Mining The Crystal Quarry: 8th Edition For Casual

What can you do when everything in a particular set has been released already? 8th Edition, just like every base set before it, is a way to mess with Standard and release old cards for newer players to”catch up,” as it were. But that’s probably the best way to approach this set – to get acquainted old cards and obtain the ones you wanted to get so badly. Along with this reason, most of the commons and uncommons are pretty standard… So this article’s only going to go over the rares, and show you what sorts of cool casual decks you can build around ’em.

So I’m a little slow; sue me. 8th Edition, the Core Set, is here – and most tournament players are still mourning the loss of some very, very juicy cards. I’ve said my piece for Counterspell – but Duress, Memory Lapse, and Force Spike will all be missed. Slowly but surely, I’m realizing that I’m what my friend has dubbed, a”board control player.” Not just control – a board control player. Galina Control, My Big Black Deck, Oathery, Day of Insurrection… And right now, I’m tweaking a Capsize/Nevinyrral’s Disk deck. I love all-powerful, easily-disrupted combos.

Which leads me to 8th Edition.

8th Edition is a series of reprints, which makes it impossible to be surprised. What can you do when everything in a particular set has been released already? 8th Edition, just like every base set before it, is a way to mess with Standard and release old cards for newer players to”catch up,” as it were. But that’s probably the best way to approach this set – to get acquainted old cards and obtain the ones you wanted to get so badly. Along with this reason, most of the commons and uncommons are pretty standard… So this article’s only going to go over the rares.

8th Edition shines in this regard, especially with Wizards plan to re-release cards that have never been reprinted before. Old favorites that you would have had to suffer for to get are available once again, and some of them are even actually pretty spiffy looking in the new face. Skull of Orm is a great example: The newer, cleaner style doesn’t quite look as mysterious or as dangerous as the original art, but I’ll be damned if I’m not wondering what kind of badass this Orm fellow was. If only there was a way to combine the dark, foreboding color intensity of the Dark’s Skull of Orm with the detail and style of the 8th Edition Skull. Actually, that’s true for many cards.

The biggest issue to me with 8th Edition , and particularly to the casual Magic crowd, is the rarification of certain cards. Part of the thrill of any new set is tearing apart packs and digging for the rare, as well as any other good cards. Firstly, Circles of Protection are now Uncommon. Gluttonous Zombie, Stream of Life, Guerrilla Tactics, Lightning Blast, Spiketail Hatchling, Elite Javelineer… All formerly common, now uncommon. Why? Done mainly for Limited reasons. Things get worse… let’s start by taking a look at the interesting things that used to be common or uncommon, but are now rare:

Brass Herald

A cheap addition for any tribal deck, though a little costly for a 2/2 body. It does two things – dig for cards, and give things +1/+1. Its main function, obviously, is to boost such tribal decks and provide a cheaper alternative to Coat of Arms. It also beats for two in a pinch. Once again, the best (and worst) thing is that it’s so easily available as an uncommon from Invasion Block.

Skull of Orm

A friend that I met at a local game store used this and Sun Clasp as an alternative to Capsize for reusable bounce. He used it as a tactic to convince players to send their pumped-up creature a different direction. Mana intensive, but in the long term, especially in multiplayer, it will provide advantage. Standstill, Hesitation, and Planar Chaos all make great targets for the Skull to re-create. Granted, messing with Standstill and Hesitation in this way leads to a”win-more” board position, but keeping your opponents tied down while either drawing three cards or forcing them to waste a spell to get rid of Hesitation or a few to get rid of Planar Chaos is just… Well… The gimmick is just very hard to ignore.

Consider also the possibility of combining this with Lethal Vapors, which can keep at least one of your opponents in a quasi-lock until they just want to give up on casting creatures. In fact, the Skull lets you return any number of”Sacrifice ~this~” enchantments.

Urza’s Armor

Classically combined with Pestilence, Urza’s Armor keeps things from getting out of hand. Consider this in combination with Lashknife Barrier to protect your creatures as well. There’s also the little matter of Humility and this card, which makes unpumped creatures irrelevant. But, also at six mana, this isn’t going to be easy. Additionally, there’s the added fun of using this with Mana Clash. If you’re any good at coin flips, then this will hedge your bets. Remember – each point of damage is done individually, and as a result, Circles of Protection: Red and Story Circles set to Red need to be activated before the Mana Clash resolves, and of course, once for each flip that ends up badly for them.*

Coastal Piracy, Larceny, and Noble Purpose

There’s not much to say about these cards – except that their single enchantment versions were uncommon (with exception to Larceny, which has no real uncommon counterpart in current print), so, logically, an enchantment that gives the ability to all your creatures should be rare.

Eh. Guess it can’t be helped. I guess it wouldn’t have been so bad if they weren’t printed so recently. The same is especially true about Warped Devotion and Brass Herald. At the very least, one card powers all your creatures, so it’s not so bad.

Lava Hounds

Aside from the Herald, Warped Devotion, Shifting Sky, and Sage of Lat-Nam, this one most made me say”what the hell?” I mean, this card is solid, but later on in the game that four damage can be a liability. This always struck me as perfect at the uncommon slot, since it does come back with a significant drawback. Oh well. Comes out fast, is a beating, and with red getting fast mana now, maybe there’s a reason this became rare. Consider this with things such as Circle of Protection: Red, which makes this a 4/4 Haste for 3RR, which, while not Earth-shattering, but certainly nifty for red’s standards. Weatherlight is not that recent, but still available. Lava Hounds’ reprinting brings it back to the forefront, and for any funky-Sligh player who doesn’t want to go multiplayer Goblins now have an alternative. Overwhelmingly underwhelming.

Mind Bend

Best used to thwart color hosers and landwalkers. ‘Nuff said.

Well, okay, there’s a bit more – combining Sleight of Mind with Magical Hack into one convenient package, the fact that it can change land types in text makes it very significant in an 8th environment where color hosers are stronger than before (with the exception of Spreading Algae taking the place of Compost). As pointed out by Brandon Moore, these can be used against the hosers – but I prefer to use them in conjunction with.

Rukh Egg

Significant because this gives red access to a good flyer for not too much trouble. This is quite simply a two-for-one card that forces your opponent to devote two resources to remove it, with the exception of remove from game effects such as Swords to Plowshares. Anything that can give you even theoretical card advantage or a two-fer in multiplayer is a good thing. On the upside, Arabian Nights Rukh Eggs are hard enough to get that a rare in 8th isn’t too bad.

Underworld Dreams

Oh baby! A combo piece and a twenty-turn clock at worst. Wheel and Deal, Windfall, Prosperity, and Trade Secrets become combination draw/burn spells; Wheel of Fortune, Timetwister, Time Spiral, Memory Jar, and Dragon Mage all get ugly. In type 2, the options narrow, and all it ends up being is another source of damage. Of course, fear the funny guy who decides that Obstinate Familiar is tech against this….

Sage of Lat-Nam

All I’m going to say is that Mirrodin had better have some cheap artifacts to make this guy worth it. Hardly useful in combat, this common from the past is nothing but junk as things stand. Cards like this being reprinted are what force Mark Rosewater and the rest of the people at R&D to try and justify printing cards like this. I think I’d rather open up one of the Invasion Block uncommons as my rare than this piece of crap.

Here’s a combo for this card for the old-schoolers: Sage + Bicycle Tire spokes = cool noise. But in all seriousness, the only use I can think of for this card is to sacrifice artifact creatures once damage is on the stack.

Shifting Sky

A more versatile Darkest Hour that you can play more tricks with and have more fun with – like Hydroblasts and Blue Elemental Blasts, for instance. It’s an interesting thing to combo with the leftover Paladins (East and West) and to mess with Protection from Color cards. Consider using this with the Invasion Block Obsidian Acolyte and Crimson Acolyte to have a lot of fun.

Story Circle

I always thought that this was a bit strong for uncommon – but since it was printed that way, I didn’t want it to be rare, dammit! Keep in mind that”Artifact” or”Colorless” are not valid choices for Story Circle. Given that, though, most of the times you’re going to maindeck Story Circle, you’re probably calling Red anyway. Excellent in combination with Blind Seer and particularly the aforementioned Shifting Sky. Note, however, that Circles of Protection can do the same thing; Story Circles are just more flexible. It also requires a heavy white commitment.

All right, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. Next.

Warped Devotion

This is a combo piece waiting to happen. Unfortunately, if it couldn’t cut it in Invasion Block and Invasion/Odyssey Standard, with all sorts of fun stuff like Repulse, Recoil, Aether Burst, and Urborg Emissary, then I doubt if it will make an impact in the new Standard. In casual, though… Consider the possibilities when involving Equilibrium, Cowardice, Tradewind Rider, Waterfront Bouncer, Temporal Adept, or any other permanent and reusable bounce (Did someone say Capsize?). A tempting idea also comes in light of Evacuation and Temporal Fissure when abusing free spells. With this out, Aether Burst gets progressively more dangerous with each one cast, gaining card advantage all along the way.

Oh well; with that, on to the rest of the noteworthy rares, and the lessons Wizards is trying to teach us.

Aladdin’s Ring

Expensive to cast and use, but a constant and colorless source of damage could be critical. Four damage puts a lot of things out of their misery, including Iridescent Angels that could otherwise be hard to deal with.

That said, it is very expensive. There are alternatives to this, such as Tempest’s Cursed Scroll; alternatively, mana acceleration such as Mirari’s Wake will help you put this baby into play more quickly. The Ring is a threat that has to be removed; if nothing else, it’s a slow but steady win condition.

Avatar of Hope

An alluring ability, to be sure, with the capacity to come out at WW with a huge behind of nine toughness. However, it still can’t block creatures with Fear, nor can it block something like Two-Headed Dragon. It’s easily removed by Black removal, is no good on offense (since tapping negates its most significant ability). Dragon Scales on this thing makes it significantly better, however.

Blinding Angel

People were doing a little dance when this was printed and Flametongue Kavu had rotated out. Now there’s just the little problem of Nekrataal. Each Blinding Angel will nullify an attack phase, so two Angels will kill two attack phases. Feel free to spread the lovin’ when playing multiplayer. There’s nothing that I really can say that this little baby doesn’t make obvious. Protect this with Glory or another reusable source, because you will become a target with it out.

Bloodshot Cyclops

Finally! A use for Okk.


A little thing to point out: If you’re using this against an opponent with bounce, congratulations! You’ve just tutored for their best creature for them. Otherwise, this is a very demoralizing way to defeat an opponent with little drawback to it, as it can’t be Misdirected.

Call of the Wild

Best when used with things like Orcish Spy, Index, Sage Aven, or Brainstorm. This is most intriguingly used with Future Sight, which gives you a consistent (not to mention useful) way to see in advance what’s on top of your deck.

Death Pit Offering

Now re-worded so it works with Stifle! As previously noted, useful with Natural Affinity to produce a large amount of 4/4 attackers (or, in a worst-case scenario, a bunch of 4/4 blockers. Remember, cast Ambush Commander after you cast Death Pit, for pit-y’s sake.**

Fallen Angel

I just had to list this, for this single reason-the new art is freakin’ awesome! (C’mon, Mr. LaRue. Agree with me!) This is, of course, another outlet for sacrificing creatures besides Nantuko Husk and Carrion Feeder in order to have some fun with Grave Pact.

Furnace of Rath

It’s well-known that this combos with the good old Ensnaring Bridge/Grafted Skullcap combo. Basically, you hide behind the bridge while your Shocks become 80% of a Lava Axe for just R. The”punisher” cards lose their drawback, as Breaking Point becomes”Let me Wrath of God or lose a crapload of life,” Browbeat becomes”Let me Ancestral Recall or lose half your life,” Skullscorch comes closer to a true Hymn to Tourach, Dwarven Driller becomes a real Land Destruction source, and Molten Influence now reads”lose almost half your life to get this spell through, which is probably going to win the game anyway.”

Oh well; every spell can’t be a winner…

Gaea’s Herald

While the standard Timmys of the world cast this and giggle incessantly claiming,”you can’t counter my creatures anymore, you bad bad blue man!” The smart Timmys will realize that it’s going to be bounced in response, and then the spell you’re casting will be countered. For thorough protection, use with Spellbane Centaur, or just learn to play around counterspells.


Pay the extra two mana for Multani, Maro-Sorceror.

Murderous Betrayal

Rules note: you can’t pay life that you don’t have. That brings up the question – what’s half of zero? Zero. So if you’re a little crazy like me, you put together Transcendence, Sulfuric Vortex, and Murderous Betrayal in order to kill nonblack creatures for BB.

Oracle’s Attendants

Coalition Honor Guard does everything this thing does, except mess with combat damage and mass damage spells like Starstorm – but it doesn’t have to tap itself to work. That said, Oracle’s Attendants can save your important creatures.


Lovely on turn 2 with Dark Ritual, less devastating as your opponents splash colors or play artifacts and colorless spells. Fun with Head Games, too!***

Phyrexian Plaguelord

Also another good creature sacrifice outlet, this thing is the nuts – it’s huge for the price, and moreover, it can take down a much larger creature than itself (block, damage on the stack, tap/sac). You can use this to sacrifice creatures on the way to your graveyard to get a little more use out of them.

Seismic Assault and Trade Routes

I list these two together because once the You Make The Card #2 comes out, it’s going to be an interesting combo. Granted, it’s going to be very color intensive, but the fun is comedy. Play a land with the artifact, return it with Trade Routes, then either use Trade Routes to draw a card with it, or use Seismic Assault to do two damage. Granted, this stunts your mana development – but later on in the game, your lands now become Shocks for one, or a card with cycling: 2. Trade Routes and Seismic Assault turns your lands drawn later in the game into additional resources or damage. Lots of fun.

Teferi’s Puzzle Box

A fun-time combo with Underworld Dreams, but be sure to remember that you can cast any instants you have in hand before having to put them on the bottom of your library.

Thieves’ Auction

I can’t remember who said it, but I certainly can’t claim credit for it: Someone out there back in the day suggested combining this with Brand. Remember, the owner is not the controller, but the person who takes it home at the end of the night. The trick is to put out a series of nice, spicy selection of permanents so that they’ll choose those. Choose their permanents (even lands), and once Thieves’ Auction is done resolving, cast Brand. You gain control of all permanents that you own, regardless of who controls them. Super happy funtime.

Tidal Kraken

Is the eight mana you use to cast this worth it? Yes and no. If, by eight mana, you’re still alive, or have a way to put up some early defenses, then certainly. It makes a splendid finisher. If you have a way to give it haste, it gets even better.

Vampiric Spirit

Noteworthy because of its first non-Portal release, Vampiric Spirit is yet another of black’s size-at-a-cost theme, and multiplayers should take note that paying the life too often may not be the best thing to do, but it certainly gives you a bit of an advantage early on. Hopefully, if you’re casting this, you can take advantage of that little extra oomph this card gives you.

Zur’s Weirding

Everyone’s been trying to break this card – and for good reason. Card denial is a powerful thing, and with Words of Worship, you can theoretically get an advantage with this. Another card to try with this is Arcanis the Omnipotent, to either gain more life along with Words of Worship or to try to force your opponents to lose more life.

Well, that’s it for the interesting rares in the set. The rest, quite simply, are plain and uninteresting. Good luck getting those prize rares. The set as a whole is unexciting and plain. It’s filled with chaff like Solidarity and Redeem, which, even at their casting costs, are pretty useless.

It’s quite evident that Wizards has been slowing down the game, and forcing players towards creature combat more than spell slinging. The reality is that this is how most players start to learn Magic, so in that sense, 8th succeeds in being able to teach newer players how to play more effectively than something like, say, Onslaught. My feelings on 8th are pretty ambivalent. The new card face is a non-issue for me now, the new foils look great, but the set isn’t causing me to break out in smiles and laughter.

I miss Legions.


8th is that memorable.


John A. Liu

“Still trying to open a Foil Birds of Paradise”

*- God, I love trying to make use of crap rares.

**- Okay, I admit it. That was bad.

*** – Land cards are colorless, so the best thing to do is hand them uncastable spells. You know what other card is fun with Head Games? Hint of Insanity. You can stop laughing now.