The Main Phase – Idle Thoughts

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Monday, October 6th – The first PTQ of the Kyoto season was this past Saturday (at the time you are reading this, at least), and I’ve noticed a few things about the Shards Sealed format. Chief among them is that it really doesn’t matter how bad your pool is, if you open a Mythic Creature you almost can’t help but win.

I was just messing around on my Facebook and noticed in the ‘select languages’ section an interesting option:

English (Pirate)

Having recently taken the plunge and made the change, I am endlessly entertained. No longer am I simply sending messages, changing my status or writing on someone’s wall. While that’s all fine and good, I’d much rather be castin’ messages out teh sea, skwakin’ about mehself, or scribblin’ on my matey’s plank.

Anyway, the first PTQ of the Kyoto season was this past Saturday (at the time you are reading this, at least), and I’ve noticed a few things about the Shards Sealed format. Chief among them is that it really doesn’t matter how bad your pool is, if you open a Mythic Creature you almost can’t help but win. At my local prerelease event I lost a total of 6 games over 5 rounds of Swiss plus Top 8… 3 of those 6 games were to Hellkite Overlord. That’s “Me: 11 wins, Overlord 3: wins, and Other: 3 wins.” The two players that opened Hellkite Overlords made the finals against each other. It’s pretty annoying when the Top 8 is based solely on one card:

Come-From-Behind Dragon
Creature — Lucksack Dragon
If this creature resolves, you win the game.

Nice design, to be sure. Looks like a ton of fun to play. Extended Dragonstorm has a new fifth dragon… but ruins the Sealed environment.

I have heard similar claims about things like Flameblast Dragon, Sharding Sphinx, and a few other cards. Basically this is a bomb-intensive format, and I’m bitter because I opened a Lich’s Mirror where my win-the-game card should have been. Frowns.

Why didn’t they do things this broken with the other giant Shard animals? Sure, Godsire is a bomb and all, but wouldn’t it be even bombier it had Haste or Trample? Or how about this: instead of Vigilance, Godsire reads, “Godsire can attack and block as though it were not tapped.” Nice Naya Battlemage… TASTE IT!

So, back to the PTQ season. By the way, did you know that Kyoto is the second most populous city in Japan behind Tokyo? And that they share the same five letters in their name when translated into English? I just noticed that. What an odd thing transliteration is.

Limited PTQs are awesome. Nobody has an inherent advantage in terms of card cost issues. Sure, Faeries was the best deck, but it costs so much money that the government had to bail it out. Sigh… I guess I’ll play this deck that I can afford. None of that this upcoming season, my friends. You show up with thirty bucks and your brain. I love that.

In addition to the sealed and draft formats just getting underway, I am I was inspired by Patrick Chapin use of Salvage Titan in and Extended Affinity shell and, the unabashed mad scientist / idiot that I am, wanted to see if it could work in Standard. So I put together a little artifact deck shell with Ornithopter, Chromatic Star, Springleaf Drum. I even threw in a few of the Blue Herald and a pair of the 6/6 it can fetch for good measure.

Suffice it to say it was terrible, though Heap Doll certainly more than pulled its weight. Maybe someone smarter than me can break the Trash Man* for Standard, but for now than man is not me.

Also, funny story: all of the names of the cards in Conflux got spoiled. Yep, all 145 are known. Well, that’s cute. This kind of alarms me a bit, as Mark Rosewater hates this kind of thing. The last time there was a breach this big was Judgment, and as I recall several heads rolled for that little mishap and lots of potential moneys were lost. But hey, there’s no reason we can’t capitalize on someone else’s misfortune, right? Let’s speculate!

Before I go on, I just want to add a disclaimer that it is entirely possible that these could be fake and that none of this really exists, but that’s both highly unlikely considering the fashion in which the information was found… and it’s much less fun. So let’s get to it!

Of the card names that were divulged, a few intrigue me more than the others. Chief among them is this card’s title, whose three-word name brings joy to my heart:

“Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker”

Just say that out loud a few times. Doesn’t that just feel right to you? That could make even the grinchiest of grinchy Magic hearts grow three sizes. This means that we are going to get old wizened Nicol Bolas, meaning that he has most likely grown out of his youth as just a fireballer and walked the Earth a few times, Jules Winnfield style**. I believe that this means we are going to get our first tri-color Planeswalker. He fits the storyline too, as it could be that Nicol Bolas is the dragon on Jund that Sarkhan Vol is looking for. After all, it kinda looks like ol’ Nicol in the art for Cruel Ultimatum

Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker. Man, that just feels good to roll off your tongue.

Next up, we have a couple of reprints from Invasion block, Worldly Counsel and Mana Cylix. Obviously, this is pointing to the fact that someone or something (maybe Nicol Bolas?) brought the Shards back together to reform the Plane of Alara, as the five-color-ness isn’t present in Shards. Perhaps more interestingly however, we get Unsummon in a non-base set. Not sure why… but at least I’ll have a way to deal with those pesky Hellkite Overlords in an effective way.

Slightly Worse Come-From-Behind Dragon
Creature — Lucksack Dragon
If this creature resolves, you win the game… unless you opponent is playing blue spells. Then you might not.

Also, they’re reprinting Maniacal Rage. Again.

Moving on…

Here are some other names that stick out like sore thumbs in the list:


It’s kind of bizarre to have a card name that is the same as the name of a set that it is in. It’s not like an album, where you name it ‘Bad Religion’ after the song “Bad Religion” by the band Bad Religion. Whatever, fine. Hope it does something neat, maybe like roll all of the Ultimatums into one giant unwieldy spell that no one can ever cast. Except with a Dream Halls in play… quick, someone fetch me Menendian! I think I broke the format… in four months!

Shard Convergence

Isn’t this the same kind of thing that’s going on in Conflux? Not the set, I mean the card. I feel like it’s a synonym, but this one’s probably more of a Channel the Suns type effect. If I had to guess, maybe something like, “Add one mana of any color to your mana pool for each basic land among types you control,” for 2G, and not some huge mythic rare that requires you to sacrifice about twenty goats to Springjack Pasture to cast.


Referred to a few times in flavor texts in Shards. A Mythic rare if I’ve ever seen one. I just hope it’s something other than just being another huge fatty.

Nacatl Hunt-Pride

I have a hunch that this is just Nacatl War-Pride mistranslated, since the original source of these card names is a Japanese site. It was Future-shifted and it would definitely fit in. After all, it’s a dumb animal that costs… a hundred thousand mana.

Bone Saw

Um… do you mean Macho Man Randy Savage’s character in Spider Man? Any amount for that to happen. Bone Saw is ready!

Kaleidostone, Apocalypse Hydra, Yoke of the Damned, Thornling, etc.

You know, I’ve been on the creative team’s case about the card names for the last few sets because I thought that they were… well… silly. And dumb. But this set looks like it’s getting things right. I can’t pick out any names that I really just absolutely hate, like I could with Lorwyn and Shadowmoor blocks***. Good show, team!

That’s enough speculation from me. If you want to check out the list for yourself, click this link

To wrap this up, I’d like to give you the list that I think I am most likely going to be playing at States this year. Now, I am one of the biggest proponents of taking tried and true decks into the States tournament if your stated goal it to win said tournament. This is for a few reasons; one, the States metagame is a place where people like to try new things, so if you take a deck that is a well-oiled machine into the tournament then you’re likely to beat up on the less focused decks; and two, States tends to have many more aggressive style decks than other major tournaments of its kind so having a deck that you know for a fact is good against the aggro decks is definitely to your advantage.

With that in mind, here is what I am planning on taking to States in Columbus, Ohio, on November 8th:

Twelfth Place Elves

4 Thoughtseize
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Wren’s Run Vanquisher
4 Troll Ascetic
4 Nameless Inversion
3 Civic Wayfinder
3 Chameleon Colossus
3 Garruk Wildspeaker
3 Bitterblossom
2 Loxodon Warhammer
1 Birds of Paradise

4 Treetop Village
4 Llanowar Wastes
4 Gilt-Leaf Palace
4 Forest
3 Swamp
3 Mutavault
1 Twilight Mire

More on this deck, and States in general, in the coming weeks.

Thanks for reading, everybody. Happy belated Rosh Hashonna!


Reuben Bresler
Reubs in the forums
[email protected]
CleverMonikerMan on AIM

Current Playlist:

Ism — Sacred Cows
The Raconteurs — The Many Shades of Black
Cake — Wheels
Jeffrey Lewis — A History of Punk on the Lower East Side of NYC 1950-1975
Happy Birthday — The Beatles

* Trademarked

** Elder Dragon, mother f***er! Do you speak it?

*** Hurly-Burly, are you KIDDING me?