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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was pretty amazed.

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

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

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


Sideboard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 – 0

Round 2: vs Chris (Black-Red Vampires)

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

Sideboarding: Vampires

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

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

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

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

2 – 0

Round 3: vs Chris (different guy; Valakut)

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

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

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

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

3 – 0

Round 4: vs Andrew (UW Cawblade)

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

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

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

4 – 0

Round 5: vs Michel (UW Venser Control)

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

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

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

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

4 – 1

Round 6: vs Mat (Aggro Valakut)

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

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

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

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

5 – 1

Round 7: vs Adrian (Valakut)

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

5 – 1 – 1

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers,

Zak

Jace, the Mind Sculptor.full

Jace the Mind Sculptor: Ban-Worthy?

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

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

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

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

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

1. Lack of viable competitive archetypes

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

2. Price

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

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

1. Jace is prohibitively expensive.

2. Jace is necessary to win at competitive standard.

Therefore:

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

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

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

1. Jace is prohibitively expensive.

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

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

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

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

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

2. Jace is necessary to win at competitive standard

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

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

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

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

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

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

Standard Bant Aggro by Attila Fur

Sideboard

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

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

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

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

3. Jace needs to be banned

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers,

Zak

The Championship Chronicles – Part 1 (Standard)

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

The point structure worked as follows.

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

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

56 Attila

53 Zak

46 Jim 

45 Brian Bo

36 Blaine

28 Blake 

26 Adam 

21 Aaron

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

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

Dredge-uh-Vine (Bant version)

And the sideboard:

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

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

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

Round 1

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

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

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

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

1 – 0

Round 2

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

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

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

1 – 1

Round 3

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

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

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

2 – 1

Round 4

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

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

2 – 2

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

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

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

Expect Part 2 within the next day or two.

Cheers,

Zak

Taking 2nd Place at the Boston $5K

Last week I discussed my preparation for the big TCGPlayer.com 5k / PTQ weekend in Boston, MA. All week I was pretty certain that I would be sleeving up UW tapout for Saturday but was contemplating some Mythic for Sunday. I also talked about my helping friend and former pro tour-er Blaine Hatab get Kiln Fiend into a winning deck. Well, Blaine and my testing (or lack thereof) worked out as he finished 9th and I came in second losing in the finals to JUND when I couldn’t rip one of 14 outs to take home my first Magic Trophy.

First I’ll start with the list I brought to the tournament Saturday and some discussion of it.

you can see me discuss the list here.

My big insistance in the deck was to run 4 Oblivion rings. I really like the Obring vs. just about every deck out there right now. Even against mono red or R/x, being able to oblivion ring a Kiln fiend is invaluable. I wouldn’t leave all four in postboard vs. red decks, and I’d only cut them all if I didn’t see kiln fiend in games 1 and 2. But Planeswalkers are everywhere right now, and so aren’t baneslayers; Obring is just a good catch all, I even Obring’d a 1/1 Goblin Token vs. polymorph once last weekend.

I also liked 2 path and considered 3 just because of how good mythic is, and how an unchecked baneslayer angel can simply rule the mirror.

Probably the strangest thing about my list is the inclusion of 4 total fetchlands, 2 white and 2 blue. This is for a number of reasons. 1 they make both Jace and Sphinx of Jwar Isle better. Sometimes the sphinx just isnt enough late game and that’s when you have most of your card advantage. Numerous times on the weekend I would end up with a sphinx and some fetches and they would give me the chance to see more cards. Same goes with Jace, I once Jace: brainstormed 3 times in a row and got all lands each time, luckily the third time yielded a fetch so I could mix things up and ended up taking the game down despite not havnig a single threat for a few turns.

My Board was as follows:

Nothing really crazy in here except the 2 Jace Beleren. Those are in there for the control match to vindicate their jace and net me some cards when I can slap em down and get it done. I also ended up bringing them in vs. UR polymorph b/c in game 1 my opponent seemed really reliant on Jace to find his stuff.

This tournament really started off on the wrong foot for me. Out of 228 players I got paired up aganist my best friend Steve Baroni in round 1 and he was playing Open the Vaults / Time Sieve, the one deck that UW has almost no chance of beating.

Steve started with a mull to 4 or 5 and dropped game 1, then proceeded to take game 2 easily. As we began to shuffle up for game 3 Steve wanted to reboard some cards and when he reached for his deckbox it was gone. Someone had taken his box with his postboarded deck and he was missing some important hard to find commons and unless he replaced them would’ve had to scoop from the tournament. As we played game 3 Blaine tried to track some cards down, after coming up with nothing Steve decided to scoop to me and drop from the tournament to do some free drafting.

Then I proceded to drop my second game to the UW mirror after I couldn’t handle my opponent’s baneslayer angels in either of the second or third game.

I was not feeling great at this point, clearly I should’ve been 0-2 drop but with one win I *simply* had to win out…

I ended up beating, in no particular order, UW Tapout x2, Mythic, Jund, Naya SHallies, and White weenie to finish up 7-1 and able to draw with eventual champ Josh Herr into the top 8.

I was pretty nervous for the top 8 simply because I had played so horribly in the 8th round. I faced a good local player I knew and had beaten the last two times we faced (Dustin Taylor – 1859). I played really poorly against Dustin who was in it to win it. He gave me a real run for my money in game 1 after he mulled to 3 and I had a fairly slow start. In game 2 he rolled me on the play and in game 3 I ripped running baneslayer angels to give him no hope of top eighting. Most of my good fortune on Satudray was due to my supreme rips and not having to mull once.

In the top 8 meeting we were discussing splits and Gerard Fabiano was undecided on a split himself. I proposed we each take 500 and put the final 200 in the pot and play a winner-take-all top 8 event. Everyone eventually agreed to this and we were off.

Quarter Finals vs. Jund

I was pretty confident about Jund going into this event and was glad to see it in the first round of the top 8. Now that I had $500 in my pocket the pressure was off and I was able to just do work. If you watch my opponent’s interview he said he felt like he got outjunded this match and mabye that’s true because there weren’t any difficult decisions to be made during these games. It was all about surviving blightnings and casting as many spreading seas as I could to get to my Baneslayer Angels and Sphinx of Jwar Isle.

Semifinals vs. UW Tapout.

This is the only match other than mythic that I 2-0′d all day. In game 1 I stuck a Baneslayer Angel on 5 and then he played one on his turn 5. I laid down a jace the mind sculptor and bounced his angel then swang. At this point the lock was on as he could either try and take out my jace or keep dropping his Baneslayer. He dropped the baneslayer again and I didn’t have to play another card the rest of the match because of Negate in my hand and no reason to tap.

In game 2 it was more of the same, I answered his baneslayers but he couldn’t answer my 5/5 fliers. On the game winning turn I had a Sphinx and a Slayer vs. his Slayer. With plenty of Mana I cast mind spring for 4 leaving 3 mana open in hopes of ripping a path or an oblivion ring, the fourth card I drew was an Obring and that was that.

Finals vs. Jund

He takes down game 1 after casting Blightning once from his hand and another off of a cascade. In game 2 I have 7 mana on the turn after he drops Malakir Bloodwitch to a pretty full board facing down my baneslayer angel. I drop a Wall of Omens drawing Mind Control taking his bloodwitch and he scoops us into game 3.

Game 3 was a little nuts as he has the triple Putrid Leech Start after my Spreading Seas suck on the draw. Between all his Putride Leech activations and a swing from my Baneslayer Angel we’re both sitting under 10 life. I have a Colonnade on the board but my only other lands are plains and tectonic edges. I can draw any one of 3 islands, 2 blue fetches, 4 Glacial Fortresses or 3 Wrath of Gods to even this game up. I draw a blank and he’s able to burn me with Siege Gang Comander and have more than enough to swing in for the win and the trophy (though he and I split the final $200).

All in all I was pretty happy with UW tapout. I sleeved it up again on Sunday but it did not perform as well, I had to mulligan a lot and my draws weren’t very optimal and I was out by the sixth round. If I had to sleeve it up again I would definitely include a Gideon Jura in my Maindeck and likely a second martial coup. Martial Coup is really important in the mirror and my opponents having multiples took me down plenty of times over the two day weekend. I think I would cut down to 2 mind spring and try to throw in a Divination. Some potential cuts are 1x Baneslayer Angel, 1x Day of Judgment or an Oblivion Ring. I really like the maindeck negates so I wouldn’t personally cut those but I can see why people would not want them in the big 60.

This weekend I’ve got another PTQ in Hartford Connectictu, I’ll be wearing my bright orange Power9pro tshirt but I’ll likely be sleeving up Mythic Bant. I haven’t decided about which version I’m going to run, I’m leaning towards the Eldrazi Conscription version but with at least 1 Rafiq of the Many to give it more of a threat level if I can’t find my Sovereigns of Lost ALara during a game.

Thanks for reading

Mike Gemme
mike@power9pro.com
bobbysapphire on MTGO.

Kicking Off the Standard Season

Here we go again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mike Gemme
Mike@power9pro.com
Bobbysapphire on MTGO

Rise of the Eldrazi Set Review and Analysis: Black

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

Joe
He’s fast, but he dies to walls… which makes him seem pretty bad here. Then again, he can brawl with some mid-level fatties.

Mike
This guy is really interesting. Normally vanilla creatures don’t hack it in constructed formats but it’s clear that he’s much stronger in a world where 1 power creatures are far more rare. There are good creatures that would take this guy out (stoneforge mystic comes to mind) but you have to at least consider using a 4/4 for 3cc.

Justin
I think this is a solid early to mid pick in Limited. Black has the removal in Vendetta, Consume the Meek, Corpsehatch and others to make the drawback almost painless.


Joe
I love it! This is like Wall Bane.

Mike
An interesting mini theme is forming here. This looks like a fine limited sideboard card that could potentially deal with the rare cycle of Level-Up creatures, but his mana cost is probably just a bit too high to make him more than a niche, fringe creature.

Justin
Nice in Limited to wipe out those silly Level Up creatures. 4cc 2/3 with an ability seems like a decent mid-round pick.


Joe
Yikes. I’m not planning to run this kind of thing unless I have >5 cards with CMC > 9, and I don’t know how I could ever justify running that many cards that are so expensive.

Mike
This is one expensive enchantment. Did they reprint dark ritual? Free recurring damage is clearly strong but I don’t know how many formats allow for a 7 cost enchantment to do work.

Justin
Maybe as an alternate win-con in Eldrazi centered decks? Still seems pretty expensive with BBB in the casting cost.


Joe
Man, once you’re on 8 mana, this is pretty sweet. Until then, this is a pretty wimpy guy. I’m willing to give him a try.

Mike
Seems like a fine blocker in limited, but are you really going to want to go out of your way to try and use 8 mana for this guy?

Justin
This one and the green Invoker are probably the best of the cycle. However that is not saying much. I would have liked this better as a 1/3 or a 2/2. You want him to be able to stick around long enough for his ability to matter.


Joe
Hmm… a smaller, faster nantuko husk. should be good, esp. with all the spawn.

Mike
This guy will replace vampire aristocrat in decks that found it necessary to play him, but at 1/1 he’s really behind on the power of 2 drops that vampires already have.


Joe
Faster, smaller, but flying gravedigger makes me happy. I’ll run this in any Bx deck.

Mike
I think this guy is pretty good, people love recursion and cards like this in limited are usually really handy similarly to Worldwake’s Pilgrim’s Eye.


Joe
Man, this will sure help anyone running late_game.dec. And instant speed too! Yow!

Dillon
A very interesting Instant speed sweeper. What it kills is unfortunately outweighed by what it doesn’t kill right now. I do like it though. It has it’s place in sideboards.

Mike
Considering most black decks are a bit aggro I don’t see this having a ton of application but plenty of decks operate under the 3cc threshold, I could see this having implications in extended vs. zoo though it is a little expensive.


Joe
This is some excellent card advantage. Definitely worth a slot, though you’ll want to try and time this right so they don’t just lose two spawn tokens.

Mike
This looks great. Double creature kill for 4 mana and lifegain? Rebound looks like it’s really good on a good card and this is likely the best example in the entire set.


Joe
Blech. No thanks.

Mike
These auras are usually not used very often but 2 life for a tap is pretty strong. This card as your turn 2 on the play will go a long way.


Joe
Uncommon removal is the stuff of limited. This one gives you blockers to boot, and even help repay the principle cost. Seems good to me, even at 5.

Rob
Only removal not on a creature so far. Seems ok. Makes Spawn which are going to be the center of all sorts of attempted tricks. Goodness, I’m having Thrull Flashbacks.

Mike
This is a fine removal card, it’s pricey but ramping you to something bomby from the mythic rare selection of this set gives it just enough intrigue to make it better than fine.


Joe
Hmmm… I don’t think so. Maybe I side this in if I notice my opponent is monocolor…. but probably not even then.

Mike
This is a fun color hate card. I don’t know how widely it’ll get used but it could definitely do some serious damage in mono-colored limited and possibly even constructed.


Joe
Hmm… I’m not seeing it. This is definitely worse than mogg fanatic by a wide margin.

Mike
I can’t see this guy doing much, but he could get in there for a damage or two in the right kind of game. The fact that he’s just a human wizard makes him about as bland as bland can be.


Joe
Not without tons of fliers to target.

Mike
At first I thought that this card was pretty janky, but given the 1cc mana cost (awesome) and eldrazi tokens running rampant, this card could do some serious work on a flyer. I absolutely love the cost of this card. I’m excited.


Joe
This is a re-usable removal factory. Bomb for sure at a very aggressive cost.

Dillon
She is a machine gun and she swings over to destroy your life total after she is finished with your creatures. I think she will absolutely see play.

Mike
This guy is just a limited bomb. But here we are with another 5 cost vampire. Everything in vampires costs 3 or 5 and to be honest I don’t know if this guy hangs with what we already have. Yes, he has built in removal but the Legendary status really holds Drana back from the potential to staple himself to constructed decklists.


Joe
Two spawn seems like too few to me.

Mike
This is the kind of creature that tables twice but the Eldrazi player in the draft doesn’t really hate having. He blocks well and he has Spawn: 2.


Joe
This is interesting since they probably just take 1 a turn, even if they have walls that live through a 6 power attack. I might try him, but he’s low on the list… he might be creature 12-14 or something.

Mike
This guy is pretty cool, except at one toughness does it really matter if you ever block him? He seems like a perfect target for demonic appetite though.


Joe
This seems might fine. Fits in the stall & ramp approach nicely.

Mike
Pretty pricey for a life drain of 3 but it might serve a purpose somewhere, sometime… though I doubt it.


Joe
Again, I think the only hope for aggressive decks is to have a critical mass of evasion, and to selectively use removal only on flying walls and such. So, I think this normally-mediocre flier might have a home here.

Mike
Vanilla!


Joe
So for 5 total mana you get a reusable disfigure, and that seems mighty good to me. Later on you can even get a not-so-sudden death. Very nice indeed.

Dillon
He is reusable and a Vampire. He is pretty solid even without a huge mana dump. Once he gets to that last stage, which goes pretty quickly actually, he is a Jedi at killing creatures.

Rob
Leveler. Disappointing. I so hope I’m missing something with these guys.

Mike
I think these one drop levelers are giong to be the best. If you want to waste your first couple turns feeding this guy, he will rule combat until someone smothers him.


Joe
Talk about an all-in creature! However, this might be the back-breaker if your deck has a fair number of Eldrazi to boot. Such a deck would be mighty fun to play, I think.

Mike
All-Your-Eggs-In-One-Basket Demon? Too much of a gamble for me unless my opponent is at 6.


Joe
Strong removal. Run it.

Mike
This is a great removal card in limited. It makes your bigger drops at least a little useful and I think it could see play in some standard vampire decks with their plethora of 5 drops; a great way to kill the baneslayer.


Joe
Seems like a potentially strong card in some constructed formats, but it won’t do a whole lot in limited, I think.

Dillon
I love this card just as much as I am disappointed by it. I love it on turn one, maybe even turn two, but nowhere else. I feel like running 3 of them maindeck is all you can afford, but when is it better than Duress? I feel like it is a sideboard card at first glance but then I realize you only bring it in against things you either just want to Duress or you can kill it with Deathmark.

Mike
Pretty decent. I could see this going into a Dark Depths deck over thoughtseize when all you really want to do is eliminate a removal card for your marit lage, which this will take out every time.


Joe
Another decent removal spell that can potentially finish the deal.

Mike
This is fine I suppose, but at 2 damage I don’t know how many things it’s going to kill in a constructed format.


Joe
Interesting. I’d be afraid to run it unless I had some spawn generation myself. I wouldn’t want to rely on my opponent to pump this guy.

Mike
This guy has some potential in the right deck but eldrazi spawn make this guy scary. You could definitely build a limited deck around him if you were able to pick up 1 or 2.


Joe
Another situational sideboard card.

Mike
People love playing black in limited, and this will probably end up as a 22nd or 23rd spell in one of those drafts where 5 people are black so things are pretty thin, and then you have a way to finish off 4 of the opponents at your table.


Joe
A strong leveler. Good at level 0, good thereafter.

Mike
This guy is pretty good, decent stats off the bat and his level up makes him something your opponent has to deal with on the very next turn.


Joe
Seems fairly strong to me, but obviously better the more swamps you run.

Mike
This guy is downright scary, and isn’t too overly priced for 6cc, especially when he’s doubling what you can do with your mana. Obviously the mythic rare status is what holds him back from excelling in what would be his best format: limited.


Joe
A good example of a leveler that’s probably not good enough. He’s no good on level 0, and only barely okay at 1-3. I’m not excited by him.

Mike
This guy will be a filler in a limited curve but I don’t see this cycle of 2 cost Levelers who level for 3 colorless being gamebreakers.


Joe
This seems like a superb way to generate spawn tokens.

Rob
This guy seems really good. Maybe the heart of some silly combo, as these are the sorts of cards that enable such things. It brings to view that so far the Uncommons seem better than the Rares in this set.

Mike
I’m sure that this guy will have his uses in certain decks, he seems a little expensive for something like dredge but he’s a type of creature that could be excellent years from now in extended if something similar to dread return gets printed.


Joe
I don’t relish it, but it’s a mediocre way to forestall an impending Eldrazi I suppose.

Mike
I perish the thought of ever casting this card.


Joe
Super strong, but expensive. Should be hard to match once he’s online.

Mike
He’s really pricey, but he’s a walking, talking Damnation if you stick him.


Joe
A fun card for multi-player, but not ideal for limited. It’s more like a “lose less” than anything. Kind of the opposite of a “win more” card.


Joe
A decent sweeper that would be much better as an instant.

Mike
A cute combat trick, but seismic strike didn’t do anything in Worldwake so I don’t see this doing anything either.


Joe
Not a lot of bang for your buck here. He’s very easy to chump block.

Mike
I just can’t see running these guys unless you had the potential to stick dozens (and I mean doezens) of eldrazi spawn per game.


Joe
This could potentially be a good finisher. As an instant, you can just pop this off at your opponent’s EOT when you don’t have anything else better to do.

Dillon
I love this card. It being instant speed is amazing. It feels kind of like Corrupt in a way. I think it will see play if x/B control rears it’s head. Where it shines is when you can just dump mana into it and just tear away hellspark elementals and some burn spells and get some life out of it. Even against Knight of the Reliquary decks and all of their fetch lands, you just gain so much life and neuter their life total as well as their Knights. I think it is solid, especially side by side with discard spells.

Mike
I dig this card, it’s got some real potential across a number of formats and has great synergy with mill decks.


Joe
This isn’t a terrible way to cycle through the dead weight in your hand, but it’s significantly worse when you actually like the cards you’re holding.

Mike
This guy is pretty interesting if you’re really flooded, I could see him doing decent things in limited. But he’s rare, so…


Joe
This is very strong removal, destined to see constructed play (again).

Dillon
I want to see a return of Rock decks. Probably more than most people, and this card being reprinted makes me excited to maybe see something in that direction. I’m not sure if it is better than Deathmark right now, but I think it will have it’s place soon.

Mike
Very interesting. We already know how strong a 1cc removal card can be in standard over the past year and a half and this one looks like it could pick up with Path to Exile left off.


Joe
Awesome removal that will nuke walls well, but it’s less than stellar against annihilating Eldrazi.

Rob
Rebound is going to wreck people. Combat trick Deathtouch is wicked. Then if you put it on your biggest guy on the rebound, or on a pinger, you clean up their board or apply a sound beating. Rebound combat tricks are a win-win choice for any deck not running Cascade. Jund need not apply.

Mike
Double removal for 1 mana is just good. It’s pretty limited, but if they’re not blocking your creature you’re getting some damage through. I think it’s best played on your opponent’s turn but it’s pretty versatile.


Joe
Too weak.

Mike
It’s too pricey to be really good but it could potentially block some serious threats you might not otherwise be able tod eal with.


Joe
This is a terrible leveler.

Mike
I think this is simply too expensive to level up, and without levelling it up it’s really just not that good.


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

Rise of the Eldrazi Set Review and Analysis: Blue

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

Joe
Cantrip on enchantment alteration seems like a neat card. This is essentially a very soft, situational removal spell. Unlike the original, this must target one of your own creatures.

Zak
I like this in limited if you have enough auras, but unless a really strong enchantment decks comes up, I don’t think this will see much standard play. I can see this being a dead card whenever you don’t have an aura out that can enchant one of your creatures so that makes it all the less likely that this will see play.

Rob
You can save a non-totem armor aura from being wiped away with the guy getting killed, Ninjutsu an aura from the guy you are holding back onto your attacker as a combat trick or or move an aura from your tapped guy onto a blocker likewise. These all have one problem though: they involve auras and increasing risk of getting x-for-1′d. At least the cantrip helps a little.

Mike
You have to work a little too hard for this card to be a 2 for 1 in limited. Unless you have lots of spicy targets and little men, it will be tough to even cycle this one. Random blowouts, but beyond that, this should probably be on your bench.

Justin
This is a fun little cantrip that can be pretty sweet in the right deck. This seems like casual play material only. This will have no competitive impact at all.


Joe
Seems pricey enough that even a time walk sort of deck will have trouble setting it up. It just seems too gimmicky to me.

Zak
There’s no way this is seeing standard play. I would much rather play Maelstrom Nexus, because that affects all spells and costs 2 less, and that doesn’t see play (although costing a full WUBRG might have something to do with it). In EDH, this is the nuts. Double Time Stretch anyone?

Rob
This set’s version of Maelstrom Nexus. Sure, you could try to build around it to do cute things, but shouldn’t your mana be doing more by this point? Though, looking at it now, it does bring to mind that rebound spells can help make Pyromancer Ascension better, for whatever that is worth.

Mike
An extremely powerful effect, but probably too expensive to ever actually use. Very reminiscent of Reflection Mirror, Archmage’s Ascension or Maelstrom Nexus, where you get to do something absurd but at a cost that isn’t quite approachable.

Justin
I like this for EDH decks like Erayo. Great to have in play with your card drawing spells. Seems a bit too slow for constructed and is a dud in Limited.


Joe
Hmm. Unless I had ~5 or more levelers, I’d shy away from this common.

Zak
This seems bad, but it is highly dependant on your levelers. What I want to say is that if you have sufficiently advanced levelers out, why aren’t you spending this mana on leveling them up some more?

Rob
I like the flavor of this card, and it could be powerful in the right decks, but you’d probably rather have a leveling flyer in the same role.

Mike
Fairly narrow, but if you happen to open enough levelers than this card can be an absurd win condition. I could see drafting a weenie deck based around this and the quickest levelers possible, as a 4/4 flier is a force to be reckoned with.

Justin
Maybe good in draft? I am not a fan of Level Up so I can’t be pleased with this common.


Joe
This has promise. I could see trying it in some older format merfolk decks, even though better options exist on the face of it. Legacy merfolk decks are already very tight, and they have lots of lords already, but this is a decent substitute for, say, sejiri merfolk, if you lack the tundras to make the Uw version. In limited, he’s awesome as a 2UU flying hill giant, or a 4UU air elemental largely because of the installment plan that is level up.

Zak
We don’t usually see merfolk with flying, so this is a nice change. However, merfolk’s strength has always been in how cheap and efficient its lords are, and this is neither. Having a Lord of Atlantis die to a Doom Blade is expected, and you can easily replace him. This guy? Not so much.

Rob
Speaking of the leveling flyer you’d rather have over Champion’s Drake, this guy has potential and if level was a better mechanic, I’d ponder applications in Legacy Fish decks for him. I think all levelers want to reward you for the first level, but so many don’t and this is a prime example. 2UU for a 3/3 Flyer doesn’t seem horrible, but it doesn’t seem good either. Just missed the all-star mark, but might see some play if standard Fish take-off. I wonder if there are any merfolk on Mirrodin?

Mike
Speaking of the 2 drop flier, too bad this isn’t a common with some irrelevant 2nd level. As a rare Air Elemental for 6 spread out over a few turns, this card is probably just OK in the perceived limited environment. Likely not good enough for the mana intensive Legacy fish decks.

Justin
OK, as far as Level Up goes, this isn’t very bad at all. Blue is the color that can benefit the most from long drawn-out games. I am still not a fan.


Joe
I like the crab flavor, but the ability isn’t very tricky. Just keep any tapping creatures you might have in mind when you’re considering this card.

Zak
This seems like you’d play it more as a proactive regeneration shield than anything else. Your opponent will most likely not fall for you untapping a blocker with this, but it does change their playstyle. However, if you desire this effect, you have to leave 3 mana fallow every turn, which is not something you really want to do.

Rob
Meh. I’m sure it will fall in with all the other untap mana maker combo-enablers. Just another in a long line.

Mike
Filigree Sages was just OK in a limited Esper deck, and that was a 2/3. Certainly not worth a card investment.

Justin
Not the best Umbra by a fair margin. Will see some use in Limited but that is about all.


James
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Joe
If you’re in base-blue, run this card. It will stop Eldrazi shennanigans before they even hit play. Very good. Probably playable in standard and perhaps beyond due to EtB lands.

Zak
I dislike this card for limited primarily because of how it slows you down a turn when you’re aiming to land an Eldrazi. However, I’m glad wizards didn’t make it rare as it was originally spoiled, because this could be relevant in standard. Replaying a Halimar Depths can be excellent, but then you’ve really set yourself back on tempo. The versitility of this card is the only thing that’s making this card better than Negate or Essence Scatter.

Rob
I know permission is insanely good because I hate sitting across from it. This gives Counter Control decks all sorts of building options. Run it with spell Lands, non-land mana, late game nearly tapping out, or just when you need to stop a bad thing before it starts. It will certainly make the rounds in the hands of Good Blue players. The Bad Blue players will just whine that it’s not Counterspell.

Mike
We asked for a balanced counter, and R&D is certainly getting creative. Familiar’s Muse failed because blue decks typically didn’t want guys on the table early to activate it. This falls to a similar problem, as it forces you to take another action that your deck likely does not want to put up (Time Walking yourself). Factor in that the other 2 drop counters are pretty solid in this current format (especially Flashfreeze) and this simply isn’t worth the cost.


Joe
This might be what you need to force through the last bits of damage in your aggro deck. Still seems a bit on the weak side to me.

Zak
This seems okay in the late game as a way to ensure that your Eldrazi don’t get chump-blocked to death. However, it doesn’t cantrip which makes it a pretty dead card for most of the game. Not seeing myself playing it.

Rob
This is good for letting a monster into you opponent’s house in limited through their wall of defenders, but I don’t think it’ll do much else.

Mike
Blue decks are usually full of fliers, and rarely will you need to force your annihilator into action as he should be winning anyhow. A reach spell in the wrong colors it feels like.


James
kind of a cool way to use Abyssal Persecutor to win the game…on curve too…neat…but the sac outlet is a bit weird. glad i was able to think of at least one way to use it…

Joe
Neat flavor. Should be a decent control magic.

Zak
It’s a Threads of Disloyalty variant for standard. Unfortunately, for 5 mana more, we can get straight up Mind Control or Vapor Snare. I don’t see this seeing much play.

Rob
In a set with so much fat, why bother printing this? It’s a bad Mind Control. Maybe in a U/R Baazar Trader deck it will be extra stealing effects, but I doubt it’ll see any real play.

Mike
Honestly, this card is extremely tough to evaluate without any actual experience in the limited format. Confiscate effects are typically insane as they are automatic 2 for 1′s (removing their guy and getting yourself one), but it is often because you are taking their best man. With the limitations of this card and the context of the format, however, and may be rather subpar.


Joe
Seems like a tough one to ever untap. Maybe this is a good reason to pick up a crab umbra?

Zak
It’s Deep-Slumber Titan‘s little sister, and it will probably see just as much play, or lack thereof.

Rob
I kinda stopped caring about the time I saw that it enters Tapped and doesn’t untap. 5/5 for 3 is good. 5/5 that is useless for 3 and needs even more cards and mana spent at it is bad.

Mike
Remember when you first started playing Magic and worked and worked to make a card like Leviathan work? Remember how much that sucked? Pass.


Joe
A very strong umbra. Not many of the walls fly, so evasion will be key to aggressive strategies, and this will let you take to the skies at about the time the ground gets clogged up.

Zak
There we go, one of the best auras in the set, easily first-pickable. It turns your crappy early game creatures like Glory Seeker into something that puts your opponent on a huge clock. First pickable.

Rob
Too Expensive. Play a 3/3 Flying guy for 4U and you’d be better off.

Mike
Largely depends on the colors you’re paired with in your limited deck. Giving some evasion to a big beasty to avoid those Walls and Spawn tokens is quite helpful, but keeping it with your other blue fliers is pretty subpar.


James
Hmm…Probably too expensive. the Pyromancer Ascension is way better…

Joe
This seems entirely too slow. Mirari makes him completely obsolete in older formats… though I guess Vedalken Aethermage can tutor for this guy! Really his problem is speed. Once he’s online, his effect is nice, but it takes 3UUUU + UU and tap to copy the first spell. That’s way too much to be very relevant, even in such a slow format.

Zak
This seems really unstable. If you ever level him up to max and untap with him….You’re going to copy 2 Terminates and then he’ll die. That’s if you’re living in magical Xmas land. Or you could get 2 more copies of Day of Judgment. This guy just doesn’t cut it.

Rob
Spell copying amuses me in Casual. I like to ponder what it would be worth in doing broken things in competitive, but the conclusion is usually that it takes too much to set up. I think this supports that conclusion.

Mike
Another insane effect that just requires too much investment. The fact that this guy can simply be Terminated for insane value across an open board is a little embarrassing, and how many instants and sorceries really need copying anyhow?


James
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Joe
This is among my favorite totem armor auras. Flash makes it a nice combat trick, and it can even trade with a slightly bigger creature and live to tell the tale.

Zak
This is solid, as it makes for a combat trick which will play similar to Kindled Fury in M10 limited. However, it’s effect seems like it won’t be very good late game, unless you want to keep an extra 2 mana open when you’re casting Eldrazi, which you really can’t afford to do.

Rob
Giving Aura’s flash make them a lot more playable as you get a lot more flexibility in playing around opponent’s abilities to react and you can use them as combat tricks. Also, with Totem Armor you can save one of your guys from an incoming Terminate or the like.

Mike
I happen to like this card a lot, as it has both the flexibility of an Unsummon targeting your own man to protect him from a removal spell, while also giving him a small boost to prevent an otherwise trade. However, both effects may be too small, as +1/+1 is almost negligible when fighting 0/4 walls and monstrous Eldrazi, and having the poor side of Unsummon is less than exciting.


James
Aren’t there cheaper ways to do this in standard? Anyway, i’ts not the worst card for limited. At least there are Eldrazi that will recur back to the llibrary regardless of where they’re “going into the graveyard from.” I can see this being really good in limited actually. But not in constructed.

Joe
An expensive merfolk looter, but a looter nonetheless, and with slight benefit for longer games.

Zak
This is fine for limited. Remember that [card]Reckless Scholar[/card saw play, and he didn’t attack very much. This also gives you a more relevant effect in the late game. Solid, solid pick.

Rob
UU1 for a 0/1 Looter, UUUU3 for a 0/1 Card drawer. I see so many ways that this seems a waste of mana and card. Just run Reckless Scholar. Really.

Mike
Looter effects are always fabulous in limited (yes, even Reckless Scholar was fine despite the format), and I see this as no exception. If it’s in your opener, it is almost as good as Merfolk Looter as you would probably pass on turn 1, and the investment is fairly small to actually start punching out card advantage.

Justin
I don’t see why you would dump 7 mana into this guy. I don’t understand how the series of play is supposed to pay off. Turn 1: Plau Cryptologist. Turn 2: Level up Cryptologist with no mana open. Use ability to cycle a card. Turn 3: Level up Cryptologist again w/ one man up, use ability to cycle card. Stare across table at Wild Nacatl x2 and Knight of the Reliquary…. Bad, just bad.


Joe
Sort of a weak, situational combat trick, but cantrip saves it and makes it passable in my book.

Zak
It seems like this set is full of cheap blue instants that just don’t do enough. Wouldn’t pick in limited, has no home in constructed.

Rob
Filler common.

Mike
Reminiscent of Aura Finesse – too small of an effect that even cantripping cannot save.


Joe
Not bad for a flying 3/3. Only one colorless more than hill giant and decidedly more sexy.

Zak
This seems absolutely fine in limited, and the ability to send your army to the air for a turn can be extremely relevant as the game progresses. At worst it’s 5 mana for a 3/3 flying, which is totally reasonable.

Rob
It’s that 3/3 Flyer for U4 I was talking about back on Drake Umbra! You would be better off playing this than that. But of course you’d probably be better off running a lot of things rather than this. I wish the invoker cycle this time around would have been better than the old ones, but oh well.

Mike
3/3 Fliers for 5 are respectable, but not exciting. The 2nd ability isn’t irrelevant, but its too slow and expensive to ever truly surprise your opponent. Happy to play with in limited, just above filler level.

Justin
Way overpriced. This one is only slightly better than the white Invoker.


Joe
Situationally awesome.

Zak
Umm… it seems like a turn-5 answer to boros. You should probably be dead by then. I really don’t see any place for it.

Rob
Cool for those Flyer decks, except a Flyer or removal spell would be better here. Oops.

Mike
Probably quite good in your limited deck where anything without flying is probably on defense anyhow. Way too expensive for constructed.


Joe
This is the wall you want more than just about any other.

Zak
This is the ideal wall, a Fog Bank. It stalls for as long as you need, and it’s a wall your opponents can’t just attack through.

Rob
This has potential to be really dangerous and jarring. He’d be a great target for some Auras and doing his job just eating any guy your opponent throws your way.

Mike
Beloved Chaplain was a good man, and even though I can’t stick a Boar Umbra on this man to much effect, he holds the fort down well. Solid role player for limited.


Joe
Well, initially I thought this would be too slow, but maybe this is the extemity of the lengths to which you must go if you want to race the walls. On turn 3, you’ll still be starting your 10 round clock with this guy. I dunno… he seems to be on the margin between playable and unplayable. Definitely not seeming stellar to me.

Zak
I can’t help but compare this to Aether Figment. However, with the abundance ofwalls in this set, the unblockable might be more relevant the originally thought.

Rob
Leveling cost too much, but at least it is a low climb to get use out of his levels. Rewards you for the first time you level him, which is cool, but the cost and risk of throwing away mana with a Level on the stack puts him out of my typical consideration.

Mike
If leveling was 1 cheaper, he’d certainly pair well with the 1/1 flying 2 drop. As is, the investment is probably just too much.


Joe
Another situationally awesome card. I might leave it in the side unless I was short on walls.

Zak
A wall that becomes an attacker in the late game seems like a good pick, but a 6.6 doesn’t seem as relevant against an Eldrazi. Although you could board this in against a blue player, I’m not sure how often the last level will be relevant.

Rob
Massive wall action without defender. The pay off for leveling this guy just once edges him just barely into consideration. I love how epic he becomes at level 5, but getting there will be a trial.

Mike
Again, I can’t help but think about what is missing – if only it had Defender on levels 1-4, I think this card would be much better. However, I probably want to be a bit more productive than inching towards a 6/6 with a decent wall left behind. Likely a 22-23 sort of card.


Joe
Slight improvement on gray ogre in blue makes me willing to give this crab a try.

Zak
I don’t really have anything to say on this, I probably wouldn’t play him in limited because of all the walls.

Rob
I’m sorry Jwari Courser, but Hedron Crab is the only Crab in my life. All hail the Mill Crab’s superiority over all other crabs.

Mike
Vanilla is a good flavor of ice cream.


James
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Joe
Another card that can deal with Eldrazi. Not bad.

Zak
Man have we comme a long way from Cryptic Command. I love the art, but it’s just not nearly could enough for the cost it demands. In limited it’s fine though, because Countering an Eldrazi can be game-breaking.

Rob
Underwhelming for a 4 CMC counter. Knowledge is power, but knowledge can be bought cheaper.

Mike
Discombobulate never saw any serious play, and while that card is no longer in the format, the bar still is not that low.


James
This guy should just be a wall. Make it a 0/3 for level 0. 0/4 for levels 1-6 and then a 0/6 for 7+ with the ultimate ability. I mean, it’s all pretty useless other than that.

Joe
It’s kind of silly to evaluate mythics for limited, but a 1/3 can slow the game down so that his “ultimate” kicks in, and it should rapidly prove decisive from there.

Zak
I love this in EDH, especially group games. However, he seems like he’ll die really easily. Don’t expect this to live for long if you go ultimate.

Rob
A powerful control deck could use this guy as the U Level-up cost could be spared mid-late game while maintaining Control mana. EDH will love to hate this guy. Best Leveler so far, but many more to be spoiled. Later: This guy got bumped for best leveler by Student of Warfare, but he’s still ok all the same.

Mike
More insane effects for equally absurd costs. If I found myself in Mono-Blue I would take this guy without much thought, but outside of that he becomes pretty subpar. Think Timbermaw Larva.

Justin
OK this guy could fit into an Eryo EDH deck. 1/3 for 2cc in Limited is actually pretty good. I still think level up is horrible.


Joe
Meh. Only in bears.dec

Zak
Umm… This just seems bad.

Rob
Filler common. Not a bad one though, but not really good either. Just kinda ok.

Mike
More small effects to give value to cards you shouldn’t be playing anyhow. If any information I’ve read and perceived from spoilers is true, you don’t want to be playing less-than-bears.


Joe
Evasion, I’m guessing, will be the only way to roll with any sort of “fast” deck, and you’ll probably need guys like this in such a deck.

Zak
A 2/3 flying with vigilance is pretty solid for 4, and he can jump your mana producing capacity by 1, provided you play multiple spells. In short, awesome in limited.

Rob
2/3 Flying with a pseudo Vigilance. Might be good with mana ramp guys too, but cost seems clunky. I don’t rule him out of having good synergies with his triggered untap ability though.

Mike
Reminds me of a weak Kinsbaile Baloonist. Could be good if walls are extremely prevalent, but again suffers from being in blue where your men are likely flying through. The fact that it’s not very good at attack does not help either.


James
Looks great for enabling Pyromancer Ascension…heck this is just sweet.

Joe
Love it. This guy is part of the “slow things down” movement, designed to make Eldrazi feasible in limited. This guy should help the cause tremendously, regrowth-ing a removal spell, upping your defender count, and providing an 0/4 wall.

Rob
Tricksy. I’d like to cast Skitter Invasion on the cheap, then tap U and sac for Spawn to cast this and get Skitter back. Not saying that’s best or even good, but these are the types of tom-foolery we should be thinking about with this.

Mike
Izzet Chronarch was a good man in limited, and while a bear is probably better than an 0/4 defender (and Compulsive Research made for a sexier target), this guy should still be alright.

Justin
I like him in x/U EDH. I think the Standard meta is way too fast for this guy. Maybe after Shards rotate out the format will be slow enough to make this wall playable in some sort of control variant.


Joe
Good soft removal. Able to keep an Eldrazi at bay.

Rob
Limited Common Fodder.

Mike
Curse of Chains, but just for blue – and blue removal is some good. May even find a niche in blue mage sideboards to solve the problem that is Putrid Leech, though your probably paired with a color that offers better options (Journey to Nowhere comes to mind).


Joe
Against opponents lacking pingers, this is a find staller, but often they will have trivial, free ways to eliminate this wall. Still, lots of times, you suck up some kind of trick or removal spell with this wall, and until then, you stop the bleeding.

Rob
Another Limited mainstay. The glass wall. Seems ok for it’s intended role.

Mike
A big wall thats effectiveness largely depends on the number of targeting effects printed on played limited cards and cheap flexible spells (such as those cantripping ones).


Joe
Another card that can help you alpha strike / alpha block.

Rob
This card’s possible applications have yet to be fully grok’d. I’ve really got to get my hands on some and start to think about how to abuse it in more depth. I’d make sure I have a set tucked away and meditate on them.

Mike
An apparent limited blowout. While not quite as effective as Sleep, the fact that it is an instant and has additional flexibility in its second mode should prove it to be almost as good.


James
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Joe
Risky. How many cards will your opponent have on turn 6? In any other set, I’d avoid this, but in ROE, there’s a good chance they’ll still have a few left. If they have 2+, I guess it’s not shabby. This is about the worst top deck imaginable though.

Rob
Possibly good card draw and pressure to make your opponent over extend by playing out before the Rebound, but at the cost and the Sorcery speed, I don’t know if it gets there as far as playability.

Mike
Remember when Tidings was in Standard, or Compulsive Research? Does anyone else die a little inside when they cast Divination outside of M10 limited? It’s almost mocking that they printed Rebound on this, as the opponent will obviously make all efforts to make this as bad as possible on the come-around.


Joe
Wait until the end of your opponent’s first main phase before you return their Eldrazi to their hand with this card. This is a solid spell all around. It even hits lands, like the original boomerang. A strong tempo-oriented option.

Zak
I wish they just reprinted Boomerang, but this is still good at bouncing the all-in Eldrzai play off of spawn tokens. Also can dispatch a fully-leveled creature, which could be nice. If you’re desperate, you can always just bounce an opposing land.

Rob
Boing! Oops, was that your Savage Lands I just bounced Jund? Huh, sucks to be you. I like this with Resounding Wave, Spreading Seas, the black swamp maker and maybe a bit of red for Grixis charm and old fashioned Land Destruction.

Mike
A nice filler for my limited deck, as a simple bounce spell is always appreciated and useful. Not close to constructed play.


James
TEXT
Joe
So this guy will let you have pseudo-haste when you drop your Big Eldrazi scumbag. Not bad at all. There are other pleasant uses here too, but that’s probably going to be the most common.

Zak
This seems fine in EDH, and will be amazing with any Eldrazi by giving it pseudo-haste. You can also copy a card with a cheap level-up cost, and then copy something with a splashy ultimate and higher level up cost.

Rob
This is an odd on-board clone. It doesn’t enter as a guy, turns normal at end of turn and lands vulnerable. Stays a sad little chump when it drops. But, if you are using the most powerful allies (those that count allies when they trigger) then this guy could be ok. Maybe.

Mike
If only this guy kept his state until YOUR next turn (so that he did something on defense), or could copy your opponent’s guys, etc. Vesuvan Shapeshifter this is not.


Joe
card selection and a decent body makes a good staller.

Zak
It’s Sleight of Hand on a stick! This is awesome for improving your mid-game turns and ensuring your land drops. Awesome in limited to make sure you wreck face with your Eldrazi on time.

Rob
I really like this guy’s ability. It’s like Cantrip v. 1.5. Will be great in limited.

Mike
Not quite Court Hussar, but this effect is much stronger than the other marginal effects showing up on undersized bodies in this format. Good limited filler.


Joe
A good card drawer that puts the big card you don’t need yet back and gives you the cards most relevant for now.

Zak
I really like this cards as a Compulsive Research variant, because it can send away cards you don’t need. I think that combo decks will have a great deal of fun with this, because you can just reshuffle excess pieces.

Rob
Great with Treasure Hunt. Draw a land and something good. Play this, draw whatever and shuffle the excess land away. Better than just binning a card.

Mike
I’m not sure if this is better than Lat-Nam’s Legacy, a card occasionally appearing in Vintage Oath lists, as it cannot be fetched with Merchant Scroll. Otherwise, this card will probably show up in Summoning Trap lists to be essentially a draw 2 for 2 when your holding a brick. Solid.

Justin
Oh Man how I wish this was an instant. Still this is a very solid bit of card draw.


Joe
A “fixed” ancestral recall that still seems mighty strong to me. Tapping spawn is no biggie, especially the turn you spawned them. Seems good. I’ll run it if I have even middling numbers of spawn generators.

Zak
I’m hesitant to play this without a large amount of spawn generators, because it could be a dead card most of the time. In constructed, I might play this in an UW aggro deck, but it’s still so risky to play this.

Rob
Really cool on one hand, on the other hand, I wonder how Blue will reliably have out four guys. Of course, this isn’t meant for Blue. This is meant for Green or White who are splashing into Blue for the Card Advantage not to fall behind the Jund and Control decks.

Mike
Gaze of Justice was not the easiest one to pull off, but if your deck was full of Icatian Criers or fetchable Rebels, things were rocking. In a similar vein, if you can get some Spawn makers, this should be rocking.

Justin
Good solid card drawing. I like this in U/W or U/G builds. Great way to shrug off a Blightning.


Joe
3U is a traditional cost for a 2/2 flier. This should be okay.

Zak
I would expect to get a 4/2 flier for 3U (which is what this gives you if you have Training Grounds out), but not for such a long term investment when it dies to almost any burn. Pass.

Rob
Too small and too much cost per level. Gimicky Common Filler.

Mike
The level up effect is a little expensive, but you essentially get to play Wind Drake with a potential upside. Not exactly exciting, but not the end of the world if I’m running it.


James
Wow. Really great for a control deck (constructed) and just big enough to play with the Eldrazi (thinking limited…I’d race with this). Seems more than decent to me.

Joe
6-drop flying 6/6 is a winner in limited. Drawing cards and adding counters makes this just plain nutty. Bombs away!

Zak
This is a fantastic card for limited, and a potential finisher in standard. However, Sphinx of Jwar Isle really doesn’t want to lose his place to this. It’s too bad this dies to Terminate, or he’d see more play.

Rob
Seems playable in some decks, great in others and insane with a Training Grounds in play. Watch it to be alongside it’s Jwar Jwar and Lost Truths brethren as the face of the Blue endgame.

Mike
Limited bomb, but not cutting it for constructed.

Justin
This guy is a solid Rare. Good in Constructed or Limited. Extra good with training grounds in play. I want him in my Kami of the Crescent Moon EDH deck. Four please.


Joe
If you have some kind of consistent way to make him evasive, this ophidian variant will rock. Otherwise, this is a weak, overcosted bear that won’t ever attack into opposing walls.

Zak
This card could be really good with Distortion Strike in limited, but don’t count on opening too many of these. In constructed, he could be good, but you’d have to pair him with a bunch of instant/sorcery removal. Maybe a UR deck could abuse this interaction.

Rob
A strange Magpie, and a bit on the fragile side for not having any evasion. The use of charge counters reminds me of the possibility that Scars might bring us ways of charging up guys with more counters.

Mike
Another Shadowmage Infiltrator without his necessary invasion. Too cute to be good without giving him more help than occasionally drawing cards is worth. Think Dimir Cutpurse, Cephalid Constable, etc.

Justin
Really needs some sort of evasion. A bigger butt would help too.


Joe
WOW! This is likely lame in limited absent some good levelers, but there are crazy uses in constructed, I’m guessing. Ambassador Laquatus is all that comes to mind initially, but there’s sure to be some gimmicky decks to come with this card.

Zak
This is a pretty awesome card because it makes so many cards once called “unplayable” much more so. I love the Ravnica Guildmages or Filigree Sages with this, and the latter can combine with Gilded Lotus for infinite mana. A fun and potentially powerful card all around.

Rob
This can be crazy. Already this has been pointed to as a linchpin in a turn four infinite mana combo that will be legal in RoE Standard.

Mike
A card asking to be broken. Very high ceiling that could lead to broken things or time in the 50 cent bin.

Justin
Crazy Johnny potential here. I can see EDH decks abusing this for infinite combos. I definitely want a play-set.


Joe
Another decent way to combat most Eldrazi, assuming you’re going to be up on spawn tokens when your opponent goes for the big guy. Seems like a decent assumption. The danger is that this will sometimes go dead in your hand right when you need it most.

Zak
This is one of the most solid counters in the set, and even in standard I could see this getting played. Maybe some sort of UW midrange deck could use this along efficient beaters like Sejiri Merfolk and Calcite Snapper.

Rob
Seems good for splashing control to protect your army of guys. Also reminds me of Lullmage Mentor. Maybe WotC thought he would be the card to break in Zendikar and had Unified Will and Shared Discovery and other merfolk guys as support for him. Hmm…

Mike
Similar issues to Familiar Ruse in that your blue deck should never really be ahead on the table.

Justin
I like this in Momir Vig EDH decks. It seems like a counter made for x/U decks. Pretty solid in a set where creatures really matter.


Joe
Very strong when paired with the right levelers. I see him drafted high when you’ve opened a leveler for pick 1.

Zak
This guy will get picked much higher if you have a set of good but expensive levelers. However, you need a good reason to play him, because Scathe Zombies is just terrible. It would be interesting to try him out in a constructed deck, but I’m not sure how well this archetype will turn out in constructed.

Rob
I am kinda surprised he isn’t a leveler himself, but either way he’ll be fine in limited Level decks. As for Constructed, I’ll keep an eye on it, but Levelers seem to be a bit shy of the mark.

Mike
Reminiscent of Join the Ranks for limited, a card that’s value swings heavily depending on the rest of your deck – from all star to bench fodder.

Justin
Blue seems like the best color for Level Up centered decks. Yawn.


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

Rise of the Eldrazi Set Review and Analysis: White

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

James
Once upon a time I thought this could be used for trick removal but I can’t think of a creature in this set w/ a butt of 2 or less. lol. I guess one of the level up guys. Pretty narrow. Meh

Joe
A gray ogre that acts as a removal spell like shock most times. The +0/+3 part here is flexible, so you might even pick off a 1/1 and use the toughness boost to win a battle between two other creatures. This is a pretty good combat trick for limited.

Zak
I think that Wizards has been very careful as to what cards they give flash to after the menace that was faeries. As James rightfully points out, this will only remove a Glory Seeker, which really shouldn’t be a worry for you, and it will only do that once in a blue moon.

Rob
Combat trick on a creature is good. A nice surprise to set an attacking opponent back on his ear and put you back into the game.

Mike
This is an interesting card, you don’t see too many defensive pumps being used but based on what we’ve seen from creature power in this set, I think this guy will be extremely handy and not too quickly outclassed as a standard 2/2

Justin
Solid combat trick for Limited. a 2/2 for 3 that has flash is nice and economical. Solid.


Joe
gray ogre for white would be playable in most limited formats, but here we have a defender / wall theme to contend with. I don’t think this guy will be relevant until level 5, at which point he’s, roughly speaking, a 5/5 first strike for 10W. Not exactly stellar, even when you can pay in installments. Aggro strategies only.

Zak
This seems like a basic way of explaining the new level up mechanic, and this ends up being pretty underwhelming. I guess if you get other ways to put level counters on your guys this could be okay, but it still seems weak compared to the rest of the cards in the set.

Rob
Fetchable with Ranger of Eos, but not good enough to really matter. If the early levels could give it a bigger toughness or an ability, it might have been manageable.

Mike
This guy is sure to be a fine limited drop if you really need to fill out your curve. If you’re stuck on low drops he will certainly fill the role, but there’s very little chance he’ll be the 5/5 first striker he so longs to be.

Justin
I am not a fan of level up no matter what anyone says. Seems like poor resource management. D.


Joe
Wow… this should help you win the race you started with your bears deck… once you reach 8, that is.

Zak
I actually love this card. If you untap with it, your opponent’s Eldrazi become neutered and you can hopefully use the extra turns to bring your own behemoths to the table. Also seems solid in EDH with cards like Land Tax to help you get the land you need.

Rob
Invokers! Thank goodness they are common. Would have been a waste of any other slot. Limited fodder.

Mike
These 8: creatures do nothing for me, though a 2 power flyer for 3 is probably fine for limited.

Justin
Alpha strike in Limited? If I am going to pay 3 for a 2/1 creature it better have Flying (I’m looking at you Kelnore Bat).


James
Nice flier but indestructible won’t save this Biatch from Annhilate

Joe
Cute effect, and a nice scantily clad picture. Angels seem to want for tailors up in the heavenly host of Magic. Is this deathless angel or robe-less angel? Anyway, I suspect that merely being a 5/7 flying would make it pretty effective in limited, it’s also got the indestructible thing going, making it resilient as well.

Zak
As angels go, this is prettey meh. Remember, for the 2 mana you want to keep open after you cast her, you could cast Iona, Shield of Emeria. Could be fine in EDH I suppose.

Rob
This will be great standing up to those Eldrazi as they swing into me. Wait, they make me sac perms when they swing. #$!@#$! I may eat my words but those words are: No Constructed, Subpar Limited.

Mike
A fine limited bomb but outclassed my most other rares in any constructed format.

Justin
Indestructible is not as good as it once was with so many reusable sac effects running around in this set. Still a 5/7 is pretty good in Limited but I think it gets easily out-shined by big fat Eldrazi.


Joe
Excellent reprint here. Good for nuking Umbras, I’m guessing.

Zak
I disagree with Joe’s opinion, and I think it’s a crappy reprint. IOn a set where man is really not an issue, wouldn’t Disenchant have been better? Although I guess Naturalize already has that spot. This just seems so narrow, even for limited.

Rob
Reprinted cheap enchantment removal. If I’m mono white, it might be good to have in the sideboard if an enchantment like Eldrazi Conscription or Training Grounds becomes prevalent, but overall I’d rather have Nature’s Claim and the option of shooting artifacts.

Mike
Well, if you want to destroy an enchantment and you’re a white mage I can’t think of anything cheaper or more narrow.

Justin
Why not just give us Disenchant? Oh yeah, Naturalize. Pretty basic.


Joe
This is the kind of umbra which will make a piddly wall into the great wall of China.

Zak
Joe, we don’t need any more Great Walls in Magic. All joking aside, this card is fine for a Leveler that you’d like to keep around in time to get to its later stages, because it disrupts both destroy- and damage-based removal.

Rob
Not as good as the Hyena Umbra, but almost playable. Almost.

Mike
If you have a real hard-on for totem armor I’m sure the cheap cost will appease you but otherwise: WHY?

Justin
Not diggin this aura


Joe
I like this trick… save a dude, hopefully negating one of your opponent’s spot removal cards, and then sneak past their walls the following turn.

Zak
This reminds me of Brave the Elements except that it doens’t require as heavy a colour commitment. I think that it’s an excellent tool when paired with an Eldrazi to save it from a removal spell and allow it to attack unblocked the next turn.

Rob
Right at home in WW and great for splashing in any number of decks. A great compliment to Brave the Elements and Kabria Evangel in their respective decks. Negate some removal and give a retributive strike the next turn.

Mike
Not quite the brave the elements white is accustomed to, but in a multicolor deck it could protect a guy you absolutely want to protect. But if that’s all you want to do why not just rock some totem armor?

Justin
I like this in Limited. Goes great in a white build to push those last bits of damage through. Rebound makes it better.


James
Seems pretty cool to me. I like this for the G/W builds I’ve been gravitating toward since the release of Shards. The abilities are really the kind of stuff that aggro decks don’t like to deal with. Also, what happens to the counter count if you use the last ability (turn into a 6/6 until EOT)? Does it change back to whatever count total was prior to the change or does it effectively reset to 6? It’d be SICKO if i goes back to 6…

Joe
I wonder what can be done with guys like perimeter captain and ol’ giddy J here. To the extent that you can make good on his initial ability through defense, then you’ll have reusable removal and a quick built in win condition for the turn you finish mopping up the opposing army.

Zak
As I said when thiis guy first was spoiled, I’m not sold on a card that cost 3WW and isn’t named “Baneslayer Angel”. However, I think that this can be a great way to forcibly trigger Perimeter Captain or Wall of Frost, and that it gives white some nice reusable spot removal. Can also help Elspeth, Knight-Errant rack up loyalty if she’s played before Gideon.

Sean
I’m really uncertain about this guy. He seems powerful in certain situations, I just don’t know if he will see play in the highly competetive 5 mana white slot in constructed.

Dillon
Probably one of the more powerful spells in the set right now. His versatility on the battlefield is really what makes him great. A controlling Planeswalker and an aggressive Planeswalker. The beautiful mending of the two. He breaks stalemates forcing the opponent to attack into you, and he can just kill pesky creatures, then deals an enormous about of damage. The whole time he is a planeswalker therefore it is very cheap to do.

Rob
Tap all your guys for 3WW. Oh, I guess I can Assassinate a guy in White, that’s kinda nifty, but Path, Journey, O-ring are all better. And why the hell would I turn my planeswalker into Terminate/Path bait? Maybe it’ll be good against Removal-less Green decks.

Mike
This guy is interesting; he clearly has many applications, maybe the best of which being he can tap your opponent’s entire team, something normally only blue has access to. Furthermore, he can still go and do some damage on his own my becoming a 6/6. Seems to combo nicely with safe passage.

Justin
I like it when they introduce new Plansewalkers but this one made me scratch my head. His +2 ability is situational at best. -2 is pretty good. the 0 ability is what I find the most interesting. Seems like a cool way to pop off some damage post Wrath (or DOJ). You can’t block with him so he doesn’t fit in with the defensive flavor of white. Could be good against some sort of defender home brew. I see Gideon gathering dust in trade binders for quite some time.


Joe
I don’t see bears working unless your curve stops at about 3, and you’re flush with removal for the ubiquitous walls in this format. Glory seeker has a tough time as a reprint in RoE.

Zak
Another reprint I dislike. With another 2/2 for 1W that’s strictly better thank this (Knight of Cliffhaven) at common, I really wonder why WotC thought he deserved a slot.

Rob
White bear is a bear. Rawr.

Mike
Zzzz

Justin
What? Why do we need a white bear? At least my Pegasus has flying for 2cc. In Limited just a late pick.


James
Lame. I don’t like this. Somone prove me wrong on the lameness of this card. (disclaimer: this is partial spot removal for a fliers based deck in limited).

Joe
I love the big hulking guy in this artwork. It seems like a really cool take on removal and the concept of defender from a flavor standpoint. I love the fantasy-realm feel of this one. This is about as soft as removal can get.

Zak
This stops Eldrzai From pulling their Annhilator shenanignas in limited. Few cards in this set do that so cheaply, so this will be an important card to have ion your limited deck if you’re playing white.

Rob
Uh, ok. I guess it is something to neutralize a guy with in limited.

Mike
This is no pacifism, in fact it’s probably pretty annoying. If there’s any creature you don’t want attacking you I can’t imagine you want him blocking you instead.

Justin
Good way to stop an opposing Kozilek in limited. Pacifism light.


Joe
A steep cost for a fog effect, and it won’t stop annihilator effects from triggering. You’ll have to use this to put the final nail in the coffin in an aggro deck, and even there, it’s a stretch. More likely, you’ll want removal, not a stall tactic. This might help slower defensive decks more.

Zak
I really don’t know what to say other than this seems to be worse than Safe Passage. I don’t think that a one-sided Fog was worth 4 mana. Maybe I was just spoiled by Pollen Lullaby.

Rob
I’d say this is Jacerator/Turbofog fodder, but we have those three Gaea’s Blessing bouncing around. Perhaps it’ll find play with other stalling tactics.

Mike
Not bad, a little pricey for a fog effect but it’s got absolute blowout potential when you’re on defense obviously. The fact that this is common in Triple ROE makes white a real powerhouse in the redszone.

Justin
This is the worst Fog I have ever seen. Really I am not kidding. 2WW? Why? Bad Wizards of the Coast. Bad!


Joe
4WW gets you a 1/4 guardian seraph. Not exactly above par, but still somewhat decent as walls go. This will definitely slow the game down a bit. Probably playable.

Zak
I’m still a big fan of Guardian Seraph, and I think there are better things to do with your mana than play this guy. Binder fodder.

Rob
For a leveler this doesn’t seem too bad. I liked Guardian Seraph, so I think I’ll like this guy. He does something the first time you level him. He gets out of bolt range the first time too. I like him even better with a Training Grounds on the field.

Mike
This is probably fine in limited but it might not even make your 22 if you’re mono white. It’s just a lot of mana for an 0/3 if you want it to do anything but sit there and look pretty.

Justin
Not digging this guy as a rare in a big set. I know I will end up with 10 of these guys. Grrrr. Level up is…. boooooo.


James
Cheap and extremely efficient. The totem ability makes the crap-level of enchantments go down a little. A smidgen. I’ll probably use this in my limited decks, figuring the amount of damage I’ll get in (and past an opponent’s creatures who are too pussy footed to block) will justify the cost. Plus this is cheap.

Joe
The umbra cycle also seems flavorful to me. The bar is pretty high for auras to be worth exposing yourself to two-for-one (241) situations though. One white mana for a boost and first strike is on the borderline. Yay defense theme!

Zak
I love totem armor, but that’s mainly because I love Auras to begin with, and I’m happy any time they make them better. This should help a mid-range creature out in limited, especially a leveler whose stats are not yet maxed out. Also good for when you happen to attack with Valakut Fireboar.

Dillon
This will be the go-to Totem Armor for a GW Spiritdancer deck. It is effectively costed and grants an ability that is just amazing. I like this one a lot.

Rob
This is playable. Turn two before removal really gets online for most decks, I can turn my, let’s say Loam Lion, into a Knight with a Regenerate Shield. Not an all star, but definitely playable. Might be best enchantment in the set.

Mike
I think if anyone is going to play a totem armor in any format other than limited, this is going to be the one (except maybe ones that have flash).

Justin
I like this card. I would take it pretty high in Limited if I was in white. I also like it for my Uriel, the Miststalker EDH deck as a way to avoid Wrath effects.


Joe
5W gets you a 2/6 vigilance, eh? Well, it might be worth it, given how slow this format looks on its face, but endorsing this kind of card goes against all previous precedent.

Zak
The best levelers are thos who you look forward to fully upgrading. This guy is not one of those. Yay, I just spent 18 mana so I can…stall the ground some more???

Rob
So expensive to level. Might as well read as a 5W 2/6 Vigilance. Which is no good. Big on defense. If it had been fetchable with Ranger of Eos, it’d have been ok.

Mike
Once again the guys who cost colorless mana to level up seem pretty terrible.

Justin
OK, I can deal with this level up guy at common.


Joe
This guy is good because even on level 0, he’s playable enough. Eventually he boosts the team.

Zak
This guy is strictly better than Pillarfield Ox, and will see play in limited. Anthem effects have always been valuable, and if it lets your Eldrazi become just stronger that those of your opponent, you should be able to tip the game’s balance in your favour.

Rob
Programmable lord is kinda cool. Cost out of playability is really bad. Too much work to protect him.

Mike
This guy is pretty crazy for uncommon. He could definitely do some damage in a constructed format with a bunch of weenies. I think he’s probably the only uncommon limited bomb I’ve seen so far from this set.

Justin
I am running out of things to say about Level Up. I only want to level up my D&D characters.


James
It’s aight for an early drop for a set that is leaning toward the high costing. That may end up being a strategy in itself: can I race my opponent with huge, annihilating creatures? only one way to find out…tell your friend to try it out and report back. ;-)

Joe
I dug this cycle from the moment I saw it. I’ve seen lots of people bemoaning that leveling up is a sorcery. It seems to be acknowledged that sorcery speed does make the actual decisions involved more important and varied and therefore more skill testing than would be the case with instant speed leveling. At any rate, I just like the overlap of this ability with dungeons and dragons. It seems like the natural evolution of cards like the flip cards in Kamigawa, and Figure of Destiny. I like it as a concept.

This particular creature, however, is uninspiring. I’d hope to have better flying creatures than this bear. If I was short on bears I might run this goldilocks.

Zak
Alright, this is what aggro needs if it is to work in Rise limited. Not saying it will, but this is a step in the right direction. that fact that it gains flyin is extremely relevant, and means that this guy won’t spend an eternity just crashing into walls all game long.

Rob
I can’t get over this being 13W for a Serra Angel, and on top of it, I’m just going to bolt it in response to your fourth Level-up Activation, so it isn’t even as robust as Serra. Most levels seem to suffer these same drawbacks thanks to Sorcery speed.

Mike
This guy is a decent Leveler. He’s a kor which is always a good thing in this block, and you can make him a flyer the turn after he comes into play if you have nothing better to do with the mana, I’ll take it.

Justin
Level up makes me laugh. It involves a huge mana commitment. However, I think that with all of the big spells running around you might be able to pull off some leveling. This guy seems pretty bad regardless. Playing Magic, especially competitively, involves making tight plays. Level up seems to contradict this philosophy by making you waste precious resources.


Joe
This guy could be huge in this format of walls. He should never lack a target, and will help you race, if that’s your plan.

Zak
Umm…a Blinding Mage variant? I don’t know, but tapping down a weak creature seems bad in this format. Although, it could allow for some early beat by getting through some low-power walls.

Rob
Nothing impressive.

Mike
It’s been a while since we’ve had a tapper in a set, this guy has some pretty big limitations so I don’t like him much.

Justin
This is ok in Limited I suppose. Nothing special.


Joe
I’m very excited about this card for Legacy, where I think it will give enchantress decks new legs. This guy loves auratog and rancor, for example. In limited, it’s a bit more of a gamble, but the low cost will make it worthwhile assuming you have 4+ auras that are desirable on their own.

Zak
I’m loving this guy. He’s like Auramancers Guise on a stick, and helps to mitigate nay lost card advantage that comes with playing auras. Could be constructed playable, time will tell.

Dillon
I don’t know why but this Aura Wizard has me intrigued. I just imagine GW Spiritdancer being effective. Canopy Cover maybe seeing a little play, but we shall see what other Aura’s come out. It isn’t going to be super effective while Path to Exile is still legal, but I can see it in the fall as an aggro plan after Jund rotates out.

Rob
Pocket card for some Enchantress builds to be played with in Standard. Like most cards that rotate around auras, this will be fun to toy with in a more laidback format, but competitive would need to be a very special place for it matter there. Not before Jund leaves use at the very least. Likely never.

Mike
This guy has a lot of potential in limited, could even be decent in constructed if you can get an aura that gives him shroud quick.

Justin
I like this for Enchantress builds. I think it might find a Home in Zur EDH decks as a way to benefit of enchantments stuck in your hand. Not too likely though. All in all I think this little Kor can be pretty good with the totem armor running around.


Joe
Well, I can’t see anyone attacking into this poorly enough to lose men. It’s a skill tester that’s just too obvious… I can’t see running this unless I REALLY want to stall… i.e., I got the nuts Eldrazi pool.

Zak
It’s more a stall card than anything, but with all the walls in this set, I don’t think we really need this card. As well, does it really matter if you deal 1 damage to a lone Eldrazi? It’s like a mosquito bite: annoying, but nothing that can’t be ignored until it’s no longer relevant.

Rob
I’d suggest this for Control, but I’m not sure it is worth it. Stops the random x/1 from attacking. Causes problems for Ball Lightnings, but doesn’t do a thing for a lone x/2. Why bother with this?

Mike
This is going to have some applications as a ghost prison, ensnaring bridge kind of card. It’s not hard to play around but it will find it’s way into some sideboards over the next few years.

Justin
Can be good with multiple copies in play. Not sure about the rarity. I guess if you are hiding behind all of RoEs walls it could be relevant. Not a fan.


Joe
Hello EDH General! Wow. Not even mana abilities skirt this angel, so Rofellos has a new enemy, as do many other generals out there. This should also be a house in limited, where it’s an evasive and aggressively costed 3/4 who shuts off all opposing Eldrazi Spawn, leaving your own unscathed. Alas, as a mythic, you’ll seldom get to run her, but when you do, pray your white is deep enough to support a capital W in your deck’s color description.

Zak
I love this card. Awesome artr with an awesome effect at an awesome cost is awesome. Too bad it’s a mythic, because this could be a key player in some sort of prison-style deck. This card’s success in type 2 will largely depend on how many levelers get played. Although turning Putrid Leech into a Grizzly Bears is also okay.

Dillon
This angel is seriously powerful. Shutting down your opponents creatures to just triggered abilities is amazing. Mana abilities fall into activated abilites, therefore she is worth playing.

Rob
Levelers just stop. Knight of the Reliquary can’t find solutions. Lots of otherwise playable guys get turned off.

Mike
I feel like I could be doing a lot more at 2WW than this, though in limited I’m sure it’s a real bomb because it shuts off tons of guys in this format. It also shuts off eldrazi spawn which might be it’s greatest boon.

Justin
This is the Angel to get in RoE. Abilities are what make creatures shine and this lady says “All for me and none for you.” I can’t wait to see her as a General in EDH.


Joe
A bear will have enough of a hard time in this format. The life is okay, but I’d recommend playing this only in the most aggressively curved decks.

Zak
Venerable Monk is rolling over in his grave. I don’t think that life or the puny body will matter in this limited format, but it could prove to be nice in some turbo-fog decks which want the blocker and the life.

Rob
A tweaked Venerable Monk. So, WotC says that one toughness on a guy is worth him giving you 2 life. Interesting to know.

Mike
I dig this guy. He will find his way into kor decks and sideboards as well as be a good two drop in limited in a number of archtypes.

Justin
This is a solid common for Limited. 4 life can be a big deal in games that are finisher light and 2/1 for 2 is not that bad.


Joe
This can nullify opposing creatures with power 4 or less, and severely curtail bigger ones. It can enchant a wall to prompt a nice board stall. All around great card for limited, especially in a slow controlling deck.

Zak
Hmm… a white variant of Contaminated Bond I wonder how many creatures’ attacks this will actually be able to offset? It seems like a lot of this set’s removal is designed for weak creatures, which aren’t exactly the most daunting of foes in a limited environment.

Rob
I’m going to be amused to drop this on my opponent’s guy in limited. Otherwise, worthless.

Mike
I think this is a fine card. I’ve drafted mostly-walls decks and this is only going to get you to your bombs faster.


Joe
Good size for a 4-drop flier. Able to attack or block well. Solid, evasive dude.

Zak
Again strictly better than Pillarfield Ox, and could make an excellent midrange card in limited. Simply slap some totem arm,ors on this guy and he’ll wreck face in the sky.

Rob
Limited Fodder.

Mike
Sure, probably fine in limited. Nice ass, shorty.

Justin
I like Griffins. Probably will only see play in Limited.


James
Over costed…

Joe
Again, this is a sizeable boost, but you’re setting yourself up for a 241 against instant speed removal, and at best 1-for-1 against the aura’s benefits. Might be worth it on a first striker or something. It is splashable.

Zak
I think this card’s best targets are the midrange creatures which will get outclassed by Eldrazi in the later game. If you can get a creature to have 7 or 8 power, and have some choice permanents to sac to an anhiliator trigger, this can keep you in the game for the long haul.

Rob
If there weren’t eldrazi, this might be good in limited to turn an early guy into a finisher. But we have Common and Uncommon eldrazi and very little removal thus far, so this is not that great.

Mike
If this gave trample or flying I’d be very into it, but as is, for this cost? I don’t know. Celestial mantle wasn’t even a widely played card when drafted and that thing was grosse.

Justin
I like the Umbras I have seen so far for Limited and not much more. I might throw this into a teaching deck but odds are this is just 5cc hamster cage lining.


James
LMAO. Ad Nauseam until you get to one life?
I bet the most interesting part of this card will be the different suggestions people give for how you can use this to win…

Joe
Hatred comes to mind as a way to reach this goal quickly. Maybe channel? It’s kind of slow and awkward. Angels grace?

Zak
I’m pretty sure you need something like Worship or Fortune Thief to make this work. Either that, or be the luckiest player ever. Whichever you like.

Rob
Many people will crack this, try to win with it, and then throw it into their junk pile. If you could flash this out somehow, maybe it’s be ok.

Mike
Worship just got its win condition.

Justin
Somewhere, somehow, someone will make this work I just know it! I want to see it happen.


Joe
Wow. On turn 6 you can really go berserk with this. Turn 7 can set up the alpha strike, since you’ll get double the tokens on the rebound. Seems very strong, assuming your deck can maintain a board position. This might be just the sort of finisher Walls.dec wants to see in its 40.

Zak
This seems like it wants to be played with Conquerors Pledge, but the fact that this play leaves you wide open to a timely Maelstrom Pulse makes it unattractive. I think Pedge is just a better card than this, because why would you want to over-commit to the board when you have so many creatures out? Remember, if they wipe your board after the first cast, the rebound will have no effect.

Rob
Turn after Martial Coup for 5, this will break backs. Of course, Martial Coup for 5 already breaks backs. When else would this be better than a MC5? EDH. I’ll drop it in that box.

Mike
This could be really good in the right deck. Anything with rebound has serious power potential but you really have to design your deck around spitting out tokens and there just aren’t that many en masse token makers in this block.

Justin
Chancy, especially with bad things like DoJ and Pulse running around. Seems like it was meant to hold back Annihilator.


Joe
This is amazing removal, and will make Eldrazi players cry, especially if they were stoked about running theirs out on the back of 4 or more spawn tokens. This probably has legs in other formats, except for two issues: sorcery speed, and the prevalence of cards like ranger of eos and bloodbraid elf and the like, which you never want to see hit play even once, let along hand your opponent the second activation with a 3-life dessert.

Zak
This is just fantastic, and will take a skilled player to use correctly. It’s excellent against “all-in” styles of deck in both limited or constructed. You simply have to be careful what you target with this and you can put yourself in a much better position. Nothing like scaring away a crucial blocker for a few turns so that you can punch through for a bit more damage and tap some of your opponent’s lands when the recast it. Great card.

Rob
This is going to own some people. It’ll be the new Path when Path rotates, assuming Path doesn’t get reprinted in M11. Used WITH Path, people are going to cry when they have to chose whether to wait two turns to get one of their guys back, or get a land and shuffle up, trying their luck.

Mike
This is pretty random. Sorcery speed is kind of janky but it takes out anything and buys you some time. I don’t really think it’s very good though.

Justin
Great spot removal. I like that Eldrazi players will start crying after sac-ing spawn tokens for nothing. Perfect.


Joe
This is good removal, except it’s in a block where removal of very big creatures, preferable BEFORE they attack, is a must. Still, this can remove pesky walls, and so it’s going to be huge for the early rush approach.

Zak
This is fine, and it’s best limited application will be shooting down unpowered levelers to prevent them from reaching maturity. And I guess it kills walls, if that ever comes up.

Rob
Doesn’t seem special, or particularly playable.

Mike
It’s much more versatile out of the sideboard than deathmark is in an extended zoo mirror depending on how that deck evolves this year. Other than that we could’ve used this as a way to take out vampire nighthawk all year.

Justin
Not bad. Not as good as Oust but when is white blessed with tons of good spot removal?


Joe
Amazing. This will help you push damage through in the rush approach.

Zak
It’s either a card which lets you dig for an answer or a card that lets you punch through. I love cards like this that are in essence modal spells depending on what you want to use this for. in the late game, and end of turn Repel can wreck your opponent’s predictions for the next combat phase.

Rob
Tapping a pair of guys and cantripping. Seems good for White Control decks.

Mike
This is an excellent, excellent limited card if things stay attack-based in that formate. But tapping two guys in white and tripping is very good.

Justin
Good card. Cantrips can be hit or miss but this one does its job well. Good in Limited and Constructed as well.


Joe
I love this reprint. Alas, it’s less than stellar against the eldrazi, but with Wall of Omens now in standard, blocking is in. I think this will be played.

Zak
Fantastic card, as it can remove an eldrazi for little to no upfront payment. It only requires a blocker to cast, and with the plethora of walls in this set, there should be no troubles there. Could see some play in constructed, but Path to Exile is just so good.

Rob
The look on someone’s face when a flashed in Affa Guard Hound Smites their Emrakul swinging for lethal will be priceless.

Mike
I like all this removal white is getting in limited, but it’s not going to work anywhere else.

Justin
Hey a Stronghold throwback! I see this being useful in Limited but Path and Oust are way better.


Joe
soul warden has seen play before, and I see no reason it wouldn’t continue to do so with all the Spawn generators.

Zak
So strictly worse than Soul Warden (The trigger is not mandatory). This might signify Soul Warden getting the boot in Magic 2011, but it seems like it doesn’t improve the game that much in limited when the creature will take such huge chunks out of a players life total.

Rob
A Soul Warden without the gamestate maintenance issues. I might make a Casual deck running 4 of both this and its predecessor.

Mike
Another functional reprint but with a “may” effect this time? I mean it’s good but do we really need standard and extended decks that can run 8 soul wardens?


Joe
This is a huge wall on 5. Definitely the kid of thing you need if your plan is to stall until you can visit Eldrazi-ville.

Zak
One of the few walls that can both strike back at opposing attackers and block creatures with flying. Expect this to be a crucial card if you intend on surviving against some sort of skies deck in limied. Pretty meh in Constructed.

Rob
Fat. Just a flying blob of fat.


Joe
Man, they’re pushing this theme hard. I think that anyone who wants to stall to the mid-to-late game will not have problems doing so, and only the most shrewd aggro decks will be able to penetrate such defenses.

Zak
I’m not a big fan of this, as most walls are already big enough to weather most blows. I don’t think that playing a souped-up Valiant Guard is really all that worth it.

Rob
A lord for defenders of sorts. I like the idea, and he fits nicely in a curve with Perimeter Capitan and Wall of Denial to either side, sharing slots with Wall of Omens.

Mike
I guess if you’re playing a bunch of walls this guy is doing everything you want him to be doing, but what are you doing?!


James
This is pretty interesting. It costs 3cc for a 3/3 first strike which isn’t so horrible. I’m not so sure about the 8cc for a 4/4 double strike but it’s certainly not horrible by any means. The nice part is that it’s spread out over multiple turns (obviously) so you can concievably squeeze out the one extra cc each turn. One nice thing about a cheap level up is that late game it’s better than drawing a 2/2 that does nothing. I mean, at least with these you can channel all the extra mana to something useful. and a 4/4 double strike is pretty gnarly.

Joe
The picture made me hope he could learn horsemanship, but alas, no such luck.

For WWW, he’s a very cheap 3/3 first strike. On turn 1, if your W one-drop can survive a turn, he’s a very cheap 3/3 first strike attacking on turn 2. I think, therefore, he’s a shoe-in for consideration in white weenie decks. You’d hate to splash this guy as your sole white card though.

Zak
Okay so here’s a really nicely costed level whose first level would be acceptable on it’s own. As it is, this card has much more potential in the late game, and his an amazing pick in draft if you find yourself in heavy white. Also makes for an excellent Ranger of Eos target in standard.

Dillon
Student of Warfare will be bashing on turn two like Kithkin of old. White Weenie embraces her with open arms. Nothing wrong with this card.

Rob
Possibly the best card in the set, and funnily enough it has the worst mechanic in the set. Leveler doesn’t make me giddy as a general rule. It really needs to work hard to earn my respect, but this guy, with the low casting and leveling cost, Ranger of Eos Fetchability and landing just above par as a 3/3 first striker swinging on Turn 2, is pure laughing gas. I love it. If you kill it as I power it up, I don’t feel so bad, as it is on curve. If you don’t, it gets out of hand quickly as the cheap cost is easily spamable and I can leave mana up to protect him.

Mike
I think this is my favorite leveler. a lot of times in WW you want to be just swarming, but if this guy hits on one and becomes a 3/3 first striker on 2, I’ll take it over a white knight or a blademaster. This guy is excellent.

Justin
Volkan Baga did the art. “Nuff said.


Joe
This isn’t my kind of card, but it CAN net you 4 life and two cards, so it’s card advantage in white… I feel compelled to endorse this sorcery, despite it being decidedly “not my style.”

Zak
It’s an interesting card that’s potent in the early-mid game. With that said, it makes for a terrible topdeck when you’re getting beat down, so it’s probably a 23rd card at best. I don’t really see a constructed application for this.

Rob
This is a good playable card that gets a lot better in the right deck. Lifegain Defender decks with maybe Felidar Sovereign as the win-con can use this to keep edging towards the goal and keep answers in hand.

Mike
I think this is a fine card, could even make it’s way into some block decks. Gaining 4 life and drawing 2 cards for 3 mana is really very decent considering Divination has been a popular standard card over the last year.

Justin
Situational at best. It seems a bit overpriced when the cantrip is conditional. Mediocre.


Joe
Hmmm… I dunno. I would want a minimum of 6 levelers to run this.

Zak
In constructed, it could be okay, especially with some of the white levelers we’ve seen. Not certain about limited applications, but it’s a card that could wheel a bit. That is until some guy goes and drafts 12 leveler.dec and wrecks everyone.

Rob
This makes good levelers ridiculous. It’s a shame that means only two or three cards. I like the idea of this in the same deck as Student of Warfare.

Mike
They’re really pushing levelers here, but how many levelers are you realistically going to be sinking mana into?

Justin
Nothing will make me like Level Up.


Joe
Antelope! A 2/5 that tutors for an aura is pretty dang good, especially on common. This ties up the board and sticks around with the umbra you find. All around solid, even though it comes on board in the mid-game.

Zak
It’s a pseudo-Idyllic Tutor on a stick, which is okay. It gives you a body to play that aura on, and provides a nice body which can clock a fair few creatures in the format. I like all the support that enchantments are getting in this set.

Rob
Too expensive and does too little to be truly good. He is sadly a shadow of an awesome guy. If he was say a 1/3 for 2W and did this, he’d be balanced and useable. If he put the aura into play, he’d be marginally playable. As he is now, he’s just a janky filler common.

Mike
The best thing about this guy is Creature type: antelope.

Justin
Maybe in EDH? Seems too slow for constructed and downright bad in Limited.


Joe
This card got a fair amount of discussion online when it was spoiled. It’s a 3/3 for 3, which makes it very aggressive even if you never level it up. That said, a couple turns later, with 7WW invested, you’ve suddenly got a 6/6 lifelink, which is a very good installment plan, as leveling only costs you 1. When you reach level 12, you should be hard pressed to lose that game.

Zak
This card could potentially be played in some sort of mono-white control deck which uses Emeria, the Sky Ruin and other long-term plans to control the game while keeping you at a steady life total. Add to that the fact that it’s a 3/3 for 3, and you’ve got a very playable mythic.

Rob
This guy will be great in EDH and I love the flavor of him. With Time of Heroes he might be constructed playable alongside Student of Warfare, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. It’ll hurt pretty bad the first time he gets bolted or pathed with his 6th level on the stack.

Mike
Man, six level ups before this guy gets good? I mean, a 3/3 for 3cc is fine in limited but he’s a mythic rare. This set annoys me.


Joe
Again, 6 is a good number… if I had 6 auras I’d consider this, but then I’d have to ask myself whether I’d really like to be running 6 auras. At least you get gray ogre, but the ogre has never had it as bad as he seems to in ROE limited.

Zak
I think that this could be an excellent candidate for some sort of enchantment deck, and well help enchantress protect her namesake creature in legacy. All in all, a solid support card.

Rob
Zur EDH deck. Another attempt to make auras really good, and it makes me think, but even with the possibility of turning a guy into a 2-for-1 threat, the risk of getting 2-for-1′d yourself is usually enough of a deterrent in most competitive situations.

Mike
Auras are already pretty bad, nobody runs them. Is this guy going to make them better? Maybe in some formats, but not any competitive ones.

Justin
There is some potential here. I like the Idea of Rancor enchanting an x/1 creature.


Joe
Much has been written about this card. Many pros pegged it for the best card in the set at the time it was spoiled. It’s sure to see tons of play as a white wall of blossoms, and will be very annoying in walls.dec. Don’t trade these away if you plan to play standard. This will be another 3-5 dollar uncommon.

Zak
This card is going to have a role in standard liek no other wall in recent memory has. If effectively blocks Bloodbraid Elf and Hellspark Elemental while remaining impervious to Lightning Bolt. And to top it all off, it replaces itself setting up a better third turn. I’m calling it now: This card will be one of the WPN promo foils for Rise of the Eldrazi.

Dillon
What it does is create time for the control decks without spending a card essentially. It cycles but it also grants you a 0/4! It is incredibly staple as it is essentially not even taking up a slot in the deck. It will be the most important card of the set, but it also works so well Perimeter Captain that Aggro decks will need to get creative.

Rob
0/4 wall for 2 mana cantrips. Nothing to complain about. Seems good. Doesn’t seem broken. I’m just going to smile, collect them and move on.

Mike
I love efficient cards. If ever you wanted a wall in a constructed format, this guy would make the cut. I don’t think you will want a wall in that format, but this one is pertty solid if you do, especially once putrid leech rotates.

Justin
WOW a WALL! SWEET! But seriously this wall is not bad. Another Stronghold throwback only in a new color. Great for control style decks.


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

Let us know what you think in the comments below.
You can also check out the rest of the set review and analysis. :)
Colorless White Blue Black

What Ways are there to Win at Magic?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why and what do we name Magic decks?

If you have ever been to a decently large constructed Magic tournament, where you have to register your deck, you have been asked the question in no uncertain terms.

What's in a name? That which we call Jund by any other name would play as sweet.
What's in a name? That which we call Jund by any other name would play as sweet.

It’s right there. For some this is a trivial question, as someone has told them what to write there, but for others, deck builders, it is a momentous occasion. The line can read more like “If you should attain glory on this fine day, what would be the name of the weapon you have forged and wielded to your victory?” Besides, the act of naming is a fairly infrequent event in most people’s lives. The typical individual will name nothing more than their pets, children, and a few paltry academic papers. If you are an artist or author by profession or hobby, then perhaps you have more opportunity to name, but there are so few whom would have such a privilege and responsibility. Most of the time, things already have names by the time we become aware of them.

Deck builders have the above experiences with their vast and varied brews regularly. The decks are simultaneously like pets, children, and theses. The deck builder is artists, scientist, and author. There is a responsibility to name a deck well, as if you or your trusting compatriots do well in a significant tourney, the world will want to know, “What was that person playing?” They will want to know what configuration of cards are in your deck list, sure, but the first thing they look for is the name. By what do you call the deck, and what gives it such a name? To answer this, let’s look first at what functions a name can serve and also some names that already typify those particular functions.

The first function of a name is brevity. Imagine how painful the descriptions and dialogue of the MTG community would be if every time  a match was described it begins with “Well, he had four Putrid Leech, four Bloodbraid Elf, four Sprouting Thrinax, four…” eventually reaching a ‘versus’ and beginning all over again with another long list. What would be a twenty minute verbal description of what two deck met in a round can be brought down to merely a second. “The Semi-final is ‘Jund‘ versus ‘Boss Naya‘”. This isn’t as accurate as listing all the cards, but is a whole lot more practical.

Secondly, a name must be in some way relatable to the deck that typifies it, but this can be done many ways. The most important factor is that it is adopted for use by the Magic Community. If someone creates a deck and names it “Train Wreck”, but no one ever cares to know what that means, what cards are in it, or to call it by such a name when referring to the deck, then it doesn’t really get named “Train Wreck”. Maybe it is named “UBR Discard” instead because that became the name the group decided to call it. If I say “SphinxFire”, nobody will know that I’m referring to UWR Control, which I built essentially over a month before LSV popularized his build by performing well at a major event.

Some of the ways that we describe a deck using a name can vary. Sometimes we can simply refer to the colors of mana most used, sometimes using naming conventions WotC has given us as a shortcut. If the word ‘Naya’ appears in a deck, we know it plays Red, Green, and White, as those are the colors of mana associated with that shard in the Shards of Alara setting. Likewise, the word ‘Boros’ tells us that a deck uses Red and White. These naming conventions have caught on due to deck archetypes that have been played repeatedly using these colors and the associated strategies. However, color combination names don’t always work. Green and White dominated decks aren’t called Selesnya because not only does it sound like the name of a Russian rock band, but also because it is a mouthful and no Green and White decks featured prominently during the time period that this would have popularized.

Another naming option is to use a namesake, such as the deck’s creator. We have seen this recently with ‘Boss Naya’, which contains the color word to give you a basic description of the deck, but also contains the nickname of the decks creator, Tom “The Boss” Ross to tell you that this is his variant. This type of convention was also used in the name ‘Rubin Zoo’. This type of name allows people to find fairly specific deck lists for an archetype that may have many variants.

Perhaps you would rather just describe what the deck does or how it wins games. Names like ‘UW Control’, ‘Mono-Red Burn’ and ‘GW Aggro’ describe quiet acutely the color of the deck and the basic strategy.  Sometimes though, a deck will have an important interaction that the deck revolves around, using the key cards as namesakes, and describing what the deck does at the same time. ‘Dark Depths/Thopter’ and ‘Hypergenesis’ are examples of this type of naming, though this can be extended to mechanics that are key as well, such as ‘Affinity’ and ‘Dredge’. The point is to tell you in the name what the deck is going to try to accomplish.

My favorite is when a deck has an off-the-wall name that you actually think about for a moment to see how it relates to the list of cards to which it is associated. ‘The Hulk Gets Crabs’ and ‘Ruel Gets Crabs‘ are two recent and humorous examples. Assuming you know things like Ruel refers to Ranger of Eos, the deck tells you that card A gets card B and that’s a really good thing, and due to creative play on the names of the cards, you have a humorous and memorable name to boot.

There is occasionally a deck name that will be essentially useless if it wasn’t for the fact that it is tightly associated to the deck list, because the name is like a person’s name, essentially a pseudo-unique and undescriptive tag or identifier. ‘KarstenBot BabyKiller’, for example, has no meaning to me, other than that it is related to a certain configuration of cards.

I, personally, give my deck names some thought when I become happy with a brew and deem it worthy of naming. I also keep a mental note of things that I think should be deck names simply for awesomeness and am occasionally inspired to try and make a deck worthy of the name I have thought up. After reading about Rise of the Eldrazi’s monsters, I’ve got one particular deck I’m hoping to create and name in a particularly witty way, but for now I will keep the name to myself, so as not to spoil the fun of a finished product.

I know that this did not offer a solution to what naming convention should be used in naming a deck, but I hope that I have laid out the issue for discussion and look forward to revisiting the issue based on some feedback from my readers. Should we collapse these diverse naming practices into a stricter and subsequently more efficient nomenclature, or should we be free to name our creations however we like, provided everyone can know what we are talking about? Let’s hash-it out in the comments below and on Twitter. Hit me up @RobJelf.

Trying to Grind at Pro Tour San Diego and the New Standard

Attending my first Pro Tour last weekend was a hip-check to my Super Ego. I’ve been to dozens of card conventions and large tournaments, but this is the first time I attended when I wasn’t even invited to the big dance. There was never a VS System Pro Circuit Championship that I wasn’t qualified for. Since 2002 there’s only been one year where I participated in Star Wars CCG Worlds that I didn’t have a bye to the second day. And when Decipher had a Fantasy Lord of the Rings TCG contest for Worlds on their official website I was worth 15 points!

Joking aside, the transition to magic has been oft-fruitless and never had that been so abundantly clear than when I was on the side of the convention hall near the dealers, looking accross at the “pros” duking it out for zeros.

I will say that if you love Magic you should definitely attend a pro tour. 8 man events fire from 9am to 3am. You can play a MTGO Draft for free. Some of the tournaments have insane prizes (xbox, flights to San Juan, Foil uncut sheets of Worldwake), and there’s plenty of room to battle EDH style, trade, or loaf around dishing about the game.

I fancy myself a competitive Magic Player so I didn’t do anything *fun* last weekend other than a 2HG sealed event. I had never played 2HG and my brother and I built our deck pretty suboptimally since we didn’t understand that Pulse Tracker was an inherent powerhouse. We had some fair bombs for regular sealed decks, but 2HG is a much different breed.

My first event was the LCQ. My pool was pretty fair and I thought it would allow me to do some work. It was a RG ally deck with a light black splash for Bojuka Brigand and Nimana Sell-Sword to up the ally count to double digits. Its bread and butter was the Kazuul Warlord and the double Graypelt Hunter. My first heartbreak came in game 3 of round 2 when I passed the turn to my opponent while tapped out with a 2/3 a 2/1 and the warlord untapped. I was at 11 life and he was at 4. My only card in hand was a burst lightning that I could kick next turn. My opponent had 2 counters on Quest for the Grave Lord and a Hagra Crocodile and a Ruthless Cullblade on board. My opponent draws, putting two cards in his hand. He says “Well, he can’t block” and swings in with the croc. I go into the tank: I’ve already drawn out his Groundswell so I’m not super worried about the swing. I’m a little bit concerned about Vampire’s bite, which I haven’t seen but some people board in vs. red. I also know he hasn’t played either of the Bloodhusk Ritualists that he had. I felt that if I blocked and let him put a 5/5 zombie on the field, I’d be hard pressed to get my four damage in if he just drew the ritualist. I decided not to block and the two cards in my opponent’s hand were Harrow and a second Groundswell dealing me exactly 11 damage. I stayed in but I was pretty broken after that. I think I ended up 2-2 or 2-3.

I was however, geared up for Extended and sleeved up Combo Elves the night before I left for San Diego while I caught up on my favorite USA shows White Collar and Psych. I’m big into television so if anyone ever wants to talk tv, comment away; I watch a lot.

I didn’t have the opportunity to test the elves much because of all the standard testing for my friends and roomates on the PT, so when I went into the PTQs with it I ended up 1-3, 2-3; but I learned a lot about the deck and had the chance to chat up Matt Nass during some heated games of Guillotine over the course of the weekend about sideboard plans and I feel a lot better slinging it tomorrow at the local PTQ.

What I really want to get to though, is standard. Since worlds, about everyone on my team other than my brother (turbofog) has been rocking Marijn “I hate the world” Lybaert’s Jund list. After the event he posted up the deck with updates and it looked a little something like this:

We call this list STUND (stock Jund); it’s about the least spicy Jund list ever made. I top 8′d states with it in New Hampshire and it has fared well for my friend and top 100 constructed player on planet Earth Jason Ford; the dude who x-1′d the first day of the Pro Tour with the above list (swap out 2 Rootbound Crag for 2 Raging Ravine) and dealt talk of the town Tom Ross his only constructed loss all weekend.

Like I said, this list isn’t spicy. It doesnt put Siege-Gang in, which is what a lot of Jund decks are doing right now. It doesn’t even consider Rampant Growth or Explore, but instead opts for the board developing Borderland Ranger in the MD (with two more in the board!). Most people who look at Jason’s list and ask me about it question these Borderlands and the Chandra Nalaar most often. A lot of times Chandra just gets there, we even bring her in for the mirror (cutting 4 leeches and 3 Pulse, always – no matter what). Against control decks, she gets there in the face of Wall of Denial, in matchups with creatures she’s recurring removal. Borderland Ranger is a little bit harder to defend, so I’ve asked JFord to give me 100 words on why the borderlander. He gave me doulbe that.

“Borderland Ranger is probably the card that gets the most funny looks, besides maybe the Chandra in the sideboard. Borderland Ranger, despite only being a 1 of, is largely the foundation of the deck. It lets you essentially play 25.5 lands, fixes your mana, fetches a basic against pesky Ruinblaster shenanigans, and even acts as a body – a 2/2 should not be ignored. Some ask why I wouldn’t just play another Ravine in its spot, as manlands largely do much of the same – they let me play a higher land count with much of the same utility of a spell, and they even tap for 2 colors to boot. However, the manlands don’t let you develop as well. Ravine never actually wants to block a Bloodbraid Elf, as it will cost you both a land drop and an entire turn (to keep the mana untapped), on top of doing nothing for your Ruinblaster situation. Furthemore, Borderland lets me cast Garruk, Bloodwitch, and Chandra post board – not something that just one land outside of Savage Lands is helping.

Don’t find yourself falling into the trap of automatically shaving the one Borderland, either when initially building or when sideboarding. It is as much of a core to this build as the 4 Bloodbraids are. ”

That’s all pretty well said without even considering it’s red zone implications. It trades with bloodbraid and is great to block a leech when you’ve got mana up with a bolt backup. He also lets you keep a lot of unkeepable hands as well. Even though I do sometimes get burned by them (more on this later), I’ll keep a two lander with borderland and gas no problem.

Jason ended up 8-2 in the constructed portion and 46th overall at the PT, his second straight top 50 finish and he’ll be riding the train into San Juan later on in the year.

So after my PTQing was done, they had a WPN event on Sunday with a first place prize of a flight and hotel to the next PT in San Juan. I decided to sleeve up STUND (though when I sat down for round 1 I totally forgot that I put my fetches in my elves deck and had to run and snag Jason’s deckbox to avoid DQ). I ended up in the top 8 with a sole loss to white weenie where in G1 I had to mull to 4 with no land and game 2 he just had more threats than I had removal though I likely incorrectly terminated a Conquerer’s Pledge token when my life was starting to get low. I beat Bant Twice, B/R burn, and UW Control.

Some Highlights:

R1 vs. UW Control, dropped game 1 but got there on game 2 with a double bloodwitch hand and game 3 with Chandra’s Ultimate against 3 Wall of Denial.

R3 vs. Bant my opponent could’ve had the draw but decided not to kill my garruk w/ 4 counters and let my lone bloodwitch beat past his two Baneslayers for 7 when I topdecked burn while he was at 8 life.

R5 vs. B/R aggro my opponent. In game 1 my opponent stuck on two lands and all I saw was Goblin Guide and Hellspark Elemental so I think I kept a slower hand in game 2. He went t3 Ball Lightning, T4 Ball Lightning, t5 Elemental Appeal (soaking two of the damage with a borderland!) dropping me to 2 life. He has a lavaclaw reaches out and 1 card in hand so I’m forced to play Bloodbraid Elf and luckily I hit Blightning stripping him of his own Blightning. He activated reaches and traded with the Elf. I cast a Broodmate Dragon on 6 and he played Hell’s Thunder and traded with one. I cast BLightning leaving terminate mana up and stripped him of his searing blaze, swung in to put him to 8 life. He whiffs the next turn and I drop him to 4. He rips elemental appeal but I had the terminate (and a bit blast if he found burn, to try and cascade into my own burn) and I win while playing all but one of my spells with just 2 life against BURN.

In the top 8 I lost to a pro named Ari Lax in the mirror. I kept a 2 land w/ borderland Ranger hand on the play with a bloodbraid and a goblin ruinblaster with Thrinax and Blightning to boot. I didn’t get there and even though first place was flight and a hotel, second place was an uncut foil sheet of worldwake, third and fourth place got a foil set of worldwake. What’d 5-8 get? THREE PACKS. awesome. I ripped my 4th Quest for the Nihil Stone of the weekend in the WWK pack and burned the other two for warmth.

I have a lot more to say about standard, especially the “Boss” Naya that everyone seems to really like. By now everyone knows that Scott-Vargas whent 17-0 and Tom Ross got the Whammy hitting ninth by two % points. Knight of the Reliquary is not a must have card in the standard environment and dealears at the PT were actually sold out of them accross the board. I’m glad I picked some up when Zendikar first hit because now they’re up to $12. I will say that Knight is now an absolute must kill and you really cannot let Bant and Naya untap with a Knight in play or it’s curtains for you and your spells.

The Naya deck is interesting and I hope I get to take it to some FNMs soon. There is certainly concerns about the mana, as I heard all weekend how those of the CFB guys who ran it and didn’t do well were losing to their mana all day. I decided to chat up Jason about it since all we do is dink around on Gmail all day:

Mike: so you dealt tom ross his only loss.. what are your thoughts on his naya and how is that gonna hold up?

JFord: I mean..its kinda tough to say because it was just one match where both games were basically blowouts. It’s funny…the naya decks mana is worse than jund. I almost think it costs you too much to be playing wild nacatl, but if you cut those then ranger does much much less and so on. It’s another intrinsically powerful deck, but im slantted towards jund just cuz im a fanboy. You also gotta kinda question if the sparksmage/collar thing is too cute or whether it is that sick.

Mike: well it seems sick against these decks that are almost all creatures, the bant that sam black played or even in the mirror where you will exhaust their sejeri steppes right quick.

JFord: this is definitely true. But, then you gotta ask where the metagame stands. He did take down 3 other jund players..so maybe im just a sack haha.

Mike: haha, do they bring in the sparkmages against jund?

JFord: no I dont believe so

Mike: the buzz around the convention center was that the guys on that squad that did bad with the naya lost primarily to mana issues so that does say something.

JFord: yea i mean..the mana is pretty poor
like i said…the deck works pretty hard to make nacatl happen
and its like..is it worht it? Maybe.
But if you cut nacatls for better mana then what is your deck doing?
not a whole lot probably.
also not sure why they’re playing scute mob over dragonmaster outcast, but im sure they know.

Mike: i agree on the nacatl thing, but my big question is why not wooly thoctar. like, I dont see the point of the one drop because you’re mana is so iffy, why not take the approach of the bant decks which is to spit out a big monster on t3? Like knight is fine obviously, but when are you playing your ncatl?

JFord: Well… first, the Ranger of Eos engine.
Secondly, which piggybacks on it, is stoneforge mystic.
Basically, more threat density for your equipment.
Your guys dont have to be THAT good if you can play more/ get them down quicker
because the equipment should trump.

Mike: I guess ranger tutoring up two 3/3s dying to be equipped is good.

JFord: Right. And it lets you do cutesy things like scutes and gives more value to your 1 drops
so i guess its kinda cute..it’s also pretty good

Mike: looking at this naya list its actually pretty good, I hadnt broken it down.
its got some weak cascades though.

JFord: Its got a lot of em, but it isn’t like jund where you’re depending on them either.

Mike: no

JFord: but yea..bloodbraid in jund =/= bloodbraid in naya
not even close

Mike: I just imagine all those times you hit mana birds or a t4 scute mob youre like, “suck”

JFord: Yea, but if you have a hierarch or two down..hasty wooly thoctar?

Mike: I mean yeah that’s an upside……….

Then we started delving into Chapin’s UW List. Something that has a bunch of us here at Power9Pro.com kind of fired up. I think a few of us are going to explore that list quite a bit in the upcoming weeks. I know I already have my Jaces, including a German one, which is pretty sweet.

That’s it for this week. Not sure how I feel about throwing a chat into the article but we’ll keep it spicy. Editing that bear took longer than it would’ve taken to summarize the whole sh’bang. Standard definitely seems a lot of fun right now, and I’m looking forward to playing the standard queues on MTGO as well as some FNMs.

But for now, back to the grind of extended and sleeving up combo elves tomorrow morning in Beantown.

Til next time,

Mike Gemme
mike@power9pro.com
bobbysapphire on MTGO

How to Quest for the Goblin Lord in Standard.

Decks can sometimes come from the most off-handed and reckless thoughts or actions. It seems a fitting occurrence that such impulsiveness would get Goblins into my bag for a trip to our local store’s new “Playtest Tuesday” event. The plan was to have players gather at the store for a couple hours of building, trading, talk, and testing, followed by a brief casual three round swiss tournament. Part of the idea is to try out deck ideas that you maybe wouldn’t want to trot out at FNM, but still want to give a good shake.

My Tuesday afternoon was to be busy and as I’m about to head out the door I looked at all the halfway torn apart decks and my FNM deck and decided this simply would not do. Needing to get out the door, I quickly put together in my head the not-yet-complete Legacy Goblins deck that I’ve been piecing together and a seemingly random Uncommon out of Worldwake: Quest for the Goblin Lord, which I remember being last pick in a recent draft.

Goblins are a competitive consideration for Legacy, made occasional showings in Lorwyn-era Standard, and briefly blipped on the radar shortly after M10 was released. Decks built around the tribe can put out impressive damage very quickly; there was a new card to play with, and I had a core set of cards to pull from already set aside and aching to be played. Besides, the night was to be ideas and semi-casual competition, right?

With around ten minutes of searching and sleeving, I cobbled together the following decklist, although I will admit a certain amount of shame at the poor sideboard that I just slapped together:


I arrived at the store just before the tourney, and I didn’t really get any time for small talk or discussion of the deck. I quickly asked around for my missing Quests, as I only had that single draft reject when I built the deck, and the folks there were plenty happy to be rid of them.

With only three rounds, the night was due to go quickly, but I was excited to try out my contraption against some of the decks I saw there. My matches went Jund, Boss Naya, and ended on UW Chapin. I ask forgiveness as in my haste and the casual nature of the night, I lack detailed notes on each game, and that’s not really the point of this article anyhow, but I will recall briefly what I can.

Jund seemed to suffer from being Jund against the massively fast amounts of damage Goblins could dish out, being slow on mana, and only getting guys down on turn two and three allowed me to quickly roll them. Getting Quest online and dropping Chieftans into play as early as turn 3 didn’t hurt either and Jund stumbling on mana just laid down and died.

Boss Naya, other than the name giving flashbacks to my console gaming days, gave me figurative fits. I quickly applied ludicrous amounts of pressure game one, but quickly came under the hammer, quite literally, as a resolved Behemoth Sledge began to eat my guys and bring the Naya player from burn range to victory in short order. This is where I became grateful for one quick consideration I did make during my speed-building session: Tuktuk Scrapper in the SB.

This little Goblin Ally comes in with a handy Shatter that will handle a Sledge or Basilisk Collar and ping the owner of such implements while he’s at it. My only regret is not having at least one more SB. Thanks to the Scrapper, I take game two. Surprisingly, and thanks to game one’s Naya come back from the brink, game three ends with a draw due to a frantic race in turns with Naya only one (missing) top decked Lightning Bolt away from death.

UW Chapin is a frustrating and strange deck to sit across from. Game one, again I get a high-powered Warren Instigator in before there is anything the opponent can do, and I roll them like a ball downhill. Game two, and for this I kick myself, I fail to consider that the opponent might side in Kor Firewalkers, In my defense, I had not seen the UW Chapin list yet, so I was not fully informed, but I slapped a playset of Unstable Footing in just for such a circumstance.

Quickly applying pressure, I bring him down to the single digits when he drops a Firewalker. I mentally roundhouse myself, but also can’t help but smile at what may be one of my new favorite creatures.  Besides, even with him gaining life and having a protected blocker, my goblin swarm can get damage through, and if I resolve an Eldrazi Monument, the game will be mine. I keep him on low life, even with him countering my guys and gaining from it. Of course this means when I have him at two life he drops another Firewalker.  Thanks to Ruinblaster and Edge eating his manlands, the game goes on till he finally drops Iona, Shield of Emeria with only 2 minutes left in the round. We called it a draw.

Good for a cheap pack, I took this deck to play against some buddies the next night. My goblin horde has eaten a weak Vampire deck, a UB Ally Combo deck, and in the toughest matchup, they lost to a Bant Shroud deck, courtesy of Deft Duelist.

In discussion of the deck, we have considered a couple of splash opportunities, using either Arid Mesa to enable a Stoneforge Mystic package with Firewalker as a possible extension, or going with Scalding Tarn and a package of cheap and unexpected counterspells like Dispel to help power down things in the control match, or fend off opposing removal.

I’m personally leaning towards the white splash, allowing me to do tricks such as the one suggested by fellow Power 9 Pro team member Dillon Wilson, equipping SGC with a Basilisk Collar. Tentatively, I think the package will look something like this:

Out

In

The sideboard needs some help, but I know that I’m going to be looking for at least one more Ruinblaster and Scrapper, likely more Searing Blaze, and possibly a Path to Exile or two. I want to avoid going too Boros, but the power of the Stoneforge Mystic and Basilisk Collar are undeniable, and having a couple non-goblins allows me to run Assaults without leaving the door open. Another great thing is that the Quest for the Goblin Lord only cares about goblins as they enter the battlefield. Once it is online, it’ll gladly give everyone a +2/+0 boost.

Now, I’ll open up another thought or two for feedback which you can leave in the comments below. Should Voracious Dragon take the place of Eldrazi Monument? Should we look at Glory of Warfare instead of the Quest?

I’ve had a lot of fun with this randomly thrown together, Quest-inspired deck and look forward to working on it and making it as strong as possible. Is there a chance that WotC is throwing us a bone here and that the tribal deck that maybe poised to kick Jund off its throne is not Vampires, but rather Goblins? Packing synergy, speed, and power, I really think the little red guys have a decent chance.

Rob J.
P.S. Follow me on Twitter @RobJelf