Innovations – Hot Cards From Conflux: Looking At The Spoiler

Read Patrick Chapin every week... at StarCityGames.com!
Monday, January 12th – We’re striding through January, and the horizon holds a new set of cards… Conflux! Today, Patrick Chapin takes a look at ten highly-hyped cards that are rumored to arrive in February, including what the Innovator believes to be the second-best removal spell of all time… [Warning: Contains Spoilers.]


A new year is upon us, and with it, a new set will shortly follow. In just a few short weeks, we will be hit with Conflux, an exciting new set that looks to be packed with interesting cards that will have a healthy impact on the tournament scene.

So far, there don’t appear to be any Bitterblossoms or Reveillarks, but personally, I think that is a good thing. What there is, however, is a large variety of Role Players, utility cards, and interesting cards that are going to challenge us all to figure out how to use them.

I want to give props to MTGSalvation.com and the whole MTGSalvation community. The cards I am reviewing this week are all courtesy of them, as well the community of Magic players there that help build the anticipation for new sets.

What I want to do today is take a look at ten cards that look interesting to me. They are not all going to turn out to be tournament powerhouses, but they are cards that jump out at me, about which I have something to say, right off the top.

Just a warning: remember, these are merely speculations. Be careful about making important decisions based on these rumors. They are based on the best information available to the community, as of today; however, this doesn’t mean they are infallible. Last season, it may have be nice to identify Cruel Ultimatum and Broodmate Dragon as powerful new cards early, but remember that Manaplasm was also spoiled incorrectly (costing 1G…), which made it appear to be one of the power cards of the set.

The point is this: take everything here with a grain of salt. My opinions on these cards are all predicated on the card being printed as listed here. For convenience, I will print all relevant alleged card text.

Lapse of Certainty
Counter target spell. Put that spell on top of its owner’s library.

Let’s start off with a wild one! Lapse of Certainty is just what it appears to be: a functional reprint of Memory Lapse, but at three mana. This card requires a higher level of understanding to fully appreciate. Let’s look at it carefully.

First of all, some will dismiss it just because it costs more than Memory Lapse, but remember, Memory Lapse has always been a tournament staple in a wide range of formats and has to compete against all of the other Blue countermagic.

Lapse of Certainty may cost one more, but plenty of counterspells have seen play at three, and this one has the huge benefit of being playable in a non-Blue deck. As we have seen from Mana Tithe, when White gains access to countermagic, it added a drastically different dimension to the color. Mana Tithe is reasonably easy to play around… however, it still made a big impact on some White Weenie decks. What will it be like now that White has access to such a reliable counterspell?

Sure, this is just a Memory Lapse, not a true Counterspell. However, Memory Lapse has often seen play over Counterspell in old formats on account of its ease to cast, and for the fact that, in many aggressive strategies, it functions as a Time Walk.

Long story short: this card will totally change the math.

Imagine you survive until turn 7 against a W/r aggro deck, and cast Cruel Ultimatum… to which he quietly responds by Lapse of Certainty, followed by a lethal attack. How does a control deck even account for this?

Basically, whenever you Lapse a spell that costs four or more, you are gaining a great deal of tempo. Whether it is Wrath of God, Mistbind Clique, Tidings, Ajani Vengeant, Broodmate Dragon, Reveillark, or Cruel Ultimatum, Lapse of Certainty is going to be amazing.

The real key is that countermagic is simply amazing against these expensive bombs, and there is a real shortage of good countermagic on the market. As a result, the bar is lower for what we ask out of a Counterspell. Where we once demanded Counterspell and Mana Leak and Force of Will; we now settle for Negate, Broken Ambitions, and Remove Soul.

Lapse of Certainty is certainly in the same league as these conditional counters, but in a color that previously had nothing like this. To summarize, this will be one of the most influential cards in the set, and will change the color of White forever. I have long argued that White needed more dimensions to its current pie, and I for one am excited to see this finally come to pass.

Another White card that has everyone talking is Path to Exile

Path to Exile
Remove target creature from the game. Its controller may search their library for a basic land and put it into play tapped.

The buzz around this card is huge. The comparison to Swords to Plowshares is obvious, and when you are compared to the best spot removal spell ever, that says a lot. Some people are even going so far as to rate this above Swords.

Personally, I think that is going too far. The life gain from Swords is a relevant benefit more often than a drawback, whereas I think the extra land will help opponents more often than the ability to do it to yourself. That said, the ability to cash in your Path to Exile on one of your creatures for a one-mana Rampant Growth is awesome, and probably makes this second only to Swords, all time.

For the purposes of Standard, the best comparison is with Condemn. They both cost the same and have a small drawback, but there are differences. First of all, if you are just killing an attacker, Condemn’s drawback is smaller, as the life is often irrelevant, whereas the extra land can be huge, especially in the early game.

Path to Exile has extra versatility, though, as it can remove a blocker, Gaddock Teeg, Sower of Temptation, or Mistbind Clique, all of which are very important. Where Path to Exile really shines, however, is when you start to consider the applications of putting your own guy on the Path to Exile.

To begin with, you can Path your creature that is going to die anyway, such as Pathing one of your Knight of Meadowgrains on turn 3 in response to Firespout, allowing you to follow with a Cloudgoat Ranger a turn before your opponent was expecting it.

Now consider that when you are playing a control mirror… instead of having a potentially dead removal spell, you have one that can kill a Cloudthresher if times are tough, or can be used to accelerate on the board. Now, Path is starting to look more appealing than Terror or Condemn. Finally, consider the interaction between Path to Exile and Evoke creatures…

That’s right – if you play Esper Charm to draw 2 on turn 3, you want to Mulldrifter on turn 4, but will have to discard… unless you Path your Mulldrifter with the Evoke trigger on the stack. Now, instead of discarding, you actually just get another land into play!

That is unbelievably good, catapulting you into the end game where you are going to be threatening Cruel Ultimatums or Broodmate Dragons.

None of this even accounts for the times in which you are playing this a format where many people don’t have basics. For instance, think about how good this card will be in Extended. Do this to someone’s Master of Etherium, their Tarmogoyf… heck, even if they do have basics, killing a Deus of Calamity, a Swans of Bryn Argoll, a Nettle Sentinel, or a Predator Dragon can be game-winning.

I used to think this card was overrated. I now have come to believe that it will live up to much of the hype. It is not better than Swords, but it may be the best of what is legal. I mean, it’s not as good as Balance either, but who cares?

The issue is the context, and, within the context we have, I think this card will be great. It is going to punish bad players who just do it indiscriminately to any random creature that gets in their way, but it will reward savvy players who see it as the Arcane Denial of Swords.

Speaking of removal, one of the cards I am most excited about in this new set is Volcanic Fallout.

Volcanic Fallout
Volcanic Fallout deals 2 damage to each player and creature. Volcanic Fallout cannot be countered.



Are you serious?!

Think about this card for a minute. Let’s compare it to a tournament staple, Sulfurous Blast. Sulfurous Blast was usually a four-mana instant that dealt two damage to each player and creature. Personally, I think that the uncounterability is a stronger ability than the ability to play the spell as a sorcery that deals three.

Then you realize this costs three, not four! That is unbelievable, as Sulfurous Blast was a top tournament card at four. This card will be one of the best in the set. It may not replace Firespout and Pyroclasm, since it damages its caster; however, it is possible that it will, as it is just unreal good versus the Fae, a.k.a. Public Enemy Number One.

Look at the cards seeing play right now in Standard. Faeries? This card is tailor-made to shut them down. B/W Tokens or White Weenie? A fantastic sweeper. Even Five-Color Control has to respect that it is uncounterable direct damage that deals with Mulldrifter with value.

This card will change things dramatically. It is difficult to fully comprehend the impact that this card will have, but suffice it to say, it has the potential to be a format-defining card. Between Pyroclasm, Jund Charm, and now Volcanic Fallout, three toughness will be the new standard for small creatures.

I am not so naïve as to think that Faeries will just be kolded by yet another powerful anti-Fae weapon, but the point is that it is a great anti-Fae card you can play maindeck. It is just another way that WotC is helping people take percentage back from the Fae Menace.

I don’t think this card will have much of an impact on higher-powered formats, but you never know. It is certainly very aggressively costed. This is one to watch.

While we are on the topic of Volcanic Fallout, we might as well cover its sister in crime, Banefire.

Banefire deals X damage to target player or creature. If X is 5 or greater, Banefire is uncounterable and the damage can not be prevented.


Yeah, you read that right. Supposedly, Banefire is the new Demonfire. Now keep in mind that it is always possible that the card will turn out to be other than it is currently worded, but as it appears, Banefire may just be the best Fireball variant ever.

Fireball was the king for a long time, but eventually Demonfire managed to overthrow it on account of its ability to go Hellbent, providing game-winning direct damage to the face.

Banefire is very similar, but rather than having to empty your hand, you merely have to Blaze for at least 5 (which you usually want to do anyway). As such, I think Banefire may actually be even better than Demonfire.

Demonfire was fantastic contextually, as well as intrinsically, but that doesn’t mean that Banefire will be too.

Nowadays, we have a lot better things to do with a boat load of mana, plus we have fewer ways of getting an abundance of mana. Is Banefire what we are really looking for?

This is one of those interesting developments of which I spoke above. The card is not what anybody asked for, but it may be strong enough that it demands we warp our strategies to incorporate it.

The card is especially enticing when you factor in that you will also have access to four Volcanic Fallouts, giving you potentially eight uncounterable burn spells that you can maindeck. That is just amazing. Think of how much it changes the dynamics of Blue versus Red match-ups.

Things are going to have to change.

I love that this set is bringing to the table great cards that will shake things up, but are not just broken, causing games to be over on turn 2 simply because of a Tribal Enchantment.

One other Red card that has really caught my eye is the Worldheart Phoenix.

Worldheart Phoenix
Creature — Phoenix
You may play Worldheart Phoenix from your graveyard by paying WUBRG instead of paying its casting cost. If you do, put 2 +1/+1 counters on it.

Okay, so what are we working with here? To begin with, we get a four-mana Wind Drake. Hardly impressive.

Then we get the option to buy 4/4 fliers for five mana. Every time this thing dies, we can just bring it back as a 4/4 flier for five mana that doesn’t cost a card.

That is pretty huge. I mean, you can just play it against Fae every turn, replaying it until you finally get it to stick. How can they stop this thing aside from just trying to tempo you out? Sower?

Against Red, this guy is a beast. He trades with all their guys and is a fantastic win condition, as he just keeps coming back. As a matter of fact, against anyone without a Remove-From-Game or Bottom-of-Library type effect, this guy is a machine.

He is somewhat poor against Five-Color Control, as they have weapons like Condemn, Bant Charm, and Path to Exile, and White aggro strategies have access to Path as well as Unmake, but still this guy is one to watch. I doubt you would want that many, but he seems like a wonderful tool to have in your arsenal, and I will certainly be trying him in a variety of decks.

The best way to use him is if you have some good way to get him into the graveyard without having to actually cast him. This way, you never have to muck around with the four-mana Wind Drake. If you have any sort of Careful Consideration type ability, it would ensure that he is always a two-for-one, even if your opponent has Unmake.

It is hard to say if this card will be fast enough for the new Standard, but it is definitely worth a shot.

There haven’t been any straight Blue cards to catch my eye yet… but there is a Green guy that I think could be very impressive.

Noble Hierarch
Creature – ?
T: Add G, W, or U to your mana pool

The obvious first comparison is with Birds of Paradise. Noble Hierarch may only produce 3 colors of mana, but for many Mages, this will more that satisfy all of their mana needs. Then you factor in that Exalted is a MUCH stronger keyword than Flying on a 0/1.

Think about it for a minute. This guy works every bit as hard as Birds of Paradise in many decks as far as acceleration goes, and Birds is one of the best creatures ever printed. The difference, though, is that after you have accelerated something out, Noble Hierach helps dominate the board, functioning as a better Akrasan Squire.

For instance, imagine leading with turn 1 Noble Hierarch, followed by turn 2 Rhox War Monk. All of the sudden you are attacking turn 3 with a 4/5 Lifelinked creature. That is really strong!

Heck, if times are tough, Noble Hierarch can even get in there for 1, hitting every bit as aggressively as a Llanowar Elf, making him a fine Jitte carrier in Extended. This guy is going to be amazing.

If Noble Hierarch turns out as spoiled, it will be one of the absolute best cards in a set with many great cards in it. It is nice to see Green get this kind of a weapon, especially since it is difficult to really take advantage of this guy outside of a base Green deck.

I know it is just one card, but I hope this guy is to your liking, Bennie!

One Black card that really jumps out at me is Scepter of Fugue.

Scepter of Fugue
1B, T: Target player discards a card. Play this ability only during your turn.

Scepter of Fugue is obviously a huge upgrade to an old favorite Disrupting Scepter. Disrupting Scepter has long since been obsolete. At a mere 2/3rds the mana cost, I think it may be time for a comeback. Once you factor in how little artifact removal people play nowadays, this card could be devastating.

If you drop this turn 2 against many control decks, they will just slowly fall apart, as many current control decks have no answers to artifacts. Is it time for Bant Charm to make a comeback?

Sticking a turn 2 Scepter and then just riding it to victory is a very realistic way to beat decks that are not proactive, and if you are playing against a proactive deck, it is quite possible to keep Sceptering your opponent while you are reacting to whatever they are doing.

There is a new Icy Manipulator (for 1WW) and a new Jayemdae Tome (for 1UU), but I think this one is the best in the semi-cycle. The Tome is pretty slow, and the Icy will be very solid, but the Scepter is the one that excites me the most. Even if the format proves too fast for this one main, it will be a potent sideboard weapon.

One of the most colorful new cards is the Mythic Rare, Conflux:

Search your library for a White card, a Blue card, a Black Card, a Red Card, and a Green card. Reveal them to all players and put them into your hand.

A number of people are speculating on ways to play this card for value, but the truth is, it is just a bad Cruel Ultimatum.

As much as I love Cruel Ultimatum, one unfortunate side effect of its existence is that every spell that costs seven or more is now going to be compared to it. Why cast Conflux when you could cast Cruel Ultimatum?

Sure, if you untap with Conflux, you will probably win… but if you untap with Cruel Ultimatum, you will probably win too, and it helps you survive until your next untap with an Edict, a Mind Twist, and a huge life swing. On top of this, Cruel Ultimatum is only seven mana, rather than eight, which is a big difference.

Sadly, this will probably be the same fate to befall Nico Bolas, Planeswalker.

I do not know all of the details of Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker, but he is rumored to be something like:

Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker
Plansewalker – Nicol Bolas
+3: Destroy target non-creature permanent
-2: Gain control of target creature
-9: Some ultimate that is more dramatic than Cruel Ultimatum

Here is the thing with Nicol Bolas: he is simply not as potent as Cruel Ultimatum. Sure, you play him and you at least get a Control Magic out of him, but that is nowhere near the impact of Cruel Ultimatum. Even if his Ultimate was “Win The Game,” he would be like a Cruel Ultimatum that costs more and doesn’t win immediately.

I would love if their was some interesting reason that we might want to include Nicol Bolas in our deck. Sadly, despite his power level being quite high for an eight-drop, I just don’t think he will be strong enough to justify inclusion over another copy of Cruel Ultimatum. It is not totally out of the question, but I doubt it will work out.

Still, I am glad that it looks like Nicol Bolas is actually as badass on cardboard as he is in the storyline. It is very difficult to design interesting eight-mana spells, and I think this is one. Plus, he actually looks a lot of fun, unlike other expensive spells that just end the game (Enduring Ideal, Tooth and Nail, Sundering Titan).

The final card I want to talk about today is Exotic Orchard.

Exotic Orchard
T: Add to your mana pool one mana of any color a land an opponent controls could produce.

After all these years, WotC has finally printed the Fellwar land that many of us have been asking for… and what better time than when Five-Color Control is so strong, heh.

Exotic Orchard is no Reflecting Pool, as it is just not reliable enough. It is reasonable on paper, and I know I will be trying it. Obviously it is ridiculous if your opponent is playing Vivid lands, but let’s look at it in other matchups.

Against Faeries, it is an Underground Sea. Certainly very reasonable.

Against R/W Vengeant Aggro strategies, it is a Plateau. Again, very reasonable… after all, we played Forge[/author]“]Battlefield [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] in our Five-Color Control Standard deck at Worlds.

Against B/W Tokens, it is a Scrubland[/author]“][author name="Scrubland"]Scrublands[/author]. Like Underground Sea or Plateau, this is yet another color combination that ensures you can tap it both for Cruel Ultimatum and Plumeveil, two of the most restrictive costs in the deck.

For the most part, it would seem you just can’t count on it to produce Blue for Cryptic Command or Green for Cloudthresher. Beyond that, Exotic Orchard seems like a great way to smooth out your mana, perhaps lowering the concentration of lands that come into play tapped or the number of Filter lands. It certainly obsoletes the Ice Age and Apocalypse Painlands.

I wonder how many people are going to be baffled when they have a Reflecting Pool and an Exotic Orchard in play at the same time as their opponent…

As I said, it will most likely not be on the same level as Reflecting Pool, but this card should be playable.

On the whole, I am very excited for Conflux. It looks like there are going to be a lot of fun cards, and a lot of fun cards to think about. I sincerely hope this is the last of the five-color and multicolor themes for a little while, as I think five-color has worn out its welcome, but as far as the individual cards go, I really like a lot of them.

I wonder if draft will really be all about four- and five-color decks… it looks like it will be, but what do I know?

I am about to get on a plane to LA. The Grand Prix is mere days away. I am currently leaning towards Faeries, but anything could happen this week.

See you guys next week!

Patrick Chapin
“The Innovator”