PV’s Playhouse – Examining Worldwake… So Far

Grand Prix: Oakland!

Thursday, January 21st – Worldwake Spoiler season continues apace, and we’re learning about the new and exciting cards from the WotC drop-feed. Today, Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa looks at the more interesting cards spoiled thus far, and evaluates them for Constructed play… [Warning: Contains Spoilers!]


First of all, I’d like to apologize for not writing last week. It was an exceedingly busy period for me, and I thought it’d be better to just skip a week than to rush something in.

Today I am going to talk about the spoiled Worldwake cards we’ve seen thus far, concentrating on those I find noteworthy. Most of it will be centered on Standard, though I will list Extended applications if I see fit. Without further ado:

Admonition Angel

Mythic Rare
Creature – Angel
Landfall – Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, you may exile target nonland permanent other than Admonition Angel.
When Admonition Angel leaves the battlefield, return all cards exiled with it to the battlefield under their owners’ control.

Admonition Angel is clearly very powerful, but that’s what we should expect if we are paying this much. He is better than some six-mana cards that saw play in the past, namely the Invasion block Dragons (Rith and Dromar), but those cards would see absolutely zero play nowadays. This card is basically fighting for a slot against Baneslayer Angel and Sphinx of Jwar Isle, and I think it loses to both.

I think the comparison to Sphinx is pretty easy – if you are playing Sphinx, you want a guy that doesn’t die, or you would be playing Baneslayer instead. Admonition Angel has nothing to offer in that regard – in fact the cards are so completely different that it seems unfair to compare them for this purpose. If you are playing Sphinx, you will keep playing Sphinx.

Baneslayer Angel is a closer comparison – both are cards that dominate the game on their own. The thing is, if both dominate on their own, why would I pay an extra W? As it is, Baneslayer Angel seems to me just a better card, because it dominates their board as well as their burn spells, it has impact much faster (you not only play it a turn earlier but it also gains life as soon as it blocks, whereas Admonition Angel will only start working the following turn), and because it doesn’t need extra lands – after all, if you already have six, it’s not unfeasible that you don’t have more. The only thing Admonition Angel has going for it is that it beats Baneslayer in a direct fight, but I would rather be better versus everything else.

In the end, I cannot see someone playing this Angel before they play four Baneslayers – that leaves us with the question as to whether someone would want a fifth or sixth guy of this kind. Maybe the GW decks do – those with Lotus Cobra, Hierarch and Knights of the Reliquary, for whom getting to six lands (well, seven really) is not that problematic. I think it will see play as a one-two of in those kind of decks (if they exist by then), but I don’t think it will see much play anywhere else.

Kor Firewalker

Creature – Kor Soldier
Protection from red
Whenever a player casts a red spell, you may gain 1 life.

This is my favorite cards spoiled thus far, and might have a lot of impact. If the Red players thought they had it hard with Burrenton Forge Tender… this guy is ten times better.

The obvious comparison is whether this is better than Silver Knight, and I think the answer is that it depends. Our Extended Boros deck in 2006 ran 4 Silver Knights main, and it would probably have ran more if it could (in fact, we had Tivadar in our sideboards), but that was because Silver Knight was bigger than the format – creatures were all two toughness, and that made Silver Knight a creature they wanted to kill but couldn’t. I don’t think we would have played 4 Kor Firewalkers in that format – that was a format defined by creatures. Nowadays, though, Silver Knight would not have seen much play in Extended maindecks – not counting the fact that it’s easier to kill (Path), creatures are now so big that Silver Knight would be a guy that is hard to kill, but that no one wants to kill anyway! That would delegate Silver Knight to a specific card against Red, and once we are on that realm, then Kor Firewalker is much better.

What I think is that this compares favorably against Red and unfavorably against everything else, but if you are running this kind of card nowadays, then it’s Red that you want to beat, so this card gets the nod. Sure enough, First Strike is more powerful against giant trampling monsters, such as Ball Lightning with Teetering Peeks, but when you start factoring in the smaller ones, such as Spark Elementals, they are both the same, and the burn spells push this over the top. Main pluses on this guy:

1) This guy triggers off your own Red spells. You will generally not be playing Red yourself if you play this guy, but if you happen to, this is a good plus. After all, three more life in the Red mirror is three more life.

2) This guy doesn’t have to stay on defense to work. With all the previous Red hosers of this kind, the creature had to wait on defense if you wanted his ability to be useful (well, I guess you could sacrifice a tapped Forge Tender, but only once), and this guy will keep working even if you want to attack. Basically he attacks them in a way that they cannot do anything about – if you have enough time they will die – and at the same time he helps give you that time.

3) This guy is sick in multiples. If you get two of those in play, what can they possibly hope to do?

If we look at today’s Standard, this card is somewhat maindeckable. It is good versus Jund (it only dies to Maelstrom Pulse and Master of the Wild Hunt if they play it, as well as a blocking Putrid Leech), it is good versus Grixis, it is not terrible versus UWR since it doesn’t die to Earthquake (though he’s not exactly awesome here), he is decent versus Boros, and he is really good versus Mono Red and the Barely Boros deck. The only question seems to be where you are going to play him. From the number of decks he is good to decent against, it doesn’t look absurd to maindeck him, but at the same time I don’t really see a deck that would do that other than those WW decks, and I think those are really bad (and this card is not going to make them good enough). The UWR deck could play this if necessary, since it helps the Icy/Wrath combo of Wall/Earthquake by complimenting the Walls against certain decks, but that deck already has a good match versus Jund, so I don’t think it would want to maindeck that. Maybe Boros itself?

In short, this is a really interesting card. It’s probably the best Red hoser after Circle of Protection: Red and Chill, but it’s less specific than both of those, and certainly more maindeckable. I really like this card, and I think it will see some play, even if I cannot point out exactly where or when; this is not the kind of card that was made for a block or for a season, but the kind of card that was made for Magic in general.

Jace, the Mind Sculptor

Mythic Rare
Planeswalker – Jace
[+2]: Look at the top card of target player’s library. You may put that card on the bottom of that player’s library.
[0]: Draw three cards, then put two cards from your hand on top of your library in any order.
[-1]: Return target creature to its owner’s hand.
[-12]: Exile all cards from target player’s library, then that player shuffles his or her hand into his or her library.

This is definitely the most powerful card spoiled thus far, and probably the best card in the set.

Planeswalkers are fundamentally very hard to judge, because they are very unique cards and there is almost no precedent to relate them to. If someone releases a new counterspell, we can look at existing counterspells and figure out if it can see play or not based on whether those cards see play and why. When they release a new Planeswalker, what do we do? It is not really similar to the other Planeswalkers. It’s not even similar to the other Jace. This card, though, is so clearly powerful that we don’t really need to draw a parallel with anything.

First of all, it’s easy to see that this guy has some defensive capabilities. He will not make blockers like Garruk or Elspeth, but he can either move himself to 5 Loyalty, which might as well be too big a number to deal with on turn 4 (while also making sure they do not topdeck something to kill him), and he can bounce a creature. If you manage to untap with him, which is not that hard for the reasons above, then he will completely dominate the game. By gaining 2 a turn you can get him out of reach of direct damage spells, by bouncing a guy you can get him out of reach of creatures, and if that is not enough you can look at three different cards to try to find an answer. This scenario, for example, should not be that rare:

For the first few turns of the game, you trade your resources. That is not very hard, since removal nowadays is pretty cheap. Then, on turn 4, they play a creature (or their turn 3). You then play Jace and bounce it. Then they have to spend their next turn playing it again. You untap and, for no extra mana, bounce that creature again, and now the board is your Jace to their nothing, and you have all your mana untapped! You now have parity everywhere, except that Jace is in play, and every turn he is play offers you at least one extra card, likely more because of Fetchlands. If you feel like, you can always use his first ability, and then you can bounce creatures for two turns in a row. Since you are drawing so many extra cards, it’s not unlikely you drew an extra Jace, so you can also use the last counter to bounce another creature and replay a new one, now with five counters. Things get even better when you start factoring in plays such as turn 3 Wall of Denial.

His ultimate is the trickiest part to evaluate – I can see it winning games, but most of the games it wins would be won anyway. Either they are never drawing a relevant card again and you keep using his first ability, and at some point you ultimate them and put the nail in the coffin, but not that you needed to since they are never drawing a relevant card again and you have a Jace with 10 counters; or you could have spent those 5 turns Brainstorming, and how do you lose after you Brainstorm for free for five turns? Still, I’m not going to complain it is there – it might as well kill someone for all I care, it’s just that, even without the ultimate, the card would still be good.

It’s interesting to note that if you have just Brainstormed the previous turn (so you know the top card) and you are not in a big hurry to find anything, then using the +2 ability on yourself and THEN next turn a new Brainstorm offers you the same net gain as double Brainstorming, except you gain 2 counters on him. In the first example, you ditch card A, then next turn draw card B and Brainstorm into CDE, putting say DE back. In the second occasion, you brainstorm into ABC, putting BC back, then draw card B and brainstorm into CDE, putting DE back – effectively the same, except card A (which you know, because you’ve already Brainstormed) is in the graveyard and not in your hand, effectively trading it for two Jace counters.

Some people I’ve talked to were skeptical that it would be this powerful, because of arguments such as “Bloodbraid into Blightning,” but then again, what card does NOT lose to Bloodbraid into something? With Jace, at least you can always use one ability before he dies, and if he doesn’t die then you have a monster – seems totally worth it. I think this card will see a lot of play in Standard, and everyone knows I don’t like anything, so it’s probably really good.

Mysteries of the Deep

Draw two cards.
Landfall – If you had a land enter the battlefield under your control this turn, draw three cards instead.

I don’t know about this card – it is clearly below the power level we are used to, but then so were Cancel and Broken Ambitions – how desperate are we for card drawing? My instincts tell me that this card is not good enough. It could be argued that Counterspells became weak because there is no instant card drawing and nothing to do with your mana if you don’t use it to counter something, but that’s only part of the problem. The other part is that the counterspells are also much worse, and the early creatures are better, and cascade trumps counterspells, etc. Control decks of today tap out a lot of the time, since there is nothing like Armageddon that will flat out beat you if it resolves from an aggro deck, so if they want to resolve something they will get opportunities to do so, regardless of your card drawing being instant or not. That, coupled with the fact that for this to be decent you need to have played a land, and for it to be good instant speed you need a fetchland, makes me think this won’t see much play. If you are empty handed and draw Mind Spring, you are back in the game. If you are empty handed and draw this, well…

Kalastria Highborn

Creature – Vampire Shaman
Whenever Kalastria Highborn or another Vampire you control is put into a graveyard from the battlefield, you may pay B. If you do, target player loses 2 life and you gain 2 life.

This card is pretty interesting. It will probably replace Vampire Hexmage in Vampire builds, or perhaps something else, if Jace really becomes as important as I think he will. Not a very broken card or anything, just solid. He’s a good combo with Bloodghast that will probably see play, since a four-point life swing is a lot.

Quest for the Nihil Stone

Whenever an opponent discards a card, you may put a quest counter on Quest for the Nihil Stone.
At the beginning of each opponent’s upkeep, if that player has no cards in hand and Quest for the Nihil Stone has two or more quest counters on it, you may have that player lose 5 life.

I know a lot of people will try to build decks with this card, and I also know that they will all fail. No, really – as you are reading this, there is probably a high chance you are thinking “I will prove him wrong, just wait for the card to be released.” Don’t say I didn’t warn you. This card is pretty unplayable on all levels – it is just a much, much worse version of The Rack. Sure, it only costs B and it’s easy to flip, but it’s also very easy to dodge. All they have to do is hold one card in hand and you need to have another discard spell ready. And, regardless of how easy it is to flip, it is a very bad topdeck. Imagine you draw this when your opponent has no cards in hand – not unreasonable since you are playing discard – then you will just NEVER get to flip it… ever!

Chain Reaction

Chain Reaction deals X damage to each creature, where X is the number of creatures on the battlefield.

This card is pretty elegant, and it makes me wonder why it wasn’t made before. At the same time, it is much worse than Earthquake, which you can control, and use to kill Planeswalkers. About the only deck this is better than Earthquake against is Vampires, because they all fly, and right now they are not a big enough part of the metagame for this to see any play.

Dragonmaster Outcast

Mythic Rare
Creature – Human Shaman
At the beginning of your upkeep, if you control six or more lands, put a 5/5 red Dragon creature token with flying onto the battlefield.

This is another overhyped card. It doesn’t do anything until you untap with SIX lands in play… that’s one more than the already subpar Scute Mob. Sure, the effect is a lot better than Scute Mob, but six is a lot more than five, and chances are they are both dying anyway. If this stays in play, it might as well win you the game by itself, but in today’s Standard it is never going to stay in play.

Harabaz Druid

Creature – Human Druid Ally
T: Add X mana of any one color to your mana pool where X is the number of Allies you control.

This is another card that people will try to play, and they will most likely not succeed (unless they print A LOT of good Constructed allies in those new sets). The thing with allies is that they are all just bad! You need A LOT of them in play for them to do something, and overextending has never been an awesome strategy. I believe that if an Ally deck emerges, it will be something aggressive with an Ally subtheme that has no use for a 0/1 and no use for any kind of colored mana – something like curving an Ally one-drop into Blademaster into a three-mana Ally, with creatures that are not bad by themselves but get better in multiples.

Joraga Warcaller

Creature – Elf Warrior
Multikicker 1G
Joraga Warcaller enters the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter on it for each time it was kicked.
Other Elf creatures you control get +1/+1 for each +1/+1 counter on Joraga Warcaller.

This card is very interesting, and seems to be “just what the doctor ordered.” I am not sure an Elf deck has the tools to compete right now, but if it does, this will probably see play. The thing with Elves decks is that sometimes you just have infinite mana (especially now with Archdruid) and nothing to do with it, and this gives you something to do with it without being clogged in your hand if you happen not to have infinite mana. Just a very elegant design.

Omnath, Locus of Mana

Mythic Rare
Legendary Creature – Elemental
Green mana doesn’t empty from your mana pool as phases and steps end.
Omnath, Locus of Mana gets +1/+1 for each green mana in your mana pool.

I have no idea what to think of this card. It has a very powerful effect if left unchecked. Imagine the game where you go Forest, Forest, Forest this guy, Forest, Forest, Tooth and Nail – by himself, he ramped you from five mana to nine! (And not to mention attacking for 15 in the meantime). He will end the game in three attacks if unopposed, and in two if you have six Green-producing lands out, so he does have good benefits. One big problem with accelerators is that you might end up with too many of them and nothing to accelerate into, but that doesn’t happen with this guy, since he is both accelerator and mana sink – if you have a lot of mana and nothing to use it with, simply don’t use it and let this guy grow infinitely. it’s also interesting that they cannot respond to it – if they let you untap with it, for example, it is not dying to Lightning Bolt unless you want to take that risk.

At the same time, if your opponent has, say, a Terminate in hand, you are going to lose two or three turns, since all he has to do is Terminate it in a moment where you can’t play a Sorcery and all your mana will simply vanish. Of course, you also need a lot of your lands to add Green if that is to work. In today’s formats, I think if a creature is really important then it is probably not going to survive, and I think this just eats too much time and resources when it does die, so my instinct says that this won’t be played much. However, this is not a card I am sure of – it is powerful and it might see play.

Lodestone Golem

Artifact Creature – Golem
Nonartifact spells cost 1 more to cast.

Ah, this guy. I understand that he might see some play in Vintage because of Workshop and whatever, but since I don’t play those formats, I don’t know about that. Instead, let’s see what we can do with him in Standard:

That’s right… we can’t do anything! There was a time in which this guy would have been a big body with an ability, but nowadays his body is kind of laughable – no one in their right mind plays 5/3 for 4. At those stats, he trades with Lightning Bolt, Bloodbraid Elf, Putrid Leech, Sprouting Thrinax, etc, etc. Artifacts aren’t played, so his ability is pretty much symmetrical. He might be good in two situations: one, if you curve creature into creature into him, and then they have the likes of Day of Judgment and Earthquake and can’t play those for a turn, translating into a lot more damage. The problem with this is that, as I’ve stated, nowadays removal is so cheap and abundant and this guy just dies to every single spell of this type. The second situation is when he makes your opponent’s removal slightly more expensive so that they cannot play anything else – if they have R left at the end of your turn, for example, then they cannot Bolt it, and if they have to spend the next turn paying 1R for a Bolt then they might not be able to play anything else, effectively negating both player’s turns and making up for the fact that he costs less than what removes him, which is good if you have superior aggressive board position. He also has some applications against Cascade, but the Cascade decks are usually the ones who have the least problem removing him. Don’t get me wrong, he is a powerful card, but I just cannot think of a deck that would play him right now that I would be happy playing.

I would also recommend against trying to build an Artifact deck. If you want to play this guy, play any random Aggro deck, my best bets being WW and WG. It probably has to fight for a slot with Emeria Angel, and it probably loses that fight (not that I am in love with Emeria Angel either), but you never know.

Raging Ravine

Raging Ravine enters the battlefield tapped.
T: Add R or G to your mana pool.
2RG: Until end of turn, Raging Ravine becomes a 3/3 red and green Elemental creature with “Whenever this creature attacks, put a +1/+1 counter on it.” It’s still a land.

These Lands are so cool! The nice thing about them is that, even if they require two different colors to activate, they make it easier for you to play those two colors – so they are in themselves an incentive for you to do it, while also providing you the means to do it. Right now the format is geared towards cheap, instant removal, Walls of Denial, and big guys, so they are not overly good; they are merely “fine.” They are also great at attacking Planeswalkers, especially the new Jace, since he cannot bounce them. It’s worth noting that you can activate this guy multiple times so he gets bigger bonuses when he attacks, so if you have nine mana you can get a 5/5.

These are all the noteworthy cards as of my last spoiler check. I think it is very important to evaluate all these cards in the context of today’s Standard – that is, creatures are powerful and removal is powerful and very cheap. If we don’t do that, some cards will appear to be more powerful than they are (Lodestone Golem, for example). Of the cards that were spoiled thus far, my favorite is Kor Firewalker, and the most powerful is Jace. I think Lodestone Golem will be the most overhyped card, and it might even be good in some decks, but not in as many as people will try to fit him. Quest for Nihil Stone gets the award for the worst card that people will definitely try to play. On a less competitive point of view, I really like how the cards in this set were designed – they are all pretty simple, but they make sense once you think of them. Basically, they are different enough to what we already have so it doesn’t become repetitive, and they achieve this without being overly complicated (and, in fact, they feel quite obvious, so that you can‘t help thinking why they don‘t exist yet), so thumbs up for the design team.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this, and see you next week!