Hello my friends, and welcome back to the column that investigates the casual. Today, I want to give you my regular review of the latest set, with all of the normal things that come with it.
Although this review is ostensibly for Five Color, I have recently begun adding cards and comments about other casual formats as well, such as Peasant, Acid Magic in real life or PPS online, multiplayer, EDH, and so forth. That way, everybody can get something out of today’s article.
In order to fit everything into one article, I cut the chaff. You won’t see a hundred entries trying to come up with a clever version of “good in Limited, bad elsewhere.” I know that in casual world, everything can see play, but what I want to talk about are the heavy hitters, role players, the overhyped cards, and more from the set.
Interested? Without further ado, let’s get this party started.
White is okay in this set. In particular, there is a certain uncommon that is very strong, especially for Five Color. The rest lies between okay and meh. I mean, I may like the five-mana Iona’s Judgment because it can exile an enchantment if it gets out of hand, but I wouldn’t recommend it as an adjunct to your existing removal, which is much cheaper and often more definitive.
Archon of Redemption — When I first saw this, I missed the flying text, and I thought it triggered for all creatures, like an Angelic Chorus. I thought it was amazing. Then I read that it only triggered for flyers. It’s still okay, but it works with cards like Radiant, Archangel and such, rather than anything. It’s not as much of a combo enabler. I like it a lot alongside casual friendly White stalwarts like Commander Eesha, Spirit of the Hearth, Akroma, Lieutenant Kirtar, Exalted Angel, Dawn Elemental, Eternal Dragon, Radiant, Reya, and others. You could easily build a deck with mostly or exclusively all White flyers and be really strong at the kitchen table.
Iona’s Judgment — I talked about it earlier, but really, the only new thing is that Acid Magic and PPS might want it. It’s a bit pricey though, so I’m not sure it’s going to see play in every deck, but it’s solid.
Lightkeeper of Emeria — Hey, I like an Azure Drake sized body and casting cost with multikicker as much as the next guy. It’s an easy kicker to pay a bunch of, and later in the multiplayer game, it gives you something to do with the extra mana while also providing a body early. Nice
Loam Lion — This is obviously the power card of the set for Five Color. Yet again, another cheap one-mana beater is printed, and you can expect to see it along with Wild Nacatl and friends in a variety of decks. Five Color loves it, but you will see it elsewhere as well, so get used to it.
Perimeter Captain — There is just something about this card that makes me smile. It’s a cheap 0/4 defender for a single mana, it gains you two life when it blocks, and grants that to other defenders. There is a lot of value in this soldier. Whether you have a wall deck or just looking for an early drop that can send those Wild Nacatl, Kird Ape and Veteran Armorers elsewhere, Perimeter Captain is ready to be called into service.
Terra Eternal — WoTC had better be glad that they made this all lands, and not just yours only, or else it would never have been used for what they wanted. They probably wanted a nice thing to play well with creature lands and to stop your lands from being destroyed. On the other hand, if they had printed it for just your lands, this would have gone down as the best three-drop prior to an Armageddon in the entire history of Magic. Thanks for making it worse in this case, WoTC!
Green has a lot of stuff that interests me. It lacks that lights-out-home-run card, but it has many that are going to be staples of Green for years to come.
Arbor Elf — I absolutely adore this card. J’adore “Arbor Elf.” It is another Llanowar Elves in most decks, and it can be better with things like Wild Growth, Fertile Ground and Overgrowth. It has the whole elf thing going for it. This is a very strong card, so get ready to see this guy in decks for the next twenty years, folks!
Avenger of Zendikar — I like it, and it’s certainly solid. It brings its own army with it. But it’s just a 5/5 on its own with no abilities for seven mana. If you kill it before building up your army, you are stuck with some 0/1 plants. Whoop-de-doo. Now, If you play a fetchland and then sac it for another land after playing this, then you suddenly have 2/3 plants of doom, so there is power here. You just have to use it right. I see this as a solid card that just doesn’t have enough to get it over the hump, like many other rare creatures from the past.
Explore — It’s such a simple idea, but I am really enamored with Explore. I love the smaller cost, the one-time ability, and the cantrip, so you don’t lose a card to play an extra land once. This is a nice little tool for your decks, so remember it.
Joraga Warcaller — There are two things that jump out at me about this new addition to Elf.dec. The first is that while he is just another elf lord, he could be really strong. Get ready for your elves to really increase in size. In fact, it is cards like this that make elves today play more like slivers than elves. Secondly, the card doesn’t care if you got+1/+1 counters from the multikicker or another source, like Elven Rite or Shape of the Wiitigo.
Leatherback Baloth — In the quest for WoTC to print the largest power/toughness ratio to casting cost on a vanilla creature, the newest upgrade is Leatherback Baloth. It’s the next upgrade in a list that has grown ever since Watchwolf was introduced and was last seen with Wooly Thoctor with a 5/4 body instead of a 4/5 one in the Baloth. Like always, this is great if you are playing Mono-Green. With Llanowar Elves or Arbor Elf, this comes out on turn 2.
Omnath, Locus of Mana — Hey, it’s cool, and it does something interesting. I think we can all find something here to appreciate. Many Green ramp decks just ramp up to big stuff early, and then have nothing to keep doing with their mana, so simply having Omnath in the deck as a way to answer that is great.
Slingbow Trap — Green now has an answer to the worst problem in Magic typically faced by another. Sure, everyone talks about jank like a one turn win with Flash-Hulk or Lotus-Channel–Fireball or whatever. However, the one most people have faced is Dark Ritual–Hypnotic Specter. You go first and play a Swamp, Ritual, Specter. I play a Forest. I have nothing to stop you. I could play a temporary blocker like Uktabi Drake or Scryb Sprites, but otherwise, I’m screwed. Now, you attack, and I reveal that you have walked into a Slingbow Trap and kill the Specter.
Terastodon — By far, this is one of my favorite cards not spoiled in Worldwake by the WoTC website. I love this guy a lot. For two more mana than a Desert Twister, you get three Creeping Molds, in addition to a 9/9 beater and three 3/3 tokens [Tokens controlled by the owner of the destroyed permanents, of course – Craig]. This guy is awesome in things like reanimation, or off a Summoning Trap, or getting Flickered and so forth. Get ready for some beats and pain. I love it!
Wolfbriar Elemental — At every casting cost, it feels like they pushed the power/toughness level of this card as much as it can go. 4/4 for 2GG with multikicker that gets you a 2/2 wolf for every Green mana you add? For five mana, that’s six power. Six mana? 8 power. Seven mana? 10 power. It just escalates easily and obviously in numerous ways. Not bad at all for many of your decks.
Red may only have a few cards, like usual, but one of them is my favorite multiplayer card in the set , and another may be the closest thing to a Red Wrath of God we will ever see.
Chain Reaction — In a duel, Chain Reaction is okay. The more creatures you have, the most this resembles a Wrath of God. Imagine that the card read thusly: “Deal 20 damage to every creature.” There’s no question that would read like a Red Wrath. In multiplayer, when you will naturally have a lot of creatures mucking about, this is virtually a Red Wrath. Now, it still allows Protection from Red cards or things like Cho-Manno to be in play (which you can build around). It is more play-around-able. Still, this may be the best multiplayer Red sweeping removal ever printed, we’ll just have to see.
Comet Storm — Yawn. This doesn’t give us any tools we didn’t already have. And at Mythic too, ick. Next.
Dragonmaster Outcast — I know that everyone wants to OMG this card into next Tuesday, but it’s just a 1/1 that has to survive until the next upkeep. The likelihood of that happening is not super great. Now, having said that, it’s basically a Red Duress for Creature Removal Only, which is still pretty solid. If they don’t have that removal, then it becomes Deus Ex Draconia. The card looks like it was designed well, but we’ll see how it fares in its first multiplayer game with tons of removal flying about.
Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs — Allow me to talk about the guy that is my favorite card for multiplayer in this set. Firstly, you are getting a 5/4 for five mana, which is certainly do-able. He’s pertinent in the red zone. Like other creatures before him (Dread for example, Windborn Muse for another), he doesn’t need to be untapped to use his ability, so you can use him on offense and still get his ability. Secondly, he has everything that you want in a Propaganda. He requires three mana per attacking creature instead of two. Then he makes 3/3 ogres for your team, and these aren’t temporary babies, but permanent additions to your squad. Unlike Propaganda, Kazuul does not prevent the attack, which is great, because the defense is worse than Propaganda. That means his ability may not be feared that much. If Akroma wants to swing she’ll swing, and no one cares about the 3/3 ogre than suddenly came out of the rocks to watch Arkoma fly overhead. On the other hand, the ability to add to your defense and offense cannot be overstated. Getting extra creatures is amazingly good, so no one will attack you, despite the fact that you are not technically requiring them to go elsewhere. It’s what makes No Mercy so good, the fact that people know that they CAN attack you if they want, but they CHOOSE not to. Play a card that prevents them from attacking and they feel constricted, and destroy it. All Kazuul does is suggest that other targets are going to be the path of least resistance. He doesn’t require it. He is, simply put, amazing! With a capital Z.
Although a few cards here tweak my fancy, Black does not have the large list of cards I’ve come to expect in new sets.
Abyssal Persecutor — Look, I know that I’m not a Standard guru or an Extended master. I get that. I play in tournaments sometimes, and sometimes I do well. That’s not my cup of tea. I know multiplayer, Five Color, Peasant, EDH, and other formats — these are my cups of tea. When this card was spoiled, I literally posted on our playgroup’s forum the following thread “The Worst Mythic Ever.” My post was, “Abyssal Persecutor. What were they thinking making that Mythic. I mean, it’s worse than Lotus Cobra.” Here are other thoughts from friends, “Grinning Demon wasn’t very good at the same casting cost. So you add flying and trample, at the cost of going from losing 2 life a turn to not being able to win?!” Here is another, “Yay for seeing a mythic rare come from your pack that is blatantly worse than the land in the pack.” So, here is the Official Abe Take on Abyssal Persecutor. It sucks. I know some of you out there are entranced by pretty lights. You see this and say, hey, on turn 4, you have 6 flying power and turn 5 add Baneslayer and you have 11 flying power and the game likely sewn up. I am laughing. Baneslayer Angel looks good after any 4th turn drop. Play Hill Giant, and follow with Baneslayer, and people take you seriously, okay? I’d rather not be forced to play creature removal on the Persecutor instead of killing opposing creatures, which is what it is for, by the by. I don’t want to play Path to Exile with the plan to use it on my own 6/6 four-drop. You want big creatures prior to Baneslayer? Go look at Green with its cavalcade of big creatures.
Anown, the Ruin Sage — Thanks for printing a Magus of the Abyss variant that doesn’t kill itself! It flies, it kills things as The Abyss, and that makes it pretty deadly. It’s a major target, so protect it well, but it’s pretty good. Do you remember in the good old days when legendary creatures were mythics? I thought that’s what one of the things they were supposed to be? I wonder what happened to that?
Butcher of Malakir — Everyone loves a 5/4 flyer that has an Innocent Blood for opponents tacked on for fun. Even at seven mana, he is a perfectly solid creature to play. I like him a lot.
Death’s Shadow — Well, they still know how to make unusual and sucky creatures. This block’s Desecration Elemental award goes to… Death’s Shadow! It’s the Mold Demon of Zendikar! Note that if you have a negative life total, and are alive through something like Platinum Angel, it will probably get bigger. This loves Worship. I wonder what made them go with 13/13 here.
There are a few Blue cards that are worth mention. Most of them are not, however
Goliath Sphinx — While I’ve got you guys reading this, I want to say that this is another of my favorite cards not spoiled early by WoTC. I love it! I know it’s just a French vanilla creature, but it still makes me happy seeing it there for everything from Type 4 to regular ol’ play. Get this out for just one more mana than Mahamoti Djinn, whom everybody loves, and you get +3/+1. That’s a really big mana. That’s a really big Sphinx.
Jace, the Mind Sculptor — I spent a long time in a previous article talking about how I believe Jace, TMS will be good in multiplayer, but not as good as he is in duels. Five Color people are talking about including him, and some love him, while others are much less enthusiastic. Anyway, I will not be spending that time here, but if you want to check it out, hit up this article here.
Jwari Shapeshifter — Remember that not only can you copy an ally from Zendikar block but you can also copy those changeling ones from Lorwyn block.
Mysteries of the Deep — I have to believe that in PPs and Acid Magic, where card advantage is so important in these commons, that this card is virtually a must play. Three cards for one? Sign me up for a copy!
Theda Adel, Acquisitor — Having the ability to Acquire your opponent’s deck over and over again is quite the sumptuous feast, even if you do have to pay the mana for the artifact each time. Everyone has artifacts in almost every deck, from Skullclamp to mana fixers to Sensei’s Divining Top to Umezawa’s Jitte to Darksteel Colossus to Platinum Angel to Mind’s Eye to Juggernaut to Staff of Domination. There’s always a tasty treat in most decks, so why not get some for your side, with this islandwalking fool. I’d play her with something that guarantees your opponent has islands.
Treasure Hunt — This makes me wish that Treasure Trove was in the set too. Treasure Hunt is another staple that you are going to have to get used to because you are going to be seeing it in decks that like it for quite some time. Any deck that manipulates or sees their deck will want this over many other options.
Novablast Wurm — Its name sounds like it is some science fiction creature from outer space. I know that this is not the first card in Magic to have the word, “Nova” in it, but they always seem jarring to me. The concept of Nova is a modern day concept and to be putting it in the name of card after card jars me when I read Nova Chaser or Nova Pentacle or Nova Cleric or Soul Nova. Anyway, everybody wants to attack with Novablast Wurm. Its colors are a bit, odd. Why Green? I get White, but what it Green adding to this gold card? Why not White/Black? That makes more sense. It could easily be mono-White. Maybe the Green part is the attacking creature. Obviously, they concepted it as a Wurm to help it be more realistically Green, but they could change the type to suit any color combination. How about a B/W Zombie Avatar? That’d be really cool. Anyway, rocks if you can build a deck around it, and then attack with it numerous times. I’d say its new best friend is Lightning Greaves, which allows you to attack instantly, thus allowing it to surprise people just like a Wrath. It also gives shroud and eliminates the possibility of a Terror ruining your day.
Basilisk Collar — I just don’t get this as rare. Everything about it screams uncommon to me.
Everflowing Chalice — Wow, there are a lot of people OMG’ing over this card. Folks, calm down. I mean, sure, it’s a mana accelerant like many others in the history of Magic, but it never makes a color so it’s not like Signets and Medallions. In casual world, we have a lot better options from Fellwar Stone to Mind Stone and even crap like Sky Diamond. This is why I could never see myself as a Standard enthusiast. I can’t imagine getting all happy over a new card which is worse as a two drop than many others printed.
Lodestone Golem — I love the flavor of this card. Sort of a Juggernaut? Check. Sort of a Sphere of Resistance? Check. Sort of Awesome? Double Check.
Seer’s Sundial — Forget Jayemdae Tome, this is going to draw you a cornucopia of cards. You’ll be making your land drops with the double card drawing action so get ready for a Sundial extravaganza.
Celestial Colonnade, et al — The manlands are great, they smooth mana just as well as a Coastal Tower and swing as well, so you get two things from one card. Folks, get these when you can, you’ll always have them in decks.
Bojuka Bog — Finally Acid Magic and PPS get a way to end graveyard abuse with cards like Grim Harvest. There are a lot of graveyard cards like Gravedigger, Desecrator Hag, and such getting tons of play. This ends that for a while. It can also be tutored up by stuff like Reap and Sow. I would expect every PPS and Acid Magic deck to run this.
Khalni Garden — I agree that of the common ETB lands with an ability, this is the best. Making a 0/1 blocker dude is totally worth a non-Forest CIP land.
Quicksand — Acid, Peasant Magic and PPS players note that Quicksand is now a common.
Tectonic Edge — In today’s day and age with tons of non-basics coming out of people’s ears, this is very strong. It even has foils in set, in case it gets out of hand (They all have Indestructible? It was exiled?). This is very nice.
And that completes another set review. Whew. There are lots of goods here, like always, and I hope you can find some goodies for your deck. Whether its Kazuul or Loam Lion, there is something in here to scratch every casual player’s itch. Tune in next week when I build decks with Worldwake cards.