Sullivan Library – Episode Four: (Some) New Hope(s)

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Thursday, July 10th – As the new set approaches, everyone is looking for the cards that’ll make a splash in Constructed formats. The biggest question being asked is this: is there anything in Eventide that can bring down the Block Constructed Faerie behemoth? Adrian takes a look at the spoiled cards thus far in search of anti-Fae technology… Warning: Contains Spoilers.

Warning: There be spoilers here…

If you’re like me, you look at the recent trilogy of Star Wars movies as a travesty. They want to be fun, but to me they really weren’t. And it isn’t just the awfulness of Jar Jar; it’s far more pervasive than that. The elements are off in just the right kind of ways to make it boring at best, and excruciating at worst. Even some of the things that many people really, really loved in the newest installments — Yoda flipping about with a light saber, for example — actually paled in value once any amount of thought was directed at it (I have to thank Ed Fear, here, for his amazing evisceration of the lowest-common-denominator choice to have Yoda “kick ass”).

If you’re torturing yourself through those “first” three movies, Episodes One through Three, you can really see the progression. The first installment is kinda weak, but even though it is disappointing all by itself, you have hope that it can improve. The second, oh man, what a colossal mistake, with a kernel at its center (the stilted romance) that just completely spoils the rest of the movie. The third brings a teeniest bit of hope, but it’s still stuck under the shadow of what made things so bad in that second movie. All we can do is move on to the fourth, and hope that our version of it is a return to the glory days, and that those bits of foolishness that found themselves in One through Three aren’t going to get slathered all over Four, which ought to bring us to some kind of good experience again, even with its few flaws. We want this to be classic, we want Han to shoot first. We don’t want some new-fangled vision where Han returns fire. No! We want Han to shoot first, damnit! (Yoda has no legs! Etc.)

Really, this Star Wars conversation seems to me to be a direct mirror of the Block format. We all lie in wait, hoping that R&D won’t have put the garbage that marred the first three sets as a standalone block into this fourth release. We hope that we can finally break free from Bitterblossom-land… As I wrote last week, this format is one that is completely dominated by Faeries, and it really isn’t getting any better. The heavily under-attended Detroit PTQ marks the first result I’ve seen in some time that wasn’t half Faeries.

And so the question really is, to me, in Eventide, will we be seeing Han shoot first?

Here are our New Hopes. I think that these are the cards that might make some kind of difference in the Block format, such that Bitterblossom’s awful weight on the format will be less oppressive. Perhaps what we need is just some kind of figure that can rise up and become a Jedi, saving us from the Dark Side of Faeries… In many ways, I actually do have some hope for the format. Thankfully, there will be at least a few weeks where we’ll be able to find out what matters…

The following cards are all of the spoiled cards available to me as of deadline time. Thanks to MTGSalvation.com for keeping me glued to your page night after night, hungry for more information. These cards are ones that might be able to help dethrone Faeries, or at least bring down to the realm of mere mortals. Let’s go!

Archon of Justice
Creature — Archon
When Archon of Justice is put into a graveyard from play, remove target permanent from the game.

Archon of Justice is a potent card. Even back in the Flametongue Kavu days, this would have been excellent, taking out the monstrous FTK as it died. While clearly held back by its cost versus a deck that could be packing combinations of counters and Thoughtseize, it is well worth remembering that this card quickly becomes a card that your opponent will not want to kill, if only because it will take out their precious Bitterblossom (along with whatever resources were expended to kill this puppy in the first place). In so many scenarios, it is easy to see this card trading for numerous cards. You attack into their Blossom tokens, and they drop Scion, double-block to kill your Archon, and then lose their Scion. Seems just fine to me. The real thing to think about is managing to get it on the table. That’s the only sticking point. That said, it seems as though people have managed to resolve five-drops in this format before.

Endless Horizons
When Endless Horizons comes into play, search your library for any number of Plains cards and remove them from the game. Then shuffle your library.
At the beginning of your upkeep, you may put a card you own removed from the game with Endless Horizons into your hand.

This card shares a lot in common with Bitterblossom. The turn after it is on the table, it can start giving you card advantage and tempo advantage. Or at least “virtual” tempo advantage, as it mitigates any lack of mana you may have and actually allows you to cast any of the spells that you are incredibly more likely to draw. This represents a kind of Super Mana Severance. Interestingly, I can easily see this being a card that could fit into a large number of archetypes, because of the roles it can play as Card Advantage/Mana Advantage engine, Retrace fuel, or simply Mana Severance.

Creature – Elemental
When Flickerwisp comes into play, remove another target permanent from the game. Return that card to play under its owner’s control at the end of turn.

This card seems like a very interesting tool for an Elemental deck, resetting Mulldrifter/Wispmare and friends, providing a potentially monstrous attacker, and just potentially knocking something out of the game long enough to change the world. This doesn’t necessarily directly attack Faeries so much as potentially strengthen the Elemental archetype. Good stuff.

Hallowed Burial
Put all creatures on the bottom of their owners’ libraries.

A truly playable Wrath of God effect. Firespout is fine, but it has some massive limitations, most specifically in the ways that people are planning on playing around the card. Further, with Mannequin, the graveyard isn’t necessarily a fantastic place to put those Mulldrifters and friends. Again, this just powers up the pure control archetype, rather than directly answering Faeries, though it must be said that an untargeted method of clearing the table and getting rid of Scion has to be at least potentially useful.

Dream Fracture
Instant Uncommon
Counter target spell. Its controller draws a card.
Draw a card.

This card can both work for and against Faeries, in that Faeries can also potentially play this card. Expect this to be a potent weapon in helping Merfolk fight against Faeries more successfully.

Ashling the Extinguisher
Legendary Creature – Elemental Shaman
Whenever Ashling the Extinguisher deals combat damage to a player, choose target creature that player controls. He or she sacrifices that creature.

This Ashling represents that special class of cards that are both reasonable against Faeries, as well as something that can be of use against other opponents. Without trample or evasion, this card is likely to be simply a weak Abyss a lot of the time. The thing is, that’s actually a very reasonable effect to throw at Faeries or Kithkin. Losing him to a Sower of Temptation seems particularly awful, but this has the strength that it becomes all the more potent once you remember it can be coupled with other removal. With that in mind, how many men do they want to hold back to keep your fancy Throat Slitter at bay?

Nightmare Incursion
Search target player’s library for up to X cards, where X is the number of Swamps you control, and remove them from the game. Then that player shuffles his or her library.

If we imagine this card resolving against Faeries, the question is, what will it matter?

Unfortunately, you’ll have to already have the board relatively stable, but one of the things that becomes easy to picture is this scenario: after the board stabilizes, relatively speaking, removing six to eight cards that could muck stuff up. Cryptic Command and Mistbind Clique seem like easy removes against a deck that probably will want to be casting large, expensive sorceries.

Raven’s Crime
Target player discards a card.
Retrace (You may play this card from your graveyard by discarding a land card in addition to paying its other costs.)

Wow. In a deck that doesn’t have much need for mana beyond a certain point in the curve, you can start turning any of that flood into ripping away the Faerie player’s hand, Disrupting Scepter style (sans awful initial investment and upkeep). This will be a potentially potent weapon in the various Pinnegar-Rock style strategies.

Soul Snuffers
Creature – Elemental Shaman
When Soul Snuffers comes into play, put a -1/-1 counter on each creature.

Remember that question of stabilizing the table versus Faeries? Soul Snuffers seems like a great way to do it, with the additional bit of incidental hate smacking around Kithkin. It also isn’t completely terrible against many of the other decks, successfully able to weaken a big man to some potentially useful degree, or wiping out some mana-men. The body sticking around afterwards is kinda tepid, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t potentially impact the game, especially when combined with Mannequins and the like.

Chaotic Backlash
Chaotic Backlash deals damage to target player equal to twice the number of white and/or blue permanents he or she controls.

This is a card that might seem strange to include in a list of cards that emerge as valuable because of the need to deal with a Faerie world. Why do I have it here? Largely for one reason: the metagame at large. It can often be fairly easy to craft a deck, say a Red deck, that is completely solid against Faeries, or maybe even good, but falls apart in the face of a Kithkin deck. Chaotic Backlash nixes this problem, and with a vengeance. Have your solid Red deck, then have some backbreaking sideboard cards for a problematic second deck. Remember, if merely a Cloudgoat Ranger and friends are on the table, this is an instant means to deal eight damage for five mana. It’s all too easy to picture drawing two of these, waiting for the five permanents, and then just cast, untap, kill…

Heartlash Cinder
Creature – Elemental Warrior
Chroma – When Heartlash Cinder comes into play, it gets +X/+0 until end of turn, where X is the number of red mana symbols in the mana costs of permanents you control.

Even if he attacks to his death, it seems incredibly likely that this guy could easily be a two mana spell taking out a Faerie token and adding in another three to four damage. In the right kind of aggressive deck, this seems like another card really worth considering.

Puncture Blast
Puncture Blast deals 3 damage to target creature or player.

Where Cinder Pyromancer seemed tooled to attacking both Faeries and Kithkin, Puncture Blast seems tooled to dealing with both Faeries and Green-based decks. For a Red player, having yet more burn that can be aimed right at someone’s face is always a good thing. Especially with how Bitterblossom can just chug away at someone’s life, you can often overwhelm a player with damage, if you have the appropriate threshold of burn to get there. This helps this goal immensely. Further, though, Puncture Blast represents a single-card answer to all kinds of problematic things that another deck could throw at you. Smashing a Kitchen Finks to the grave is always nice, but perhaps more important is turning a Chameleon Colossus (always a likely sight from a Greenish deck in this format) into an impotent little doubler. Nice.

Creature – Elemental
Thunderblust has trample as long as it has a -1/-1 counter on it.
Persist (When this creature is put into a graveyard from play, if it had no -1/-1 counters on it, return it to play under its owner’s control with a -1/-1 counter on it.)

Again, like the White Archon, we have a five-drop that could be incredibly potent. Getting it on the table is the big question mark, of course. Once you get beyond that point, though, you have a massively huge monster that demands that it be answered or chumped forever. Killing it gives you an everlasting Ball Lightning, again a creature that can be easily chumped, but that extra damage to the dome is often too much for a Bitterblossoming deck to contend with.

Bloom Tender
Creature – Elf Druid
{T}: For each color among permanents you control, add one mana of that color to your mana pool.

Yet another solid Elf mana-source, this helps further empower an archetype into being more competitive with Faeries. Most people I’ve talked to recognize the threat that mana-ramping can represent to a Faerie deck, and Bloom Tender is yet another good entry in this category. The fact that it can accelerate the ramping so easily (with various Wilt-Leaf, or Horde, for example) is very important.

Nettle Sentinel
Creature – Elf Warrior
Nettle Sentinel doesn’t untap during its controller’s untap step.
Whenever you play a green spell, you may untap Nettle Sentinel.

Sometimes, just a solid creature early is enough to put Block Faeries on its heels. Nettle Sentinel is a fairly good card to fill that slot. Dropping this on turn 1 and following it up with any kind of curve can be incredibly problematic.

Creature – Elemental
Chroma- Primalcrux’s power and toughness are each equal to the number of green mana symbols in the mana costs of permanents you control.

This is a harder to cast Spectral Force level trampler. The only real problem with this card is that it is competing with cards like Oversoul of Dusk for play. Fortunately for Primalcrux, it can represent a ludicrously large amount of potential trample damage. Trample is always an important thing to consider when dealing with Bitterblossom. This card might not have been that worth for consideration if it were not for how incredibly easy it is to pump this guy up to epic proportions. Even with just a single Wilt-Leaf Liege, you’re talking about a 10/10 trampler, but I bet it will probably be even bigger than that. It is worth noting how much you’ll have to beware Mirrorweave with a card like this. 54 damage from a Spectral Procession plus Mirrorweave is a quite a lot.

Creature – Elemental Spirit
Evershrike gets +2/+2 for each Aura attached to it.
{X}{wb}{wb}: Return Evershrike from your graveyard to play. You may put an Aura card with converted mana cost X or less from your hand into play attached to it. If you don’t, remove Evershrike from the game.

In many ways, this card is a lot like Retrace in that it can be fueled from the grave. These recastable cards are very important in potential attrition games like playing against Faeries. Note that returning it to play is not casting it, so it completely dodges a lot. I expect that some of the God enchantments will be likely to make it into a competitive deck.

Remove target creature from the game.

Wow, is this card good. First of all, it gives Kithkin a reasonable answer to a Scion or Clique coming to town and ruining all kinds of Kithkin’s fun. But, beyond that, it can easily see play in Black-based controlling decks of any kind, or Black-aggro (like Rogues), or some new Orzhov style deck. Expect to see a lot less Crib Swaps soon.

Deity of Scars
Creature – Spirit Avatar
Deity of Scars comes into play with two -1/-1 counters on it.
{bg}, Remove a -1/-1 counter from Deity of Scars: Regenerate Deity of Scars.

Deity of Scars has that wonderful trample ability that we’ve already talked about being so important. But even more important is its near invulnerability versus Faeries. Two big to be inverted, Green (and thus immune to the new Sorcery Terror, Soul Reap), Black (and thus immune to Shriekmaw), and able to remove counters (thus resistant to Incremental Blight), this guy is a true monster. As long as it can control Sowers, expect this guy to be a player.

Figure of Destiny
Creature – Kithkin
{rw}: Figure of Destiny becomes a 2/2 Kithkin Spirit.
{rw}{rw}{rw}: If Figure of Destiny is a Spirit, it becomes a 4/4 Kithkin Spirit Warrior.
{rw}{rw}{rw}{rw}{rw}{rw}: If Figure of Destiny is a Warrior, it becomes an 8/8 Kithkin Spirit Warrior Avatar with flying and first strike.

I think that this guy is Luke Skywalker. If we simply compare him to Pouncing Jaguar, he more than measures up. All one really has to do is imagine a Kithkin deck or a Red deck (beatdown or control) dropping this guy on turn 1. Beating on turn 2 for two, and turn 3 for four versus a turn 2 Bitterblossom will have your opponent at 13 before you’ve even played a second spell. Wow, wow, wow. This might be my Card of the Set.

Rise of the Hobgoblins
When Rise of the Hobgoblins comes into play, you may pay {X}. If you do, put X 1/1 red and white Goblin Soldier tokens into play.
{rw}: red and/or white creatures you control gain first strike until end of turn.

For the cheap, cheap cost of two mana, you can play this card, threatening to dodge any counters that Faeries might have. Then, for the bonus of your X comes-into-play cost, you can create a small army of lots and lots of men. That this is both White or Red means that you can expect to see White Weenie-style decks and Red aggro and Red Control decks being able to pack a card that can threaten to swarm the table or pull a counter out of an opponent’s hand as a test spell before the real threat. Totally awesome.

Creature – Elemental
Whenever Spitemare is dealt damage, Spitemare deals that much damage to target creature or player.

This guy is kind of innocuous at first. Then, as you begin to think about what a pain it is to continuously chump block her, and still suck up some degree of damage, you begin to see just how harsh this card can be. It’s application against non-Faerie decks holds the same problems. Overall, this is a card that seems very reasonable to put out there.

Cold-Eyed Selkie
Creature – Merfolk Rogue
Whenever Cold-Eyed Selkie deals combat damage to a player, you may draw that many cards.

Finally, we have Cold-Eyed Selkie. This card might be completely innocuous, but for the fact that Reejerey can suddenly turn the guy into a 2/2 and he already has Islandwalk. Look for him to definitely make a splash, even in non-Merfolk decks. A Green deck could easily sideboard this deck against Merfolk, for example, and use pump effects to get more out of it.

Overall, I’m really hopeful that the world will be changing with this new set. There are a lot of weapons that not only can be used against a Faerie deck, but also merely to power up other decks just in general. If this is escalation, I guess I’m in tacit support of it, if only because I see no other solution other than brute-forcing a banning.

As the spoiler was first released, I was pretty sure that I’d be playing Luke Skywalker (the Figure of Destiny) in coming events, but the more that I see, the more I can imagine playing something else entirely, because it does look like there is going to be a lot of raw material to work with here.

And, personally, I find that very exciting.


Adrian Sullivan