Hello everybody, and welcome to another edition of the Magic Show. This week we’re going over another incredible wave of Rise of the Eldrazi spoilers, and the boys at Wizards don’t disappoint. We’ll also go over the viability of levelers, what they mean to Magic, and how they’re far better than you probably think. Let’s go!
Eldrazi Spoilers Rise Once More!
So this week we start by talking about the spoiler that appeared last friday: Student of Warfare. Now I wasn’t too hot on Kargan Dragonlord, who is still far better than even I rated him last week, but holy cow is this the leveler of my dreams. This is a card that beats you over the head with its goodness, and I gotta say I’m impressed. Pound for pound? Probably better than Figure of Destiny in a mono White deck. Let’s take a look as to why: First there’s the “Total Investment Cost” which we’ll put in at eight mana for Student of Warfare versus eleven mana to fully power up a Figure of Destiny. Second we see how powerful the creature is on Turn 2, which I think Student of Warfare rocking as a 3/3 first striker puts Figure of Destiny’s 2/2 form to shame. Lastly we see on Turn 4, just a few turns later, Student of Warfare is ready for the big leagues as a 4/4 first striker, while Figure of Destiny needed an additional three mana – paid all at one time – to become a 4/4.
Now this is very important – “all at one time” is very significant in Magic, and this distinction is why Level Up is not only incredibly good, it’s incredibly underrated. Last week I spoke of how Magic players are spoiled by getting all of their goodies at once. Rarely do Magic players have to ‘build up’ to get what they’re going for. Sure you’ve got Figure of Destiny and you’ve got artifacts like Powder Keg, but Levelers are insanely good because something called Opportunity Cost.
What is Opportunity Cost? The definition is, quote, “the next-best choice available to someone who has picked between several mutually exclusive choices.” But that’s not clear enough. Let’s say you had $10,000. You could use that money to buy $10,000 worth of stock, or you could put your money in a bank and earn interest over time. If you pick the stock option, the opportunity cost is how much interest you would’ve made parking that money in a bank. In Magic, the cost of leveling up your creatures is weighed against the cost of playing your spells. Sometimes, and often times, the mana you use to level up your creatures wasn’t going to be used for anything else anyway – you had enough mana left over to play your Path to Exile or Flashfreeze or Lightning Bolt after you leveled your creature, so that if you hadn’t leveled your creature at all, then that extra mana would’ve remained unused just sitting there on the battlefield. Hence, the opportunity cost for leveling that creature was zero. You didn’t give up or trade anything by leveling that creature. This concept is why these cards are fantastic. Here’s the key sentence: You weren’t going to use that mana anyway. Sure, you may be bluffing something, but often times you can still leave up “bluff mana” and level up your creature at the same time.
Now when you throw around phrases like “fourteen mana Serra Angel” and “fourteen mana 6/6 tramplers” (Beastbreaker of Bala Ged), it’s easy to dismiss Levelers as bad creatures that are Limited fodder only. Who would ever want to play that crap? Well, let me tell you right now, in a few months you’re going to probably think long and hard about playing almost every leveler, no matter how bad they look to you now.
Sure, there are some clear stinkers. Take a look at Brimstone Mage. Now, that card is fantastic in Limited, where it will shoot down a myriad of Eldrazi Spawn tokens with ease, but it is clearly a bad card when compared to all-stars like Cunning Sparkmage. But Brimstone Mage is the exception, not the rule. It is so bad that you can’t ignore it, but take a look at Transcendent Master. Transcendent is a fantastic card that could very well have real implication in a White control decks. Yes, on the surface, it’s a “15 mana 9/9 Indestructable Lifelink” creature. Which, when compared to other 15 mana dudes, like Autochthon Wurm and Emrakul of the I Win Lols, looks like a bad card. I mean, I get all this cool stuff with Emrakul and I can make Autochthon Wurm cheaper with Convoke. But the reason Transcendent Master is Mythic, and a hell of a lot more castable than those creatures, is that you invest only three mana up front, and you only need colorless mana to slowly but surely make him awesome. First he hits 6/6 Lifelink status, big enough to stop any dragon or Baneslayer Angel, big enough and gaining enough life to get you there in a control deck. Why is it so powerful? Because to get him to that 6/6 Lifelink status you split the six mana cost over as many turns as need be to get him there.
Yes, levelers can be ruined by Vampire Hexmage, and yes, you can get blown out with removal spells. But when you don’t get blown out by those things, and your opportunity cost is either non-existent or not high enough to matter, what do you have? You have a powerhouse.
Ask yourself: Why is Leveling a sorcery-speed mechanic? Wizards surely could’ve made it an instant speed, just like Figure of Destiny. But think about this: If it had been Instant speed, every leveler, every single one, would’ve been worse or more expensive than they are now. The strategy of when to level your creature would’ve been non-existent, instead always regulated to the end step of your opponent, and game states would’ve become a huge headache. You and I are still thinking of one leveler at a time. But imagine three or more of them, all able to be leveled on your opponent’s turn? It would’ve been a complete mess, and new players would’ve been overwhelmed with interactions. Keeping it sorcery speed allows the power level to go up, lessens complicated board states, and provides a more skill-testing environment of strategic planning as to when to level versus not leveling.
Take a look at one of my favorite new cards: Dreamstone Hedron. This card is essentially three Mind Stones stapled together, and that is fantastic in its own right. But think about that three mana it produces. Let’s say you’re out of big spells to cast, and you’ve got a Transcendent Master or even a lowly Knight of Cliffhaven sitting out there. What are you going to do with that Dreamstone Hedron? Why not sink some ‘free’, wouldn’t-be-used-anyway mana into your levelers? What’s the harm? Or, in other words, what’s the ‘cost’? The answer is often zero, and this is why Levelers are going to change everything. You remember how players dismissed the power of Worldwake manlands and Everflowing Chalice? This is just like that. In a few months it won’t be which levelers are we going to use in our decks, but which ones we aren’t.
But how about some other spoilers? Take a look at Mul Daya Channelers. Much like their Mul Daya Oracle counterparts, the Channelers reveal the top card of your library, but unlike being able to play said card, they get a bonus from it. Now at first it appears these will be monstrous or awesome mana producers, then you realize that if your top card is an artifact, planeswalker, instant or sorcery you just paid for a Gray Ogre, and that’s never really exciting. I love the tension in this guy, and stacking the top of your library with Ponder or Jace, the Mind Sculptor gives you at least some form of control over its abilities.
But how about some fat? Everybody loves the fatties, and we’ve got one in Pelakka Wurm. Wow, how good is this card? Let me show you how far this game of ours has come in just a few years. In 2008 we saw Duskdale Wurm in Eventide, a 7/7 trampler for the same cost that didn’t get anything extra. Today we pay the same cost and get a ton more bang for our buck. Gain 7 and draw a card when it dies? Wow, nice upgrade Wizards. But what would you want to do with a card like this? How about sacrifice it to Greater Good? Well, that’s not in Standard. But they just printed something close, and wow is it a powerhouse.
Have you seen Momentous Fall? All I can say is wow, this card is really, really good, and I’m thinking it’s going to see some serious Standard play. This is sort of like a one-time Greater Good without the discard drawback. Fantastic in Eldrazi Green, it’s incredible in Bant, and I think it’ll see a lot of play. Instant speed card draw? Not for you Blue, let’s give it to Green instead! Ha! The Poop On Blue parade continues… or does it? I’ll show you a counterspell in a bit that’s going to rock your world. But I digress, we’re not done with the Green goodies yet. Feast your eyes on Vengevine.
Goodness gracious people, did we really need to make Bloodbraid Elf better? I mean, really? There’s been plenty of chatter about banning Bloodbraid Elf in Standard – yes really, when you notice that a whopping 75% of decks from the past five major Standard events featured 4 Bloodbraid Elf. And here comes Vengevine, a card that is not only incredible at beating face, it is a perfect answer to Blightning and a perfect card to pair with the Elfest with the Mostest. It’s a mythic, it’s going in Naya and Jund, and it’s going to be worth some serious bank. If you don’t have a set, I’d suggest you do so, and quickly.
And now, it’s time for what is probably the best creature in the set. No, it’s not an Eldrazi. No, it’s not a huge green monster. Matter of fact, it doesn’t attack at all. I don’t know if you love you a Wall of Blossoms like I do, but hot damn does that card rock. Now it’s time for the white version. Feast your eyes on Wall of Omens. Oh yes, that is the card that White/Blue Control decks were looking for, and here it is. It stops Sprouting Thrinax and Bloodbraid Elf, and it gives you the crucial time you need to get a grip on the game while Jund does its best to two-for-one you in the meantime. While it can’t block a Putrid Leech “for value”, as they say, it does buy you a turn, a card, and four life you would’ve been without otherwise. Crucial turns that let you get to Day of Judgment, crucial blocks that stop you from going into burn range.
Now the issue is Vengevine was just printed, a perfect answer slash follow-up to Wall of Omens, which is kind of awkward. But rest assured this creature is the real deal, will see an enormous amount of play, and is a welcome color-shifted card.
Okay, so now we go off the Official Visual Spoiler path. It’s time for some rumors! And I’ve got a juicy one for you. Check out Deprive:
As an additional cost to play ~, return a land you control to its owner’s hand.
Counter target spell.
Holy crap. Now this card is a rumor, and should be taken as such, but this close to release I’m giving it a bit of credence. And boy, does it completely rock. Now we’ve had similar counterspells in this vein before, such as Familiar’s Ruse from Lorwyn. Many were incredibly excited about that card, but it turned out that keeping a creature in play to return or having to return one to your hand when you really needed to bash with it next turn was just awkward city. But lands? Hell, everyone is powering their spells on lands, and didn’t we just get an incredible Blue land in the land block in the form of Halimar Depths? Even returning something like Khalni Garden is fantastic and puts you ahead in chump blockers while also countering a spell. Many have argued that Counterspell could be reprinted in this environment, and I think this is the closest you’re going to come to it.
Wrapping up, I’m going to note that Eldrazi Temple, a long-time rumored card, was not only real but revealed as a rare instead of uncommon as many thought it would be. So now the Eldrazi deck, whatever it ends up looking like, got a little more expensive. I personally think this would’ve been a much more interesting uncommon, but that’s me. Enjoy rocking your Eldrazi Temples with your Eye of Ugin for wacky plays in the future.
So that’s another week of spoilers folks. I hope you guys are as impressed with this set as I am – the more I look at levelers, the more incredible Green cards that get printed, just makes me that much happier. Until next time Magic players, this is Evan Erwin. Tapping the cards… so you don’t have to.
Evan “misterorange” Erwin
Community Manager, StarCityGames.com
I. Love. This. Job!