The Magic Show #157 – Zendikar Spoilers A Go-Go!

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Friday, September 11th – Hello everybody, and welcome to another edition of the Magic Show. This week we’re diving headfirst into another ridiculous and exciting batch of spoilers from Zendikar. I know you’ve heard it before, but holy crap is this upcoming set ridiculously awesome. And when I say ridiculous, I mean ri-dic-you-luss. Let’s go!

Hello everybody, and welcome to another edition of the Magic Show. This week we’re diving headfirst into another ridiculous and exciting batch of spoilers from Zendikar. I know you’ve heard it before, but holy crap is this upcoming set ridiculously awesome. And when I say ridiculous, I mean ri-dic-you-luss. Also stay tuned for Kelly Reid Financial News Update as well. Let’s go!

Zendikar Spoilers A Go-Go!

This week I’ve got a raft of ridiculousness from what is fast becoming one of my favorite sets, Zendikar. Wow, I don’t know if I’ve got enough time to talk about em all, but I’ll try.

I’ll begin this first section by talking about the Insane One Drops coming our way from Zendikar.

The insane Green one-drop I want to talk about is Scythe Tiger. This three-power one-drop is the third cousin of Rogue Elephant, but has the wonderful Shroud ability keeping other spells of it. This card is what we call a Skill Tester. Is the risk worth the reward? The skill is not only recognizing the power, but also recognizing the drawback. A three-power one-drop is nothing to sneeze at, but the two toughness is the real killer. Rogue Elephant would probably be welcomed back to Standard with open arms, but with Lightning Bolt in the format he wouldn’t be universally praised. Scythe Tiger is very powerful, helps rock Flagstones of Trokair in Extended and makes Knight of the Reliquary that much more awesome, but Infest, Jund Charm, and the ubiquitous Volcanic Fallout have plenty to say about his ability to stay not-dead in this format of ours.

That said, this guy may actually be more interesting in Legacy, a format where Nimble Mongoose kills all sorts of people, and this one doesn’t even need Threshold to be awesome.

On the Black side of things, you begin to notice a “ten life matters” theme, starting first with Sorin Markov, furthered by triggering Bloodghast’s haste ability, and what is now Carnophage 2.0, Vampire Lacerator.

Yes! Now THAT is a whoopin’, boys. Carnophage was No Joke back in the day, and neither is Vampire Lacerator. Wizards is pushing Vampires hard, and they are giving you the tools to make mono black Vampires work. You’ve seen your one-drop, you have your two-drop in Bloodghast, but what do you follow that up with? Well, WotC gave us two kick ass options. First is the way-above-the-curve Vampire Nighthawk. For a paltry three mana you get a 2/3 Flyer with absolutely no drawback! In fact, it’s got an incredible upside to it! Lifelink is an ability that is awesome in both Limited and Constructed, able to pull you out of a life point disadvantage rather quickly. Trying to put Vampire Nighthawk in perspective means looking at the other incredible three-drop black creatures. Hypnotic Specter is up there, but doesn’t block very well, Stinkweed Imp blocks but can’t really bring the beats, and Undead Gladiator is awesome but rare and doesn’t have evasion. Phyrexian Negator is another comparable three-drop, and indeed can win games on its own, but if they draw the bolt and you’re at three, whatcha gonna do even if you did knock out fifteen life in three turns?

But the second three drop for the Vampire deck isn’t even a three drop at all…it’s Gatekeeper of Malakir, a.k.a. Cruel Edict on Legs. Yes, that is a triple-Black 2/2 creature, but the benefits are enormous. In Extended, they lose their Wild Nacatl or Tarmogoyf. In Standard they’ll lose their Noble Hierarch or Scythe Tiger. The fact that it provides both creature kill and a dude afterwards is fan-freakin’-tastic, and while it’s no Shriekmaw, it’s one awesome Vampire.

It’s no secret Wizards wants Black to succeed in Zendikar. Just look at Crypt of Agadeem. Now that is what you call Cabal Coffers reimagined for a more aggressive style Black deck that wants to get its way to Sorin Markov without necessarily having six lands in play. This may be criminally underrated at first, but rest assured Mono Black Aggro is shaping up to be a contender, and you should snag these before people realize how absurd they are late game for things like Consume Spirit and powering out ridiculous X spells.

Take a look at red’s killer one-drop, Goblin Guide. Hell yeah! That’s a one-drop Goblin that you can be proud to bash with. Who can’t love a 2 power creature for just a single Red mana that doesn’t deal you damage (Jackal Pup), or require another attacker (Jackal Familiar), or require you to play a creature spell this turn to attack (Goblin Cohort), or completely suck in a myriad of ways (Norin the Wary)? And not only is it two power, but it’s got haste! Screw the drawbacks, you’re going to be at 18 starting off, and I don’t care if you get a free land or not. By the time we get to the late game, where mana advantage matters, you should be long dead. Goblin Guide should probably get in six to eight damage by himself before he’s dealt with, and that’s not counting the Warren Instigators, Hellspark Elementals, Ball Lightnings, and Elemental Appeals you play. Oh, haven’t heard of Elemental Appeal? Check it out…

Elemental Appeal
Kicker 5
Put a 7/1 red Elemental creature token with trample and haste onto the battlefield. Exile it at the beginning of the next end step. If Elemental Appeal was kicked, that creature gets +7/+0 until end of turn.

Now that’s a friggin four-drop. Awesome in the late-late game, but still right on the Red Deck Wins curve, in front of Ball Lightning and just a few mana behind Chandra Ablaze, which we’ll get to in a second. This is the fourteen power one toughness creature Mark Rosewater hinted at a few weeks ago, and this newly minted Blistering Firecat is just waiting to mix it up with the big boys. I think this card is being criminally underrated and will be just the four-drop red deck wins needs to succeed.

Speaking of underrated, look at Chandra Ablaze. And all I got to say is whoa. Now that’s an epic ability. And also, did I call it or did I call it?

Flashback: “All I know is, I hope her ultimate ability has something to do with playing spells for free from your graveyard, something scary enough that you would never ever want it firing off. Fingers crossed.”

Yup, looks like. Now note that this wording doesn’t mean if you have Cruel Ultimatum in your yard you get to play it a thousand times. Nope, just once, as you have to choose all of your targets when the activate the ability, and you can only target a single card once. Either way, one hell of a Planeswalker and one hell of a finisher. I know I don’t want to face her anytime soon, and I think she’s going to be a lot more powerful than you think.

Speaking of Planeswalkers, what about the last unknown Planeswalker that was finally revealed to us, Nissa Revane?

Nissa Revane
Planeswalker – Nissa
[+1] Search your library for a card named Nissa’s Chosen and put it onto the battlefield. Then shuffle your library.
[+1] You gain 2 life for each Elf you control.
[-7] Search your library for any number of Elf creature cards and put them onto the battlefield. Then shuffle your library.
Loyalty: 2

Yeah..so…Nissa Revane is a very interesting Planeswalker. It’s also one of the very few cards in Magic to specifically name other cards in order to function and/or get their bonus, such as Relentless Rats and things. But with two ‘plus’ abilities, you have to take a good hard look. First let’s check out the Elf she searches for, Nissa’s Chosen, an almost-functional reprint of Elvish Warrior.

Nissa’s Chosen
Creature – Elf Warrior
If Nissa’s Chosen would be put into a graveyard from the battlefield, put it on the bottom of its owner’s library instead.

This means you spend 2GG on a 2/3 and a Planeswalker with 3 Loyalty. Sounds like a pretty solid blocker and a Planeswalker that’s just going to get scarier. Her second ability will be insane in casual and based on the number of awesome Elves still in the format, such as Elvish Archdruid and the always-reliable Llanowar Elves, it could very well save you from Red Deck Wins next alpha strike. Her final ability is just bonkers. First it takes four additional turns to even get to seven counters, and it takes another turn to fire it off, and that’s if you’re okay with losing Nissa over it. But then again, if you’re getting infi elves, who cares? All I know is, don’t underestimate Nissa. She reminds me a lot of Elspeth, Knight-Errant, another Planeswalker with two plus abilities who began at around $8 or so and was ‘completely underwhelming’ to now being a $25 card and looking to remain that way. Also find yourself a foily playset of Nissa’s Chosen, as they will always be valuable thanks to their solid link to the Planeswalker.

Moving on, let’s look at some Mythic Rares. The first I want to talk about is Eternity Vessel:

Eternity Vessel
Eternity Vessel enters the battlefield with X charge counters on it, where X is your life total.
Landfall – Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, you may have your life total become equal to the number of charge counters on Eternity Vessel.

Wow! Now that is a kick ass artifact and a killer Mythic rare. This thing does something never done before, can be incredibly overpowering in the right situation, and looks to me like a control player’s dream card, so long as they can keep a life total long enough to drop it. Eternity Vessel takes the very long game approach by resetting its controller’s life total each turn if they hit their land drop and retaining that life advantage as they find their win conditions.

Also note this is a killer combo with Sanguine Bond, as ‘changing’ or ‘resetting’ your life total counts as gaining or losing life respectively. So: They deal you a bunch of damage, you play Sanguine Bond, play a land and trigger Eternity Vessel, and they die a horrible death if that life gain is equal or greater to their life total. Ain’t combo grand? Either way, I love the thinking that went into this card, and how its power is a long, slow payoff but ultimately worth it.

So how about another Mythic? Check out another killer black card, Ob Nixilis, The Fallen. This incredible ex-Planeswalker is just a posterchild for kick ass Landfall cards. Just look at that ability! Play him on Turn 6, drop a land, and you have yourself a 6/6 that just Lightning Bolted your opponent. I can’t say enough good things about this guy, it’s a creature that goes right into Black Vampire Aggro decks, it can kick ass in control, and you do realize that Harrow is in the format again, don’t you? Can you imagine, instant speed double Lightning Bolt and make Ob Nixils get +6/+6? That’s just nuts.

Or what about using a fetchland… wait a minute. There aren’t fetchlands in Standard… yet. Oh yes. If you haven’t heard, then hold onto your seats: Enemy Fetchlands are coming in Zendikar! Oh mah God, oh mah God, we got Wrath, we got the dumbest Goblin ever, and we’ve got mother-freakin fetchlands, baby! Just when you thought Extended was going to be a barren land of slightly overpowered Standard decks, the fetchlands are back to keeping that format dumb and making Landfall one of the best abilities to have on a creature ever.

Yes, so far we have Arid Mesa and Misty Rainforest. These gems will never, ever go out of style, and don’t you dare let yours go. They will be played forever, and Misty Rainforest and Blue/Red fetchland will be especially sought after as the years go by. I for one asked Wizards to print this cycle of cards while at the 2007 Invitational, and am absolutely ecstatic they’re seeing print. So cool! I never got to play with the Onslaught fetchlands back in that Standard environment, but I’ll sure be rocking these this time. I simply can’t say enough about this cycle other than it’s good, it makes my inner Magic player jump for joy, and it makes Zendikar that much more worth buying. Wow, and I thought it was a kick ass set before? You simply can’t ask for a better cycle than this in any set, let alone the one who makes playing lands the most beneficial aspect of play.

Ack, so many cards to talk about and so little time. Let’s squeeze in a few more. First is Mindbreak Trap. You know, you mention on twitter that you’d like to see a Force of Will-like Trap and there it shows up! Holy cow, look at this thing! It is absolutely nuts! Talk about your chase Mythics, this thing is friggin bonkers. First of all, it messes up Storm somethin’ awful. It’s a card like this that will happily keep Dragonstorm out of Extended. It’s also awesome in how it interacts with Cascade cards, even your own, and doesn’t get Cascaded into from Bloodbraid Elf to boot!

But look closer. Mindbreak Trap doesn’t even counter spells. It exiles them, a very important distinction. Why’s that? Because you can’t counter Great Sable Stag, but you sure can exile it! You can’t counter Demonfire if X is 5 or more, but you sure can exile it! This is a way to answer ‘unanswerable’ spells, it’s a way to keep Storm combo very much in check for players of Vintage and Legacy, and I just can’t say enough good things about it. This is another incredibly powerful and incredibly affecting spell that will impact more than just the next few years of Standard, but rather always be an important role player in older formats as well.

Okay, last card I’m talking about this week: Luminarch Ascension

Luminarch Acension
At the beginning of each opponent’s end step, if you didn’t lose life this turn, you may put a quest counter on Luminarch Ascension. (Damage causes loss of life)
1W: Put a 4/4 white Angel creature token with flying onto the battlefield. Activate this ability only if Luminarch Ascension has four or more quest counters on it.

This card looks crazy, sounds crazy, smells crazy… then you know what that means. Yes, it’s bonkers. And in a very good way. This card is just so threatening I don’t know how else to describe it. In a multiplayer game you might as well have played a card that says “Please beat me unmercifully” because that’s just what your opponent’s are going to do. But in Standard? Oh my God, imagine how powerful this card will be in control mirrors. He-who-sticks-the-Ascension-first will be a very hot topic, and could be just as important as he-who-had-the-Bitterblossom-on-Turn-2 in Lorwyn block PTQ season. This card simply sits out there, forcing you to deal the controller damage, or it begins to get very, very scary. I don’t know how to else to describe a two mana 4/4 flying Angel.

But go one further. What about in aggro decks? If you’re playing a control deck, who wants to win in the late game with Broodmate Dragons and Baneslayer Angels, they sure as hell won’t have an early answer to a card like this one. I hope I’m not just seeing things, because I think this card is ridiculous and will see a ton of play. It’s got a very low threshold for quest counters to turn it on, and its activation cost is nuts low. Take a look at a comparable card, Hoofprints of the Stag. Every three turns, AND you have to pay more mana, and THEN you get a flying 4/4. This just needs four little turns and you get all the activations you want, for as long as this sucker has four counters on it. Just bonkers good, folks.

So that’s it for this week, Magic players. Rest assured we’ll keep rocking those spoilers next week in what is turning out to be an even more impacting set than Lorwyn on virtually every format in the game. If you’re heading to Charlotte for the 10K this weekend, be sure to say hello and buy a playmat or two, won’t you?

Up next is Kelly Reid Financial News Update courtesy of QuietSpeculation.com. And until next time Magic players, this is Evan Erwin. Tapping the cards…so you don’t have to!

Evan “misterorange” Erwin