The Dragonmaster’s Lair – Worldwake Prerelease Thoughts

Grand Prix: Oakland!

Friday, February 5th – The Worldwake prerelease finally delivered the fresh new cardboard into our eager hands. In today’s edition of The Dragonmaster’s Lair, Brian Kibler shares his thoughts on a number of strong Worldwake uncommon and rares for Limited play. The set hits the shelves today… get a leg up on the drafting opposition!

This past weekend marked the Worldwake prerelease, the first chance for anyone outside the hallowed halls of Wizards of the Coast to play with the new cards. I was fortunate enough to get flown out to Chicago to gunsling at the Pastimes prerelease in the windy city, which let me spend the day battling against all comers with a variety of deck in formats ranging from Sealed to Extended to EDH. While my games of the Constructed formats were fun — I really do enjoy playing my Austin deck, and there’s nothing quite like EDH for the kind of crazy things that can happen — I’m going to focus on my experiences with the new cards in Limited today, as well as a few thoughts on those cards that might make it in Constructed.

Last week I gave a lengthy overview of my thoughts on all of the common cards for Limited, so today I’m going to look at both those uncommons and rares I had a chance to play with or against, as well as any commons whose evaluations might have changed after seeing them in action. I’ve had a chance to do a bit of drafting, as well, so I’ve seen how some of these cards work in a more streamlined environment than Sealed deck. Without further ado…

Apex Hawks

I talked about these guys last week, and how I felt they seemed likely to be the best White common in the set. I had three of them in one of the Sealed decks I played over the weekend and they did not disappoint, especially alongside a pair of Kor Cartographers that could help power them up quickly. One interesting situation involving the Hawks came up while I was playing when my opponent hadn’t made a play by turn 3 and I had the option of playing an unkicked Hawk or passing the turn with nothing myself with the ability to curve out on my future turns, including a 3/3 Hawk. I debated holding on to the Hawk because my opponent was playing Black and could easily have Disfigure to kill it as a 2/2, while if I held it I’d significantly reduced the value of Disfigure if he had one. I chose to play the Hawk, and he had the Disfigure, and as it turns out things would have gone better for me if I had waited. My point here is just that the multikicker creatures give very interesting decisions about when to play them based on what removal you know (or even just suspect) your opponent might have. It’s probably rarely going to be worth holding on to a Hawk until you can get it out of Magma Rift range, but you never know — it just might come up.

Archon of Redemption

This guy is bonkers. Even on his own as just a flying Staunch Defenders, he’s an incredibly powerful creature that can completely turn a game around, but alongside other flying creatures — like the aforementioned Apex Hawks — the Archon can put the game completely out of reach for your opponent. I actually had a few people play against my best Sealed deck with Standard decks, and I managed to win multiple games against them thanks to this fellow. Of course, I had a little help from Kor Skyfisher, who effectively lets you spend 1W to gain two life as many times as you want with this guy in play. This card is incredible and is almost certainly close to, if not the, best White card in the set. I haven’t had a chance to play with Admonition Angel yet, but I can imagine that guy is pretty sweet too.

Marshal’s Anthem

On the subject of White rares that are pretty sweet — this card is also amazing. Glorious Anthem alone is a powerful effect in a format where creatures are of similar sizes, but a Glorious Anthem that can bring back dead creatures is especially busty. I had multiple games in which I kicked this and returned Kor Skyfisher, who returned the Anthem, which I played and kicked again to bring back more creatures. If you didn’t already love Kor Skyfisher, there’s any number of sick new combos for him with Worldwake cards. I recommend him quite highly.

Lightkeeper of Emeria

This guy was somewhat overshadowed by my Archon of Redemption, but he served a similar role in helping turn races around and put games out of reach. He’s an efficient body to begin with and turns into a huge swing late in the game. In a White deck that wants to race in the air, this guy is likely better than any of the commons in the set.

Refraction Trap

During a draft the other day, Chris Benafel (yes, that Chris Benafel, for those of you who followed the Pro Tour in the early 2000’s) described this card as “unbeatable.” It’s pretty monstrous, that’s for sure. For anyone who has been playing long enough to remember Kor Chant, that’s pretty much what this card is, with the added benefit of being able to use it against damage-based removal as well. Harm’s Way was awesome in M10, and that was a format which had a lot less evenly-matched combats in which this sort of effect is at its best. This card is the best of the White non-rares that I’ve seen in action.

Aether Tradewinds

I thought this card would be a good trick when I first saw the spoiler, but now I’m convinced it’s awesome. There are so many tricks you can do to use this card profitably that they’re just too many to list. This isn’t a card you want a bunch of, but I wouldn’t be unhappy playing two, and in some decks (like those with multiple Journey to Nowhere), I’d be downright thrilled. There’s a ton of enters-the-battlefield triggers that this card can quite often be all upside.

Halimar Excavator

In my first look at the spoiler, I felt like this guy’s stats as a 1/3 for two outshined his actual ability. Oh, how wrong I was. Just last night, I decked Ben Rubin in what might have been record time with two of these guys in play. Unlike Hedron Crab, which was both uncommon and at 0/2 was pretty much a blank on the board, this guy is a common and has legitimate board impact as a blocker, as well as pumping up the rest of your allies. After my U/G/w ally deck last night I couldn’t help but think about how powerful a deck with a few Ondu Clerics and a couple of this guy would be, especially if you can get your hands on any Join the Ranks. I think a defensive decking ally strategy may be a legitimate contender, thanks to this card.

Mysteries of the Deep

I feel like this card looks a lot better than it plays. The format is fast enough that it takes a seriously dedicated defensive deck to be able to afford tapping out to draw three cards — and that’s assuming you can hit landfall on that turn, which you sometimes don’t because you needed to play something to impact the board to avoid falling behind. The doubly awkward five mana cost and need to play it on a turn you made a land drop to get full value takes this card significantly down in my valuations now.

Permafrost Trap

This card is very comparable to Sleep from M10. In that format, full-on creature stalemates were more common, so the full tap out was really important, but in this format creatures tend to trade and die off more, so just locking down two creatures is often good enough. Great for beating down on the ground or racing in the air — this is probably better than any of the commons in the set.

Vapor Snare

Control Magic is awesome. This is Control Magic with an upkeep that can very often be beneficial, between landfall and enters-the-battlefield trigger lands. I had this recycling the pro-color land on several occasions. It was as awesome as advertised. This is the best Blue card I’ve had a chance to play in the set. I’m sure Jace is better, but beyond that this is likely the best Blue card in the set, period.

Bloodhusk Ritualist

This guy is pretty sick. Mind Sludge has the problem in the format that it can just sit in your hand uselessly, but this guy can come down to play offense or defense early as need be, or can completely rip your opponent’s hand apart in the mid to late game. In a Black-heavy deck, this guy is a high pick.

Nemesis Trap

Ben Rubin had two of these in his deck last night. Thankfully I never had to attack him to win! When this card is unexpected, it can be a complete blowout, though once your opponent knows about it, it becomes much easier to play around and thus much less powerful. Still, the first time you play this will often win you the game if it’s anything resembling close, so this is certainly a high pick in Draft.

Urge to Feed

As a cheap removal spell, this card is obviously good already, but I had a chance to play this with four Vampires in play, and let me tell you the results weren’t pretty. In this format, aggressive vampire decks often get shut down by things like Giant Scorpion and Nissa’s Chosen, and this can not only take out annoying three toughness creatures but can also power up your entire team to get by any future blockers. For a deck like that, this is certainly the best non-rare in the set.

Claws of Valukat

The best deck in the practice draft we did last night was undoubtedly Patrick Chapin Mono-Red deck that featured two of these. Play one of these on turn 3 as Mono-Red, and if your opponent doesn’t have an answer almost immediately the game is over. Red in general is weaker in Worldwake than in Zendikar, but in Mono-Red this card is no joke.

Mordant Dragon

Dan Burdick played this against me last night. I could not remove it that turn, and I immediately conceded because the game was completely hopeless. This card is that good.

Lodestone Golem

In an aggressive Limited deck, this guy is pretty bonkers. Yes, he makes your spells cost more too, but if you have any board advantage when you get him into play, it makes it seriously difficult for your opponent to come back. Ben Rubin played this card on turn 4 against Chris Benafel, who missed his fourth land drop. That game did not last much longer.

Pilgrim’s Eye

This guy is great, and seriously helps enable multicolor ally strategies. With the number of 2/1 creatures out there he can often profitably trade, and even when he doesn’t, you can still get a few points of flying damage plus a chump block in most of the time, which is a pretty good deal when it comes with mana fixing attached.

I actually feel like Worldwake did a lot to make the draft environment feel more balanced. Red isn’t quite so sick in the second set, and Green got a lot of cheap action to help speed it up so it’s not so reliant on drafting every Survivalist and Nissa’s Chosen to compete. My feelings may change as I get a ton more drafts in over the next few weeks, but so far I feel like I’d be pretty much equally happy ending up in any color, which is a far cry from my experiences in triple Zendikar draft.

I can’t really talk about Standard with the Pro Tour coming up, but suffice it to say that Worldwake is already making its impact felt big time in our playtesting. Standard is sure to be shaken up a ton by the new cards, and I’m excited to get back to playtesting as soon as I’m done with this article. I still have GP: Oakland coming up next week, and I haven’t quite figured out just how I’m going to contend with what seems likely to be a field full of Thopter Depths decks, but it sure felt good to play with old faithful while I was gunslinging last weekend at the prerelease. We shall see….

Until next time…