Innovations – The Innovator’s Guide To M12 Part 3: The Future

Patrick Chapin concludes his M12 Guide with even more ideas for decks and uses for cards. Make sure to not miss parts 1 and 2 from this week, and enjoy trying some of these new brews at SCG Open: Cincinnati.

Part one can be found here.

Part two can be found here.

Part 3: Eternal Formats and Beyond

Given the sheer volume of competition between cards in Legacy, it’s difficult for a set to have a large impact on the format. New Phyrexia was an outlier, containing possibly the most important Legacy card of the century, Mental Misstep, as well as Batterskull, Dismember, and tons of role players and fringe playables.

M12 is not going to have that kind of impact, nowhere near it. To begin with, this is a core set, so half the cards are the same cards as in M11. Next, a number of the best cards in M12 are reprints from other sets (much more than usual). Since this doesn’t add anything to the Legacy card pool, this decreases the potential impact of the set. Finally, Phyrexian mana lent itself to Legacy playability much more so than most mechanics do. M12 has nothing similar and is actually a set of fairly modest power level, once you remove the reprints. As a result, we have only a few cards to discuss for Legacy, today.

With a similar problem for Vintage, no possible Block Constructed to discuss, and the future of Extended heavily in question, I have decided to dedicate the lion’s share of Part 3 of my set review to discussing 20 more cards from M12 that caught my eye. These are cards that I may not have a home for yet, or perhaps are unlikely to make waves until after the rotation. Some of these cards may never make it big, but they do interesting things that are worth considering and understanding. Additionally, while I have been discussing Tezzeret decks and Puresteel Paladin decks in the weeks prior, there has been enough inquiry that it seems worthwhile to discuss these two strategies.

Tezzeret is a strategy near and dear to me. Unlike some other build-around-me cards, Tezzeret enables a plethora of strategies. While there is no clear best direction to take going forward, here are a few basic possibilities.

This build is somewhat reminiscent of my Grixis Tez list from Paris, though it does have to make a few fundamental changes as a result of the change in times. First of all, Jace’s banning makes us look for a new backup plan in those games where we don’t have Tezzeret on the table. Consecrated Sphinx is my favorite, particularly when combined with acceleration and removal. Solemn Simulacrum also helps provide some card advantage, while also ensuring that we have the option to play a “six” on turn four a good deal of the time.

MJ and my Treasure Mage package are especially valuable, these days, as Wurmcoil is better than ever, and Mindslaver has more combo players to kill outright. I also like the look of the Trinket Mage sideboard, borrowed from Brian Kibler. The major problem with this build is that it is going to be very soft to Valakut. That seems risky, but it might not be totally crazy. Grand Prix Dallas, just a few months ago, was an event where people were speculating that Valakut was going to be one of the two or three most played strategies. Day Two rolled around, and there really wasn’t much Valakut to be seen at all. It is probably too risky to lose to Valakut at this point; but this sort of strategy is naturally very strong against control and aggro, so if you can tune the combo matchups to a reasonable place, you might have a winner on your hands.

Alternatively, there are very different directions you can take Tezzeret. For instance, I am a fan of Brian Kibler’s evolution of the Torpor Orb-style of Tez:

Here, we have a ton more action against Valakut, with Mana Leaks, Torpor Orbs, and Tectonic Edges to provide a legitimate plan against them. Torpor Orb, unfortunately, does not mesh well with Solemn Simulacrum or the Mages. It may be that Torpor Orb is worth it, given its strength against Twin; however I don’t want to get too locked into thinking that way, risking missing some other possible direction that we could develop. I really don’t see any clear additions to this style of U/B, from M12, though I have like Ponder quite a bit. Kibler has an excellent series of videos on this style of Tez that can be found here .

Speaking of builds of Tezzeret that may want to experiment with Ponder

See Beyond does have the added benefit of shuffling back a Blightsteel Colossus that gets stuck in one’s hand, but Ponder is just so smooth and so fast. It would be easy to add two Misty Rainforests and a Verdant Catacombs, at the very least. Add to that Tezzeret, Preordain, Forgemaster, and possibly Solemn Simulacrum, and you are looking at plenty of ways to reset the top of your library to make Ponder worthwhile. It is even possible that some amount of Wellsprings could end up finding a home here, though if you ever get to sacrifice them, you are already rocking.

Solemn Simulacrum is an interesting option for this strategy, since it helps ramp you into the Forgemaster or bombs, as well as make an ideal sacrifice target. Swartz currently uses eleven two-drop accelerators. That’s ridiculous . It’s not even funny. Plague Myr is cute with Tezzeret, of course, but that is the first place I’d like to cut to make room for Solemn Simulacrum.

It is definitely possible that the best direction to take Tezzeret in the future is yet another way that hasn’t been invented yet. I am going to be working on Tez a bit before Nationals, though Jace being banned is worse for Tez than meets the eye. Obviously it is disappointing to lose such a powerful card, but Jace was also Tezzeret’s favorite adversary. Tez always beat up on Jace pretty serious, so a format where he is suddenly gone seems a bit less friendly than the old one.

The other hot topic strategy is that of Puresteel Paladin:

Caleb is best known for his work pioneering Vengevine + Survival of the Fittest and has been one of the deckbuilders to watch, this past year. While we discussed updates to Caw-Blade, Wednesday, Caleb’s build does take a bit more radical of an approach. Splashing blue for Preordain and Trinket Mage (as well as some sideboard permission), we are forced to ask ourselves if Ponder might be worth it as well. Just to be clear, we are definitely not talking about cutting Preordain, rather about shaving numbers in various places. Ponder would help us find our Puresteel Paladin more often, which is a very key card in this strategy. Trinket Mage and a few Scalding Tarns could give us some shufflers, but I suspect it will not be enough.

There really aren’t any other new cards that catch my eye for such a strategy. The closest I could find was Grand Abolisher, which could be an option if you were playing a more White-Weenie-oriented build. I would like to try Squadron Hawk in this style of Paladin deck, however (a card that will definitely be missed when it rotates in three months). It is really interesting to see Trinket Mage finding more and more work as a poor-man’s Stoneforge Mystic, now that people realize how good they had it.

Do I think Puresteel Paladin has a home in the future metagame? Surely, however it really doesn’t gain anything from M12 (aside from possibly better positioning?). It doesn’t use any new M12 cards, but here is an alternative direction to consider for Puresteel Paladin:

Okay, at this point I’d like to touch on a few cards that have my interest that we haven’t covered yet, this week.

Timely Reinforcements:

While the card is a bit unwieldy for many maindecks, it is a very exciting sideboard option, particularly against aggression. If you are boarding it in, it is generally going to just read as “{2W} Put three 1/1 tokens onto the battlefield and gain six life.” That is not only devastating for any sort of red aggressive deck, but it is also quite splashable. The old standby Kor Firewalker is not what he once was. Dismember and Shrine of Burning Rage give Red tons of answers, not to mention they can fly overhead with Chandra’s Phoenix. Timely Reinforcements is a natural foil to the heavy one-drop-centric strategies that look so good right now. This is literally better against Red than Obstinate Baloth, which should tell you something!

It is such an incredible anti-aggro card, I wonder if it could work maindeck. It isn’t good against any of the combo decks, though it is amusing that when combined with Beast Within, it can at least reliably produce guys. Three 1/1s for three isn’t a good deal, so if you don’t care about the six life, you aren’t getting your money’s worth most of the time. For the time being, put this down as one of the best sideboard cards in the set. If you’re playing any sort of midrange or controlling white strategy, I highly recommend it.

Phantasmal Image:

The more I think about this card, the more I like it. The Phantasm drawback is surely not worth more than a mana, so costing two less than Clone makes this card very exciting. It kills legends very economically (and with no problem from the Phantasm drawback). It copies enters the battlefield triggers at a very low rate and seems like the type of card that could produce a pretty massive amount of tempo. Whenever you copy something that costs more than it does, you are gaining some value. Whether that value is worth the opportunity cost is another issue, but I kind of think Phantasmal Image might be one of the better new cards in the set.  

One of the most exciting options for Phantasmal Image is if you can “cheat” a big creature onto the battlefield for a turn that won’t be there at end of turn. I am not yet sure what creature this is, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Innistrad increases our options a fair bit.

Phantasmal Image gives you such a powerful effect for such a low converted mana cost that my spidey sense is tingling. I don’t know why I picture Protean Hulk, Birthing Pod, or any number of combo cards, but there is something about this guy that seems poised to break.  

Here is a very non-broken attempt to use Phantasmal Image that helps demonstrate how well he can just go in all sorts of random strategies:

As you can see, he works quite well in an Ally deck, but really this could carry over to any linear creature strategy that wants you to put as many copies of a card onto the battlefield as you can. Phantasmal Image would also be a natural fit for any Lord-based deck. For instance, if there is a Merfolk deck, Phantasmal Image seems like a great fit. He is the best of the Illusions and actually makes Lord of the Unreal look a lot less embarrassing (making himself into a 4/4 hexproof creature that is still a 3/3 even if they kill your Lord of the Unreal).


So the problem with Monomania is that Mind Sludge at five wasn’t even that amazing in the format, and Monomania leaves your opponent with his or her best card.

There are upsides, however. To begin with, Monomania doesn’t really compete with Mind Sludge, as it is not for a Mono-Black deck. The cost of 3BB is actually the same as a Mind Shatter for three, and I could imagine plenty of formats where Monomania will generally discard more than three cards. Now it does have the drawback of not hitting whatever is more important; but in raw discard power, we are often going to get a rate that is superior to even Mind Shatter, assuming our opponents generally have five or more cards in hand when we play it.

How bad is it to let our opponents keep their best card? Well, if it is super-late in the game, such as the draw-go battles between five-color mirrors a couple years ago, they’d just keep Cruel Ultimatum, and perhaps we would not be in such a great position. The same would be true today if the last card kept was a Primeval Titan, I suspect.

On the other hand, often we will be in situations where our opponent still needs to play another land before they can play whatever their bomb is. This is especially likely if we used Birds of Paradise, Explore, or some other accelerant to play Monomania a turn early. They can’t keep their bomb and the land they need. Obviously they can draw a land next turn, but it doesn’t seem out of the question to put people in awkward situations quite quickly.

Now, let’s go a step further. Why stop at a turn four Monomania? Both Lotus Cobra and Joraga Treespeaker easily enable a turn three Monomania, and that early in the game, we are talking about a game-winning advantage. What is a Valakut deck going to do? Maybe they have Lightning Bolts, and maybe they draw one?

Inquisition of Kozilek isn’t the greatest combo with Monomania, since you are effectively getting one less card worth of value. That said, Inquisition can go a long way toward removing a Mana Leak that would have stopped your Monomania or a Lightning Bolt that would have stopped your Lotus Cobra. It is still a great card against aggressive decks (where we’d board out Monomania anyway), and we do need extra disruption for combo decks in games we don’t draw the Monomania.

Garruk, Primal Hunter gives us another fantastic thing to do for five mana that can absolutely take over a game when combined with Lotus Cobra or Joraga Treespeaker. He can quickly provide a commanding board presence, puts a real clock on opponents, and can dig us to much-needed discard or removal against decks that are threatening to do something unfair.

Another theme you may be noticing from my decks lately: a very healthy respect for Mono-Red. Obstinate Baloth, Batterskull, Wurmcoil Engine, Walls, cheap removal, Inquisitions—it takes a lot to keep up with the latest styles of Mono-Red made possible by M12. I am basically certain that the majority of tournament players will not go to the lengths actually needed to fully prepare for Mono-Red. Just as you can’t just jam half a dozen counterspells in a deck and think you are going to beat Valakut, you can’t just expect a few Obstinate Baloths to beat Red for you. If you don’t do something unfair, you better have a lot of good tempo plays or life gain.

Monomania has other uses as well. For instance, it is definitely a sideboard option to consider for U/B Control. It may be too slow to use against Valakut in this sort of deck (unclear), but it certainly could be a great tool against many midrange strategies.

This is an important card to keep in mind post-rotation as well, since it might gain value with the rotation of Inquisition of Kozilek. I realize most people are sleeping on this one, but I think it’s a worthwhile tool that should be explored, kept in mind, and considered again come the rotation. Its power isn’t particularly well focused, but it is reasonably high.

Rune-Scarred Demon:

So far, I have not encountered another writer say this card is playable in any context outside of possibly Dream Halls. What’s the problem? Obviously the answer everyone gives is that he costs seven, when Grave Titan and Wurmcoil Engine cost six. Why don’t I write him off the same way? Because that is textbook close-minded thinking. If we just go around evaluating whether or not every card is “better” or “worse” than an existing card at an existing job, we are not going to be at the cutting edge of discovering what new jobs need to get done. Maybe Rune-Scarred Demon really is worse than Grave Titan or Wurmcoil at being a high-end victory condition. Is that the only thing he is capable of doing?

What is a 6/6 flier worth, these days? Well, it wasn’t too long ago that a 6/6 flier for six would be pretty aggressive. These days, however, the best comparison is Bloodlord of Vaasgoth, which is to say a 6/6 flier for five. While we lose the ability to give our future guys bloodthirst, we don’t need to hit our opponent the turn we play it either. All things considered, a 6/6 flier for five is at least in the realm of playability. Abyssal Persecutor is a 6/6 flier for four, of course, but does have the drawback of not actually letting us win the game without the use of an additional card.

So if we figure that we are paying roughly five for a 6/6 flier, these days, that means we are paying 1B for a Demonic Tutor, which is not all that bad of a deal. Before we go jumping for joy, it is useful to remember that mana costs don’t really add arithmetically when combining card effects. There is an opportunity cost to each physical card we use, plus each additional mana a spell costs increases the amount of resources it takes to actually play the card by more than one mana worth. Rune-Scarred Demon gives us a “five-mana effect” and a “four-mana effect” (Diabolic Tutor) for only seven mana, but since we are talking about having to pay the seven mana in one turn, we are not actually getting a better deal than we do off of something like Grave Titan (which is basically nine mana worth of value out the gate, yet costs only six).

Okay, so stock mana once again can be used to justify something we already knew. Great. What does this tell us about using Rune-Scarred Demon? What hope of play does he have beyond the classic, “Well Grave Titan and Wurmcoil Engine will both probably rotate in a year?” Well, let’s look at what he does do.

Rune-Scarred Demon does two important things better than either of those cards. First of all, he flies. This is actually quite relevant, as it helps ensure that he is a lethal threat quickly and must be dealt with, rather than just chump blocked. It also gives him more value defensively.

His other big advantage is obviously the Demonic Tutor aspect. The thing about Demonic Tutor, here, is that it isn’t just random value. It is the exact perfect card for this position every time. When your opponent Goes for Grave Titan’s throat, they are down value, but they can still win. Rune-Scarred Demon goes and gets something that is generally going to be even scarier than the 6/6 body that precedes it.

The most obvious target is another Rune-Scarred Demon, but this only goes so far. How many seven-drops can you really play? I am not sure. I do know that Everflowing Chalice for two on turn four gives you Demon on five (as does a Chalice on one after a Tezzeret’s Gambit).

It sounds funny, but Grave Titan and Wurmcoil Engine actually make excellent targets. Playing a mix of good fatties to win with has plenty of advantages, and if Rune-Scarred Demon is another one, he actually makes a great follow-up to sixes. You can play whichever six you drew, then if/when they stop it, you play Rune-Scarred Demon next turn. Not only is he a huge threat, he gives you yet another threat for the following turn.

Other great targets include planeswalkers—or basically any other way to gain advantage in the endgame. Blue Sun’s Zenith? Karn Liberated? Sorin’s Vengeance? Mindslaver? Genesis Wave? Good X-spells are particularly nice, since they let you play with more 8+ mana cards than you would normally ever consider.

Entomber Exarch, Sheoldred, Whispering One, and Rise from the Grave are also fantastic finds with Rune-Scarred Demon. Your opponent doesn’t know what you went and got, but they generally have to try to kill the Demon. If they do, and you get it back, all the better! Rise from the Grave even has the added benefit of working exceptionally well with Rise from the Grave anyway. With a bunch of discard outlets, you could conceivably play a bunch of Rune-Scarred Demons and Rises. Merfolk Looter, Fauna Shaman, Zombie Infestation, Smallpox, Molten-Tail Masticore, Liliana’s Specter, Liliana Vess, Enclave Cryptologist, and Jace’s Archivist all offer possible ways to get the Rune-Scarred Demon in the bin to begin with.  

Turn two: Go for the Throat

Turn three: Everflowing Chalice for one, then Zombie Infestation

Turn four: Rise from the Grave a Rune-Scarred Demon and go get another Rise from the Grave.

Obviously Iona, Shield of Emeria and Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur are awesome options if you can reliably reanimate them often enough, but an advantage to Rune-Scarred Demon is his increased castability when you are on the “backup plan.”

Just as Preordain gains utility as the game progresses (you have more information to make your decision and more resources to take advantage of the options you are choosing from), so too does Demonic Tutor. If you are not tutoring until you have seven mana in play, you generally have access to anything you want and the means to play it next turn.

I am not saying Rune-Scarred Demon is in the same league as Grave Titan. He’s not. I am just saying the card does some interesting things, and we might not want to be so quick to dismiss it. Creatures with unique enters the battlefield triggers are generally always worth filing away, since they are so often made better by the printing of some new card that randomly interacts well. Actual Diabolic Tutor is among the most powerful enters the battlefield triggers the game has seen, and it’s attached to a 6/6 flier. Obviously the card is sweet in Type 4 and other casual formats, but it is not out of the question for Constructed either, assuming we can reasonably afford such a mana cost.

Of course we can also just play him in a Dream Halls deck, killing with Progenitus and Capture of Jingzhou (instead of Cruel Ultimatum). Capture is obviously better than Time Warp because of Misdirection.

Sphinx of Uthuun:

Much of what I’d say about this card is covered by the discussion about Rune-Scarred Demon, though I do think the Demon is better. Fact or Fiction doesn’t scale the same way Diabolic Tutor does, and Sphinx of Lost Truth has quite a bit more versatility. The new Sphinx does have a far superior body, however, so in the world where Consecrated Sphinx always dies and we always have enough mana to kick our Sphinx of Lost Truths, Sphinx of Uthuun is at least coming to the table with a half-way decent rate.

Cemetery Reaper:

This reprint from M10 doesn’t deserve too much mention, yet; however, we should keep an eye on him, since Innistrad is a graveyard set, and he does gain a little utility when creatures just end up in the graveyard all the time. Already we are seeing Vengevine, Bloodghast, Vengeful Pharaoh, and maybe even Chandra’s Phoenix (if the Reaper doesn’t get burnt), and I suspect Innistrad will only up the count.

Additionally, he works great with Zombie Infestation, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Zombies were a major tribe in Innistrad. Think about it; we are seeing a couple Zombie enablers in the set leading into a graveyard block. Not much more graveyard flavor-wise than Zombies!

Sutured Ghoul:

Another card to watch once we have a better look at Innistrad. Sutured Ghoul has been used in various graveyard combo decks enough that we would do well to keep him in our sights once we see what kind of graveyard action we get this fall. It is interesting that there is no replacement for Rise from the Grave in M12. This makes me wonder if WotC was concerned about reanimation strategies being too good this fall. Alternatively, it could be that we are about to see reanimation the likes of which we haven’t seen in years. Only time will tell.

Hunter’s Insight:

How many cards do you have to draw to make Hunter’s Insight worth it? My first inclination is “at least three,” since two would be merely a Divination. The question is: is three cards worth the trouble? After all, we do have Lead the Stampede, right? Well, actually that raises a good point. Lead the Stampede has seen quite a bit of play, for a green card draw spell, and it usually only draws about three cards. It also has the massive restriction that most of your deck has to be creature spells. Hunter’s Insight certainly require a fair number of creatures (and ones that actually have to connect), but it works just fine in decks with only 20 creatures, or even fewer with manlands.

In fact with all those extra cards, what we really want to draw into is a bunch of cheap support spells so that we can play at least one this turn and more next turn to ensure we get through again. That puts a surprising amount of tension on a deckbuilder, since you want enough cheap(er) creatures with at least three power to get enough gas, but you also want enough cheap interactive cards to convert those extra cards.

Garruk, Primal Hunter decks already have a similar dilemma, so they might be the place to start. They might not need the cards, since they already draw cards from Garruk, but really, who couldn’t always use a little more card draw?

Mutagenic Growth is cute with Hunter’s Insight, as is Vines of Vastwood, but that is starting to get into pretty sketchy territory. Once you are doing that, why aren’t you hitting them with a Glistener Elf?

Obstinate Baloth, Thrun, Dungrove Elder are all obvious choices for targets, serving as creatures that are good in their own right, but also get you way ahead with the Insight. How many mid-size and fatty creatures it takes to enable Hunter’s Insight will probably prove a heated debate.

Because Hunter’s Insight scales with power proportionate to casting cost, it might actually be most appealing in Legacy. Once we have access to Tarmogoyf, Terravore, Vendilion Clique, Knight of the Reliquary, Qasali Pridemage, and Noble Hierarch (to power another creature up), we are talking about an easy supply of awesome targets. Additionally, Legacy is home to tons of super-cheap (free) interactive cards, like Mental Misstep, Force of Will, Swords to Plowshares, and Daze. Doesn’t turn one Hierarch, turn two Vendilion Clique seem like a great way to set up a Hunter’s Insight on turn three? Drawing four extra cards should be backbreaking if you have tons of the spells mentioned above.

Stingerfling Spider:

Acidic Slime and Archon of Justice are my top two choices for Birthing Pod chains at five, but the Stingerfling Spider is worth keeping in mind, particularly if we see a surge of fatties besides Titans.

Adaptive Automaton:

Yes, yes, the kids love this one. If you are desperate for a lord and willing to settle, Adaptive Automaton is always willing to chip in. Personally, I haven’t really seen the deck where I’d be this desperate for a Lord in highly competitive Constructed. He is unique in his flexibility, though, so we can’t dismiss him.

Rites of Flourishing:

It is unlikely that Valakut would go this far out there, but this is a powerful enabler for Turbo-Fog strategies. It seems every year around the time States rolls around, lots of people “invent” Turbo-Fog again. Despite no Howling Mine, I suspect we will see the same thing happen this year. Just a reminder, however, this card is what Howling Mine is, only more so. It is not advised that one do it just to do it.

Primordial Hydra:

Who knows where this guy is going, but he is at such a higher level than any other card like him we should sit up and take notice. To begin with, look how hard he hits, during his first attack:

If you spend three mana, he attacks for 2.

Four mana attacks for 4.

Five mana attacks for 6.

Six mana attacks for 8.

That makes him not actually a terrible deal at any cost, and that is just his first swing. Where you really get paid is when he is facing an opponent that is foolish enough to not play removal. Like the old parable of the king and the chessboard , Primordial Hydra gets out of hand very quickly due to the magic of doubling.

It attacks for 30 in four attacks, even if X = 1!

If X = 2, you attack for 28 in three attacks.

If X = 3, you attack for 18 in two attacks.

If X = 4, you attack for 24 in two attacks.

Quick, what turn does this sample mull to six win on?

Sample Hand:
Forest, Llanowar Elf, Mountain, Primordial Hydra, Volt Charge, Volt Charge

Turn 1- Forest, Llanowar Elf

Turn 2- Mountain, Primordial Hydra

Turn 3- Volt Charge on upkeep, attack, opponent is at 13

Turn 4- Volt Charge on upkeep, attack for lethal even without the Elf.

If you are in the market for a creature that goldfishes really fast for its mana cost, Primordial Hydra might be your man. It is also mildly hilarious that someone might only gain a billion life with the Suture Priest + Leonin Relic Warder + Phyrexian Metamorph combo. It actually only takes a 1/1 Hydra 27-ish turns to grow big enough to deal over a billion damage a turn!


I want to believe, as this card would be a very fun card to play. The fact he is a two-drop somewhat similar to Putrid Leech is very intriguing, and it really doesn’t take much mana to operate. That said, there is one major hurdle that needs to be overcome with Skinshifter. He might as well have the Phantasmal drawback. When you play against red, he is severely bound by the once-a-turn clause, since they will typically respond to your activation, no matter which you use, with a burn spell. He is too small to not pump, unlike Putrid Leech.

He might not be good against red, but is that so bad? Against Valakut and Twin, he hits really freaking hard, immediately bashing through Overgrown Battlements and Deceiver Exarchs. I don’t imagine Skinshifter to do much Tarmogoyf duty, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he actually pulls off a little Putrid Leech duty at some point. I like the idea of playing him in some sort of R/G aggro deck where he is just a four-power threat for two. I like the idea of him in a Hunter’s Insight deck. I like the idea of him in some sort of Stompy deck full of relatively economical boom-booms. Skinshifter is in the weird space of Quirion Dryads and Vinelasher Kudzus where he could be great, in the right decks, but just don’t ask him to be something he’s not—a Tarmogoyf.

Grand Abolisher:

Easily the best new M12 card for Eternal formats, Grand Abolisher does something we have at times been willing to pay three to get, for only two. Add to this that he is actually only one-sided, rather than symmetrical, and you have a pretty awesome boost of power. Just as four has often been the magic casting cost for planeswalkers to succeed in Standard, two is the magic casting cost for disruptive bears in Eternal formats.

One definite home for the Abolisher is in Cephalid Breakfast. This is a strategy that already uses Abeyance, and now we can actually Worldly Tutor for it, Vial it down, or gain any other sort of value from its “creature attribute.” His creature attribute is one of his best features and should be kept in mind wherever we could possibly take advantage of it. For instance, Aluren might love this guy. You can Imperial Recruiter for him and then go off with confidence. It is obviously a challenging casting cost for past Aluren decks, but he might bring enough to the table to be worth it. It is kind of funny, but in combo decks, he is sort of a reverse Meddling Mage. He is this bear a combo deck can board in to disrupt control (whereas Meddling Mage is often the other way around).

Another possible home is in some sort of hateful B/W aggro deck. The disruptive bears aren’t as good in Legacy as they are in Vintage, but using a bunch of creatures like Stoneforge Mystic, Dark Confidant, and Tidehollow Sculler could go a long way towards wasting a lot of your playtest time with good results before you realize you should really be playing Brainstorm and other blue cards. Really, Grand Abolisher could go in just about any aggressive deck that actually cares about stopping counterspells. He isn’t the most aggressive beater in the world, but he is really good at his job.

In Vintage, Grand Abolisher is yet another addition to the Sperling-esque Bears strategy, with Teeg, Pridemage, Kataki, Aven Mindcensor, Canonist, Revoker, and so on. I realize most people play Null Rod in such decks, but I wonder about Stoneforge Mystic instead…

Speaking of Skullclamp and Batterskull, I am definitely going to try him in my 4-Color Stoneskull aggro deck. I am not sure he is what I am looking for, since counterspells are pretty awful against that deck anyway, but he is a powerful effect.

Sundial of the Infinite:

Another M12 card that has people talking about its Eternal possibilities is Sundial of the Infinite. The most obvious uses are combining it with Phyrexian Dreadnought to build an Illusionary Mask or with Final Fortune to build a Time Walk. In fact, Isochron Scepter with Final Fortune builds Vault-Key. While these uses are cool, there is so much more to the card.

If your opponent tries to cast Fact or Fiction, Vendilion Clique, or Teferi on your end step, you can just end the turn with the card on the stack! It is unclear how much this will spill over into the real world, but there is a non-zero chance that Sundial of the Infinite ends up seeing sideboard play against some undefined future strategy. For the time being, though, it is the newest curiosity that Legacy players will want to explore, looking for the latest combo deck of the week. If they ever print another creature like Phyrexian Dreadnought (super low cost, super bad enters the battlefield trigger), watch out!

Buried Ruin:

I guess this is technically an Eternal card, but it isn’t particularly exciting compared to cards like Academy Ruins. It is colorless, and it does put the card in your hand, so it is still worth considering in the future if we need ways to get artifacts out of the graveyard (maybe Innistrad?). The opportunity cost is low in a monocolor deck, so this is the exact type of card that aims for niche play, despite a relatively mediocre power level.

Master Thief:

Another Eternal card, technically speaking, it isn’t clear where you want this over a Sower of Temptation. Basically, he is nowhere near good enough to just “use,” so for the time being the shortcut is keeping an eye out for non-creature artifacts that don’t kill you immediately. Perhaps this card’s best role is that of a poor man’s Sower of Temptation in Standard. After all, he does steal Wurmcoil Engine and can mess with a fair number of other creatures ranging from Memnites to Solemn Simulacrums.

That concludes our first pass of M12. Thanks for joining me this week. There is nothing as fun as brewing in a new format, and this one is no exception. I am really looking forward to working with this set in the weeks to come.

One question for you guys who have had a chance to draft it, already. How does it compare to M11? M11 was one of my favorite Limited sets of all time. Is the format more aggressive? Is it good? Zendikar was a little too fast. It’s not that fast, is it? One advantage to fast Limited formats is the lower incidence of bombs deciding games. Is that the case for this format? Long story short, how much do you enjoy M12 Limited and what is your current strategy of choice?

See you next week!

Top 12 Cards in M12!

Phantasmal Image

Chandra’s Phoenix

Solemn Simulacrum

Gideon Jura

Grim Lavamancer

Oblivion Ring

Day of Judgment

Garruk, Primal Hunter

Birds of Paradise

Mana Leak

Ponder (Combo is much better than it was last year)

The Titans (I know, I know…)

Patrick Chapin
“The Innovator”

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