Tag Archives: zendikar

What We Should Expect from Scars of Mirrodin

We just recently had the last set in the Zendikar block come down the line and the Standard environment is starting to shift about to fit some of the epic Eldrazi and their associated mechanics and cards into winning and promising decks. So, I want to look at what the Scars of Mirrodin block will likely hold for us and what Zendikar block cards we should be excited about playing in the Zendikar-Scars Standard environment.

Some of you may feel that we are too far out from the Scars release to begin serious speculation as to what the block’s contents will be, but let me explain why I am taking on this task and the unprecedented support we have in this venture compared to other block speculations in the past.

Much like a couple of the people I follow over on Twitter, namely Kelly Reid of Quiet Specualation (@kellyreid) and John Medina of MTGMetagame Blog and the recent Pack-to-Power project at Mananation (@mtgmetagame), I believe in trading for value. It is partly due to necessity as our beloved Magic is not the cheapest pursuit to be enamored with, and because the trading is also like a game in itself, a place to practice salesmanship, bartering, and test your wits and savvy against others.

Part of the way I play the trading game is to get a slight edge in trades and get a huge edge in speculative growth. This is a strategy that I’ve read Kelly Reid talking about before, and many people participate in speculative purchasing when a new set is about to drop to ensure they get in on cards before a price spike, real or perceived. The biggest key to speculative trading or buying is to put together knowledge and make tentative conclusions about the future. Scars of Mirrodin gives us a special quantity and quality of fore-knowledge about what cards we can expect and what cards we should be making sure we acquire before any fluctuations in demand price them out of our grip.

Thanks to the below points of knowledge, I feel pretty secure talking about which cards to keep an eye on and what to look for as we get closer to the release of Scars of Mirrodin.

Rotation Situation

WotC likes to maintain certain staples in one form or another, as shown with the Onslaught fetches rotating out of Extended coinciding with the Zendikar fetches rotating into the format. We can expect similar rotational repeats to occur in this exchange. Certain staple cards of importance to the formats’ health will reoccur, possibly directly but more likely in an indirect approximation.

We can expect to see cards that will fill the roles of Engineered Explosives, Chalice of the Void, and Chrome Mox. Personally, I suspect that they will take yet another crack at the Lotus, attempting to create yet another variation of it that will be attractive but balanced, likely as the replacement for Chrome Mox.

Inter-block Synergies

Remember Vampire Nocturnus, the quirky mono-colored Vampire Lord who had barely any vampires to lord over at the time he dipped into the very multi-colored card pool? If you had the foresight to grab them for $2-$4 when they were first being cracked, just a couple months later you could have off-loaded them at the peak price of around $45 each. That’s quite a return. How about Knight of the Reliquary, which suddenly became super-relevant with the introduction of Zendikar Fetches and Spell-lands? I intend to feel out the next Nocturnus or Knight of the Reliquary while it is still in its larva ‘Junk Rare’ status.

Déjà vu

We’ve been to Mirrodin before, and we know what we saw the last time we were there. Last time we were visiting Mirrodin we had the following themes and these are my thoughts on their chances to return or matter, and which cards to grab or watch for with that in mind:

Modular

Modular isn’t likely to return in any meaningful way as the unintended consequences of moving +1/+1 counters around in mass with any artifact or creature sacrifice outlet can lead to much confusion, hilarity and terror. Cool concept, but abuse potential is too high.

Equipment

Equipment is going to be amazing, and there is plenty of support for this using the Inter-block Synergy premise. Look at Armament Master, Stoneforge Mystic, Kor Duelist, and Kitesail Apprentice. Mirrodin was the birthplace of the Equipment subtype in Magic history and would be a perfect place to explore new design space. Stoneforge Mystic and Armament Master might prove to be undervalued at current prices if juicy and innovative Equipment comes out of the Mirrodin Armories.

Artifacts matter/Affinity

Affinity is dead. There is too much danger in how easily it can and was abused to even touch it again. If something even looking like affinity drops. You can expect a massive chorus of people singing ‘The End is Nigh’ and also players just leaving due to having ‘been there, done that’ before. It should go without saying, but the Artifact lands will also be only a memory, just like affinity.

Other artifacts matter cards will of course be abundant and they should be. As such, I’d make sure I have some of the Zendikar Block Artifacts set aside just incase they should prove integral to one archetype or another. Khalni Gem, Eldrazi Monument, Eternity Vessel, and even Seer’s Sundial have use or abuse potential if made a little better by also adding to your ‘Artifacts Matter’ counts.

We also have a couple cards that already care about Artifacts in Thada Adel, Acquisitor, and Lodestone Golem. With Pilgrim’s Eye and Everflowing Chalice helping your mana develop and giant colorless game finishing creatures abounding, Scars may provide enough support for an Artifact/Colorless Control Deck to form and for an anti-artifact control deck to challenge it for superiority. With very strict counterspells being the norm lately, Annul might see print again, making a deck featuring Thada more attractive to battle the artifact hordes for diehard Blue players.

Charge Counters

There are five cards in Zendikar block that reference charge counters and three are considered junk Rares, Angelheart Vial, Sphinx-Bone Wand, and Surrakar Spellblade, one is a junk Mythic, Eternity Vessel, and the last one is Everflowing Chalice, a utility colorless mana acceleration card that could be broken in half if you can manipulate charge counters. Mirrodin had a few ways to play with charge counters on the various artifacts and this seemingly innocuously named class of counter could provide a subtle inter-block window to doing some very disturbing things in Standard. If you can somehow add counters to an established Eternity Vessel or Everflowing Chalice, you can begin an unexpected climb to recovery or victory where you would have otherwise been dead. Surrakar actually may have the most potential however as he generates charge counters that may be moved about and his own ability is pretty great as it is now with cards like Distortion Strike.

Sunburst

This one I’m on the fence about. Sunburst cared about how many different colors of mana you paid to cast something. After all of the multicolored pains of the past two years with Shadowmoor and Alara, this may be one thing they let fall aside to make room for something less colorful. There are also no cards at the moment that really would make this exciting to see, so put on the spot I’ll say this isn’t going to come back.

Imprint

This is dead. As much as Chrome Mox rocks, players want to cast their spells, not discard them from the game attached to something else. WotC has been particularly attentive to want players want to do lately rather than rewarding them for doing the counter-intuitive. I might expect something that seems reminiscent of Imprint in that you may reveal a card, use a card already removed, or use cards in your graveyard to apply some trait to the artifact in question, but they are going to let you keep the cards in your hand until you’ve used them or your opponent takes them away.

Indestructibility

This could become a theme that will make combat and various strategies more complex but also make playing the cards and killing them more rewarding. With the Edict effects on cards like Gatekeeper of Malakir and Consuming Vapors, the door is open to introduce indestructible permanents that can still be answered. Consequentially, Consuming Vapors may see a corresponding rise in price if playable indestructibles are spoiled. I’d also pay closer attention to ways to neutralize things without destroying them, such as Oblivion Ring and Path to Exile like cards that may show up in M11.

Entwine

We like modality and this seems ripe for a review and expansion just like Kicker received. We saw  Entwine in Mirrodin the first time around and I hope to see it again with a new twist, but I’m cautiously optimistic here. The reason for caution is that kicker had been gone for a single Extended Rotation before it returned, leaving a year that the Extended format had no kicks. We may see a similar period for Entwine when Mirrodin rotates out, but I hope not because it seems like just the type of flexibility we would want upon losing all of the multicolored support and options.

In either case, there are very few cards that I can think of off hand that could benefit value-wise from such a comeback. In fact, the only one is Pyromancer Ascension, and then only if the right kind of options show up on the cards. Perhaps a few of the Rebound cards can get together with some Entwine cards and make Johnny happy with a little Pyromancer’s combo deck.

Colorlessness

Ok, so this wasn’t really a theme, but you have to admit that Mirrodin’s colorless Artifacts and the Eldrazi seem to be made for each other. WotC also seems to be dropping a hint to this extent and some possible reprints in the issuing of Cloudpost, the massively colorless mana producing Locus, as the May FNM promo. The price of the Eldrazi titans and all the colorless spells could see a significant bump up if Locus reappears in either Cloudpost or an associated form. Another thing that might have a similar effect is if a good colorless manabase can be formed up out of Quicksands, Tetonic Edges, Eldrazi lands, and colorless man lands like Dread Statuary or new iterations of Blinkmoth Nexus or a Mutavault-esque land.  Finally, also be on the look out for  a reappearance of Urza-tron in M11 either exactly or a series of role sharing similar lands. People want to cast Eldrazi titans and WotC wants people to want and do just that, so they’ll be sending enablers down the pipe.

So there you have it. By analyzing WotC’s trends and past, as well as player’s behaviors and desires, we can make some predictions on what cards that are currently floating about our environment that may become suddenly much more relevant once Scars starts getting spoiled. In five months you’ll be able to look back to this article and thank me for convincing you to grab a couple extra Lodestone Golems and Consuming Vapors now, while they were obtainable.

Agree? Disagree? Predictions I missed? Say so in the comments section below, or catch me on Twitter @RobJelf!

Deckbuilding at the Worldwake Pre Release

Everyone is writing about Worldwake right now and we probably have at least another week or two of reading about the impact of the set in Standard, Extended, Sealed, Draft, Legacy, EDH, Type 4, Mental Magic… the list goes on.

This article is more focused on deckbuilding in the new sealed format. Any type of Magic player has the opportunity to run in this format over the next couple weeks whether it be release events this weekend, release events online two weeks from now, or maybe most importantly (at least for me) the Last Chance Qualifier for Pro Tour San Diego on February 18th in sunny Southern California.

I ran in two flights on Saturday and went 3-0-1, 3-1 with a sole loss to a pretty oustanding black deck featuring Sorin Markov and Butcher of Malakir among other fun things. My decks had some pretty slick cards as well; but I’m not 100% sure if I built my decks correctly, and that’s what this piece is going to try and figure out. I welcome and encourage any type of suggestion or criticism in the comments section. Like I said I’m looking to grind into the Pro Tour in two weeks so any help is appreciated.

Here’s a look at my first pool (a * denotes Foil):

BLACK – 14

Bloodhusk Ritualist
Dead Reckoning x2
Giant Scoprion
Guul Draz Vampire
Nemesis Trap
Mindless Null
Pulse Tracker
Ruthless Cullblade
Ruthless Cullblade *
Scrib Nibblers
Surrakar Marauder
Tomb Hex
Vampire Lacerator

BLUE – 13

Calcite Snapper
Dispel
Living Tsunami
Mysteries of the Deep
Paralyzing Grasp
Rite of Replication
Spell Pierce
Tideforce Elemental
Treasure Hunt
Umara Raptor
vapor Snare
Whiplash Trap
Welkin Tern

GREEN – 11

Arbor Elf
Cobra Trap
Explore
Feral Contest
Greenweaver Druid
Nissa’s Chosen
Nature’s Claim
River Boa
Relic Crush
Vastwood Zendikon
Vines of Vastwood

RED – 15

Bladetusk Boar
Deathforge Shaman
Goblin Roughrider
Goblin Shortcutter x2
Grotag Thrasher
Hellfire Mongrel
Plated Geopede
Quest for the Pure Flame
Ricochet Trap
Rotting Terrain x2
Searing Blaze
Stone Idol Trap
Torch Slinger

WHITE -17

Apex Hawks x2
Arrow Volley Trap
Battle Hurda
Caravan Hurda
Devout Lightcaster
Guardian Zendikon
Kabira Evangel
Lightkeeper of Emeria
Loam Lion
Join the Ranks
Kor Skyfisher
Journey to Nowhere
Narrow Escape
Nimbus Wings
Noble Vestige
Rest for the Weary

ARTIFACT – 8

Explorer’s Scope *
Hedron Rover
Khalni Gem
Lodestone Golem
Spidersilk Net
Stonework Puma
Trailblazer’s Boots
Walking Atlas

LAND – 6

Halimar Depths
Jwar Isle Refuge
Lavaclaw Reaches
Sejiri Steppe
Teetering Peaks
Turntimber Grove

I got to build across from my good friend Andy Roman in Flight 1 which is a great advantage in a Pre Release since you can talk about building and card choices and what not; since you really haven’t had any time to truly evaluate the cards before this point. Right away I knew that Black and Green were out (there were no black cards in my first pack at all), and that I would definitely be playing Blue or Red. The only decision I had to make was whether or not to run one of those with White. White was really lacking creatures even though it had some good ones with Evasion. All Five creatures I would run with White had either first strike or flying. There wasn’t a good chance of me playing Kabira Evangel or Devout Lightcaster since I had such little allies nor enough White to warrant a WWW casting cost. The only thing white gave me that I loved was Journey to Nowhere.

After a second glance at everything I decided that I was definitely playing Blue as my best cards were clearly Living Tsunami and Rite of Replication. 11 of my 13 Blue cards were striaght up good, and I ended up playing that many. I then do what I normally do when building a sealed deck, which is put my Blue cards in the middle by curve and the Red and White cards above and below to see how the decks would look. It became pretty clear when I had nine solid Red creatures as well as Searing Blaze and Stone Idol Trap which I felt was a pretty strong bomb even though Andy sorta disagreed. Turns out it was, especially when I got to say “I’ll Rite of Replication my Stone Idol token.” Leaving me with a permanent 6/12 trampler on the board (since the instant says “exile it at the beginning of your next end step” instead of the instant indicating the token has that text.

I went 3-0-1 with the following deck, choosing to Intentionally Draw in the final round so my opponent and I would each get six packs instead of eight and four.

Normally I run 18 land but I only curve to 5 (considering I’ll never cast Stone Idol Trap for 6), I had nearly no landfall and I have Living Tsunami, so I went with 17.

Some limited analysis of the new cards.

Treasure Hunt – I am pretty underwhelmed by this card, especially on turn 2. If you cast it on turn 2 on the draw you’re automatically discarding if you had no one drop. A couple of times I hit 3-4 cards off of it and most of the time I ended up discarding a land or two. One time it was huge though when I had 5 lands in hand and 2 spells I ran it just to discard and I drew 3 more lands and could dump 5 lands to my graveyard. That seems pretty rare.

Mysteries of the Deep – this card was great, even if I was wasting a turn playing it to draw 3.

Searing Blaze – Might as well just say sorcery in this format, but it’s a pretty good sorcery.

Stone Idol Trap – a total bomb. won me several games including a gunsling vs. Darwin Castle.

Hedron Rover – Was really good, a 4/4 attacker for 4 was really solid all day.

Halimar Depths – was always really, really good for me. Bouncing it every turn with tsunami was even better.

Grotag Thrasher – not great stats but he can really open up a clogged board for him and some friends.

Deathforge Shaman – Another game winner. This cycle of guys who multikick for their color are all really strong, this guy is good; the black version is great.

Vapor Snare – Unfortunately I never cast this card but it seems quite outstanding with a limited drawback, especially in a deck with a lower curve like the one I ran. Does not combo well with Tsunami.

Here’s my second card pool (again, foils have a *):

BLACK – 17

Agadeem Occultist *
Bojuka Brigand x2
Dead Reckoning
Death’s Shadow
Grim Discovery
Guul Draz Spectre
Guul Draz Vampire
Heartstabber Mosquito
Kalitas, Blood Chief of Ghet
Mire’s Toll
Nimana Sell Sword
Scrib Nibblers x2
Soul Stair Expedition
Vampire Hexmage
Vampire’s Bite

BLUE – 13

Aether Tradewinds
Enclave Elite x2
Halimar Excavator
Hedron Crab
Merfolk Seastalkers
Shoal Serpent
Sky Ruin Drake x2
Sphinx of Jwar Isle
Tideforce Elemental
Trapfinder’s Trick
Treasure Hunt
Twitch

GREEN – 17

Arbor Elf
Beast Hunt
Beastial Menace
Cobra Trap
Explore
Grazing Gladehart
Grappler Spider
Graypelt Hunter
Nissa’s Chosen
Oren-Rief Survivalist
Relic Crush
Scythe Tiger
Savage Sliouette
Slingbow Trap
Snapping Creeper
Turntimber Basilisk
Vines of Vastwood

RED – 12

Akoum Battleslinger
Bazaar Trader =(
Burst Lightning
Deathforge Shaman
Magma Rift
Quest for the Goblin Lore
Searing Blaze
Skitter of Lizards
Slavering Nulls
Tuktuk Grunts

WHITE – 13

Apex Hawks
Battle Hurda
Brave the Elements
Iona’s Judgment x2
Kor Hookmaster
Kor Outfitter
Kor Sanctifiers
Marshal’s Anthem
Shieldmate’s Blessing
Veteran Reflexes x2
Windborne Charge

ARTIFACT – 5

Adventuring Gear
Hedron Rover
Spidersilk Net
Trusty Machete
Walking Atlas

LAND – 6

Bojuka Bog
Dread Statuary
Graypelt Refuge
Halimar Depths
Khalni Garden
Piranha Marsh

I’m definitely interested in analyzing this pool because I most hastily built it. I kid you not, that the kid I was stuck sitting next to spelled so bad that I thought I was going to vomit all over my packs while waiting to open them. That and, interestingly enough, I opened both Sphinx of Jwar Isle and The Bloodchief of Ghet in my FNM draft the night before, played U/B and split in the finals of my pod. Now I have them both again not 24 hours later. Weird.

I had enough playables in Blue that because of the Sphinx I should run that color. Depending on how much you devalue the Bloodchief, you could consider going green here, but there just aren’t enough playables. I just put a list together and I struggled to get to 20 and I don’t want to run two Enclave Elite. Black just had way too much power with Heartstabber Mosquito, Guul Draz Spectre, plus it gave me a really strong ally subtheme due to the synergy with Agadeem Occultist, Halimar Excavator and Hedron Crab.

A quick aside about milling in limited: normally I think milling with just a crab that’s going to maybe hit for a few isn’t that great, but with the excavators you’re not milling 3-6 cards anymore. With six allies and the crab I had the potential to mill 20 or so cards per game, meaning that I’m no longer just changing my opponent’s next draw, I’m actively stripping their deck. That coupled with the Occultist’s ability to steal creatures and Guul Draz Specter stripping their hand, I was actively attacking their deck; so I went for it.

I end up with a pretty decent curve but very light on creature removal. My goal was to hopefully mill enough good cards to let my bombs do the talking. That went pretty well as I went 3-1 losing only to an absolutely ridiculous deck aforementioned.

Some takes on the cards here:

Agadeem Occultist: Sadly I never got to use his ability because he was a lightning rod for removal due to all my milling/allies, but if I ever tapped him it was going to be GG.

Tideforce Elemental: I love tappers, even bad ones (sup Vectis Dominator). This is going to be one of my favorite cards in limited in the near future. He was always oustanding be it on offense or defense.

Dead Reckoning: This card was extremely impressive. At one point an opponent of mine Heartstabbered my Kalitas and his friend said “that’s how they do it on the pro tour!” It was pretty embarassing when I Dead Reckoning’d his Machete equipped Flyer next turn and my board was soon Kalitas, Sphinx and vampire tokens.

Aether Tradewinds: Not very exciting but it gets things done.

Halimar Excavator: I’ll take a 1/3 for 2 in Blue, especially if I can swing more allies. I liked him all day.

Bojuka Brigand: These guys were great when I kept hitting allies but when a 3/3 comes down and they can’t even chump it kind of sucks.

Dread Statuary: I loved this guy, especially with grim discovery. He got into the red zone, he defended intimidators, and he killed guys the rest of my team couldnt. I’d run him anytime I have him.

Enclave Elite: Pretty dumpy, I sided the second one in against Blue for the Hedron Crab a bit. My friend Andy really liked multikicker but I didn’t use it much and found it pretty underwhelming when used to add +1/+1 tokens against me, and only really good with the guys who multikick for one color to make you discard or burn or gain life.

My initial thoughts on Worldwake was that it was going to be mainly inconsequential, and I think mainly that was right. I hadn’t considered the fact that it would be super fun, and I walk away from these events with the realization that it is. I’m sure winning certainly helped that feeling, but I enjoyed playing almost every card I laid on the table on Saturday.

I really feel like I want to be blue at the LCQ in San Diego. It is really easy to clog up the ground with white and blue but I think blue has a little bit more trickery with cards like Into the Roil and Whiplash Trap to get you through it. It’s already tough getting through Kraken Hatching, and Calcite Snapper one-ups it. I’m also in love with Tideforce Elemental. But really, I would follow your bombs because there are so many of them in this new set.

I will say this about draft: I think the draft format is going to be defined by allies. There are so many allies now it frightens me to the point that I don’t know if I want to draft much if I’m going to be fighting over allies for three packs; but we shall see.

I’ll leave you with my recommendation of the top three Worldwake cards I’m picking up right now, aside from the obvious mythic rares: Chain Reaction, Lavaclaw Reaches and Celestial Colonnade.

Later,

Mike Gemme
BobbySapphire on MTGO
mike@power9pro.com

Tales From the Worldwake Prerelease

This morning I woke up only to receive a telephone call from my friend Matthew, asking if I wanted to go to the prerelease in the nearby town of Sherwood Park. Normally I go to a closer one on Sunday, but with the offer of a ride extended, I packed my Dragon’s Egg and trade binder and was off for a prerelease a day earlier than I had anticipated.

When I got to the site, I was happy to see several faces that I hadn’t seen for several months, and exchanged pleasantries for several minutes until the product was handed out. Here’s what I received.

The first thing I noticed in this pool were the rares. We can safely say that Bazaar Trader and Emeria, the Sky Ruin are unplayable, as we don’t have an Abyssal Persecutor or enough cards to warrant a mono-white deck to make either worthwhile. We also have a Mordant Dragon, which is an amazing bomb, although ti requires a heavy commitment to red. Likewise, we have Celestial Mantle, but that is hindered by the same high-colour cost as the dragon. Finally we have Guul Draz Specter, a card I’m always happy to have, and the new Theda Adel, Acquisitor which has the potential to steal a timely Blazing Torch, Trusty Machete, or even a Lodestone Golem.

Looking at the white cards in this pool, we have some very good support cards, such as an Ionas Judgment, an Apex Hawks and the always amazing Brave the Elements, in addition to the aforementioned Celestial Mantle. All in all, I don’t think that there are enough high-quality cards for white to warrant being a main colour, which pretty much excludes the mantle from getting played.

Blue in this pool is actually quite deep. We have bombs like Living Tsunami, Vapor Snare and Merfolk Seastalkers, as well as the neo-Sleep: Permafrost Trap. This can definitely be a main colour, as it has some of the most powerful cards in the pool.

When we look at the black cards, we unfortunately come up a little light on removal. However, we have solid cards like Giant Scorpion and Vampire Nighthawk. Also worth noting are the 2 copies of Pulse Tracker, which can act as a pseudo Savannah Lions, so if we have the cards to play a bit more aggressive deck we can go that route.

The red cards in this pool are okay, but they all have a tendency to get outclassed relatively quickly. While Crusher Zendikon and Goblin Shortcutter are fine, I just don’t know exactly how much we can count on the red cards in this pool to still be relevant in the late game.

Looking over the artifacts and lands, nothing super-special jumps out at me, except for the pair of Adventuring Gear, the double Tectonic Edge and the Quicksand. However, I don’t want to play too many lands that produce colourless, and I think the Edges are best suited for the sideboard, to be brought in against any opponents lucky enough to open a new manland.

In the end I decided to play an aggressive blue-black build, using my early drops like Pulse Tracker and Welkin Tern in conjunction with Adventuring Gear to swing in for lots of early damage, and then use my late game cards to clean up the leftovers.

Here’s the list I ended up playing:

In round 1 I was paired against Tom, who told me that this was only his second sealed deck tournament ever, after starting around Conflux. I didn’t want to let my guard down, as I wasn’t familiar with the new cards he might have, so I made sure to treat him just like any opponent. I game 1 I got the jump on him with a pair of Pulse Trackers and an Adventuring Gear, and when he finally mustered a defense in the form of a Shepherd of the Lost, I had the Vapor Snare to punish him for playing such a good card, and he quickly succumbed to the beats doled out by his own angel.

Game 2 was quite different, with him resolving both the Shepherd of the Lost and an Archon of Redemption. He also had an Oracle of Mul Daya which ensured that he was able to dig through to his threats extremely quickly. I made one misplay in this game which probably would have bought me an extra turn or two. He had a 3/3 Gnarlid Pack which he attacked with into my Caustic Crawler. I blocked and used my Quicksand to weaken his attacker and ensure the survival of my creature. Looking back, I should have let the creatures trade so that the next turn I could cast Dead Reckoning for 4 to kill off his shepherd, rather than keep taking beats from the angel. Eventually I get a Vampire Nighthawk and equip him with both copies of Adventuring Gear, gaining 6 life in a single swing, but I fail to draw enough lands and quickly roll over to Baloth Woodcrasher and his fliers.

In game 3 he gets a Hada Freeblade on turn one, which I meet with my double Pulse Tracker and Adventuring Gear. On turn two me casts Explore and fails to play a land, while I augment my forces with Vampire Nighthawk and Thada Adel, Acquisitor. Even when he finally gets a third land, my fliers have dealt too much damage to him for him to recover.

1-0 (2-1)

In round 2 I’m up against Andrew, a player who was showing off his triple Windrider Eel and double Harrow earlier, so I’m wary of landfall creatures. He has a Wind Zendikon which trades with my Welkin Tern, and I play a turn 3 Theda Adel, Acquisitor when he has an Island on the battlefield. When the merfolk connects, I snag a Blazing Torch, which I use to later dispatch a Windrider Eel. Theda gets through on the next two turns to snag a Pilgrims Eye and a Walking Atlas over the course of the next 2 turns. Add an Adventuring Gear to my unblockable merfolk and the game is quickly mine.

When sideboarding I think about boarding in a Tectonic Edge to lessen the impact of a Zendikon, but I decide that my mana base is fragile enough with all the early drops I want to make, and the Quicksand is probably a better utility land in this situation. In the second game, I again get a Theda Adel, Acquisitor, as well as my Living Tsunami and a Vapor Snare to take a Windrider Eel. He can’t really do anything against this, and I take the match in 2 games.

2-0 (4-1)

In round 3 I’m up against my friend and ride for the day Matt. I’ve seen that he has a red deck packing both Mordant Dragon and Hellkite Charger, in addition to an Omnath, Locus of Mana. Needless to say, I’m worried. He starts out with an Arbor Elf and a Vastwood Animist, but doesn’t draw any mountains for a while. I punish him with my Ruthless Cullblade suited up with some Adventuring Gear, and his lack of removal spells defeat for him in game 1.

In game 2 he has a pair of early Harrows to ramp up his mana, and he quickly resolves a Hellkite Charger. I think I’m set when I draw a Vampire Nighthawk, but he has Claws of Valakut to make my vampire a lot less impressive. However, I have enough creatures on the board so that he can’t attack multiple times with his dragon and live, so he needs to spend 7 mana (including his Arbor Elf) to give his dragon pseudo-vigilance. Luckily for me, I draw the 5th land I needed to cast Vapor Snare, taking his untapped dragon and swinging for the win thanks to the dragon’s haste.

3-0 (6-1)

In round 4 I’m up against another one of my good friends, Josh. I know he’s packing Sorin Markov, Abyssal Persecutor, and Lodestone Golem. In the first game he resolves a Marsh Threader and swampwalks his way to victory, aided by a Hedron Rover. In game 2 I take the draw and Quicksand his threader as soon as he attacks with it, and I use Welkin Tern and double Adventuing Gear to pound for 6 repeatedly and clinch the second game. In the rubber match, I keep a 2 land hand on the play, and live to regret it, as I don’t draw a land for 2 or 3 turns. By the time I cast Vampire Nighthawk, I’ve been taking 4 a turn to the double Marsh Threader assault, and he has no problems casting a Journey to Nowhere.

3-1 (7-3)

Due to my tiebreakers I get second place, earning me 5 packs of Worldwake. I realize that I shouldn’t have kept the 2 land hand in the last game, and I realize that I need to mulligan more often, as I have a tendency to keep sketchy hands. I also realized that Treasure Hunt is a very poor card in limited. I must of cast in 7 or 8 times in the day, and I never drew more than a single card off of it. I think that it is much better in constructed, but in limited, I’d much rather have something that affects the game state more. Like Twitch, and I have a personal vendetta against the reprinting of Twitch. I also love the irony of how in yesterday’s article I touted Marsh Threader was extremely important in this new limited format, only to lose to a pair of them in the finals.

Anyway, the tournament was great, and I look forward to using what I learned tomorrow, when I play in another Worldwake Prerelease. If you want live updates of how I’m doing, make sure to follow my twitter feed at www.twitter.com/zturchan, and as always, post any comments, suggestions or questions in the comments section, or email me at zak -AT- power9pro.com.

Cheers,

Zak

Zendikar and Worldwake: A Combined Limited Format

Well it’s that time of year, where Magic players from all around the world gather together to play in the prerelease for the latest set, in this case, Worldwake. This set brings with it some of the most powerful cards to hit standard in recent memory such as Jace, the Mindsculptor and Abyssal Persecutor. However, standard isn’t currently in season, and I’m still getting a feel for extended, so I decided to write about limited, and how to best succeed at your local prerelease.

Unlike Zendikar before it, Worldwake is a second expansion, which means that we’ll still be using three packs of Zendikar for our sealed pool. Thus, we cannot simply consider cards in the context of the Worldwake set, we must consider them in the context of the entire Zendikar block thus far.

For example, take the new one-drop ally, Hada Freeblade. In Worldwake, there are 11 allies, 4 of which are rare. We can discount the rare ones because they will seldom show up in a limited card pool. Of the other 6 non-rare allies, none of them share a colour with the Freeblade, and although we will often play multiple colours in a limited format, the benefit of any ally is greatly reduced when you have a low density of allies. Of course you could remedy this by increasing the number of colours you play, but then you run the risks associated with an unstable mana base. Thus, we can say that in a format that only includes worldwake, the Freeblade is most often going to be a white Norwood Ranger.

However, when your sealed pool is a 3-3 split of product, the power of freeblade goes up because of the number and quality of allies in the Zendikar expansion. Freeblade is best when you can follow it up with a turn 2 ally, ideally Kazandu Blademaster, but something like Oran-Reif Survivalist also works. Compare the survivalist to something like Bojuka Brigand, and you see the difference in card quality.

Another card I think has huge potential in Limited is Marsh Threader, the companion to Zendikar’s Cliff Threader. We saw in 6x Zendikar sealed that the most popular colour combination was without a doubt red/black. This card is a tool that will hopefully be good enough to see mainboard play because of the sheer number of players that choose to play black for cards like Hideous End, Urge to Feed and Disfigure. The allure of the removal spell is a strong one, and many players will choose these colours for that reason. Therefore, I think that this card is an extremely viable candidate for any deck playing white. In Zendikar limited, having efficient creatures is of the utmost importance, and so when we have a creature that will be unblockable against the majority of the field, we might wish to overvalue it a little bit more. In the same vein, Quag Vampires might be a bit more playable in this format than it normally would, but the colour commitment for that card is slightly higher and thus makes the vampires slightly less attractive.

Oftentimes in Zendikar limited, I would notice that some creatures were amazing in a vacuum, but never stayed alive long enough to be absurdly powerful. I’m talking about cards like Territorial Baloth, Merfolk Seastalkers and Baloth Woodcrasher. All these cards were powerful, but they were only a Hideous End or Inferno Trap away from being destroyed. Even some bombs out of Zendikar packs could be quickly invalidated by removal, making them a lot less spectacular. For this reason, I believe that Canopy Cover is a Worldwake spell that should not be overlooked. Of course it can be responded to, but it adds so much resiliency to your creatures that are otherwise so vulnerable that I would run the risk of the 2-for-1 that accompanies all aura to better enhance my long-term game plan.

These are the 3 cards that I believe should not be undervalued now that Worldwake has been added into the mix. While most players will be able to identify the likes of Bestial Menace and Apex Hawks as powerful in limited, the best players will look beyond those for the cards that are best suited to the environment.

If you have any ideas as to what cards might be great in limited out of Worldwake, sound off in the comments. Any questions/comments/suggestions can also be aired there, by emailing me at zak -AT- power9pro.com or via my twitter feed at www.twitter.com/zturchan.

I wish you all luck in your prereleases, and may open many copies of Jace, the Mindsculptor.

Cheers,

Zak

PTQ San Diego Tournament Report (Zendikar Sealed)

Saturday was my first PTQ in a year (school, work, and a girlfriend will do that), and 5 of my friends and I left early in the morning to make the 3.5 hour drive down to Calgary. The event was hosted in the banquet room of a local arena, and we had 129 players, a record for Alberta. The format was Zendikar Sealed deck, and everything went relatively smoothly. We were in the banquet room of a local arena, which while not an amazing venue, still worked well. After swapping our sealed pools, I got to look at the following pool.

This pool looked quite playable, and so I looked through a number of potential builds. The white had some solid removal in Journey To Nowhere, Arrow Volley Trap and Pitfall Trap. However, the only mana fixing that would help me was the Greypelt Refuge, which only made white attractive if I was playing green.

The blue was solid. However, I wanted something more for a main colour, and while there were some excellent playables in blue, there simply weren’t enough of them. Unfortunately the best blue card in the pool (Seastalkers) only shines when you can get multiple activations out of him. Not to say he’s not one of the best blue cards in the set (He is), but it didn’t make me want to play blue as a main colour.

When we get to black, we finally see something of substance. We have our first big bomb (Kalitas) and some removal and solid creatures. I’m a huge fan of Nimana Sell-Sword, and the pair of them makes them even more appealing. Top it all off with Surrakar Marauder and some Giant Scorpions and we’ve got our main colour.

Red also looks very promising, with one of the best bombs in the set (Hellkite Charger), and some nice removal and creatures. We also have a couple more Allies to pump our Sell-Swords if we play black, which is always useful. Again, the red had good potential for a main colour.

I was sorely tempted to play green, and it was extremely difficult to leave the green cards in the sideboard when I filled out my decklist. It had good creatures and a nice little bomb, but I wasn’t able to settle on a list I was happy with that included green.

The artifacts were quite nice to me, providing a Blazing Torch and a pair of Adventuring Gears. I didn’t play Stonework Puma, but I just don’t like a Grey Ogre variant that only has a relevant effect if another Ally is out. However, I wouldn’t fault anyone for playing it, as Allies can be quite good.

Here’s the list I ended up running.

This build aims to be aggressive enough to get the jump on the slower decks, yet have enough late game to win outright in a standstill. There are 5 Allies that were all terrific during the day, with Nimana Sell-Sword topping the list. There are 18 land to ensure that I both hit my bombs and got the most effect out of double Adventuring Gear. Other than that, the game plan of the deck is pretty simple” play guys, play bigger guys, play bombs, win. I submitted the decklist with 30 seconds to go, and was on my way to round 1.

Round 1 vs Jesse (UR Allies)
In the first game I mulligan and Jesse gets a Umara Reaptor and a Windrider Eel and a couple of allies, including Highland Berserker and Tuktuk Grunts. Unfortunately, I can’t deal with his fliers and we’re off to game 2.

I get a double Giant Scorpion and start bashing face with one that’s suited up with Adventuring Gear. Unfortunately Jesse resolves a Gomazoa and is able to Magma Rift one of my insects. He then resolves the Umara Raptor and a Stonework Puma which flies over me and knocks me eventually to 0, although he was at 2 when the final blow was struck.

0-1

Round 2 vs Connor (RB Aggro)
Connor and a few of his friends had traveled all the way from Victoria for the PTQ, so it made my 3.5 hour drive look ridiculous (although thery flew). He started off with an Akoum Refuge, and made a turn 2 Bloodghast. Luckily my Giant Scorpion blocked it all day long and prevented the little vampire from ever hitting my life total. Although his forces of Geyser Glider, Gatekeeper of Malakir and Torch Slinger was able to put me at 5, but Hellkite Charger changes the game state to an unbelievable degree. A single swing from the dragon is enough to win game 1.

In the second game, Connro gets stuck on 3 lands, and is using Goblin Guide and an unkicked Torch Slinger to try and beat me down. However, I have a Highland Berserker and Adventuring Gear which get in for some great beats, and my draws eventually outclass him so much that I can finish him off with a Needlebite Trap.

1-1

Round 3 vs Nick (GW)
I watched Nick play in the feature match of last round against teammate Sean, so I know he’s packing multiple Steppe Lynx and Cobra Trap, as well as mutiple landfall boosters. Nick gets a turn 1 Trusty Machete, and a turn 2 River Boa, which makes for a discouraging board position. Or, it would have if I didn’t have a turn 3 Gatekeeper of Malakir. Nick gets stuckon 3 land, and I just overrun him.

In games 2 and 3, River Boa and Trusty Machete both make repeat appearances, to which I have no answer. This gets even more awkward when a Quest for the Gemblades gives him a 6/5 regenerator. I can’t deal with it, and my hopes of top 8 are dashed. However, if I win from here on out I can still make prizes. I think my deck is good enough, so I do not drop.

1-2

Round 4 vs Ryan (RB control-ish)
In game 1 I go the full allies route, with double Sell-sword and berserker paving the way. His creature’s die to my removal, and a timely Goblin Shortcutter clears the way for my allies to take him to 0. My life sheet for Ryan goes 20, 16, 7, 0. Just shows how great multiple allies are.

In game 2 Ryan goes all out, and starts with Plated Geopede and backs it up with Quest for the Gravelord and Shatterskull Giant. I have no answers, and don’t deal a single point of damage.

Game 3 has Ryan lamenting the inclusion of Grappling Hook and Chandra Ablaze in his deck, due to their prohibitevely high costs (a 4 mana equip and discarding a red card respectively). I have a Sell-Sword and a pair of Giant Scorpions, which work great. I eventually cast Grim Discovery to get back Tuktuk Grunts and swing for the win.

2-2

Round 5 vs Christophe (RB)
It seems like everyone and their best friend is playing Red-Black today, and Christophe starts the game off with a Vampire Hexmage. He misses about 5 Quest for the Gravelord triggers, and my allied eventually overrun him.

In game 2, he resolves a Vampire Nighthawk, but I have the timely Inferno Trap. I when it looks like he might win (I’m at 10), I draw Hellite Charger and just win in an obsene fashion, bringing him from 19 to 0 in a few swings. Seriously, that card is so awesome.

3-2

Round 6 vs Blair (UB control)
Blair has a very nice deck, packing both Sphinx of Lost Truths and Sphinx of Jwar Isle. However, neither see play, as he struggles to play threast and remove my guys while I just keep augmenting my forces. He doesn’t have enough Hideous Ends (he had 2), and my allies just take him to the cleaners. In game 2 I resolve my Kalitas, which slaughters any chance my opponent had of defending himself.

4-2

Round 7 vs James (BWR Control)
James lets it slip that he has an Ob Nixilis. the Fallen, He casts double Kor Hookmaster and taps down my blockers, and I go all the way down to 0 without having dropped him below 20.

Game 2 is slightly better off for me, with my Bog Tatters taking put the largest chunks of his life total[/card], and we head off to game three with half an hour left in the round.

It gets to the point where I’m at 1, and he’s at 10. I have a Bog Tatters equipped with an Adventuring gear. I’m sitting on 4 Swamps and a Mountain, and see my great Hellikite Charger staring at me from my hand. I’m thrilled when I pass my turn, hoping to rip the mountain that will win me the game. However, James says he has effects on my upkeep, and casts Disfigure on my swampwalker. Of course. The card on the top of my library? Of course it was the mountain that would’ve won me the game.

4-3

While the best card of the day was undoubtedly Hellkite Charger, and unexpected gem was the double Nimana Sell-Sword They arte just so good with other allies that it’s unbelievable. They also don’t die to Hideous End!

I think that the key to Zendikar Sealed is to be agressive, and play your bombs. I can’t stress that enough, because they won me at least half my games. I also think that black is the most played colour in the format, so main-decking Bog Tatters isn’t a bad idea.

My only colour preference coming into this event was that I really didn’t want to play blue, and that sentiment hasn’t changed (Although give me the cards Blair had in Round 6 and we’ll talk). Obviously if you have enough cards to support it, go for it, but I’ve found that the most consistent push is given by green, red and black, and I’m always happy to be in one or two of those colours.

While the final results have yet to be displayed on the DCI webpage, I believe my final place to be around 29th out of more than 120 competitors. Considering that my last PTQ a year ago had me going 1-3 drop, I’ll happily take this result. The next PTQ is in 3 weeks in my home town of Edmonton, and feel free to stop by and say hi. I’ll be wearing a bright orange Power 9 Pro shirt, so I’ll be easy to spot.

Props to Jason Ness and West Can Events for hosting the PTQ, they do an admirable job at this sort of thing.

Any thoughts on this particular deck or the Zendikar sealed format in general can always go in the comments section, or through my email (zak-AT-power9pro.com) or via my twitter feed at www.twitter.com/zturchan.

Cheers,

Zak

Zendikar Game Day Promos Announced: Nissa’s Chosen, Emeria Angel

Wizards of the Coast has announced that the Zendikar Game Day (October 31st) promotional foils will be Nissas Chosen and Emeria Angel.

As usual, WotC is being somewhat secretive about showing us these cards, but our diligent team of crack Google Image Searchers here at Power9Pro have dug up the following two images:

Nissa’s Chosen will be the door prize for all attendees (while supplies last, of course).

Emeria Angel will go to the top 8 players, plus two players drawn at random as additional door prizes.

Cool stuff.

Tales From the Zendikar Launch Party

So Zendikar is finally available for purchase, and players have been casting traps, triggering landfall and summoning allies for this last weekend at the Zendikar launch party, where participants were awarded a promotional Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle just for attending. I went off to my Launch party only having done one draft before, and keeping in mind that black, green, and red seemed to be the colours to pick, but to watch for blue in case it was underdrafted as pointed out by James in the comment section of my previous article.

We went into 3 pods of 6, and I was happy to be plopped between to very experienced drafters, so I knew that my signaling would pay off. My first pack showed me a Bloodchief Ascension, which I happily took. I think that the Ascension is solid in limited, and I think that it will definitely have a home in a couple of Standard decks. I took a second pick Pitfall Trap in a pack that was rather lacking, and I took another black card for my third pick. In pick 4 I was sorely tempted to switch to black-green because I knew that green had the overall stronger colours, and with a lack of playable white cards I opted for a fourth pick Territorial Baloth. However, that pack proved to be something of an anomaly, when I got fed almost all black cards with a smattering of white for the rest of the draft. I knew I would need to play a very aggressive deck again, which seems to be key in this format. Here’s the final list I decided on.

One thing I immediately noticed was the fact that I had no Vampire Nighthawks, Hideous Ends nor any Journey to Nowheres or Shepherd of the Losts. There I was without any of the best commons or uncommons for my colours, not that I had seen any. However, I realized that with my playset of Surrakar Marauders and other early, evasive creatures, that I just might be able to get in a couple aggressive wins.

Round 1: vs Chris (W/B)

It was Chris’s first tournament, but he had played Magic for a fair bit before coming, so there were no rules disputes like there are when playing against newer players, which was nice. Nothing against newer players, it’s just that this is a complex game whose rules take some time and effort to fully understand, and Chris knew the rules to a tee. When he cast a turn one Steppe Lynx, I was unsure of how to proceed. I had a Disfigure in my hand, but I waited to see if he was hurting on land. He wasn’t, and I cast the black spell in response to the Landfall trigger to ensure it didn’t get out of hand. He then followed it up with a variety of Kor, while I played 3 Surrakar Marauders back to back, and I hit my land drops every turn to swing for 6 unblockable, and he couldn’t muster a black creature.

In game 2 I boarded in a Bog Tatters, because I had seen swamps from him, and a lack of removal. I saw the swampwalker in my opening hand, and after playing little evasive guys in the early game, he was my best out against an unkicked Conquerors Pledge, while Giant Scorpion and a 5/5 Zombie token held the fort. Sure enough, he didn’t draw removal for my guy and lost.

1 – 0

Round 2: vs Umir (RGBu Allies)

Umir had been in my draft pod, and he had joked afterward about how terrible his deck was. He had 4 refuges, and splashed black off them to support double Hideous End, which was relatively ineffective against most of my guys. His only blue card was a Sea Gate Loremaster, and I didn’t expect a whole lot. He cast a turn 2 2/1 FS ALLY which was promptly Disfigured, and I cast Surrakar Marauder, which went unanswered. Soon joined by a Bloodchief Ascension, Umir couldn’t let any of his cards go to the graveyard, and he promptly died. In the second game I just overwhelmed him with my Surrakars, and was undefeated going into round 3.

2 – 0

Round 3: vs Atilla

Atilla is a relatively new player who’s become quite good in the months that he’s been playing. He had a really good blue-green deck that took advantage of Windrider Eel and Living Tsunami to bring tons of power in the air. However, I was able to get a quick win in game 1 thanks to a turn 1 Lacerator, turn 2 Surrakar and turn 3 kicked Gatekeeper of Malakir, which dispatched his Umara Raptor. He quickly got below 10 life, and Guul Daz Vampire just got there thanks to the evasion provided by intimidate. In game 2 I hit a bit of a mana flood, and we shuffled up for game 3. Here, Atilla made 3 critical misplays. The first was not responding to my Pitfall Trap with his Caller of Gales, the second was not responding to my final Bloodchief Ascension trigger, and playing an instant after it resolved, and the final misplay was not attacking with a Living Tsunami because he forgot about my guys having intimidate. I don’t think I deserved to win, but being able to capitalize on misplays is a necessary skill in the tournament scene.

3 – 0

Round 4: vs Matt

We decided to intentionally draw the final round to give us both 7 packs in prizes. When we actually played it out, I was able to win easily in 2 games, because my deck was just faster (although his mana screw in game 1 helped) and the ceremony match was quickly decided.

3 – 0 – 1

So the deck I drafted told me a fair bit about the tempo and style of Zendikar limited matches. The first thing is that intimidate is simply awesome, and Surrakar Marauder should not be underestimated. Even Guul Daaz Vampire is a great inclusion if you’ve got a fast enough deck, and you’ll often just consider them unblockable.

A few days ago the team and I had a discussion about limited, and when to play Kor Skyfisher was a topic of discussion. I’m an advocate of playing it on turn two, because it doesn’t die to Burst Lightning (unkicked) or Disfigure. I also find that Zendikar limited is slow enough that bouncing a land is a weatherable loss, and if you bounce something like a 1 drop equipment or quest is always an option. It’s a great choice for when your opponent drops a Paralyzing Grasp or something like that. The interaction with Landfall is also noteworthy, as well as bouncing any ally that would be advantageous. All in all, I think that the skyfisher should be picked around 3-4th in draft, much higher than what I’ve seen it going.

I also believe that Bold Defense is worth a second look. It will often resolve kicked, and the first strike ability is almost always relevant. At it’s worst, it will help your guys punch through for a few additional points of damage, much like Warriors Honor, and at best it can be a one sided Day of Judgment. I think that it’s a solid card that should not be going later than 7th or 8th.

The key to being successful in Zendikar limited is (in my opinion) to be very agressive. Many decks will be quite slow, and an agressive deck will likely be able to keep the opponent off balance. Conversely, it’s not a bad thing if a slower deck packs a Kraken Hatchling, because it does an excellent job of slowing your opponent down. Nobody wants to waste removal on a 0/4, and while I wouldn’t pick it early, you should definitely consider it. Obviously River Boa is even more awesome in that situation, but you already knew that it was good.

Next week I’ll probably discuss my first standard deck in the new environment, free from faeries and five colour control and all the other cards from Lorwyn Block. Until then, send any questions or suggestions to zak-AT-power9pro.com, or via my twitter feed at www.twitter.com/zturchan.

Cheers,

Zak

Halfway Between the Zendikar Prerelease and Launch Party

Well, we’re at the halfway point between the Zendikar prerelease and the Launch Party. Halfway between Rampaging Baloths and Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. Halfway between a standard format defined by Faeries and 5 colour control and a standard format defined by vampires, soldiers, and Naya Zoo (Or so though Ben Lundquist in our most recent workshop).

So with this halfway point in mind, I though I’d split my article for today in half. I want to talk a little bit about the prerelease and Zendikar sealed, and then a bit about the upcoming launch party and the Zendikar draft format. In homage to Evan Erwin, Let’s Go!

Sealed at the Zendikar prerelease was, if I may quote a friend who was next to me as we built our decks, “like Christmas.” The smell of brand new cards (or not in the case of a signed Scrubland that was opened) and the sound of cracking packs was a great start to the day.

The shop I play at, Wizards Comics & Collectibles in Edmonton normally has a limit of 16 players for tournaments, because that’s really all they have space for. When I got to the shop with 20 minutes to spare, I entered and found out that I was the 30th person to enter. I still don’t know how we managed to fit everyone in there, and we were informed that we were playing 5 rounds, when usually we only have 3 or 4. The only problem was where would 1/3 of the people play? All the tables had been set up and the chairs were all filled, so there were 8 people without seats.

Luckily, John, the store owner came to the rescue. He called on myself and 4 other players that he knew and trusted (I’ve been going to Wizards for Magic for 2.5 years now), and asked that we set all our stuff up behind the counter. Not only was I going to play more rounds than I expected, but I was going to do it standing up. Ah well, you win some, you lose some.

Obviously I was hoping to crack a priceless treasure, but I was still happy to see an Arid Mesa among my rares, as well as bombs Gigantiform and Beastmaster Ascension. Yeah, I thought I could do something with this.

Unfortunately for me, no two of my colours were deep enough to warrant a nice, streamlined 2 colour deck. While I had the aforementioned green bombs, only 3 of my other green cards were playable, so it took me a while before I decided on my colour combinations. I probably could have gone with 2 colours, but I would have had to play a number of sub-par cards in order to round out my 23. Thus, I remembered what Alara Block taught me about playing 3 colours and set to work playing the best of green, red and black. Luckily I also had a number of equipment that didn’t care about my mana base, including one my new favourite cards for limited, and the younger brother of Vulshok Morningstar: Trusty Machete.

Here’s the list I ended up playing.

Now, the first thing I realized was that I had to play a super-aggressive deck. I got this idea from the double Zetkar Shrine Expedition and double Ruinous Minotaur. I believed that I had enough removal to ensure that my opponent’s board would be more or less empty, allowing my 7/1s and 5/2s to attack relatively unhindered. Now one thing I understand is that these cards should not by any means be played in any deck that can support you. Without a large source of constant, high-level pressure, these cards can be more of a hindrance than a help.

Now, in the context of the sealed environment at the prerelease, I’d like to give my initial impressions of some of these cards. Obviously removal like Hideous End is really good, but there are some cards whose abilities may not be as obvious.

One disadvantage of Hideous End is its inability to deal with Vampire Nighthawk, one of the biggest and most potent cards in the format. Thus, anything that can kill the 2/3 vampire is always worth a consideration. Thus the inclusion of Oran-Reif recluse and Burst Lightning becomes even more relevant.

Speaking of the new Shock variant, I think that it warrants an extremely close look. I would say that I kicked it 80% of the time, and many times it was used to blast my opponent for the last few points of damage. It’s a super versatile card that could easily be a first pick, and should definitely not go later than 4th.

Now one of the cards I was extremely disappointed in was Beastmaster Ascension. I’ve seen many claims that this is a limited bomb, but although I resolved it multiple times, I never got it online once. The sheer number of quest counters is almost impossible to achieve without killing your opponent. If you get off 7 successful attacks, and were able to tap 4 for an enchantment, you should have won outright. Should the seventh quest counter ever be added to the enchantment, the extra +5/+5 will be nearly negligible.

River Boa was a great addition to the deck, because it provides an ample shield against opposing fatties, and the islandwalk is a really nice ability to have. The Boa’s cheap cost also makes it a really great target for all sorts of equipment while having regeneration mana open.

The final two cards I want to talk about that really shone in my sealed deck were Adventuring Gear and Plated Geopede. Yes, they’re both great, and yes, I was able to go turn 1 Gear, turn two Geopede, turn 3 equip and play Arid Mesa. I think that they both are really great with landfall, and just enable Harrow to be simply game breaking.

I was able to go 3-2, losing to a WB deck featuring Feledar Soverign and WUG Allies featuring Turntimber Ranger, Kabira Evangel and Sea Gate Loremaster, as well as 8 other Allies. It seemed like an amazing pool, and my opponent admitted as such after our games. My other games were just me running over anything that wasn’t as fast as I was. The constant slew of removal and fast creatures just was too much. However, the allies were just as fast but helped his board position more, and the lifegain from the black white deck nullified many of my offensive threats.

In short, the key to Zendikar sealed is to have a mix of mid-cost and early creatures that can impact the board as much as possible, with a few late game bombs to seal the deal.

Drafting Zendikar

I have not done an actual Zendikar draft yet, as our prerelease didn’t have any, but I will do at least 1 tomorrow and 1 more on the weekend, so I want to give you my first impressions as to what stands out and some potential strategies for the Launch Party.

Personally, I think that the blue cards in Zendikar are lacking, especially for limited. Thus, I don’t intend to draft it, but if you do, Whiplash Trap seems like a really great card. The ability to bounce 2 creatures is huge, especially when you can clear the way for an attack.

Black in Zendikar is extremely strong, and Mark Rosewater tweeted earlier in the year about 3-0-ing a Wizard’s employees draft with mono-black, and I can easily see how it was done. With super efficient cards like Quest for the Gravelord and Vampire Nighthawk, It seems probable that a fast black deck would be almost unbeatable. Black (as usual) has some of the best removal in the set, such as Hideous End and DIsfigure, in addition to the new Infest variant: XXX. Just like in M10 draft, mono black decks can take advantage of Crypt Ripper as an upgrade to Looming Shade as a great outlet for excess mana. However, because of this, I think that black will be overdrafted and you might want to consider leaving the vampires alone for a bit.

The red in Zendikar is pretty solid, with all-stars Burst Lightning and Unstable Footing able to deal out their fair share of burn damage, and Geyser Glider and Bladetusk Board provide some low-rarity evasion in red, something not often seen. There is great depth to red in this set, and I think that it’s not a bad colour to try and force through. Even cards like Slaughter Cry and Shatterskull Giant are terrific role players in a red deck. I also think that Plated Geopede is something that you should try and pick up multiples of, especially if you’ve got a couple Adventuring Gear or Harrows lying around.

White is an interesting colour in Zendikar, in that it has some commons that are totally bonkers, and others that are the epitome of “meh”. Cards like Shepherd of the Lost and Journey to Nowhere are obviously good and first-pickable, but there are a fair few common slots given to just mediokre spells, like a couple of guys with high toughness/low power, or cards that gain you life or prevent a single point of damage. In short, I don’t think going white is worthwhile unless you open up a bomb rare, or have multiples of the good commons/uncommons that would warrant it. However, the slim pickings are likely to be picked up by other drafters and you won’t have the luxury of all the best white cards.

Last we come to green, the colour that is probably a must if you really and truly wish to abuse landfall shenanigans. Obviously Harrow is amazing, but so are Khalni Heart Expedition and Frontier Guide. There are also some awesome pseudo-removal spells in there like Orang-Reif Recluse, which is just the think for taking out a Shepherd of the Lost or Vampire Nighthawk. I also believe that Mold Shambler is an excellent pick, because at it’s worst, it’s a Hill Giant which is absolutely fine in limited. At its best, It can kill an enemy quest or (as I saw at the prerelease) aggravate an opponent you has hiccoughed on their mana.

In short, when drafting Zendikar I think that black, red and green are the best colours with the deepest card quality. Send good signals in pack one and you should be rewarded with some choice uncommons in the later packs. Remember, this is not Alara block where you can decide halfway through pack 2 to go 5 colour and come out all right. If you can manage a solid mono-coloured deck (Mono red and black would be my ideals), go for it, but do not take poorer cards instead of adopting a second colour. There’s more fixing in Zendikar than M10, so your mana base is much easier, with about the same colour restrictions.

I’ll be at the Zendikar Launch Party this Sunday at Wizards Comics in Edmonton if you want to say hi. I’ll be wearing the bright orange Power 9 Pro t-shirt, so don’t be afraid to stop by. As always, article suggestions or questions can be put in the comments field, sent to zak(AT)power9pro.com, or via my twitter feed at www.twitter.com/zturchan.

Cheers,

Zak

Zendikar Card Review batch 04 (249/249)

Welcome to the fourth and final batch of Zendikar preview cards.  We’d like to take a moment to thank the tireless folks at mtgsalvation for their work on the spoilers we’ve all come to know and love.

Below you’ll find the first impression, knee-jerk reactions of myself and my teammate James, upon seeing these cards for the first time.  As usual, James is focused on constructed formats, specifically block, standard, and extended, while I evaluate the cards in the paradigm of limited, with a smattering of commentary related to EDH and legacy.  Without further ado, here come the cards!

Bold Defense – 2W
Instant (Common)
Kicker {3}{W}
Creatures you control get +1/+1 until end of turn. If Bold Defense was kicked, those creatures get +2/+2 and first strike instead.

JOE

This is a good execution of the kicker mechanic.  The card has a decent ability, but at a slightly increased mana cost than you’d usually find, in this case, we can compare the card to glorious charge.  In exchange for this nerfed initial ability, you get a card that doesn’t lose as much relevance in the late game.  When you top-deck this card later on, when you actually have seven mana, suddenly it’s a much more powerful combat trick.  This is a well rounded trick and will be commonly seen in white decks lacking harder removal.

JAMES
I don’t see this being good enough. I’d rather just play Glorious Charge and have some mana left open for 2nd main phase shenanigans–or more Attack phase shenanigans like a Harms Way. That being said, I haven’t run Glorious Charge in any constructed decks…maybe I should! That’d give me a better benchmark on this card. My gut tells me Bold Defense is just over-costed for the affects.

Caravan Hurda – 4W
Creature – Beast (Common)
Lifelink
1/5

JOE

This creature’s raison d’etre is to stall the ground while your fliers and other evasive creatures push through the winning damage.  Creatures like this epitomize what’s known loosely as a “skies” archetype, traditionally found in the UW color combination.  A 1/5 lifelink is a real bummer for an opposing green mage whose early drops become less appealing.  He does what he does, and that’s great.  Just don’t mistake the deck he belongs to.  This guy is out of place in a curve-conscious aggro white deck, but at home with a slower, more controlling WU skies type deck.

JAMES
Seems great for limited but the 5cc for constructed is underwhelming.
comment

Cliff Treader – 1W
Creature – Kor Scout (Common)
Mountainwalk
2/1

JOE

He’s not a bad grizzly bears kind of guy… 2-drop with 2 power.  This cost and power define the white aggro decks, and some limited formats in general.  He’s randomly superb against red opponents, but will often be maindecked just because his power and CMC are right for your curve.

JAMES
I like this for constructed, SB in particular. I really wish it was Pro-Red because it would be some serious SB-beats against a red deck. Mountainwalk just isn’t enough; oh well…

Kor Duelist – W
Creature – Kor Soldier (Uncommon)
As long as Kor Duelist is equipped, it has double strike.
1/1

JOE

An interesting card.  He seems to be an improvement upon boros swiftblade, a card which was always suited up anyway.  I’m guessing he’s got more applications in constructed, but will occasionally make an appearance in limited as well.  Again, this is a card with a proper home.  His proper home is the aggro archetypes, and obviously he’s more appealing with a trust machete or whatnot.  Every so often, you might run him sans equipment if your curve really wants to be as low as possible.

JAMES
Umezawas Jitte and Sword of Fire and Ice really like this guy. He’s so cheap. Too bad the stack-in-combat’s been removed. Previously we could have removed charge counters from the Jitte after the firststrike damage was done, and pumped our guy to keep him around (and do more damage) during ‘normal combat damage.’ Alas, we’re stuck with the current rules [probably perpetually from here on out--or so we should assume]. What sort of stinks is that he’s pretty conditional and equipments do cost a fair bit of mana to get going. The only equipment I could see effective on a creature like this is the Bone Saw which you could play and equip without too much disruption to your normal curve-creature-drop. Behemoth Sledge is also on-color and would offer considerable tempo but it wouldn’t come into play until at least turn 4. In the end, I’m trying to keep an open mind about this creature but my main concern is that activating the doublestrike requires quite the investment. I mean, let’s face it; the two equipments I cited (Jitte & Sword) are a couple of the best equipments printed thus far, so they’re for the most part good on any creature. Doh, I guess I have to say “nope, not good enough.”

Landbind Ritual – 3WW
Sorcery (Uncommon)
You gain 2 life for each Plains you control.

JOE

Lifegain, though more popular now than perhaps ever, has never been my cup of tea.  I can’t see running this card in limited, nor constructed.  However, I’m a bad person to ask about this card.  I suppose it’s capable of gaining you 10 life for 5 mana under ideal conditions.  Some people may think that’s worth it… I just don’t.  I’d much rather have a card which advances my board position or reduces my opponent’s.

JAMES
I don’t see lifegain as worth it unless it changes the board state. As it is, gaining life just to gain life isn’t worth it. If you’re dying, just play the new Day of Judgment and reset the board. I mean, Kitchen Finks is so awesome because you’re gaining life on top of presenting an efficient beat-stick (with persist which is just amazing). This does nothing of the sort…

Makindi Shieldmate – 2W
Creature – Kor Soldier Ally (Common)
Defender
Whenever Makindi Shieldmate or another Ally enters the battlefield under your control, you may put a +1/+1 counter on Makindi Shieldmate.
0/3

JOE

I’m none too stoked about the Defender ability on this guy.  He’ll be played to attain a critical mass of allies at times, but I sure would rather have more copies of the blue ally with the same ally-ability, only having flying rather than defender and starting as a 1/1 rather than an 0/3.  That common ally will be nuts.  This one is kind of a dud, but critical mass is critical mass.

JAMES
Boo.

Noble Vestige – 2W
Creature – Spirit (Common)
Flying
{T}: Prevent the next 1 damage that would be dealt to target player this turn.
1/2

JOE

A forgettable spirit, this… Spirits are a creature type I’ve been following closely since creating my Ghost Council of Orzhova EDH deck.  I shall not be including this creature therein.  It does have evasion, which is a plus, though his ability is pretty weak.  Sometimes a 1/2 flier for 2W makes the cut, but I’m always hoping for better.

JAMES
Underpowered in a world of crazy goodness. Find a better creature. ;-)

Pillarfield Ox – 3W
Creature – Ox (Common)
2/4

JOE

Ox?  Really?  A new creature type for Ox?  Not “Bovine” or something?  Meh.  “Mammal?”  Nope.  Ox.  Oh well.  Whatever.  This guy’s less exciting to me than hill giant, unless I desperately need another ground-staller in a skies deck.

JAMES
Not so horrible in limited but pretty boarderline. Probably a late pick but we should all be aiming for better 4 drops. I see no reason to include this in any constructed decks.

Shieldmate’s Blessing – W
Instant (Common)
Prevent the next 3 damage that would be dealt to target creature or player this turn.

JOE

Strictly worse than healing salve is not the kind of endorsement you’re looking for.  This card sucks ass, people.

JAMES
I can get behind this–exact opposite of Joe!!111!!! lol. It’s cheap and prevents all damage from a Lightening Bolt. I don’t see a reason for not playing this in limited where you can bluff or create a creature attrition situation. It’s one less than Harms Way but loses the ability to redirect. Because of that, I think Harm’s Way will remain the constructed include but I wouldn’t be all to surprised to see this in a constructed deck. It’s not the worst card in the world. What is the worst card in the world? I’m going to ask on Twitter now! lol

Sunspring Expedition – W
Enchantment (Common)
Landfall – Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, you may put a quest counter on Sunspring Expedition.
Remove three quest counters from Sunspring Expedition and sacrifice it: Gain 8 life.

JOE

If you want lifegain, use this rather than Landbind Ritual.  If they use removal on this, consider it a success for you.  I won’t be playing this card.

JAMES
Same comment as on Landbind Ritual (above).

Lethargy Trap – 3U
Instant – Trap (Uncommon)
If three or more creatures are attacking you, you may pay {U} rather than pay Lethargy Trap’s mana cost.
Attacking creatures get -3/-0.

JOE

Not terrible, I guess.  You can sometimes get favorable combat exchanges, making trades your opponent accepts into pure losses, but this isn’t likely to make the cut in my decks either.  The trap cost will probably be turned on fairly often, but I still don’t feel very warm and fuzzy about the card.  If this is the level of trick you’re resorting to, is blue really that strong for you?

JAMES
This looks pretty good for an Esper-Control style deck. I’m not exactly sure if token-based decks will be around much longer but there’s certainly an opportunity for a Solider deck developing from the cards printed in M10 and Zendikar so being attacked by 3 creatures is all together possible. The trap cost makes it pretty sweet for U/Esper decks since it’s cheap and will leave room for casting Esper Charm @ EOT (for example). We’re entering a new Extended format where Zoo looks poised to make a strong finish. Zoo is essentially “the” aggro deck of the upcoming Meta and from discussions with Ben Lundquist this past Wednesday the Meta-cycle starts with a ‘big splash aggro deck’ [deck X] transitioning to a control-style deck [deck Y] and then decks geared to beat the control deck [deck Z]. From this POV, I say this looks good for people considering Fairies for the upcoming extended season where it’s likely to have 3 creatures attacking. Even the creation of a one-turn Fog for U can be enough for stabilization to occur. The single-Blue commitment for Trap/Non-Trap casting also makes it very splash-able.

Merfolk Seastalkers – 3U
Creature – Merfolk Wizard (Uncommon)
Islandwalk
{2}{U}: Tap target creature without flying.
2/3

JOE

Whoa.  This is deceptively powerful.  Tapping a single creature makes for a solid utility creature.  Being able to tap multiples in the late game is fairly crazy.  The stats aren’t terrible either, given he has islandwalk.  This one gets a big nod.  Thumbs up.

JAMES
I don’t see how it’s goign to tap multiple creatures late game…What am I missing on this one? Anyway, tapping down creatures in limited is pretty good but I worry the cost is too high–its 300% the cost of Blinding Mage for example. From what we’ve seen of Merfolk in this set, I believe there are better options for constructed play.

Seascape Aerialist – 4U
Creature – Merfolk Wizard Ally (Uncommon)
When Seascape Aerialist or another Ally enters the battlefield under your control, Allies you control gain flying until end of turn.
2/3

JOE

Cool… this is a great ally to build around.  Evasion is something a lot of allies lack.  Giddy up.

JAMES
Pretty interesting for an Ally. Since Allies all trigger off each other, we can assume we’re getting at minimum +1/+1 to our other allies. Swinging in with a big team of flying, pumped up creatures sounds good in my head but a lot of flop ideas sounded good in people’s heads and ended up being duds. (Spam comes to mind but that’s just me). Test it out for block, for shiz.

Shoal Serpent – 5U
Creature – Serpent (Common)
Defender
Landfall – Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, Shoal Serpent loses defender until end of turn.
5/5

JOE

Serpents in blue are usually piss poor creatures that have some weird ability to seem appealing despite that fact.  Hmm… let’s see.  6-drop 5/5… not bad.  Sometimes attacks… I dunno.  I’m on the fence here.  Blue just usually doesn’t want to go in the fatty direction, though it will be easier to pair with green than ever.  I just think this ends up sitting the bench in favor of far better creatures more often than not, but it’s probably more playable than a lot of Serpents in the past.

JAMES
I got nothing.

Spreading Seas – 1U
Enchantment – Aura (Common)
Enchant land
When Spreading Seas enters the battlefield, draw a card.
Enchanted land is an Island.

JOE

Almost never relevant, almost never played.  If you’re doing island walk shenanigans with this, you’ve probably failed a skill test somewhere in there.  At least this cantrips.  God willing, I’ll never play this card.

JAMES
It’s better than Seas Claim…if that means anything. lol.

Bog Tatters – 4B
Creature – Wraith (Uncommon)
Swampwalk
4/2

JOE

I’d say it’s a sideboard card against black at best.  4/2 is too dang vulnerable on 5.  No thanks.

JAMES
Might see play in limited, as Joe mentioned, restricted to SB where it would potentially shine. Otherwise, it’s way too expensive for its stats.

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

JOE

I like this Shade alright.  Haste is a nice ability in my book… it’s often what helps you swing the tempo race back into your favor.  Shades are decent in general, and this one has a decent cost.  Just look at loch korrigan.  I dunno… in some decks, I definitely run this dude, but it’s always when I’m heavy black (thank you Dr. Obvious).

JAMES
This wouldn’t be bad in a limited deck but I don’t think at 4cc it’s worth the affects for constructed. In its favor, here are the advantages: On turn 4 it’s a 2/2 Hasty (obviously). Late game (and this is what i mean by in “its favor”), it’s a hasty that you can pump for more damage–let’s say a 4/4 hasty. Not horrible. It is a threat in and of itself. Very, very borderline. I’d rather play the new Specter, Guul Draz Specter for 4cc. But that’s just me.

Guul Draz Vampire – B
Creature – Vampire Rogue (Common)
As long as an opponent has 10 or less life, Gull Draz Vampire gets +2/+1 and has intimidate. (It can’t be blocked except by artifact creatures and/or creatures that share a color with it.)
1/1

JOE

Looks like Wild Nacatl got bitten by a vampire or something.  This one’s solid and interesting.  The fact that he’s a piddly 1/1 early makes him far worse than nacatl, but later on, he’s the same size as the kitty cat, but with Intimidate, the new fear.  Evasion is nice, especially for little guys later in the game.  I think the vampire deck looks mighty sexy in this format.  We’ll see.

JAMES
Not horrible. It’s pretty decent mid-game and Intimidate might make this worth having 2x in a deck. I mean a 3/2 “fear” (which intimidate is in this case) for one is not bad. The casting cost lets us play another spell, it’s splash-able, etc. I see some advantages to this little common but probably restricted to block play.

Hagra Crocodile – 3B
Creature – Crocodile (Common)
Hagra Crocodile can’t block.
Landfall – Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, Hagra Crocodile gets +2/+2 until end of turn.
The creatures of Zendikar are opportunists, eating whatever is available to them. Like goblins. Or boats.
3/1

JOE

5/3 on the attack for 4.  That’s good stats.  Fits into a suicidal black all-in kind of aggro deck.  Something about this guy doesn’t jive with my own style, but I definitely see him being played… paired with green to abuse landfall, this guy might well have a spot on 4.

JAMES
I see this in limited but not making it to constructed. I just see better 4-drops in Mono-Black (such as Vampire Nocturnus

Heartstabber Mosquito – 3B
Creature – Insect (Common)
Kicker {2}{B} (You may pay an additional {2}{B} as you cast this spell.)
Flying
When Heartstabber Mosquito enters the battlefield, if it was kicked, destroy target creature.
2/2

JOE

Playable / decent without kicker, and with late game relevance (and how!) due to the kicker ability.  This is a saweet common for black.  No holds barred creature destruction for 2B more?  Awesome.

JAMES
I wish the casting costs were reversed. It’s too pricey as a 4-drop. It’s also pretty dang expensive for a 7 drop. Probably not the worst card in limited but there are [again] better options for limited.

Marsh Casualties – BB
Sorcery (Uncommon)
Kicker {3}
Creatures target player controls get -1/-1 until end of turn. If Marsh Casualties was kicked, those creatures get -2/-2 instead.

JOE

Yet again, this is a good spell without kicker that gets better later on with the kick.  Building a deck around this will be easy, and sweepers like this card are often what win you the game.  I’m guessing this is a very high pick for anyone who opens a sweet black rare, and might draw other people into black too, if infest and the like are any kind of historical indicator.

JAMES
Not bad at 5cc since you can wipe the board but (obviously) Infest is WAY better.

Mindless Null – 2B
Creature – Zombie (Common)
Mindless Null can’t block unless you control a Vampire.
2/2

JOE

gray ogre with a drawback?  I’m only playing him in a very-heavy vampire deck.

JAMES
Nope. Not good enough.

Nimana Sell-Sword – 3B
Creature – Human Warrior Ally (Common)
Whenever Nimana Sell-Sword or another Ally enters the battlefield under your control, you may put a +1/+1 counter on Nimana Sell-Sword.
“He asked if I had work for him. No wasn’t the right answer.”
- Samila, Murasa Expeditionary House
2/2

JOE

Hill Giant on his own means he’s playable with or without allies.  Obviously with allies is preferable, since he then helps critical mass and isn’t dead / weak on his own.  Top notch common ally here.

JAMES
I’m really not down with these expensive 3/3′s (and 2/2′s). I guess the “advantage” to these is the ally trigger but that’s soooooo situational. I’m a doubter.

Surrakar Maurader – 1B
Creature – Surrakar (Common)
Landfall – Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, Surrakar Maurader gains intimidate until end of turn.
2/1

JOE

Meh.  Bear-ish.  Bear-cub.  I’m not too stoked on him, but in aggro decks, you take bears and whatever evasion you can, even if it only works most of the time.

JAMESDecent early game, dud late.

Bladetusk Boar – 3R
Creature – Boar (Common)
Intimidate
3/2

JOE

I guess for constant Intimidate, I’ll accept a loss of toughness off hill giant.  This one’s not bad.

JAMES
This is fine for limited but R wants more than this in constructed paly.

Goblin Shortcutter – 1R
Creature – Goblin Scout (Common)
When Goblin Shortcutter enters the battlefield, target creature can’t block this turn.
2/1

JOE

Interesting bear here too.  All these bears are right on the borderline between playable and “meh”, but the ones like this with a sometimes relevant ability are okay in certain decks.  Being a goblin helps his stock too.  I dunno… I play him sometimes, but he’s not among the first creatures I’m putting into deck slots.

JAMES
This is pretty good late game in limited when you want to squeeze a fatty through for the win or experiencing locked board positions. Off a Bloodbraid Elf this isn’t so bad–but hell, isn’t everything good off a Bloodbraid?

Highland Berserker – 1R
Creature – Human Berserker Ally (Common)
Whenever Highland Berserker or another Ally enters the battlefield under your control, you may have Ally creatures you control gain first strike until end of turn.
2/1

JOE

This is an awesome early-drop ally, and an example of a bear I’d probably run unless he’s my only ally.  I’d usually rather have him than the shortcutter above unless I had some sick goblin deck going.

JAMES
This is a pretty good ally. I would figure to see this in block–but I’m not sure what colors will rule supreme for allies in block (and it’s DAMN early to call block cards since we’ve only got this first set out).

Inferno Trap – 3R
Instant – Trap (Uncommon)
If you’ve been dealt damage by two or more creatures this turn, you may pay {R} rather than pay Inferno Trap’s mana cost.
Inferno Trap deals 4 damage to target creature.

JOE

This is quite solid removal.  Probably a decently-high pick for red.

JAMES
Not bad, not bad. Two creatures might be asking a lot and you’re only removing one of them. Still in limited this might be a good play. I’d pick it up were I in-color.

Magma Rift – 2R
Sorcery (Common)
As an additional cost to cast Magma Rift, sacrifice a land.
Magma Rift deals 5 damage to target creature.

JOE

I don’t know what to make of this one.  The removal is good, since 5 damage will deal with a lot.  But the downside is huge, losing a land.  This will depend entirely on the curve of the deck in question.  If I want to get to 7 eventually, there’s no way I run this.  If I top out at 5, it’s a different story.

JAMES
Nah, that’s okay. Were it creature or player, I’d say we’ll see this in Austin as a mono-red include but as it is, this sucks.

Mark of Mutiny – 2R
Sorcery (Uncommon)
Gain control of target creature until end of turn. Put a +1/+1 counter on it and untap it. It gains haste until end of turn.

JOE

Interesting.  This is a little worse than act of treason, since you hand the guy back slightly bigger.  Still, this will win you some games when played at the right moment.  And obviously, this is sick with any kind of creature sacrifice outlet.

JAMES
EEek. you better be winning with this or it’s toast for you. Gain control, put a counter on it, get your “damage in” and then hand them a bigger, better creature? No thank you.

Molten Ravager – 2R
Creature – Elemental (Common)
{R}: Molten Ravager gets +1/+0 until end of turn.
0/4

JOE

Not interested.  Good blocker, but yeah… I’m not into this kind of guy.

JAMES
Not horrible in limited. Not at all. Big ass means that your opponent has to block or risks you tempo-ing them out. It’s pretty cheap too at 3cc. I don’t see this making waves in constructed play though.

Seismic Shudder – 1R
Instant (Common)
Seismic Shudder deals 1 damage to each creature without flying.

JOE

This will be really awesome as a splash card in flying-based decks.  As a sweeper, it will see play in a lot of decks, actually, but some red decks have too many X/1s themselves to be comfortable with this, so I’m guessing this sees the most play in decks that aren’t base-red.

JAMES
Doh, had a comment then re-read it. ‘Without flying’ is not the same as ‘With Flying.’ Pass.

Shatterskull Giant – 2RR
Creature – Giant (Common)
4/3

JOE

Well hell, this is basically a better hill giant.  Paying R instead of 1 is a bargain for that extra point of power.  Playable as hell.

JAMES
Not good enough for constructed play.

Slaughter Cry – 2R
Instant (Common)
Target creature gets +3/+0 and gains first strike until end of turn.
“Since when did ‘AIIIEEEE!’ become a negotiation tactic?”
- Nikou, Joraga bard

JOE

This is as removal-like as combat tricks can get.  It’s almost always going to kill a creature in combat, and every once in a while might steal a game in an alpha strike.  Good common.

JAMES
Great shenanigan card. Act like you’re chumping and then remove the creature? Not bad but probably not quite good enough for constructed play.

Spire Barrage – 4R
Sorcery (Common)
Spire Barrage deals damage to target creature or player equal to the number of Mountains you control.

JOE

seismic strike can only hit creatures, so that’s why this gem is 2 more.  I think it’s worth it in a base-red deck.  Lava axe has won me some games, and this is way more versatile, but every bit as capable of doing 5 to end the game.  This gets the nod (in red).

JAMES
Slightly too expensive for constructed play. It’s also conditional since you can’t really splash for this in constructed. For extended you don’t even want 5 mountains in play. That’s too many.

Torch Slinger – 2R
Creature – Goblin (Common)
Kicker – {1}{R}
When Torch Slinger enters the battlefield, if it was kicked, it deals 2 damage to target creature.
2/2

JOE

Shades of Flametongue Kavu here.  This is gray ogre early, and lets you shock too later on.  solid.

JAMES
One more than Murderous Redcap and lacking in persist. Bummer.

Joraga Bard – 3G
Creature – Elf Rogue Ally (Common)
Whenever Joraga Bard or another Ally enters the battlefield under your control, all Allies you control gain vigilance until end of turn.
1/4

JOE

Well, it’s none too exciting, but this is another ally to help attain that critical mass I keep talking about.  I’m guessing that you’ll be rolling if you have more than 6 allies, and a creature that’s worse than another but has the ally creature type will sometimes make the cut for that reason.  If you already have 6 other allies that are decent, I dunno… I still might play him.  It’d really depend on the other options there, but this won’t be among the first allies I line up for inclusion.

JAMES
Not the worst of the allies and far from the best.

Tajuru Archer – 2G
Creature – Elf Archer Ally (Uncommon)
When Tajuru Archer or another Ally enters the battlefield under your control, Tajuru Archer deals damage equal to the number of Ally creatures you control to target creature with flying.
1/2

JOE

Whoa… this guy’s very cool.  A cheap ally which helps green-based ally decks combat their historical nemesis, fliers.  Good stuff.

JAMES
A great sb include for block-constructed going Allies. Ausser-dass, ich sehe nichts.

Tanglesap – 1G
Instant (Common)
Prevent all combat damage that would be dealt this turn by creatures without trample.

JOE

Weird.  Usually a fog, but in the color of trample, sometimes it’ll be more like safe passage or something.  Conditionally awesome, usually marginal.  I like my tricks to do more than buy me a turn most times.

JAMES
Weird. Definitely worth considering in a limited deck since as we’ve seen (or you should have seen) Safe Passage is very playable in limited. I don’t see the point in constructed.

Timbermaw Larva – 3G
Creature – Beast (Common)
Whenever Timbermaw Larva attacks, it gets +1/+1 until end of turn for each Forest you control.
2/2

JOE

Hmm… I guess he’s hill giant or better on the attack, but in exchange he’s vulnerable the rest of the time.  Probably has a time and place to shine.

JAMES
Sits around as a 2/2 but probably swings on T4 as a 4/4. (assuming dual-color decks). In mono-G, this is a pretty good beat stick. I just wish it was bigger than a 2/2. Maybe a 1/3 or something would make me feel safer. Otherwise, I feel like I’d be paying four for a creature that’s going to get zapped. Meh, just play Garruk Wildspeaker at the same casting cost.

Vastwood Gorger – 5G
Creature – Wurm (Common)
5/6

JOE

Weak.  Not my thing, but occasionally necessary when you’re the fatty deck and lack enough fatties… but wait… why are you the fatty deck then?  I dunno… 5/6 is pretty beefy.  It might see play, but I’m guessing it’ll usually be reluctant play.

JAMES
Fine in limited since it’s obviously going to apply significant pressure. Not good enough for constructed.

Zendikar Card Review – Batch 3

Welcome to batch 3 of our ongoing Zendikar preview series.  As with the last two batches, I will give each card a knee-jerk reaction within the paradigm of limited play, occasionally speculating on legacy and EDH, while James will primarily comment on Block, Standard, and Extended, with occasional banter on other topics.

We love hearing from you in the comments section.  Without further ado…

Armament Master – WW
Creature – Kor Soldier (Rare)
Other Kor creatures you control get +2/+2 for each Equipment attached to Armament Master.
2/2
Illus. Steven Belledin
#1/249

JOE

Might randomly be awesome in the right pool / draft, but there’s a lot of pieces that have to fall into place.  Usually this is a rare that’s a slightly-worse-than-usual runeclaw bear.

JAMES
This is a great theme-driven deck (“Tribal”) but I don’t see a fit for this in anything competitive.

Arrow Volley Trap – 3WW
Instant – Trap (Uncommon)
If four or more creatures are attacking, you may pay {1}{W} rather than pay Arrow Volley Trap’s mana cost.
Arrow Volley Trap deals 5 damage divided as you choose among any number of target attacking creatures.
#2/249

JOE

The trap cost here isn’t a huge savings, but it hardly matters.  Whether for the trap cost, or full price, this is top shelf removal for white.  This should take down a minimum of two attackers, and will often leave your opponent wrecked.

JAMES
Maybe I’m just a sucker for the Trap mechanic (I think I’ve said this same thing about 6x ! lol!) but I feel the non-trap cost is a bit ridiculous. 5cc? That’s more than Wrath of God and Day of Judgment and really it’s not going to kill anything that frightening. The ability to divide the damage is certainly appealing. I see this card fitting more into control decks. I’m not sure that 5 color control/cascade has a future because of loss of Reflecting Pool, filter-lands and vivid lands; that being said, it’d be a great side-board option if token-based/winnie decks make a comeback. Outside that, I see better removal spells in Path to Exile, Harms Way and even to some extent (some) Celestial Purge and Martial Coup. Martial Coup may be a better benchmark because for two more cc you get to “wrath” and fill the board back up with 5 of your own dudes.

Kor Aeronaut – WW
Creature – Kor Soldier (Uncommon)
Kicker {1}{W}
Flying
When Kor Aeronaut enters the battlefield, if it was kicked, target creature gains flying until end of turn.
2/2

JOE

A solid creature with a respectable kicker.  At 1WWW, it’s white-intensive, but this can often push through important damage for aggressive archetypes that are a white mainstay.  I like this uncommon just fine.

JAMES
Pretty interesting card. It helps to have it on turn 2 because of the flying and then mid/late-game you can cast with kicker to just send in a dude with flying. That being said, for the same cc I would rather play Elspeth, Knight Errant or Ajani Goldmane–Elspeth pulling the majority of weight in my mind because she gets a loyalty counter & gives a creature +3/+3 and flying. Maybe this will go into that Kor-themed deck I mentioned above but not into anything competitive.

Kor Hookmaster – 2W
Creature – Kor Soldier (Uncommon)
When Kor Hookmaster enters the battlefield, tap target creature an opponent controls. That creature doesn’t untap during its controller’s next untap step.
2/2

JOE

Another tempo-oriented card that’ll shine in aggressively curved decks.  A solid gray ogre variant.

JAMES
I’m trying to figure out if this is playable or not. I want to say yes. The appeal of a targeted Sleep is pretty strong and it’s not overly costed. You can trust that this creature will get in for 2 the next turn–well, big assumption but let’s roll with it for a moment. With that assumption we have to assume that we’re tapping down something bigger than this 2/2. Is the 2/2 going to cause enough of a tempo change? Probably not alone it won’t! What board position would we want to see this in? Certainly not in an opening hand; we want it for punching through the final points of damage. Tapping a Baneslayer Angel seems hawt. What else? Hmm, my surmise is that we’d rather play Brave the Elements (new from Zendikar) which at 1cc gives all your creatures pro-whatever-color-you-need-at-the-moment (i.e. one-turn evasion for the finishing alpha strike). Definitely not a good choice for Extended or Standard and highly unlikely for Block.

Kor Outfitter – WW
Creature – Kor Soldier (Common)
When Kor Outfitter enters the battlefield, attach target equipment you control to target creature you control.
2/2
#21/249

JOE

This will only ever save you a couple mana, so it’s mainly a bad grizzly bears, but still has a place in what looks to be a white-heavy aggro archetype in this set.

JAMES
Plays well with the first card on our list today, Armament Master but that’s assuming an “ideal world” where we have Armament Master in play AND a worthwhile equipment. I’d like to pitch this as playable if you’re equipping a bomb equipment like Sword of Fire and Ice or Umezawas Jitte but really wouldn’t we rather just pay the two and equip it than put another dude into play? I sure would so…yeah, this isn’t really that great of a creature.

Nimbus Wings – 1W
Enchantment – Aura (Common)
Enchant creature
Enchanted creature gets +1/+2 and has flying.
#28/249

JOE

Auras always have the “exposure to 241s” danger.  The risk is that you enchant your guy only to lose two cards to the opponents single removal spell.  If the rewards are greater than this risk, the aura in question is playable.  It’s my opinion that flying and a small boost are probably worth it in some cases.  Evasion is very nice, and giving the right creature flying can win the game.  I think this will have a home in WG decks with lots of ground-based fat green creatures.  Suit one up with Nimbus Wings, and you should be putting your opponent on a fast clock.  I like it.

JAMES
I don’t see this being played outside limited. Maybe there’s a spot for in block (?) but really for 2cc (1 & W) I would rather drop Honor of the Pure. The bigger butt (i.e. Holy Strength) makes this a somewhat defensive card which runs against the grain of giving a creature evasion. What’s the point of having evasion if you’re just going to sit around and block with the creature? It’s a little underwhelming imo.

Ondu Cleric – 1W
Creature – Kor Cleric Ally (Common)
When Ondu Cleric or another Ally comes into play, you may gain 1 life for each Ally you control.
1/1

JOE

Life gain has been growing in popularity.  I think this will see play, but it’s not my kind of thing… however, the Ally deck is reminiscent of affinity in Mirrodin in the sense that “the more the merrier” seems to hold true.  I can see running this mainly for its type line.  Its own ability is incidental to the fact that it’s an ally.  It’s like running off-color mana-producing myr or off-color spellbombs in mirrodin.  It’s about critical mass.

JAMES
If Ally makes a surge in Block, maybe otherwise no. As sad as it is to say Essence Warden & Soul Warden seem better since they aren’t “ally” based. Plus, how many allies are you going to have in play at any given time? 3? Regardless, I see better Ally-cards in White at 2cc (such as Kazandu Blademaster–which after seeing more and more of the spoiler, I realize I was too quick to judge as “just a 2/2″).

Quest for the Holy Relic – W
Enchantment (Uncommon)
Whenever you cast a creature spell, you may put a quest counter on Quest for the Holy Relic.
Remove five quest counters from Quest for the Holy Relic and sacrifice it: Search your library for an equipment card, put it onto the battlefield, and attach it to a creature you control. Then shuffle your library.
#33/249

JOE

Well, if you’re particularly creature heavy and have one bomb equipment, maybe this is worth a slot.  Almost always, it’s not.  You want cards that do good things all by their lonesome.  This has a lot of strings attached.

JAMES
Too bad the quest is “when you cast” because it’s probably just too slow to justify. Being able to tutor out a Jitte is pretty sexy but it’s altogether under-powered and slow. It’s not on the same threat-level as Luminarch Ascension which I find a lot more appealing. General aside: The vulnerability of these ‘quest’ cards is that a simple Naturalize hoses 5 turns or more investment. (Qasali Pridemage comes to mind as a playable)

Windborne Charge – 2WW
Sorcery (Common)
Two target creatures get +2/+2 and flying until end of turn.

JOE

Another way to ram through damage in the white rush archetype.  I like it just fine.  Also great in the WG kind of deck I mentioned above.

JAMES
Expensive. So far as constructed goes, same comments vis a vis Elspeth apply here. Just straight up better: both are at sorcery speed, Elspeth sticks around to be a continuing threat, and does a better job pumping the creature (33% better).

Summoner’s Bane – 2UU
Instant (Common)
Counter target creature spell. Put a 2/2 blue Illusion creature token onto the battlefield under your control.

JOE

Not bad at all!  I seldom play control in limited, but this is an essence scatter I can definitely get behind.  It’s somewhat easy to see coming, alas, but still… a good counter for limited.

JAMES
Certainly provides the right kind of card advantage that U needs to win. I wish the illusion had flying but maybe I’m just being a bit greedy. This is a really good card in limited, btw. It’s cancel on steroids imo. (Maybe Essence Scatter is a better counter examle but the 2 U in the casting cost makes me think of Cancel more than Essence Scatter). I can see this being a great counter spell in Block and also making some appearances in standard. Unless I’m totally blanking on some amazing control cards in U, the counter-suite seems a bit dry–probably because Cryptic Command has played such a meta-defining role and its absence is a gaping whole where once was a God of CounterMagic. I do like this counterspell.

Caller of Gales – U
Creature – Merfolk Wizard (Uncommon)
{1}{U}, {T}: Creatures you control gain flying until end of turn.
1/1
#43/249

JOE

Nice one!  Levitation always suffered from being an enchantment and from being costly.  This is a lower mana investment and can occasionally beat for 1.  I like it.

JAMES
It’s good that it’s multiple creatures otherwise it’d be strictly underpowered. I personally wouldn’t want to rely on getting my miniature creatures through on the back of this card but the Merfolk decks will probably toy with this. —-CORRECTION–checking out the spoiler on mtgsalvation right now and it looks like it’s changed to target creature. Okay, so it’s underwhelming.

Cosi’s Trickster – U
Creature – Merfolk (Rare)
Whenever an opponent shuffles his or her library, you may put a +1/+1 counter on Cosi’s Trickster.
1/1
#45/249

JOE

Interesting card.  Soldier of Fortune had a torrid love affair with this merfolk in the late 90s… little known fact.  No, this is potentially interesting in constructed, but it’s basically a 1/1 for U in limited.  You can’t ever count on it being much more.  I mean, maybe it grows to 2/2 or 3/3, but it’s almost certain to be out of your control.  Usually, this sits the bench; that’s my prediction.

JAMES
This could be a really aggressive card. Fetchlands will be making a strong appearance in every format from Extended to Block so I would expect this to be an amazing tempo-play. If you’re going full on merfolk then sleeving this up with Merfolk Sovereign is a great choice. What I really find appealing about this card is that in the early game U players can flop this puppy down and then simply protect it and keep counter magic available to tempo-play the opponent all the while exerting pressure on the opposing player. It’s proably not a game winner in and of itself but I definitely see this having a spot on the team.

Gomazoa – U
Creature – Jellyfish (Common)
Kicker {1}{U}
When Gomazoa enters the battlefield, if it was kicked, return target creature to its owner’s hand.
0/3
#46/249

JOE

An 0/3 makes me sad.  As a 1/2 I’d play this every time.  This is just a weird, pricey unsummon.  It still has a place, but I’d probably use it in a spell slot, not a creature slot, and I’d rather this guy had flash.  It’s an effect that needs to be instant to be fully useful.

JAMES
I don’t see the point of this card. Just play Unsummon[card] and then play a better creature (like [card]Cosis Trickster above).

Paralyzing Grasp – 2U
Enchantment – Aura (Common)
Enchant tapped creature
Enchanted creature doesn’t untap during its controller’s untap step.
#58/249

JOE

This has been done many times, and it’s a good example of “soft removal,” which is the normal kind of removal for blue.  Not bad at what it does.

JAMES
Very playable in limited though I can’t think of many instances where this would see play in constructed decks. Better to just have an Essence Scatter and not get that creature into play in the first place. Imo.

Sky Ruin Drake – 4U
Creature – Drake (Common)
Flying
2/5
#66/249

JOE

A solid flier in common.  Will definitely see play.

JAMES
Very interesting for limited. The big butt makes it easily a stabilizer against early-rush strategies while the 2 power lets it switch over to an attack after it played its stabilization role. Pretty cool. That being said, it’s not playable in constructed decks. (too expensive).

Sphinx of Jwar Isle – 4UU
Creature – Sphinx (Rare)
Flying, shroud
You may look at the top card of your library.(You may do this at any time)
5/5
#68/249

JOE

In limited, being a 6-drop 5/5 flying shroud makes it a bomb.  The top card thing is gravy, but mostly just a cute sideshow.  In constructed, maybe this can pair with djinn of wishes?  I dunno.

JAMES
Weird. I don’t see the value of looking at my library as worth it in this instance. It’s certainly a fairly efficient creature but it’s very boarderline. U-based decks typically don’t use big creatures for exerting pressure–simply because tapping out for a big spell like this allows your opponent to “finally” play their win-condition and they’ve been playing around the permission strategy for a few turns. Why give them permission?

Umara Raptor – 2U
Creature – Bird Ally (Common)
Flying
Whenever Umara Raptor or another Ally enters the battlefield under your control, you may put a +1/+1 counter on Umara Raptor.
1/1
#75/249

JOE

This might end up being the most popular common ally.  This is playable all by itself as a flying (you guessed it) gray ogre.  The fact that it can easily go well beyond makes this, in my mind, a likely first pick for blue.  Definitely a very high pick.

JAMES
Agreed. Strong ally at 3cc for a 2/2 flyer and mid-to-late game it’s not a dead card. A player can cast this spell and still leave some mana open for countering another spell. Well balanced. I’d expect to see this floating around in Block.

Welkin Tern – 2U
Creature – Bird (Uncommon)
Flying, defender
{T}: Shuffle Welkin Tern and all creatures it’s blocking into their owners’ libraries.
0/3
#76/249

JOE

Pretty neat!  I like that it’s the chump blocker par excellence!  This ought to be thought of as a soft removal spell… it’s not terrible.  Block a few bears until a scary beast comes to town, then send him packing.

JAMES
I don’t quite get “and all creatures it’s blocking.” It’s not allowed to block multiple creatures so it’s just a one-for-one right? It’s ‘aight…but probably not worth it.

Grim Discovery – 1B
Sorcery (Common)
Choose one or both – Return target creature card from your graveyard to your hand; and/or return target land card from your graveyard to your hand.

JOE

An awesome raise dead variant.  This will help you get double-duty out of whatever fetchland you cracked if you got lucky with landfall.  Worst case it’s raise dead for 1B.  Worth it for sure.

JAMES
I find this card really good. For the Vampire/MBC this seems like a great option. It’s cheap, does more than one thing, etc. In fact, I’ll bet it will fit really well into the Grixis-Control style decks using Soul Manipulation and Architects of Will.

Hagra Diabolist – 4B
Creature – Ogre Shaman Ally (Uncommon)
When Hagra Diabolist or an other Ally enters the battlefield, target player loses life equal to the the number of Allies you control.
3/2

JOE

A solid ally capable of doing double digits worth of life loss with the right number of allies.  However, as a 5-drop, you’ll need a few early allies to maximize your return with this guy.  3/2 is a little weak on 5 to run this guy as a sole ally.

JAMES
I just don’t have enough exposure to these allies to get a gauge on their power. Assuming you’ve been exerting even a modicum of pressure on your opponent this could be a very simple way of getting in the last few points of damage. (Assuming 3 or allies total on the battlefield). He’s pretty expensive though.

Malakir Bloodwitch – 3BB
Creature – Vampire Shaman (Rare)
Flying, protection from white
When Malakir Bloodwitch enters the battlefield, each opponent loses life equal to the number of Vampires you control. You gain life equal to the life lost this way.
4/4
#100/249

JOE

Damn.  This is a bomb.  Even as your only vampire, a 5-drop 4/4 flying is solid.  Just ask air elemental!  This should see a lot of play in constructed too, as vampires are on the rise.  This will probably be worth some $$ as well.  Pro white positions him quite well to battle a certain baneslayer angel, as well as dodging wall of reverence.  Constructed ain’t my thing really, so this is partly “on-a-limb” but I’m thinking this is a shoe-in for constructed vampires.dec.

JAMES
Seriously? This is ridiculous. Vampires is looking so damn strong. I see this as super playable. Even if the “total vampires” you control is only 2 (counting this one), then a four point swing in life with a 4/4 flyer is looking good. Pro-white is just gravy.

Mire Blight – B
Enchantment – Aura (Common)
Enchant Creature
When enchanted creature is dealt damage, destroy it.

JOE

This is on the extreme weak side of soft removal, but sometimes we all do things we’re not proud of.  Running this will be one of those times.  It happens.

JAMES
Weak.

Hellfire Mongrel – 2R
Creature – Elemental Hound (Uncommon)
At the beginning of each opponent’s upkeep, if that player has two or fewer cards in his hand, Hellfire Mongrel deals 2 damage to him or her.
2/2
#130/249

JOE

Who can guess what red creature I’m about to compare this to favorably?  If you said gray ogre, give yourself a gold star.

JAMES
Blightening loves this. There’s looking to be a few great discard spells in this set that will mesh well for a B/R strategy. I see this making an appearance in Type2. It only cost 3cc, will put pressure on an opponent and is sorta like a Sulfuric Vortex. Not bad.

Obsidian Fireheart – 1RRR
Creature – Elemental (Mythic Rare)
{1}{R}{R}: Put a blaze counter on target land without a blaze counter on it. Lands with blaze counters on them have “At the beginning of your upkeep, this land deals 1 damage to you”. (The land continues to burn even after Obsidian Fireheart leaves the battlefield.)
4/4

JOE

I’m not sure whether that parenthetical remark, “The land continues to burn even after Obsidian Fireheart leaves the battlefield,” is a joke or not, but it seems like sloppy rules execution.  The fact that the land gets this new ability already indicates that the effect is not dependent upon Obsidian Fireheart being in play.  The “continues to burn” thing is unnecessarily confusing.  Here’s hoping it’s a joke.  Anyway, the card itself seems more like a constructed card with RRR in the cost.  In limited, there’s no question it’s a huge creature for 4 mana though, so if you’re base-red, this should be a bomb for you.  The fact that it doesn’t require tapping to add counters makes him sweet.  On turn 6, they’ll already be taking lightning bolt-worth of damage per turn… FROM THEN ON.  I think it’s a bomb, but a quirky and odd one.  You need to be base red, but if so, you’re probably good to go with this guy.

JAMES
I’m not commenting on this card until I see it. It’s wording is all weird–total FUBAR imo. I can’t get a straight answer on the forums about whether this is confirmed or complete conjecture. Seems like random guesses in the dark about what it could do. Let’s see a scan of the card! ;-)

Unstable Footing – R
Instant (Uncommon)
Kicker {3}{R}
Damage can’t be prevented this turn. If Unstable Footing was kicked, it deals 5 damage to target player.

JOE

I only like it when it’s kicked.  How often is damage prevented?  An instant lava axe though?  Sign me up.

JAMES
I can think of instances where preventing the prevention of damage would be really useful. Too bad it doesn’t stop lifegain too. Would be a total shoe-in for SB. Harm’s Way cries a little in the dark when it sees this card. The kicker just gives it late-game viability. This is worth experimenting with in SB (before the tourney of course).

Oran-Rief Recluse – 2G
Creature – Spider (Common)
Kicker {2}{G}
Reach
When Oran-Rief Recluse enters the battlefield, if it was kicked, destroy target creature with flying.
1/3

JOE

Not bad.  If it had deathtouch too, it’d be properly insane.  This seems decently balanced as is.  I run him in green.  Fliers are green’s traditional downfall.  Maindecking an answer is not such a bad plan, usually.

JAMES
Pretty expensive. I don’t see this having the goods for constructed play. But heck, it will destroy a Baneslayer Angel so it can’t be all bad. Maybe think of it as a 6cc spot removal for Green? Does that make it swallow-able? Maybe…

Quest for the Gemblades – 1G
Enchantment (Uncommon)
Whenever a creature you control deals combat damage to another creature, you may put a quest counter on Quest for the Gemblades.
Remove a quest counter from Quest for the Gemblades and sacrifice it: Put four +1/+1 counters on target creature.

JOE

Only needs one quest counter eh?  And blocking will do the trick.  I think it’s a solid giant growth kind of card… it’s a little weird, and a little slow, but it’s like a seal of strength, essentially.  Lets you bluff your way through future combats for sure.  I’m down with that.

JAMES
Very interesting. The cheapest Quest of all? (cheapest as in “most accessible to actually achieve the goal of the quest). Pretty damn cheap. Too bad the counters can’t be divided. I guess that would make it over powered? Well, blocking occurs pretty frequently in combat, I’m just a little wary of saying, “put this in your deck” because I’m viewing the quests as all together un-reliable a strategy. Maybe someone will play this in some decks and leave a comment on how they work out. For now, I’m a skeptic.

Relic Crush – 4G
Instant (Common)
Destroy target artifact or enchantment and up to one other target artifact or enchantment.

JOE

Solid.  Should go into many EDH decks the day of the pre-release.  This is not terrible in limited either, since by the mid-to-late game, you’ll usually see some kind of enchantment or artifact.  Maybe it’s a sideboard card, maybe not.  This set has tons of equipment and weird enchantments of all shapes and sizes.  I’m guessing a fair number get maindecked.

JAMES
Too expensive and what artifacts are we talking here? Pass

Savage Silhouette – 2G
Enchantment – Aura (Common)
Enchant creature
Enchanted creature gets +2/+2 and has “{1}{G}: Regenerate enchanted creature”.

JOE

Hmmm… it’s better than regeneration, but I still worry about the 241 exposure here.  It’s right on the margin here for me.  I guess it depends on what my creature suite looks like.  I dunno.  I’d much rather not be in the situation where I need another card in my deck, and this is among the top contenders for the slot, let’s put it that way.

JAMES
Definitely not a bad pick in limited. Being able to Regenerate isn’t bad either. Has to be played late game when you’ll have the mana open to protect it. I don’t’ see this making the cut for constructed play though. (for example, I’d rather just play Cudgel Troll–but I don’t run that as it is…)

Territorial Baloth – 4G
Creature – Beast (Common)
Landfall – Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, Territorial Baloth gets +2/+2 until end of turn.
5/5

JOE

5-drop 5/5 is alright by itself.  Occasionally a 7/7 makes it superb.  A solid common sure to be a vertebrae in the backbone of many green decks, and the splashed beef of others.

JAMES
Probably too expensive for constructed play; there’s better G in this set.

Expedition Map – 1
Artifact (Common)
{2}, {T}, Sacrifice Expedition Map: Search your library for a land card, reveal it, and put it into your hand. Then shuffle your library.

JOE

Neat, flavorful name!  This is a colorless civic wayfinder without the creature.  Surely has a place as a common fixer for non-green multi-color decks.  That’s its purpose, and it serves it well, but fairly.

JAMES
This is a tad bit better than Civic Wayfinder since we can pull any land (i.e. pain lands). I’ll wager this is excellent in limited and then not quite good enough for constructed play (due to the lack of a body).

Explorer’s Scope – 1
Artifact – Equipment (Common)
When equipped creature attacks, you may look at the top card of your library. If it is a land card, you may put it onto the battlefield tapped.
Equip {1}

JOE

Whoa, nice!  Free lands, free landfall occasionally.  If you have multiples in play, they stack up nicely, letting you hit a two-land pocket every blue moon.  I dunno… it sort of doesn’t do much… that’s my only beef here.  Getting free lands is nice, but it doesn’t really enhance your creature any.  It’s a weird kind of accelerator, being on an equipment.

JAMES
Interesting enabler. And you just have to attack. Free lands = card advantage and can be activate as early as turn 2. Not bad at all. I’ll bet this little puppy finds a home in some creative decks. I wouldn’t even laugh if it was in Extended. Getting the mana boost will go a long way in that format. Heck, it’s great for a Naya-Zoo deck that wasn’t able to get a Plains-Mountain-and-Forest onto the Battlefield (Wild Nacatl). I’d test this card out. It’s major draw back is that if you want to reliably have this card early game (when it’s useful as it’s not as game-impacting late game) you’d have to run 4x. That being said, it’s still somewhat helpful late game when mana is plentiful and players are entering near-top-deck mode….that’s essentially what makes it construction-worthy imo.

Grappling Hook – 4
Artifact – Equipment (Rare)
Equipped creature has double strike.
Whenever equipped creature attacks, you may have target creature block it if able.
Equip {4}

JOE

Awesome.  Steep in cost and equip cost, but a huge payback in the end.  I don’t see myself ever opening this and not playing it.  Not exactly a bomb, I’d say, but quite solid as equipment goes.

JAMES
Dang expensive but late game as a 2-of it’s not horrible. I just worry that at 8cc total investment, it’s too pricey to justify. Being able to Lure can be great but it’s only one target creature. “any number of target creatures” would make me think this could be excellent. As it is, I don’t see it providing the pressure necessary to justify inclusion. Maybe I’m missing something…

Khalni Gem – 4
Artifact (Uncommon)
When Khalni Gem enters the battlefield, sacrifice it unless you return two lands you control to your hand.
{T}: Add two mana of any one color to your mana pool.

JOE

Okay, so you can still tap this once for two mana, then sac it… I’m thinking the tempo loss might be a bad thing… maybe not worth it.  On the other hand, this is an awesome way to enable many-colored decks.  I think it’ll see play, but will be a risky thing to do with decent artifact removal floating around.  I’d rather not have to resort to this kind of fixing.

JAMES
It’s not my style. I don’t like to open myself up like this. If it’s bounced or destroyed, you pretty much have to scoop.

Spidersilk Net – 0
Artifact – Equipment (Common)
Equipped creature gets +0/+2 and reach.
Equip {2}

JOE

Weak.  Not that interested.

JAMES
lol. Too bad the equip cost isn’t 1. That’d make it okay. I don’t see it being worthwhile outside of limited.

Soaring Seacliff
Land (Common)
Soaring Seacliff enters the battlefield tapped.
When Soaring Seacliff enters the battlefield, target creature gains flying until end of turn.
{T}: Add {U} to your mana pool.

JOE

This can, again, help push through valuable damage.  In this cycle, this is probably my favorite card.

JAMES
Free jump I guess but at the cost of playing something on curve. Certainly looking at this as a one-of in a limited deck makes me think it’s fine since it could be a game finisher (enabler, that is).

Turntimber Grove
Land (Common)
Turntimber Grove enters the battlefield tapped.
When Turntimber Grove enters the battlefield, target creature gets +1/+1 until end of turn.
{T}: Add {G} to your mana pool.
#227/249

JOE

Kind of a weak effect, really.  I’ll pass.

JAMES
I feel like we reviewed this cycle already. Blah, pass.

Zendikar Card Review Batch 02 (170 / 249)

Welcome to batch two of the Zendikar preview season. We’ve got ~59 new cards or so to review today. As usual, these are knee-jerk reactions, in most cases, and we try to keep these reviews as much of a first impression as possible. With the exception of Lotus Cobra, previewed by our pal Mike Flores, we haven’t seen any of today’s cards yet.

I’ll (Joe) be reviewing everything from a limited standpoint with occasional comments geared towards legacy and EDH, while James will default into evaluating the cards for constructed, particularly upcoming standard and block formats, though the latter is trickier than the former given the limited number of block cards known to date.

Enjoy, and please chime in in the comments section! That’s what it’s there for.

Brave the Elements – W
Instant (Uncommon)
Choose a color. White creatures you control gain protection from the chosen color until end if turn.

JOE

Neat little trick… should make for some favorable combat outcomes. This can be devastating soft-removal for a base-white archetype. Dr. Obvious says, “This card increases in value in direct proportion to the number of white creatures you have on board.” Thank you, Dr. Obvious.

JAMES
This is a pretty good card actually. –potentially not as good as the green version of this cycle (see below) but definitely a good card because it will hose your opponents’ attempts at 2 for 1′ing you. I’m thinking Volcanic Fallout for example, which is easily one of the best two-for-one’rs in Type2 right now. It’s also great for an alpha strike, if you’ve got lethal on board but some pesky blockers, here’s your chance to walk right on by and bash your opponent’s face in. The question becomes is this better than Harms Way? Probably; it just doesn’t have the advantage of redirecting that damage. It’s going to come down to testing so my recommendation is to test this card versus Harm’s Way.

Conqueror’s Pledge – 2WWW
Sorcery (Rare)
Kicker {6}
Put six 1/1 white Kor Soldier creature tokens onto the battlefield. If Conqueror’s Pledge was kicked, put twelve 1/1 white Kor Soldier creature tokens onto the battlefield instead.

JOE

Hmmm… you might occasionally play it for 5, in which case it’s a fair deal. You’ll likely never see 11 mana, so that’s slightly irrelevant. But as far as token-barfer cards, this is a good one. I’m guessing there are way better versions for constructed, such as martial coup.
JAMES
This seems pretty playable to me. At 5cc this is better than martial coup–martial coup is awesome at 7cc but because of that high cc, it’s more of a 2x. Well, I’m concluding this off experience with windswept heights which is rotating out so m.coup may get the bump. However, on a straight cc analysis, this is better than coup. At two more cc than spectral procession you get three more creatures so on a mana-efficiency level, this is a slight bump in efficiency. When B/W tokens was bashing face across the world, there were instances where Spectral Procession was played at 4cc, making this actually a bit more stable in the sense that you have two more turns to hit your third plains. The kicker does seem unlikely–and in all probability we’d probably rather see martial coup for 11 than Conqueror’s Pledge at 11 because you get the Wrath of God/Day of Judgment affect. Unfortunately it’s not as good as Cloudgoat Ranger which provides “that bigger body” as well as evasion. Tapping out on turn 5 to get Volcanic Fallout would be a kick to the nuts so it’s a tough call. I’ll probably sleeve this up post-Lorwyn in my G/W tokens…which very well may become mono-white. (Sigil Captain and even more so Dauntless Escort are very good).

Emeria Angel – 2WW
Creature – Angel (Rare)
Flying
Landfall—Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control,
you may put a 1/1 white Bird creature token with flying into the battlefield.
3/3

JOE

Check out that foily promo goodness… Look ma, no textbox! This is a Super-bomb in limited, and would be highly awesome even if all it did was fly, cost 4, and have 3 power and toughness. Barfing out other fliers makes this celestial being a killer. Incredible. Looks constructed worthy to me as well, but that’s not my forte. Hill giant is solid. Flying hill giant is superb. Flying bird-barfer hill giant is bombastic-fantastic with a Jamaican accent like Shaggy.

JAMES
This is definitely worth toying with. The cc at 4 may make it a bit tough to fit–for example, would we rather play the bird-producing angel or would we rather drop an Elspeth, Knight-Errant or Ajani Goldmane? Planeswalkers are pretty much self-contained entities making for fairly ideal on-curve plays. That being said, you’re well rewarded for playing this angel. I mean, what deck doesn’t want to play a fifth land? (besides burn decks which don’t count in this instance). I don’t see 5 Color Control sticking around in the same structure (losing Cryptic Command and Broken Ambitions really are too much) so we can’t even compare this to Baneslayer Angel as a potentially “earlier play.” The only control deck that comes to mind that as far as I’m aware isn’t getting completely gutted is the Grixis-Control deck which wouldn’t be running this. So it comes down to the MWC, White-Winnie & mid-range. As a mid-range deck, we can evaluate this on a comparative level with Knight of the Watch which w/ the landfall ability on Emeria Angel will produce the same number of 1/1s as the 7cc Knight (just one at a time rather than all at once). Under that analysis, this would be far more efficient. It’s a question of “flying” vs “vigilance”–flying is pretty much 10x better than vigilance imo. That all being said, this card seems playable.

Kor Cartographer – 3W
Creature – Kor Scout (Common)
When Kor Cartographer enters the battlefield, you may search your library for a Plains card, put it onto the battlefield tapped, then shuffle your library.
2/2

JOE

Well, a 4-drop doesn’t work too well as a fixer, so this is more of a mid-to-late accellerant. Not bad in that role, but a little pricey for a 2/2. I’m on the fence. I’d probably run him with enough early landfall cards that I want to double up on turn 4.

JAMES
If landfall is going to be as good as I think it probably will be, then this will play a marginal role. Due to the “get a plains” nature, I’m not sure it’s going to see play outside mono-white in Type2–if a player is dabbling in G which has lots of land-searchers, then Harrow is a better option. It is pretty pricey so I’m on the fence. Getting an extra land can be pretty dang helpful…

Creature – Kor Soldier (Common)
Flying
When Kor Skyfisher enters the battlefield, return a permanent you control to its owner’s hand.
2/3

JOE

Incredible. Amazing. Awesome. Okay, well, this is pretty snazzy… it’s only rarely going to be the ideal turn 2 drop though… but it’s awesome when you have a fair number of CiP abilities to abuse (see cartographer above). This lets you get double mileage out of CiP shennanigans, and leaves you with a highly respectable 2/3 flier, all for a piddly 1W. Very sweet common here. Soldier too!

JAMES
For a two drop this is certainly a pretty aggressive card but at this point I can only compare it to filling in a slot occupied by Honor of the Pure and Kazandu Blademaster (see our other post for a breakdown). Keeping my comparison cards in mind, if an ally deck is viable then this card will be the linchpin triggering all kinds of madness. And it’d be some serious madness but as a shenanigan-enabler, I would run it at 3x (hoping to draw into it mid-to late game…not in my opening hand). I’d expect an ally deck in Block but not so much in Type2; this card could end up being very interesting.

Narrow Escape – 2W
Instant (Common)
Return target permanent you control to its owner’s hand. You gain 4 life.
“Let’s get out of here”
#27/249

JOE

Love it. This card sure weeps for the recent M10 rules changes though! “Damage on the stack…” er… not so much. But still a nice way to softly counter some removal! I’m confused by the flavor though… why the 4 life if it was a narrow escape? This is more like “Narrow Escape turned Awesome Boon….” like someone running away and tripping over a pot of gold or something… I dunno. I’d probably leave this one out of the deck if I could, as countering removal is kind of narrow. Lots of time this will be a do-nothing spell.

JAMES
I’m not so hot on this. Good game trick for limited where savign a creature from the graveyard and gaining 4 life might be viable. For constructed, I don’t see much room for this. [card]Brave the Elements[card] (above) seems 10x better to me, costing 2cc less and potentially saving the whole team.

Shepherd of the Lost – 4W
Creature – Angel (Uncommon)
Flying, first strike, vigilance
3/3
#34/249

JOE

Awesome in limited. Simply awesome. This is highly playable, highly splashable. Great body, attacks and blocks, and all with first strike. Awesome fiver.

JAMES
Great for limited and then not so hot otherwise. As an uncommon it’s a rockstar in limited! At 5cc [card]Baneslayer Angel[card] is better for constructed. Like I said in the last batch of reviews, forever will B.A. be the benchmark…

Hedron Crab – U
Creature – Crab (Uncommon)
Landfall – Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, target player puts the top three cards of his or her library into his or her graveyard.
0/2

JOE

This is the waiting line for tryouts for the next sanity grinding combo deck. I have no clue whether he’ll make the cut there, but for limited, mill strategies are always about that critical mass. If you can land two or three of this guy (probably not) along with enough other mill cards (who knows?), then this could be viable. Otherwise, it’s a 15th pick kind of card.
JAMES
I don’t play mill and I’ve never lost to a mill deck…

Into the Roil – 1U
Instant (Common)
Kicker {1}{U} (You may pay an additional {1}{U} as you cast this spell.)
Return target nonland permanent to its owner’s hand. If Into the Roil was kicked, draw a card.

JOE

Love it. Should see play in limited, and maybe even that mill deck the crab above is trying out for? I dunno. The cantrip part is a little pricey, but it’s still going to be kicked a lot. This is a very decent soft removal spell.
JAMES
Tempo play in limited but I don’t see anything coming from this in constructed. Am I missing something?

Kraken Hatchling – U
Creature – Kraken (Common)
“Below the thunders of the upper deep; Far, far beneath in the abysmal sea, His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep The Kraken sleepeth.”
0/4
#50/249

JOE

I, Joe Klesert, do hereby swear never to play this card in any limited event, so help me God.
JAMES
LMAO. Really? A 0/4 wall is pretty okay in limited. It just doesn’t do anything in constructed. Or? Anyway, it for sure is marginally playable in limited for a slow-roll U/x deck that needs to stall the ground out to build up a threat. I mean, we play 1/4′s in limited for the sole purpose of stalling, so this at 1cc isn’t SOOOO bad. (Just don’t run more than 2 or you’ll be shitting 0/4′s for dinner).

Living Tsunami – 2UU
Creature – Elemental (Uncommon)
Flying
At the beginning of your upkeep, sacrifice Living Tsunami unless you return a land you control to its owner’s hand.
4/4

JOE

At least they didn’t call it “Tsunami Elemental” as they might have in the past. This is a huge enabler whose “drawback” is pretty much a pure upside. If you have no landfall cards, this is still a pretty decent deal. You get an undercosted air elemental, and if they stop it on the board, you just sac it the next upkeep. If you have landfall guys in play before him, he guarantees their activation every turn, which ain’t bad. In either case he’s playable, and with the right landfall cards, he’s outstanding. The only real risk is when you play him on-curve and never really get to access your 5-and-up-drops, so be somewhat weary… but I suspect this won’t be much of a problem.

JAMES
Well there. This will see play. So much landfall (such as Lotus Cobra–man, I’ve just been itching to get my way down to green) in Zendikar that not playing a [card]Air Elemental[card] that enables Landfall AND cost one less seems silly to me. This is an almost drawback free 4/4 with flying for 4cc. (Drawback free because of landfall y’all!)

Merfolk Wayfinder – 2U
Creature – Merfolk Scout (Uncommon)
Flying
When Merfolk Wayfinder enters the battlefield, reveal the top three cards of your library. Put all Island cards revealed this way into your hand and the rest on the bottom of your library in any order.
1/2

JOE

Hmm… funky. Flying 1/2 makes him decently costed. The benefit here is stocking yourself with Islands. This is a hard call in limited where you seldom run mono-colored decks. He’ll probably whiff a lot, but he’s still decent when you draw him early. I’m thinking he’s playable, but I’d want to be somewhat invested in a skies type flying archetype to run him.

JAMES
I don’t see this making the cut in constructed unless there’s a mono-U developing that I’ve completely missed.

Reckless Scholar – 2U
Creature – Human Wizard (Common)
{T}: Target player draws a card, then discards a card.
2/1
#60/249

JOE

Not such a bad re-make of merfolk looter, since you get another point of power for your 1. Targeting other players probably won’t matter much… maybe the mill deck wants that, I dunno. I’d run this guy for sure though. Quite playable. Selection when you need it and a non-irrelevant body when you don’t.
JAMES
x/1′s don’t seem good enough. I mean, it’s not like it can block and then EOT draw a card. I’d rather have a 0/3 than a 2/1…Anyway, for the total cost this seems too expensive to see the light of day in constructed.

Rite Of Replication – 2UU
Sorcery (Rare)
Kicker {5} (You may pay an additional {5} as you cast this spell.)
Put a token that is a copy of target creature onto the battlefield. If Rite Of Replication was kicked, instead put five of those tokens onto the battlefield.
Illus. Matt Cavotta
#61/249

JOE

What in the holy hell!? Okay, with no kicker, this is a decent Clone remake, which makes it pretty solid. WITH kicker… this is ridiculous. I’m immediately thinking about lotus cobra here (see below)… you should be able to kick it without TOO much trouble with mr. snakey pants on board… and what would the world look like with 6 copies of Señor Snake? Holy crap!? Anyway, weirdness aside, this will be a middle-range rare, never going above $2-3 I’m guessing, but it’ll have these weird side uses. EDH decks would like to make 5 darksteel colossus tokens, for instance.
JAMES
This card is waiting to be broken. 9cc for 5 copies of say Baneslayer Angel or (even more devastating, auto-scoop styles) Broodmate Dragon is stupid.

Tempest Owl – 1U
Creature – Bird (Common)
Kicker {4}{U} (You may pay an additional {4}{U} as you cast this spell.)
Flying
When Tempest Owl enters the battlefield, if it was kicked, tap up to three target permanents.
1/2

JOE

Think of it mainly as a 2-drop 1/2 flier for limited. You’ll eventually be able to use him to tap remaining fliers or reach blockers for the alpha strike… that adds value. He’s playable in a skies archetype as a 2-drop 1/2 flier though. Decent early, decent late. Only disappointing right in the middle game period.. turn 4 or 5, for instance. Nice one.

JAMES
I’m not so hot on this one (thinking constructed). Tapping me down three permenants would be bomb-alicious if this had flash. Without it’s just a one-turn stall and you’re not going to get much from a 1/2…

Trapfinder’s Trick – 1U
Sorcery (Common)
Target player reveals his or her hand and discards all Trap cards.
#73/249

JOE

Hard to evaluate, but not impossible… I think even if there were four or five devastating traps, this is sideboard material for constructed AT BEST. But there’s likely only one or two awesome traps, and I think it’ll never be played. It’s so damn narrow. I doubt I will ever play this card.

JAMES
Unless trap all of a sudden becomes the shit, this isn’t anything to bother with. end line.

Trapmaker’s Snare – 1U
Instant (Uncommon)
Search your library for a Trap card, reveal it, and put it into your hand.
Then shuffle your libary.
#74/249

JOE

Now this, on the other hand, I can almost guarantee I’ll play, though not necessarily in limited. If you have some bomby trap card, sure. It’s very marginal in limited, but may well see play in constructed formats. If there’s any decent traps, EDH likes this, as it’s easy to transmute for with muddle the mixture or fetch with merchant scroll, making the trap quite tutorable, if it’s compelling enough. Tutors are usually pretty good, and as Dr. Obvious might say, they’re better the more awesome targets they have.
JAMES
Not sure it would be worth losing a slot just to fetch my trap-cards. Depends on which trap we’re talking here. [card]Mindbreak Trap[card] (see other post) has a ton of potential and being able to nab it “when you need it” and then play it for zero (otherwise, why are you playing it?) is pretty sweet. But I’m not sure there are any other trap cards I’m just dying to play–plus that assumes your at least splashing U. Splashing U for access to trap cards on demand seems pretty weak sauce.

̠ther Figment Р1U
Creature – Illusion (Uncommon)
Kicker {3}
Æther Figment is unblockable.
If Æther Figment was kicked, it enters the battlefield with two +1/+1 counters on it.
1/1
Black(25)

JOE

2-drop 1/1 unblockable… I’m probably not playing it without some kind of equipment. 5-drop 3/3 unblockable… I’d get behind that! Especially so splashable. In the end, he’s playable, but will likely be dropped turn 5 more than turn 2, outside of equipment.dec.
JAMES
Not bad for limited. I don’t think it has the goods for constructed play. 5cc for the 3/3 is just a bit too pricey.

Bloodchief Ascension – B
Enchantment (Rare)
At the beginning of each player’s end step, if an opponent lost 2 or more life this turn, you may put a quest counter on Bloodchief Ascension.
Whenever a card is put into an opponent’s graveyard from anywhere, if Bloodchief Ascension has three or more quest counters on it, you may have that player lose 2 life. If you do, you gain 2 life.

JOE

Seems easy to enable it, and then the effect is immense. I’m ready to call this a bomb rare one-drop enchantment. They either answer it, or eventually take TONS of damage from it. It’s trivial to drop it, and doesn’t require you to do anything you wouldn’t already be doing in order to enable it. It does require you to have enough guys in the red zone though, so keep that in mind… this can’t take a creature slot or anything. I’m going to try to play this when I can though. Cards that cost 1 and potentially create 4, 6, 8, 10 point lifeswings and beyond… I’m down with that. I really am. Even with a 3-4 turn delay in the mix.

JAMES
Damn. This is stupidly good for a one-drop. It will see constructed play and it’s great for a R/B deck.

Desecrated Earth – 4B
Sorcery (Common)
Destroy target land. Its controller discards a card.
#86/249

JOE

Harsh but expensive. Probably sideboard for pesky nonbasic lands. It’s too expensive to be effective as an LD spell and only makes them discard one card, limiting its effectiveness there as well. People will probably sandbag lands more often in the landfall block I’m guessing.
JAMES
I don’t see this having the goods for constructed play. Not with cards likes Blightening or the new Hideous End.

Disfigure – B
Instant (Common)
Target creature gets -2/-2 until end of turn.

JOE

Nothing wrong with this cheap removal spell. Weakness, eat your heart out.

JAMES
One cc less than Nameless Inversion and the lack of ‘changeling’ make me doubtful this will be in constructed play.

Feast of Blood – 1B
Sorcery (Uncommon)
Cast Feast of Blood only if you control two or more Vampires.
Destroy target creature. You gain 4 life.
#88/249

JOE

Only awesome in one archetype, which should make this uncommon even more available for that particular archetype… this should be awesome whenever you can cast it.
JAMES
Amazing for the new vampire deck developing for Type 2. I mean seirously? Target creature? nothing about “non-black” or “tapped”–excellent. And you gain life off it? Sheesh. Seems like B might be the new life-gain deck (versus W & G as most recently seen).

Giant Scorpion – 2B
Creature – Scorpion (Common)
Deathtouch
1/3

JOE

1/3 isn’t very giant, but I guess it IS a scorpion we’re talking about. 1/3 deathtouch is worth every bit of 2B in my book. Playable. Deadly recluse is this guy’s pimp though. “Scorpion betta have my money!”

JAMES
It’s not going to make the cut w/ these stats. Not sure why B would play this over some of the amazing vampires we’ve seen so far.

Ravenous Trap – 2BB
Instant – Trap (Uncommon)
If an opponent had three or more cards put into his or her graveyard from anywhere this turn, you may pay {0} rather than pay Ravenous Trap’s mana cost.
Exile all cards from target player’s graveyard.

JOE

Meh. Not a lot of uses for this. Sideboard… this is more of a constructed card / something to hose dredge.

JAMES
I don’t see it; not even sure what the point is. If we’re talking extended, then we have Tormods crypt. In standard, there might be a use for it but getting an opponent to drop 3 cards in one turn is tough and then we’re assuming that the graveyard has something worth exiling…unearth? Meh, not for me.

Sadistic Sacrament – BBB
Sorcery (Rare)
Kicker {7} (You may pay an additional {7} as you cast this spell.)
Search target player’s library for up to three cards, exile them, then that player shuffles his or her library. If Sadistic Sacrament was kicked, instead search that player’s library for up to fifteen cards, exile them, then that player shuffles his of her library.

JOE

If you ever reach 10 mana, chances are that the 15 cards you milled will win you the game. However, that rarely happens, and grabbing 3 cards doesn’t do much other than take away their bombs, two out of the three of which they likely wouldn’t have seen anyway… plus, they’re still going to see SOMETHING when they otherwise would have drawn the cards you took… so this ends up being a do-nothing kind of card in limited. Avoid it, unless you’re certain you can ramp to the 10-mana version, and you’re mill.dec anyway.

JAMES
This is sorta interesting and it goes back to my theory (last post) that we’re seeing a gentle shift toward bigger and bigger mana curves. Hitting someone on turn 10-12 with this will be pretty devastating. It’s something I can see being a 2x. That being said, MonoB is shaping up to equal “Vampires” and not so much discard/control, so I’m not sure it’s worth toying with this at all. I personally think that Thought Hemorrhage is better. This might have a home in extended decks where hosing a combo-linchpin can mean “auto scoop”. Tron losing academy ruins or crucible of worlds, or heritage druid in elves! for example.

Vampire Hexmage – BB
Creature – Vampire Shaman (Uncommon)
First strike
Sacrifice Vampire Hexmage: Remove all counters from target permanent.
2/1
#114/249

JOE

Okay, so this is going to inevitably have some kind of weird combo to it… Dark Depths comes to mind, for instance… I think we can actually be 99% certain that dark depths / vampire hexmage will see play in extended, in fact.20/20 indestructible on turn 3? You better counter the hexmage if you see him in extended. You heard it here first people! I think it’s going to have some other uses I’m not thinking of right now, but it’s probably just expedition / quest protection before then… It’s way playable as a mini-black knight in any case, plus it’s a vampire. It’s playable.

JAMES
Joe is onto something w/ Extended liking this deck. It just says “counters” so you could conceivably drop it, and then sac it to remove all counters from a planeswalker. That’s pretty vicious in itself.

Vampire’s Bite – B
Instant (Common)
Kicker {2}{B} (You may pay an additional {2}{B} as you cast this spell.)
Target creature gets +3/+0 until end of turn. If Vampire’s Bite was kicked, that creature gains lifelink until end of turn.
#117/249
Red(23)

JOE

Decent combat trick. Lifelink is gravy, so kick it if you have nothing better to do, since why not?

JAMES
Not much to say here…

Burst Lightning – R
Instant (Common)
Kicker {4} (You may pay an additional {4} as you cast this spell.)
Burst Lightning deals 2 damage to target creature or player. If Burst Lightning was kicked, it deals 4 damage to that creature or player instead.

JOE

Strictly better than shock = playable in limited. Most likely playable in constructed as well.

JAMES
It’s filling the slot for Lightening Bolt and fighting for Magma Spray‘s so I’m not sure how to figure this one. Magma spray is slightly better for kiling creatures since it exiles the creature. That being said, it will hit players, filling in the Tarfire slot. Ultimately Tarfire proved slightly more played than Magma Spray simply because you could hit players (and helping Aunties Hovel enter the battlefield “untapped”). Keeping that in mind and the new awesomeness of Chandra Ablaze, I can see this making the cut.

Goblin War-Paint – 1R
Enchantment – Aura (Common)
Enchant creature
Enchanted creature gets +2/+2 and has haste.
“Survival rule 223: Don’t eat the paint.”
- Zurdi, goblin shortcutter
#129/249

JOE

On an aura, haste is a complete waste of time. If you’re using this for granting a creature haste, you’ve essentially failed the skill test this card presents. It ought to be evaluated solely on the basis of a +2/+2. I think it’s clearly not worth the 241 exposure.

JAMES
Well, dropping this late game on a top-decked creature isn’t THAT horrible. Agreed, it’s a +2/+2 though. Anyway, I don’t anticipate this making any splashes in our lifetimes.

Hellkite Charger – 4RR
Creature – Dragon (Rare)
Flying, haste
Whenever Hellkite Charger attacks, you may pay {5}{R}{R}. If you do, untap all creatures you control and after this phase, there is an additional combat phase.
5/5

JOE

Bomb rare. Very very good. Incidentally, in some formats, this may present quirky / possibly casual decks that use lots of mana creatures to create an infinite combat phase recursion. Fun stuff. Two birds of paradise, two llanowar elves, a priest of titania, and a partridge in a pear tree?

JAMES
Pretty sexy dragon here. Costs one more than Demigod of Revenge but since it’s just double RR, I can see this going in a mono-red. Getting even just one extra attack phase is pretty nuts. I’m asking myself if I would rather play Chandra Ablaze at 6cc and discard a Burst Lightening for 4 damage rather than the 5 hasty…and I’m not sure. There’s also Bogardan Hellkite and Flameblast Dragon. Flameblast is qualitatively worse since it would do less damage (Haste is no joke on this Dragon Charger). Hellkite acts as a sweeper…this card is worth testing with.

Punishing Fire – 1R
Instant (Uncommon)
Punishing Fire deals 2 damage to target creature or player.
Whenever an opponent gains life, you may pay {R}. If you do, return Punishing Fire from your graveyard to your hand.

JOE

This looks somewhat promising, though it’s best against crap like angels feather that gain one life at a time. You shouldn’t need help beating people who play that mess. Against the 5 life gain of baneslayer angel, for example, this doesn’t do much other than use your mana up slightly delaying the inevitable. Still, it’s another burn spell that’s passable, and will occasionally do double duty against random lifegaining vampires and what have you. If you see an opponent attacking with a lifelink creature, remember that, mana allowing, you can use this to nuke a 4 toughness guy.

JAMES
Wow. Pretty impressive instant. Being able to return the card to your hand (and immediately play it) seems very sweet. Since red decks have a problem holding on to cards and then quickly going into top-deck mode, I’d wager this sees lots of tourney play. I like this for a B/R deck running Needlebite Trap. Two mana for 7 damage to an opponent and 5 lifegain back to “me” is impressive. Being able to hit a creature with this will be relevant.

Pyromancer Ascension – 1R
Enchantment (Rare)
Whenever you cast an instant or sorcery spell that has the same name as a card in your graveyard, you may put a quest counter on Pyromancer Ascension.
Whenever you cast an instant or sorcery spell while Pyromancer Ascension has two or more quest counters on it, you may copy that spell. You may choose new targets for that copy.
Illus. Kev Walker

JOE

I’m not sure whether a card with retrace (flame jab) will trigger this when played from the graveyard without another copy in the yard… if so, that may be a weird burn variant for extended. However, in limited, this will never be enabled. In constructed, once it’s online, it’s pretty nice. The rebirth of lightning bolt has me hoping that a standard burn deck is viable. We’ll see. Pass this in draft though… it ain’t gonna happen.

JAMES
Wow, I like this card. I’m worried it might be a stretch but the potential is pretty impressive.

Quest for Pure Flame – R
Enchantment (Uncommon)
Whenever a source you control deals damage to an opponent. you may put a quest counter on Quest for Pure Flame.
Remove four quest counters from Quest for Pure Flame and sacrifice it: Until end of turn, if a source you control would deal damage to a creature of player, it deals double that damage to that creature or player instead.
#144/249

JOE

Hmmm. This might be acceptable in the right limited deck. If fireball were in my pool, for example, I’d run this guy for sure, as it makes the end game fireball win come that much faster. Four counters shouldn’t be difficult with this lax a condition. Interesting card. Even if confined to combat, this could be worthwhile.

JAMES
My primary concern with all these quest cards is the “tempo.” They all seem slow–though I am a fan of Luminarch Ascension and “sorta” fan of Khalni Heart Expedition. This one in a red deck seems particuarly underpowered. It’s essentially activated on turn 6 since it’s not likely that you’ll have enough mana on turn 5 to cast a 4th burn spell and justifiably sac it. Maybe…I mean, if you can keep Chandra on the table and discard a card for 4, with Quest for the Pure Flame activated, you’re doing 8 damage. On turn 7 that could mean end of the game. There’s just a lot of “ifs” and “maybes” in that plan. I don’t really like hopeful-wishful playing…

Ruinous Minotaur – 1RR
Creature – Minotaur (Common)
Whenever Ruminous Minotaur deals damage to an opponent, sacrifice a land.
5/2

JOE

Weak. Not interested. This is only imaginable way late game, at which time the CC doesn’t matter and a 5/2 kinda sucks… unless it follows a sweeper… but no… this sucks.

JAMES
Wtf? Why would I want to sac a land? 4 damage on turn 4 isn’t worth it.

Runeflare Trap – 4RR
Instant – Trap (Uncommon)
If an opponent drew three or more cards this turn, you may pay {R} rather then pay Runeflare Trap’s mana cost.
Runeflare Trap deals damage equal to the number of cards in target player’s hand to that player.

JOE

Hmm. I’m guessing this will have some play in some older formats for use against combo decks perhaps? But in limited, this is a 6 mana shock, pretty much. Nobody’s drawing three cards in limited, and even if they did, they’re still probably only at 4 cards in hand. This only hits players. I’m gonna pass on this one.

JAMES
I could see this in extended. I could see it being really good in extended. I’m such a fan-boy for the Trap ability…Anyway, there probably is enough draw from cards like Esper Charm to justify a SB slot for this. I’m just not sure that we’ll be seeing a lot of esper charms or draw-go oriented decks in this meta so I would wait on it for a while. So far as in extended, this seems like a partially viable SB choice. Ben Lundquist in last week’s online workshop warned us players going into big tournies to be VERY careful of narrow SB choices. He was answering a question about PT Austin next month and had that new extended meta in mind when he was discussion. Still, I think the advice to be wary of narrow SB choices is a good one. Final answer for playbility: marginal to really really good, depending on how the meta shapes up over the next few weeks.

Tuktuk Grunts – 4R
Creature – Goblin Warrior Ally (Common)
Haste
Whenever Tuktuk Grunts or another Ally enters the battlefield under your control, you may put a +1/+1 counter on Tuktuk Grunts.
2/2
#152/249

JOE

This is a supporting role ally. On his own, as your only ally, he’s a hasty 3/3 for 5. Not exactly stellar. With 5 or more other allies, he’s just fine, but not the show stopper. He’s the supporting cast.

JAMES
Weird that this costs so much more for essentially a WORSE version of the same card: Kazandu Blademaster (the double Wcc, first strike, vigilance 1/1–2/2 counting his own counters). For haste? really? This card sucks. wtf.

Zektar Shrine Expedition – 1R
Enchantment (Common)
Landfall – Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, you may put a quest counter on Zektar Shrine Expedition.
Remove three quest counters from Zektar Shrine Expedition and sacrifice it: Put a 7/1 red Elemental creature token with haste and trample onto the battlefield. Sacrifice it at the beginning of the end step.
Green(29)

JOE

So it’s a delayed elemental appeal. Not terrible. It does give your opponent to get his ducks in a row though. Most people won’t be taking 7 from this. As such, I’d rather not play it.

JAMES
I think all these quest cards are marginal. I don’t like this one. Too slow.

Baloth Cage Trap – 3GG
Instant – Trap (Uncommon)
If an opponent had an artifact enter the battlefield under his or her control this turn, you may pay {1}{G} rather then pay Baloth Cage Trap’s mana cost.
Put a 4/4 green Beast creature token onto the battlefield.

JOE

This one, I can get behind. 5 for a 4/4 isn’t terrible at all, and it’s an instant! This will ruin combats for a lot of opponents. And randomly, it’ll cost you 1G. Strong card here. This should be thought of as in-combat removal for green.

JAMES
Not bad. I’m wondering if this will go for extended where we ALWAYS see affinity. And why wouldn’t we? Arcbound Ravanger is still broken as all hell. I definitely like the appeal of playing a 4/4 EOT–or at the beginning of the end of turn. (lol; some of the language changes always tickle me). For standard, I have seen a few pretty fun artifact, esper-bant-esque decks and this would be a good fit. It’s just not a great card to have on turns 2 through 4 where G wants to be pumping out a) lands or b) fatties. That makes me think it’s on the fence. I’m sure it’s worth testing though. Again, I’m leaning more toward extended.

Beastmaster Ascension – 2G
Enchantment (Rare)
Whenever a creature you control attacks, you may put a quest counter on Beastmaster Ascension.
As long as Beastmaster Ascension has seven or more quest counters on it, creatures you control get +5/+5

JOE

I’d say this is playable in limited. All you have to do is attack… this should be online by turn 5 or 6 in the typical green aggro deck. And the benefit is so huge. I’d almost call it a bomb, but as an enchantment that doesn’t help you with an empty board, it’s still kind of conditional.

JAMES
Assuming you play this on turn 3, this doesn’t seem so bad. It doesn’t even need to be in a mono-G deck. All those token creators (see white above) would love to have a playmate like this. Again, I’m not completely sold on the tempo-related viablity of the quest cards. This one seems pretty decent though.

Cobra Trap – 4GG
Instant – Trap (Uncommon)
If an opponent countered a noncreature spell this turn, you may pay {G} rather than pay Cobra Trap’s casting cost.
Put four 1/1 green Snake creature tokens onto the battlefield.

JOE

Well, this should be seen much as Baloth Cage Trap above. Solid as a removal spell for limited… probably even better than Baloth Cage. And this will more likely see its trap cost as well. Very cool.

JAMES
Bummer the snakes don’t have deathtouch. I like this for when my planeswalker is countered but it’s not a good “on curve” spell–meaning on curve I’m playing Garruk Wildspeaker and have no mana left. Now I have to wait a turn? I say this isn’t good enough.

Frontier Guide – 1G
Creature – Elf Scout (Uncommon)
{3}{G}, {T}: Search your library for a basic land card and put it onto the battlefield tapped. Then shuffle your library.
1/1

JOE

Another landfall enabler, this one is decent as a fixer, though not as an accelerant. He can’t help your two-land stall hands. I’d still run him though, if I needed help finding my splash color.

JAMES
Not so bad. But not good. Too slow. I wonder why it’s not 2, G {T} rather than 3…it’s not an on-curve play.

Grazing Gladehart – 2G
Creature – Antelope (Common)
Landfall – Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, you may gain 2 life.
2/2
#163/249

JOE

Pretty solid. Gray ogre with free life gain works for me.

JAMES
Not much here for me.

Greenweaver Druid – 2G
Creature – Elf (Uncommon)
{T}: Add {G}{G} to your mana pool.
1/1
#164/249

JOE

Fyndhorn elder, huh? Well, sure, I guess. He’s worth it.

JAMES
Not so shabby but I think the timing is way off. He costs a lot more than Noble Heirarch and isn’t even remotely as good as Lotus Cobra so I say this guy doesn’t see the light of day so far as constructed goes.

Lotus Cobra – 1G
Creature – Snake (Mythic Rare)
Landfall – Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, you may add one mana of any color to your mana pool.
Its scales contain the essence of thousands of lotus blooms.
2/1
Illus. Chippy
#168/249

JOE

Mike Flores hit the nail on the head in his article previewing Lotus Cobra. There’s a reason playsets are going for $90+ on ebay already. This card will define formats. Definitely more of a constructed card, but I can’t see any reason not to maindeck this guy and never look back in limited. He’s a bear, after all, and there’s no such thing as mana burn. Whatchoo talkin’ bout, mana burn? If you open this, rejoice in your monetary boon and be happy with your karma.

JAMES
Yeah, anything I say here is just superfluous. Get your playsets ASAP. Never trade this card away. Yes, it IS that good. Stop doubting it. You will wish to god you have this card. It’s the most amazingness printed in a long while.

Mold Shambler – 3G
Creature – Fungus Beast (Common)
Kicker {1}{G}
When Mold Shambler enters the battlefield, if it was kicked, destroy target noncreature permanent.
3/3
#169/249

JOE

Hill Giant at worst makes him playable. The kicker is a total boon, and will often save the day. This should be a cornerstone common for green, and a somewhat high pick I’m guessing.

JAMES
This card is actually kind of interesting to me. I just wonder if 6cc is enough to justify destroying a planeswalker. And I think it is. With a 3/3 body, it looks pretty playable as a SB selection.

Primal Bellow – G
Instant (Common)
Target creature gets +1+1 until end of turn for each Forest you control.

JOE

Wow, this definitely sees play in older formats. Elfball can sneak a win here or there with this thing. In limited, as long as green’s a main color and not a splash, this is an excellent trick.

JAMES
Great trick. Doubles as removal for when an opponent calls your bluff–and can act like a bluff. It’s clearly better than [card]Giant Growth[card] after T3. That being said, not many decks play giant growth. I think there’s a better green card: Vines of Vastwood (see here)

Summoning Trap – 4GG
Instant – Trap (Rare)
If a creature you cast this turn was countered by a spell or ability an opponent controlled, you may pay {0} rather then pay Summoning Trap’s casting cost.
Look at the top seven cards of your library. You may put a creature card from among them onto the battlefield. Put the rest on the bottom of your library in any order.

JOE

I like this! You’ll almost always hit a creature. If they just countered your guy, great! But even if not, you may as well pay the 6 and try your luck at EOT. Cool card.

JAMES
Jesus. This is a REALLY good trap. Great, you countered by Broodmate? NP, I’ll just grab another one for free…don’t mind if I doooo! ;-) I’d expect to see this in Extended & potentially Standard as a SB.

Turntimber Basilisk – 1GG
Creature – Basilisk (Uncommon)
Deathtouch
Landfall – Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, you may have target target creature block Turntimber Basilisk this turn if able.
2/1
#190/249

JOE

Nifty. This guy’s kind of like a removal creature that can’t hit guys with a tap ability. But he loves opposing creatures with vigilance! He’s alright, but I’m not infatuated here. Decent stuff, nothing spectacular.

JAMES
Undecided here. It’s removal for a color that doesn’t really have much removal and a 2 powered “semi-evasion” creature (because who wants to trade w/ a deathtouch?). BUT it cost 3 and takes a turn to get going. I’m not sure the tempo is fast enough.

Zendikar Farguide – 4G
Creature – Elemental (Common)
Forestwalk
3/3

JOE

Weak. Side it in against forests. Not much else to say.

JAMES
next!

Adventuring Gear – 2
Artifact – Equipment (Common)
Landfall – Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, equipped creature gets +2+2 until end of turn.
Equip {1}
#195/249

JOE

Nothing wrong with this equipment! Should be good for +2/+2 a lot of the time, and +4/+4 every once in a while. The only problem is the creature gets jack on the opponent’s turn, so don’t go picking this high… it will make the cut sometimes though.

JAMES
Not bad for limited. Cost is pretty good and you “only” have to play a land to make ti worth while. I wouldn’t really want more than one but I certainly won’t start moaning if my opponent drops this one me. I don’t believe this will ever be played in constructed.

Blazing Torch – 1
Artifact – Equipment (Uncommon)
Equipped creature can’t be blocked by Vampires or Zombies.
Equipped creature has: “{T}, Sacrifice Blazing Torch: Blazing Torch deals 2 damage to target creature or player.”
Equip {1}

JOE

An expensive shock sometimes, but still good because it’s colorless. Against zombies and vampires, it’s got the fear factor, so that’s a bonus too. Not bad. Removal is very important in limited.

JAMES
Nah, it’s just not good enough.

Hedron Scrabbler – 2
Artifact Creature – Construct (Common)
Landfall – Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, Hedron Scrabbler gets +1/+1 until end of turn.
1/1
#204/249

JOE

No thanks.

JAMES
Me either.

Stonework Puma – 3
Artifact Creature – Cat Ally (Common)
These PUMAs would never settle for being third in line.
2/2
#207/249

JOE

No thanks, unless I already have 2-3 allies with rocking abilities. Actually… he IS gray ogre, so I guess sometimes I might pick him in hopes of good allies to come.

JAMES
Not playable.

Trailblazer’s Boots – 2
Artifact – Equipment (Uncommon)
Equipped creature has nonbasic landwalk.
Equip {2}
#208/249

JOE

Nice. Might have a place in a number of EDH decks I can think of. In limited, this will be more of a sideboard card though, since most opponents will not have much in the way of nonbasics, and this does nothing in such cases.

JAMES
This isn’t the worst equipment ever. Non-basics are everywhere in every constructed envrionment. It’s not Loxodon Warhammer or Behemoth Sledge though so I don’t think it will be played.

Trusty Machete – 1
Artifact – Equipment (Uncommon)
Equipped creature gets +2/+1.
Equip {2}
“Until the expedition is done, that blade is your guardian, your liberation and your best friend all rolled into one”
- Yon Basrel, Oran-Rief survivalist
#209/249
Land(18)

JOE

I love the name! The effect is just fine too. Good old trusty machete. Reminiscent of bonesplitter. Probably better.

JAMES
Nope, also not going to make the cut in my book.

Kabira Crossroads
Land (Common)
Kabira Crossroads enters the battlefield tapped.
When Kabira Crossroads enters the battlefield, you gain 2 life.
{T}: Add {W} to your mana pool.

JOE

Weak… no thanks.

JAMES
editing from a mis-read. this isn’t the dual land cycle!

Magosi, the Waterveil
Land (Rare)
Magosi, the Waterveil enters the battlefield tapped.
{T}: Add {U} to your mana pool.
{U}, {T}: Put an eon counter on Magosi, the Waterveil. Skip your next turn.
{T}, Remove an eon counter from Magosi, the Waterveil and return it to its owners hand: Take an extra turn after this one.

JOE

Nope… not interested in a fixed time vault. In Magic, the old saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” gets turned on its head to become “unless it’s broke, don’t fix it.”

JAMES
Huh? I don’t think so…

Oran-Rief, the Vastwood
Land (Rare)
Oran-Rief, the Vastwood enters the battlefield tapped.
{T}: Add {G} to your mana pool.
{T}: Put a +1/+1 counter on each green creature that entered the battlefield this turn.
Illus. Mike Bierek
#221/249

JOE

This one’s probably worth it.

JAMES
Pretty interesting. I’d toy with 2x in testing. Getting +1/+1 on tokens (see above) seems pretty viable.

Piranha Marsh
Land (Common)
Piranha Marsh enters the battlefield tapped.
When Piranha Marsh enters the battlefield, target player loses 1 life.
{T}: Add {B} to your mana pool.

JOE

Again, I’m not interested in such piddly effects. CiP tapped is worth more than 1 life.

JAMES
…Yeah, the “gain 2 life” is enough for a dual but having opponents lose a mere one life for a ETBT seems weak…

Zendikar Card Review Batch 01 (111/249)

Welcome to another preview season, those joyful times when we Magic players experience the christmas-like joy of opening presents four times a year or so. We here at power9pro can hardly wait to try this new set, as it already looks to be bomber. Here is the first batch of cards… there’s 111 spoiled so far, but we won’t be dealing with the 4 basic lands of each color, so you do the math… there’s a boatload of cards in this initial bunch. When possible, our reviews here are gut-reaction type first impressions, though in this case, we’ve seen a few cards already… we couldn’t resist! This time around, James will be joining me. I’ll be posting all my reactions, and when he feels like it, James will throw in his two cents. As usual, my focus will be on Legacy, EDH, and limited. James will speak to other constructed formats.

Please chime in in the comments section, as we love to hear about how much you think our evaluations are right-on or suck-the-big-one! So, without further ado, let’s dive right in!

Celestial Mantle – 3WWW
Enchantment – Aura (Rare)
Enchant creature
Enchanted creature gets +3/+3.
Whenever enchanted creature deals combat damage to a player, double its controller’s life total.
Illus. Steve Argyle
#6/249

Joe

This should definitely have a place in my Ghost Council of Orzhova EDH deck, as tallowisp searches this up nicely. Also, in EDH this clearly has a bigger effect since players start at 40. For 6 mana, you’re pulling your pants down for a 241 in other formats, but if you’re reasonably sure you can connect, i.e., you have an evasive creature, then it seems worth the risk as you’ll likely win on the back of this in such cases.

James

So far as limited, this is way beyond a “just a bomb.” WotC went plaid here–please tell me y’all know this from spaceballs (am I aging myself here?)

I don’t see much room for this in a constructed play, especially not in a meta with such life gaining bombs as Baneslayer Angel and Wall of Reverence.

Day of Judgment – 2WW
Sorcery (Rare)
Destroy all creatures.

“I have seen planes leveled and all life rendered to dust. It brought no pleasure, even to a heart as dark as mine.”
-Sorin Markov

Illus. Kev Walker
#9/249


Joe
I have mixed feelings about this. For one thing, it seems to signal the eternal demise of wrath of god. For another, this lacks the “cannot regenerate” clause of its obvious fore-bearer. Still, a global sweeper is a global sweeper. This still kills progenitus! I’m gonna go out on a very sturdy limb here and predict that this sees much play!
James
Of course it will see play. It’s obviously a powered down version of Wrath but a very good one nonetheless. I wouldn’t go so far as to claim that Wrath is forever condemned to Ext’d, etc though. White has been getting the shiz lately so far as strong removal (Path to Exile for example) so from my perspective dropping Wrath for DoJ is a way of balancing that power boost.

Devout Lightcaster – WWW
Creature – Kor Cleric (Rare)
Protection from black
When Devout Lightcaster enters the battlefield, exile target black permanent.
2/2
Illus. Shelly Wan
#12/249


Joe
I’m a sucker for painters servant, which plays nicely with this fellow. Even without the artifact helper, this has a bit role to play as a decent color hoser. Still, with the servant, this can go fully vindicate-ive and nuke lands and all. If you’re not sure you’re playing a black opponent, this guy becomes a shitty gray ogre. Middling card, I’d say… a role to play, albeit a narrow one.

James

In an environment where Vampires is looking to be a real archetype post-Zen release, this will be an excellent sideboard option. Other than SB, I don’t see much hope for this card seeing a lot of play. It’s not even really THAT great of a card in Limited.

Felidar Sovereign – 4WW
Creature – Cat Beast (Mythic Rare)
Vigilance, lifelink
At the beginning of your upkeep, if you have 40 or more life, you win the game.
4/6
Illus. Zoltan Boros & Gabor Szikszai
#12/249


Joe
My dork clique had a pseudo-argument about this. I posted to my group asking if they thought this might be banned in EDH, since you start with win-condition life totals… but I didn’t actually think it would be banned. Nobody took the bait, so at least among my dork crew, the consensus is that even in EDH, this guy’s none too scary. He seems pretty ridiculous in a limited match though. I’m still unsure how I feel about mythics in general… they seem to be powerful enough that they grant the lucky ones who crack them in limited events a huge advantage. Meh… he’s mostly a 4/6 vigilance lifelink… the win condition is nice, but it’s a bit of a foregone conclusion most of the time… if you’ve got 40 life, winning is usually just academic from there… usually.

James

Unfortunately any lifegainer’s from here on out are going to be forever compared to Baneslayer Angel which this most certainly is not. It’s nice to plop down and hold off the ground but I’d personally rather drop B.A. a turn earlier and have flying, firststrike & Lifelink. Since it’s NOT B.A., this will be the poor-man’s substitute. That comment sounds harsher than I mean it to (not deleted/revised because it’s prob’ the honest truth). That being said, I think it’s a really well designed card. It’s just unfortunate that it’s printed on the tailcoats of Baneslayer…

Iona, Shield of Emeria – 6WWW
Legendary Creature – Angel (Mythic Rare)
Flying
As Iona, Shield of Emeria enters the battlefield, choose a color.
Your opponents can’t cast spells of the chosen color.
7/7
Illus. Jason Chan
#13/249

Joe

This, on the other hand, seems like a neat General to try in EDH… hoses those mono-color decks nicely. “Got any artifacts, pal?” Also, it plays quite well with my old friend painters servant! A 9-drop is usually a huge mana commitment. You’ll want to make sure your opponent doesn’t have obvious counterspell mana available… but yeah… when this hits the table, things should be looking good for you. I doubt it has much of a place in standard-like formats though, where the CMC hurts a lot.

James

9cc? …’nuff said. With all the un-counterable cards floating in Zendikar, this card at 9cc really, really wants to be uncounterable. Sadly it’s not. My bet is that this doesn’t see play unless the deck build is super creative. It’s just not a Cloudthresher.

Journey to Nowhere – 1W
Enchantment (Common)
When Journey to Nowhere enters the battlefield, exile target creature.
When Journey to Nowhere leaves the battlefield, return the exiled creature to the battlefield under its owner’s control.

Joe
For some reason this seems combo-rific to me, but I’m having trouble figuring out an elegant one. Opalescence and pandemonium with this guy lets you do infinite damage… I think! Can’t you put him into play, then exile himself, which triggers his come-back-into-play ability again? Again, I think so! But this is hardly game breaking. This is pretty much a slight improvement on pacifism I think.

James

I sorta smell a combo with this too…Anyway, Joe, it can’t exile itself because it can only exile a creature. ;) Regardless, this will be a great pick in Limited. Pick it high.

Kabira Evangel – 2W
Creature – Human Cleric Ally (Rare)
Whenever Kabira Evangel or another Ally enters the battlefield under your control, you may choose a color. If you do, Allies you control gain protection from the chosen color until end of turn.
2/3
Illus. Eric Deschamps
#15/249


Joe
Ally is a neat new mechanic they’re introducing in Zendikar. I think it might work out quite well. This guy reminds me a bit of glory. Mistform Wakecaster can make all your dudes Allies. Just sayin’. All in all, this guy’s strictly better than gray ogre even without any other allies in play. His value goes up from there.
James
For limited, this isn’t so hot for a rare since it’s only EoT and I’m not convinced that Allies will be a forceable archetype in limited. Since we’re also losing changelings with Lor-block rotating out, we can’t even build an Ally/Changeling deck. Allies look super fun but at this stage in my review of Zendikar I don’t even see this seeing competitive play. Makes for a great casual build though!

Kazandu Blademaster – WW
Creature – Human Soldier Ally (Uncommon)
First strike, vigilance
Whenever Kazandu Blademaster or another Ally enters the battlefield under your control, you may put a +1/+1 counter on Kazandu Blademaster.
“If you hire a sell-sword, you’d better watch your back. Hire me, and I’ll watch it for you.”
1/1
Illus. Michael Komarck
#16/249


Joe
Well, he’s very much in the white knight lineage, but there hasn’t been a 2-drop 2/2 vigilance first strike, which he essentially is at worst. I think this makes him VERY good. He’s not actually a knight, either. Being a soldier makes him marginally better in some relevant cases. I think he’s got a lot of promise.
James

This one is better than the last Ally. Honor of the Pure loves this guy. I don’t know how viable White Whinnie is going to be but if it’s going to see play as an archteype, this one has to be in there. Vigilance & Firststrike for a 2-drop is very much “not bad.” For limited? That’s questionable. I’ll say it’s “marginal” and at this stage in the spoilers, I say don’t first pick. EDIT: after seeing more of the cards spoiled, I’m liking this Ally more and more. I’m also liking him more and more for constructed.

Kor Sanctifiers – 2W
Creature – Kor Cleric (Common)
Kicker {W} (You may pay an additional {W} as you cast this spell.)
When Kor Sanctifiers enters the battlefield, if it was kicked, destroy target artifact or enchantment.
“Why keep such trinkets? They only add weight to your travels.”
2/3
Illus. Dan Scott
#22/249

Joe

Okay, so this guy, unkicked, is better than gray ogre… he’s playable. But his kicker gives you a relatively painless disenchant effect that you can maindeck. I think he’s therefore got the goods, and I expect to see him in limited events for sure.

James

Playable in limited for sure. Beyond that? No.

Luminarch Ascension – 1W
Enchantment (Rare)
At the beginning of each opponent’s end step, if you didn’t lose life this turn, you may put a quest counter on Luminarch Ascension. (Damage causes loss of life)
{1}{W}: Put a 4/4 white Angel creature token with flying onto the battlefield. Activate this ability only if Luminarch Ascension has four or more quest counters on it.
Illus. Michael Komarck
#25/249

Joe

Whoa… so it’s easy to drop this thing, and by turn 7 or 8, it’s very reasonable to expect it to “go active” in a limited format, especially if you build your deck in a defensive stalling manner. At that point, this is a very effective win condition. Putting out 3-4 flying 4/4 angels per turn at will? WTF? Definitely intriguing. Paired with something like solitary confinement or energy field? Or even constant mists / fog / story circle / etc.? I think it’s going to be brutal. Reminds me of another 2-drop enchantment that made creature tokens and ended up broken as hell… bitterblossom. (Comments section!) Just reminds me of it… I’m not sure it’s the same caliber. I’m just not sure.

James

This is the only Quest-related card I see being remotely playable–though Khalni Heart Expedition looks pretty intereseting… The lack of a limitation on number of Angels you pump out is awesome. I’d grab this in limited without a hesitation and I can definitely see a control deck building with this. It’s a great 2-drop imo.

Pitfall Trap – 2W
Instant – Trap (Uncommon)
If exactly one creature is attacking, you may pay {W} rather than pay Pitfall Trap’s mana cost.
Destroy target attacking creature without flying.

Joe

This is cheap enough even without the bonus. Strong removal for white. And quite often, people send over their only evasive guy or what have you. This seems like all up-side… I’m failing to see a down-side. Very strong removal, probably a high pick.

James

Bomb removal. Because of the trap mechanic, it could leak over into constructed too…I may be over-valuing Trap but first glance at the trap-related cards, and I’m thinking they’re pretty good.

Steppe Lynx – W
Creature – Cat (Common)
Landfall – Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, Steppe Lynx gets +2/+2 until end of turn.
0/1

Joe

Hmmm… this is hard to evaluate. In a white weenie strategy, you’re only hoping to make your land drops for the first two or three turns consistently, so I’m tempted to think this is worse, in the long run, than its seeming predecessors like savannah lions. However, this new set has fetch lands, so there will be times when you can fairly easily ensure a double-activation in the early turns. Is turn 2, swing for 4 enough of an incentive? Luckily for me, standard isn’t my area of expertise and I don’t have to conclusively make this tough call. I’m guessing it’s going to fall short, since without a land this does dick.

James

I’d be willing to test this card out. I agree, it’s on the edge. A turn 2 for 4 is pretty good though. With rampant growth it could swing in for 6 on turn 2. Quite a tempo…okay, I’m put on the spot here: I say “no” to constructed. It’s just a totally dead card late game, and that’s why it will suck.

World Queller – 3WW
Creature – Avatar (Rare)
At the beginning of your upkeep, you may choose a card type. If you do, each player sacrifices a permanent of that type.
4/4
Illus. James Paick
#39/249

Joe

Reminds me a bit of Braids cabal minion, though the timing is slightly different. For another colorless mana, you essentially get +2/+2, and you get to choose the permanent type. This seems huge to me. You can always choose a type you don’t have if that’s better for you, and you can selectively force opponents to lose their only planeswalker, or their only enchantment, etc. I think, therefore, that this is even better than braids across the board. The only downside is the timing, really. With braids, opponents had to sac right away on their own upkeep. With this guy, he’s got to survive until your own upkeep. Still, this guy seems to me like a clear winner.

James

Bomb. Me-likes. If it weren’t for the “downside” of activating on upkeep, this would be way beyond broken.

Archive Trap – 3UU
Instant – Trap (Rare)
If an opponent searched his or her library this turn, you may pay {0} rather than pay Archive Trap’s mana cost.
Target opponent puts the top thirteen cards of his or her library into his or her graveyard.
Illus. Jason Felix
#41/249

Joe

Well, the old sanity grinding deck might have liked to have this, but then again maybe not. How often did people search their libraries back then? Now, the rate at which libraries will be searched in a set with five new fetchlands is another story. This might be seen as a subtle hoser for fetchlands, enabling the next generation of grinding style deck. Should be a nice dollar rare with a fun deck to call home.

James

there’s always a mill deck around…do not draft this card; it sucks! ;)

Archmage Ascension – 2U
Enchantment (Rare)
At the beginning of each end step, if you drew two or more cards this turn, you may put a quest counter on Archmage Ascension.
As long as Archmage Ascension has six or more quest counters on it, if you would draw a card, you may instead search your library for a card, put that card into your hand, then shuffle your library.
Illus. Christopher Moeller
#42/249

Joe

Hmm. Six counters is a lot, though the effect is powerful. Too bad they’re not charge counters, so you could just add a few… oh wait, coretapper only works on artifacts. Yeah, this is too big an investment… your opponent has six turns to figure out how to stop you at best, and meanwhile, this isn’t doing anything for you at all except taking up a slot that a real card with an actual effect might otherwise occupy. This card is pure shit.

James Lame.

Cancel – 1UU
Instant (Common)
Counter target spell.

Joe

This is an awesome spell! Okay, so obviously nothing groundbreaking here. This is the nouveau counterspell, and the forces that be in the universe have decided UU is too cheap, and “forever hence shall ye pay 1 more, I say!” Run of the mill shit. Definitely a fun part of the many many limited formats it’s been a part of. Watch out when someone leaves 1UU open, people. It’s tell-tale.

James

Other than Aaron F. (of WotC) spouting out some stats on this seeing play in MODO, I don’t see this being construction worthy. Counter magic looks like it’s taking a break after the long run of Cryptic Command.

Ior Ruin Expedition – 1U
Enchantment (Common)
Landfall – Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, you may put a quest counter on Ior Ruin Expedition.
Remove three quest counters from Ior Ruin Expedition and sacrifice it: Draw two cards.

Joe

I’m immediately comparing this to standstill in my mind. Then I read again and realize I’m mixing up the three counters and the two cards… or rather, I thought it was three of each at first, counters and cards drawn. At any rate, this is more like couriers capsule, not standstill… it’s probably slightly more efficient that capsule, though capsule didn’t present opponents with such a window to disrupt the cards, and once you had 4 mana, there wasn’t much they could do to stop you… in this case you’ll always be waiting for the cards, even with the presence of fetchlands. I think it’s probably sub-par as card drawing goes.

James

Underpowered for any format. Pass.

Lorthos, the Tidemaker – 5UUU
Legendary Creature – Octopus (Mythic Rare)
Whenever Lorthos, the Tidemaker attacks, you may pay {8}. If you do, tap up to eight permanents. Those permanents don’t untap during their controllers’ next untap steps.
When Lorthos emerges from his deepwater realm, the tide bows to his will and the coastline cowers in his presence.
8/8
Illus. Kekai Kotaki
#53/249

Joe

I wrote an article about this bad boy recently. Hooray for Vorthos… er… I mean Lorthos! Octo-card!

James

See Joe’s post on this. I don’t really have a comment.

Lullmage Mentor – 1UU
Creature – Merfolk Wizard (Rare)
Whenever a spell or ability you control counters a spell, you may put a 1/1 blue Merfolk creature token onto the battlefield.
Tap seven untapped Merfolk you control: Counter target spell.
“Many voices are needed to quiet this land.”
2/2
Illus. Jaime Jones
#54/249

Joe

Consider patron wizard. He seems like a more efficient way to counter a spell with a 3-drop and a bunch of dorks. But merfolk are a quick tribe, and it’s a shame Lorwyn is leaving, because stonybrook schoolmaster and summon the school might like to speak to this gentle-merman. Since other counters give you tokens too, I think this guy might be enough on his own in constructed, but I don’t see how you’ll ever have enough counters and/or merfolk to get it all rolling with limited.

James

I’m not seeing anything in this. SEVEN? merfolk? give me a break.

Mindbreak Trap – 2UU
Instant – Trap (Mythic Rare)
If an opponent cast three or more spells this turn, you may pay {0} rather than pay Mindbreak Trap’s mana cost.
Exile any number of target spells.

“Life is a maze. This is one of its dead ends.”
- Noyan Dar, Tazeem lullmage

Illus. Christopher Moeller
#57/249

Joe

This seems almost designed to hose old combo decks, especially storm decks. In limited, this is the saddest mythic rare to see. You’ll never have a stack with three spells, let alone three from one player, and in limited it’s likely the first two spells were creatures, so this is a free counter of the third creature maybe once in a blue moon, but usually it’s a 4 mana uber-counter. Sad, sad times.
James

Storm & TEPS are getting raped from what I understand. I’ve read a little about Dragonstorm being remotely viable, in which case (and ONLY if it’s THE dominant deck in Ext’d) it’d be a great SB card for any deck @ zero cc. That’s what makes me think this is an awesome card but falling prey to “wrong place at the wrong time.” I mean, seriously? Exile any number of spells? Nice…well, close but no cigar.

Quest for Ancient Secrets – U
Enchantment (Uncommon)
Whenever a card is put into your graveyard from anywhere, you may put a quest counter on Quest for Ancient Secrets.
Remove five quest counters from Quest for Ancient Secrets and sacrifice it: Target player shuffles his or her graveyard into his or her library.
Illus. Mike Bierek
#59/249

Joe

What a truly, masterfully bad, horrible remake of feldons cane. It’s like feldon’s cane knocked up tormods crypt not knowing they were estranged brother and sister, and their poor baby was named Quest for Ancient Secrets. Someone seriously peed in this gene pool. Poor kid got mom’s targetability, but dad’s doofus ability, and is just kinda slow in general.

James

” ” Did you catch my comment there? ;)

Roil Elemental – 3UUU
Creature – Elemental (Rare)
Flying
Landfall – Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, you may gain control of target creature for as long as you control Roil Elemental.
3/2
Illus. Raymond Swanland
#62/249

Joe

GTFOH! Thank god it’s a vulnerable 2 toughness 6-drop. This is a beast. As a turn seven surprise when you’re holding that fetchland you’d been sandbagging? Drop Roil Elemental, then a fetchland and have some “uh, double-up, uh uh” control magic action like Sir Mix-a-Lot would do. Still, seems like “Shock it” is a pretty inevitable kind of response. But this is hardly an argument against it… like they all said about tarmogoyf, right? “Dies to everything”. This guy costs 6, dies to everything, and if they don’t have an answer, wins the game fairly well against creature strategies. I remember playing 6-drop 3/3 fliers in ravnica block in the form of conclave equenaut… okay, so it had convoke. Still, this guy steals shit, c’mon!

James

Hello! doesn’t say anything about EOT. Just make sure you can protect Roil Elemental and you have yourself a Vedalken Shackles on steroids. No joke, imo. This one is just waiting to be abused. Finally a U worth considering for a deck! Expensive though…

Sea Gate Loremaster – 4U
Creature – Merfolk Wizard Ally (Rare)
{T}: Draw a card for each Ally you control.

“He’s a living library. He remembers everything our band of explorers has seen, and we can use that to our advantage.”
- Zahr Gada, Halimar expedition leader

1/3
Illus. Dave Kendall
#63/249

Joe

Worst case, he’s similar to urza’s blueprints or something, but more vulnerable as a creature… more like archivist I suppose. Best case, he’s arcanis the omnipotent and beyond! I think he’s got the goods.

James

“not bad”…I guess…”meh”

Spell Pierce – U
Instant (Common)
Counter target noncreature spell unless its controller pays {2}.

Joe

Should be quite huge in constructed. I’m guessing it’ll be at least as popular as force spike, maybe as much as spell snare. It’s definitely destined to be in the counterspell arsenal from this point forward. I predict lots of play. This will cause many frowns in the near future.

James

Cheap for sure at 1cc and great for hitting a planeswalker. This might actually be a viable SB for U.

Sphinx of Lost Truths – 3UU
Creature – Sphinx (Rare)
Kicker {1}{U} (You may pay an additional {1}{U} as you cast this spell)
Flying
When Sphinx of Lost Truths enters the battlefield, draw three cards. Then if it wasn’t kicked, discard three cards.
3/5
Illus. Shelly Wan
#69/249

Joe

Super duper in limited even without the selection boost thing… just a 5-drop 3/5 flyer. The rest is gravy. It’s some very tasty gravy too! This guy is a bomb for sure. Late game he’s a sick flyer and a recharge of your hand. Very strong.

James

I’d def’ play this in limited. It’s great for fixing your hand. I can also see this being useful in constructed though only marginally. Man, at this point in the review, I’m thinking U TOTALLY SUCKS.

Whiplash Trap – 3UU
Instant – Trap (Common)
If an opponent had two or more creatures enter the battlefield under his or her control this turn, you may pay {U} rather than pay Whiplash Trap’s mana cost.
Return two target creatures to their owners’ hands.
Illus. Zoltan Boros & Gabor Szikszai

Joe

This could actually stall someone pretty effectively, though the effect seems more impressive on U than it should I think… by virtue of the fact that two creatures entered the battlefield, the opponent is well established in mana, so it seems to follow that you’re only likely to set them back a turn, just like unsummon earlier on. You could, I suppose, return two more expensive creatures that were summoned earlier one at a time… their turn 3 and 4 plays before dropping two guys on turn 5, perhaps. All of this is within the realm of the U version. As 3UU, this is still rather good. The effect is very strong, I just don’t think it’s likely to be as awesome on turn 2 bouncing two 1-drop 1/1s… it’s better at their EOT on turn 6, bouncing their turn 5 and 6 plays and clearing the way for an attack. Strong bounce spell here.

James

Now we’re talking. Hmm, [reviewing my comments] seems like the U commons are all way more likely to see play than the uncommons/rares. I must be taking crazy pills or something. This card just screams flexibility to me. Again, I’m thinking the Trap mechanic is way powerful and having more than one way of playing a card (esp’ at different cc’s) represents great potential imo.

Windrider Eel – 3U
Creature – Fish (Common)
Flying
Landfall – Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, Windrider Eel gets +2/+2 until end of turn.
“The best spot to hook one is right behind the gills” – Rana Cloudwake, Kor skyfisher
2/2
Illus. Austin Hsu
#78/249

Joe

In the past, 4-drop 2/2 flyers were pretty good in limited. This guy’s occasionally approximately air elemental better, and with fetchlands, occasionally insane flying roar of the wurm tokens. I giv the nod of approval.

James

Great for limited. This is a great card to pick highly. Evasion, built-in pump. What’s not to like? So far as constructed? Nah…

Bala Ged Thief – 3B
Creature – Human Rogue Ally (Rare)
Whenever Bala Ged Thief or another Ally enters the battlefield under your control, target player reveals a number of cards from his or her hand equal to the number of Allies you control. You choose one of them. That player discards that card.
2/2
Illus. Matt Cavotta
#79/249

Joe

Not terrible even if he triggers for himself and never does anything else. I’m a fan of making people discard their last spell in limited. Good players will try to sandbag a land for this kind of thing. I think this thief is solid, and I’d be taking her and hoping for allies.dec in a draft. Not sure what an ally constructed deck looks like, but I’m guessing it doesn’t look anything like this card.

James

This is awesome for limited. It’s removal and a beating stick all in one. The cost seems right imo.

Blood Tribute – 4BB
Sorcery (Rare)
Kicker – Tap an untapped Vampire you control. (You may tap a Vampire you control in addition to any other costs as you cast this spell.)
Target player loses half his or her life, rounded up. If Blood Tribute was kicked, you gain life equal to the life lost this way.
Illus. Alex Horley-Orlandelli
#81/249

Joe

Nice ass! Not bad for EDH, where you can see a 40-point life swing. Probably decent in constructed, but it has the built in paradox of being a late game mana cost for an effect that gets worse as the game progresses.

James

Beat it…come on everyone just beat it. Doh, I meant Kick it. ;)

Bloodghast – BB
Creature – Vampire Spirit (Rare)
Bloodghast can’t block.
Bloodghast has haste as long as an opponent has 10 life or less.
Landfall – Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, you may return Bloodghast from your graveyard to the battlefield.
2/1
Illus. Daarken
#83/249

Joe

Amazing. Definitely going in the ghost council of orzhova edh deck. Seems quite strong to me in limited and constructed both, though not being a blocker definitely rains on the parade a bit. Still, in the context of the constructed deck he’s likely in, this guy is probably a superb enabler, assuming somehing cares about a vampire coming into play. In limited, he never fucking dies! Keep sending him, you’ll get him back free of charge. Seems no joke to me.

James

Hmmm, this guy is marginal. The Landfall-grave digger is pretty slick but a 2/1 is nothing to write home about. Late pick in limited and just pass it by for constructed. why block w/ a 2/1 anyway? he’s meant to be agro and the landfall-grave-dig ability re-enforces that motif. still, i’m not sure it’s got the goods for constructed. Mono-Black Aggro may be viable but so far as two drops go, I’d rather play B/G and use putrid leech & have access to maelstrom pulse

Gatekeeper of Malakir – BB
Creature – Vampire Warrior (Uncommon)
Kicker {B} (You may pay an additional {B} as you cast this spell.)
When Gatekeeper of Malakir enters the battlefield, if it was kicked, target player sacrifices a creature.
“You may enter the city – once the toll is paid.”
2/2
Illus. Karl Kopinski

Joe

Sweet bear. Triple black to kick hurts, as does double black for a 2/2. Still, cruel edict really rocks.

James

NOW we’re talking. Sick. Don’t pass this card up in a draft and I’d keep an eye on this for constructed.

Guul Draz Specter – 2BB
Creature – Specter (Rare)
Flying
Guul Draz Specter gets +3/+3 as long as an opponent has no cards in hand.
Whenever Guul Draz Specter deals combat damage to a player, that player discards a card.
2/2
Illus. Mark Tedin

Joe

Pretty slow, and unlikely to do 5 to anyone who doesn’t want him to. Modern specters are too polite. That thug hypnotic specter never let any succas pick the card they want to discard, he just reached over and took one. “And what, son?” Still, the whole 4-drop 2/2 thing applies here. He’s pretty awesome.

James

Move over Hippie, there’s a new sherif in town. Seems a bit costly at 4cc (for Constructed) but it’s worth it. Damn worth it.

Halo Hunter – 2BBB
Creature – Demon (Rare)
Intimidate (This creature can’t be blocked except by artifact creatures and/or creatures that share a color with it.)
When Halo Hunter enters the battlefield, destroy target Angel.
6/3
Illus. Chris Rahn
#96/249

Joe

Myr can’t be intimidated, didn’t you know? Big fat fliers are always nice. Killing an angel is nice sometimes, I won’t lie. Just not as often as a big fat flier is awesome, which is pretty much always, especially for 5 mana.

James

So is this what R&D had in mind when they made the Baneslayer Angel have protection from demons and dragons? Wtf? Anyway, at least it can zoom on by the B.A. without any problems. The twist on ‘Fear’ is nice too. I don’t like it only having a x/3 butt.

Hideous End – 1BB
Instant (Common)
Destroy target nonblack creature. Its controller loses 2 life.

“A little dark magic won’t stop me. The worse the curse, the better the prize.”
- Radavi, Joraga relic-hunter, last words

Illus. Zoltan Boros & Gabor Szikszai

Joe

Cool. Removal = very important. This will see plenty of play. Terror + shock, kinda. Solid.

James

Super well designed card. This is great. I’d run it in Limited and Constructed. It’s right inline with Blightening, taking a card & doing damage. Sweet. Very playable in limited (obviously) and will peak its head into constructed decks, though it’s long term viablity isn’t something I’m convinced of. It does do exactly what B wants to do: kill creatures and suck life.

Kalitas, Bloodchief of Ghet – 5BB
Legendary Creature – Vampire Warrior (Mythic Rare)
{B}{B}{B}, {T}: Destroy target creature. If that creature is put into a graveyard this way, put a black Vampire creature token onto the battlefield. Its power is equal to that creature’s power and its toughness is equal to that creature’s toughness.
5/5
Illus. Todd Lockwood
#99/249

Joe

For 7 mana, he doesn’t do much for a constructed deck to want him, that’s my guess. In limited he’s broken as hell, there’s no doubt. A fabulous specimen of a bomb.

James
The tapping is what makes me think it doesn’t have the goods. Still, it’s pretty freaking impressive but at 7cc? I just can’t commit. Personally, I don’t like big-mana decks because they’re so vulnerable to counters and quick-spot removals. The meta is shifting and we may be looking at bigger mana decks. I just think about other “high” costing creatures: Captain of the Watch, Cloud thresher & Broodmate Dragon. Those cards are just _better_ imo…For a Mythic Rare I do’nt see this peaking above $3

Mind Sludge – 4B
Sorcery (Uncommon)
Target player discards a card for each Swamp you control.

Joe

It’s been a part of MBC in the past. Nothing like a cheaper mindtwist, right? You’re always taking their whole hand with this. It’s part of the incentive toward MBC in my mind… the inevitable destruction. Should see play, could be in constructed. In limited, where it’s likely a 2-color deck or so, it’s still not bad if they discard 2-3 cards.

James
I actually think this is a splashable card in Jund-esque/ R-B decks. How many swamps mid-to-late game do you really need to empty your opponent’s hand? 3? Definitely very good for MBC; I can also see this being pretty good in limited when you’re heading toward late game and your opponent is about to drop a hefty 6cc on you. Oops, not any more.

Needlebite Trap – 5BB
Instant – Trap (Uncommon)
If an opponent gained life this turn, you may pay {B} rather than pay Needlebite Trap’s mana cost.
Target player loses 5 life and you gain 5 life.
The traps around the vampire city of Malakir hint at the thirst of its inhabitants.
Illus. Daarken
#105/249

Joe

In limited, you might really play it for 7, and it will win a lot of games that way. It’s not badly priced at 7 either. It’s essentially an easier, instant-speed drain life for 5. I could definitely see maindecking it in limited. In constructed, it’s only good for B, so it’s probably only a sideboard card if a life-gaining deck is popular.

James
This is an unbelievably good card. I expect this card to see play as it completely nullifies most instances of life-gain. I’m hard pressed to think of an instance where a player gains more than 5 life in a turn. Baneslayer Angel may be the pet card right now but it’s just met an instant that completely wastes a turn, and it only cost 1 cc. Damn.

Ob Nixilis, the Fallen – 3BB
Legendary Creature – Demon (Mythic Rare)
Landfall – Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, you may have target player lose 3 life. If you do, put three +1/+1 counters on Ob Nixilis, the Fallen.
3/3
Illus. Jason Felix
#107/249

Joe

This guy might not be a terrible General, though for monoblack, maga traitor to mortals or kiku nights flower still seem better. Still, this guy comes down early and hits very hard. Think about swinging turn 6 for 9 after your opponent losing 6 life to your fetchland. That’s well within the realm of “insane” for a spell with sengir vampire‘s casting cost. Obviously a bomb in limited… this is the kind of mythic rare you hope for.

James
Absolutely playable. Now we’re looking at a really good spell for Jund, R/B & MBC. Please note, we’re not talking EOT; we’re talking counters. At 5cc, I don’t see this making Ext’d (at least not next month) but this is absolutely a playable for Type2. Get ‘em while you can boys (and gals), this is a no-joke demon.

Quest for the Gravelord – B
Enchantment (Uncommon)
Whenever a creature is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, you may put a quest counter on Quest for the Gravelord.
Remove three quest counters from Quest for the Gravelord and sacrifice it: Put a 5/5 black Zombie Giant creature token onto the battlefield.
Illus. Chris Rahn

Joe

Now here’s a quest I can get behind. You don’t lose much other than the card if they kill this thing, because it only cost you B. They likley had to spend more to remove it. The quest counters aren’t necessarily trivial to add, but they’ll arrive in due time in a limited game. And thn, you get a nice 5/5 for your low investment. I like it. Sems to go really well with any kind of sweeper removal. I think this has lots of potential to shine.

James
I don’t really agree with Joe on this one. Maybe I’m just comparing it to the Angel-creator a little too much. I don’t see how it’s balanced that we have to sac the enchantment. I’d rather see a limitation such as “Only play this ability once per turn.” Still as a one-drop there’s not much wrong with it. I don’t think this will see play.

Sorin Markov – 3BBB
Planeswalker – Sorin (Mythic Rare)
[+2]: Sorin Markov deals 2 damage to target creature or player and you gain 2 life.
[-3]: Target opponent’s life total becomes 10.
[-7]: You control target player’s next turn.
4
Illus. Michael Comarck
#111/249

Joe

I wrote an article about this guy when he was first “decided.” Clearly an insane bomb in limited, assuming you can support black. I finally got a glimpse of the full frame art for this guy, courtesy of my dork pal who disagreed vehemently with me on the topic of this artwork:

youdecide_01_gx21iyxpel

I must admit that the artwork may not be quite as bad as I claimed in the post, but I’m still depressed that this is what a lot of players consider the pinnacle of magic artwork… that this style is all the rage. I guess I’m just an old school Amy Weber style guy. Fay Jones for life!! They should have made this guy into a vampire token instead.

James
@ the art, this looks like a rip off of a True Blood character. Maybe I just worked with too many Scandinavians to really get behind the art on this one. He’s “aight”. So far as the abilities go, I believe this is a very good planeswalker. I have no qualms about paying 5cc to make my opponent’s life total become 10. Bloodsucking from there is great. We haven’t even seen all the B but I do see MBC becoming more and more viable. Control focused on discard and removal transitioning into Sorin here could be very difficult for decks to deal with. All in all, I think this card is strictly balanced and I don’t anticipate a metoric rise in value like we saw with Sarkan Vol and Elspeth

Soul Stair Expedition – B
Enchantment (Common)
Landfall – Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, you may put a quest counter on Soul Stair Expedition.
Remove three quest counters from Soul Stair Expedition and sacrifice it: Return up to two target creature cards from your graveyard to your hand.
Illus. Anthony Francisco
#112/249

Joe

Not bad. It’s the same price as raise dead, and in exchange for being slower, it does double duty. I’m okay with this in limited. It’s definitely a shittier card the longer the game goes, as you may wait a while before you can use this once you’ve run out your hand. Sandbagging lands is going to be a big skill-test in this set, I predict.

James
Take off the training wheels and use your lands to bluff. Is that basically the lesson WotC trying to teach with a few of these landfall cards? This one in particular is really nice and it’s way better than the Quest of the Gravelord. This is a great mid-draft pick and will fill in your one-drops nicely. So far as constructed is concerned, maybe two in your decks is enough. This card will do WONDERS for making unearth viable as an archetype and that’s where I’d keep an eye on this card appearing–that and Jund-style decks running Bloodbraid Elf.

Vampire Lacerator – B
Creature – Vampire Warrior (Common)
At the beginning of your upkeep, you lose 1 life unless an opponent has 10 or less life.
The lacerators cut themselves before each hunt. They must feed before the sun rises or bleed to death.
2/2
Illus. Steve Argyle
#115/249

Joe

Sick! This guy is huge for the vampire deck. He’s Isamaru, vampire of konda! The drawback is really low, I think. Even if you always took 1 on upkeep, he might be worth it. The fact that it’s only temporary pain is great. In limited, he’s awesome on turn 1, and still relevant later. Seems like you could do some real damage if you drafted multiples of these cheap vampires after cracking one of the better rare ones.

James
Bingo. Here we have a must-include for the MB decks. Very aggressive. Limited: Very playable Constructed: Playable

Vampire Nighthawk – 1BB
Creature – Vampire Shaman (Uncommon)
Flying
Deathtouch (Creatures dealt damage by this creature are destroyed. You can divide this creature’s combat damage among any of the creatures blocking or blocked by it.)
Lifelink (Damage dealt by this creature also causes you to gain that much life.)
2/3
Illus. Jason Chan
#116/249

Joe

There’s nothing wrong with this guy and everything right. Gray ogre never had it so good. A superb creature, and surely a high pick for black.

James
Just gets better and better for Mono-black. This is a first pick for limited. The x/3 but is big enough to hold off the ground (and remove creatures). Your opponent won’t attack into him so if you’re swinging on T4 the life swing is 4. Has everyone see the skyrocketing price of Vampire Nocturnes? Vampire.dec will be interesting to see if it’s just a quick fad or a here-to-stay trend.

Chandra Ablaze – 4RR
Planeswalker – Chandra (Mythic Rare)
[+1]: Discard a card. If a red card is discarded this way, Chandra Ablaze deals 4 damage to target creature or player.
[-2]: Each player discards his or her hand, then draws three cards.
[-7]: Cast any number of target red instant and/or sorcery cards from your graveyard without paying their mana cost.
5
Illus. Steve Argyle
#120/249

Joe

What an interesting inferno of abilities. Turns your red cards into free flame javelins, refills hands (worst of the three for its symmetry), and goes yawgmoths will styl on your burn spells three turns down the line. Seems just fine to me. Six is a lot, but so is 4 damage! Obviously insane in limited, but I’m not sure it’s going to cut the mustard in constructed. Burn decks want to be about done by turn 6, not just deploying their bomb.

James
This card is stupidly good and I’m not thinking Limited here. I’m talking constructed. It’s absolutely okay to play this turn 6. By that point in the game, the red mage has cast MOST of his/her instants and sorceries–and being mono-red they are ALL red. Turn 8 = GG. If Chandra Ablaze makes it to prime-time, expect to bring in the Mindbreak Trap (see above). Since it’s an activated ability, the “number of cast spells” all go on the stack–and you have your opportunity to negate & exile all of them. Again, with a trap cost of ZERO, any and all decks can run Mindbreak. It’s just going to be a very, very narrow SB choice so make absolutely sure that Chandra is in the meta before tromping off and throwing it in your SB. Anyway, back to Chandra: she’s very playable. Play her in your Mono-red decks! :)

Demolish – 3R
Sorcery (Common)
Destroy target artifact or land.

Joe

An oldie but goodie. Has its place… in your sideboard.

James
…if there… ;)

Electropotence – 2R
Enchantment (Rare)
Whenever a creature enters the battlefield under your control, you may pay {2}{R}. If you do, that creature deals damage equal to its power to target creature or player.
Where life and force collide
Illus. Christopher Moeller

Joe

Time has not been kind to pandemonium, alas. At least in this version, only you get to trigger it, but this still seems steep. There’s probably going to be an attempt to break this, maybe along with that new pacifism thing we saw above? I dunno… this is killer in limited though, as reusable burn or removal typically is.

James
Maybe in a Jund deck? Decks playing Bloodbraid will test this out for sure. It’s just too efficient to ignore and the 3-drop slot isn’t going to be too hot with the loss of Boggart Gang-bang. Er, I mean Boggart Ram-Gang .

Elemental Appeal – RRRR
Sorcery (Rare)
Kicker {5} (You may pay an additional {5} as you cast this spell)
Put a 7/1 red Elemental creature token with trample and haste onto the battlefield. Exile it at the beginning of the next end step. If Elemental Appeal was kicked, that creature gets +7/+0 until end of turn.
Illus. Anthony Francisco

Joe

Ball lightning seems to have aged a little better, but the original is still better imo. 9 mana is a lot for a 14/1 that dies to prodigal pyromancer. The 7/1 is still good as non-morphing blistering firecat. Good for a burst of damage when opponents are wide open for it. Terrible when they’re prepared. I think it gets playing in limited only when you’re way deep in red (thank you, Dr. Obvious). Constructed might have a place for him.

James
Marginally playble; certainly nothing to write home about. Looks like we’d be paying 4cc for 3-4 damage and that SUCKs for red decks. I take it back, it’s not playable.

Geyser Glider – 3RR
Creature – Elemental Beast (Uncommon)
Landfall – Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, Geyser Glider gains flying until end of turn.

“Quit pontificating, mage. The last thing we want to do is give it more hot air.”
-Tala Vertan, Makindi shieldmate

4/4
Illus. Warren Mahy

Joe

Air Elemental for red is a big deal, even if he’s lazy and only flies when the weather is just right. This guy’s going to be a red limited deck’s backbone in lots of cases. Superb for a 5-drop in a color often lacking evasive guys.

James
Great for limited. 5cc for a 4/4 isn’t even all that bad in limited and this one can get flying “every other turn or so”. Not bad. I’m not sure about constructed though. Mono-Red doesn’t really want more than 5 or 6 lands in play. But, again, I have the feeling that the mana curve is shifting slowly upward with this set so it’s not THAT bad in constructed. I just expect to see it win a ton of games in limited and then be generally absent in constructed. This is early-pick worthy for sure. Getting two in a limited deck would be devastating…there aren’t many creatures with butts over x/3 in this set so he’ll dominate in limited.

Goblin Bushwhacker – R
Creature – Goblin Warrior (Common)
Kicker – {R} (You may pay an additional {R} as you cast this spell.)
When Goblin Bushwhacker enters the battlefield, if it was kicked, creatures you control get +1/+0 and gain haste until end of turn.

1/1

Joe

Not bad for a rush aggro kind of deck. A mini trumpet blast with a 1/1 attached. 1-drop 1/1s are usually avoided in limited unless they do something special… this guy might be special enough.

James
Where’s the haste? That’s what would make this card very playable. Now it’s just a filler-card. Drafting I would pick this mid-to late and be pretty happy but I wouldn’t want more than 2 in my deck. It’s just too mediocre. I wouldn’t even look at this as a one-drop. It’s a two drop that you want to play before an alpha strike. I see this being a splash card in limited (i.e. for splashing red) and being completely forgotten about in constructed.

Goblin Guide – R
Creature – Goblin Scout (Rare)
Haste
Whenever Goblin Guide attacks, defending player reveals the top card of his or her library. If it’s a land card, that player puts it into his or her hand.
“I’ve been all over this world. I even remember some of those places.”
2/2
Illus. Warren Mahy

Joe

This is a very powerful jackal pup kind of guy. The drawback gives you a clue about what’s coming up, reminiscent of orcish spy and pals. Seems more impressive in constructed where you can drop him turn 1 regularly. I wonder if the bonus cards will prove to be an acceptable downside or not. In limited, he’s kind of on the fence in my mind. I hate handing this kind of card advantage to an opponent, so my curve had better be quite aggressive for me to run him. Luckily, as a suicide attacker, your opponent might actually want to take 2 and hope to see some bonus land.

James
Hmm, this is going to be hotly debated I expect. On the play, dropping turn 1 & attacking potentially gives your opponent an 8th card in the opening hand. However, there aren’t THAT many things a person can do turn one so ultimately that 8th card will be discarded. Also, we could view the “sneak peek” as providing us more information than the opponent will EVER want to reveal. On the play, you don’t necessarily even know what your opponent is playing–they haven’t had a chance to show us yet. Getting a peek at a card will provide you a ton of information on how to adjust your plays for the rest of the game. Actually, now that I thought about it on “out loud and on paper” with y’all, I’m not seeing the potential draw as a downside at all. This card is a bomb and will absolutely see play, replacing Mogg Fanatic and even sorta-kinda Figure of Destiny. A very, very very good goblin.

Goblin Ruinblaster – 2R
Creature – Goblin Shaman (Uncommon)
Haste
Kicker – {R}
When Goblin Ruinblaster enters the battlefield, if it was kicked, destroy target nonbasic land.
2/1

Joe

Hmm. Well, this could have a place in older formats, but I think there are better, more efficient options there. It’s not bad as a hasty ogre, and the CiP LD thing will be decent at times, though usually irrelevant for limited. Hasty 2/1 for 2R… doesn’t seem terrible.

James
Great card. 3cc is perfect. Bloodbraids will hit this bad boy, so kick it and destroy their dual lands. This card is horrible for limited though; just pass it. (But make sure you have 4x for your red decks).

Kazuul Warlord – 4R
Creature – Minotaur Warrior Ally (Rare)
Whenever Kazuul Warlord or another Ally enters the battlefield under your control, you may put a +1/+1 counter on each Ally creature you control.
On expeditions, minotaurs are worth their weight in gold. Fortunately for the paymasters, most minotaurs don’t know how much they weigh.
3/3
Illus. Kev Walker

Joe

All by his lonesome, that he’s a 4/4 for 4R means he’s fomori nomad good, and strictly better than berserkers of blood ridge. The fact that he will often boost and be boosted by other allies makes this guy bomb-level good. With more than two other allies in your deck, I’d say this guy’s huge. Without a single other ally, he’s merely highly playable.

James
I’m so on the fence with Allies and I don’t see a very viable ally deck occurring. Though, I have to admit, if you have just even one other ally on the board (or one in hand) this is a very good card. Play him in limited and then test the waters in constructed. “Marginal”

Lavaball Trap – 6RR
Instant – Trap (Rare)
If an opponent had two or more lands enter the battlefield under his or her control this turn, you may pay {3}{R}{R} rather than pay Lavaball Trap’s mana cost.
Destroy two target lands. Lavaball Trap deals 4 damage to each creature.
Illus. Zoltan Boros & Gabor Szikszai

Joe

This seems most relevant as a trap, since by the time you have 8 mana, the two lands will likely be irrelevant, and there’s a good chance it won’t even kill all the creatures your opponent controls at that point. As a trap, it’s clearly designed to punish use of the new fetch lands. This seems like a big enough cost though to somewhat telegraph itself in constructed. Opponent has 3RR up? Maybe I’ll wait to break that fetch land I just dropped until my opponent’s turn! Thumbs down for me. Easily avoided any time you know it’s coming… probably unlikely to matter in all other cases.

James
Ummm, as a giant pyroclasm + land destruction for 8 cc I say “no” but for 5cc I say yes. Since fetch lands will without a doubt see play, I can see this being playable. It’s just so damn situational that I’m not convinced I would ever play it. I guess that means my verdict is “no.”

Murasa Pyromancer – 4RR
Creature – Human Shaman Ally (Uncommon)
Whenever Murasa Pyromancer or another Ally enters the battlefield under your control, you may have Murasa Pyromancer deal damage to target creature equal to the number of Allies you control.
Fire is my accomplice. For enough coin, it can be yours as well.
3/2
Illus. Kekai Kotaki

Joe

This is one ally that surely shines in an ally-heavy deck, but sucks pretty bad on his own. I wouldn’t run him as my only ally. He’s a pretty bad sparkmage apprentice variant then. But again, with 3+ other allies, I’d give him a shot.

James
Maybe playble in limited if you’re getting a lot of allies. Otherwise, just forget it. If it read “to creature or player” I’d say yeah but as it is, no. …or if it had flash. Alas, neither is the case…

Plated Geopede – 1R
Creature – Insect (Common)
First strike
Landfall – Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, Plated Geopede gets +2/+2 until end of turn.

“Kor armorers buy the scales and claws. Elf oracles buy the rest.”
- Nablas, North Hada trapper

1/1
Illus. Eric Deschamps

Joe

I like the fetchland in combat tricks he enables, but he’s kinda tiny for 2 mana. I think a density of landfall effects would still be pretty devastating though, so he’d likely be included in such a deck. If you crack a fetchland and raredraft it, as I plan to do until I have playsets, then landfall, and this guy, don’t seem like bad things to pursue for that deck.

James
For a common, this isn’t that bad. Don’t load up on them because w/out the haste he’s UBER vulnerable but certainly playble as a 3/3 firststrike. I don’t see this being good in constructed. It’s def’ worth testing out in a draft though.

Warren Instigator – RR
Creature – Goblin Berserker (Mythic Rare)
Double Strike
Whenever Warren Instigator deals damage to an opponent, you may put a Goblin creature card from your hand onto the battlefield.
1/1
Illus. Andrew Robinson

Joe

Goblin Lackey redux, this time with doublestrike! It’s pretty well a bargain to get doublestrike for R more than the original. On the other hand, a huge part of the original was the turn 1 play. I still have to believe this will be a chase rare, a huge player in goblin decks across all formats, and essentially Lackeys 5-8 whenever both are legal and you’re playing gobbos. Alas, goblin warchief wont help him come down sooner. I’m only marginally into him in limited, but I wouldn’t complain to open him, since I’ll likely have paid for my entry fee just from the card pool. Personally, I think he’s better than goblin scout.

James
Very good in constructed but horrible in limited. It’s likely to eat any removal your opponent has (in constructed) so that bodes well for the real bomb in a goblin deck: Siege-gang Commander. Personally I don’t see much wrong with dropping this guy on turn 2 and getting 1/2 your hand into play on turn 3. Massive pressure that’s for sure.

Baloth Woodcrasher – 4GG
Creature – Beast (Uncommon)
Landfall – Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, Baloth Woodcrasher gets +4/+4 and gains trample until end of turn.
Its insatiable hunger quickly depletes a region of prey. It must migrate from place to place to feed its massive bulk.
4/4
Illus. Zoltan Boros & Gabor Szikszai
#157/249

Joe

He’s pretty much an 8/8 trample for 6, on average. Might occasionally be a 12/12 though. And in green you can always harrow (see below!) after dropping a land, and he’d then be 16/16. Make your land drop for the turn a fetch and he’s the magical 20/20. So anyway, clearly he has the potential to go large. I’m gonna go ahead and say this is probably a very high pick green uncommon. Even if he’s only 8/8 and trample a third of the time, and 4/4 vanilla the rest, he’s still fine for 6 CMC.

James
Great card! Don’t pass him up in limited. As for constructed…meh. He’s certainly no Broodmate Dragon…and def’ not Terra Stomper (see below).

Beast Hunt – 3G
Sorcery (Common)
Reveal the top three cards of your library. Put all creature cards revealed this way into your hand and the rest into your graveyard.

“Surely we could tame something besides hurdas and pillarfield oxen!”
- Sheyda, Ondu gamekeeper

Illus. Kieran Yanner

Joe

It’s no gift of the gargantuan, but it’s still decent selection. This is how green card draw has gone since the wacky days of harmonize. Not my kind of card, but I think it’s playable.

James
I’d play one or two in a creature heavy limited deck but the downside is losing a land (or two!) to the graveyard and that land can mean the likelihood of us losing a LOT of tempo. As for constructed? Nah….

Gigantiform – 3GG
Enchantment – Aura (Rare)
Kicker {4}
Enchant creature
Enchanted creature is 8/8 and has trample.
When Gigantiform enters the battlefield, if it was kicked, you may search your library for a card named Gigantiform, put it onto the battlefield, then shuffle your library.
Illus. Justin Sweet
#162/249

Joe

When will this ever be kicked in constructed? This is gimmicky trash. In limited, the non-kicked use is fine (and you’ll essentially never have two anyway), turning some dork into a big beater. Might even be rightly considered a bomb. But it’s an invitation to a bitch slap in constructed.

James
It’s okay in limited as it will turn your pitiful x/2 into something worth having but it screams “2 4 1 me please!” I would pick this kinda late. The trample is appealing but I’m not sure it’s enough to justify the card.

Harrow – 2G
Instant
As an additional cost to cast Harrow, sacrifice a land.
Search your library for up to two basic land cards and put them onto the battlefield. Then shuffle your library.

Joe

First Tempest, then Invasion both proved how incredibly good this spell is. Neither set had landfall. This is going to be huge. It’s what they call an enabler. This will see play as a 4-of in multiple tournament viable constructed decks. It’s also an incredible fixer for limited. Go go Harrow!

James
Jesus. Ridiculously good. Makes turn 4 a 6 drop. Jesus. This card will see play…lots of play, like that trashy girl at the bar you see hanging around a different guy (or gal) every week.

Khalni Heart Expedition – 1G
Enchantment (Common)
Landfall – Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, you may put a quest counter on Khalni Heart Expedition.
Remove three quest counters from Khalni Heart Expedition and sacrifice it: Search your library for up to two basic land cards, put them onto the battlefield tapped, then shuffle your library.
Illus. Jason Chan

Joe

Whoa mamma. So you drop this turn 2. Turn 3 you drop a land, then cast harrow, then sacrifice this thing. Now you’ve got 6 lands in play on turn 3, having searched for 4 of them, and any landfallers you have just got activated 5 times. Killer. This is also going to be huge, I suspect. Probably a tournament 4-of as well. Very solid in limited. Probably a necessity for decks with more than 2 colors.

James
I’d rather just play Rampant Growth. I’m not as excited about this as Joe is. It’s just not that great…in constructed. In limited it’s great. Thins out your deck, fetches your color-fix–albeit kinda slowly. I mean, aside from the ideal scenario of Heart Expedition to Harrow, it’s going to take 3 turns to activate. Again, I’d rather just play rampant growth.

Nissa Revane – 2GG
Planeswalker – Nissa (Mythic Rare)
[+1] Search your library for a card named Nissa’s Chosen and put it onto the battlefield. Then shuffle your library.
[+1] You gain 2 life for each Elf you control.
[-7] Search your library for any number of Elf creature cards and put them onto the battlefield. Then shuffle your library.
2
Illus. Jaime Jones

Joe

Nissa’s Chosen (see below) is a common, so you know whoever cracks this in pack 1 is going to end up with a few. Without many elves though, this planeswalker isn’t even particularly playable. Seems like a constructed deck will form around her though… we’ll see if it has the goods. I’m guessing it’ll be a contender. Such a vulnerable planeswalker though.

James
This has to be the Single Worst Planeswalker Ever Nuf said. It’s so stupid it’s hard to believe. I don’t even see an elf deck forming around this. What would be the point? If you like Nissa’s Chosen, just play 4x Nissa’s Chosen and forget the planeswalker ‘ho–and last I checked (disclaimer, I haven’t checked–lol!) elfish warrior isn’t played. Would it be played if it was put back in the library? Probably not. SUPER LAME!!!!

Nissa’s Chosen – GG
Creature – Elf Warrior (Common)
If Nissa’s Chosen would be put into a graveyard from the battlefield, put it on the bottom of its owner’s library instead.
2/3
Illus. Jaime Jones

Joe

Elvish warrior without the mythic planeswalker. Close to a bomb common with her. Playable either way.

James
Playable in limited certainly but not outside that.

Oracle of Mul Daya – 3G
Creature – Elf Shaman (Rare)
You can play one additional land on each of your turns.
Play with the top card of your library revealed.
You may play the top card of your library if it’s a land card.
2/2
Illus. Vance Kovacs
#172/249

Joe

Another landfall enabler, but slightly weird. I think I’ll always try to play her though, maybe even as a lone green splash, if only for the land-from-the-top thing. I like it. Kind of a future sight / azusa lost but seeking mashup.

James
Now here’s something interesting. Playing a land off the top is awesome. It might be worth revealing the “non-land” under the land. Still, 4cc for an extra land isn’t really all that great if you don’t have anything to play into. Against a control deck, this is horrible card. You’re basically revealing whether the opponent should tap out for creatures or “hang back” to counter. At 3cc I might think otherwise but at 4? (I’m shaking my head “no”).

Oran-Rief Survivalist – 1G
Creature – Human Warrior Ally (Common)
Whenever Oran-Rief Survivalist or another Ally enters the battlefield under your control, you may put a +1/+1 counter on Oran-Rief Survivalist.
“I’m strong enough to survive alone. I’m smart enough to want companions at my side.”
1/1
Illus. Kev Walker

Joe

Grizzly bear is playable. It only gets better from there. Solid for sure.

James
Playable for allies. R/G allies might be a good deck for limited but I’m pretty sure it’s not worth playing in constructed.

Predatory Urge – 3G
Enchantment – Aura (Rare)
Enchant creature.
Enchanted creature has “{T}: This creature deals damage equal to its power to target creature. That creature deals damage equal to its power to this creature.”
Illus. Scott Chou

Joe

Decent reusable removal if you get some kind of wall or whatnot. Not terrible, but nothing to write home about really. Should have a place in 40-card maindecks though.

James
$0.50 rare.

Rampaging Baloths – 4gg
Creature – Beast (Mythic Rare)
Trample
Landfall – Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, you may put a 4/4 green Beast creature token onto the battlefield.

When the land is angry, so are they.
- Nissa Revane

6/6
Illus. Eric Deschamps
#176/249

Joe

Bombastic in limited. If you play him and never drop another land, he’s still worth it. Since you’ll usually get 2-4 more 4/4s out of the deal, he’s clearly a bomb. Mythic gods, smile on me!

James
This might see play in constructed. Putting 4/4 ‘s into play for the cost of playing land is nothing to ignore.

River Boa – 1G
Creature – Snake (Common)
Islandwalk
{G}: Regenerate River Boa.
2/1

Joe

Oldie and very goodie. This is an easy card to underestimate. This guy’s very strong.

James
Excellent in limited. Very excellent.

Scute Mob – G
Creature – Insect (Rare)
At the beginning of your upkeep, if you control five or more lands, put four +1/+1 counters on Scute Mob.

“Survival rule 781: There are always more scute bugs.”
- Zurdi, goblin shortcutter

1/1
Illus. Zoltan Boros & Gabor Szikszai
#182/249

Joe

Wow. This is a very solid 1-drop. This will quickly go berserk for you if it lives past turn 5! I’m on board. Not sure I’d consider it a bomb, but it’s quite solid.

James
I wouldn’t play this as a “one drop” for sure. It will eat your removal and if it doesn’t get removed quickly, your opponent will lose very quickly. It’s as good as ‘Goyf. This will see heavy constructed play.

Scythe Tiger – G
Creature – Cat (Common)
Shroud
When Scythe Tiger enters the battlefield, sacrifice it unless you sacrifice a land.
3/2

Joe

Rogue elephant, the second. I like the shroud thing. This has been a mainstay of budget legacy and even vintage stompy decks, which might now have 8 such one-drop 3 power dorks. It’s pretty risky though in limited. I’d be a little frightened to drop him turn 1 with 40 cards, but with risk comes reward, right? Grizzly bear is frown town for him though. Plus, with shroud, you can’t equip him or anything. Lukewarm.

James
I think this could be good in a tron-style deck that runs Crucible of Worlds. as a 2/3 it’d be no-question good in limited but at x/2 it’s pretty risky.

Terra Stomper – 3GGG
Creature – Beast (Rare)
Terra Stomper can’t be countered.
Trample
Sometimes violent earthquakes, hurtling boulders, and unseasonable dust storms are wrongly attributed to the Roil.
8/8
Illus. Goran Josic
#187/249

Joe

Holy smokes. 8/8 trample uncounterable. For 6? Yikes! This’ll likely see some tournament play, and is going to make people do whatever they can to get into green. I like him a lot. I’m calling this a bomb.

James
Very powerful. This is the sort of thing you want to play Harrow on turn 3 for. Man…turn4 this puppy and your opp’ is probably taking a small dump in his pants. The argument “it can be easily removed” is applicable to so many damn creatures, please don’t make that your comment. This card is stupidly good. It’s significantly more than just efficient.

Turntimber Ranger – 3GG
Creature – Elf Druid Ally (Rare)
Whenever Turntimber Ranger or another Ally enters the battlefield, you may put a 2/2 green Wolf creature token onto the battlefield. If you do, put a +1/+1 counter on Turntimber Ranger.
2/2
Illus. Wayne Reynolds

Joe

What’s with wayne reynolds and this pose? goldmeadow stalwart invented the look, and this ranger is just a copycat! This is a sick bomb of an ally though. 5 power and toughness for 5 mana, but in two creatures is sick on its own, but with the potential for more, it’s off the charts. This guy’s yet another bomb rare for limited.

James
This is the kind of ally that makes me think allies just might–JUST MIGHT–have something for constructed. Again, so far as allies, I’m thinking R/G–potentially R/G/w but that’s pushing it. The comparison card for this is Broodmate imo. “But that costs more and you get two 4/4′s!” Yeah, yeah but this guy could easily pump out 2 or 3 2/2′s and becomes a 4/4 or 5/5–especially if your other ally is the minotaur. Worth watching and def’ worth experimenting with.

Vines of Vastwood – G
Instant (Common)
Kicker – {G} (You may pay an additional {G} as you cast this spell)
Target creature can’t be the target of spells of abilities your opponents control until end of turn. If Vines of Vastwood was kicked, that creature gets +4/+4 until end of turn.

Joe

Saweet common, this. Such a trivial kicker, it will rarely go unkicked. Very very good. A nice combat trick and/or removal-counterspell. Awesome card.

JamesPick this up in limited. NEVER EVER pass it. lol. I also think this would be worth examining in constructed. It can save your creature from “cheap removal” (such as the Terra Stomper) and create massive pressure. I wouldn’t underestimate this card at all–as though that weren’t clear already. ;)

Blade of the Bloodchief – 1
Artifact – Equipment (Rare)
Whenever a creature is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, put a +1/+1 counter on equipped creature. If equipped creature is a Vampire, put two +1/+1 counters on it instead.
Equip {1}
Illus. Jung Park
#196/249

Joe

Oh my. This should be quite the beating. The counters are on the dude, not the blade… (Doc Obv. strikes again). I love it. I can’t see ever benching this in limited. Not ever.

James
I’ve seen some people bashing this card on twitter but personally I think it’s great. I’d run 2x in a vampire deck.

Carnage Altar – 2
Artifact (Uncommon)
3, Sacrifice a creature: Draw a card.
Illus. James Paick

Joe

Superb. Another card I can’t see myself leaving in my 40-card deck sideboard for any reason. Why not draw cards as creatures die? This would have been even more insane pre-M10 combat damage rules changes. It’s still solid. Makes removal from your opponents hurt a lot less.

James
The only concern I have with this card is the total cost. If you don’t have fatties to stall the ground and you’re just holding back mana open to activate this, then you’re losing and no amount of draw is going to help. This card is decent but not superb.

Eldrazi Monument – 5
Artifact (Mythic Rare)
Creatures you control get +1/+1, have flying, and are indestructible.
At the beginning of your upkeep, sacrifice a creature. If you can’t, sacrifice Eldrazi Monument.

“Gods don’t die. They merely slumber.”
-Ayli, Kamsa cleric

Illus. Mark Tedin
#199/249

Joe

That’s some mythic stuff right there. Indestructible and flying are both fantastic. Sacrificing can be difficult sometimes, but if you have any kind of token production, you’re golden. I like it. Shouldn’t be too hard to justify it in most sealed pools you open containing it. In draft, well… hope you get it early I guess? I dunno. Doesn’t seem intuitively to fit in draft as easily… if it comes pack three, you might just not have the right deck for it, I think. Interesting one. I doubt it’ll make the grade in constructed.

James
I’m not sure. It looks hawt but the question is, “Is getting in a couple of more points of damage per turn worth creating an infinite attrition situation?” Probably not.

Eternity Vessel – 6
Artifact (Mythic Rare)
Eternity Vessel enters the battlefield with X charge counters on it, where X is your life total.
Landfall – Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, you may have your life total become equal to the number of charge counters on Eternity Vessel.
Illus. John Avon
#200/249

Joe

Well, clearly your opponent must deal with this before they can do much else. As such, I consider it a highly worthwhile card. Coretapper has a crush on this thing. Probably shit for constructed, but in EDH it might have a place here or there. Arcum dagsson probably has better things to grab. I dunno. Anyone? Buhler?

James
Very interesting no doubt. But construction worthy? Probably not. The landfall issue isn’t great if you’re already losing and looking to stall. It sorta reminds me oLichs Mirror

Akoum Refuge
Land (Uncommon)
Akoum Refuge enters the battlefield tapped.
When Akoum Refuge enters the battlefield, you gain 1 life.
{T}: Add {B} or {R} to your mana pool.

Joe

I’ll only review this first one, but understand that it’s a cycle. They seem fine to me for limited, but in constructed there are doubtlessly better options available.

James
It’s better than the tri-lands from shards if you’re only in two colors (lol–obviously!) but beyond that I don’t see much here. Maybe a poor-man’s substitute for the new dual lands?

Arid Mesa
Land (Rare)
{T}, Pay 1 Life, Sacrifice Arid Mesa: Search your library for a Mountain or Plains card and put it onto the battlefield. Then shuffle your library.
Illus. Raymond Swanland
#211/249

Joe

Likewise, this cycle will be represented by the following comment: Whoop, there it is!

James
Get ‘em while you can boys. These cards will see $25++ very quickly–probably more considering the price of Onslaught fetchers.

Crypt of Agadeem

Land (Rare)
Crypt of Agadeem enters the battlefield tapped.
{T}: Add {B} to your mana pool.
{2}, {T}: Add {B} to your mana pool for each black creature card in your graveyard.

Joe

You need three black creatures in your yard before you break even on mana. With four, you gain one mana, and so on. Seems weak to me. Quite weak.

James
Pass.

Emeria, The Sky Ruin
Land (Rare)
Emeria, the Sky Ruin enters the battlefield tapped.
At the beginning of your upkeep, if you control seven or more plains, return target creature card from your graveyard to the battlefield.
{T}: Add {W} to you mana pool.

Joe

Awesome. More for constructed than limited, where seven plains ain’t gonna happen that often. Seven plains plus this guy is also quite late for constructed though. Probably not that awesome after all.

James
Borderline. I’d put one or two into a mono-white deck. Never more than that though.

Teetering Peaks
Land (Common)
Teetering Peaks enters the battlefield tapped.
When Teetering Peaks enters the battlefield, target creature gets +2/+0 until end of turn.
{T}: Add {R} to your mana pool.
Illus. Fred Fields

Joe

I don’t think +2/+0 is worth cip tapped.

James
I think this isn’t so bad. It’s a free pump. Great in limited if you’re only splashing for red–and are in B or U–where there were a few evasive guys. I’m a sucker for “free abilities” though.

Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
Land (Rare)
Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle enters the battlefield tapped.
Whenever a Mountain enters the battlefield under your control, if you control at least five other Mountains, you may have Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle deal 3 damage to target creature or player.
{T}: Add {R} to your mana pool.
Illus. Kieran Yanner
#228/249

Joe

Unless harrow + khalni heart expedition are way better than I think they are, then needing 7, 8, 9 lands in play is just too slow for these kinds of marginal effects. Pass.

James
I think this might be okay in a mono-red deck. It’s just not clear [to me] what the optimal time to play this is. Turn 1? Certainly if you don’t have a Goblin Guide in hand (see above) but turn 4 isn’t so bad because mono-red SHOULD have plenty to play at 3cc. Getting 3 damage in for just playing a mountain really isn’t that bad–not at all–and that 3 damage is uncountable. “sweet” I def’ think this is worth testing out.