If you’re looking for excitement over Rise of the Eldrazi, you’ve come to the right place! What’s my favorite Magic set of all time? The newest one, and right now that’s ROE. While the prudent thing would be to hold off talking too much about the set until the full spoiler is available, I simply can’t wait that long. There have been too many cards officially spoiled, and there’s not enough other people talking about them. So… let’s get it started…
First, before I dig into the individual cards, I wanted to say a word about Limited. Generally speaking, I hate Sealed deck and don’t mind Draft, though Constructed is what I like the most. I’ve been hearing a lot of muttering from friends and acquaintances about how they think ROE Limited is going to be terrible… and it gives me the sneaking suspicion that I’m going to be naturally awesome at ROE Limited. I’ve rarely been successful at crafting aggressively curved decks from Sealed or Draft pools, and obviously ROE is going to be dramatically different. At any rate, while I claimed to have given up again on Sealed deck after trying Zendikar, I think I may have to give it another try with Rise of the Eldrazi.
First up, let’s talk about the colorless Eldrazi cards. The conventional wisdom so far seems to be that these big, expensive colorless spells are not really going to make any sort of dent in Standard, but are going to be awesome for EDH. Interestingly, I’m kinda feeling the exact opposite! There’s a lot of really good mana acceleration available in Standard right now, some of it quite potent (Lotus Cobra, Everflowing Chalice, Elvish Archdruid, Garruk Wildspeaker), do you really think Wizards is going put out a set called Rise of the Eldrazi and not push things so that some Eldrazi spells will be playable in Standard? When the ink dries on the full ROE spoiler, I’m pretty confident that the keys to actually casting Eldrazi spells from your hand will be there for those who are interested in finding them.
Conversely, I’m a bit concerned about the impact this set is going to have on Elder Dragon Highlander. The rare and mythic Eldrazi cards are so damn powerful, and big mana is so plentiful in the format that I can really see the format warping around finding and casting Eldrazi, and stopping people from doing so. Cards, generals, and strategies that don’t fit along these axes might very well become uncompetitive. I’m not so alarmist to think ROE will ruin EDH, but I do think there’s going to be some turmoil, and I’m a little concerned how everything will shake out.
All Is Dust
Tribal Sorcery – Eldrazi
Each player sacrifices all colored permanents he or she controls.
First up is this potent sweeper, which should immediately up the stock of colorless artifacts across all formats. In Standard, here are some worth noting:
Everflowing Chalice, Ornithopter, Sigil of Distinction, Amulet of Vigor, Basilisk Collar, Expedition Map, Explorer’s Scope, Pithing Needle, Trusty Machete, Armillary Sphere, Howling Mine, Kaleidostone, Walking Atlas, the five Obelisks, Pilgrim’s Eye, Font of Mythos, Khalni Gem, Coat of Arms, Eldrazi Monument, Eternity Vessel, Obelisk of Alara, Platinum Angel.
With enough lands in your deck, is Ornithopter/Explorer’s Scope worth trying out when you’re ramping up to huge spells? Pilgrim’s Eye, Walking Atlas… will some of the mana Obelisks finally see some play alongside Everflowing Chalice?
All Is Dust is just mind boggling for what it offers… creature kill for Green, enchantment kill for Red and Black, mass sweepers for Blue and Red.
I have to admit, this is one of my favorite Eldrazi spells, since with a little Eldrazi help nine mana is not unreasonable. And what a bargain – you get a 10/9 beatstick with Annihilator 2, and a free reanimation ta boot! And heck, you can just reanimate this guy if you’ve got another target in the graveyard already. I may have to dust off my Rotting Rats, Sphinx of Lost Truths, and Rise from the Graves thanks to this fine fellow…
Tribal Enchantment – Eldrazi Aura
Enchanted creature gets +10/+10 and has trample and annihilator 2.
Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
Legendary Creature – Eldrazi
Emrakul, the Aeons Torn can’t be countered.
When you cast Emrakul, take an extra turn after this one.
Flying, protection from colored spells, Annihilator 6
When Emrakul is put into a graveyard from anywhere, its owner shuffles his or her graveyard into his or her library.
Okay, not even I am optimistic about ever hard-casting this bad boy in Standard, even with the mana shenanigans I have planned! However, if you’re going to cheat something into play, this guy is pretty insane despite not getting the “when you cast” Time Walk. This fellow is one of the cards that seriously worry me about EDH.
Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
Legendary Creature – Eldrazi
When you cast Kozilek, Butcher of Truth, draw four cards.
When Kozilek is put into a graveyard from anywhere, its owner shuffles his or her graveyard into his or her library.
Me, I’m totally buying the hype on this dude. I suspect a 10 mana Eldrazi spell is going to be right at the tip-top of what’s possible in Standard, and this guy is the total package; the four cards makes the effort totally worthwhile, and a 12/12 Annihilator 4 is a beating.
Tribal Sorcery – Eldrazi
Put five 0/1 colorless Eldrazi Spawn creature tokens onto the battlefield. They have “Sacrifice this creature: Add 1 to your mana pool.”
Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre
Legendary Creature – Eldrazi
When you cast Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre, destroy target permanent.
Ulamog is indestructible.
When Ulamog is put into a graveyard from anywhere, its owner shuffles his or her graveyard into his or her library.
I know some people have been goofing on Ulamog, comparing the “when you cast” abilities of the big three Eldrazi: Time Walk, Super-Ancestral… and Vindicate. Yeah, that does seem lackluster in comparison, but it is complementary with the Annihilator ability, and makes a pretty game-ending follow-up play to attacking with the Kozilek you cast last turn.
I used to be a comic book geek, but instead of reading the cool Avengers, I was instead drawn to the “un-team” Defenders. I was trying to recall if there was a team rally cry for them, but maybe they didn’t have one like the other Marvel teams.
Now, we all knew something was up when Eye of Ugin showed up in Worldwake promising colorless Eldrazi spells, but I don’t think anyone realized that Perimeter Captain might herald a set with some darn good Defenders in them. As I write this, Wall of Omens was spoiled on Magicthegathering.com and everyone is a-chatter about the second coming of Wall of Blossoms for their control decks. Personally, I want to pair this:
Creature – Wall
T: Add G to your mana pool for each creature with defender you control.
Starting with four each of these cards, you’ve got mana acceleration, you’ve got time through blocking, and you’ve got a little bit of card drawing. Sounds like the perfect start towards ramping up to Eldrazi spells, don’t it? If you’ve got two Overgrown Battlements and one other Defender, each of those Battlements tap for three Green mana… that’s some insane mana ramp!
Next Level Mmmm… Echanic
In evaluating the Level Up dudes for Standard, I think it’s helpful to think about them almost like Echo creatures, and think about what you’ll be doing the turn you cast them and subsequent turns. Take for instance what I think is one of the best of the bunch:
Student of Warfare
Creature – Human Knight
Level up W
[Level 2-6] First strike (3/3)
[Level 7+] Double strike (4/4)
So, turn 1 you play the Student, turn 2 you spend WW and Level him up to a 3/3 first striker that can go ahead on the attack. That’s a pretty potent attacker even if you never get him up to his ultimate level. Turn 3, if you have another Student you can play him, and go ahead and Level him up to 2 on the spot if you want. It all plays out pretty smoothly.
Contrast with this:
Guul Draz Assassin
Creature – Vampire Assassin
Level up 1B (1B: Put a Level counter on this. Level up only as a sorcery.)
[Level 2-3] B, T: Target creature gets -2/-2 until end of turn. (2/2)
[Level 4+] B, T: Target creature gets -4/-4 until end of turn. (4/4)
So, let’s play him on turn 1, and spend turn 2’s mana leveling him. He’s still just a 1/1 vamp that doesn’t do anything but maybe get to swing in for one if you went first. Turn 3 we spend two more mana, and we finally get him up to being a 2/2, and if we use the last bit of mana available that turn, we can kill off an X/2, or perhaps hold off a 3/3 from attacking into him. Really? We spent 5 mana casting and leveling this fellow, and another mana to activate him, just to knock off a weenie? Yes, there’s some value to having a creature that can reuse this ability, but do we really want to invest our first three turns doing it? If this guy just tapped to do his ability it would obviously be much better, but requiring mana after already investing so much mana into him to get to that point, it just feels awkward and sets you up for tempo disaster.
Creature – Elf Druid
Level up 1G
[Level 1-4] T: Add GG to your mana pool. (1/2)
[Level 5+] Elves you control have “T: Add GG to your mana pool.” (1/4)
Turn 1 you play this Elf. Turn 2 you spend your mana to level up to one. What’s awesome is now Joraga can immediately pay you back on that investment by tapping for GG, letting you cast, say, Lotus Cobra. Turn 3, drop a fetchland and you’ve got seven mana available. See how smoothly that sequence played out?
It’s weird… I’d been under the impression that Wizards had moved away from old-fashioned “bury” effects (such as Wrath of God) in order to make regeneration matter, but there has been a paucity of good regenerating creatures in the time since. Apparently the move was made to make neo-regenerating Auras playable! I’m not sure how many of these will see play, since you’re still risking yourself being a dog to White removal (Path to Exile, Journey to Nowhere) or Blue bounce (Jace, the Mind Sculptor; Into the Roil).
This one is very interesting though:
Enchantment – Aura
Enchanted creature gets +2/+2 and has “Whenever this creature attacks, untap all lands you control.”
Cloud of Faeries, Palinchron, Frantic Search… anyone remember these “mistakes?” The Rosewaterian “free spells” were a big part of the horrible Combo Winter the Urza’s Saga block inflicted on Magic players back in the day, and this Umbra reminds me more than a bit of that mechanic. Play it turn 4 on your Great Stable Stag, attack, untap your lands and then go ahead and drop Garruk Wildspeaker. I can see this card being Omnath, Locus of Mana’s best Sunday suit. Later in the game it just becomes even more insane, giving you two turns of mana bookending your attack phase. The beautiful thing here really is that this triggers when you attack with this creature; in the past, so many of these sorts of effects would only trigger if you dealt combat damage to your opponent, so big thumbs up for that subtle but potent upgrade.
The effect is so powerful that your opponent will likely do everything he can to kill that creature before you can attack with it, so it might be worth revisiting Uril, the Miststalker.
I really admire the design of this card, since it effectively brings back the free spell mechanic in a truly fixed form. Omnath shenanigans aside, you can’t use this to double your mana for a single big spell because you’ve gotta stick a mana-emptying attack phase in the middle of it. Again, very well done!
Clever Green Cards?!
As if I weren’t already excited enough about this new set, but ROE brings at least two instant cards for green that are far outside the bounds of the combat tricks and fog effects that we typically get. Long-time readers know I constantly pound the drum for “clever” Green cards, instant spells or effects that let you play a more fully engaged game of Magic than you typically can when you’re rocking the Forests. Somebody involved with Rise of the Eldrazi must have been listening.
As an additional cost to cast Momentous Fall, sacrifice a creature.
You draw cards equal to the sacrificed creature’s power, then you gain life equal to the its toughness.
Some things to keep in mind here. First, it’s nice that you don’t have to sacrifice a specifically Green creature, which is often a limiter for these sorts of cards. Second, the sacrifice is part of the cost, which is good in that your opponent can’t respond by killing the creature to negate your spell. It’s bad though in that your opponent can counter this spell and two-for-one you.
Now, I’m not yet convinced this card will see play in Standard much less other Constructed tournament formats. Your instinct of course is to hold back four mana so when your opponent tries to kill off your creature with direct or mass removal, you can cash in the biggest one. In my play experience, turn 4 you’re just starting to drop your big guns, you’re not going to want to hold back four mana. What if your opponent just chump blocks, or takes the hit, but is still holding up a White mana… do you not cast your Master of the Wild Hunt or Baneslayer Angel and pass the turn?
What sort of Standard deck would you play this in? Sprouting Thrinax springs immediately to mind as a perfect sacrifice to this spell, and cashing in a pumped Leech for four cards and two pump activations back sounds pretty awesome. Is this going to make Jund just insane? If so, that definitely gives me some mixed feelings on this card! In other decks though, this spell competes with quite a few more proactive cards at four mana: Bloodbraid Elf, Garruk Wildspeaker, Emeria Angel, Master of the Wild Hunt, Ranger of Eos, Rafiq of the Many, Ajani Vengeant, and the newly previewed Vengevine.
Don’t get me wrong now – I’m thrilled that this card has been made, and I definitely look forward to playing it in numerous EDH decks. I’m just not sure whether it will cut the mustard in Standard. What do you think?
Search your library for four land cards with different names and reveal them. An opponent chooses two of those cards. Put the chosen cards into the graveyard and the rest into your hand. Then shuffle your library.
This card has made nearly everyone’s jaw drop, none more so than mine (yep, just envision me as Jim Carrey getting a look at curvaceous Cameron Diaz in The Mask). Gifts Ungiven is one of the cleverest Blue cards ever printed, and they make a really good one for Green? Mind-blowing.
The only disappointment I have, again, is that I’m not sure whether there’s going to be any good applications for this card in Standard. In older formats, where you’ve got Life from the Loam and Crucible of Worlds — and some truly ridiculous lands — Realms Uncharted is going to be insane. In Standard, what are the lands you’re going to want to go get? Four fetchlands for landfall shenanigans seems to be the most potent choice. I don’t see any decks wanting to play more than two different manlands, and so far we’ve only got two different lands we’d want to fetch up for Eldrazi spells. Of course, you can make sure you get at least one of the targets you really want by combining this card with Grim Discovery, or play Knight of the Reliquary and fetch a Plains and a Forest in addition to the lands you want so you can cash them in to land tutor (not to mention giving your Knight +2/+2).
Overall though, I’m extremely happy to see these kinds of cards popping up in Green, and hope that they represent an expansion of sorts in what types of cards Green will get in the future, and not just a fortuitous coincidence.
Before I wrap up this week, I wanted to share with you a memorable end to an EDH game that I played last week. I was playing my Sharuum equipment deck and had two pieces of Kaldra equipment in play (including the Shield, making both indestructible). I’d made a disastrous decision to tap down and not leave mana up for Rout at instant speed, so when Eric dropped Kamahl, Fist of Krosa with a horde of creatures and lots of mana, I thought we were all done for.
Josh had March of the Machines in play, so I was able to chump with my indestructible Kaldra pieces and survive the onslaught, while Eric killed off everyone else around the table (taking away the March). I untapped, and cast Rout to clear his board. I drew Steelshaper’s Gift, which let me go get the final Kaldra equipment and make the Kaldra Avatar Legend to start beating down on Eric (who had a huge life total). Ironically, Eric & his wife had answered my plea a few weeks back and had provided me with the very Kaldra token I was attacking with.
I made a huge mistake one turn by not realizing I could make the three different colored mana I’d need to cast that Sphinx that sets an opponent’s life to 10 (there had been some mass land-destruction crap that had gone down earlier in the game). If I’d played that card, and attacked with Kaldra and a couple other creatures, it was game over, but instead I attacked first, took Eric to three before I realized I actually was able to produce White, Black, and Blue mana.
So of course, the extra turn I gave Eric he drew Tooth and Nail, fetching up an Eternal Witness and Avenger of Zendikar, which makes about a zillion plant tokens. The Witness gets back Kamahl. Uh, oh. Did I just blow it? I’ve got Auriok Salvagers in hand, and I draw Mulldrifter. I look through my graveyard to see what I can salvage, and am not too inspired – there’s Aether Spellbomb, Skullclamp, and Blazing Torch (a card I got a lot of grief and ribbing about for playing earlier, until I used it to knock over Garruk Wildspeaker). I decided to evoke Mulldrifter and see what happened. I draw Sakashima the Imposter and a land. I go into the tank… I can’t copy Kamahl and legend-rule him to kill him like I could with a Clone. I can copy the Avenger and get some plant token chumpers, but not nearly as much as I need. Eternal Witness, though. I check out the graveyard, and look longingly at the Rout, but I wouldn’t have enough mana left. Spellbomb doesn’t seem helpful; I can bounce Kamahl, but Eric can easily replay him and still activate the overrun ability to kill me. I could get back Skullclamp and sac off Sakashima, but I don’t think I’d draw anything super-cheap to help.
I look again at Blazing Torch. I glance over at Kaldra, and suddenly get a plan! I cast Sakashima, copy Eternal Witness and get back the Torch. I play it and equip Kaldra, and tap Kaldra to throw the Torch at Kamahl. Sword of Kaldra says that any creature dealt damage by equipped creature is removed from the game!
Eric draws a land, pumps his plant army, but doesn’t quite have enough to swarm me and finish me off. I play the Salvagers, get the Torch back, equip Kaldra, and tap to throw the Torch at the Avenger. Two turns later, I throw the Torch at Eric to finish him off.
Yes, people… that’s Blazing Torch FTW!
Thanks everyone who voted in my Killing My Darlings poll; while Karrthus got the most votes, Jacques Le Vert came in a very strong second, so I’m keeping them together and making a few tweaks. I’ve got a couple more generals on tap, ones I’ve never used before, and as I get them together I’m looking forward to sharing them with you!
starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com
My current EDH decks:
Jacques Le Vert (lots of legends, good stuff)
Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund (DRAGONS, RAHRRR!!)