Trying To Get “A Greater Power” From Dark Intimations

This may surprise you, but Pro Tour Hall of Famer Patrick Chapin really enjoyed casting Cruel Ultimatum. Shocking, I know. So where does this new Bolas-esque card stand? And how hard will Patrick work to cast it? What other early secrets from Aether Revolt is Patrick stoked about?

There is always a greater power.

The heart wants what the heart wants…

…and in this case, the heart wants power.

Nicol Bolas is coming back…

I have no idea if there is actually a Nicol Bolas card in Aether Revolt. I would kind of guess there isn’t, but that instead Nicol Bolas is appearing in the big set this fall. That way, Dark Intimations could have a chance to be played for its own sake. Then, this fall, it is a key part to the new Nicol Bolas card’s power.

Fortunately, Dark Intimations is an interesting card in its own right. After all, it is both a four-for-one and a compelling new ability (returning planeswalkers from the graveyard outside of green).

Dark Intimations is more than just a Tidings, however, even setting aside the loyalty for the Bolas ability.

Just take a look at the four “cards” line item:

● The creature or planeswalker your opponent has to sacrifice

● The card they discard

● The creature or planeswalker we get back

● The card we draw

The sacrifice ability is definitely worth more than a card on the average. In fact, it’s probably worth about two mana more than a random card. It’s particularly valuable as part of a mass of card advantage. We’d generally much rather have three cards and an Edict than four cards for regaining some of the lost tempo from playing this card.

The card they discard is worth less than drawing a random card, however; it’s probably less than a mana behind. Once you factor in how many extra cards we’re getting, getting a discard spell is efficient at spreading out the advantage in a variety of useful ways. However, it is so easy to play around, and there are so many graveyard synergies opponents could have, I think we’ve got to count it as being worth more than looting but less than a full card.

The creature or planeswalker we get back is a card with selection; however, we do have to actually have to set it up. I think we’re going to miss this card more than people might guess at first, but the times we’re getting selection from it will hopefully make up for that. It does increase my interest in Liliana, the Last Hope and Chandra, Torch of Defiance. It also makes me very interested in black, blue, or red creatures that cost four or less. Whether must-kills like Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy or extremely efficient creatures that scale well in the late-game like Snapcaster Mage, Dark Intimations raises the value of any pushy creatures we might get in this space.

Finally, draw a card… Yeah, that’s worth about a card.

You’re welcome.

So, on balance, I think Dark Intimations is slightly stronger than a Tidings. The Edict effect is worth more than any amount of the other parts might cost it, but I don’t think the card has quite as much effect as a draw-five (at least not without the loyalty ability factored in). Regardless, I would love a Tidings, and an even better Tidings is very attractive. There are some deckbuilding considerations for ensuring we are likely to have something to bring back, but that’s not asking much.

We may not have Snapcaster Mage, but we do have Torrential Gearhulk. Unfortunately, Torrential Gearhulk comes down the turn after we’d like to Dark Intimations. Everything would be awesome if we could Gearhulk the Intimations, but it is (fortunately) a sorcery.

Here’s a try, anyway:

Outside of the aforementioned awkwardness, Yahenni’s Expertise looks so good, I can’t imagine not trying it if we’re playing Liliana, the Last Hope.

Once we’re building to Yahenni’s Expertise, it’s hard to play as many threes as we’d like to work with it, since permission doesn’t. However, without permission, why are we even using Torrential Gearhulk?

Disallow seems sweet, generally better than Void Shatter, but that’s not exactly asking the world. While it may not be as effective at stopping Emrakul, the Promised End, it is a lot easier to play more copies maindeck.

While I expect Disallow to be a regular role-player, it isn’t enough to make me want to pay all of the costs we are above. Liliana is going to miss too much. Yahenni’s Expertise is going to miss too much. Dark Intimations is going to miss too much. New cards in Aether Revolt could change things, but for now, let’s move over to Goblin Dark-Dwellers.

It’s not a perfect fit, since the Dark-Dwellers plus Intimations mean we’re super-crowded at five. Still, the synergy with Yahenni’s Expertise is too good to ignore, and Dark Intimations is a great follow-up to the Expertise. Besides, leaning into red mana instead of blue means we can support Chandra, Torch of Defiance, another excellent pre-Intimations threat.

I considered the possibility of something like Cultivator’s Caravan, but we’ve already got such good things to be doing for three mana.

Besides, we can’t get it back with our recursion, and we’re not the best at crewing. On top of all of that, I’m not sure we really want to be playing Goblin Dark-Dwellers or Dark Intimations on turn 4. Do we really already have something in our yard we want to rebuy?

Cathartic Reunion (and other looting effects) are interesting with Dark Intimations. It makes it easier to not miss the fourth card while also giving us a little insurance for games where we draw too many fives.

I am really excited about Battle at the Bridge. With no artifacts and it not comboing with any of our stuff, this probably isn’t the optimal home for it. That being said, I could imagine it being so good, we still want to play some, particularly when we’re paying life for stuff like Live Fast.

Battle at the Bridge starts off as XB for –X/-X. With roughly the efficiency of Blaze but without the ability to go to the face, that isn’t enough to interest us in Constructed. However, we’re also getting a Stream of Life.

I can’t tell you how badly many Grixis decks want a Stream of Life. White and green always have such nice lifegain options, but Grixis always has to stretch to make something work. We wouldn’t want actual Stream of Life, but this is a far cry from that. After all, we’re getting a creature kill spell “for free.”

We probably wouldn’t want to pay X for –X/-X, but at least that one would be close. This means we’re probably paying a little more than a mana for the lifegain (and not even a card) to drain the creature’s life, not just kill it. Plus, we gain an option that is effectively “Multikicker 1: Gain 1 life.” This lets us sink all of our extra mana into it, giving us extra life points of cushion or to later use to feed various life-payment cards like Ob Nixilis Reignited. It may not seem like much, but I think the ability to drain someone’s Veteran Motorist for seven in the mid-game is going to have some of the feel of Tendrils of Corruption.

Of course, if we actually play some artifacts, Battle at the Bridge starts to get really enticing. For instance:

Once we’re able to tap Terrarion, Prophetic Prism, and Metalspinner’s Puzzleknot to help cast our Battles, we’re really doing it.

We still need black mana to get the party started, so we’re never reducing the cost below one, but it’s not going to be hard to turn Battle at the Bridge into a one-mana removal spell in some spots. Additionally, it alleviates some of the risk of flooding in games we don’t draw the Colossus. Besides, Terrarion plus Metalwork Colossus is the epitome of value!

I’d love to use this creature but that’s a big ask when we’re using this much colorless mana. If our manabase evolved, however, it is a useful one to keep in mind.

I could easily imagine Trophy Mage showing up in decks like this. It’s particularly interesting, considering how well it works with Elder Deep-Fiend. Still, it’s not an artifact per se, and I didn’t want to sign up for the tempo loss without good reason.

Scrap Trawler looks very exciting, and I would not be at all surprised if we wanted to build into it even more. Metalspinner’s Puzzleknot and Terrarion mean we’ve got a lot of ways to ensure that, even if they kill it, we’re up a card. If it lives, however, Metalspinner’s Puzzleknot can rebuy Terrarion. Hedron Archive can rebuy almost anything. Metalwork Colossus’s sacrifice cost is largely eliminated. It takes lots of work, but if we do what the Trawler asks, we can build a must-kill threat that draws us a card even when they do kill it.

I’m not sure where it leads, but I am kind of interested in a Modern strategy involving Arcbound Ravager and Scrap Trawler. That synergy is fantastic, of course, but we’ve actually got tons of great interactions already baked into Affinity-style decks. Chromatic Star and Chromatic Sphere mean we can draw tons of cards if we want, and Memnite, Ornithopter, and Mox Opal ensure even our one-cost artifacts are drawing us a card whenever we sacrifice them.

Disciple of the Vault gives us another big payoff for all of the artifact-sacrificing shenanigans, and while it’s probably too ambitious, if we wanted, we could even Marionette Master.

Once we’re talking speculative brewing, we should consider Frogmite and Myr Enforcer (and, really, any artifact that actually costs us less mana than the number printed on it).

It may cost us zero to cast a Frogmite, but we can sacrifice it to our Ravager so that our Scrap Trawler gets back a second Scrap Trawler. Once we’ve got two Scrap Trawlers going, stuff gets nuts fast. While double Scrap Trawling isn’t “infinite,” it is so big that we might end up being able to support some kind of Eggs-style recursion deck.

Good times.

One other aspect of Scrap Trawler to consider is how well it works with artifact creatures, Vehicles, and specifically Smuggler’s Copter.

If we play a Bomat Courier on turn 1, followed by a Smuggler’s Copter, we can discard a cheap artifact and ensure that our Scrap Trawler is in business right out the gate. Even if they kill the Copter, our Scrap Trawler can potentially get it back if they kill the Trawler.

Scrapheap Scrounger is an interesting addition to such a deck, especially if we have a good way to sacrifice it for profit. If we do, we can sacrifice it to get back a one-cost artifact we particularly value or just want to loop, and then we can just rebuy the Scrounger.

Heart of Kiran is a very interesting new Vehicle that is really unlike anything we’ve ever seen. I’m not sure if it will end up overlapping enough with Scrap Trawler, but I’d guess, at the very least, it finds some homes that take advantage of its planeswalker-related text.

Without the planeswalker clause, it’s not the most efficient Vehicle in the world (which is Smuggler’s Copter), but it’s not bad. Play it on turn 2 and then drop anything with three power, and you’ve got yourself a nice little beatdown going.

However, combine it with a planeswalker like Liliana, the Last Hope or Nissa, Voice of Zendikar and you’re really rocking and rolling. The key is the vigilance. If you drop a three-cost planeswalker and then attack, you’re getting some seriously nice damage, plus you’re still able to defend your planeswalker. What’s more, you usually don’t even have to remove the second loyalty counter and actually defend, since the threat of doing so is a big enough deterrent to convince them not to attack you in the first place.

Heart of Kiran is actually pretty well set up for fighting planeswalkers. If you cast it on turn 2, your opponent can’t really cast their own Liliana or Nissa or the Heart of Kiran will just eat it on your turn. It’s also kind of interesting that Heart of Kiran into a three-cost planeswalker gives you a pretty amazing board presence despite having no “creatures” on the battlefield. This means a turn 4 Yahenni’s Expertise is likely to be very one-sided.

While I think the most likely homes for Heart of Kiran are going to feature Liliana, the Last Hope; Nissa, Voice of Zendikar; Saheeli Rai; or Depala, Pilot Exemplar, I am kind of fascinated by Deploy the Gatewatch, and it is a totally reasonable option to consider.

Deploy the Gatewatch is probably just too flawed of a strategy because of the mana curve. You just need to play so many planeswalkers to get your money’s worth.

That being said, all it would take to seriously change the equation is a single dominant planeswalker that costs seven or more…

Image credit: Wizards of the Coast