Last week I took a look at some newly spoiled cards through the three lenses I always examine new cards with:
1. Cube Designer (Jimmy): Yep, this is often where I go first. As much as I love playing competitive Magic, I know cards will fall into their place and I will play them pretty much no matter what. While there may be cards that excite me, I get even more excited at being able to fill a hole in my Cube or support a new or underperforming strategy. Being able to view a card in the context of my Cube also can give me a good idea of the overall power level of a card in a vacuum without the confines of a certain format.
2. Serious Tournament Player (JimD): Of course, very few cards actually get considered for the Cube, and the most important thing is for me to analyze how new cards are going to fit into whatever tournament format is currently most important for me. With my current focus being mostly on the StarCityGames.com Open Series, this means that Standard and Legacy are my highest priorities.
3. Connoisseur of Fine Design (James): For the most part, I’m pretty jaded when it comes to new cards. I’ve been playing for over ten years, and while the fantasy flavor of the game is cool, it really has little bearing on why I play. If Tarmogoyf were a wookie instead of, well, whatever the hell it is, it really wouldn’t affect my opinion of the game that much. However, Wizards has been doing a fantastic job with the flavor of the game in the past few years, and it’s hard not to be amused by cards like Ice Cage or Rescue from the Underworld.
With the spoiler finally being fully revealed, there are a few more cards we’ve gotta talk about. And we’ve also got a special surprise at the end, as I’ve been cooking up quite the draft!
Three Me’s Part 2
Jimmy: Today’s first card isn’t really for me. Both Auras and heroic-enabling creature-targeting effects are almost completely absent from Cube since they have been historically weak for most of Magic’s history.
JimD: I’m not going to lie—I initially dismissed today’s card as a casual-only card. Again, Auras and creature-targeting effects have never been that powerful, but this is a little bit different in the world of Theros. As we have seen in Theros Limited, both the heroic mechanic and creature Auras (especially in conjunction) have been very powerful, and as Goblin Warchief and friends have shown us, cost reduction is also quite powerful. One of the cards that interested me a lot from Theros was Dragon Mantle— it’s cheap, it’s an Aura, it triggers heroic, and it replaces itself.
While not an amazingly powerful effect, at one mana it is extremely efficient and can help a deck build velocity. There are a number of two-mana cantripping Auras in both Theros and Born of the Gods, and Hero of Iroas cuts their cost in half while providing you with a good target for them. This can help you trigger heroic repeatedly or draw a number of cards while scrying and moving through your deck. All this scrying and cantripping lets you play a low land count, and the small incremental advantages will add up over the course of the game. Hero of Iroas makes me think of cards like:
In fact, let’s just mash it all together and see what we can come up with!
- 3 Fiendslayer Paladin
- 4 Battlewise Hoplite
- 2 Favored Hoplite
- 4 Soldier of the Pantheon
- 3 Ephara, God of the Polis
- 4 Hero of Iroas
- 3 Eidolon of Countless Battles
Is this deck bad? Yeah probably, but the goal here is to brainstorm, not make a world-class deck on the first shot. This deck seems like a pretty solid aggressive deck that could have some very good matchups and is experimenting with a lot of new cards. If not a contender in Standard, it’s possible a deck like this could translate to Block.
James: Nothing too fancy for me here either. This is a pretty mechanical card; it does what it does and assists the major mechanics of the set.
Jimmy: This card’s effect is quite powerful. As we talked about when looking at Searing Blood, Searing Blaze is an absurd aggressive card, and Satyr Firedancer turns all of your Lightning Bolt effects into Searing Blazes. Even better, it turns your Searing Blazes into card advantage machines— two mana and one card to cast three Lightning Bolts in one! One of the biggest problems burn decks have is they have to balance burning their opponent’s creatures with burning their opponents. If they use all of their burn on their opponent, they might die before being able to finish them off; if they use all of their burn on their opponent’s creatures, they will never have enough ammo to actually finish the job.
Satyr Firedancer solves this problem admirably but is also quite fragile. Regardless, for two mana the effect is quite good, and I’m going to give it a spin and see how it goes. The only major downside is that if you need to kill their creature and Lightning Bolt them and they kill your Satyr Firedancer in response, their creature will survive. The jury is definitely out on this one; Patrick Sullivan, what do you think?
JimD: Any card up for consideration in Cube is of course going to be a possible player in Constructed formats, and I think Satyr Firedancer has a definite shot. Having Searing Blood in Standard for the blowout goes a long way toward making him playable, but the real question is going to be if there is a deck that actively wants to play a ton of burn spells and not just focus on devotion. The deck that my doge Joe Demestrio played to a Top 16 finish at Grand Prix Albuquerque a few months ago might be an interesting place to start:
Casting Warleader’s Helix to nug them for four damage, gain four life, and kill a Blood Baron of Vizkopa does seem pretty insane. Again, I think time will tell on this one. Even if it’s not a reasonable maindeck card, it could certainly be a powerful sideboard option.
James: While I still think the enchantment creatures are a little bit gimmicky, this one does a very good job at feeling like an enchantment while still also feeling reasonable as a creature. And it’s got those blue sparkles on it, which clearly means it’s also an enchantment . . . duh.
Jimmy: While Disenchant has been in and out of my Cube over the years, I think it’s just a bit better than both of these cards. Having to exile and not destroy an artifact or enchantment is rarely relevant in Cube, and putting it back into their deck is usually worse than destroying it if that’s the case. While neither of these are making the cut for me, having Disenchant effects in some capacity in the Cube is very important since there are tons of game-breaking artifacts and enchantments that need destroying.
JimD: While not flashy at all, both of these cards are going to be very important for the new Standard. As can be expected from the enchantment-themed block, enchantments are everywhere, and the indestructible Gods cause fits for decks that don’t have access to Detention Sphere. In fact, Detention Sphere has been working double overtime for most of this season; it’s gotta deal with enchantments, Gods, artifacts, planeswalkers, and random creatures, and sometimes it just can’t get em all.
Now decks like U/W Control, Esper Control, B/W Control, B/G Control, and green-based devotion all finally have an answer to Gods, Underworld Connections, random enchantment creatures, and even the previously mentioned Detention Sphere. This is such a huge deal since especially in the Mono-Black Devotion matchup Erebos, God of the Dead and Underworld Connections were basically untouchable. Giving the green decks a way to deal with Thassa, God of the Sea is also a big upgrade. This is of course not to mention all of the new Gods. Make no mistake, these cards will have a significant impact on the format.
James: Both of these cards are very elegant solutions to problems that other cards in the set have created. Printing something super narrow like "exile target God" would have a somewhat similar effect but would be extremely narrow and confined to Theros. This was the biggest problem with splice in Kamigawa block—it simply did nothing when combined with older cards. They’re not flashy but get the job done, and they have a fun feeling of discovery for newer players. "Why would I want to shuffle an enchantment back into my opponent’s deck instead of just killing it? Oh . . . what does Thassa, God of the Sea do?"
JimD: When I look at this card, I see it mostly as a sideboard card against the G/R Monsters and Devotion decks. Having played a bunch of U/W Control over the last few months, sometimes the G/R deck is able to assemble a board of planeswalkers and creatures that is simply too much to overcome with only Supreme Verdicts and Detention Spheres. Planar Cleansing is exactly what I would want, but it’s so hard to make it work because you need to completely abandon your Detention Spheres and Pithing Needles.
Now we’ve got a Planar Cleansing that won’t hit either, and it’s even an instant to help out against Mistcutter Hydras. While it could definitely have applications elsewhere, being a fantastic sideboard card for U/W Control and Esper Control against G/R is a great start for this somewhat-expensive card.
James: I’m very glad they’re starting to be more willing to put the word "planeswalker" into text boxes. When planeswalkers first came out, Wizards tried very hard to make answers that would be general and not specific to planeswalkers. Cards like Oblivion Ring, Vampire Hexmage, and the like did the job but not so directly. Lately they have moved past this with cards like Dreadbore, Hero’s Downfall, and this card, and I couldn’t be happier.
Planeswalkers have always been very hard for non-aggressive decks to deal with, and games would often devolve into planeswalker subgames that could be very frustrating. Changing the planeswalker legend rule, printing more cards like this, and toning down/balancing the power level on planeswalkers more has made this much better.
Jimmy: Clearly this card looks a little unassuming and mostly just like Limited fodder, and for the most part I agree. However, this card intrigues me. A 2/2 haste creature for three mana is about par for the course, but her activated ability is actually quite unique; is there another cheap, activated, repeatable scry effect in the game at all? In any sort of midgame situation, Stormcaller of Keranos is really going to let you dig deep into your deck and ensure you are drawing pure gasoline for the rest of the game. Is this good enough for Constructed or Cube? Probably not, but if you have a Common/Uncommon Cube, a stack, or any other sort of fun singleton format you like to play, this card seems like a very fun inclusion.
JimD: As I said, this card is probably nothing more than a very good Limited card, but it is pretty sweet. I kinda wish they had pushed its power level a little more.
James: I really like how subtle this card is. Scrying is a very good ability; we pay an extra mana on our Shock to scry, we play lands that come into play tapped just to scry, and we can take basically any somewhat average card and make it quite good by tacking scry on it. This card is a scrying machine, which is a very unique effect. The fact it is put on an aggressive red creature makes it even more intriguing to me. What can I say, I like this one.
Overall, I’m a bit unimpressed with the remaining spoiled cards, but much like Theros a lot of these cards are quite difficult to evaluate. Like planeswalkers, the God cards are very hard to get a feel for without seeing them in play. I’m looking forward to getting to mess around with a lot of the cards we’ve talked about and very much looking forward to what Brian Schlactus will brew up to take on his new challenger in the next episode of So You Think You Can Brew!
Rotisserie (Chicken) Draft
Over the last week I have been running a rotisserie draft of my Cube, and for the next two weeks you guys are going to get a live look leading up to the finished decks and matches!
A rotisserie draft is when you draft an entire set of cards at once; this can be a complete Magic set like Theros, a crafted set of cards like a Cube, or if you’re really wild just every card in the history of the game! The draft is run much like a fantasy football "snake" draft. There are eight players, and after randomly determining the order, player one selects one card out of the entire pool. This process repeats until player 8 is reached; that player selects his pick, and then the pick order "wheels" back around to him and he also gets the ninth pick. Player 7 gets the tenth pick, and the draft order continues going back and forth in this manner.
For the draft, we decided it would be best to use a shared Google Doc to allow us to make our picks at our leisure and use an online list for my Cube. After the draft is done, we’ll build the decks and play to a winner. The players in the draft are all local players and friends, and everyone in the group has at least a few Pro Points except for one (who has a lot of Cube experience). You may recognize some of the names. Grand Prix Miami Top 8 competitor Pete Ingram got the first pick and selected:
The next few picks went as follows.
One of the most enjoyable (and challenging) things about a draft like this is you’re presented with such a wealth of information. Not only is every single card in the Cube available to you at once, but you also get to see every other pick of every other player. You can see over the next few picks each player’s deck start to coalesce and come together while they also try to avoid fighting with their neighbors.
I started my draft with Strip Mine with the intention to draft a deck based around utility lands, Fastbond, Upheaval, Life from the Loam, and so on—somewhat similar to the deck Kurt Spiess just used to win SCG Legacy Open: Baltimore. I also knew that Strip Mine is a powerful card and an open-ended pick and if I were to get cut off I could always move into an aggressive deck as a backup plan. I also hoped that many of the cards I would want would not be heavily sought after by the other players in the draft and tried to get the more contested cards as early as I could.
However, tragedy would strike!
Where would the next few rounds of picks take us? Tune in next week to find out. While waiting, what cards do you think will have the biggest impact in Standard from Born of the Gods? And do you think any one card in particular is most likely to spawn a new archetype?