Eternal Europe: Magic 2015

Carsten looks at Magic 2015 from the discerning perspective of a Legacy deckbuilder – what cards might make the cut in Eternal formats, and what cards (if any) look like they might form the center of new deck archetypes?

You have chosen! Last week I asked you which of three card triplets you’d like to see me brew with, and your answer has been very clear. Nearly half of your votes (45.44 %) went to newcomer Dack Fayden and his partners in crime Goblin Welder and Transmute Artifact over the crazy card-draw shenanigans of Snapcaster Mage, Thoughtcast and Mox Opal (24.95%) and the consistently uncounterable Dark Depths, Thespian’s Stage plus Tolaria West package (29.61%). I’ve heard you, so expect to be able to follow along with how I develop plans for putting the package into action come next Monday (the poll just finished this Sunday, after all).

Luckily enough, the fact that M15 has been nearly completely spoiled this early means there is a lot for me to talk about to help you pass the time. I usually prefer to wait until we have the full spoiler, but I don’t expect there to be all that many relevant revelations to come and I’d like to talk about the cards we have so far while they’re still fresh. Let’s jump right in, shall we?

Heliod’s Pilgrim

A 1/2 for three that finds an Aura card doesn’t look all that great on first sight, admittedly. However as Trinket Mage has shown us, combining even a mediocre tutor with a mediocre body results in much more than the sum of its parts. Note that this can also find less-obvious Auras such a Wild Growth or Control Magic. There’s nothing to get with the Pilgrim that jumps out at me so far, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this turns out to be playable in the long run.

Triplicate Spirits

Alright, this clearly costs a lot more than we’d be ready to pay for three 1/1s. The reason I’m mentioning it is that we might reach a critical mass of token producers at some point when something like this actually becomes worth investigating. Spectral Possession is already close to playable at three mana and Lingering Souls has already proven to be a viable Legacy card. Between those two and Battle Screech, there is quite a bit of potential for explosive token production on turn four. Lingering Souls even curves perfectly into Triplicate Spirits: turn-three Lingering Souls, on turn four you flash it back and tap all the Spirits plus your two remaining mana to cast Triplicate Spirits. All you need to do now is to slam down some form of anthem effect like Sorin, Lord of Innistrad or Intangible Virtue (neat bonus synergy with convoke, by the way) to have an absurd amount of power in play.

Dauntless River Marshal

A two-mana 3/2 would have been impressive a couple of years ago, and it is still big enough to be a reasonable card if it fulfills some other relevant function – say like tapping down Emrakul, the Aeons Torn before it can ever attack. Sadly, the price tag on the activation is much too high for this to ever be the correct choice (seeing how Azorius Guildmage doesn’t seem to ever make it into any deck at all).

Just here to warn you. Before you get excited for Phyrexian Dreadnaught and Hunted Horror shenanigans, please remember that Illusionary Mask and Torpor Orb both exist, cost one less mana, and can’t be Lightning Bolted in response to you casting your fatty. This is also not great as a hoser in Legacy – Stoneforge Mystic, Goblin Ringleader, Snapcaster Mage and Vendilion Clique are the main victims I can think of, and as this is white you likely even have Stoneforges of your own.

In Modern, on the other hand, this card seems incredible. Birthing Pod and Splinter Twin are two of the biggest decks, both rely heavily on enters-the-battlefield triggers to work, and their key pieces generally cost at least three mana – meaning the Gryff comes down early enough to hush them. The huge popularity of Snapcaster Mage and Restoration Angel even means that Hushwing is far from a narrow piece of hate – what’s not to like?

This is an interesting play on Immortal Servitude. While I don’t see how either of these cards could make waves in Legacy, having eight ways to cause this kind of effect to happen in Standard for a couple of months is pretty interesting. By the end of Innistrad-Ravnica Standard there was a pretty sweet deck that revolved around sacrificing and returning your two-cost creatures repeatedly, and Return to the Ranks might turn out to provide the redundancy that deck was missing if some kind of payoff effect can be found.

If the token-making ability didn’t cost mana, this would probably be the second coming of Bitterblossom. As is, I doubt the card is strong enough for Legacy – though it does provide a pretty good way for Death and Taxes to grind out decks that overload on removal post-board. I also like how it rewards playing around Daze with a 1/1 in a weird way.

Military Intelligence

This is a pretty exciting one, though I’d have liked it much better in white (as a possible draw engine for either Death and Taxes or the weird token deck I talked about above) or red (to fuel a Zoo or Naya Blitz-style deck full of one-mana creatures and hasty guys).

Even in blue, Military Intelligence at least doesn’t help the already powerful Delver and Blade strategies. Instead, the card seems tailor-made for a Merfolk deck that relies on the full manland package of Mutavault and Mishra’s Factory. You get to curve Cursecatcher into Silvergill Adept into a Lord, and even if they kill everything but the Cursecatcher you get to deploy this and draw a card (in conjunction with a manland) on turn four. It even costs only a single blue mana so that it can help you to draw the second Island in case of mana troubles (any of your colorless lands should be able to attack). One of the problems with Merfolk in my experience is that you run out of steam quite rapidly when your first Lord or two are dealt with – you don’t have a Delver-decks ability to rapidly dig into another threat. This turns your remaining crappy guys back on and is itself immune to creature removal

Void Snare

Well, this is one I’ve been waiting for literally since playing The Shining in Vintage back in 2003 – a Chain of Vapor that you can Burning Wish for. While this might look innocuous enough on first sight, having the ability to finally Wish for a good answer to annoying hate permanents is a pretty big upgrade to Burning Wish in combo strategies, taking pressure off your actual sideboard and leaving you significantly less vulnerable to game one and enabling you to not have to sideboard in a bad bounce spell only to make sure you won’t lose to your opponent randomly having Leyline of Sanctity in their deck. To give you an idea of how big of a deal that is, it actually leads me to consider running a Burning Wish or two in ANT, as much as I usually hate Wish there.

I’m skeptical if this is any good as Lorescale Coatl has been legal and unplayed for years now. Trading a point of power and an additional color for a neat little “dies” trigger probably helps Chasm Skulker more than it hurts it, but I doubt it’s enough to really get the card to where it needs to be. Three mana also buys you a True-Name Nemesis or Knight of the Reliquary, after all.

That being said, curving this into Brainstorm or having Sylvan Library out at the same time is powerful enough that I wouldn’t be too surprised to be proven wrong here, especially as Lorescale Coatl might simply have needed copies five to eight to allow for people to really commit.

Oh wow. Found one that looks busted to me. Yes, the ability is kind of reminiscent of Grand Architect, but this one cost only two mana, only one of which is colored. It also allows you to tap non-blue creatures. Sounds like a solid tradeoff for not getting the Anthem effect and getting one mana instead of two out of your guys. In fact, the card this most resembles is a Heritage Druid for artifact creatures – and if Elves has taught us anything, it’s that Glimpse of Nature is pretty ridiculous with Heritage Druid-style effects. Our esteemed editor already tried to put Glimpse of Nature into Affinity back in 2010 [Editor’s Note: I cannot believe you remember that!] and while his list never really took off, I think we might be looking at the perfect enabler to take those kinds of shenanigans to the next level with Chief Engineer. Heck, Beck // Call might even make it possible to do something similar in Modern.

A very rough first draft based on Cedric’s efforts might look something like this:

4 Tree of Tales
4 Seat of The Synod
4 Ancient Den
4 Gaea’s Cradle
4 Mox Opal
4 Springleaf Drum

4 Glimpse of Nature
4 Beck // Call
4 Thoughtcast

4 Memnite
4 Ornithopter
4 Chief Engineer
4 Frogmite
4 Myr Enforcer
4 Cranial Plating

This list clearly needs some form of finishing move along the lines of Elves’ Craterhoof Behemoth – in artifact form if at all possible – but I haven’t managed to come up with one yet. A deck that can both combo out with Glimpse and play a super-fast beatdown game with Cranial Plating sounds impressive enough to be worth investigating, however.

Oh how the mighty have fallen. I mean, I don’t expect them to print something like Jace, the Mind Sculptor again but this one seems very underwhelming. The +1 ability is actually worse than JTMS’s +2 because it can’t target your opponent and the -3 is savagely overcosted (seeing as the one thing this Jace has going for it is his high loyalty). If you’re playing Jace, the Living Guildpact you’re doing so for the ultimate – which is pretty incredible, admittedly – but when has that ever been a good reason to run a planeswalker? I guess it’s only fair, Chandra, Liliana and Ajani already had their unimpressive versions, right? I’m ready to eat crow when this turns out to be the next big thing in Standard, but for now I’d say we’ve finally gotten an actual bad Jace.


I’ve heard people discuss this as another option for the one-mana black removal slot, but I don’t see it. At best this is a Dismember that costs you one less life. You can never pay less life, either, though – so I don’t see why you’d put this anyway near your deck. And no, Death’s Shadow is not a valid answer. There are enough superior ways to get rid of your life total, starting with, once again, Dismember.

Reclamation Sage

Well, this one is obviously going to see play. Having a Viridian Shaman that can also kill Counterbalance, Moat and sideboard hate like Engineered Plague should help out Elves handsomely.

The result of the latest “You Make The Card” is intriguing. Usually cards that punish the opponent for discarding – like, say, Megrim – are pretty low on the power scale. You need to have a lot of discard in your deck, and once you’ve emptied your opponent’s hand your profit-engine doesn’t actually do anything, leading to some pretty huge consistency issues. On the other hand, anything that can generate this much mana – imagine hitting two lands with Hymn to Tourach – while also having the potential to draw cards is worth consideration.

Waste Not is pretty insane with Windfall or Wheel of Fortune – fill their hand only to empty it again, rinse and repeat until you have a lethal amount of Zombies in play thanks to all the black mana and extra draws Waste Not provides – but sadly those two are only legal in Vintage and in the oldest of formats, there are better things to do when casting draw7s (e.g. Tendrils of Agony). I guess Whispering Madness is legal anywhere else and dropping Waste Not before Ritualing out an Ill-Gotten Gains could turn into a pretty big blowout in Legacy, so there’s that.

As a result, I’m not sure how to evaluate Waste Not. It could just be a dud like Megrim, but it also has the potential to be a self-contained mana and draw engine for some absolutely busted combo deck. In fact, if we can find the correct kind of draw/discard enablers, we might be looking at the first completely busted “You Make the Card” card – Whispering Madness plus Reforge the Soul in Modern maybe?

Speaking of potentially ridiculous enchantments, Aggressive Minining basically allows you to draw six cards for four mana in the span it takes you to untap after casting it. That’s a pretty sick rate, all things considered. You clearly can’t be concerned with playing a longer game – you’d need those lands to cast your spells, after all – but if there’s a way to simply win of off the big burst of cards, who needs a longer game? I don’t see how and where to use this yet – it might be a reasonable sideboard card for Modern Storm to fight discard, I guess – but if this can find a home, it is going to be very good.

Goblin Rabblemaster

A public service announcement: Making all your guys attack every turn is bad, mmmkay. This is not the card that will bring Goblins back into the thick of the Legacy metagame.

This is actually interesting in that it gives your aggressive one- and two-drops haste in a very weird way. Clearly not a card for mono-red Burn – though it does have some sweet synergy with Young Pyromancer – but it is still something that might be worth considering as a replacement for or in addition to Fireblast if you’re working towards a Naya Blitz-style aggressive deck.

Battlefield Forge Caves of Koilos Llanowar Wastes Shivan Reef Yavimaya Coast

As a reprint, these obviously don’t matter for Legacy one bit. I just wanted to bask in the glory of nostalgia by dedicating a couple of words to them.

The token-creation ability is neat, but much too expensive to really be relevant. The really important part about this card is that Slivers suddenly has access to twelve no-disadvantage five-color lands in combination with Cavern of Souls and Ancient Ziggurat. While the Sliver deck has other problems – in particular concerning its inability to run a significant amount of powerful spell to interact with its opponent – mana-fixing problems should be a thing of the past from now on.

Somehow Awesome

Those two words are a sum up how I feel about M15. There aren’t many obviously-insane cards in the set, and I mostly expect to only see a couple of role-players to make an impact in Legacy. At the same time, though, the set has a good number of truly strange cards – ones that feel as if they’re brimming with potential and yet so far of the beaten path that I’m not yet able to brew up lists that might use them. How awesome is that? This is a very different kind of Core Set and feels significantly more like the third set in a block when R&D pulls out all the stops and pushes towards new territory than the usually rather bland fare we’re used to getting every summer – and I love it. Hats off to Wizards for this one, please keep up this level of innovation for Magic 2016!

If you have any more detailed ideas of what we should be doing with some of the sweet new ones, make sure to let me know below. I already know a couple of things I want to explore once I’ve finished brewing with Dack Fayden, Goblin Welder and Transmute Artifact!