True Or False: Your M14 Breakdown

Mark dissects Magic 2014 to see whether the new Core Set will live up to our high expectations. What subtle surprises are in our gaming futures?

It’s coming.

M14 is only days away from arrival and already it’s one of the worst sets of all ti-

Wait… wait… wait… it would appear I’ve been reading too many Facebook updates today. Allow me to regroup and find my center.

Alright. I’m ready to go.

Coming off the heels of Return to Ravnica, the most successful set to-date in the world of Magic: The Gathering, is no small feat. No matter what cards were in M14, it’s almost a sure bet that people were going to look at it and mumble “it sucks.” After all, what is it lacking in the first place?

The list of disappointments goes on forever.

When trying to figure out if a set is going to be good, you have to view it from all angles. Most people that I’ve encountered regarding M14 seem to be judging it purely by face value and not taking other factors into consideration. Just because this set doesn’t have cards that explode off of the page and make you go “Whoa!” doesn’t mean that it’s a bad set… right? Right?

With my ear firmly to the ground, I’ve taken my time in order to best make a decision on what I think about M14. Do I think it’s great? Do I think it’s bad? Before I get into that, there are some truths and fallacies that I want to address regarding our newly minted Core Set, because I think it’s important to make the most educated choices that we can before deeming the set a failure or a success. There are also certain myths I want to dispel.

True or False: The Buddy Lands Not Being Reprinted is the End of Days

One of the most common complaints that I’ve heard in the last few days is that Glacial Fortress, Rootbound Crag, Dragonskull Summit, Drowned Catacomb, and Sunpetal Grove will not be reprinted in M14.


While these lands have been good for Magic for the last few years, they’ve grown stale. One of the driving forces behind the success of Magic is that it always finds ways to stay fresh and current in the minds of players both new and old. These lands have represented something of a comfort zone for people; they’re always in the core set, and you can always rely on them to fix your manabase.

Not anymore.

Back in the olden days of Magic, we didn’t have Buddy Lands. We had to pick our lands carefully based on calculations, ratios of spells, and color requirements. Nowadays people can jam three-to-five color decks without batting an eyelash, and despite the fact that the Ravnica shocklands and the Innistrad cycle are still around (for a few more months as well), people are going to remember what it’s like to have to struggle with their lands.

Is this the worst thing that has ever happened? No. It will just take some adjusting, especially with Farseek also not being reprinted. Trust me. You’ll be OK.

End of the World? False.

True or False: Young Pyromancer is the Next Big Two-Drop

On paper, Young Pyromancer looks ridiculous.

Two mana for a 2/1 that generates 1/1 tokens is powerful, not something to laugh at. In a dedicated deck, this will create an army for you that further pressures your opponent, considering the spells you play will also have an impression on the game. But is this card really that insane?

Young Pyromancer

Some people have said this card is on the same power level as Tarmogoyf or Dark Confidant, that the card advantage it creates will take over games very quickly and often put the game out of reach of your opponents. While I admit that Young Pyromancer is very interesting, I would not say that it is the next creature in a line of the greatest creatures ever printed. Look at what it’s competing against in Standard:

To doubt that Young Pyromancer will be a player in Standard would be foolish – I’m not saying that it will see very little play, since we all know that it will get played. However, the decks it would be good in are decks that play a lot of spells, and those decks (Izzet Blitz or U/W/R Flash) are both ridiculously different and both prone to problems. Also, casting spells is a finite plan- you will only have so many to cast before you hit a few lands or other creatures, and at that point Young Pyromancer’s value drops off. In the case of Izzet Blitz, Supreme Veridct is still a way to just say “no,” and in U/W/R Flash if the amount of creatures generated by the Pyromancer begins to lose ground to whatever your opponent is doing, a Supreme Verdict negates all the hard work you put into making 1/1’s.

Is this creature powerful and will it see play? Yes. Will it go down as one of the most powerful two-drops ever printed? Only time will tell, but for now – I’d say no.

Young Pyromancer is the Successor to the Two Drop Crown? False.

True or False: Archangel of Thune is the Real Deal

When you read Archangel of Thune, it’s easy to think that it’s slow. From spending time in my stream, people either think it’s either awesome or terribly outclassed by every other threat in the format.

I’m here to tell you that I think that this creature has a very strong chance of being a player in the upcoming Standard environment. Take this to the bank.

Thragtusk is good, right? It’s been a driving force in deckbuilding for the last year, and it has helped to make green one of the (if not the) best color in Magic right now. Archangel can do a few things that Thragtusk can’t, and those few differences make it a very different creature to analyze.

Archangel of Thune

First, it flies. Flying is a very powerful ability, especially with so few ways to block it. Soon, Lingering Souls will exit the field of battle along with a few other marquee fliers like Restoration Angel or Thundermaw Hellkite, leaving Archangel of Thune to rule the skies.

Second, lifelink in a format filled with tons of aggressive creatures is a hot commodity. In a few months the format will slow down somewhat, and if the previous Pro Tour is any indication of what to expect the Archangel is very well positioned to race decks like mono-red and G/W Aggro.

Third: speaking of racing, her static ability, the +1/+1 counters to all of your creatures whenever you gain life, is absurd. Nothing lets you race with more ease than growing your army, including the Angel itself! As a five-drop, she presents a ton of bang for her buck, and that’s not even mentioning the fact that she isn’t even a legend. Can you imagine playing this card on turn four off the back of a mana dork, another on turn five, then attacking? With two triggers, your mana creature is a 3/3,and each of your Archangels are 5/6’s. Oh, and you gained three life. Does this sound like something an aggro deck can race? Hello and Good Luck!

Archangel of Thune Will Be a Major Player? True.

True or False: New Slivers Are the Worst Damn Thing in the History of Magic: The Gathering.

I am prepared for the hate that is going to come from this, and I can’t wait to read the comments.

I like the new Slivers.


One of the phrases I’ve been using since I started writing is “evolve or die,” and I think the Slivers must have been reading some of my early work.

Yes, I get it. You love your Starship Trooper-esque Slivers that look like creepy spider-beast things spawned from some kind of Lovecraftian fever-dream. Mesh them up with the hivemind and symbiotic nature of Venom and you have an M:tG classic.

One that has run its course.

In the same vein that Liberated Karn or made Glissa a Traitor, stories have to go on or they cease to exist. It’s a literary fact, and the world of Magic is no different. The artwork from the new Slivers has elicited a response similar to finding out that ‘Firefly’ was canceled: anger, confusion, and a downright stubbornness to accept it. [Editor’s Note: Watch it Mark, I can kill you with my brain…]

I, for one, like the new artwork. They look like people now? You hate that? Really? A species built on the principle of evolution has somehow grown past looking like a mantis and onto the dominant form of life on the plane it inhabits? You don’t say.

From a lore perspective, this opens up a tons of doors. Has the Phyrexian influence touched the Slivers? Elesh Norn has been spotted on the flavor text to Forge[/author]“]Darksteel [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author], and even Koth has been seen. Their genesis into humanoids is either a grand design or a forced form of transformation by an even-more-powerful hand.

This got me thinking about what Theros could present, or if we have in fact seen the last of the Phyrexian menace. Are Slivers going to keep evolving, and if so, into what? Once they reach a new plane they are only going to start expanding their territory, and who knows what kind of havoc that could create.

For now I am very hopeful. Yes, the Slivers have been one of the most iconic tribes in all of Magic, but it’s time for them to get a makeover. Change can be scary at first, but like I always say – evolve or you get the picture.

The New Slivers Suck? False.

True or False: The Gap in Power Between This Core Set and Others is Huge.

As interesting as I find M14 from a flat level, the difference in power levels between this set and the previous ones is staggering.

From a deck-designer standpoint, I find M14 fascinating. It’s a much harder nut to crack, and the diamonds appear to be lumps of coal at first. I am OK with that.

In years prior, we were essentially clubbed over the head with what cards were good. Primeval Titan warped the format around itself for years, and Thragtusk at one point was the most-played creature in Standard, literally polarizing deck builders to either play it or play to beat it. Ponder was one of the best cards in U/W Delver and also enabled U/R Splinter Twin. Mana Leak was one of the best tempo-related spells in the game and will probably never see another reprint. This doesn’t even touch on the fact that every Titan that was printed saw a very healthy amount of play at certain points in the format.

Primeval TitanThragtuskMana Leak

M14 doesn’t jump out at me as having the kind of cards that will alter the way we play Magic for the next year, but instead gives me the impression that it will give a ton of role-players for us to enjoy. Xathrid Necromancer could be a boost to Junk Aristocrats, Doom Blade is the card control and midrange decks have been dreaming about, Burning Earth is the Manabarbs we’ve always wanted, and Gladecover Scout is already scaring the hell out of players with its inclusion in Bant Hexproof decks. There are so many cards that go into existing decks that it’s impossible to guess how many additions will be made.

Maybe this is what we need. For the first time in years, I feel like we are free from the oppression of core set cards that demand that the format answer them, and instead this opens up a ton of design space for Return to Ravnica and Theros to flourish.

No more Prime Time.

No more Swagtusks.

No more broken blue spells.

This makes me believe that M14 is a more well-rounded set, albeit a much less powerful one.

M14 is Weaker than the Last Several Core Sets? True.

True or False: The New Planeswalkers Aren’t Very Good

Of all the complaints I’ve heard so far, this is the most glaring.

Allow to me break this down for some of you in a very easy fashion:

Garruk, Caller of Beasts is a very, very powerful card. Will it see a ton of play? No, probably not. That doesn’t make him bad – it just means in whatever deck that emerges that plays him, probably one after rotation, he will be a piece that allows for some very unfair things.

Garruk, Caller of Beasts

Examine his +1 ability… does that seem weak to you? A built-in Lead the Stampede that jumps him to five loyalty is excellent, and in the kind of deck he would be played in… you know, one with creatures… he’ll always hit and often hit big. Even if he doesn’t, it’s apparent all he’ll be bottoming are lands or other copies of himself, and that’s the kind of filtering I can get behind.

His -2 ability doesn’t screw around either. One of the “planeswalker tests” is if it can protect itself. I’d say putting any green creature from your hand into play constitutes a good way to protect himself from harm.

Finally, you have his ultimate, which with the fuel you’re getting from his first ability should provide you with a very clean way to end the game, parlaying something as simple as an Arbor Elf into a Craterhoof Behemoth to close out the game. Is Garruk expensive? Yes. But haven’t Nicol Bolas and Sorin Markov seen play at that price or more? You betcha!

Next we have Chandra, Pyromaster. It only took them five years, but they finally printed a Chandra that is playable! Hooray!

Murmurings of her being weak are so grossly exaggerated that they make me want to brew with her all the more and shove her success in the face of her naysayers. Her power and her uses are elegant and require some work to be good, but the dividends should be huge.

Chandra, Pyromaster

Starting with four loyalty as a 2RR planeswalker is amazing, and means killing her will be a chore for any deck. Combined with other red spells, her +1 should make killing most threatening creatures a bit easier, meaning she will live long enough to give you great benefits.

Where people start to criticize is her 0 ability, which for some reason gets scoffed at. Why?

In the kind of deck that would play Chandra, you’re not just going to jam her on the battlefield, use the zero ability, and cross your fingers. That just seems bad.

Where her amazing potential comes into play is in the midgame, when all of your spells are castable and the zero loyalty can just straight up draw you an extra card with minimal drawback. Does that sound powerful? Even if it’s a land, you’re drawing two cards a turn, always hitting your land drops, and building up to your game-ending spells. It feels like once she gets going, she’s a ball that will just roll down the hill until she crushes your opponent.

Her weakest ability is her ultimate, but even then it feels like it can just blow apart your opponent’s board state. Exile the top ten cards and hit three copies of Warleader’s Helix? Sounds like a plan!

All in all, I believe both of these planeswalkers will make a splash, and they are not to be underestimated.

Garruk, Caller of Beasts and Chandra, Pyromaster Aren’t Good: False

You Will Have a Blast at Your M14 Prerelease.

That was more of a statement. Of course you will!

This is one of the more interesting Sealed and Draft formats, so I’m very interested in playing with it. Aside from the coolness of drafting Slivers, there appear to be tons of strategies and cards that should be a ball to play with. I hope that you’re able to venture to your local store and battle it out with this new set, because it should be a blast.

M14’s Prerelease is Going to Rock? True.

Well, that does it for me this week.

I’m glad to throw my two cents into the arena, because I feel like this set is being unjustly torn down already by the Internet community before it even has a change to flourish.

While I agree that it’s not the powerhouse previous core sets have been, I do strongly believe that it’s going to make a huge impact on Standard, and that might be an understatement.

Just remember that even a mighty treefolk was once a saproling, and appearances can often be deceiving.

Come watch me stream on http://www.twitch.tv/Mark_Nestico

Catch ya on the flip-