Hello folks, and welcome back to the column that explores the casual. I am your writer bringing casual players love and Magic. Everyone has a little casual player inside them somewhere, so allow me to say hello to the little fellow.
Today, I want to review and consider the cards from the most recent set, in light of casual play. Although this article series began – and still wants to focus on – Five Color, it also has space for other casual formats, like Peasant, Acid Magic, Multiplayer, and more.
Most of these casual formats are not like Standard. In Standard, you really need to play with many of the new cards before you get a chance to see what is truly powerful, and what glitters better than is plays. Therefore, card review articles with a focus on Standard always have to hedge their bets with statements like “If this plays like [Insert Deck name from 2008], then it should…”
Eternal formats, like Five Color, Vintage, Legacy, and more, generally don’t need to hedge as much, because we have established standards going back thousands of cards. For example, Swords to Plowshares is legal and a four of in Five Color. Any White removal that gets released is going to get compared to it. If it looks almost as good (Path to Exile), then we will see it, and note that. If not, then we will note that as well.
Of course, this is casual land, not tournament station. As a result, you can bet on seeing tons of the new cards just because they are new, even if one or five happen to be substandard versions of a card from 6 or 9 years ago. Therefore, in a sense, any casual review of cards must take into consideration that people will play the cards they know, and the cards they own.
Still, we can find some powerhouses here lingering amongst the card set. What I will be doing for his article is taking those cards I think offer something interesting to one or more casual formats, and then telling you about it. I’ll skip past the other cards, and just focus on those I really like, for whatever reason.
As a reminder, Five Color is a format that requires 300 card decks, 25 of each color, and has its own B&R list, which you can find here.
Before we begin, I want to take a second and congratulate WoTC on what appears to be an amazing set! Obviously, I haven’t played with the cards yet, but early looks make it appear to be one of my favorite sets of all time, so kudos! There’s lots of great cards and themes and flavor. Awesomely done!
We will start with White, work our way around the color wheel to Blue, and then wrap things up with colorless. Here we go!
Deathless Angel — I think this creature slides very nicely alongside the many great multiplayer friendly defensive White creatures we already have, from Yosei to Commander Eesha, from Dawn Elemental to Cho-Manno, from Akroma and Baneslayer to Spirit of the Hearth and Eternal Dragon. This is just another classic entry in what is easily the Best Color in Multiplayer. Sounds like an article I should write soon.
Gideon Jura — I think the first ability of Jura is weird, but neat. The second ability is great, and the third ability to swing for 6 with no loyalty loss is crazy good in duels, not as much in multiplayer. I think he looks really interesting to play around with, but his abilities look more like duel abilities, and not multiplayer ones. Only the second ability interests me in multiplayer.
Harmless Assault — I rarely rave about Fog variants, but this is awesome, because you can block the attackers, still deal damage and kill some off, and yet emerge unscathed with no loss of creatures or life. I think that’s dandy!
Lightmine Field — If you had sent me a list of all of the Rise of the Eldrazi cards early, and said, “Which one do you want to write a preview article on?” this would have been third on my list. I LOVE this card for multiplayer. This looks to be is one of the best Propaganda/No Mercy style card we have seen for a while. I loved Kazuul last set for another similar Propaganda ability, so you know how much I love this stuff, and how much value I put in it. This card is awesome.
Linvala, Keeper of Silence — She’s a 3/4 flyer for four mana with an ability that might hurt your opponent a little, or might decimate them. Sometimes, all this will shut down is a Withered Wretch. Sometimes it will stop everything from regeneration to pumping to tapping for abilities and more. This card rocks, and it will stop level up creatures cold, and since you can expect to see a lot of those, Linvala appears to be a hit.
Lone Missionary — I have always loved Temple Acolyte for its ability to bump your life total and run interference into aggro creatures for just two mana. Lone Missionary is great because it can do that, trading with an aggro creature while giving you four life. It can also be one of your beaters, and give you an impressive life boost while also being right on the curve for damage. I think it would work well in aggro decks from Five Color to Peasant and Pauper. That much life gain is not insignificant against another aggro deck.
Nomad’s Assembly — The thing that’s best about making a stupid amount of 1/1 dorks is making 2x that amount on the Rebound. For decks with lots of creatures, not necessarily decks with good creatures. This card brought to you by Decree of Justice.
Student of Warfare — Yeah, play it on turn 1, then turn it into 3/3 first strike on turn 2 and swing for massive beats. Yadda, yadda. The Level Up mechanic looks to be amazing in multiplayer, where you have a little more time to do things like add counters to creatures. This one is more of Just a Beater, but it’s a good one, I admit.
Transcendent Master — I can totally see this getting to its ultimate level in multiplayer games with a cheap level up cost and a good payback when you do. Everybody likes 9/9 indestructible and lifelink creatures.
Wall of Omens — Remember what I said about Lightmine Field above? Well, this is the card I would have most wanted to spoil and preview. I use Wall of the Blossoms ALL THE TIME. I use it in combo decks that want to slow down while not giving up space to dedicated defense. I use it in control decks that want time to set up. I use it in decks that want creatures for things like Glare of Subdual and Tradewind Rider. Look at all of the decks on SCG in the deck database that use Wall of Blossoms in the past year alone (ten decks are mine). This is an uber-amazing tool for your decks! It’s like Harmonize and Path to Exile and Eternal Witness — they will be in your decks for years, so pick up 30,000.
Beastbreaker of Bala Ged — Yet another of the “Play Early, Flip Immediately into a Beater” creatures. Attack for 4 damage on the third turn!
Broodwarden — Do you have too many changelings just sitting around in deck boxes that need to be played with? Boy, do I have the card for you…
Gelatinous Genesis — This thing’s cost raises arithmetically, but its power is geometric. Let me show you. Put in three mana, get one power. Five mana: four power. Seven mana: nine power. Nine mana: 16 power. 11 mana: 25 power. 13 mana: 36 power. 15 mana: 49 power. If you have the mana, it gets really stupid, really fast.
Growth Spasm — I like getting that 0/1 token along with my Rampant Growth as much as the next fella, but I don’t want to have to spend an extra mana to get it. It’s not a good price at that point. I’d rather wait a mana for Ondu Giant or use Kodama’s Reach.
Joraga Treespeaker — It addition to be highly playable as a elf, and thus a card every elf lover will want for their tricked out Elf deck, this is also very powerful as a mana accelerant, that costs you nothing. Add a counter on turn 2 for two mana, and you can immediately tap it for two mana, making the mana you spent back for playing something. That’s pretty crazy.
Momentous Fall — Do NOT get entranced by the pretty lights… this card blows. Want to draw cards off big creatures? How about the super cheap Soul’s Majesty for less than a buck instead of this seven dollar card? The Majesty doesn’t force the creature to die. Granted, you don’t gain life, but you also aren’t killing your own beefy creature.
Ondu Giant — I mentioned it before, it’s awesome, and you should get some. It plays well with a lot of strategies, and getting that land makes it card advantage (the Giant + the land). Whether you are playing Giants.dec or control or combo or even mid-range aggro, this is a solid card for you. It is very hot for Acid Magic too.
Overgrown Battlement — Arguably the most over-hyped non-Eldrazi card in the WoTC previews was this, appearing in every article talking about walls or the set or mechanics. Look at the mana you can make, OMG! Yes, you can make mana; now, can we go home? I think it’s a great tool too, but wow, was this the hype machine, along with Vent Sentinel. They have something like two cards that have defender and help defender, and yet they pushed them like crack.
Realms Uncharted — It’s one less mana than the obvious comparison to Gifts Ungiven, and it still rocks tons of power despite the restriction to land. There is a lot of power in here, and tons of decks can use and abuse this tool. Even if you didn’t abuse it, you can play four lands that do the same thing, and tutor for two of them for three mana — such as this: Jwar Isle Refuge, Salt Marsh, Frost Marsh and Secluded Glen. No matter what gets chosen, you get two CIP U/B lands in your hand guaranteed.
Tajuru Preserver — Do not fail to notice this card. In all of the hype and love for bigger and more special cards, this little 2/1 for two mana can stave off the Annihilation of the Eldrazi, and if you can hold off the Eldrazi with other tools, then you’ll be fine. A simple Beloved Chaplain and this can hold off all of the non-trample Eldrazi.
Vengevine — This is a truly great card, no question, but it feels like it should be Red to me. How about you? I mean, sure, it seems a bit like Masked Admirers and such, but haste plus self-recursion looks like a Phoenix-ish ability. Anyway, get them, love them, and kill with them.
Disaster Radius — Destroying your opponent’s creatures is always a good thing. This takes a lot of work to set up, though: Seven mana, and an expensive enough creature in your hand to kill off most of your foes’ critters. However, if you jump through those hoops, at the end is a cleared off board, except for your army, ready to kill players.
Forked Bolt — I really like the Arc Lightning ability for one less damage and two less mana. Look at it as a sorcery Fire (half of Fire/Ice) for one less mana. This is great. You can off two X/1s, or one x/2, or Shower of Sparks one x/1 and one player. Great stuff.
Kargan Dragonlord — Another entry in the “I get Big FAST Beaters Club.” I expect to see these all over the place in multiplayer, limited only by their rarity.
Magmaw — Knowing me, you know that I would absolutely have to mention this card in my preview. It’s a Goblin Bombardment, on legs, for more than creatures, but at a cost of mana. It’s a 4/4 Goblin Bombardment for five mana, and that’s enough for me. You had me at “Goblin Bombardment on legs.” A 4/4 that sends artifacts, creatures, enchantments, and planeswalkers at people’s heads? Awesome.
Raid Bombardment – Note that this common gives Eldrazi tokens something to do other than block and make mana. The creatures trigger this by merely attacking, even if they are wiped off by blockers, Lightmine Field, and other cards.
Splinter Twin — Just another card to play around with, as a Johnny. For real fun, play Gemini Engine and that put this on it. Attack with Gemini Engine token, and it makes another attacking Token. This is all while the original enchanted Gemini Engine sits back and laughs.
Tuktuk the Explorer — The more I look at this, the more I am liking it. Play it on turn 3, and then if your opponent attacks into you, block with this and get a free 5/5 token. It’ll stop or slow down any offense. It’s a great Penumbra like effect that gives it a lot of established uses. Note that it is still a goblin post return and subject to things like Goblin King and its ilk.
World at War — I’ve always thought that Relentless Assault was better than people were giving it credit. For one more mana you can get two Relentless Assaults, and that seems pretty sexy to me. It gives double the beats this turn, and promises more of the same next turn. You can’t argue with that.
Arrogant Bloodlord — Awesome against foes without small creatures. Against many combo and control decks, this is good. In fact, against many modern aggro decks with their Elite Vanguard and stuff, this is good.
Baneful Omen — This is one of those multiplayer cards that appears to be too good. It will get you killed immediately as soon as you try and pull it off. “Oh look, I slipped an enchantment on the board. What’s that say? Reveal this Promise of Power?” Then you take 134 damage from the other players during their turn.
Cadaver Imp — Let’s play a game! Who loves Gravediggers? Me! Who loves Gravediggers for one less mana, flying, and just a 1/1 body? Me! I think Gravedigger is one of the classic all-time awesome cards of Magic, so any card that tries and channel it makes me a happy Abe.
Consume the Meek — Doesn’t it look awesome? Now, let me tell you something very important. It won’t be. I have played Culling Sun a bunch in multiplayer, because I always think it will rock. It never does. It always disappoints me. Consume the Meek will look better than it plays, trust me.
Consuming Vapors — Two Edicts, both alike in dignity, in fair Black, where we lay our scene. They get you life, they kill creatures, and you get two for the price of one. I think that’s a pretty nifty package. I think the package looks out of character as a rare, but I like it.
Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief — Let’s see what Drana does. I like Black flyers, so check. I think 4/4 creatures for five mana are okay, so check. I like repeatable kill, so check. I like the ability to pump a creature so it becomes a bigger threat, so check. Overall, Drana gets four checks, a solid score.
Gloomhunter — Seriously, I think the 3 mana 2/1 flyer common Black creature has got to be the one with the most names, after Grizzly Bears for Green. What was wrong with Moaning Spirit, Kelinore Bat, Feral Shadow and/or Dusk Imp that we had to have Gloomhunter added to the roll? Doesn’t Gloomhunter feel like a wasted name on a card like this anyway?
Nirkana Cutthroat — I don’t know what it is, but this is easily one of my favorite level up guys. Three mana for a 3/2 is alright. One level jumps you to 4/3 deathtouch swinging on turn 4. When you have the time and extra mana, two more levels gives you a 5/4 first strike, deathtouch monster. I like this one a lot.
Nirkana Revenant — The combination of Mana Flare and Shade is so genius and so obvious now that you see it, it’s great. I never thought of combining them on one card, but now that you see it? It looks like they were always supposed to be together like this. I absolutely adore this card. In fact, I suspect that next week’s article will feature at least one deck around it.
Repay in Kind — This bad boy looks really nasty, and might play that way, but I want to try it out first. My guess is that it will be overrated in multiplayer, but you never know.
Suffer the Past — This awesome addition to Magic is my second favorite card in the whole set. Like Nirkana Revenant, it gives you the ability to combine two things. It’s a bit mana heavy, but you don’t mind. Finding a card that hurts someone’s graveyard, and also has other powers is important, for when you don’t want or need the graveyard hate. Withered Wretch is great because it’s a creature, and Bojuka Bog is a land. However, Suffer the Past can drain someone, while also taking out their graveyard goodies, so I am a big fan.
Thought Gorger — This is one of the best cards for setting up a deck built around hellbent. It also likes madness.
Cast Through Time — This is another one of those overhyped, expensive, splashy enchantments that probably won’t play nearly as good as it looks, but boy, does it look good. It wants an Academy Rector friend to bring it out to play.
Gravitational Shift — I think this card is just fun. Oh look, my flyers are cooler. Oh look at your sad little ground creatures getting smaller. This is a very clever and awesome Blue enchantment.
Guard Gomanzoa — With memories of Fog Bank, this guy costs one more mana, actually can kill stuff, and is slightly harder to kill with burn. I’d rather see it at 0/4 though, to take it out of Bolt range, but it’s still a nice addition to any Blue mage’s arsenal, and like Harmonize, get a bunch of these because you are going to use them a lot.
Recurring Insight — Rebound really pushes this card past the boundary. At six mana, drawing that many cards would not be likely, since many opponents have largely dumped their hand by that time. However, getting two shots is much better, especially in multiplayer where you can pick the best hand to get from. In duels, someone would absolutely dump their hand between the first time this is cast and the rebound, but in multiplayer, no one will want to do that, making this much better there. This will be a cheap card you can acquire for your multiplayer decks, and really abuse.
Shared Discovery — With so many 0/1 creature makers running around, including a certain land from last set, you can easily tap some and draw three cards.
Sphinx of Magosi — Cards like this are hard to review. It’s big, it flies, and draws you cards and gets bigger. There’s not a lot of complexity here, just play it, and get some cards.
Surrakar Spellblade — If this were Merfolk Spellblade, it would move into my top five favorite cards from the set. As it is, it’s still solid, but the question of unblockability moves to things like Whispersilk Cloak, as opposed to Lord of Atlantis.
All is Dust — This card is going to be awesome, and with Eye of Ugin and Eldrazi Temple running around, getting it cast on turn 4 or 5 is not too difficult, which is about where you want your Wraths to sit. This will save Eldrazi, the 0/1 spawn tokens, and artifacts (usually). This will take out Planeswalkers, creatures, enchantments, Shards block artifacts, and such. You can easily build around it by playing an artifact or Eldrazi heavy deck. I wouldn’t be surprised if next block we see our first Artifact Creature themed Planeswalker, so him/her/it could be useful in this sort of deck as well. (Tezzeret was Blue, so it doesn’t count. I mean something like 5 colorless, Karn, Creator of Mirrodin or similar).
Artisan of Kozilek — All of the Eldrazi are going to be interesting in Five Color. They won’t count for any color, but you can always play them when you get to that mana count. You can’t get them with Tinker type stuff, but Defense of the Heart type spells will still work. They all have mad power, and I expect to see every Eldrazi at my multiplayer table soon.
Eldrazi Conscription – I want you to forget all of the talk about how fast the levelers can come out of the gate, because this card is uber-fast. Here is how:
Turn 1 — Play a one-drop creature of your choice.
Turn 2 — Play Arcanum Wings on the creature. Swing for one damage in the air.
Turn 3 — Aura Swap Arcanum Wings for Eldrazi Conscription and attack for 10 damage, trample, and force your opponent to sacrifice two permanents on the third turn. I think you might win that game.
Now THAT is fast. This thing makes every card that gets auras looks stupid broken.
Emrakul, the Aeons Torn — I would not recommend waiting until 15 mana for this, even with spawn and special lands. It would take forever. Instead, may I recommend Tooth and Nail? You won’t get the extra turn, but I still think it will be okay.
Kozilek, Butcher of Truth — I like drawing cards as much as the next guy, and for 10 mana, this might just be castable normally. Good luck with it!
It That Betrays — Do you know what this guy likes? He likes you to cast All is Dust and force a lot of sacrifices while he stays out there. Then you get all of that stuff that your opponent lost to you. Then attack, Annihilator, get that stuff too, yadda yadda.
Spawnsire of Ulamog — Remember when you spend 20 to activate its ability that changelings are Eldrazi.
Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre — Are you a little underwhelmed by Ulamog. The other guys give you cards, raise dead, Time Walk, and all this guy does is Vindicate. All of them destroy permanents with Annihilator, but you get one targeted one for free. It seems a little ho-hum. The indestructible seems a lot more like it.
Ulamog’s Crusher — I would even play this in Abe’s Deck of Happiness and Joy.
Artifacts, Lands, Multicolor
Sarkhan the Mad — I don’t like him that much, and I don’t get why he’s clocking in so highly for price. You get a seven counter Sarkhan, and every ability causes him to lose counters unless you hit a land or zero cost card off the first one. This is for five mana in two colors. The second ability is okay, I guess. You can kill an Eldrazi and replace it with a dragon. That’s not amazing or anything. You can turn your dudes into dragons, that has more power, but you can do it three times at most. The final ability allows your dragons to Soulblast someone without a sacrifice of Dragons, and that could be really great IN A DRAGON DECK, and this is why I don’t get Sakrhan’s price. The second and third ability do not work together because you can only make one dragon from your forces while retaining enough loyalty to do the ultimate ability. Therefore, the only deck that Sarkhan the Mad works in is a dragon deck. There certainly are a few of those here and there, but surely there are not enough to drive him to 20 bucks? That’s silly.
Angelheart Vial — Are you attacked by creatures regularly? Do you find your life total in decline from the odd burn spell more than you would like? Are you spending way too many cards and finding yourself with a small hand? Then I have the artifact for you! This artifact will turn four lost life into two life gained, and thus essentially half all damage dealt to you, while also drawing you cards to regain that momentum you may have lost, by being in this situation in the first place. Too many life gain cards don’t address the issue — you are losing on the board. This one can, and therefore, I likes it.
Dreamstone Hedron — It makes three mana, and you can sac it for three cards when you don’t need the mana. If you are playing this though, I doubt you will ever not need the mana, but perhaps you will later need the cards. The decks that want a 6 mana cost accelerant will likely want it for a while.
Prophetic Prism — Every deck wants mana acceleration, and in any format with five colors, a two-drop that draws you a card and sifts your mana can be quite valuable. The common status makes this an essential for Acid Magic.
Eldrazi Temple — These are awesome for certain uses; get them.
Whew! That was a lot of stuff to cover. This set looks amazing and I sometimes want to talk about every card, but obviously I can’t/won’t. That would take too long. Good job, WoTC! Enjoy the set, folks!