Big Changes For Every Format

Brian talks about the biggest winners of the M14 rules changes, the W/G/B Tokens deck he played to the Top 8 of a local Standard tournament, and more!

Magic, Magic, Magic—will it ever end?

Hopefully not.

The Pro Tour is over. I had been hoping to take a short break from the game to hang out with friends and family, but I have instead found myself even more engaged with various aspects of the game.

In today’s article, I’m going to pull the Magic writer equivalent of a Miguel Cabrera and touch all the bases. I have comments and thoughts to share on basically every single format, which provides quite the challenge to get it all into one coherent article! So if I’m bouncing around a little bit, I encourage you to stick with me because there is a lot of things to cover.

Index of Subjects

Part I: I Am Legend (And So Is He or She) – Discussion of new rules.

Part II: Biggest Winners by Format – Discussion of specific cards that get better because of the new legend rules.

Part III: Played Gush and Liked It – Discussion of the Gush deck I built and played in San Diego.

Part IV: A Token of My Appreciation – Discussion of the Standard W/G/B Tokens deck with which I made Top 8 of a 45-player tournament.

Part V: Ooze the Boss? – Scavenging Ooze reprinted in M14 and implication for Modern.

Part I: I Am Legend (And So Is He or She)

The biggest news shaking the multiverse is that Wizards has made some pretty drastic and exciting rules changes that will become effective with the release of M14.

Let me first say: 

"Everything is going to be ok"

I am strongly in favor of every single one of the new rules changes. The keepers of the rules have done a tremendous job every time that they have made amendments to the rules (mana burn, damage on the stack, etc.), and I believe they deserve the benefit of the doubt.

In spite of my belief that WotC has earned our trust by making good decisions, from simply looking at the changes, I like them for gameplay purposes.

I’m sure that everyone is already aware of these changes, but for the sake of completeness I will quickly summarize some of the key points.

A. The legend rule will be different (this is the major change). Playing a legendary permanent onto a board that already contains that legend no longer makes both legends self-destruct as a state-based effect. Instead, each player is allowed to have up to one copy of the same legendary creature, legendary land, legendary enchantment, legendary artifact, and unique planeswalker type (Jace, Ajani, Liliana, etc.).

"This town ain’t big enough for the both of us—oh wait, it is."

Effects that create copies of legendary permanents (because each player is now allowed one of a legendary card in play) are no longer functionally removal spells for legends. From a flavor perspective, Clone or Evil Twin simply "legend ruling" an opponent’s Geist of Saint Traft or Olivia Voldaren never made much sense to me. Why shouldn’t a player be able to summon a duplicate, false version of a unique character?

I imagine my Evil Twined version of Geist of Saint Traft has a little goatee like Evil Spock from the parallel universe episode of Star Trek "Mirror, Mirror" (or, more comically, Olivia Voldaren with a goatee!).

So we can both have our own copy of a legendary card in play at the same time.

The rule also affects planeswalkers in a pretty interesting way, as now my opponent and I can both have the same planeswalker at the same time.

I really like this new rule because before getting to cast a planeswalker second was such a defeated play. My opponent plays Jace, Architect of Thought onto an empty board and draws two cards, I (because I was on the draw) must play my Jace to kill theirs (which gains me no value), and then they to play another Jace because I am tapped out.

Whatever the planeswalker in question, these games were absolutely zero fun, and I will not miss them one bit.

Now the legend rule basically only functions to ensure that a player cannot have multiple copies of the same legend fighting on the same team at the same time. However, if a player were to play a second copy of a legendary permanent onto the battlefield, they still don’t lose both as a state-based effect. Instead, they choose the one that they want to sacrifice and keep the other.

Obviously, this is great for planeswalkers because I can play a planeswalker, use an ability, play a second copy of the same planeswalker (sacrificing the one I have already used and keeping the fresh one), and use the second copy.

The same goes for other permanent types. I can attack with my Thrun, the Last Troll and then play a second copy of the legend post-combat and sacrifice the tapped one. Before the change, every copy of a legend a player drew after getting a first into play was a completely dead card, but now there’s the opportunity to get some marginal play out of redundant copies.

One example is that if a legend gets enchanted by Arrest under the old rules, it’s essentially dead on the board, but I still can’t play another copy of the same legend. Under the new rules, I could play a fresh copy and sacrifice only the useless one that is under Arrest.

The reason I like all of these changes is that I see them as adding complexity to the game and giving players more opportunity to play with their cards. Any rules change that makes games more complex and interesting is absolutely fine by me.

B. The way that a player’s sideboard is used in Constructed will also change. Instead of having to sideboard a card for a card (so that a player always has the same starting deck size for every game), players are allowed to sideboard in more cards without sideboarding cards out. Basically, a player can now side out two cards and bring in four and have a 62-card maindeck and a thirteen-card sideboard. Before, this would result in a game loss for sideboarding improperly; now, it’s fair game.

All this rule change does is stop newer players from randomly getting game losses for making a mistake while sideboarding at Grand Prix and Pro Tour Qualifiers. No longer can sharks pile shuffle an opponent’s deck and shout "yahtzee!" for a free win because somebody miscounted and has a 61-card deck.

This is a good and intuitive change that doesn’t let players game the system.

C. Playing additional lands will change so that if your Exploration gets blown up and you haven’t made the extra land drop yet you lose that land drop. The change only matters if a player is using a handful of cards in the game. If you play Lands in Legacy or Oracle of Mul Daya in Modern, be sure to brush up.

Part II: Biggest Winners by Format

The biggest winners as a result of the rules changes are pretty clearly the players because these changes will create more interesting and interactive games where our cards fight each other rather than just cancel each other out.

Though I haven’t had a chance to think about every single card that will get better because of the legend rule change, here are a few that I think will be relevant moving forward.

Standard Winners

"All upside"

Liliana of the Veil gets much better under the new rules change. Part of the problem (and I use problem loosely because the card is amazing) was that if Liliana came down with the -2 ability, there was often an awkward turn where an opponent could leave it in play knowing it wouldn’t be able to edict again and she would block new Lilianas from coming down.

Now a player can play Liliana for an edict and on the next turn +1 for a discard and then play another Liliana for another edict. That is a TON of value.

Liliana of the Veil is already playable in every format, and I believe she gets better in every single format under the new rules. If you don’t have your set already, it might be worth looking into because I think she is going to be a huge player (approaching Jace, the Mind Sculptor caliber) moving forward.

"Don’t complain about the legend rule. Complain about hexproof."

One of the most difficult cards to deal with just got even more difficult to kill. The days of boarding Geists to kill opposing Geists are over. The days of playing Clone to kill their Geist are also over.

It is a good thing that Liliana of the Veil gets so much better because she is one of the last efficient ways left to actually kill the Ghost with the Most.

"Kill me fair or not at all."

Olivia sees her double, a clone, on the battlefield and instantaneously combusts. First of all, she’s a flipping Vampire, which means she has no reflection, so how would she even know what she looks like?

Olivia mirror matches now become pretty messed up since you can simply steal their Olivia and sacrifice it to the legend rule!

"Sorin serves the token deck, not the control deck."

Sorin gets a lot better in creature decks than he was before. One of the problems was that control decks could Supreme Verdict away the board and then play their own Sorin to legend rule a Sorin with a bunch of loyalty counters. No longer.

In general, I like that players cannot simply ignore planeswalkers while the loyalty tics up and then simply legend rule them away before they ultimate. Planeswalkers get much better in decks with creatures than before.

"The Optimal Prime"

Before, the second Prime Speaker rotted in your hand. Now, it upgrades the previous one. This card clearly gets better because a player can use it for value without having to sacrifice board position.

Modern Winners

"You gotta pay the Troll Toll."

So Thrun is basically unkillable? Ok, got it.

Phantasmal Image was a card that people sideboarded to deal with opposing Geists and Thruns, but such a tactic is not going to work in a deck that can’t be proactive.

Sure, you get a two-mana Thrun, but what does it matter if it can’t regenerate or if you are going to simply lose the race?

"Keep on Cliquing…"

Vendilion Clique gets much, much better. Previously, once you got them the first time with Clique, it was simply unreasonable to play a second for the comes into the battlefield ability since you would lose the one you already had.

Now, I can at least use my Cliques to keep screwing with their hand while not going down a body on the board.

Legacy Winners

"Sorry, Sneak and Show and Reanimator."

There will be no more sideboarding Karakas to kill opposing Karakas.


It doesn’t surprise me in the slightest that Gaea’s Cradle jumped up in price last week. A player can now use their Cradle and then play another one to sacrifice the first one to get another large heaping helping of GGGGGGGGGGGGGGG.

The card goes from "can’t play too many because it is a stone brick" to "play all ye want because it is the best card ever."

"I don’t lose if they play theirs first! YAY!!!"

My opponent is on the play and casts Jace, the Mind Sculptor. I play Force of Will, and they Force back. They resolve Jace and +0 to get a Brainstorm. I sadly play my Jace to legend rule their Jace. They play another Jace and +0 to Brainstorm.

I’ve lost this game…approximately 100 times…in my life…

Not anymore! I can slam my Jace and play a game of Magic!

I’m not sure if it makes Jace better or worse in general. However, it makes games far less miserable, which makes me happy. Even if Jace, the Mind Sculptor doesn’t necessarily get better in the metagame, games in which both players are using the card become less miserable.

In my estimation, this makes Jace a better, more fun, fairer card.

Vintage Winners

"The most powerful creature just got even more powerful!"

The legend rule is pretty important here because people trying to Oath of Druids up Griselbrand can now do it and draw cards knowing it will not get killed by Phyrexian Metamorph.

Sure, my opponent can Metamorph and have a Griselbrand, but that is much better for me than getting my Griselbrand killed since my Griselbrand is better than theirs.

I now know I can draw cards with Griselbrand on my turn because they can’t legend rule my Demon and attack for damage to put me dead on board.

Part III: Played Gush and Liked It

While I was in San Diego, I was able to play several games of Vintage with friend and fellow Vintage enthusiast Danny Batterman.

Danny was playing his BUG deck, and I proxied up a Gush deck just to see what it was like. Here are the decklists that we played.

The one thing that I am 100% certain of is that Gush is really, really powerful.

The other thing that I am 85% certain of is that playing against Workshops (especially on the draw) will be an absolute nightmare for this deck.

The matchup very heavily favored the Gush deck, and I have a feeling that most matchups where blue cards come into play are going to tend to fall the same way. I also feel that the Gush deck is fast enough to steal games from Dredge and crush it post-sideboard.

So what we have here is a deck that probably just beats everything with a bad Workshop matchup.

The other thing is that I really enjoyed playing this deck because it is so powerful and gave me so many lines of play. I was absolutely astonished by how screwed up it was getting to play with four copies of Regrowth in my deck. There were games where I would just cast Ancestral Recall or Time Walk multiple times and my opponent died.

Having access to a basically unlimited number of super powerful spells is very appealing to me, and the fact that Gush + Fastbond + Regrowth sets up a free win is just gravy.

Tinker + Blightsteel Colossus was an absolute double brick in my deck that I would for sure not play, which theoretically opens up two slots to help fight the Workshop matchup.

I feel like the deck would benefit from being rebuilt with one of the following:

4x Oath of Druids
4x Dark Confidant

I was really impressed with Gush, and I thought I would pass that along to all of the Vintage readers out there.

Thanks for the games, Danny!

Part IV: A Token of My Appreciation

I also got a chance to dive into Standard last weekend. The RIW playtest group focused on Standard last week for the local 5K tournament, and there was one deck in the pool that I took an immediate liking to.

Brenda Smith had put together a really sweet W/G/B list (that she incidentally won a Time Twister with over the weekend) that I took to a local tournament to help continue testing it out. I ended up going 4-1 with the deck in a 45-player tournament and making Top 8, where I lost to some pretty horrific mulligan + mana screw + mana flood.

Nonetheless, I felt the deck was really good and really cool and thought I would pass it along with some of the changes that I made.

Here are the matchups I played against:

Door to Nothingness (Woo Brew), Won 2-1
Progenitor Mimic + Angel of Serenity, Lost 0-2
Bant Flash, Won 2-0
Junk Tokens, Won 2-1
Jund Midrange, Won 2-0
Top 8: Naya Midrange, Lost 0-2

Overall, I thought the deck was pretty sweet, and it provided me with a lot of opportunities to make plays. I like that the deck has many instant speed tricks that can be leveraged in a variety of ways. Any of the instant speed spells can be game-breakers in the combat step as well as a strong response to a Supreme Verdict.

The weaknesses of this deck are that it has a really hard time dealing with a fast Angel of Serenity and it doesn’t have the advantage of a hyperfast clock like Naya Blitz and Mono-Red Aggro. In particular, I think this deck is likely to really struggle against G/B/W Reanimator decks that can prolong the game with Thragtusks and then start recurring Angel of Serenity to deplete the army of tokens.

I wish I had the list that I lost to in the second round to post because it looked pretty sweet. My opponent was able to accelerate out an Angel of Serenity and then Progenitor Mimic it to make an Angel every turn.

"Stop copying me!!!"

I really like this card a lot and could see myself playing with it in the future. Basically, my experience with this card is that if it hits play and the opponent doesn’t either kill it immediately or win the game that turn, it takes over and the game ends.

It is unfortunate that it can’t legend rule an opponent’s stuff, which makes it possibly slightly worse, but there is still so much upside that I could see it being high impact at some point in the future.

Thanks to Brenda Smith for shipping me the list to play with!

Part V: Ooze the Boss?

"Ooze is the first unique commander printing to be made legal in Type Goo."

I wrote an article about Modern last month where I suggested that Modern would be made better by making some of the quality commander printings, such as Scavenging Ooze, legal for play in Modern.

My prayers have been answered.

I learned of Scavenging Ooze being reprinted in M14 via a text message from Michael Jacob

"Scavenging Ooze in M14. Called it."

It’s obviously a fantastic Constructed card, and I love the way that it gives any green deck a very reasonable way to combat the graveyard in the maindeck without having to give up very much. Scavenging Ooze gives players solid ways to deal with Gifts Ungiven + Unburial Rites or Goryo’s Vengeance, which is absolutely fantastic in my book.

It is also just a really good card in creature mirrors. Drawing him late and buffing him up, gaining some life, and getting busy in the combat step seems sweet.

Also, I like the way that the card appears to be being reprinted as a regular rare (as opposed to a mythic rare), which should make the price tag on this creature a little more affordable than before.

I know that I am really looking forward to acquiring a foil Scavenging Ooze for my Danger Room and that many an Eternal player is also likely looking forward to getting shiny slimies for their decks.

Very cool, Wizards! I really like all of the things that you are doing right now!


Final Thoughts

It feels like a really good week to be a Magic player. There are some sweet new rules that are going to shake things up and give us all lots to think about moving forward, there are a bunch of sweet formats to brew and play, and there are two spoilers to constantly check.

There are a lot of really sweet things going on in Magic right now, and I am really glad to get to be a part of it.

Enjoy it—this is going to be one of the best summers for Magic in the history of the game.

Thanks for reading!

Brian DeMars