This past weekend I finished in 18th place at Grand Prix: Chicago after starting the tournament 12-1 and losing my two win-and-in’s for Top 8. It was brutal. I played the U/W Control deck I wrote about here in my last article card for card and thought the deck was positioned very well, but I have decided that there must be things that you, the people, are interested in seeing me write about other than U/W Control.
Not to mention I would rather stick a fork in my eye than recap how I fell just short of the Pro Tour yet again.
Instead, Magic 2015 is well on its way to being completely spoiled and that makes it time to talk about some new cards, or at least that seems to be the focus of much conversation in the Maryland card shop where I spend 32-40 hours per week. So without further explanation I give to you the current water cooler hits from this Magic 2015 spoiler season.
Kithkin – The instant that Kinsbaile Skirmisher was spoiled and the creature type – Kithkin was made available for all to see, some players went nuts. Since then it appears that there are actually much fewer of the tribe that once dominated Standard than was anticipated, and it does not look like Kithkin will play a central role unless the last wave of spoilers gives us some of the tribe’s staple creatures like Wizened Cenn or Knight of Meadowgrain. A one-mana Kithkin would really get things going.
Raise the Alarm – Spoiled in conjunction with Triplicate Spirits, it seems that white tokens might have an impact on new Standard going forward. Convoke has returned as a keyword and with a quality one-mana creature and a Raise the Alarm we could be seeing the beginning of a curve that can cast six-mana spells with Convoke as early as turn three.
Ajani Steadfast – One of the cards that stands to benefit the most from the rise of a tokens strategy in Standard, Ajani Steadfast has trouble defending himself without the help of a committed board presence. This does push him into the often-explored realm of planeswalkers who need help to be good, but like Spectral Procession and Ajani Goldmane before him, Ajani Steadfast has a great deal of potential to be explosive.
Wrath of God – Which brings us to the biggest issue facing control players anticipating a new swarm of aggressive decks, possibly with high-value token-making cards. Will we be able to wipe the board for a reasonable amount of mana? Right now we are looking at cards like Mass Calcify and Extinguish all Hope to provide us with the ability to simplify the board, and that picture does not look very appealing. Is six mana the new high-water mark for destroying everything? I hope not.
Avacyn, Guardian Angel vs. Avacyn, Angel of Hope – What in the world is going on here? We had an Avacyn. She was full of unrelenting hope, cost nearly twice as much mana, made everything indestructible… she was great. Who is this Avacyn? Avacyn lite? Avacyn, Angel of protecting some of the things some of the time?
After shouting my Avacyn-related concerns through the house full of Magic players where I currently reside, it appears that old, awesome Avacyn martyred herself in an effort to defeat Griselbrand back in the day. So this is new Avacyn. Got it. Avacyn dies, Avacyn is risen, Avacyn will come again.
Coral Barrier – Now this card is pretty sweet. I’m a sucker for value and a three mana 2/4 that can chump block twice is right up my alley. Definitely a nice common for Limited and it has the potential to see Constructed sideboard play. If only it were Legendary…
Jalira, Master Polymorphist – It would make this card unreal! As it stands now, the best thing to Polymorph up is Worldspine Wurm. Unfortunately the non-legendary clause really nerfs this card’s power level but there still exists the potential for abuse, especially in Commander.
The owner of the card shop where I am currently employed also happens to own a used video game store across the street. Matt is the head honcho/full-on video game guru who works there 60+ hours per week, super nice guy, very smart, very funny. Yesterday he came barreling into the card shop, demanding to see the new Magic cards that had been designed by game designers across the industry. “In particular” he said, “show me the one designed by David Sirlin.”
As it comes to pass, David Sirlin is something of a legend amongst the video game community for laying waste to (*cough* excuse me “balancing”) the popular fighting game Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, which judging from the title might be a Street Fighter game, might be a weird version of Dance Dance Revolution, no one really knows for sure.
After ten minutes of detailed description regarding combos, combo breakers, throws, and something called a “fake fireball,” the final impression that I was left with was that David Sirlin is a bit of a goof and this card is right up his alley. There are only four cards in the history of Magic that employ use of the term “guess” and this is one of them. Have fun.
Quickling – On a similar topic, the resident casual wizard of our house Robert Dennis absolutely loves Quickling because it fills a previously void design space. Before Quickling, the only card that produced this effect was Deputy of Acquittals. The issue with Deputy of Acquittals was that as a multi-colored card it did not play well with the design of a pauper cube, and I recall almost a month ago Robert declaring firmly his want for a common or uncommon creature to both be only blue, and rebuy enters-the-battlefield abilities. It has arrived.
Flesh to Dust – It appears a line has been drawn in the sand regarding the cost of our removal spells in Limited. Gone are the days of Core Set Doom Blades; instead it appears that Lash of the Whip and Pharika’s Cure have set a trend. Black instant-speed removal with few conditions will cost five mana, and cheap removal will be damage-based and therefore conditional.
Sign in Blood – One of the few cards spoiled so far that instantly screams Constructed impact, Sign in Blood expects to find a home in Mono-Black Devotion decks alongside Underworld Connections as a way to get ahead on cards. Definitely a powerful use of two mana, and the fact that it can kill an opponent living life on the edge is very relevant
Ob Nixilis, Unshackled – Now here is some flavor I understand! Ob Nixilis? I remember him! He’s unshackled? Must mean he got shackled at some point and now is free and returned. Got it. Flavor accepted and understood.
The real point of contention with Ob Nixilis, Unshackled is what does he even do really? Obviously a pretty sweet card in a Commander environment being both Legendary and very hateful, but what does he do in Standard? Not much it seems unless they reprint… oh my goodness… can it be? FETCHLAND-TIME? This particular sign seems to point to yes.
Waste Not – The biggest point to be made about this card is how little discussion it has been involved in to begin with. While it has to potential to be an engine for hateful black decks in Eternal formats, it doesn’t seem to have to tools necessary to make an impact in Standard.
Aggressive Mining – A lot of speculation has been made about the power of this card, but I am having trouble seeing how it is going to have more impact than a possible sideboard card for value against control decks. It is possible to abuse Aggressive Mining with something like Manabond, but that will only come up in Eternal formats where four mana is probably too much.
Nissa, Worldwaker – Finally a Nissa we can be proud of! I really like this card and I think it has an instant appeal to constructed speculators that is definitely warranted. Expect that Nissa, Worldwaker will make an immediate impact while we still have the Ravnica shocklands available to us, but I also expect her to turn up in Mono-Green Devotion decks for at least the next year.
Sunblade Elf – While the appeal of this card may be high while we still have access to Temple Garden, I expect it to be a stinker in Standard. It is possible that it can have an impact in Modern as another one-mana 2/2 with a relevant ability, but whether or not it is better than cards like Loam Lion or Kird Ape is questionable. It does make you wonder what would come to be if we had Windswept Heath though…
Yisan, the Wanderer Bard – Another specially-designed card from a guest designer, Yisan, the Wanderer Bard is flying a little bit under the radar currently but has incredible potential. While the stats of the card are currently underwhelming for a Standard environment without a quality one-mana creature to search out should Yisan be allowed to survive for a turn, this perspective can all change very quickly. In addition to hitting all of the right points for a card with Commander potential, the fact that Yisan is Legendary definitely suggests that this card will fetch more than its current $1.99 price tag.
Perilous Vault – It is possible that the question of whether or not we will have an effect that wipes the board for less than six mana has been answered here with Perilous Vault. The answer? Yes you can, but it will cost you two turns. Spending my fourth and fifth turn to clean up a mess that my opponent can see coming or even plan around destroying is not how I envisioned spending my mana. In truth, aside from having a causal impact in Commander I think the most important thing about this card are the words “Zendikar” and “Hedron”. More Fetchland clues!
That is just about it for cards that are generating a great deal of serious conversation from Magic 2015 around the shop. I am very interested to hear what you have to say regarding some of these issues, but I will leave you with my honorable mention for the most intense conversation that is not so serious:
Hot Soup – Easily my favorite card in the set. I can’t wait to shout “Comin’ through!” every time I suit this guy up and bash into an unsuspecting opponent expecting to have a serious game of Magic. Hot Soup. We’re done picking up swords here, ladies and gentlemen, you can now equip your favorite Goblins, Angels, and Shapeshifters as waiters. Is this the Magical version of “Cubicles and Careers“?