Origins Brew Review

Carsten Kotter is here to share his multi-format look at Magic Origins, going through the set for playable cards in Modern, Vintage, and Legacy as well as intriguing cards for Standard.

The latest set is finally fully spoiled and while I’ve already talked about two particularly interesting cards from Magic Origins, there are a lot of other cards in this set that look either sweet, interesting or good enough to see play somewhere. Today’s when I share my totally biased thoughts on those I felt were worth considering.

For the many among you that were interested in my thoughts on my GP Lille deck and ideas for further development, fear not: your interest is noted and you can rest assured I’ll come back to the deck (assuming Dig Through Time is still legal next time I write). With Magic Origins pre-releasing this weekend, though, I just wanted to share my thoughts on the new cards first before doing something that will either remain relevant till fall comes or irrelevant as soon as B&R announcements are made.

Well, lots of cards to look at, so let’s get going!


I’ve heard this heralded as the best of the new planeswalkers and while I agree that this is an insane Savannah Lions, it’s still mainly a Savannah Lions because the trigger condition is nearly impossible to get off outside of cute combos if the opponent is playing their own creatures (hint: always make sure you block Kytheon).

Obviously not a Legacy card but this is a pretty sweet finisher. Decree of Justice was a thing at some point, after all, and that would have only made four power for the same mana investment. I still assume this will be overshadowed by Dragonlord Ojutai being a card.

So we get a one-shot Containment Priest that essentially cycles instead of providing a body. This seems like it’d be an awesome sideboard card, though mostly for Standard and maybe Modern as Containment Priest being a permanent effect is more important where that’s legal. Where this gets ahead is when we consider running some maindeck hate. Not only does it “cycle” in matchups where we don’t need the effect, it actually hits a surprising number of cards and strategies from straight up Reanimation (say Living End in Modern) to token producers (Entreat the Angels, Lingering Souls, the Splinter Twin combo) and unusual card advantage effects (Collected Company, Chord of Calling). All in all, I think this is a great direction to move non-blue interactive spells towards and I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up seeing this a lot as a one- or two-of in Modern Snapcaster Mage decks.

This is easy to overlook but a deceptively good card in my opinion. I mean, we played Renewed Faith in Vintage back in the day! The Eternal formats have probably moved on from the point where that was a reasonable thing to do, but this is still something to keep in mind if you’re looking for a maindeckable way to gain some life.

I don’t want to be the aggro-player who runs head-first into this (remember this also gets to block while we’re at it) though the historical performance of cards like this (see also: No Mercy) makes me skeptical about Hixus.

Awesome reprint, Knight is a very solid card that helps out particularly on the draw.

So this is the fixed Stoneforge Mystic then? The funny thing is, while Relic Seeker is miles worse than Stoneforge Mystic, it would probably still easily be playable in Standard if there were Sword of X and Y-level Equipment around. Heck, maybe this card will surprise me and just getting a Sword is good enough for Modern play.

Assuming Spell Mastery is online, this seems like a very solid removal spell for Standard as it then becomes essentially an instant-speed Assassinate for two mana – which conveniently solves all of Assassinate’s problems: “being a sorcery” and “costing three mana.”

When I first read this, I thought they were insane and had reprinted Cataclysm for Standard. Then I realized this only hit non-lands. It might still be interesting there for a deck like Heroic to sideboard in against Devotion strategies.

While this is a four mana do-nothing-by-itself enchantment, it goes pretty nuts with cards like Hordeling Outburst. Maybe this goes into the Jeskai Ascedancy token deck as a backup engine piece?

So Glowrider is now Wingmares number five through eight? I doubt flying is suddenly gonna break Glowrider, though this might actually be relevant for a white Sol-land Stompy deck as between eight copies (effectively) of Glowrider and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben that deck suddenly has a lot of powerful taxing that can come down on turn two available to it.


First and foremost, I suspect this card is practically useless outside of Vintage. In fact, when I first read this, I thought this was just a terrible play on Thirst for Knowledge. Then I thought about it a little longer and realized that, as long as you don’t actually need to discard stuff like Mindslaver, this is probably actually better than Thirst for Knowledge – and that card is restricted in Vintage for a reason, after all (or maybe not, but then it should just come off the list).

Why is it better? Well, the artifacts we’re talking about enabling this or Thirst for Knowledge are, generally speaking, Moxen. Now, in the late game you’re fine discarding what is essentially extra lands to get your two-for-one draw spell, though losing your acceleration early or giving up on the card advantage is pretty disturbing, especially if you have to hold back that Mox to ensure TfK value. With Artificer’s Epiphany, you get to have your cake and eat it, too. Just play that Mox so you have three mana on turn two and now your Epiphany is an actual straight-up draw spell. So what to do with it?
Well, conveniently the deck that got TfK restricted in the first place (Tezzeret) used Thirst for Knowledge purely as a draw spell, not a discard outlet, and should therefore provide a solid starting point. Maybe something like this:

This bounces Delvers and tokens for UU and Affinity’s whole board for three to four mana. Sounds like this might be potentially playable?

O how the mighty have fallen. I remember when Ophidian was a feared Vintage card and today, when I see Jhessian Thief -which is Ophidian only improved by an insane degree given how good Prowess is in Eternal formats – I still have to say I doubt it’s actually good enough. I wish it wasn’t true, but three mana just buys you too much insanity these days.

So let me get this straight. This is a defensive Man-o’-War for two mana? I can only assume this is incredibly potent as a tempo tool, especially with Aether Vial in a Merfolk deck, and should be one of the cards we see even in the Eternal formats. Also, Standard Mono Blue Devotion probably kills for this.

I love the new Jace. A looter for 1U is already solid, and the fact that he flips into essentially Snapcaster Mage quite easily makes this a very potent card. Two-mana creatures are also reasonably easy to recur (note in particular the synergy with Whip of Erebos for Standard – it doesn’t get exiled in planeswalker form so Whip just means you get to always have a Jace out).

At four mana this is probably too expensive, but the effects are both rather powerful to just keep chaining spells. Some Standard control or Jeskai Ascendancy deck?

Hey look ma, a fixed Spellskite! The problem with this is that Spellskite was never awe-inspiring in Standard, and for Modern – well, there is real Spellskite in that format. The biggest problem with Meddler is that he essentially functions like a three-mana counterspell against Splinter Twin and Infect both (cast it, stop their thing) and three-mana counterspells are of doubtful value against either deck.

Like Hindering Light, this is probably too narrow to actually end up seeing play though I like the concept a lot and would love to counter a Lightning Bolt over to their Goblin Guide for sure. If you play with this, remember that you can counter your own spells that target yourself with this and copy them (say a Braingeyser), similar to how Remand is used to play around countermagic.

Like I assume most people did, I had the panicked “Oh god, Painter!” going off in my head the moment I read this. Then I realized the whole “non-land” part of the text (I seem to like missing those words) and realized that this isn’t gonna fly. I still think this might be a very solid win condition in the smaller formats (I’ve seen Jace’s Erasure work in Pauper and this is much better). It’s hard to deal with, doesn’t cost you anything but itself once it’s in play, and will end the game surprisingly fast in a deck full of cantrips and Treasure Cruises (or Brainstorms, or whatever draw spell they let you have). I expect this to mill at least three cards on average per trigger and assuming some card drawing is going on it shouldn’t actually take that long to get through ~45 cards. Definitely something to keep an eye on.

PS: One way this might prove useful is for that Waste Not Standard deck – this seems like a reasonable way to mill someone out with Dark Deal, at least.

WotC is really trying to give people the option to play full on mill-decks this set, huh? Seven cards is quite a lot and Talent of the Telepath gets rid of the biggest problem of straight-up mill cards (they don’t actually do anything until the opponent runs out of library) by actually being a decent value tool to boot.

WotC seems to have been inspired by the Eternal-only cards this time around. First Hallowed Moonlight recreates Containment Priest and now we get an (improved) Dack Fayden ultimate on legs. No, that doesn’t mean the card is any good in constructed.


Somehow I doubt the risk is worth the reward here as a pure value tool, and as a combo deck this plus Donate seems much worse than Illusions of Grandeur (what with this taking four turns until it kills them when freshly cast). At the same time, though, this card is unique enough (and honestly an insane amount of value in the short term) that I wouldn’t be surprised if this finds a home eventually, maybe even in that Donate combo shell as a second kind of Illusions of Grandeur that’s good in different positions and can help you grind the game to the point where you can successfully hand your opponent a present.

So this is the fixed Ichorid then? I guess this could actually be interesting for a Modern Dredge deck, though they could at least have made it a Zombie for Gravecrawler synergy.

I can’t help but feel that Mono Black Devotion in a more controlling incarnation is likely to be a thing in the coming Standard between Languish, this, and possibly Priest of the Blood Rite and Liliana, Heretical Healer. Lots of black pips and a decent body to boot seems tempting, especially with Dark Petition and Sidisi, Undead Vizier giving the deck access to a couple of powerful ways to find late-game bombs like Whip of Erebos.

Between this being reprinted and Merciless Executioner, we can now run eight copies of this card. I wonder if there’s a plan hidden there or this is just random chance.

Cranial Extraction made a mana cheaper might prove to be decent against Oath in Vintage or as a sideboard card to hit Melira-combo pieces in Modern, though I tend to rather doubt it.

This is irrelevant to anything above Standard I think (Damnation exists). That being said, Abzan Midrange gets a four-mana Wrath that kills Dragonlord Ojutai but not Siege Rhino? Seems fair.

I’d love to see this card make it in Standard a Sidisi, Brood Tyrant or Satyr Wayfinder shell.

This seems actually rather difficult to trigger in Legacy between Swords to Plowshares, Terminus and combo decks, but reasonably powerful in a deck that can actually ensure the flip. More shenanigans for Nic Fit?

This is five mana for seven power and the mana pips are on the part of the card they don’t want to kill. It’s also pretty awesome with Whip of Erebos. Just saying.

I love that they’ve made this one the default black draw spell now. The card is awesome and just enough better than Divination that you don’t actually have to feel bad playing it.

You’d play this mainly for the Scry effect and the fate of Reaper of the Wilds leads me to assume that can’t ever be worth it. It looks sweet, though.

So False Cure/Beacon of Immortality is now Modern legal for an additional mana? That’s pretty sweet, though I’m not sure it’s enough to actually make that a deck. However, this card may also have some Legacy applications. There’s been a deck that tried to abuse the lifegain-gifting ‘free spells’ (like Reverent Silence and Invigorate) with False Cure and Kavu Predator for a long time now and maybe having redundancy on the False Cure effect actually makes that deck consistent enough to actually be worth playing now?


I might overvalue Prowess and love value too much, but I definitely like this. A 2/1 Prowess for two is solid in red aggressive decks and this will create some free value from time to time if drawn after turn two.

Probably too cute, but this seems like it’d be excellent in a Dragon Stompy shell as a curve-topper that also compensates for your throwing out your cards willy-nilly with Chrome Mox and friends.

The interesting thing about Chandra is that it probably has the weakest planeswalker form of all the new flip-walkers. However, it’s also able to flip of a single spell if it gets to attack and the creature-form is quite the decent minigun to a player’s life total.

Five-mana Wraths are a thing in Standard, so maybe this can be too. Seems good in a Dragons-deck that has one big flyer out and now wants to keep swinging with it.

Four damage for three mana has usually been good in the past, and the Spell Mastery is even strong against decks like Esper Dragons with its countermagic – you can probably rely on finding one or two of these before a control deck can end the game, making this a brilliant finisher. It can also conveniently kill a tapped Ojutai no questions asked. For the older formats, this becomes quite interesting for the burn decks to make sure your last couple of points actually do resolve through Counterbalance or a wall of countermagic, thereby punishing opponents for playing correctly and starting to counter burn as late as possible. In fact, it’s so good in that role that I could easily see a copy or two ending up in a multitude of aggressive sideboards (Grixis or U/R Delver in particular).

Let me make a list: Goblin Rabblemaster, Foundry Street Denizen, Hordeling Outburst, Dragon Fodder – this seems strong to have back for Standard to the point that I wouldn’t be surprised to see aggressive Goblins become a deck in Modern, too, now that there’s a real payoff other than Goblin Grenade. It’s really too bad they didn’t bring back Goblin Ringleader together with Sylvan Messenger.

Love it! The land requirement solves the dredge problem this card might otherwise create and this is excellent to help Burn and low-drop aggressive strategies without running out of threats. It’s a bad tool to fix mana screw (obviously) but lovely to ensure drawing gas.

Beetleback Siege-Gang Commander? Could easily be enough value to be worth playing in a tokens deck if there’s such a thing in Standard.

Is this the second coming of Eidolon of the Great Revel? It’s clearly much worse, as it costs three, but the redundancy of having more copies of this effect might be worth it as hate for Storm in Modern, where three mana hate should be fast enough and Pyrostatic Pillar isn’t around to sub in for Eidolon?


On first sight, I’d consider this a typical win-more card given that you’ll rarely surpass a 50% hit rate and ramping out a ton more lands when you already have a lot of mana usually isn’t insane. I’m prepared to be wrong, though, what with Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle existing and a new Zendikar Block coming up (Lands will still be a thing, right?).

Don’t get me wrong, these are strong cards and I’m sure there’ll be a pretty decent Standard Elves deck with all the support it has been given. However, all of these cards insist on treating Elves as an aggressive beatdown deck at heart – which Elves isn’t in the Eternal formats, making these mostly irrelevant for Legacy.

There just has to be a way to make this good. Used fairly, this is instant-speed value against spot removal that allows you to cycle your mana creatures into real cards in the mid- to late-game. Add the possibility to actually build your deck around abusing this – running a Dryad Arbor and four Eternal Witness as your only creatures comes to mind, for example, as does sacrificing Kitchen Finks – and we have a highly flexible engine piece that is actually still decent in a regular game. Luckily it at least doesn’t actually mill the cards you reveal, otherwise it’d be insane as a hasty Hermit Druid with that Dyad Arbor trick.

These are basically more copies of Commune with the Gods for decks that want them and once in a while you’ll have hit enough of your enabling sorceries already to also make this into a selective Night’s Whisper, which is pretty awesome. I really love the whole Spell Mastery mechanic as something that’s easy enough to trigger while also not being utterly ridiculous when it does happen.

Nissa is really the inverse Chandra. It’s the nuts in planeswalker form but the trigger condition makes this one of the worst new planeswalkers I suspect. It’s hard to cheat on Nissa’s flip and when we have seven lands, we could also just cast insane fatties instead of a Civic Wayfinder – which is what the front side boils down to.

That being said, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the next Standard environment has at least one deck that would love a Civic Wayfinder that is much better in the late-game. If that deck happens, Nissa will be extremely powerful.

A bad Cultivate is still Cultivate, and it’s pretty insane to make sure you hit your land drops in a spell-based ramp deck like Valakut decks. I expect this to see Standard play.

It looks like they finally printed the green Titan that would actually have fit the first Titan cycle instead of the – essentially – pure combo piece that is Primeval Titan. I expect this to be good in Standard, especially while Courser of Kruphix is still around to search out.

Gold, Artifacts, and Lands

This should be a decent consideration for the Modern Splinter Twin decks. Those decks usually try to win a significant number of games in tempo mode and a 3/3 is a much more impressive body in that case than either a 2/1 flyer or a 1/4.

This is a pretty absurd engine piece once you’ve managed to put it onto the battlefield. With the hefty five-mana price tag, I doubt it’ll be a staple in a multitude of decks but in something like Modern Tron or Legacy Cloudpost this could allow you to go insane a lot faster than before. Chromatic Spheres and Stars suddenly draw extra cards, Sensei’s Divining Top taps to draw two cards, Glimmerpost makes even more life – the potential is there, the question is if it proves strong enough to make work.

On first sight, this looks terrible – you’re spending five mana on Fire Diamond, after all. Then you start to think that there just has to be something, some combo, here – but if it’s good enough to consider playing, I haven’t found it yet

Not interesting for Eternal formats, but it’s worth noting that the Time Spiral storage lands were good in Standard so this might be too.

Origins Uncovered?

Well, here you go, my thoughts on just about any Magic Origins card I expect to make its contribution to some Constructed format. I was surprised to see so few cards I’d seriously consider for Eternal play, as my first impression of the set when seeing the spoiler was one of true awesomeness, but I guess that just means my inner planeswalker enjoys good, open-ended design even if it doesn’t look like it’ll make it to the formats I personally enjoy the most. As always, take my ideas about Modern and Standard with a grain of salt – I don’t actually play these formats, so I might be way off on some of those ideas.

All in all, I’m happy to see that Magic design is keeping up the high standard WotC has been setting since Dragon’s Maze. Some cards are clearly inspired by pre-existing ones, some are neat twists on old favorites and some are exploring territories the game hasn’t covered yet. And, most importantly, nothing that looks instantly unfair (like, say, Delver of Secrets once we understood it), nothing that’s just plain overpoweringly stupid (like, say, Griselbrand) and lots of cards that could be great pieces to the puzzle given the right 56 other cards. All of that in a flavorful package sprinkled with a low-effort, fair pay-off mechanic in Spell mastery – I like this set!