Every time that a set comes out, the world of Magic takes a dramatic shift. The tools set that we all work with alters and the very value of every card in the game moves, if only slightly. Many of us, deckbuilders and fans and others, are sitting on the edge of our seat as Worldwake is unfolding on the various spoiler sites, at least if we’re among those who don’t care about the “spoiling of the surprise” nature of spoilers.
I’m always on the lookout for two major types of cards:
1 — Cards that can make something radically new happen (Oath of Druids comes to mind)
2 — Cards that can make old ideas realistic again (Elemental Appeal)
It’s not even so much whether cards are “good” or “bad”, but whether they are useful or not and whether they are powerful or not.
The following cards are ones spoiled thus far with some degree of certainty. There are either pictures or other very strong confirmation of their text. Further, these are the ones that I think are worthy of paying attention to because of how they fit some useful role. There are plenty of spoiled cards that have been confirmed thus far that I just don’t think are worthy of enough notice to really get into, and so this won’t be a comprehensive examination, but rather, hopefully, a substantive one.
Enough talk. Let’s get to it!
Creature — Kor Soldier
Protection from red
Whenever a player casts a red spell, you may gain 1 life.
Okay, this card is an absolute kick to the teeth (and worse). I’ve fought through Dragon’s Claws, even in multiples, like nobody’s business, but this card is just terrifying for Red. Unless they print, oh, I don’t know:
Well, this li’l Kor is going to be a real problem. Where Silver Knight was a powerhouse in many ways, it was always limited in its use, simply because the Knight would just always have to hold back. Against some decks, like Goblins, you’d practically need a third Knight to even begin to think about attacking. The Kor Firewalker actually might be able to get to it right from the get go against a Red deck, and certainly could start doing so after the second. Thankfully, Kor Firewalker doesn’t have First Strike, or else this card would see an ungodly amount of maindeck play. As it is, Red needs to find a solution to this card, or it is going to be relegated to the “pray I don’t see it” place.
Creature — Cat
Loam Lion gets +1/+2 as long as you control a Forest.
Another Kird Ape? Really?
I’m not going to enjoy the inclusion of this card into the mix. There are so many cards out there for a Zoo deck to dip into, and here is another one. At this point an Extended Zoo deck could easily be 90 or 100 cards if you played all of the reasonable card choices out there, so at least it will encourage more variety in deck construction, but personally I think that cards like this reduce the amount of cards that are viable in the game of Magic, and thus reduce diversity, overall.
There are other cards that have been talked about by other writers, but thus far, only these two White cards actually seem noteworthy to me and have any reliability. If the card is real, Stoneforge Mystic will be worth thinking about if good enough Equipment is available.
I know this card is good. I know it is very good. What I’m trying to do, in my head, is measure the actual value of the card compared to other cards, given that it costs 2UU. If anyone has forgotten the interaction between Brainstorm and fetch lands, I’d just like to point out how, short term, the effect is practically Ancestral Recall. What I always consider with Planeswalkers is the thought of resilience. What can I do to keep a Jace alive when I drop it into play, and is that ability something I want to be doing? The plus ability, for example, seems a bit underwhelming to me. The ultimate ability seems absolutely incredible, but it seems very hard to actually achieve. Really, Jace strikes me as being a Brainstorm/Unsummon caster.
How long can I do that, and what is the value of that? Is “2UU, Brainstorm, prevent 3 damage” good enough to be able to comfortably cast it cold? Do you need to get the extra value of them using a card (like Bolt or Blightning or Hellspark Elemental or Maelstrom Pulse) for it to have been good enough at the mana cast?
I know the card is good, and I’m excited to make use of it. I just don’t know how good. Three mana is a lot less than four, and three loyalty is a lot less than four or five…
Creature — Merfolk Soldier
As long as you control a Plains, Sejiri Merfolk has first strike and lifelink.
The combination of first strike and lifelink is a potent one indeed, and the Sejiri Merfolk practically demands a targeted kill spell in the early game. Ramping from this into Merfolk Sovereign is impressive for Standard, and might give enough extra heft to Merfolk to have the archetype be playable, with a smidge more help. In Extended, Merfolk still needs a smidge more of a shove, but having another relevant two-drop Merfolk might make it finally happen. We’ll just have to see… In either case, the card is relevant, but it might just need a bit more help to finally coalesce.
Reveal cards from the top of your library until you reveal a nonland card, then put all cards revealed this way into your hand.
Now that’s what I’m talking about. This card has the “danger” of potentially being “wasted” on turn 2, particularly on the draw, but other than that, this is basically the exact Divination upgrade I’ve wanted. If you were to plug this card into Richard Feldman Brute Force Grixis, you’d have, essentially, the perfect card for what he’s looking for: a cheap card advantage tool that can be very damning. It does sometimes fail to find that land, it’s true, but two mana is just so much less mana than three (or four), it is just worth it. On the off chance that you do hit a major mana pocket, the decks that use this card are going to be happy about it, and you’re always guaranteed that spell, at least. Outside of Standard, in Seismic Assault decks, expect to see this card get some consideration.
Creature — Demon
You can’t win the game and your opponents can’t lose the game.
While I’m sure this card has awesome implications in multiplayer, I don’t expect I’ll really ever see that first hand. I’m more concerned about winning one-on-one matches, and this Demon explicitly tells me that I can’t win the game with him in play. “Oh, no.”
I don’t care if Baneslayer Angel has “protection from Abyssal Persecutor.” I expect to be able to kill a problematic critter when I’m playing Black. Black certainly has a ton of ways to take care of Buffy.
What I care about is the sheer immensity of the body attached to Persecutor. Facing off against a 6/6 flying trampler is not fun. When you get to the point that you need to off your own Persecutor, if you have to expend the effort to finish the job, so what? It’s not exactly a burden to decide to put more critter kill in your Black deck. Whether it is Gatekeeper or Tendrils or a sacrifice effect of some relevant type, Persecutor is likely to be fairly trivial to kill against any deck that isn’t running countermagic.
Simply put, this card is insane.
Creature — Vampire Rogue
Whenever Pulse Tracker attacks, each opponent loses 1 life.
In a vacuum, this card is essentially a Savannah Lion that struggles to attack into opposition (since it often can’t trade), but also can sneak in there in a valiant attempt to go for the kill. While largely straightforward, this card does help out the beatdown builds of the deck quite a bit.
Destroy target creature with converted mana cost 3 or less. It can’t be regenerated.
This card was always a classic when it came to killing critters. Its return brings the number of excellent Black tools against cheap, aggressive decks to a higher count. At this point, Black begins to ask the question, “Which of the many ways to kill a creature is the most appropriate for my needs?” While you can get the answer wrong, sometimes, there’s nothing wrong with a lot of good options.
Urge to Feed
Target creature gets —3/-3 until end of turn. You may tap any number of untapped Vampire creatures you control. If you do, put a +1/+1 counter on each of those Vampires.
Okay, aside from having images from Bram Stoker’s Dracula dancing in my head, this card strikes me as potentially awesome. The more midrange Vampire decks often get into the position of blocking, and this card can really do a lot of work in that count. Also, Bloodghast sits at home sometimes, and powering it up is a real value. I have images of Hexmage really getting worked up and causing some trick two-for-ones. It doesn’t require Vampires to be played, but the possibility for extra value seems worth getting involved with. Another great Black option.
Chain Reaction deals X damage to each creature, where X is the number of creatures on the battlefield.
This card is likely to see play in any number of Red/X control decks, where it will often function like a variable value Wrath of God variant. When you’re living the dream with a big monster facing down a small army of small creatures, this card is going to feel ridiculous. If you’re facing three critters that are unopposed, or if your opponent otherwise overextends (I’m talking to you, Ranger of Eos), you can punish them for going there, but you can’t expect to get this value from them very often. A lot can go wrong, here, to try to get the parts that can go so right. This card is going to be a bit marginal, but it will definitely see some play for a certain kind of midrange control deck.
Creature — Human Shaman
T: Cunning Sparkmage deals 1 damage to target creature or player.
I loved Vulshok Sorcerer. This card isn’t quite as potent as that card, if you ask me, but it is still great. While ostensibly just a Tim, a lot of people don’t realize the real power that comes out of haste. If your opponent spends the effort to get rid of the card, you’re generally in a position that you’ve achieved at least an even trade. On the other hand, if they ignore it, it is a relentless damage source with the possibility of really granting a lot of card advantage. Even when it is playing the assist role, it really makes a huge difference when you’re trying to get rid of bigger creatures, turning Lightning Bolts into Lightning Blasts and a kicked Burst Lightning into Beacon of Destruction. Even in the fight against tokens, it can turn around otherwise deeply difficult situations.
This card is real, and I only imagine it won’t see play if the metagame radically shifts.
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.
Kibler already went into this card in depth, but I will echo that I think this card has some real value in a Ranger of Eos deck, in small numbers. Otherwise, for many decks, I just don’t see value being squeezed out of this card if you’re â€˜playing fair’ with numerous copies of it in just some deck. (But it’s still really cool, though.)
Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs
Legendary Creature — Ogre Warrior
Whenever a creature under an opponent’s control attacks you, put a 3/3 red Ogre creature token onto the battlefield unless that creature’s controller pays 3.
This is one of those cards that I actually didn’t think was going to be confirmed by a photo, but it has been. I imagined it would have three toughness, or four power, or something.
I love this card. Dropping this card against an aggressive opponent is truly backbreaking. Four toughness really is a lot, and even if there are plenty of cards that can take Kazuul out, it really demands an answer from any aggressive deck that wants to continue to be aggressive. The five power makes this card a potent threat against any deck it has started attacking. Even if this thing is facing down a Baneslayer Angel, Kazuul can do a lot of work, often tying up three mana so that your opponent doesn’t just fall behind. This card is just generally a good one.
Creature — Dragon
1R: Mordant Dragon gets +1/+0 until end of turn.
Whenever Mordant Dragon deals combat damage to a player, you may have it deal that much damage to a creature that player controls.
A lot of people have pooh-poohed this card (“Oh, no, it has RRR!” and “Flameblast Dragon is tEh BeSt”), but I feel like they don’t understand just how amazing it is to trigger this card without having to spend mana. I’m certainly okay with the prohibitive color requirements. In a Big Red style deck, I’d much rather have this than Flameblast, usually; it’s great to be able to do substantive damage to creatures on the table and not have to pay mana to do it.
Creature — Goblin Zombie
Whenever Slavering Nulls deals combat damage to a player, if you control a Swamp, you may have that player discard a card.
Headhunter effects are just incredibly valuable. So many games can easily end on turn 2 if you play this card unopposed. A control deck absolutely needs to find an answer to this card nearly immediately, or things will go to hell. This card encourages you to step into Blightning, as well, furthering the pain.
Creature — Elf Druid
T: Untap target Forest
In most ways, this card plays out like another Llanowar Elves, though with the added bonus in Extended of potentially supplying extra colors. I don’t know about you, but I’ve always loved extra Llanowar Elves. There are ways that it is held back, of course, but ultimately, so long as you aren’t relying on lots of nonbasics, it is often, functionally, Llanowar. And that is awesome.
Avenger of Zendikar
Creature — Elemental
When Avenger of Zendikar enters the battlefield, put a 0/1 green Plant creature token onto the battlefield for each land you control.
Landfall — Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, you may put a +1/+1 counter on each Plant creature you control.
Many people, I’m sure, will be unable to sleep at night because of this card. Visions of Warp World will be dancing through their heads; I don’t know if any card has ever existed that so crazily pumped up a Warp World (though, of course, some just obnoxiously kill you). Aside from that card, though, Avenger of Zendikar actually seems like a great upper end for a Green-based ramp deck. Plopping a 5/5 into play with a huge number of chumps can be great on the defensive, and any surviving chumps can quickly get out of hand. This has a small home, I think, but a home nonetheless.
Creature — Elf Warrior
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 certainly kicks the ass of the other “multikicker” Elf that came to mind when I saw this card: Llanowar Sentinels. It also kicks the other multikicker creatures around too, in my opinion. All by itself, it serves as a potent drop at three mana, but can quickly become ridiculous. It’s easy to picture my Nissa’s Chosens turning into a crazy army at the drop of a hat, without the problems caused by Coat of Arms. This one is a real monster.
Creature — Beast
Vanilla as it is, this is not a creature I’d want to see on turn 2. Green could pack as many as 16 creatures to do just that. In a format like this, Leatherback Baloth is a reminder that you don’t have to be flashy to be effective.
Omnath, Locus of Mana
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 pool.
At first I didn’t think this card was all that hot until I realized how I could use it: float the mana into the pool (immune to Lightning Bolt responses) and just get in there, then cast any spell I want after combat. Of course, this can all go awry with a removal spell. When Omnath is killed, you probably were just blown out in an epic way. This is probably balanced out, though, by the ability to build up Omnath, if need be.
Creature — Elemental
When Wolfbriar Elemental enters the battlefield, put a 2/2 green Wolf creature token onto the battlefield for each time it was kicked.
This is a totally solid creature in its own right. One of the hallmarks of a useful creature in this regard is just whether, at a cheap price point, it is relevant. Wolfbriar Elemental totally fits the bill, with the additional draw of being able to have the potential to be ridiculous in the right moment. Definitely a card to watch.
Everflowing Chalice enters the battlefield with a charge counter on it for each time it was kicked.
T: Add 1 to your mana pool for each charge counter on Everflowing Chalice.
Wow. This card is simply fantastic.
People undervalue the power of a Stone. When this card was first spoiled, I thought that it might be the most important card in the set. I’m less sure now that more cards are out there, but there are still compelling reasons for this viewpoint. For any deck looking for a generic turn 2 accelerator, this fits the bill, but for the truly mana-hungry deck, Everflowing Chalice can give such huge returns, it is unreal. Expect to see this powering up cards like Martial Coup, or making Big Red a real possibility.
The Dual-Man Lands
Most of these have already been spoiled, so I’ll leave it to you to look them up on your own. All told, though, these cards deeply influence the format, pushing it into a heavier-mana space, allowing control decks to get away with fewer creatures, and making aggressive decks more resilient to anti-creature cards. Expect to see these cards see play, even if only as extra allied-color fixers with an occasional alternate use.
Halimar Depths enters the battlefield tapped.
T: Add U to your mana pool.
When Halimar Depths enters the battlefield, look at the top three cards of your library and put them back in any order.
I’ve always hated Sage Owl. (Sorry, Jamie). It’s a crappy Impulse that tricks people into thinking it is doing something of use. Sage Owl has only ever been good when a 1/1 flier is good — i.e., rarely.
That said, Halimar Depths is just incredible. Aside from letting you cheat on your mana counts, it can be potentially absurd with Treasure Hunt. Unless they make some card that really, really rewards you for playing Islands, expect to see this as a four-of in most Blue-based builds in the coming years of Standard.
T: Add 1 to your mana pool.
T, Sacrifice Quicksand: Target attacking creature without flying gets —1/-2 until end of turn.
Is this the Kor Firewalker answer? God, I hope not.
This kind of card has always been an incredible resource for the counter-heavy control decks of the past. Buehler Blue made extensive use of Quicksand to help establish control in the early game. Expect to see this be a staple if countering spells is any good.
T: Add 1 to your mana pool.
1, T, Sacrifice Tectonic Edge: Destroy target nonbasic land. Activate this ability only if an opponent control four or more lands.
Even as a “fixed” Wasteland, Tectonic Edge is an incredible way to punish the multicolor decks out there. While this card is not ridiculously powerful by any means, it is absolutely solid and is likely to make it into a number of single color decks.
Obviously, this list is far from exhausted. As I write this, over thirty cards remain unspoiled. Numerous cards that I would have otherwise made comment on simply didn’t have enough confirmation for me to comfortably comment on yet (I’m talking to you, Dispel). As it stands, though, these cards represent the ones that I’m most paying attention to.
Red and Green strike me as getting the most numerical help, so far. This measure, however, doesn’t speak to the clear power of some of the cards, even if there are few cards of that color that seem noteworthy to me. Treasure Hunt and Kor Firewalker are real game changers.
Overall, I’m incredibly excited about the new set. I know that I won’t be able to make a Prerelease, but I’ll definitely be there in spirit. I welcome your opinions in the forums about any of the cards I’ve talked about.
Until next time…
In the forums of last week’s article, one reader asked for the logical conclusion of my discussion on discourse: wrap up the example of Path to Exile, and the argument that Brian Kowal and I had about the relative merits of the card.
I have to say, this is a great idea.
When Path to Exile was printed, I was very firmly in the camp of “this card sucks”. Now, this would be couched in the caveat that I was fond of giving: “of course, I’ve played a lot of cards that sucked, if they were the right sucky card for the job.” One of my favorite articles that I’ve written was partly about this (“The Big Lie of â€˜Good’ Cards”), and in it I make arguments for “bad” cards having their place, depending on your needs, how they interact with your deck or the meta, and other factors.
Brian’s standpoint was the pretty standard pro-Path talking points: it was very cheap, could take care of nearly any creature, and had the versatility to act as mana acceleration if need be. It was his belief in Path that largely fueled his success with Boat Brew, a deck that could fight more fights than you would have believed, often because of the power of Path.
My biggest problems with Path came from two major places. First, in numerous economies of the game, it makes you a loser; you are absolutely giving your opponent card advantage. You are also absolutely accelerating your opponent into more mana to play their threats out faster. As a result of this, you often end up having Path have an invisible cost that is measurable, such that it plays out more like a card that says “W2, Path something, gain 2 mana”.
What I wasn’t counting on is a point that Brian was very right to make: often there really aren’t many cards that you actually care about answering that you need to have such a heavy hammer for. As it is, then, even if you are losing card advantage, it is absolutely worth it if you are getting the effect you want when you want it (which is so possible because of the marginal cost). His example was Mistbind Clique; you didn’t want this card to do its work. Unless you were with Black, taking down a Clique would usually require two cards anyway, so you were about where you would have been, in a card advantage sense. On the other hand, with Path you’d spend so little mana that you’d still have most of your turn left once you got to your main phase, while most other solutions would largely force your mana down enough that a Clique would get enough of an effect to satisfy the Faerie player. You’re not planning on throwing a Path at any old thing, but only at the things where it might really matter (particularly important when you’re dealing with a card with Persist).
This point of view was very enlightening to me, and definitely took the card out of the “bad” camp, into the “fine” camp. Why “fine” and not “great” (or even “good”)? Well, it is because those limitations to the card really are a real thing.
I’ve been playing a lot of Red lately in Standard, as I’m sure some of you might have guessed. Clearly, the best turn 1 play I can muster is Goblin Guide. If I drop this guy, there are two plays I really want to see from my opponent on the first turn: they do nothing, or the Path to Exile it. That jump in mana without losing a card is just so valuable, it’s usually well worth it for me to have lost my Guide to get it. Whatever the play is that follows it up, as long as I have some reasonable amount of spells, I can be capable of throwing down so much damage so quickly that the Path did nothing but push me closer to killing my opponent. I’ve had turn 1 Path the Guide turn into turn 3 take 13-16 more than a few times.
Obviously, you don’t want to just sit there and take a Goblin Guide again and again. You want to kill it. But if you kill it with a Bolt or Disfigure, the cost in taking it out isn’t devastating.
Contrast this to Pathing a Baneslayer Angel. In this moment, you’re taking down a hugely powerful card at a super efficient cost. Even if you’re officially losing the card, the drop of card quality for your opponent is so significant that it usually won’t hurt you too much to give them the sixth (or more) land. Even in the Goblin Guide example, losing the Guide can be terrible if you don’t have anything left after they pop it.
This is the big lesson I learned from the argument over Path with BK. I had been deeply undervaluing the way that targeted use of the card could reap enough value for it to be worth it. I was overvaluing the theoretical implications of the card and forgetting that in the contingent reality of a game of Magic, sometimes you don’t really have much going on, and a Path can usually take out whatever card you had planned to try to get something going with. Further, with the minimal time (mana) it takes to deploy, you’ll often be able to keep on keepin’ on with other abilities in the same turn.
But, instead, of course, I could have just not listened to Brian, continued misperceiving the value of the card, and perpetuated in making decks that were potentially not as well conceived as they could have been…
Once again, until next time.