control and up to two nonland permanents you don’t control. Destroy one of them at random.
“You wish for great destruction? It is done, my master.”
6/4
Illus. Justin Sweet
#151/249

Efreets and Djinns (actually, “djinn” is plural, go figure) have a special place in my heart.  Arabian Nights is by far my favorite expansion set for many reasons, among them that it is the sole expansion built entirely on existing Earth mythology, rather than abstract contrived Dominaria, etc…. so anyway, I automatically love any given new efreet or djinn.  However, I have to admit, reluctantly, that these aren’t always necessarily great cards.  This is an interesting take on the randomness factor present in a dual-mode in coin flip cards.  I like the triple-mode of this guy, but I think in general you don’t want to rely on having good luck, and to the contrary, many aspects of deck design are intended to mitigate the role of luck.  Plus, this is a 6-drop 6/4 with no flying… so it’s a craw wurm, which isn’t too exciting in constructed.  In limited, craw wurm is probably fine, but not if he randomly destroys one of your permanents every third turn on average… I give this the head-shake rather than the nod unless I’m feeling saucy.

Chandra Nalaar – 3RR
Planeswalker – Chandra (Mythic Rare)
+1: Chandra Nalaar deals 1 damage to target player.
-X: Chandra Nalaar deals X damage to target creature.
-8: Chandra Nalaar deals 10 damage to target player and each creature he or she controls.
6

Mythic planeswalker… see above buck-passing, responsibility-shirking comments.

Dragon Whelp – 2RR
Creature – Dragon (Uncommon)
Flying
{R}: Dragon Whelp gets +1/+0 until end of turn. At the beginning of the end step, if this ability has been played four or more times this turn, sacrifice Dragon Whelp.
2/3

An old favorite with plenty of Substance™.  He’s well-costed and flies.  Definitely a contender in limited.  I don’t think he’s made the cut in many, if any, serious tournament constructed decks though.

Earthquake – XR
Sorcery (Rare)
Earthquake deals X damage to each creature without flying and each player.

This is a super-powerful card which should do a real number on a lot of the token decks going nuts in standard right now, if not outright eliminating them entirely.  I predict this card will see much constructed play, as it has the excellent side-benefit of also burning both players, granting a nice burn-reach effect.  I can’t say enough to promote this card.  I think it’s absolutely great.  The only X-damage spell of its class that surpasses it is rolling earthquake, and perhaps molten disaster can make a bid too… but yeah, earthquake is, in a word, “hella.”

Fiery Hellhound – 1RR
Creature – Elemental Hound (Common)
{R}: Fiery Hellhound gets +1/+0 until end of turn.
Once a barbarian army has conquered a region, their shamans summon hellhounds that keep undesirables out and prisoners in.

2/2
Illus. Ted Galaday

Gray Ogre with built-in firebreathing.  Not bad.

Fireball – XR
Sorcery (Uncommon)
Fireball deals X damage divided evenly, rounded down, among any number of target creatures and/or players.
As an additional cost to cast Fireball, pay {1} for each target beyond the first.

A staple for years, and a versatile burn spell capable of killing multiple creatures but unlike earthquake, doing so in a more surgical manner.  Also, you can burn an opponent out with this card from a lesser life total than your opponent.  Lastly, this is uncommon, so it will play a much larger part of limited.  Beware the red mage’s late game in limited, folks!  Keep track of the key moment when your life total sinks below N-1 where N is the number of lands your red mage opponent controls, because if they’re in red, there’s good reason to expect fireball to be their end game plan.  This is a sick card.

Firebreathing – R
Enchantment – Aura (Common)
Enchant creature
{R}: Enchanted creature gets +1/+0 until end of turn.

Weak sauce in general.  If you don’t get the whole 241 thing, do some research on it, because it’s a key to improving at Magic.  Exposure to a 241 should give you far more benefit than this.  Plus, it’s arguable that merely converting mana to potential damage at a 1-to-1 basis through a creature (like a firebreather or shade) is a pretty weak thing to do with one’s mana, all things considered, unless you aren’t using that mana anyway, in which case, I would rather have something real to do as opposed to making some dork breathe some fire.

Goblin Artillery – 1RR
Creature – Goblin Warrior (Uncommon)
{T}: Goblin Artillery deals 2 damage to target creature or player and 3 damage to you.
1/3
#138/249

This is a great card, and was even better in alpha when it cost 1R instead, and was called orcish artillery!  It’s amazing how often taking 3 is worth doing 2 points of targetted damage.  Also, he can block fairly well.

Goblin Chieftain – 1RR
Creature – Goblin (Rare)
Haste
Other Goblin creatures you control get +1/+1 and have haste.
“We are goblinkind, heirs to the mountain empires of chieftains past. Rest is death to us, and arson is our call to war.”
2/2
Illus. Sam Wood

Goblin Warchief set a high bar, and I think he’s still better than this guy.  I’d rather pay one less than pump all my guys by 1, at least when we’re talking goblins.  Still, in the absence of warchief, this is still a powerful card potentially enabling a goblin-centric tribal strategy.  If your limited deck has a high number of goblins, he’s not a bad choice since, again, gray ogre and all… this time with haste ++!

Goblin Piker – 1R
Creature – Goblin Warrior (Common)
“Piker?! I barely know her!”
2/1

Wuss.  Still, sometimes you play wussies.  He’s still bear-like.  2-drops dominate limited much of the time.

Ignite Disorder – 1R
Instant (Uncommon)
Ignite Disorder deals 3 damage divided as you choose among any number of target white and/or blue creatures.

Same strong-but-narrow story here… if it’s turned on by your opponent’s cards, it’s great, but it’s too conditional to maindeck in most circumstances.

Inferno Elemental – 4RR
Creature – Elemental (Uncommon)
Whenever Inferno Elemental blocks or becomes blocked by a creature, Inferno Elemental deals 3 damage to that creature.
4/4

Alright, the ability is nice, though he’ll still be chump-blockable.  6 is a lot for a 4/4.  I think I’m reluctant about this guy… not too pumped here.  I’d look for better options.

Jackal Familiar – R
Creature – Hound (Common)
Jackal Familiar can’t attack or block alone.
“Let the gray-hairs keep their ravens and drakes. My familiar will be a reflection of me: bloodthirsty, with a predator’s instinct.” – Taivang, barbarian warlord
2/2
Illus. Alex Horley-Orlandelli

A smaller version of mogg flunkies, this suffers from its creature type a bit (my old school peasant deck uses goblin grenade, so I kinda wish he was another gobbo), but should still be okay in some aggressive red decks.  A 2/2 for 1 is seldom seen.  Isamaru hound of konda was legendary, etc.  So this is potentially a very big addition to constructed arsenals.

Kindled Fury – R
Instant (Common)
Target creature gets +1/+0 and gains first strike until end of turn.

A combat trick that can ruin days.  This can make the difference in stalls and such… definitely has a place in limited.  Won’t see play in constructed.

Lava Axe – 4R
Sorcery (Common)
Lava Axe deals 5 damage to target player.

I drafted a winning deck once that was 5 lava axes and a bunch of other mediocre creatures… this can be thought of as a slightly discounted fireball to the dome.  Nothing wrong with that.

Lightning Bolt – R
Instant (Common)
Lightning Bolt deals 3 damage to target creature or player.
Illus. Christopher Moeller

Whoa mamma.  Okay, this may be among the biggest deals in terms of unprecedented reprints.  Lightning bolt was an original from the “boon” cycle in alpha, the other standouts of which were dark ritual and a little card called ancestral recall, which runs approximately $15,000,000 USD today.  Lightning bolt never reached the heights of those two, but is still a very powerful card.  Legacy features a budget burn deck that lives by the lightning bolt benchmark.  All in all, this will shake things up a bit and should give red aggro strategies a small boost.  It’s a brutal card.  As an aside, my group sometimes plays a format we call “artist.dec” where all the cards in your deck must be from the same artist.  Moeller, artist for one umezawas jitte is already the most unfair artist in the game, and now he gets lightning bolt.  Thanks a lot, wizards!  Why couldn’t Rebecca Guay do the art for this one?  (pretty please?)

Lightning Elemental – 3R
Creature – Elemental (Common)
Haste (This creature can attack and {T} as soon as it comes under your control.)
4/1

Lightning elemental is deceivingly vulnerable… he’s a house.  Haste lets him come out of nowhere and BAM smack the unwitting for 4.  I’m a fan of haste… anyway, he’s vulnerable, but the haste makes up for that to some extent.  I like him.  He’s limited-but-not-constructed worthy in my mind.

Magma Phoenix – 3RR
Creature – Phoenix (Rare)
Flying
When Magma Phoenix is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, it deals 3 damage to each creature and each player.
{3}{R}{R}: Return Magma Phoenix from your graveyard to your hand.
3/3
Illus. Raymond Swanland

Love the phoenix creature type.  Flavorful and awesome.  The cost to return this guy seems abnormally high, but then again, he does nuke the board rather well.  This should bring some victories in limited to those fortunate enough to open them.  I can dig it.

Manabarbs – 3R
Enchantment (Rare)
Whenever a player taps a land for mana, Manabarbs deals 1 damage to that player.

Ouch, a harsh card from back in the day.  This used to piss off my group to no end in circa 1994-95, and I think we even had a local banning at one point… people just didn’t like playing with it.  In hindsight it seems so tame.  It can help your clock though against big-mana control type archetypes, so maybe it’s got a shot in limited.  Alas, as a rare it won’t come up much.  I think this has seen some play in constructed, but wouldn’t swear to it.

Panic Attack – 2R
Sorcery (Common)
Up to three target creatures can’t block this turn.

This can win you the game, so don’t underestimate it.  Still, it’s conditional on having a board to begin with, and is only useful in a somewhat particular scenario, albeit a commonplace one; creature / board stall.  I’d rather have removal, but in some decks, I play this card.

Prodigal Pyromancer – 2R
Creature – Human Wizard (Uncommon)
{T}: Prodigal Pyromancer deals 1 damage to target creature or player.
1/1

A very fine source of reusable removal / damage / “pinging”.  Prodigal sorcerer made the transition to blue in timespiral, and he looks good in red.  He’s no joke.  Definitely run him… he’s the reason all this “vulnerable” talk is legit.  When you have a game where you kill 3 or more creatures with him, you’ll be a believer too.

Pyroclasm – 1R
Sorcery (Uncommon)
Pyroclasm deals 2 damage to each creature.

Good ol’ pyroclasm!  Did you know it’s a volcanology term?  “Broken by fire,” so goes the etymology.  Aptly named, if you ask me.  I’ve broken many with this fire.  Anyway, this is a ridiculously good removal spell.  Sweepers like this are gold in limited, letting you bait your opponent into over-committing to the board, then wham!  Broken by fire.  In constructed, this is outshined at the moment by one volcanic fallout, another volcano-themed red sweeper.  Kids, stay away from volcanos!  They are not safe playgrounds.

Raging Goblin – R
Creature – Goblin Berserker (Common)
Haste (This creature can attack and {T} as soon as it comes under your control.)
1/1

Yeah, raging goblin… you know, he’s got haste and is a goblin so he’s better than a plain vanilla 1-drop 1/1 like eager cadet, but only in a really aggro deck would I run him.  Haste is really nice though if you have several of this guy and can reasonably count on having him in your opening seven.  Sometimes that amounts to two or three free points of dama

Seismic Strike – 2R
Instant (Common)
Seismic Strike deals damage to target creature equal to the number of Mountains you control.
#154/249

In monored burn decks, this can easily equate to five damage at a time… not bad at all for an instant.  I think monored burn may actually have a shot in this format with earthquake and lightning bolt added to the mix.  Hells Thunder is essentially a char kind of spell.  I don’t know.  It will be interesting.  This is a great card for limited too, just make sure you’re not splashing for it, obviously.

Shatter – 1R
Instant (Common)
Destroy target artifact.

A staple with a time and place in which it shines.  In limited, it’s almost always a sideboard card unless you’re talking about mirrodin block limited!

Shivan Dragon – 4RR
Creature – Dragon (Rare)
Flying
{R}: Shivan Dragon gets +1/+0 until end of turn.
5/5

Iconic classic with Ye Olde Substance aplenty.  It’s a big dragon.  It flies and breathes fire.  It is, in short, what it is.  So small wonder they let it keep its place in the core set.  This was one of the few cards I never opened a single copy of in revised edition… very bizarre, as I ended up with a near playset of everything else.  Shivan dragon consistently evaded me for years.  Anyway, he’s a bomb in limited and will never see the light of constructed.

Siege-Gang Commander – 3RR
Creature – Goblin (Rare)
When Siege-Gang Commander enters the battlefield, put three 1/1 red Goblin creature tokens onto the battlefield.
{1}{R}, Sacrifice a Goblin: Siege-Gang Commander deals 2 damage to target creature or player.
2/2

This, on the other hand, is a bomb in both limited and constructed, and makes appearances in even some legacy and extended decks.  An amazingly powerful creature, this will completely dominate most battlefields to which it is deployed.  If you open this, go hard red and never look back.

Sparkmage Apprentice – 1R
Creature – Human Wizard (Common)
When Sparkmage Apprentice enters the battlefield, it deals 1 damage to target creature or player.
1/1

This has some subtle applications which make him way more useful and worthwhile than he might initially appear.  Still, it’s a small vulnerable guy when it’s all said and done.  Probably worth it, especially if you’re removal light.  Being able to do that last point to a blocker is often the turning point in a battle.

Stone Giant – 2RR
Creature – Giant (Uncommon)
{T}: Target creature you control with toughness less than Stone Giant’s power gains flying until end of turn. Destroy that creature at the beginning of the end step.
3/4

If hill giant… err, I mean canyon minotaur is the baseline of playability, then clearly this is above par.  Not much else to say.

Trumpet Blast – 2R
Instant (Common)
Attacking creatures get +2/+0 until end of turn.

Army of Allah is the progenitor here.  If your deck consists of many smaller dudes, as many aggro decks do, this can enable the final alpha strike.  That’s the most common application.

Viashino Spearhunter – 2R
Creature – Viashino Warrior (Basic Land)
First strike (This creature deals combat damage before creatures without first strike.)
Viashino lack the majesty of their draconic ancestors, but they lash out with equal rage and twice the spite.
2/1
Illus. Carl Critchlow

Basic Land?  I’m guessing that’s a joke / typo.  He’s probably slightly better than gray ogre, but he dies to pingers.  I’m on the fence.  He’s like my 13th creature if I have no other, better, options.

Wall of Fire – 1RR
Creature – Wall (Uncommon)
Defender (This creature can’t attack.)
{R}: Wall of Fire gets +1/+0 until end of turn.
0/5

It is what it is.  Firebreathing wall.  Pretty cool.  Yawn… man, there’s a lot of cards in this set!

Warp World – 5RRR
Sorcery (Rare)
Each player shuffles all permanents he or she owns into his or her library, then reveals that many cards from the top of his or her library. Each player puts all artifact, creature, and land cards revealed this way onto the battlefield, then puts all enchantment cards revealed this way onto the battlefield, then puts all cards revealed this way that weren’t put onto the battlefield on the bottom of his or her library in any order.

Warp World!?  So this is probably the greatest example of the new policy of NOT dumbing down the complexity of core set cards.  This wall of text is complicated and crazy.  I’m glad they’re moving in this direction.  There have actually been pseudo-competetive decks built around this thing, but usually it’s when seething song is available… if I’m remembering correctly.  I know the idea was lots of mana artifacts and shit too… it was a chain gun kind of thing.  I don’t think it will likely make a resurgence though, but heck, who knows.  It’s a bizarre card.  Don’t bother with it in limited is my feeling.

Yawning Fissure – 4R
Sorcery (Common)
Each opponent sacrifices a land.

Weird.  Must be for multi-player… the effect seems like it’d be really good costing 4, but slightly unimpressive at 5.

Acidic Slime – 3GG
Creature – Ooze (Uncommon)
Deathtouch (Creatures dealt damage by this creature are destroyed. You can divide this creature’s combat damage among any of the creatures blocking or blocked by it.)
When Acidic Slime enters the battlefield, destroy target artifact, enchantment, or land.
2/2
#165/249

Creeping mold was 4, so this is essentially creeping mold plus, for one extra colorless mana, an additional 2/2 deathtouch creature.  This is a wallop of card density and efficiency.  I’m guessing this will see some play in constructed, and will definitely be maindeckable in limited as well, if not approaching bomb proportions…  You’ll always be able to avalanche riders a land, so the effect will never fizzle.  Seems very very good to me.

Ant Queen – 3GG
Creature – Insect (Rare)
{1}{G}: Put a 1/1 green Insect creature token onto the battlefield.
5/5
#166/249

4-drop 5/5s have been a staple in green for a long time, including emperor crocodile and iwamori of the open fist.  Now for one more colorless you have, essentially, a cheaper version of mobilization… okay, maybe these comparisons are a stretch.  I just think the effect is great, and the creature itself is a bargain for the mana, and you can both attack and sink mana into making insects.  Top notch rare here for limited, but I think soldiers / kithkin / spirits / faerie rogues might remain the tokens of choice in constructed.

Awakener Druid – 2G
Creature – Human Druid (Uncommon)
When Awakener Druid enters the battlefield, target Forest becomes a 4/5 green Treefolk creature as long as Awakener Druid is on the battlefield. (It’s still a land)
1/1
#167/249

Interesting.  It’s a piddly 1/1, so I’m thinking the treefolk won’t be long for this world.  However, there will be times when you can drop this guy and immediately attack with a 4/5 on turn 4.  That’s not so bad.  I dunno… I think he’s got the goods, but be careful with him, and I’d say your best bet is to wait until at least turn 4 so your treefolk can essentially have haste.

Birds of Paradise – G
Creature – Bird (Rare)
Flying (This creature can’t be blocked except by creatures with flying or reach.)
{T}: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool.
Each feather in its tail is a souvenir of an exotic land, a memory condensed in hue.
0/1
Illus. Marcelo Vignali
#168/249

One of the most iconic and best creatures in Magic’s history.  Decent in limited, but outstanding in constructed.  This is a mainstay and a money rare.  Don’t trade them away if you’re a n00b!  These are paydirt.

Bountiful Harvest – 4G
Sorcery (Common)
You gain 1 life for each land you control.

Well, lifegain has been gaining more respect of late, but I think this is still a bit weak.  It might let you bluff an opponent into a losing series of attacks / counterattacks by springing this for sizeable amounts of life… but I think there’s better ways to win.  This doesn’t help a lot when you need to rip removal or a creature off the top, far more oft-occurring rip-wishes.

Bramble Creeper – 4G
Creature – Elemental (Common)
Whenever Bramble Creeper attacks, it gets +5/+0 until end of turn.
“I’ve seen the fully grown ones tear a baloth to gory ribbons in seconds.”
-Kivi, thornberry harvester

0/3
Illus. Carl Critchlow

Weird.  Where’s The Substance™ here Mark Rosewater?  WTF us a bramble creeper?  Why can’t it do damage when attacked, but only when it itself attacks?  Cognitive Dissonance, oh my!  Also, I think this is a pretty lame creature for 5 mana, but hey, he’s capable of dealing 5.  Sometimes that’s enough.  I’d be sad to have to include this foolish creature in my 40 though.

Centaur Courser – 2G
Creature – Centaur Warrior (Common)
“The centaurs are truly free. Never will they be tamed by temptation or controlled by fear. They live in total harmony, a feat not yet achieved by our kind.”
-Ramal, sage of Westgate

3/3
Illus. Vance Kovacs

Sweet, my Nessian Courser deck just got nessian coursers 5-8!  Seriously, wtf?  This is very vanilla, but if you’ve been paying attention, you know this is one mana cheaper than Hill Giant / Canyon Minotaur, which fact makes it no joke in limited.  Play it.  It’s really good.

Craw Wurm – 4GG
Creature – Wurm (Common)
6/4

See my comments on Inferno Elemental here.  Craw wurm is okay in limited.

Cudgel Troll – 2GG
Creature – Troll (Uncommon)
{G}: Regenerate Cudgel Troll. (The next time this creature would be destroyed this turn, it isn’t. Instead tap it, remove all damage from it, and remove it from combat.)
4/3
Illus. Jesper Ejsing

Not bad.  Remember the benchmarks.  This guy’s got an extra point of power and regeneration.  Solid.

Deadly Recluse – 1G
Creature – Spider (Common)
Reach, deathtouch
1/2

Reach + deathtouch = soft removal in my mind.  This guy can hold down the fort with the best of ‘em.

Elvish Archdruid – 1GG
Creature – Elf Druid (Rare)
Other Elf creatures you control get +1/+1.
{T}: Add {G} to your mana pool for each Elf you control.
2/2
Illus. Karl Kopinski

Damn.  This is another terminally ill card.  Not only is he a lord, but he’s priest of titania.  So it’s like paying G for the lord thing and +1/+1 for the creature itself.  This is not to be trifled with.  Priest came down earlier, which is relevant for a mana-generating machine, but I think one turn won’t matter much since you’ll likely have llanowar elves and friends anyway, so it’ll come down on turn 2 fairly often.  This is going to be a mainstay, I predict.  Alongside imperious perfect, this makes for some angry, big, mana-producing elfball madness.

Elvish Piper – 3G
Creature – Elf Shaman (Rare)
{G}, {T}: You may put a creature card from your hand onto the battlefield.
1/1

I hope they keep the Guay art.  This is more of a Timmy card… bordering on skill-testing the way Megrim is, alas, because I really like the effect… it’s my inner Timmy who was once enamoured with Eureka and later, show and tell.  There’s something fun about the effect.  But fun doesn’t always equal good.  And this is a 4-drop 1/1 that requires you to have a lot of even bigger mamoths to make it worthwhile.  Plus, it takes a turn barring some kind of haste-granting ability, before you get it rolling… that’s just too many pieces that have to come together.  So, cool card, not necessarily as good as it seems to the untrained eye.

Elvish Visionary – 1G
Creature – Elf Shaman (Common)
When Elvish Visionary enters the battlefield, draw a card.
1/1

A staple of recent elf decks, I’m glad to see it in core.  This is a solid duder because he cantrips.  He has his role and plays it well.

Emerald Oryx – 3G
Creature – Antelope (Common)
Forestwalk (This creature is unblockable as long as defending player controls a Forest.)
After the oryx dies, its flesh returns to the earth, but its emerald bones remain as a tribute to the forest.
2/3
Illus. Daren Bader

Good against forests, below par elsewhere.  Seriously, using hill giant as a benchmark, you’ll fare well.

Enormous Baloth – 6G
Creature – Beast (Uncommon)
7/7

Big and dumb.  Seven is a lot, regarding power, toughness, but also mana cost.  7 for a 7/7.  There’s a numerological appeal, but I’d rather not curve out with this guy… he’s vanilla, so his size often will be negated by a lowly 1/1.

Entangling Vines – 3G
Enchantment – Aura (Common)
Enchant tapped creature
Enchanted creature doesn’t untap during its controller’s untap step.
Every living thing has roots in nature. Sometimes nature gets its roots into you.
Illus. Thomas M. Baxa

Dig the flavor.  This is the softest of removals though.  Pricey too.  This should cost G or at most 1G.  I don’t think it would be broken as such, given spells like doomblade and assassinate.

Fog – G
Instant (Common)
Prevent all combat damage that would be dealt this turn.

Old school staple.  Definitely has a place at the table.  You can win an alpha strike war (or lose one) due to surprise fog.  If your opponent has been holding a card a while and has G open, think twice about that alpha.

Garruk Wildspeaker – 2GG
Planeswalker – Garruk (Mythic Rare)
+1: Untap two target lands.
-1: Put a 3/3 green Beast creature token onto the battlefield.
-4: Creatures you control get +3/+3 and gain trample until end of turn.
3

Insert by-now-generic planeswalker commentary here.

Giant Growth – G
Instant (Common)
Target creature gets +3/+3 until end of turn.

The quintessential combat trick.  Used to win combats, kill opponents, and counter burn-based removal the world over.

Giant Spider – 3G
Creature – Spider (Common)
Reach (This creature can block creatures with flying.)
2/4

Reach is cool, but this is a pretty defensive card.  He’s great at what green needs him to be: a hedge against all the pesky fliers we talked about above.  I think he’s just fine.

Great Sable Stag – 1GG
Creature – Elk (Rare)
Great Sable Stag can’t be countered.
Protection from blue and from black (This creature can’t be blocked, targeted, dealt damage, or enchanted by anything blue or black.)
Ineffable and incorruptible.
3/3
Illus. Matt Cavotta

Interesting.  This kind of makes centaur courser look a bit… naked, right?  So this is obviously good in constructed if the meta gets too counterspelly.  A surprising amount of removal is black too.  I think he’s going to be a potential impactor of standard and will rarely be benched in on-color limited decks.

Howl of the Night Pack – 6G
Sorcery (Uncommon)
Put a 2/2 green Wolf creature token onto the battlefield for each Forest you control.

Seven is indeed a lot, but in this case, you get a huge swarm which is by nature more evasive than the baloth we saw a few cards prior.  This is a very strong limited card, though I don’t think constructed will see this any time in the imaginable future.

Kalonian Behemoth – 5GG
Creature – Beast (Rare)
Shroud
9/9

Okay… so for 7 you can have a 7/7 vanilla or a 9/9 shroud.  Does anyone still wonder about the constructed fate of enormous baloth?  This, I might be willing to play in limited, but I’m still thinking he’s mainly a chump-block muncher.  You can’t even give this guy trample with something else, since he has shroud.

Llanowar Elves – G
Creature – Elf Druid (Common)
{T}: Add {G} to your mana pool.
1/1

Incredible creature, bigtime staple of magic.  Extremely good in both limited and constructed.

Lurking Predators – 4GG
Enchantment (Rare)
Whenever an opponent casts a spell, reveal the top card of your library. If it’s a creature card, put it onto the battlefield. Otherwise, you may put that card on the bottom of your library.
All are prey to the eyes of the wild.
Illus. Mike Bierek

Reminiscent of Call of the Wild, but dependent upon the opponent.  I think it’s still pretty incredible in limited, especially since lots of green decks end up being chock full of big beasties and high creature counts.  I doubt its relevance in constructed due primarily to its prohibitive cost.

Master of the Wild Hunt – 2GG
Creature – Human Shaman (Mythic Rare)
At the beginning of your upkeep, put a 2/2 green Wolf creature token onto the battlefield.
{T}: Tap all untapped Wolf creatures you control. Each Wolf tapped this way deals damage equal to its power to target creature. That creature then deals damage equal to its power divided as its controller chooses among any number of those Wolves.
3/3
Illus. Kev Walker
#191/249

Master of the hunt was a neat, flavorful card in Legends, but was plagued by the stupidest / most confusing ability of all time, banding.  This guy seems way better.  You’ve got a hill giant body and a free 2/2 per turn, plus this crazy reusable removal ability that itself is full of flavor.  This is an awesome mythic rare.  I think it might even see constructed play.  Can you imagine this guy coming down turn 3 consistently?  Turn 4 you can nuke 2 power worth of creatures, and that’s without even considering what happens if you dropped a wolf skull shaman on 2.  I think it’s got the goods.

Might of Oaks – 3G
Instant (Rare)
Target creature gets +7/+7 until end of turn.

I love might of oaks!  Well worth the 4!  Attack with a swarm and blast ‘em for 8 with a huge 1/1!  This card is sick, but hasn’t seen a whole lot of constructed play.  Removal can be sad times.  Definitely splash for this in limited though.

Mist Leopard – 3G
Creature – Cat (Common)
Shroud (This creature can’t be the target of spells or abilities.)
“I can’t claim to hunt all creatures. There are some things in the jungle that simply can’t be hunted.”
-Garruk Wildspeaker

3/2
Illus. John Matson

Is shroud worth a point of toughness?  I ask because I’m not entirely sure.  Often in limited, shroud is a mild drawback, since you can’t buff your own guy.  I don’t much care for this.

Mold Adder – G
Creature – Fungus Snake (Uncommon)
Whenever an opponent casts a blue or black spell, you may put a +1/+1 counter on Mold Adder.
The more you struggle against its coils, the tighter they get.
1/1
Illus. Matt Cavotta

Well, this is another narrow guy, but against something like faeries, it’ll certainly grow!  What else can you say?  Fungus Snake?  Okay.

Naturalize – 1G
Instant (Common)
Destroy target artifact or enchantment.

Disenchant was moved to green, and it’s still an impressively versatile staple.  Almost maindeckable in limited… if you see brutal artifacts in a draft and you have to pass them, then this would be a situation where maindeck naturalize would be prudent.

Nature’s Spiral – 1G
Sorcery (Uncommon)
Return target permanent card from your graveyard to your hand. (A permanent card is an artifact, creature, enchantment, land or planeswalker card.)

Almost-regrowth makes for a fully-great card.  This will probably see some play, even in constructed.  Eternal Witness was still the best of class though, as you got a regrowth for free on top of your gray ogre-like dude(-tte).

Oakenform – 2G
Enchantment – Aura (Common)
Enchant creature
Enchanted creature gets +3/+3.
#197/249

Permanent giant growth might seem like a good thing, but it’ll expose you to 241s.  I prefer giant growth, but with a critical mass of evasive and effective beaters, it might have a place.

Overrun – 2GGG
Sorcery (Uncommon)
Creatures you control get +3/+3 and gain trample until end of turn. (If a creature you control would deal enough combat damage to its blockers to destroy them, you may have it deal the rest of its damage to defending player or planeswalker.)
#198/249

This card will win you games.  This card has a history in constructed.  It’s very very good.

Prized Unicorn – 3G
Creature – Unicorn (Uncommon)
All creatures able to block Prized Unicorn do so.
“The desire for its magic horn inspires such bloodthirsty greed that all who see the unicorn will kill to possess it.”
-Dionus, elvish archdruid

2/2
Illus. Sam Wood

Elvish bard, taunting elf, and lure are the ancestors here.  This looks to be another decent member of this class of creatures.  The main use will be to amass an army then alpha strike, letting all your non-this-guy dudes connect.  Certainly playable in limited.  Not so constructed.

Protean Hydra – XG
Creature – Hydra (Mythic Rare)
Protean Hydra enters the battlefield with X +1/+1 counters on it.
If damage would be dealt to Protean Hydra, prevent that damage and remove that many +1/+1 counters from it.
Whenever a +1/+1 counter is removed from Protean Hydra, put two +1/+1 counters on it at the beginning of the end step.
0/0
Illus. Jim Murray

Digging the flavor.  This guy grows two heads from each cut-off head’s stump.  Should be a bomb.  Might make the cut in constructed, but I have serious doubts.  Mythic means it won’t come up a lot in limited, which is nice, because this will own your opponent.  You’ll have to call them your “opPWNent” with great pizzazz.

Rampant Growth – 1G
Sorcery (Common)
Search your library for a basic land card and put that card onto the battlefield tapped. Then shuffle your library.

A staple to ramp strategies.  This is no joke.  Constructed worthy with a long pedigree.  Limited worthy as well, enabling two, three, four, and even five color decks in the right setting.  In M10, I’m guessing the upper limit will be 3 colors or so.

Regenerate – 1G
Instant (Common)
Regenerate target creature.

I like this instant version of regeneration.  Sometimes once is not only enough, but better, since you have the surprise factor here.

Runeclaw Bears – 1G
Creature – Bear (Common)
Still #1 threat.
2/2
#203/249

What’s wrong with The Substance™ of grizzly bears?  So remember how I’ve been using gray ogre and hill giant all through this article to describe the benchmark of playability for 3 and 4 drops respectively?  Well, meet the 2-drop benchmark.  I think there’s something like 5 functional reprints of the original grizzlies.  They’re good in limited and shit in constructed.

Stampeding Rhino – 4G
Creature – Rhino (Common)
Trample (If this creature would deal enough damage to its blockers to destroy them, you may have it deal the rest of its damage to defending player or planeswalker.)
“Sometimes I wonder if our weapons and armor are a step backward.”
-Soron, rhox pikemaster

4/4
Illus. Steven Belledin

I’m down with a 4/4 trample for 5.  Game trail changeling was good primarily because of these stats, and only incidentally because of his ability.  This is more splashable.  I think this has the goods for limited.  No 60 card deck will use him.

Windstorm – XG
Instant (Uncommon)
Windstorm deals X damage to each creature with flying.
#205/249

Hurricane has the distinction of being the most expensive card of all time from a real expansion (as far as I know… please comment if you know different).  I’ve seen them for as much as $13K, but apparently they’ve gone down in price.  They’re only ~$6K now.  Anyway, this instant version is even better as you can do it EOT after the opponent deploys his latest flier, then have all your mana ready to counter-deploy on your own turn.  Alas, you can’t use this to burn anyone out the way you could with hurricane.  I guess the flavor is right on that count, yeah?

Angels Feather – 2
Artifact (Uncommon)
Whenever a player casts a white spell, you may gain 1 life.

Boooooring.

Coat of Arms – 5
Artifact (Rare)
Each creature gets +1/+1 for each other creature on the battlefield that shares a creature type with it. (For example, if a Goblin Warrior, a Goblin Scout, and a Zombie Goblin are on the battlefield, each gets +2/+2.)

Coat of arms is a timmy card extraordinaire.  I don’t think it’s made a splash in constructed to the consternation and bewilderment of Timmy’s everywhere.  What’s funny is the cost of coat of arms sometimes rivals tournament staples.  It’s an uncommon case in which the timmies push the price up.

Darksteel Colossus – 11
Artifact Creature – Golem (Mythic Rare)
Trample
Darksteel Colossus is indestructible. (“Destroy” effects and lethal damage don’t destroy it.)
If Darksteel Colossus would be put into a graveyard from anywhere, reveal Darksteel Colossus and shuffle it into its owner’s library instead.
11/11

Oh damn.  They put this guy in, eh?!  Well, he’s a staple in constructed magic all the way to vintage, though recently there haven’t been legacy or extended decks using him.  He’s got the goods for sure.  Another symetrical 11 for an 11/11.  In fact, I once made a parody card poking subtle fun at this symmetry.  Behold!

dorksteel_colossusSo anyway, a subtle humor there.  This guy’s a true beating.  He’ll be great in a deck where you have sufficient mana ramping ability.  I recommend playing probably 18 lands minimum if you try to run him in limited.  I’d also feel better with a couple mana-producers in the mix.

Demons Horn – 2
Artifact (Uncommon)
Whenever a player casts a black spell, you may gain 1 life.

Boooooooring.

Dragons Claw – 2
Artifact (Uncommon)
Whenever a player casts a red spell, you may gain 1 life.

Boooooooring….. but this one has actually seen some play in constructed, since burn and red aggro decks in general often can’t overcome some decent lifegain… they struggle with reach.  This lets you get beyond their reach.

Gorgon Flail – 2
Artifact – Equipment (Uncommon)
Equipped creature gets +1/+1 and has deathtouch.
Equip {2}
Illus. Lars Grant-West

Well, deathtouch got a lot better with the new combat system, so goes the buzz… I’m not sure I buy that, but whatever.  This is a decent equipment either way.  Pick it high, I’m guessing.

Howling Mine – 2
Artifact (Rare)
At the beginning of each player’s draw step, if Howling Mine is untapped, that player draws an additional card.

Another key to the sanity grinding deck, this is a long-time tournament regular… or at least irregular.  Howling mine waxes and wanes in popularity, but it’s got a long history if inclusion.  Probably better in a constructed deck that can mitigate the inherent risk that comes from handing your opponent the first extra card a full turn before you ever get any return on your investment (ROI).

Krakens Eye – 2
Artifact (Uncommon)
Whenever a player casts a blue spell, you may gain 1 life.

Boooooooooring.

Magebane Armor – 3
Artifact – Equipment (Rare)
Equipped creature gets +2/+4 and loses flying.
Prevent all noncombat damage that would be dealt to equipped creature.
Equip {2} ({2}: Attack to target creature you control. Equip only as a sorcery.)
Illus. Izzy
#214/249

Heavy armor = lose flying.  I like that.  All non-combat damage, eh…. if you use pariah on the same creature, keep in mind the damage from combat is still combat damage.  I think this card’s not terrible.  Good cmc and equip cost.

Mirror of Fate – 5
Artifact (Rare)
{T}, Sacrifice Mirror of Fate: Choose up to seven face-up exiled cards you own. Exile all the cards from your library, then put the chosen cards on top of your library.
As the glass shattered, forgotten realities and dead memories came flooding back.
Illus. Alan Pollack

Weird!  Doomsday comes to mind, as does another mirror from back in the day, mirror universe, though only because of the name.  I think this is an interesting card and one that’ll be too hard to abuse.  It seems you get to stack your deck too, but still… I think this might not have enough oomph.  Maybe some combo deck with traumatize and haunting echoes?  Doubt it.

Ornithopter – 0
Artifact Creature – Thopter (Uncommon)
Flying (This creature can’t be blocked except by creatures with flying or reach.)
0/2

Oldie and goodie.  Lots of combos were enabled by this zero-mana creature.  He’s also carried many an equipment into battle.  Definitely a roleplayer here.  Not incredible or outstanding, but good at what it does: come down for free and fly.

Pithing Needle – 1
Artifact (Rare)
As Pithing Needle enters the battlefield, name a card.
Players can’t activate abilities of sources with the chosen name except for mana abilities.

This is a fantastic tournament staple with almost no applications in limited.  I mean you still run it, but you’re basically just nullifying one card in an essentially highlander format.  It’s soft removal at best in limited, and I hesitate to even call it that.

Platinum Angel – 7
Artifact Creature – Angel (Mythic Rare)
Flying
You can’t lose the game and your opponents can’t win the game.
4/4

This is a very fun, very cool card, and another reason why you might want to maindeck those shatters or naturalizes.  Then again, it’s a mythic… maybe losing the odd game 1 once in a blue moon is worth not diluting your deck.  A hard call.  This has a pedigree of tournament play too, btw.

Rod of Ruin – 4
Artifact (Uncommon)
{3}, {T}: Rod of Ruin deals 1 damage to target creature or player.

Classic uber-splashable reusable pinging.  If you have this in your pool, play it.  It’s essentially a must-play in every deck.

Spellbook – 0
Artifact (Uncommon)
You have no maximum hand size.

Weak.  Don’t be fooled into this.  This is a do-nothing card, not worth the cardboard it’s printed upon.  A waste of a card, especially in the days of reliquary tower.

Whispersilk Cloak – 3
Artifact – Equipment (Uncommon)
Equipped creature is unblockable and has shroud. (It can’t be the target of spells or abilities.)
Equip {2} ({2}: Attach to target creature you control. Equip only as a sorcery.)

Fantastic equipment.  This is mega-evasion.  Play this when you get it and count yourself lucky.  It’s very very nice.  Unlikely in constructed though.

Wurms Tooth – 2
Artifact (Uncommon)
Whenever a player casts a green spell, you may gain 1 life.

Booooooooring.

Dragonskull Summit
Land (Rare)
Dragonskull Summit enters the battlefield tapped unless you control a Swamp or a Mountain.
{T}: Add {B} or {R} to your mana pool.

Drowned Catacomb
Land (Rare)
Drowned Catacomb enters the battlefield tapped unless you control a Island or Swamp.
{T}: Add {U} or {B} to your mana pool.

Glacial Fortress
Land (Rare)
Glacial Fortress enters the battlefield tapped unless you control a Plains or an Island.
{T}: Add {W} or {U} to your mana pool.
#226/249

Rootbound Crag
Land (Rare)
Rootbound Crag enters the battlefield tapped unless you control a Mountain or a Forest.
{T}: Add {R} or {G} to your mana pool.

Sunpetal Grove
Land (Rare)
Sunpetal Grove enters the battlefield tapped unless you control a Forest or Plains.
{T}: Add {G} or {W} to your mana pool.

These will definitely be chase rares.  Get them while you can, if they start under $5, cause they’ll likely go north of that within a few weeks.  These are very good executions of dual lands, and I like the return to the “normalcy” of the color tension in magic.  These are all ally colored, and I like that it’s easier to play ally color pairs, and increasingly difficult thereafter the more colors you add, unlike the recent formats in which 5-color control is a trivial matter.  I’ve always disliked the multi-color sets for this feature… this undermining of the color tension, which I view as a fundamental feature of Magic… but I recognize that the multi-color sets are very popular, and that I’m in a small minority in this thinking.  These lands are great.  A good balance of power here imo.

Gargoyle Castle
Land (Rare)
{T}: Add {1} to your mana pool.
{5}, {T}, Sacrifice Gargoyle Castle: Put a 3/4 colorless Gargoyle artifact creature token with flying onto the battlefield.
Most knew of the tower’s wizard and gargoyle. Few realized which was guardian and which was master.
Illus. Paul Bonner
#225/249

This is good, which might surprise some.  Land-slots don’t “cost” you anything as a deck designer… they don’t take up a spell slot.  This thing is a land when you need that, and then a 3/4 flier when you no longer need the land.  That kind of efficiency makes this a must-play every time you get it.

Terramorphic Expanse
Land (Common)
{T}, Sacrifice Terramorphic Expanse: Search your library for a basic land card and put it onto the battlefield tapped. Then shuffle your library.

A sick fixer.  You’ll use it when you have a deck with more than two colors, and on occasion in a two color deck just to help thin.

Well, that’s it!  I hope you enjoyed this romp through M10 as much as I enjoyed writing it.  Join me again when the next set arrives.  Until then, here’s me, tapping the caaaaaards, so you don’t have to!  ;-)  sike.  Pretend I didn’t say that.

Embracing M10 rule changes

It was 3am and I had just got home and plopped on my bed. I turned on my macbook and began a quick check of gmail and my daily sites. In a sleepy haze I began reading the article on the changes coming in M10 at the wizard’s site. 

Changes sweep through the R&D department like spring cleaning. Aaron Foresythe’s article on these changes was like a tangent about all the imperfections in the game that they had let slide for so long. Mulligans, tokens ownership, Lifelink, Damage on the stack, mana burn; it really was just a long time coming.

The real kicker here is damage on the stack. I personally embrace the direction combat is taking. I had a very long discussion with a great magic player I know who is debating whether or not to quit the game. He told me that the removal of damage on the stack is tearing away the skill of the game. He then brought up Sakura Tribe Elder and Mogg Fanatic, how they are dead and how there are no more tricks. I admit that they got a lot worse, but at the same time, they weren’t filled with skill either. I know people that when they first learned how to do tricks with damage on the stack, they felt like the best players.

Think about Mogg Fanatic for a second, isn’t the play always just “damage on? sac him and ping you/that for 1″. He was just a one trick pony if you really think about it. He was almost never killing the thing he was blocking, but rather assisting some other creature in lethal or just getting in there for some more damage. Killing some random x/1 isn’t what he is known for, but rather being able to block you from taking damage and then hurt the opponent. Has he changed all that much with damage leaving the stack? No. He can still block, prevent you from taking non-trample damage and ping the opponent. 

Lets say there is a 3/1 crashing at you, and you have the Tribe-Elder as a blocker. You have a choice, does he block for lethal or does he slither into your deck and grab a land? The better player only gets better with these rule changes. Until all the creatures have their “correct play” pinned on them, like Mogg Fanatic and Sakura Tribe-Elder.

Creatures like Ravenous Baloth did get considerably worse from this change, but again, the better player will still win through skill, because there is still so much skill necessary to outplay your opponent. It is not losing any at all, but perhaps gaining it for the time being while the rules are still a shock to many copycat players.

The thing about Magic R&D is that they are always right with their decisions. I have yet to be disappointed with their decisions. I remember seeing Planeswalkers for the first time and thinking “What are they doing to this game?”. I think I can honestly say that Planeswalkers are one of the greatest things to happen to Magic. I personally am behind all of R&D’s decisions.

Lets talk about the new dual lands. Comes into play untapped if you control a basic land of the two corresponding types. Again, I was upset at first. The more I thought about it, the more I like them. I foresee the death of 5 color decks, the uprising of mono color decks, and a slower pace of mana fixing after those vivid lands get pushed. Terramorphic Expanse should perhaps get reprinted to help out their dual lands. I hate seeing that vivid land/reflecting pool garbage. “I like Broodmate Dragon but there isn’t really a deck that is good with those colors, or has a slot for it…oh wait, I can run all three colors! I also like Ajani Vengeant, Plumeviel, Putrid Leech, Cryptic Command and Bloodbraid Elf. Lets run them all!” That is just annoying. Anathemancer will soon be gone from view because non-basics will be a thing of the past. I hope. 

M10 will also bring some interesting reprints like Ball Lightning, Lightning Bolt and my personal favorite Duress. The power level of these cards is a clear indicator of where they see their game going.

I will be attending Grand Prix Boston at the beginning of August. I am very excited to be able to use M10 right out of the gates for an endless weekend of booster cracking, hotel charades, and random tournaments into the middle of the morning. I’ll be taking a 4-day weekend off of work for this endeavor.

My fellow team member Zak plays a format called DC10, a format my area knows as Type IV. The other night I had an idea to draft it. I pretty much shuffled a pile of rares and put them into piles of 15. I drafted Progenitus beat-down. 1st pick Progenitus, into second pick Finest Hour kind of sealed the deal for me. I had some really great synergies in my 40 card deck. I am considering making my own pampered Type IV brick of cards. Maybe on my down-time between M10 and Zendikar. Drafting piles of rares is just hilarious. Kind of like my Star Trek party in a couple weeks. I will have my box of M10 by then so lots of drafting will ensue with laughter wrapped in U.S.S Enterprise outfits. James Kirk drafting G/B.

Well, I will be waiting eagerly for M10 spoilers. In the meantime I will ponder over how great Lightning Bolt will be, how over-hyped Ball Lightning will be, how over looked Acidic Slime will be, and how under appreciated the new duals will be.

Dillon

Elder Dragon Highlander: On Bannings and M10 Rules Changes

At the stroke of midnight tonight a number of bannings will become effective in the elder dragon highlander format (here’s a sick link to the rules homepage for any unfortunate souls who have not heard of this fantastic format).  This time around, the chariot turning into a pumpkin is braids, cabal minion, who is now banned for use as a general.  Keep in mind that this does not preclude you from playing braids main, but only as using her as your general. 

Braids was generally considered to be among the top tier of generals in the format, along with zur the enchanter, arcum dagsson, and rofellos, llanowar emissary.  The dreaded early ritual or fast-mana artifact into braids, along with all the tricksy token generating cards and hidden gems like gods’ eye, gate to the reikai, were just brutal and disheartening.  As a rofellos pilot, I can attest to the tension the presence of braids brings to the format, making cards which incidentally produce multiple permanents (or at least artifacts, creatures, and lands) all the more appealing.  I never had a chance to pilot braids myself, so I’m slightly sad about this banning.  I haven’t had to play in an area overrun with the deck, so maybe that’s what I’m missing?  I think it’s early to say who benefits from the change… I guess maybe some of the slower generals can become viable again, but they’re still facing zur, rofellos, and arcum.  Incidental permanents return to their normal currency.

That, and Cao Cao, Lord of Wei becomes hands down the best monoblack general.  He’s just slightly better than haakon. </joke>

No, all jokes aside, monoblack does still have maga, traitor to mortals as a general with some following.

Also, gifts ungiven and fastbond both hit the chopping block.  Gifts is obviously a superb card in a singleton format with so many combo options and such a deep card pool generally.  Gifts has been a huge part of vintage for some time, a format, let us not forget, in which gifts is restricted.  I have played primarily rofellos up to this point, and can only drool, green with envy, if you’ll pardon the expression, as my opponents from zur to scion of the ur-dragon toss back their hair and go frolicking through their deck with glee, plucking only the finest wildflowers there for the offering.  Meanwhile in my meadow, so green it hurts, have to just remain thankful for primal command, worldly tutor, and summoners pact and such… mere childrens toys compared to gifts, I’d say.  The barefoot hippy mage in the forest that summons friendly creatures and beautiful lands, compared to the eerie aloof moonfolk in her tantalizing pose, contemplating the fate of her magic’s riddle.  Bah.  Gifts is awesome, take my word for it.  Probably good enough to ride the pine for a while, guys mm’kay?  With the amount of combos this thing enables?…

Speaking of combos… Then there’s fastbond.  People, I play rofellos, so I have every reason to want this card to be legal.  I remember the first time I realized I wanted to play rofellos, and it wasn’t primarily about rofellos.  I decided I wanted to build around fastbond, crucible of worlds, and strip mine, and rofellos just happened to have become unbanned at roughly the same time in an announcement just like this one.  Rofellos was previously the only benched general not on the outright ban list, the position old goggle-bitch is taking (ding, dong the witch is dead!).  Anyway, the thought of chain-gunning everyone else’s lands every turn forever and ever, amen, is all well and good before you try it, but the first time I pulled it off, it felt pitiful and cheap, like a well-intentioned shit-talk or insult that went too far and hurt the person you said it to or something.  You felt bad for doing it.  You felt dirty.  It’s basically fucking cheating, let’s be honest.  That shit ain’t right.  It’s stupidly, ridiculously wrong.  Obnoxiously good.  Probably-not-much-fun-to-play-againt good.  So yeah, I’m down with chucking fastbond too.

So yeah, fastbond is outa here!  Seeya!  Sayonara!  Good riddance!  That card is so unfair!  Good call!  It’s about time.  <shakes head disapprovingly>  We should be ashamed for allowing it to go on so long.  (meanwhile, in hushed tones, “please don’t ban my general, please don’t ban my general, etc.”)

And hey, did you hear about the M10 rules changes?  I have been following a ton of debates about the changes.  It seems like a lot of chicken-little the sky is falling type stuff with a smattering of genuine concerns which I think will work out just fine.  We saw a similar phnomenon with the 6th edition rules changes.  But I haven’t really been thinking too much about how they affect edh.  Initially I think manaburn might be more important than the combat damage stack issue, as I can’t think of a general who was primarily enticing due to combat damage stack efficiencies / tricks.  With manaburn gone, I know that I can just ramp like hell with rofellos without worrying whether I might go infinte or lethal before I’ve found a mana sink.  As with the other formats, I think I oppose the new manaburn rule change (that is, its removal), although I support the rules changes in general and tend to believe that a large squad of game designer dorks like the one they have over at WotC R&D probably knows better than me what’s best for the game.  They’ve had a record of good and ever-improving stewardship too, I reckon.  So this is like my way of rationalizing an acceptance of this particular rule change which otherwise leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  I mean, I just liked the idea that mana was this energy drawn from the land, and once drawn, it had to be expended or it had this dangerous damaging quality… like you stifle a sneeze while floating some mana and your head explodes.  It just felt cooler I think… with mana burn that is.  I guess it was causing problems for newer players… or that was the explanation offered by their announcement.  If any of you can think of compelling cases in which the rules changes bear relevance to EDH, please give us a shout out in the comments section.

That’s all from me today.  In the near future, I’d like to talk about mana bases for EDH, as well as some staple colorless cards, then someday I’ll walk us through the new Jenara, Asura of War deck I’m making for my beautiful and talented wife.  Cheers!

Rules Changes for Magic: the Gathering — Team Discussion

For this post, I thought I thought it would be interesting if I pooled a number of different perspectives from the Power 9 Pro team. In that sense, we have a virtual round table discussion of the recent rules changes.

I’ll start the discussion.

James:
So, team, we have a new set of rules rolling into place with the release of M10. This set is really starting to create waves; first we were told that the core set would contain a slew of new cards and now we’re getting hit with a series of, in some cases, very drastic changes.
Most notable of which is the elimination of the combat damage & stack. Wizards also eliminated the splitting of damage among various creatures, except so far as Deathtouch is concerned. What do you guys think of these changes?

Sean:
Right away I can tell you my biggest problem with this whole thing is the elimination of damage stacking. Think of a deck like boat brew that runs 4 mogg fanatics. This deck is instantly much worse. This also goes for utility cards like qasali pridemage and call to heel. The change also limits your strategic options. For example, I could easily see a situation in core set limited where a spined wurm gets team blocked by a pair of giant spiders and a pyroclasm can no longer wipe the board.

James:
Keep in mind, Sean, that during the declare blockers step, you still have the option to play an instance at that moment. This is still considered a step and so there is an exchange of priority. It’s only at the time of “damage step” that players are no longer able to make responses. This definitely lowers the value of cards like Qasali Pridemage, though.

Dillon:
I have been thinking about the rules changes all morning. The way the
“declare blockers” step is set-up right now, I can attack with a 7/7
Cloudthresher and then my opponent declares their blockers. Lets say
they have Wall of Denial, 0/8, and then seven 1/1 insect tokens. If
they block with their entire horde of dudes, putting the Wall of
Denial first in the order, I have to assign 7 damage to the wall. Then
Cloudthresher gets eaten by insects.

Zak:
Actually, it is the attacker who choses the blocker numbers, so your Thresher will still kill the insects.

James:
Yeah, it’s important to understand that the attacker gets to choose the “stack” of blockers when there are multiple blockers to one attacker.

Dillon:
I am glad I misread.
[Still it's] Kind of goofy. It makes abilities like indestructible, a lot better…Same goes for regeneration.

Joe:
The combat damage change is harder to swallow since for over a decade many of us have learned to use the stack to our advantage at the end of the combat phase… but I think this will also prove to be a good change for the same reason. As the announcement said, it never made sense that a creature could throw a punch, then disappear completely only to have his punch land. Doesn’t make sense in the metaphor of creatures battling. Attachement to old-style combat tricks is just that: sentimental attachment. It’s arbitrary.

James:
There have been a lot of comments about people “quitting” the game because of these rules changes. Even a petition started with threats of quitting and boycotting WotC. Whereas I do think that’s a bit drastic–I mean, how much did you really like the game if “the combat stack” was the only allure–it is worth taking fairly seriously in the sense that the player base is not generally happy about these changes. Or maybe the people who are unhappy about this are just vocalizing more than the rest?

Joe:
Over the years I’ve seen wave after wave of changes to the game, whether rules changes or layout changes, bring cries of agony and pledges to quit the game forever from the peanut gallery of morons out there, only to see, time and time again, that the changes in question improved the game dramatically. In some cases, like the new card borders, they make some mistakes. At the time, white and artifact cards were painful to distinguish, and they rectified this problem in the next printing. Overall, the changes have consistently been for the better. This comes as no surprise, given that the team responsible for making the game has grown in number and sophistication over the years. I have developed a certain amount of trust in WotC R&D, and I believe they make these changes only after thoughtful deliberation and careful testing. Thus, I met the current wave of revulsion at these new rules changes with a healthy dose of skepticism.

The simple terminology changes are great. They bring the flavor and the mechanics of the game into closer alignment, making the metaphor of two mages dueling in a fantasy setting more apt to intuitively convey the proper game mechanics. Who could ask for a better change?

James:
What is your perspective on some of the other changes? Such as mana pool’s no longer burning before emptying between phases, the introduction of the “Battlefield” and “casting” versus “playing”?

Sean:
So far as the Mulligans – Good idea. They tested this at nats last year and everyone said it seemed to work fine.
Terminology Changes…I don’t really mind. I could see this making things easier for new players and the functional changes are slight.
I think the Mana Pool Changes is dumb, especially with mistbind clique in the format and functional changes to cards like valleymaker. I don’t know about anyone else but I have personally floated mana in response to clique to then draw an instant speed answer to it.
As for token ownership – Good idea. It was pretty counterintuitive before.
Deathtouch – Only necessary because of damage stacking changes.
Lifelink – Undecided. It is a large functional change that effects more than just corner cases. On the one hand lifelink now works in a more intuitive way, on the other hand loxodon warhammer on rhox war monk (AKA the love rhino) isn’t quite what it used to be.

Joe:
Lifelink and deathtouch are likewise good fits flavor wise, and will result in more players intuitively playing correctly without deep rules knowledge.

James:
Deathtouch just became one of the most powerful abilities for a creature to possess–especially if you can give a deathtouch creature first strike such as Pestilent Kathari–only that’s a 1/1 so not that hot. Bad example but y’all get my meaning.
So far as lifelink is concerned, I think this makes more sense. Other abilities such as flying, trample, forest walk, etc didn’t have such a meaningful impact if they stacked. Lifelink stacking doesn’t make much sense in the first place but overall it has such a HUGE advantage in a game where life totals are a resource to be managed in and of itself. I’ll never forget what you told me, Joe, when you were first teaching me to play: “You’re just as powerful at 1 or 2 life as at 20; just focus on managing your lifetotal like your lands and spells and you’ll be a better player. Don’t worry so much about losing one or two life. It doesn’t affect your ability to damage, and ultimately, kill me.”

Dillon:
Deathtouch became my favorite ability overnight.

Joe:
The only real rules issue I don’t fully grasp is why it was necessary to force an attacking creature to deal full lethal damage to each creature in the blocking line before moving to the next. I don’t see why this was necessary from a flavor standpoint. An attacker who recognizes his imminent demise might choose to wound many blocking creatures rather than kill a few and only wound one… and enforcing this new rule eliminates the viability of things like doing 2 damage to 3 of your opponent’s x/4 creatures, only to cast infest in your second main phase. Previously you would have wiped the board. Now it doesn’t quite work, and I’m not sure why they chose to do this. Still, I’m willing to roll with it.

James:
I agree completely but the reason may be that if your creature’s “weapon” (or whatever) can’t cut through the creature completely, how is it cutting through the next one? Did i magically (doh, bad pun) skip to the next enemy? It’s probably just an attempt to streamline the functionality of combat generally–again, right along with the elimination of the combat stack.
However, it is worth noting the rules changes so far as splitting damage is concerned is contradicted by allowing deathtouch creatures to divide their damage. Meaning, R&D addressed some of the issues w/ damage allocation but then found itself backed into a cornered with creatures like Kederekt Creeper. It’s a fairly blatant “breech” of the rules and I’m finding it hard to swallow myself.

Any final last comments?

Zak:
I think these are great. As a player who routinely teaches new players, these rules are a blessing, and although I’ll need to get used to them, I’m sure they’ll work out fine.

Joe:
Final point. The rules are always the given. You try to use the rules to your advantage. Now that the rules are different, you’ll have different ways to (ab)use them to your advantage, and previous ways of doing so may vanish entirely. Big deal. Don’t fret and make silly promises to quit magic before you see the full extent of the changes and give them a chance to grow on you! I just keep thinking of interrupts. Who would argue that the game was ruined when they dropped interrupts?

James:
I don’t like the elimination of manaburn. That is a very relevant factor in the game. In fact, the loss of a point or two of damage has won me a game or two in the past. I’m sorry to see that go. In fact, I don’t see the justification for it’s dropping…

That’s it for now. We’d love to hear alternative perspectives and opinions. Let us know what you think!
You can also join us in the discussion on twitter. It’s awesome for all those not “in the loop” as it’s SUPER easy to engage big-names like Flores and Brian David Marshal.