Hello everybody and welcome to another edition of the Magic Show. This week we’re barreling towards the release of Rise of the Eldrazi and I’ll just tell you, I’m getting all kinds of excited. We’ve got the biggest, fiercest creatures ever printed, we’ve got some incredibly wacky and fun enchantments, and we’ve got two incredible new Planeswalkers as Sarkhan Vol returns more pissed off than ever and white gets the awe-inspiring Gideon Jura. Are you ready to see the latest and greatest? Let’s go!
Rise & Shine Eldrazi Spoilers!
So this week we got a heapin’ spoonful of spoilers, and I’ll get to some biggies first: Have you seen Sarkhan the Mad yet?
Sarkhan the Mad
: Reveal the top card of your library and put it into your hand. Sarkhan the Mad deals damage to himself equal to that card’s converted mana cost.
[-2]: Target creature’s controller sacrifices it, then that player puts a 5/5 red Dragon creature token with flying onto the battlefield.
[-4]: Each Dragon creature you control deals damage equal to its power to target player.
LOVE this guy. Honestly, I wish I didn’t like him so much. Why? Because Sarkhan version 2.0 looks to be a perfect fit for Jund, the deck that is absolutely dominating Standard, or to put it more precisely, the perfect follow-up to a Turn 4 Bloodbraid Elf flipping over a Sprouting Thrinax. Who needs a 3/3 when you could have a 5/5 Dragon and three saprolings just waiting to be sacrificed the following turn? So sick. What I really love is that the -2 ability can target any creature, including your opponents’. Who wouldn’t want to force their opponent to sacrifice their Baneslayer Angel for a much less powerful flying 5/5? How many times has a creature like that stopped your onslaught? Instead, just give them a dragon and keep on bashing, is what I say. Then, when you’re done turning your Saprolings into Dragons, you simply use his Dark Confidant ability over and over until he’s dead. I mean, seriously, did Jund need MORE card advantage?
Then of course there’s his ‘Ultimate’ ability that can be used immediately, another first for Planeswalkers, and another reason it’s fantastic in Jund. Drop a Broodmate Dragon, then Sarkhan the Mad, take eight damage and swing for eight more? How nuts is that? I also really enjoy how this guy has no plus abilities: He’s going down somehow, and there’s no getting around it. But believe it or not, this card isn’t getting near the hype as the other Planeswalker in Rise of the Eldrazi: Gideon Jura
+2: During target opponent’s next turn, creatures that player controls attack Gideon Jura if able.
-2: Destroy target tapped creature.
0: Until end of turn, Gideon Jura becomes a 6/6 Human Soldier creature that’s still a planeswalker. Prevent all damage that would be dealt to him this turn.
Yes, that is a whopping six loyalty on a five mana Planeswalker, who has a +2 that makes your opponents swing all out next turn! Unreal. Plus it has the Vengeance ability, providing incredible synergy with his first ability, or punishing your Baneslayer Angel-wielding opponent immediately. But the real surprise is his final ability. Not only does it cost no loyalty, not only does he become a huge 6/6, but you prevent all damage that would be dealt to him this turn! This is bad news for Red decks that want to burn him out, and I hope you have an army of chump blockers to deal with him. Gideon is just a barrel of goodness waiting to be poured over the metagame. Some are already calling him the White Cryptic Command. My first thought was to combine him with Elspeth, Knight-Errant to create a sea of chump blockers to make his first ability even more potent. The ability to force your opponent to attack with everything also makes me think of how incredible Gideon will be in aggro as well as control strategies. Of course, many would like to pair him with Jace, the Mind Sculptor for maximum badassness, and I’m definitely okay with that. He’s currently selling for about $30 a pop, and I suggest you pick yours up soon. If Sarkhan is awesome, this guy is notches above even that Planeswalker.
I for one want to take a moment and recognize the uniqueness of both Planeswalkers in Rise of the Eldrazi. Both Sarkhan and Gideon represent a new era for Planeswalkers, one where they don’t really need to ‘tell a story’ with their abilities or build up to an Ultimate. Rather, they are more like toolboxes, to be used as you see fit. Sure, they have ‘Ultimate’ abilities as their final abilities, but how ‘Ultimate’ is using no loyalty counters or just over half of them for an effect? There used to be a joke that one day a Planeswalkers ‘Ultimate’ will be a plus ability. How far is Gideon from that, and how far away are we from that scenario anyway?
Moving on, have you seen Khalni Hydra? RAWR! Now that’s a friggin’ monster. I for one am so glad to see the word Trample on here. For eight Green mana, discounted by its ability or no, it should have trample. Now, the Wizards take on why trample isn’t on some cards that ‘feel’ like they should be, such as Terastadon, is that it is more fun to try to and give him trample in some way, using an aura or ability, but sometimes you just want a beatstick to stand on its own, and Khalni Hydra is some good for that. Not to mention Khalni Hydra plus Primalcrux is good times no matter how you slice it.
How about some Level Up creatures? Now these guys, they get a serious bad rap. We, as Magic players, are so used to getting our goodies immediately that when you have to build up to them, particularly by sinking mana into them, all we can focus in on is the mana required to make them awesome, and not the process of getting there over several turns. Last week I featured Knight of Cliffhaven, the “fourteen mana Serra Angel,” and I mentioned how fantastic Guul Draz Assassin, the Buy A Box promo, can be, particularly in creature battles. But this week we got some more Level Up creatures, and I think we’re already seeing signs of awesomeness to come.
Enclave Cryptologist is a new fave of mine. I don’t know if you knew this, but this creature marks the first time you’ve ever been able to use a Merfolk Looter on Turn 2 with no sacrifice drawback, such as with Drowned Rusalka, or as a one-time use, such as with Merfolk Trader from all the way back in Weatherlight. While it’s certainly badass when fully leveled up, I think simply leveling it once will make it more than worth it. Definitely a solid card.
Another Level Up creature I like, for nothing more than Limited beatdown, is the Mike Turian-spoiled Beastbreaker of Bala Ged. Apart from a kickass name, it also marks the first time a 4/4 has been swinging into the red zone on turn 3 without a drawback like Flesh Reaver or Illusionary Pet. Sure, there are plenty of three mana 4/4’s, but none have actually bashed in on Turn 3 for you. It may never see play beyond the Limited realm, but I really appreciate this card and how it’s a five mana investment to make it a 4/4, reminiscent of Echo but without the must-pay restriction, really pushes the power curve that much higher.
Next is Kazandu Tuskmaster. This is a rare that, again, looks like way too much investment for what you get out of it. But let’s think about this: Turn 1 mana accelerator, such as Llanowar Elves or Noble Hierarch, allows you to start making 3/3s on Turn 3. Turn 3 you Level Up twice, then ship the turn ready to put a 3/3 into play at a moment’s notice. Probably not going to be breaking any Standard metagames, but again, an example of a card that is not as bad as you may originally think.
The last Level Up creature is supposedly a doozy from Mike Flores: Kargan Dragonlord! Now this guy is Mythic, aggressively costed, and looks to do nothing in the current metagame. While he looks similar to Figure of Destiny, and goes “Ultimate” with one less mana total, I don’t see how this guy is going to be doing a lot of bashing in the current metagame. Red Deck Wins is always a fun deck, but not always one that can fight through the hate of cards like Celestial Purge or Kor Firewalker. However, I wouldn’t count this one out, as it is Mythic and Wizards is known for making sure at least a few cards with a set’s marquee mechanic make their way into Constructed.
Another issue is the power of Vampire Hexmage. Like it wasn’t good enough, it is also engineered to ruin your Level Up investments quickly and easily. Could this card get any better?
To address concerns of Level Up’s lackluster appearance, here’s what Aaron Forsythe said on his twitter account about player’s bashing Level Up creatures, and the fact that it’s sorcery speed only: “Knowing when to level and when not to in the face of untapped mana is a skill. I like skill mattering. Plus, opponents will tap out often.” While it’s really annoying not to be able to Level Up in response to a Lightning Bolt or something, it keeps things simple, makes Leveling Up “matter” more, and rewards smart leveling. Otherwise you would always, without fail, level up at the end of your opponent’s turn, and this would decrease the skill required to do it correctly. We’ll talk more about leveling up as the weeks go on.
So how about those Eldrazi? We’ve seen Kozilek, and we’ve seen Emrakul, the I Win Lols. But there are more Eldrazi out there, and they are pretty scary in their own right. You see, Kozilek and Emrakul are just two of the three massive and mythic Eldrazi in this set. Ready for the last one? Here is Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre. Wooo boy, what a monster. Now he’s no Emrakul, but he is a Vindicate that will happen no matter what as long as you cast him, so that’s nice. I love how the Eldrazi all trigger on casting, an important distinction, meaning even if they are countered by Essence Scatter and the like, you are still getting the bonus of drawing four cards with Kozilek, taking an extra turn with Emrakul, or destroying a permanent for Ulamog.
But how are you going to cast these monsters? Well, Wizards has you covered with enough acceleration to get you there. Last week we talked about Emrakul’s Hatcher, and this week we have Skittering Invasion. This seven mana Tribal Sorcery provides you with both chump blockers and acceleration to get you to the insane costs required to make Eldrazi creatures actually cast.
But that’s not the best seven mana Tribal Sorcery, not by a long shot. Have you seen All Is Dust? Wow, wow, wow! Now THAT is a board sweeper! It’s not Akroma’s Vengeance, because it can’t destroy artifacts, but hot damn can it wreck everything else. From creatures to Enchantments to Planeswalkers, All Is Dust is here to shutdown your favorite strategies and leave the colorless monsters around to clean up. This is the spell that the Eldrazi ramp decks needed, a way out to powerful options like Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Gideon Jura.
Another Mythic was spoiled on Wednesday, the dastardly Hellcarver Demon. Man, talk about your all-in cards. For this guy, everything’s on the table. You smash, you sac and discard everything, and you cross your fingers. Many players are already planning their Selective Memory and Mirror of Fate decks, while others are sure this will be awesome in Hypergenesis. Me? I’m looking forward to going all in and then flipping Second Sunrise off the top of my deck. Or better yet, how’s about swinging side-by-side with Twilight Shepherd? Sounds like a boatload of fun.
Last, I want to talk about Near-Death Experience. First of all, how awesome is that name? And when you look at the incredible artwork of Gideon Jura standing exhausted yet triumphant over a defeated Eldrazi, you can’t help but feel what that near-death experience was like. Then that flavor text! “…there was no other word for it but victory.” You’re damn skippy! Hells yeah. And finally, the ability? Just a Johnny’s dream card. Suddenly you have a mission, you know what you have to do, and you know you need to achieve it. Cards like Worship or Angel’s Grace can ensure you stay at one life, while other cards like Volcano Hellion or Plunge Into Darkness can you get you to one life quickly and easily. While I doubt it’ll be rocking any tournament tables, it definitely does its job to drive those Johnnies wild.
Until next week, when we have another boatload of spoilers to discuss, this is Evan Erwin. Tapping the cards…so you don’t have to!
Evan “misterorange” Erwin
Community Manager, StarCityGames.com