New sets are always among my favorite times in the game of Magic. It’s always so exciting to contemplate new ways to use Magic cards, whether it be new applications for old cards or simply focusing on the absurdities of new cards (Emrakul, for example, is just not a card to play in most infinite mana formats…). It’s fun to start wrapping your brain around these cards, particularly with people you’ve known a long while.
So it was this morning; I didn’t have time to attend and play in one of the many prereleases going on in Madison, but I took a sliver of my day to show up. I’d just finished off a lovely chai tea and spent money on grass-fed lamb at the farmer’s market when I got a phone call from BK asking if I was going to play. I couldn’t (these days, I can only give my time to qualifier tournaments and other big events), but I offered to give him a ride, if only to enjoy chatting about Magic for a while. We had a fun group of some of the old-school players around the area offering up ideas and just laughing over everything that we were all saying. It was definitely great times.
Even thinking about Rise of the Eldrazi was fun; there is just something exciting about these crazy spells that they’ve made. I have to hand it to Wizards — they did it again! It just looks like a blast. Hopefully they’ve made it as fun to play as it is to think about, for both Limited and Constructed.
We did have our worries. The big two go like this:
If these cards are good, seriously good, they are going to be a real problem for the pocketbook (see Ben Bleiweiss article for a smidge more on this). Baneslayer Angel is a great example of this: it is just one of those cards that you often won’t be able to have access to unless you’ve just dropped the cash, period. To my mind, the ideal way that these cards would exist would be as cards for Johnny. They don’t need to be bad, but they should ideally be cards with diminishing returns that do narrow things. If they are simply cards that a Spike would want, hands down, they have no business being Mythic. That is my two cents…
So, the big question mark with our new Cthulhoid friends, the Eldrazi, is whether they are going to be castable in an easy way. I’m not talking about cheating them into play. Rather, I am talking about spending the mana and casting them. If the Eldrazi are too easy to cast, I’m not going to be happy with Magic for a long time, I think. In their ideal state, you should have to work really hard to cast these things. Once you’ve been hit by Annihilator 4 (or more) you know what I’m talking about; they are nearly always the equivalent of a Phage that triggers on simply attacking, albeit a Phage with a small delay. That’s some scary stuff. If they are trivial to get into play, the world because a giant crapstorm. So, here’s to hoping that Development put in their proper due diligence, and they are held back by the right factors.
All of this doom saying aside, I’m still happy with the new set. When I think about the previous set, Worldwake, there definitely were some cards that stuck out for me. I’m going to just quickly review just a few of my thoughts on the previous set:
Kor Firewalker: As expected, a terrible weapon for Red to face. Though maybe too good, it isn’t insurmountable, if you know its coming (though it probably is still too good).
Stoneforge Mystic: As someone who had always loved Steelshaper’s Gift, this card’s printing was exciting to me, and I love that it’s been seeing a fair amount of play.
Jace, the Mind Sculptor: With perhaps the most damning Ultimate ability of them all (take that Nicol Bolas), I thought this card was going to be good, but it is far, far better than I had imagined.
Treasure Hunt: In contrast, this card is certainly good, but far less good than I thought it was going to be. Solid, to be certain, but not so good as to be overwhelming.
Abyssal Persecutor: His day will come. I’m certain.
Smother: God, I forgot just how good this card was. I’ve been since reminded it was better than my memory served…
Cunning Sparkmage: This card has continued to prove fantastic. Absolutely a card I’m so pleased that was printed. One of my favorite new cards in recent memory.
Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs: This one might not ever get the home it needs, but still is truly an impressive card.
Searing Blaze: In the right environment, truly great. In some environments, absolute garbage. Currently, most commonly played formats are “the right environment.”
Arbor Elf: Llanowar Elf #5-8, kinda. Which is pretty great.
Explore: Potentially dangerous, Explore is one of those cards that manages to seem fair while also feeling busted sometimes.
Joraga Warcaller: Just give this card more time — it’s going to show us huge sparks.
Terastodon: I totally missed the implications of this one. What a monster…
Wolfbriar Elemental: This is another card that I think has a vibrant future. We’ll have to see if there is space for it in the new format.
Basilisk Collar: Another card I missed and now love. I love the design space that this occupies. Great work.
Everflowing Chalice: Definitely among the best Stones ever. It seemed that way when I first saw it, and just continues to impress.
Smoldering Spires: I didn’t mention this card when I was first examining the set; much better than I realized.
As it stands, Worldwake really feels like it significantly impacted Constructed by a huge margin, and I feel like it still has time to go to prove how much more it can continue to make its effects known. Rise of the Eldrazi seems like it might just continue this trend.
Let’s dive in. Here are the cards that I think are going to matter for Constructed out of Rise of the Eldrazi:
All is Dust
Yeah, this is my favorite card in the new set. As might be expected, it is just a great weapon for those colors that sometimes struggle to deal with certain kinds of permanents. If you’re a Red mage and you want to wipe away an Enchantment (or a Firewalker), Blue and want to deal with a colored permanent (other than bouncing it), Green and you want to deal with a creature, or Black and you want to deal with a non-creature, you’ve got your weapon right here. For White, you get access to Wrath of God #9-12. While slightly hobbled by not being able to kill, say, an Eldrazi, All is Dust is still going to be a great sideboard card for those decks that just need to have an answer in the same way that Nevinyrral’s Disk saw play many years ago. The fact that this card is Mythic is just a crime.
I’m not usually a fan of creature enchantments. Eldrazi Conscription, though, feels like it could be a lights-out kind of enchantment. Cheaper than the Eldrazi themselves, Eldrazi Conscription isn’t likely to make it to the big league, but it is just powerful enough that it might.
Okay, Wizards. Cute. 15 powers for a 15/15 for 15 mana. Nice. Haha. I hope to Dagon that this card is simply too hard to get into play. One of the only things that I’m happy about with this card is that since it is the prerelease card, if it is as scary absurd as I fear it might be, at least its price will be lower.
This one gets the common stamp of the Mythic Eldrazi: I just hope this thing is so prohibitive that I don’t have to get four. Like the other two, most of the time you cast this, you’ll probably win if you haven’t lost already. Unlike the other two Legendary Eldrazi, this one isn’t immune to cards like Maelstrom Pulse, but those four cards should hopefully make up for it.
I’m not including this one as an example of a card that I think will have huge Standard play (though, who knows), but as an example of what I think of as a great potential Mythic card: it does something really crazy, and it is still powerful. I think of this one as well designed.
For a little less than twice the mana, Ulamog does the job of Angel of Despair, and adds on a lot of perks. The precision of Vindicate is a big deal for a card like this, and it remains big enough (10/10) to only need two hits to make the kill. If this card had a 9 power or less, it might not actually be worth all of the mana it costs, but as it is, I think it will be absurd enough to warrant the 11 cost.
Another good candidate for “this would make a neat Mythic card,” Sphinx-Bone Wand is one of those cards that might see play in a heavy card-draw deck. Unwieldy, it could provide Mono-Red a potential answer to Kor Firewalker, but it’s more likely use is in a deck that is heavy on the Blue. Most likely it won’t be strong enough to make the cut in a format with Maelstrom Pulse, but it is right on that cusp.
If the other Eldrazi happen to be good, this card is going to be great. Even in the non-Eldrazi decks, this might be a card that sees play simply as a way to power out All is Dust. Expect to have to pick up 4 on that off chance.
There was a time that Terramorphic Expanse was the best among bad options. These days, though, it has basically become solidly respectable. For those of you afraid of Goblin Ruinblaster, you now get to have 8 searchers for your all-basic deck. Rejoice!
Vincent Proce has made a new Island with Lightning Bolts flying around at it, so now there is yet another Island I might play. Otherwise, I expect to be slinging the same basics I have for years…
I think I was initially pretty down on this card; it just didn’t strike me as exactly having what it took to be worth paying attention to. After the first person I talked to mentioned Jund, however, I blinked a couple of times and thought, “Oh, yeah. That deck.” Sarkhan the Mad seems like an incredibly potent addition to Jund, both increasing its reach with its Ultimate ability, or simply grinding a game out or upgrading sprouts or other outclassed creatures into ridiculously potent ones. Even a single successful activation of the minus abilities of Sarkhan could end a game.
Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure a 4/4 for 3 with virtually no drawback is worth it. For Black, this is a pretty significant body, and the little beasts that might try to stop it are certainly something a Black deck will have the tools to mop up.
This is probably the best Nantuko Husk ever (if you are looking for something like that).
This is a hard card to evaluate. In the past, Gravedigger was one of those cards that just generally speaking didn’t quite make the cut in truly competitive decks. Ben Raymond was probably the most famous of successful Gravedigger advocates, but even back in 2001 or so, Gravedigger was still marginal. This is a whole one mana less, which is significant. But a 2/2 body was a relevant part of what made Gravedigger potentially reasonable. Flying might make up for a 1/1 body, but I’m not sure. Further, creatures have all gotten so much better, it just might be not worth the body to get a Raise Dead effect. I expect it won’t make the cut, but I’m keeping my eye on it.
Simply awesome. Even if Smothertorm doesn’t kill everything, it kills such a huge swathe of things, it might nearly single-handedly wreck certain strategies in Extended. Knight of the Reliquary is still great, but it just got a whole heck of a lot worse.
I think I might like this card even more than I like Consume the Meek. A one way Barter in Blood that is likely to gain me a fair amount of life? Sign me up! Between this and Tendrils, Black can keep its life total high while tearing your critters apart.
I never would have thought that Convincing Mirage would see any play. This makes me think that this updated Psychic Venom might see some as well…
This card has one huge thing up on Anowon the Ruin Sage: four toughness. With that firmly going for it, Drana has the potentially to be a great control card. Even if you’re not playing Vampires, Drana might be a good card for you. In decks that sometimes board in Malakir Bloodwitch as a potential finisher with a touch of lifegain, Drana might be a card worth just playing on top of that.
In a world where Path to Exile exists, Hellcarver Demon is a scary prospect. But, imagining this card finding Violent Ultimatums and Time Warps and such makes me wonder if it might not simply be worth it.
This card might be the first serious challenge to Thoughtseize for cheap discard in some time. Able to get rid of that Tarmogoyf, that combo piece (often), or that early removal, Inquisition of Kozilek is sure to be popular. Of course, it won’t stop a Force of Will, a Polymorph, or a Baneslayer Angel, but that is what the rest of your deck is for. Inquisition makes sure to take care of the early game.
For the most part, an improved Coercion. The question is whether that is good enough anymore.
Vendetta was always a hard card to play for all but the most aggressive of decks. It is cheap, to be certain, but the cost of the card in life is absolutely real; it is all too easy to fall behind when another aggressive deck gets one last swing in with their creature before it dies. One mana, on the other hand, is absurdly cheap. It will certainly see occasional play, with even more if a truly strong aggressive Black deck can be crafted.
Exactly what a Mythic card should be.
Here is a Merfolk that I’m excited to see printed. A solid 2/2 body for 2, with only the smallest bit of effort becoming something all the more powerful. Expect this to be a staple lord in Standard Merfolk, and for it to be on the cusp in more powerful formats.
I’m glad that they reprinted Counterspell. The extra cost of it is absolutely significant, but not so prohibitive that you won’t consider playing it. Hopefully, by printing this card, Wizards is showing that they’re potentially going to be interested in stepping back towards old staples (even if with a small muzzle).
I like this card as a potential counterspell, as well as a potential creature kill spell. While not ridiculously powerful, it has all of the traits that could make it simply useful enough to see play.
This card starts out a small speed bump, but if it manages to level up to Enchanter, it seems fairly ridiculous. Taking two turns to every one of the opponent is severely abusive. Kudos to Wizards for their clever, elegant wording of this card.
We have our new Anarchist/Scrivener. Now the question is whether there is a deck for it.
For a Blue-based deck, Narcolepsy is basically a Pacifism. And that can be all you need.
This card is basically awesome. I always loved Lat-Nam’s Legacy, and this card has many advantages over the Alliances cantrip (slow-trip). Most importantly, it allows a deck to play potentially weak, situational cards, content in the knowledge that it can always get rid of them until it needs them later (like, say, an Eldrazi). Expect this one to be a full on staple.
I remember a time when Mahamoti Djinn was awesome. These days, I guess we just require more. If you happen to untap with Sphinx of Magosi, it’s just going to be absurd. Definitely a great creature. While it isn’t untargettable like the Jwar Isle variety, it still outclasses it in the head-to-head. There are plenty of times when untargettable isn’t the thing you need to win the game. Magosi might be more vulnerable that Jwar Isle, but it is also more powerful, by a huge margin.
This is, without a doubt, my second favorite card in the set. Very fragile, to be certain, but if it connects, the game might just tumble to pieces right there.
A powerful card in certain matchups for the many varieties of Fish out there. For an aggro-control deck fighting against most combo decks or control decks, this is one of the best non-Counterspell, non-Force of Will, non-Mana Drain options available.
Simple, and against the right opponent, quite powerful. Could see a home in sideboards.
I find myself wishing that the Human Soldier side of this card wasn’t smackable by Path to Exile, but that isn’t this card’s biggest problem. Without a true Ultimate ability, Gideon is a card to grind things out, not a card to end the game. Personally, I like my Planeswalkers to be legitimately threatening to end the game unless they’re dealt with.
For a control deck, this card is basically creature removal. A great option for some decks.
Cheap enough to sneak onto a creature and make a difference, Hyena Umbra is mostly only frustrated by cards like Path to Exile. Definitely a card that will see at least some play.
Part Rabid Wombat, part Verduran Enchantress, this card might be hamstrung by its need for Auras, but it is still something that could potentially take off.
This card is Barbed Foliage taken to another level. This one will be absolutely seen in some White-based control decks, and threatens to detooth many aggressive strategies. Ball Lightning, it’s been nice knowing you.
Most important for its ability to turn off mana-production of creatures like Llanowar Elf and friends, it also comes with a reasonable sized body. Another great use of Mythic.
Normally, a 2/1 vanilla critter isn’t worth noting, but when it comes with a hefty 4 life bonus, it becomes worth taking note of. In many ways, this card is strictly better to Rest for the Weary, a card that is already seeing some play. Narrow but good.
For a non-aggressive deck, this card is simply awesome. Even in aggressive decks, this card might have application, if you don’t mind giving them a quick Healing Salve (though there are so many other options, it just might not be good enough).
Soul Warden variants have seen print from time to time and they always seem to end up being relevant. Particularly in a world with so many Eldrazi Spawn, Soul’s Attendant seems like it could be a truly great card.
Some people have been nay saying this card; I’m pretty sure that this one is very good. You might not ever get to that 4/4 state, but just being able to have a 3/3 first striker on turn 2 is fine. Yes, they can kill it in response to you going there (or even afterwards), but you can have it swinging in on turn 2. Given how few one-drops are often relevant, Student of Warfare seems like it is very worth respecting.
Starting at 3/3 is respectable. When you have the free time, being able to have it become maybe a 6/6 lifelinker (or more) makes it completely reasonable.
People seem pretty high on this card. It seems good, certainly, but not as good as Wall of Blossoms, if only because the creatures it is competing with are so good these days. And it still is no Wall of Roots.
I was an early adopter of Commune with Nature. Ancient Stirrings has a lot in common with Commune with Nature, but seems all the easier to hit with, since you’ll be able to take any land. I think that this card could be a real card for an Eldrazi Green (real Eldrazi, not just a deck with Monuments) or other similar deck.
This card just seems incredible to me. Even if it is only churning out chump-blockers, this act can save a deck an amazing amount of life. Of course, you can do much, much more with it, using it to power out spells well before their time. Whether you are using it to cast Eldrazi or to power up Martial Coup, or anything else that strikes your fancy, this card is for real.
This card isn’t flashy by any means. What it is best at being is a potential turn 3 4/4 attacking. Again, like Student of Warfare, it can get taken out in response, but smart play keeps this from being a big threat.
While this card isn’t Moldervine Cloak or Elephant Guide, there are times when it is simply better than either. Both of those cards absolutely saw a goodly amount of play, and Boar Umbra will as well.
This card is likely to be our newest Kodama’s Reach of sorts. While it doesn’t grant the permanent card advantage/mana acceleration, it does provide a one time boost, certainly. This will be a fairly common card for Ramp in the near future.
This is right on the borderline for a card like this. If a creature is removed in response to its targeting, you won’t get the card back, which is a problem. On the other hand, most other times, it doesn’t cost you anything other than the G in its cost, and can serve as “free” critter-kill. This is right on the borderline of playable.
They keep pushing the Elves. At this point, Elves have so much great mana that even in Standard you can easily find yourself with so man options that you’re cutting a card from among great choices. Easy staple.
With all the Eldrazi and/or Elves running around, this could threaten to simply be a ridiculous pump spell. Still, it might be better to look to Zendikar for similar options that are less likely to backfire when the mass removal comes around.
As an instant, this is just an amazing card drawing card if you’re running fatties. Sadly, with M10 combat rules, it is a little less incredible than it might have otherwise been, but it is still an example of a rare card draw spell that also gives you a charge of life to help you stay alive to make use of it. Witness how much better it was to cast Kiss of the Amesha than Courier’s Capsule in Limited for evidence of how much that can matter.
Mull Daya Channelers
Personally, I find the possibility of a 5/5 for 3 exciting, particularly in the Elf tribe. For mana acceleration, I’m certainly less excited, but for that monster of a body, color me pumped.
Yes, it is no Gifts Ungiven. But I love instant card draw for Green, even if it is just getting me land.
Whether this is going to be used to protect a card like several of the Legendary Eldrazi, or it is going to be a sideboard card, its ability is quite impressive as a response to the many Edicts out there.
God, this card looks amazing to me. Everyone has already gone into just how potent this card can be with Ranger of Eos or some Bloodbraid Elf Cascades. However you look at it, this card is just a big, big problem for some decks. And they made it Mythic. Damn it.
In my head, I keep picturing this guy coming down after an Eldrazi hits the table and just smiling before putting the hurt on. While significantly more expensive than Act of Treason or Mark of Mutiny, you can’t mind the Dragon’s body that comes with it.
Erratic Explosion was always somewhat marginal, but occasional managed to get some real value when combined with expensive cyclers or Draco. Explosive Revelation adds in a return of the lost card. This might not make it worth the cost, or it might in fact be quite absurd, particularly with the blue stacking effects currently in the game.
Versus decks with a fair number of artifacts, this card seems quite excellent. Otherwise, it might be just a little bit mediocre.
Completely reasonable against the Elf and Eldrazi Spawn explosion that is on its way, it still isn’t crazy. Many Red decks won’t play it, but don’t be surprised when they do.
Grotag Siege-Runner is here to fight Wall of Omens and friends. While it can’t make up for the lost card advantage in killing a Wall of Omens, it can absolutely at least add in that bonus damage for value.
This seems like a potent upgrade for whatever creatures you might have laying around, at least usually. While it still requires that you have the critters for it to be of value, it generally ought to make any weenies into a frightening army.
Mythic? Really? Well, this card is a potent little monster. In many games it might not ever manage to make it to Hero status, let alone Superhero, but when it does, it can be quite devastating. Essentially, you’re looking at a Grizzly Bear that can be topdecked as a small Dragon, or can quickly build up to one in its free time. This card will end up in a whole slew of primary-Red decks.
This card almost begs your opponent to not lay a creature to “force” you to burn. I envision games with Kiln Fiend and Searing Blaze being absolutely devastating.
When you get to six mana, you’re competing with cards like Hellkite Charger. With that in mind, Rapacious One might be underwhelming. On the other hand, Rapacious One can power up impressive burn spells or create a small army of defenders during a race. Certainly worth considering.
I have mixed feelings about this card. If there are enough creature targets that it can kill, it is exciting to get even a temporary mana boost or a speed bump from it. If there aren’t, this card strikes me as deeply underwhelming. We’ll see as the metagame develops.
Simply awesome. Whether you are working up the damage to kill a big creature like Baneslayer Angel, or you are simply knocking out two critters over a pair of turns, Staggershock just does a hell of a lot of work. Easy staple.
This set seems to me to be extraordinarily filled with potent cards. Here are my top ten for Constructed:
1 — Awakening Zone — This card just strikes me as being the most potentially abusive.
2 — Inquisition of Kozilek — Incredible disruptive power for so cheap. Hurting an opponent’s early game is often enough to make their expensive cards not matter.
3 — Oust — Cheap removal for a control deck that doesn’t accelerate your opponent. Many decks are likely to consider this instead of (or in addition to) Path.
4 — Deprive — Even with a drawback, this is Counterspell. Thanks, Wizards!
5 — All is Dust — Whether it is used as Nevinyrral’s Disk or in a dedicated Eldrazi deck, this card answers problems that often are incredibly difficult if not impossible for certain decks to otherwise answer. Still my favorite card in the set.
6 — Vengevine — A potent attacker that can be ridiculous to handle. The return-to-play trigger is sure to happen often with Vengevine, and the body it brings to the table is significant.
7 — Staggershock — Four damage for three mana is a good starting spot, even without making it splittable. The staggered resolution actually can often be an advantage. Expect this one to see a lot of play.
8 — Consume the Meek — Another Wrath. This one will demand a huge degree of respect, particularly with the other strong Black control cards coming out.
9 — See Beyond — Another tool for control and combo decks. In many ways an upgrade to Treasure Hunt, though it can also be thought of as a way to augment it.
10 — Sarkhan the Mad — Perhaps the best card for Jund in the new set, expect this to be not omnipresent, but common in that deck.
Honorable mentions: Consuming Vapors, Unified Will, Surrakar Spellblade, Eldrazi Temple.
I can’t wait to sleeve some of these cards up! There are so many exciting cards in this set, I expect to see it make a whole slew of new things possible. While Jund might continue to hold a reign of terror over the format, I think it is possible that enough is shaken up by this set such that Jund will be simply one good option among many.
If you happen to not like your All Is Dust, please shoot me a line, and let me know. I’ll be happy to take them off of your hands.
Until next time…