You Lika The Juice? – The Casually Competitive Sides of Eventide

Read Bennie Smith every week... at StarCityGames.com!
Wednesday, July 16th – The Eventide spoiler is out, and ‘tis the season for set reviews. While you’ll be getting the Spike-side view from the Premium gang, and the casual review from some of the free side regulars, I figure I’d go ahead and give my takes on it too.

Before I dive head first into Eventide goodness, I wanted to devote just a few more column inches to Aggro Zur. I’ve gotten a ton of feedback from folks on the deck, and I think it hits the exact sweet spot appealing to a wide swath of players – it’s a competitive deck that is also both off the radar and a lot of fun. It also has a good amount of wiggle room to customize based on personal preference and metagame considerations.

With that in mind, I wanted to share an email I got from a gentleman named Gustavo Fischer from Uruguay, who got the Feature Match coverage in round 2 of Grand Prix Buenos Aires. He played a Zur deck that was more of a hybrid between Aggro Zur and Quick n’ Toast. He gives an interesting take on the concept, pushing it to be much more controlling than my preferences, but I think it illustrates how many different directions in which you can take the deck.

Hi Bennie,

After Shadowmoor came out, I was very excited with Steel of the Godhead like many other people (I’m a Johnny-Spike kind of player). I thought, like you, that a deck with Birds and Doran and Cryptic Command would be awesome (I was particularly excited about making turn 2 Doran turn 3 Cryptic Command, which the Sunken Ruins and Mystic Gates enable). I played it at FNM and finished 2nd, so it showed some promise.

I played at the Grand Prix Trial in Montevideo, where I finished 3-2 (misplaying against Merfolk, and losing against a Blink deck that had a lucky sideboard into LD and killed my birds).

The same weekend, Nathan Zamora finished first at Houston Regionals with his deck, immediately becoming my hero. I hunted him down at the Texas message boards (isn’t the Internet great?) where I found out he thought his version was very good against Elves, Merfolk, and red aggro (3/5s of what I expected to face at Grand Prix: Buenos Aires, the other 2/5 being Faeries and Reveillark), being 40/60 versus Faeries (a resolved Zur being a win) and very bad match up versus Reveillark (which was consistent with my testing).

I played several games, lost an alarming number to Red decks because I was keeping dubious hands on the promise of a turn 2 Doran or turn 3 Zur that were contingent on Birds staying in play (which never happened). I tweaked my sideboard and managed to beat Faeries (piloted by an admittedly bad player) and Reveillark (thanks to a lucky and well-timed Faerie Macabre).

I also found out that Skred killed Zur pretty well, and that Mana Ramp wasn’t as easy as I expected if they managed enough land before I dropped Zur.

I started molding my deck more after Zamora’s deck. I took away the Birds since they were making good matchups worse and not helping that much versus the bad matchups (though a 2nd turn Doran is very bad news for both Faeries & Reveillark, the cost in terms of manabase was too high). I also had to cut Doran and Murmuring Bosk, both cards which I liked a lot.

I also found when playing the Birds version that I ran out of gas too often, and planned to fix that with my GP version. I refused to cut Green and Red, which Zamora’s version didn’t run.

So, after all that, this is what I played:

3 Search for Tomorrow
2 Edge of Autumn
4 Rune Snag
1 Vedalken Aethermage
1 Bitterblossom
1 Nameless Inversion
2 Steel of the Godhead
2 Oblivion Ring
1 Doran, the Siege Tower
1 Damnation
1 Condemn
1 Pact of Negation
1 Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
1 Oona, Queen of the Fae
2 Careful Consideration
3 Firespout
1 Slaughter Pact
4 Zur the Enchanter
4 Cryptic Command
1 Island
1 Plains
1 Swamp
2 Mystic Gate
2 Sunken Ruins
4 Reflecting Pool
1 Horizon Canopy
2 Llanowar Wastes
1 Karplusan Forest
3 Yavimaya Coast
1 Vivid Marsh
1 Vivid Meadow
4 Vivid Creek

2 Guttural Response
2 Cloudthresher
1 Firespout
1 Damnation
1 Slaughter Pact
2 Faerie Macabre
1 Mind Shatter
1 Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
1 Wispmare
2 Kitchen Finks
1 Primal Command

Some notes on the card choices:

3 Search for Tomorrow: one got cut in the number crunch. Also, having one Green untapped on turn 1 wasn’t that easy. The ideal hand was to make turn 1 Search, turn 2 Rune Snag, turn 3 Zur.

2 Edge of Autumn: these are accelerants early game, and not dead cards late game. I didn’t want to play four because I like Search better, and turn 2 I wanted to do other stuff (Rune Snag, or maybe play a tapped land).

4 Rune Snag: for some time I tried 1 Remove Soul, 2 Negate, and 1 Cancel. The reasoning being that, since most decks can’t easily kill Zur, you must counter Cryptic Commands, Wraths and whatnot. This also counters Planeswalkers, other Commands, and card drawing. But I eventually settled on Rune Snag… part of the reasoning was that the decks in which I want to counter that stuff also play Rune Snag (see the Feature Match for an example), but I’m not a fan.

1 Vedalken Aethermage: unlike the other deck, this version of the deck wins with Zur alone (or the one-of Oona), and you really, really, really want Zur in hand. Still, I think one is enough.

1 Bitterblossom: To tutor with Zur… I tried Sacred Mesa but was too mana-intensive. I started with three, but died to it too many times versus Red Decks (I often had this and Thoughtseize versus Red… ouch).

1 Nameless Inversion: can be tutored with the Aethermage, good early game card.

2 Steel of the Godhead: I hate drawing them, but they are the main target with Zur. Zamora said on the Texas forums that if you’re attacking with Zur, it means that they don’t have the card to kill it, so you should go for this 99% of the time. Having two copies of this on a Zur is obscene, or one plus Doran.

2 Oblivion Ring: In testing, this removed hard-to-kill threats like Bitterblossom and Chameleon Colossus. In Buenos Aires, I never drew them or needed them.

1 Doran, the Siege Tower: he got cut… and cut… and cut. For a Control deck, he’s only really good as a finisher against other control decks (Reveillark and Faeries sans Bitterblossom). Aggro decks chump-block him (worst offender: Chameleon Colossus), Mana Ramp has Wall of Roots, Faeries (and some elves) have Bitterblossom.

1 Damnation: a very random one-of. I wanted to play more, but they’re only really good versus Elves and Merfolk which are already good matchups, so I sent the rest to the sideboard.

1 Condemn: I really should have played 2-3 like Zamora. Awesome versus Demigod of Revenge and Chameleon Colossus, it’s cheap and very good.

1 Pact of Negation: card number 61, it was very good.

1 Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir: tutorable, to force through Zur against Reveillark and Faeries. I also wanted him to do a Plumeveil impersonation. I think I should have sideboarded him or not played him at all.

1 Oona, Queen of the Fae: It’s a great finisher and shares many characteristics with Zur (she doesn’t die to Terror, Nameless Inversion, Incinerate, and other heavily-played removal spells). The token-generating ability is a bit overrated though. If Twilight Shepherd were tutorable, I would have played it over Oona.

2 Careful Consideration: not a huge fan, but it does refill/filter your hand.

3 Firespout: awesome at GP Trials and in testing versus Elves and Merfolk mainly, though not as good as people think versus Faeries (after the GP, I think an instant-speed spell like Sulfurous Blast is so much better because it can be done in response to Mistbind Clique, Sower of Temptation’ trigger, after Mutavault or Conclave activations, etc… only… the double-Red and extra mana are a big problem). This killed a lot of Magus of the Moon at the GP, which was a very important role. I found it extremely cool that, unlike the Wrath Zamora played, it doesn’t kill any of your creatures. It killed my Birds a lot of the time, so this contributed to the Birds getting cut.

1 Slaughter Pact: kills Magus of the Moon, hard-to-kill creatures at instant speed. Not sure if it should have been sideboarded and played an extra Condemn in here (doesn’t kill important creatures like Demigod and Colossus). I initially had a Tolaria in my list, but it got cut.

4 Zur the Enchanter: Works as an undercosted Exalted Angel most of the time, doesn’t die to the formats’ most popular kill spells, wins all by himself vs. Aggro, tutors Bitterblossom vs. Control or Vindicates with O. Ring. Amazing.

4 Cryptic Command: the most awesome Blue spell in the format, probably the best noncreature spell….


2 Guttural Response: this card was very good for me in testing (and in Block Constructed). It comes in against Faeries and Merfolk mainly, and serves two roles: getting Zur to resolve, hopefully on turn 4 after one accelerating spell you’ll have enough mana for Zur + Guttural Response, Faeries have 12 counterspells, but Spellstutter shouldn’t be online by then (if it is, it means Bitterblossom is in play and you were losing anyway), and they shouldn’t be able to play Rune Snag and Cryptic Command together on turn 4 (if they have 2 Rune Snags, you’re out of luck). Same for Merfolk, only they play Sage’s Dousing. After Zur is online, it protects it from Cryptic Command. It also counters random Mirrorweaves (that never happened).

2 Cloudthresher: another Win condition versus Faeries. Also killed a lot of Birds in testing (another reason for them to go). It also comes in against Reveillark.

1 Firespout, 1 Damnation: come in as more copies against the relevant decks (Merfolk and Elves mainly). Damnation also comes in versus Tarmogoyf/Crusher/fatty decks (some Mana Ramps, for example). Firespout also comes in versus Magus of the Moon.

1 Slaughter Pact: versus Magus of the Moon and Tarmogoyf/non-Colossus fatties.

2 Faerie Macabre: versus Reveillark. You don’t want to draw more than one in a game, so no more than three.

1 Mind Shatter: was versus Reveillark and Mana Ramp, but it was no good (I was hoping to resolve it with Guttural Response help).

1 Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir: one Teferi too many. One is enough between maindeck and sideboard, as Guttural Response does much of the same, only cheaper.

1 Wispmare: versus Bitterblossom. Could have been an extra Oblivion Ring.

2 Kitchen Finks: versus Red aggro mainly. Probably cutting one or two for Primal Commands would have been better. They’re also surprisingly good versus Faeries.

1 Primal Command: searches for Zur and gains seven life, or deals with random permanents. Should have sided it versus Reveillark…?

Card I cut for the GP and then was very sorry:

1 Bitterblossom (or Sacred Mesa): versus Mana Ramp and Reveillark.

I hope this information helps!

Gustavo Fischer from Uruguay

Thanks for the different take on Zur, Gustavo, and I hope those of you who’ve enjoyed the examination of this cool new archetype found it helpful.

The Eventide spoiler is out, and ‘tis the season for set reviews. While you’ll be getting the Spike-side view from the Premium gang, and the casual review from some of the free side regulars, I figure I’d go ahead and give my takes on it too. While I’ve always thought of myself as an “odd” casual/competitive hybrid, my stint here at Star City of late, the emails I get, forum responses and people I meet at tournaments has led me to find out there are a lot of us out there, folks that go to PTQs and Regionals when they can, but then also get a kick out of playing Elder Dragon Highlander or Pauper Magic or casual Two-Headed Giant. Where some of these cards will get my competitive juices going, some of them will spark an idea for a more casual deck. I love hearing what everyone thinks of brand new cards, so feel free to chime in with your thoughts in the forums. Let’s take a look and see what goodies the new set brings us!

And don’t worry, I’ll only include the cards that seem interesting and worth commenting on…

Archon of Justice – 3WW
Creature – Archon (Rare)
When Archon of Justice is put into a graveyard from play, remove target permanent from the game.

Man, if this card’s ability was worded a bit differently, it would have brought Momentary Blink decks roaring back to the metagame, but Wizards carefully made its ability trigger not on leaving play but actually put into the graveyard from play. As it is, I can see Mannequin decks with a heavier White component eyeing this card very closely, in addition to this just being a very efficient evasive White creature with a serious case of the rattlesnakes.

Endless Horizons – 3W
Enchantment (Rare)
When Endless Horizons comes into play, search your library for any number of Plains cards and remove them from the game. Then shuffle your library. At the beginning of your upkeep, you may put a card you own removed from the game with Endless Horizons into your hand.

Until there’s a mono-White deck out there that wants to spend four mana on a spell that doesn’t have an immediate impact on the board (as opposed to Mirrorweave), I think this enchantment’s use is best as a Retrace enabler. There’s a lot that can go wrong though – you won’t start getting your land until your next upkeep, and if anything happens to Horizons you get nothing, and you’re much less likely to draw lands to Retrace with. Plus, each Endless Horizons drawn is going to be some degree worse than the first one (depending on how aggressive you are stripping out Plains with the first one). So many things have to go right for this to be a great card that I think ultimately it will prove to be not very good.

Flickerwisp – 1WW
Creature – Elemental (Uncommon)
When Flickerwisp comes into play, remove another target permanent from the game. Return that card to play under its owner’s control at the end of turn.

I like Flickerwisp a lot, and I think we can thank Reveillark for the high power on this fellow. This is another card that fits perfectly in a Blink deck, letting your Momentary Blinks effectively target your opponent’s creatures if you need to (for instance, when your opponent has rudely stolen something of yours with Sower of Temptation).

Hallowed Burial – 3WW
Sorcery (Rare)
Put all creatures on the bottom of their owners’ libraries.

Lots of other people have already pointed out just how good this card is, and I concur. I would only add that you can “break the symmetry” of this if you’re playing creatures by having a good number of shuffle effects so that Hallowed Burial ends up increasing the threat density of your deck.

Light from Within – 2WW
Enchantment (Rare)
Chroma- Each creature you control gets +1/+1 for each white mana symbol in its mana cost.

If Mirrorweave weren’t already a proven game-winner, I’d imagine this would be the card Kithkin decks would have been waiting for. With the white-mana intensive hybrid spells, you can certainly build a hyper-aggressive deck to take advantage of this enchantment.

Patrol Signaler – 1W
Creature – Kithkin Soldier (Uncommon)
{1}{W}, {Q}: Put a 1/1 white Kithkin Soldier creature token into play.

While I was working on a new Elder Dragon Highland deck, I ran across Paradise Mantle as an interesting combination with Order of Whiteclay. Paradise Mantle is pretty nutty with these “Q” creatures, not sure if this is Extended-worthy or just fun-deck worthy, but being able to turn every available mana into a 1/1 creature is certainly worth considering.

Recumbent Bliss – 2W
Enchantment – Aura (Common)
Enchant creature
Enchanted creature can’t attack or block.
At the beginning of your upkeep, you may gain 1 life.

This competes with Oblivion Ring and Prison Term, and is arguably worse than either of those (and Prison Term hasn’t seen much play). It’s a decent enough Pacifism upgrade but I doubt it would break out of Limited except in some life-gaining themed deck.

Spirit of the Hearth – 4WW
Creature – Cat Spirit (Rare)
You can’t be the target of spells or abilities your opponents control.

A lot of people are dismissing this as overcosted chaff, but let’s compare it to Ivory Mask, which saw some play — for two more mana, you get a 4/5 flying body, thus extra copies are more useful. Granted, you might get targeted by spells or abilities once too often before you get a chance to cast this, but there is tons of good mana acceleration out there. Has everyone so quickly forgotten Coalition Relic? With Stigma Lasher in the mix, I wouldn’t be surprised to see burn decks popping back up, and having a big flying cat between you and a faceful of burn spells could come in handy.

Springjack Shepherd – 3W
Creature – Kithkin Wizard (Uncommon)
Chroma – When Springjack Shepherd comes into play, put a 0/1 white Goat creature into play for each white mana symbol in the mana costs of permanents you control.

This would go into the same sort of deck as Light from Within… Awkwardly, this card doesn’t really combo well with Light from Within since all your 0/1 Goats won’t have any white mana in their casting cost. I find it weird that there are no other Goat-related cards in this set outside of Springjack Pasture. I suppose it could go nuts with Glorious Anthem?

Banishing Knack – U
Instant (Common)
Until end of turn, target creature gains “{T}: Return target nonland permanent to its owner’s hand.”

This gets a lot more interesting when you think of pairing it with Q creatures, or something like Devoted Druid that can untap itself an extra time so you can get a gigantic tempo advantage for your one mana — at instant speed!

Cache Raiders – 3UU
Creature – Merfolk Rogue (Uncommon)
At the beginning of your upkeep, return a permanent you control to its owner’s hand.

So blue decks get their Stampeding Wildebeest! It’s nice that this is not relegated to creatures only, so you can do all sorts of shenanigans with cards like Elsewhere Flask, reset your low-loyalty Planeswalker, etc.

Dream Fracture – 1UU
Instant (Uncommon)
Counter target spell. Its controller draws a card.
Draw a card.

A “fixed” Arcane Denial, this card certainly has some pedigree since Arcane saw a goodly amount of play back in the day. It’s an unconditional hard counter that is relatively cheap compared to the standard of the day. Some of the people I’ve talked to don’t think much of it, but I have a feeling that control decks will be okay with this as a way to counter the relatively few things they can’t otherwise deal with.

Dream Thief – 2U
Creature – Faerie Rogue (Common)
When Dream Thief comes into play, draw a card if you’ve played another blue spell this turn.

All I wanted to say here was thank God they didn’t give this fellow Flash… and that I’m surprised they didn’t. I suppose it being a Common had something to do with that.

Glamerdye – 1U
Instant (Rare)
Change the text of target spell or permanent by replacing all instances of one color word with another.

“When Eventide design was handed over, all of the retrace spells were sorceries. Then during development, this card was created and by its very nature wanted to be an instant. To keep this from being the only instant with retrace, Oona’s Grace was changed to an instant.”Mark Rosewater, Every Card Has a Story

You know, brand new sets generally keep me in a good mood because I love exploring new cards and new deck ideas, but reading this seemingly innocuous comment from Rosewater just set my teeth on edge. Does it surprise anyone that they decided, what the heck, let’s make the other instant Retrace a Blue card too! I know I sound like a broken record here, but this is evidence of yet another time when Wizards’ “Blue = Clever” bias creeps in for no good reason. Wouldn’t Cenn’s Enlistment have been considerably more interesting as an instant? What about Monstrify? Sometimes I feel like a broken record but the drum beat has to keep pounding Blue is the best color because Wizards keeps giving it the lion’s share of clever cards!


Okay, I feel better now.

Glen Elendra Archmage – 3U
Creature – Faerie Wizard (Rare)
{U}, Sacrifice Glen Elendra Archmage: Counter target noncreature spell.

I’m with Kyle here, this kid is going to see a fair amount of play, and certainly fits right in with Reveillark shenanigans.

Inundate – 3UUU
Sorcery (Rare)
Return all nonblue creatures to their owners’ hands.

Yeah, this is expensive, but it’s easy to break the symmetry here. Merfolk anyone? Maybe as a two-of or out of the sideboard perhaps. Obviously any U/x Elder Dragon Highlander deck is going to include this puppy.

Oona’s Grace – 2U
Instant (Common)
Target player draws a card.

My instinct is that this is a decent enough card, but then again we know Whispers of the Muse was good but it didn’t register nary a blip in Standard when it popped up Timeshifted. Does anyone think that Crucible of Worlds might see some play in a deck with a heavy Retrace component?

Sanity Grinding – UUU
Sorcery (Rare)
Chroma – Reveal the top ten cards of your library. For each blue mana symbol in the mana costs of the revealed cards, target opponent puts the top card of his or her library into his or her graveyard. Then put the cards you revealed this way on the bottom of your library in any order.

A buddy of mine who’s much more combo-oriented has been trying out various builds of this deck for Standard and Block and has not yet been impressed with this from a competitive perspective. Your mileage may vary, but this is probably more for the uber-casual crowd.

Wake Thrasher – 2U
Creature – Merfolk Soldier (Rare)
Whenever a permanent you control becomes untapped, Wake Thrasher gets +1/+1 until end of turn.

I have to admit I’m incredibly curious to see what role this card ends up playing. There’s no doubt Wake Thrasher is a potent attacker that will at the very least be a 4/4 the turn after you cast him, and he just scales up from there as the game progresses. I’m sure Merfolk decks with all their tappy-untappy shenanigans will quickly recruit this guy as their heavy-hitter with Sygg protection (especially with Mutavault making sure you can go ahead and tap all your lands before your untap step), but I could even see Wake Thrasher as a finisher in a more controlling deck; once you’ve got board control Wake Thrasher only costs 3 mana to cast, leaving you plenty of mana with which to protect him. If your opponent casts something, you counter and basically give this guy +CC/+CC next turn (CC being the counter’s Casting Cost).

Okay, this is getting quite long so I’ll stop here and pick up the other colors next week, along with some new deck ideas inspired by Eventide. See you then!


starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com