It’s nearly D-Day. Every time a new set starts to approach, my toes get all tingly with anticipation. Pre-Releases are great chances to get out, interact with new people, get your muddy hands on new cards, and have a good day of fun with a chance of profit. And that applies to everyone, not just the guys who spend fifty-three hours a week playtesting.
If you’re planning on heading to a Pre-Release and you want to keep your collection in mind while doing some trading, I’m trying to follow on Chris Romeo tradition of pointing out some cards for which you’ll want to keep an eye out. I’m starting with uncommons that you will want to keep if you open them, and then heading into a list of rares that I think will become staples – cards you will eventually want to trade for or keep a hold on for future Constructed play.
Most of these cards are rumored only, and opinions apply to the rumored versions of the cards. Thanks, as usual, to the guys over at MTGSalvation.com.
Tattermunge Maniac: This list starts off with the Little 2/1 For 1 That Could. Is having to attack every turn (if possible) a big enough drawback? The stats are already amazing, and the hybrid mana cost is actually a boon more than a downside. Consider the fact that Wizards also gives us a way to prevent him from having to attack into bigger creatures (Conspire) and this guy is certainly going to be the $3-$4 uncommon for the set. If you play Red or Green aggro, this guy is a must-have, as he will be in demand for just about every Constructed format.
Boggart Ram-Gang and Wilt-Leaf Cavalier: A 3/3 hasted Witherer for three hybrid mana seems fairly strong; so does a 3/4 vigilant Elf. But then again, ALL of the triple-hybrid guys seem reasonable. Green/x aggro will be able to play either of these gents on turn 2 (with an Elf on turn 1), and even attack with the Ram-Gang for three … that’s right up my alley. Ashenmoor Gouger, the 4/4 non-blocker in Red and Black, is another one that deserves special mention, as 4/4 for three is a serious size with a drawback that you may just not care about.
Beseech the Queen and Tower Above: The colorless-hybrid cards, however, are hit and miss. Some you could actually see paying the colorless six mana for, like Beseech the Queen – to get card tutoring in a color that normally would never have it could prove useful. Some you could see the colorless cost helping you in a two-color deck, like Tower Above – the effect is amazing, and if you’re running G/x Aggro, having to pay 2GG for the spell STILL puts it miles ahead of Might of Oaks, for instance. But the rest are iffy. White’s token maker isn’t useful when most other colors already have a token generator; Blue’s card-drawing and Red’s direct damage are abilities that you would rather splash a secondary color for rather than use the colorless-hybrid card. Seriously, two cards for 2UU or 4U? I’ll splash Blue and play Ponder.
Inkfathom Infiltrator: An amazing tool for the Rogue deck that never really materialized after everyone went nuts about Oona’s Blackguard.
Torrent of Souls: In the current state of reanimation, four mana seems to be the going rate: Zombify has long been a staple in the base set, and we still have Dread Return and Makeshift Mannequin lurking around the Standard scene. So is it worth paying an extra mana to give your newly-animated corpse the ability to attack right away, with a strength bonus? My instinct is yes. Cephalid Breakfast put a single Dragon Breath into their deck just to get that single-turn reanimate-to-opponent-face-smashing. Of course, they were using cheaper reanimation spells, but I don’t think that changes anything. I think that, in a dedicated reanimation deck, you will want to get the attacks underway as soon as possible – which means either reanimating Akroma, or using this. The side bonus of having the rest of your creatures gain haste and +2/+0 is probably just gravy.
Firespout: I like this conditional Pyroclasm, and it’s probably best in a deck that can produce both colors of mana and can vary the effects. I tried out Richard Feldman Spectral Visions deck over the weekend, and every time I killed my own Shriekmaw with Pyroclasm, I thought about this card.
Guttural Response: Sure, Pyroblast Mark Two can’t destroy a Blue permanent, but the original wasn’t able to cast with Green mana. This should find a home in the sideboard of just about every deck that can produce Red or Green mana.
Rares That Will Become Staples
The hybrid lands: The complete set of hybrid lands that were previewed in Graven Cairns from Future Sight are all great, especially for two-color decks. The ability to turn one mana of one color into two mana of the other color can be crucial at times, especially if you happen to be stuck with one color of mana and a grip of cards in the other color. They actually fix twice the mana, allowing you to get back into the swing of things much quicker. Most dual-colored lands end up in the $6-$9 range, and I wouldn’t expect these to be any different. If you play a specific two-color combination more often than the others (or one suits your playing style more), focus on getting a set of those.
Reflecting Pool: Another great color-fixer, Reflecting Pool really only helps you if you have all your colors out already – but it will give you a second of whatever you need. It also works great with the Vivid lands, allowing you to produce all colors of mana. Reflecting Pool saw some play in control decks back during the Tempest time frame – I can notably remember it in Red-Blue CounterPhoenix decks, which didn’t have the luxury of enemy-color painlands yet. It’s probably still best in enemy-color decks despite the presence of the Apocalypse painlands; however, allied-color decks might have an overload of choice in the land department.
Oona, Queen of the Fae: The new control finisher, without a doubt. Good in both Blue- and Black-based control decks, Oona starts off with a Dragon-sized body, mills your opponent, AND makes flying tokens. I don’t think you can ask for much more. She’s legendary, but if you play control, you’ll at least want a pair to round out your win conditions.
Windbrisk Raptor: Seven mana is a large amount for one-on-one play, but this card will shine in multiplayer. A 5/7 flyer is capable of holding off most of the big finishers, and the lifelink that your attackers will inherit could turn around a bad situation. This guy may end up in the dollar bin, but I think he has a place at the kitchen table.
Savor the Moment: Inevitably someone will figure out how to abuse this, but until then, it’s still mana acceleration and card draw (at the very least) for a Blue control player.
Midnight Banshee: A possible thrifty replacement for Oona in Black-based control decks. Another big flyer with a suitable impact on the board, the only dig against Midnight Banshee will probably be that she loses to Oona, who’s bigger, Black (avoiding the withering effect), and makes black tokens (who also avoid the withering).
Puppeteer Clique: Playing Black, inevitably your opponent will have creatures in their graveyard, be it through discard or death. Puppeteer Clique gives you a chance to use all those guys against your opponent – twice! Possibly the best creature to play after Damnation, when your opponent is guaranteed to (a) have creatures in her graveyard and (b) be without blockers to defend against the sting of her own man.
Augury Adept: The reverse Johnny Magic. Sorta. The problem will be finding a place to fit him in to current Kithkin builds, but I think that that deck could definitely use some extra card drawing. The hybrid mana allows the deck to stay mono-white, which is one of its strong points.
Swans of Bryn Argoll: Already being hailed as either a great win condition for Blue-White control or, alternately, as the engine for a very odd combo deck, either way, the Swans should be in demand and see play. Although, it still will remain to be proven how useful they will be in a world with -1/-1 counters and various Black toughness-reducing spells like Nameless Inversion and Profane Command.
The Lieges: If you didn’t have a reason to make a dual-colored beatdown deck until this point, the Lieges all step up and serve you notice. At four mana, they might be a little heavy in the casting-cost department, but they’re all reasonable bodies (with, in some cases, reasonable secondary abilities) that will give your hybrid guys a big push. Just thinking about the Red/Green Liege turning my Tattermunge Maniac into a 4/3 gives me goosebumps.
Demigod of Revenge: There’s no shortage of big Black game-enders in this set. Oona, Midnight Banshee, and now this guy? Where Oona could conceivably be okay as a one- or two-of in a deck, with this guy, you’ll definitely want all four, as he might actually be better late game than early.
Vexing Shusher: The ability to say “no” to countermagic is pretty good. Vexing Shusher is another guy that will be in demand across numerous formats.
Fracturing Gust: With the number of enchantments that appear to be in this set, having mass removal may be important come Block Constructed season. For that reason alone, Fracturing Gust will be important.
Grim Poppet: The reverse-Triskelion seems like a much better deal than the original one: Instead of a 4/4 that becomes a 1/1, I get a 1/1 that becomes a 4/4? Sure, I can take that. Granted, it requires another creature, preferably on the other side of the board, and you can’t shoot your opponent in the face or do that whole cool Mephidross Vampire combo, but on the flip side, the damage is “permanent.”
Actually, there is one last sentiment I want to pass on to everyone reading this, and that is this: No matter if you go to Pre-Releases or Release Parties, no matter if you’re a top pro or a young kid who’s just learned the game, please make “having fun” your number one priority. These events are designed to be less competitive than most regular tournaments, and that is because Wizards wants us all to come out, get the new cards, and Have Fun. If everyone keeps that as Objective Number One for the weekend, it’s a good possibility that we all actually WILL have fun. Thanks!
See you next week!