Deep Analysis – Extended Morningtide Set Review: The Non-Tribal Goodies

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Here it is, folks! Our Morningtide set review, looking at the cards that’ll make a splash in the Extended metagame. Our host today is Richard Feldman, who’ll lead you through the runners and riders in the race to make an Extended splash. Early next week, Zac Hill takes over to bring us some deck applications with the new cards, before Richard returns to share his Tribal thoughts. As for a Standard set review… come back tomorrow.


Over the course of the next week, Zac Hill and I will be tag-teaming our Morningtide set review for Extended. I’ll be starting things off with an old school card-by-card breakdown (spanning two articles), while Zac is going to tackle the new decklists that will arise from the set’s addition to the PTQ format.

This is part one of my first-ever set review, so I’m going to start with some ground rules. For this review, I will be using the outstanding set review metrics invented by Mike Flores, which he uses here (among several other set reviews). For your reference, I have reproduced these metrics below.

Constructed Unplayable
This card should not be played in Constructed under any normal circumstances and will never generally be found in a competitive Constructed deck. In the case of multicolored cards, the effect may be a powerful one, but not justified by its cost. Example: Brass-Talon Chimera, Lead-Belly Chimera

Playable – Role Player
This card is either unspectacular and competing with cards that do the same thing more efficiently, or useful in only a limited number of decks. For whatever reason (redundancy, lack of better alternatives), the card is good enough to fill a role in a reasonable Constructed deck. Example: Frogmite, Pyrite Spellbomb

Playable — Staple
This card is played in whatever decks and strategies where it would be appropriate, almost without question. When the card is absent, we start asking questions. Example: Cursed Scroll, Sensei’s Divining Top

Playable — Flagship
This card has a powerful or unique effect, so much so that we build decks around it rather than fitting it into decks. Quite often, the presence of this card allows for new archetypes to be explored. In some cases, those archetypes are not very good (but without their flagships, we would never even ask the question). Example: Arcbound Ravager, Isochron Scepter

As I am condensing the entirety of my Morningtide set review into two articles, I will be leaving out cards I consider to be “obviously” unplayable in order to save space. After all, there are precious few readers in the world who will actually learn something from my explaining why Diviner’s Wand is not going to make a dent in Extended.

In a regular set review, there are often cards that will only work if a new deck is built around them. Tooth and Nail in Mirrodin comes to mind; that’s certainly a Flagship card. In Morningtide, however, because of the Tribal focus, there are a lot of cards that will only work if a new deck is built around that tribe. While there might be a Rogues deck to be had through the use of some of the new Morningtide cards, I’m not going to list each of them as Playable – Flagship when really they are only a flagship together, a vessel assembled from several smaller, Roguish parts.

As such, I’ve separated out the tribal cards into the second article in the series, and will discuss the tribal cards under the assumption that each mentioned tribe will ultimately come together to make a playable deck. So the Rogues are all in one section that assumes there will be a Rogues deck for them to fit into, same with the Soldiers, same with the Wizards, and so on. This article will instead focus on the playables (and unplayables) of the set that stand on their own merits, without the need to fit into a tribal framework.

Having said all that, let’s get to it!


Feudkiller’s Verdict
Tribal Sorcery – Giant
You gain 10 life. Then if you have more life than an opponent, put a 5/5 white Giant Warrior creature token into play.

At face value, this is Loxodon Hierarch, except someone attached a bicycle pump to it and inflated all of the numbers. The casting cost went up by 50%, from 4 to 6, the lifegain went up by 150%, from 4 to 10, and the power and toughness each went up 25%, from 4 to 5 in both cases. Historically, the most important of such numbers tends to be the casting cost, and Extended is no exception. Six mana in Extended is a king’s ransom; while there is something to be said for the utility of gaining ten life (about three full burn spells worth of damage) against certain Red decks, a 5/5 body will not even consistently stop a Tarmogoyf.

To me, the most interesting immediate application of this card has to do with the fact that it is a Sorcery. Enduring Ideal, one of the last remnants of the Burning Wish era, can fetch this fellow up as a veritable Time Walk against Red decks, buying itself an extra turn with which to make that final land drop and go Epic. Its prohibitive cost makes me think it is less likely to see applications in new decks that don’t feature Burning Wish, and it’s possible that Ideal doesn’t get six mana “naturally” (without sacrificing lands, crucial Pentad Prism counters, or by using Seething Song) often enough for him to warrant the sideboard slot, but this reasonable potential application keeps this card off the Unplayable chopping block in my book.

Verdict: Playable — Role Player (most likely as a one-of in Enduring Ideal’s sideboard)

Idyllic Tutor


Search your library for an enchantment card, reveal it, and put it into your hand. Then shuffle your library.

As a three mana Sorcery, Idyllic Tutor is perfectly comparable in speed to Transmute. We know no one has been tripping over themselves to Transmute for things like Seismic Assault and Solitary Confinement – but then again, few of the enchantments in the format powerful enough to be worth expending three mana to search up happen to be Blue and Black, either.

As none of the existing decks in the format seem to benefit from the card – why would Enduring Ideal bother paying mana to search up one of its enchantments rather than focusing on powering out the Epic spell that fetches out all of its enchantments? – it seems the primary role this card will have is in creating new archetypes. Perhaps a second look at CAL or Slide is in order?

Verdict: Playable – Flagship

Indomitable Ancients

Creature – Treefolk Warrior

Why is this guy on the list at all? Adorable Doran combos, that’s why! 2WW for a 10/10? Where do I sign up?

… anyway, back to reality. Every deck in Extended is either dead very soon in the face of an unanswered Doran, or has ample answers for him. In other words, most of the time, your Doran is either crushing the opponent by himself or hanging out in your graveyard; Indomitable Ancients does nothing close to justifying his 2WW price tag in either situation.

Verdict: Extended Unplayable

Stonehewer Giant
Creature – Giant Warrior
1W, T: Search your library for an Equipment card and put it into play. Attach it to a creature you control. Then shuffle your library.

Obviously this is relevant in Extended because of Umezawa’s Jitte and Sword of Fire and Ice. I’m sure there are cases to be made for the other Sword, and possibly even something like Grafted Wargear, but honestly, it’s really about the aforementioned dynamic duo more than anything else. Are there other options? No question. However, Stonehewer is low on the Extended power meter as it is, so every situational equipment included in a Stonehewer deck for use with him will pull the power level of that deck down even further.

To me, that means he is either a Smother-Proof, five-mana Godo approximation for the Doran mirror (which may be quite good, but consider that for the same five mana you could board the Vindicate-resistant Spiritmonger instead), or a very, very leaky flagship. I think it’s safer to assume he will end up a Role Player, if anything; the Flagship idea seems full of holes in a world full of Vindicates.

Verdict: Playable — Role Player (but just barely)


Declaration of Naught

As Declaration of Naught comes into play, name a card.
U: Counter target spell with that name.

This card is a fascinating sideboard measure. Compare it to, say, Meddling Mage against Enduring Ideal. Ideal commonly plays Fire/Ice to deal with Gaddock Teeg, which handily dispatches the Mage as well. What will they do about your Declaration that there will be no Enduring Ideals played this game? Dredge can Therapy your Counterspell or Darkblast your Gaddock Teeg…what will they do about your Declaration of Naught naming Dread Return?

Even though it takes an extra mana to activate, the utility of a Meddling Mage that is not a creature has a lot of potential. I don’t think this will be in every sideboard – and indeed it may not make the cut in the format’s present state – but I certainly think it will be playable.

Verdict: Playable — Role Player

Mind Spring


Draw X cards.

Tron! Tron! ZOMG, Tron! Draw a billion cards!

Down, Sparky. Sadly, Tron decks which already have Big Mana going have better things to do. I would rather resolve a Gifts Ungiven with the Tron out than draw seven cards for nine mana – and you can quote me on that – as the former will certainly win me the game within a turn or two, while the latter will only do so if the tools for winning are in the top seven or so. Not to mention the fact that I’ve tapped myself out for a turn, an often costly move for any Blue deck.

Can anyone besides Tron really make use of this thing? At X=3, it’s worse than Tidings, at X=4 it’s worse than Opportunity; only when you cast it for a total cost of seven mana does it outperform either of the aforementioned clunkers. In other words, no, pretty much no one but Tron can make use of it, and I don’t even think it makes the cut there.

Verdict: Extended Unplayable

Counter target noncreature spell.

There is a certain suite of situational counterspells that hibernate in sideboards, waiting for the right matchup to appear and make them useful. Unfortunately, even when they are useful, it is as Counterspells number five through eight, and that’s about it.

As Blue decks these days aren’t even playing Mana Leak yet, a far more versatile card that can come in against creature-based and creature-free strategies alike (when extra counters are desirable), I don’t see this card impacting Extended.

Verdict: Extended Unplayable


Creature – Elemental
When Slithermuse leaves play, choose an opponent. If that player has more cards in hand than you, draw cards equal to the difference.
Evoke 3U

Picture this: a TEPS-style combo deck starts going off, busting Lotus Bloom after Seething Song after Rite of Flame, exhausts nearly its entire hand in one turn…and then Evokes Slithermuse to draw five and keep going. Exciting? Absolutely. Enough to bring a Storm combo deck back into Extended? We’ll see.

The other thing that makes this card interesting in Extended is how very splashable the Evoke cost makes it. I’d like to think Red decks would splash this as a sideboard card against Doran (sure, I’ll use two burn spells on your dude…anyway, draw four more), but by the time a 20-land deck accumulates four mana, the opponent probably only has one or two more cards in hand than the Red player. Even if Slithermuse is the last card in hand, you might be looking at a Concentrate or worse from your splash, which is really not worth it.

That said, there is still the very real possibility that a combo deck will give Slithermuse a good home.

Verdict: Playable — Role Player


Maralen of the Mornsong
Legendary Creature – Elf Wizard
Players can’t draw cards.
At the beginning of each player’s draw step, that player loses 3 life, searches his or her library for a card, puts it into his or her hand, then shuffles his or her library.

As will no doubt be the case when this card is reviewed for Standard play, the inevitable question will be, “What’s the worst that can happen?” The follow-up question is the one the opponent must ask himself while he is deciding which card to tutor up: “What’s the worst thing Maralen’s controller can do to me?” If the opponent decides that the worst thing you can do to him is worse than what he can do to you, then he’ll fetch up a removal spell – and freaking everyone has a removal spell for a 2/3 – and use it on the Legend.

That means you’ll have spent 1BB to deal the opponent three damage. And, uh, pull a Vindicate out of his library. And make him spend three mana.

Now let’s say the opponent is playing a weird deck that can’t remove a 2/3 – say, Enduring Ideal. Let’s also say that, somehow, the opponent doesn’t use his Vampiric Tutor to completely decimate you. What do you get out of the deal? Why, a Vampiric Tutor of your own. Then next turn, if the opponent can’t put you away with two Vampiric Tutors, you get a second Vampiric Tutor effect, and after all this trouble, for the love of all that is holy, I damn well hope you win the game.

Considering how much has to go right for the card’s benefit to be realized, it begs the question: why aren’t you just playing real tutors? Couldn’t you be transmuting for what you need with the same three mana instead? If tutor effects are so valuable to you, wouldn’t it be worth it to pay an extra colorless for Diabolic Tutor and cut off the opponent’s ability to throw a wrench in your plans by fetching up a Smother?

It’s cute that he shuts off dredge by disabling the draw step, but Black has far, far better tools available with which to fight that matchup. I’m not buying.

Verdict: Extended Unplayable

Creature – Elemental
When Offalsnout leaves play, remove target card in a graveyard from the game.
Evoke B

This guy is quite the little workhorse against Dredge! Similar to Extirpate in that he requires that you keep one mana open (and that he is not Therapied away before he can be put to good use), the Snout’s main advantage is that he attacks Dredge on two fronts. The one-shot remove-from-game effect will negate a Dread return or remove a dredge outlet, while the Evoke effect will take out the Bridges.

Of course, I can think of another, cheaper card that negates a Dread Return and kills all of Dredge’s Bridges, and it rhymes with “Gormod’s Brypt.” Crypt costs less mana, but can be negated by Pithing Needle and damage-controlled by Chain of Vapor and Echoing Truth. For these two reasons, I could see someone choosing Offalsnout over Crypt, even though he requires a constant investment of B for (essentially) the entire game against Dredge. I won’t give him “staple,” as I would expect most decks to default to the zero-mana (and more damaging) Crypt instead, but I suspect he will find a home in Extended yet.

Verdict: Playable — Role Player


Boldwyr Heavyweights

Creature – Giant Warrior
When Boldwyr Heavyweights comes into play, each opponent may search his or her library for a creature card and put it into play. Then each player who searched his or her library this way shuffles it.

In most matchups, Boldwyr Heavyweights comes into play with a Tarmogoyf on the opposing side, and that’s it. 8/8 trample versus 4/5 or 5/6 is one of the rare situations where Goyf’s power and toughness just don’t measure up. That said, it’s beyond abysmal if this guy is Vindicated or otherwise removed just after he hits play, so he is only a good deal in certain matchups.

Primarily I’m thinking this could be a replacement for Fledgling Dragon in the red deck mirror. You play the Heavyweights, the opponent goes and gets his Goyf, and the advantage is yours. I’d be more excited about this guy if not for the fact that even in the Red deck mirror, things can go horribly, horribly wrong. For openers, some Red decks run Vindicate over Molten Rain; we all know how that little interaction pans out. For another, what if the opposing Red player actually has Fledgling Dragons in his deck? It’s okay to give him a Goyf when he can’t profitably attack it into your 8/8 blocker, but handing him a 5/5 flying pumper that he gets to swing with first is very, very dangerous.

So, while I do think the guy has the potential to see play, it’s only by the slimmest of margins, and full of risk. Buyer beware.

Verdict: Playable — Role Player

Countryside Crusher
Creature – Giant Warrior
At the beginning of your upkeep, reveal the top card of your library. If it’s a land card, put it into your graveyard and repeat this process.
Whenever a land card is put into your graveyard from anywhere, put a +1/+1 counter on Countryside Crusher.

As Adrian Sullivan, Mike Flores, Zac Hill, and others have already written gobs about this guy (and I don’t expect the flow of information to slow down anytime soon), I’m not going to beat the dead horse. I think everyone knows how much potential is here by now.

Verdict: Playable – Flagship

Stomping Slabs


Reveal the top seven cards of your library, then put those cards on the bottom of your library in any order. If a card named Stomping Slabs was revealed this way, Stomping Slabs deals 7 damage to target creature or player.

This card is on the list because of math. 2R for seven damage to target creature or player is, in a word, absurd.

However, let’s do a bit more math. You need to play four Stomping Slabs to have any shot at it being good; what are the odds you’ll “hit blind” with it? Let’s say you’re on the play, you draw your opening seven, there’s exactly one Slab in there, and you keep. You play “land, go” until turn 3, don’t topdeck any Slabs, and then cast Slabs right on turn 3.

Now your deck has 51 cards left in it, 3 of which are Stomping Slabs. That means there’s a 36% chance that there is a Stomping Slabs in the top seven cards.

To recap, if you draw one – and only one – Slabs in your opening hand, don’t topdeck any more, you have a phenomenal thirty-six percent chance of doing anything at all. Subsequently topdecked Slabs have far worse chances of being anything but blank cardboard than this.

Can you manipulate your library to increase your odds? Surely, but that makes this three-mana-for-seven-damage “bargain” come with the price tag of Flagship rather than Role Player. At which point it promptly stops being a bargain; even though the mana cost will remain low, I predict the cost of contorting your whole deck around making the card playable will make it unjustifiable as a Flagship. If it’s not a Flagship and it’s too situational to be a Role-Player, there’s only one option left.

Verdict: Extended Unplayable


Chameleon Colossus

Creature – Shapeshifter
Changeling (This card is every creature type at all times)
Protection from Black
2GG: Chameleon Colossus gets +X/+X until end of turn, where X is equal to its power.

It’s pro-Black, it can tango with Tarmogoyf or be a two-turn(ish) clock if need be, and it’s a Changeling. It’s not for everyone – I wouldn’t call it a staple, as the default four-drop for Green decks will probably remain Hierarch to help shore up Red deficiencies – but against a midrange foe, this guy is a powerhouse indeed.

Verdict: Playable — Role Player


Choose target artifact or enchantment. Its owner shuffles it into his or her library.

Not much to see here, but still worth mentioning. I could see people playing this over Krosan Grip in the event that they are concerned about Academy Ruins or Darksteel Colossus or the like. Its applications are narrow, but conceivable; while I don’t think it will immediately see play, I wouldn’t think less of a deck for including it in its sideboard (provided it was justified, of course).

Verdict: Playable — Role Player

Sacrifice any number of lands. Search your library for that many land cards, put them into play tapped, then shuffle your library.

There’s been a lot of buzz surrounding this one. Besides the obvious Tron applications, you can use Scapeshift to turn a grip of your lands into Cloudposts and Vesuvas. Four mana at Sorcery speed is quite pricey for a narrow effect like this, so it is debatable whether or not a viable deck will emerge from this card, but there is tons of potential here. I have no doubt that experiments will be conducted to try and break the card.

Verdict: Playable — Flagship

Unstoppable Ash

Creature – Treefolk Warrior
Champion a Treefolk or Warrior (When this comes into play, sacrifice it unless you remove another Treefolk or Warrior from the game. When this leaves play, that card returns to play.)
Whenever a creature you control becomes blocked, it gets +0/+5 until end of turn.

Here we have an easier-to-cast version of Iwamori of the Open Fist, but with what will likely be a far worse downside (Champion instead of giving the opponent a free legend), and an ability that is primarily relevant when Doran the Siege Tower is in play on either side of the table.

I don’t think there’s room for this guy in Extended. Even if you found a deck where the Champion ability were not much of a drawback, I don’t think anyone would go for him as a midrange-mirror solution before Chameleon Colossus or Spiritmonger or the like.

Verdict: Extended Unplayable

Artifacts and Lands

Obsidian Battle-Axe
Tribal Artifact – Warrior Equipment
Equipped creature gets +2/+1 and has haste.
Whenever a Warrior creature comes into play, you may attach Obsidian Battle-Axe to it.
Equip 3

This might be the smallest flagship of all time, but a flagship it remains. With Warriors like Chameleon Colossus in the mix, a Fires of Yavimaya that gives the pump every turn bears investigating. I’m not optimistic, but I am curious to see if someone manages to break this thing; the potential is certainly there, if carefully hidden.

Verdict: Playable — Flagship

Murmuring Bosk
Land – Forest
(T: Add G to your mana pool.)
As Murmuring Bosk comes into play, you may reveal a Treefolk card from your hand. If you don’t, Murmuring Bosk comes into play tapped.
T: Add B or W to your mana pool. Murmuring Bosk deals 1 damage to you.

I’m not sure why everyone is as excited about this card as they are. It’s great that Windswept Heath fetches it out, but coming into play tapped unless you are holding Doran is a pretty big drawback. Besides, fully two-thirds of the card’s colored mana production come with pain, and given the comes-into-play-tapped drawback, I’m not even sure I’d rather have this than Caves of Koilos in a three-color deck.

However, you still can play just one copy and use it to fix three colors with one fetchland when you need to, and there’s value in that. I expect it to see play, though I won’t plan to defend its use until I see it in action.

Verdict: Playable — Role Player

T: Add to your mana pool.
T: Mutavault becomes a 2/2 creature with all creature types until end of turn. It’s still a land.

When the Boogeyman goes to sleep every night, he checks his closet for Mutavault.

There is no theory of evolution. Just a list of creatures Mutavault has allowed to live.

Mutavault is the reason Waldo is hiding.

Mutavault does not sleep. It waits.

This is one of the best manlands in all of Magic, and precisely fits the bill of “when the card is absent, we start asking questions.” I don’t say this often, but you basically need to have a three-color deck, a two-color deck with heavy commitments to both colors, or a damn good reason if you aren’t playing this card.

The simple math of two land taps to get a 2/2 out of a mana-producing land is extremely efficient, and the Changeling ability is far more relevant than you would expect. (It comes up a lot in part two of this review, which focuses on the tribal potential of the set. Mutavault is, for example, a Goblin.)

Verdict: Playable — Staple


Given the focus on tribal interactions, I was surprised how much of Morningtide came together in terms of standalone cards. There’s only one staple — Mutavault – but a number of flagships and quite a few role players. Some are more narrow than others, granted – but I do think the set will have a noticeable impact on Extended even beyond its tribal reaches.

Here are my top five picks for the non-tribal Morningtide cards that will have the most impact on the format.

1. Mutavault
2. Countryside Crusher
3. Chameleon Colossus
4. Declaration of Naught
5. Offalsnout

Up next week: Morningtide’s tribal cards. See you then!

Richard Feldman
Team :S
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