I’ve been bummed that I haven’t had the chance to play much Dragon’s Maze Standard other than crashing some games at home against my roommate Chuck playing our The Aristocrats: Act 2 deck. My Bant "Capture the Wurm" deck (that I wrote about here) has been doing well in those games, but I haven’t been able to make it to a big Standard event to really test its mettle. Plasm Capture into Aetherling really is nuts and will only get better once my beloved Cavern of Souls rotates out. I had hopes of playing it in the StarCityGames.com Standard Open in Richmond, but I wrote about how those plans fell through.
However, there’s nothing quite like new Magic cards to get my Magic excitement back up, and we’re in full Magic 2014 spoiler season now with a fairly hefty bumper crop of new cards to ponder. Others on this here site will provide some sweet set reviews once the full spoiler is available, but that shouldn’t prevent us from having discussions on some of the more exciting new cards now should it?
But First…What’s Missing?
The sleuths over at MTGSalvation do a nice job pulling together a name and number crunch, filling in the spoiler as the cards are revealed and being able to deduce what cards may be rotating in and out based on the holes in the list. At this point, it’s become clear that…
There are no dual lands in the core set?!
For someone who’s been around Magic as long as I have (since Unlimited, so basically the Stone Age), not having dual lands in the base set is shocking. There are basically just three slots available for nonbasic lands, and we know two of them: Mutavault (awesome reprint!) and Shimmering Grotto (fixing for Limited).
After getting over the shock, we should take a deep breath and ask ourselves why. Why is Wizards R&D not putting some sort of dual lands from the core set? Especially given that we’ll be losing all the enemy duals from Innistrad and the allied duals from Magic 2013; that’s a crap-ton of mana fixing exiting stage left this fall!
Well…let’s take a look at the top decks in Standard right now and take a gander at the mana bases. I mean seriously—mana is incredibly easy and, as diverse as the metagame is, having mana so easy also constricts the number of good cards in the format. If it’s nearly painless to splash for a better card, you’d be stupid not to.
So clearly Wizards wants to put the brakes on the easy mana. And since it seems probable that there will be some sort of dual land cycle coming in the new block—likely necessary to Block Constructed—the only way to put the brakes on easy mana when we’ve got another year of Ravnica block shocklands is to drop them from the core set. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if this might be the protocol going forward to provide a decent amount of color fixing while restoring a real cost to stretching your mana base too much. Also, as a fan of green, I’d like green’s color pie ability to fix and search mana to become more important rather than be an incidental sideshow.
Speaking of lands, I mentioned above that Plasm Capture gets better once Cavern of Souls rotates out. The funny thing is that there’s one nonbasic land slot that hasn’t been spoiled yet…and Cavern of Souls fits! Hmmm…
There is no Thragtusk in Magic 2014?!
I wrote an entire column dedicated to my theory that a big part of why we have such a healthy Standard right now is because Thragtusk exists, and in a lot of ways that thought exercise convinced me that there was no way that Thragtusk wouldn’t be reprinted in M14 despite conventional wisdom that Thragtusk was a mistake and should be gotten rid of. While my predictive powers were wrong, I still stand by my theory and think that rotating Thragtusk out is a mistake—unless there is some sort of replacement card or replacement cards that accomplish all that Thragtusk does to help create a healthy metagame. Voice of Resurgence is very close to being a Thragtusk, and I’ll be keeping my eye out for other Thragtusk esque cards going forward. But I’m totally bummed about Thragtusk’s departure and hold out hope that he might pop back up soon. Maybe in M15?
Other surprising omissions: Oblivion Ring and Acidic Slime? These fantastic utility cards are so good without being overpowered and so useful to have as tools for addressing certain problems in the metagame that it feels like they should always be with us. Maybe they’ll be cropping up in Theros?
Okay, enough pondering what’s leaving us. Let’s take a look at some of the new cards I’m excited about!
Garruk, Caller of Beasts
Number one on my list has got to be Garruk, Caller of Beasts. I love the fact that we’ve got so many good Garruks up and down the casting-cost scale, and with the new M14 rules playing multiple copies of them becomes much better. I know some people seem to think that this new Garruk’s casting cost pushes him out of consideration for competitive play, but I’m not so sure about that. His +1 ability is incredibly strong in the right deck, and the right deck happens to be one playing a bunch of creatures. Considering how good creatures have been and continue to be, that doesn’t seem to be too hard to do!
I’ve heard criticism for Garruk that in a vacuum you want to be spending six mana on your main phase to do more than draw cards. Thing is that if you’re playing a bunch of creatures in your deck, six mana is just the right time to want to reload, right?
Also, Garruk demands a response from your opponent. They’re going to have to send five points of damage straight through to Garruk or they’re going to get buried in card advantage, dropping tons of creatures…and if those creatures can protect Garruk long enough, his ultimate is insane.
The -3 ability likely won’t be used too often, but I can see times where you’re planning on playing something big on your next turn—say Progenitor Mimic—and then you draw Garruk. Normally, you’d have to choose between your six-drops, but with Garruk you can do both, with hopefully your Mimic turning into something that can protect Garruk long enough to start generating that card advantage.
And when I start thinking about Prime Speaker Zegana with Garruk, Caller of Beasts, it sets my green-mage heart aflutter! So…much…card…draw!!!
Speaking of card draw, how about Dark Prophecy? That green-mage heart of mine is a little miffed at this obvious Fecundity rip-off, but since I love black nearly as much as I love green (green-mage heart but a Golgari soul), I suppose I can overlook that and hope to get my mitts on a playset of this card. Sure, there are bound to be some crazy combos this card will enable, especially in larger formats, but I just like this card for its ability to blunt opponents’ creature removal spells. Just make sure you build in a way to offset the life loss—and don’t deck yourself—since the trigger isn’t optional.
Speaking of triggered abilities, we’re getting this really super-cool artifact that I totally expect my friend Jay Delazier to do bizarre and cool things with in Vintage and Legacy. First off, I think it’s really neat to have this in the core set because it’s an education tool for newer players who may not get how triggered abilities work. This artifact encourages them to learn…and to figure out how to exploit them. That’s a good thing!
There are so many funky things you can do with this card. Double exalted triggers…double transform triggers on Werewolves…double evolve triggers…enters or leaves the battlefield triggers (Thragtusk, baby!)…
Might it give some oomph to Dimir’s cipher cards? How sick is it with Detention Sphere?
I’m pretty stoked about this card as well, at least until the rotation this fall. I’ve been a fan of Zombies for a while, but there have been some holes in the deck for a while at two mana and four mana. They’ve been filled by other non-Zombie options that always felt clunky to me, though we did finally get Lotleth Troll and Blood Scrivener recently. My current Zombie deck has been giving Desecration Demon a try at four mana, and while he’s not too bad, I can’t wait to slot Liliana’s Reaver into the deck and give it a whirl. There’s a ton of value in this card, both as a formidable blocker of nearly anything without fear and as a devastating attacker that demands a blocker or else provides basically two cards for your trouble—one from your opponent’s hand and a free 2/2 Zombie token.
Festering Newt + Bogbrew Witch + Bubbling Cauldron
These three cards are so cool that I want them to be good enough for Standard! The lynchpin card is Bogbrew Witch, which can search out the other parts, but four mana for a tiny 1/3 and spending two mana to activate its ability tends to make me skeptical it can make it on the big stage. Still, creatures that search out other creatures can be deceptively good. Festering Newt is basically a Festering Goblin, which has seen tournament play, and with a Bogbrew Witch in play it pretty much kills just about anything when it dies and as a 1/1 dying is easy even without the Cauldron.
Of course, me being me, I can’t help but wonder what happens when you run out of Newts? Might there be some Elixir of Immortality on the shelf of the Witch’s ingredients?
Ajani’s Chosen, Oath of the Ancient Wood…it’s hard to miss the fact that there seems to be a strong "enchantments matter" theme cropping up in M14’s cards. There are also enchantments that seem to pair up nicely both in cross-card synergy and along the mana curve: Path of Bravery + Angelic Accord and Into the Wild + Primeval Bounty. It makes me wonder if there might be more of this to come in Theros or whether this is just a little spice sprinkled into Magic 2014?
That’s it for now, but I can’t wait to see the entire spoiler and start brewing up new decks! What cards have you seen so far that have you excited? What do you think some of the cards due to rotate out of the base set means for our new card pool? Let me know in the comments below!
Hope you had a great Independence Day celebration, and if you’re in the area Saturday and feel like battling in Modern for a box of Modern Masters, come on down to Richmond Comix and say hi! I’ll be there, hopefully surprising some people…
Facebook = Bennie Smith, Writer
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New to Commander?
If you’re just curious about the format, building your first deck, or trying to take your Commander deck up a notch, here are some handy links:
- Commander Primer Part 1 (Why play Commander? Rules Overview, Picking your Commander)
- Commander Primer Part 2 (Mana Requirements, Randomness, Card Advantage)
- Commander Primer Part 3 (Power vs. Synergy, Griefing, Staples, Building a Doran Deck)
- Commander Starter Kits 1 (kick start your allied two-color decks for $25)
- Commander Starter Kits 2 (kick start your enemy two-color decks for $25)
- Commander Starter Kits 3 (kick start your shard three-color decks for $25)
My current Commander decks (and links to decklists):
- Reaper King (taking advantage of the new M14 legend rules)
- Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker (Outside My Comfort Zone with Milling)
- Vorel of the Hull Clade (Never Trust the Simic)
- Emmara Tandris (No Damage Tokens)
- Varolz, the Scar-Striped (scavenging goodness)
- Doran, the Siege Tower (All My Faves in One Deck!)
- Johan (Cat Breath of the Infinite)
- Lord of Tresserhorn (ZOMBIES!)
- Borborygmos Enraged (69 land deck)
- Aurelia, the Warleader (plus Hellkite Tyrant shenanigans)
- Oona, Queen of the Fae (by reader request)
- Karador, Ghost Chieftain (my Magic Online deck)
- Karona, False God (Vows of the False God)
- Skullbriar, the Walking Grave (how big can it get?)
- Phage the Untouchable (actually casting Phage from Command Zone!)
- Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind (Chuck’s somewhat vicious deck)
Previous Commander decks currently on hiatus:
- Yeva, Nature’s Herald (living at instant speed)
- Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis (evil and Spike-ish)Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius (new player-friendly)
- Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice (new player-friendly)
- Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord (drain you big time)
- Riku of Two Reflections (steal all permanents with Deadeye Navigator + Zealous Conscripts)
- Phelddagrif (Mean Hippo)
- Sigarda, Host of Herons (Equipment-centric Voltron)
- Bruna, Light of Alabaster (Aura-centric Voltron)
- Ruhan of the Fomori (lots of equipment and infinite attack steps)
- Ghave, Guru of Spores (Melira Combo)
- Glissa, the Traitor (undying artifacts!)
- Grimgrin, Corpse-Born (Necrotic Ooze Combo)
- Damia, Sage of Stone (Ice Cauldron shenanigans)
- Geist of Saint Traft (Voltron-ish)
- Glissa Sunseeker (death to artifacts!)
- Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer (replacing Brion Stoutarm in Mo’ Myrs)
- Thelon of Havenwood (Campfire Spores)
- Melira, Sylvok Outcast (combo killa)
- Konda, Lord of Eiganjo (The Indestructibles)
- Vorosh, the Hunter (proliferaTION)
- Progenitus (Fist of Suns and Bringers)
- Savra, Queen of the Golgari (Demons)
- Uril, the Miststalker (my "more competitive" deck)