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Archive for September, 2009

Zendikar poses a problem for me. I like obviously powerful cards that have an obvious place in the metagame. A good example of this would be something light Lightning Bolt. It is cheap, powerful and I know exactly where I want to put it.

Zen has a few cards like this. However, the set seems to  have a lot more of what I call cards with potential; powerful cards without an obvious slot in the current metagame. These are cards that are good in a vacuum, “win-more” cards or cards which would necessitate building a new deck.

I think the reasons for this are two-fold. I have never seen cards like the cards in Zen before, so I’m not quite sure how to classify them. The metagame, after losing Lorywn, will probably consist of several Alara based decks such as Bant, Jund and Naya, which don’t have so many open slots and seem to do just fine without the new cards. 

Of course, new decks always come along when one set rotates out and another takes its place. Sometimes it just takes time, and cards with potential.

Here are my picks for Zen, the rare cards.48uutg1a1n_EN

Obvious choices

Fetch Lands
At first glance, fetch lands don’t seem to be all that, but on closer inspection, they do so much. First, they are super mana fixers. A few sets of these will keep the three and four color decks running strong. Secondly, they thin your deck out. Lastly, they trigger landfall twice, once with the initial drop and once when you put the land you searched out into play. Money rares already near $20 per.  

Day of Judgment
It doesn’t kill regenerating creatures, but it is still Wrath of God. Since when has regeneration really been relevant? River Boa will probably laugh at this, but that’s about it. Control will want.

Goblin Guide
Some say he’s better than Figure of Destiny, some say he’s worse. I don’t know who’s right, but a 2/2 with haste for 1 will be played in aggressive decks in his color. Uncontested, on turn three you get the same amount of damage in as you would with the figure, minus the extra 4 mana you played. He doesn’t have late game presence, but the haste could still be relevant for the last few points of damage. His drawback is interesting too. You get to see what they are drawing next turn. Of course, they might get a land, but we’ll see if this ends up being relevant.

Cards with Potential 

Mindbreak Trap
Played for free or for 2UU, you still get to counter any number of cards. It will always counter at least one. Perhaps this will see some sideboard action against cascade. If a combo deck appears in standard, we will certianly see this.

Bloodchief Ascension
I fully expect somebody to figure out how to build a deck around this. I can already see it going in some sort of mono-black Vampire aggro deck or Blightning. With cheap damage and hasty creatures abound in standard, activating two or three of these is pretty feasible. Not to mention devastating.

ScuteMobPreviewScute Mob
I don’t care what they say, Scute Mob has board presence turn one. He will get there eventually if they don’t kill him. Drop him early and get in a few pings, drop him late and he can grow to stupid size in just a few turns. He might be a removal magnet, but that’s okay. He only costs one mana.

Ob Nilixis, the Fallen
Ob might make a good finisher. If he dies before you get to drop a land, he’s underpowered. If he dies after you drop a land, you got a 6/6 and 3 damage in for 3BB. He’s great with Harrow and Fetchlands. He doesn’t even have to swing, but if he does he’ll likely be huge. Of course, he will require a bit of building around, but I think he’ll get there.

Malakir Bloodwitch
On her own, she’s a 4/4 pro white with flying, one life to you and one away from your opponent. For 3BB. Two or vamps on the field and you just got mad value from her.

Pyromancer Ascension
Might be nice on its own, but I see some U/R nonsense with draw a card, discard a card, then double your pleasure. Cruel Ultimatum X3!

Summoning Trap
Nice side for anything heavy in green if counter-control comes into power. Not bad at 3GGG and certainly not at 0. Might help you find that creature you really need in a pinch too.

Oran Rief, the Vastwood
Two of these in play and little guys like Scute Mob, Wild Nacatl and Bloodbraid Elf just seem like fun.

Luminarch Ascension
This card was built for control/fog decks and at the same time for defeating fog/control decks.

Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
Three land draws in a row in mono-red won’t suck so badly anymore.

Emeria, the Sky Ruin
Mono white will have endless creatures.

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Exploring Zendikar at the prerelease was a blast! The cards are very new and very interesting.  The new plane was very good to me and I had a very strong blue card pool. With a nice splash of white, I was able to go 7-1-1 and claim some very nice booster packs.

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It is surprising how many times 7 mana for a 1/2 won me the game.

Here’s the deck. 

Critters
1 Sphinx of Lost Truths
2 Welkin Turn
2 Tempest Owl
3 Merfolk Seastalkers!
1 Kor Aeronaut
1 Shepherd of the Lost
1 Kazandu Blademaster
1 Sphinx of Jwar Isle
2 Sky Ruin Drake
1 Kor Hookmaster
1 Gomazoa

Instants
2 Pitfall Trap
1 Shieldmate’s Blessing
1 Into the Roil

Sorcery
2 Paralyzing Grap

Artifact
1 Spidersilk Net

Lands
1 Sejiri Refuge
1 Misty Rainforest
7 Plains
8 Islands

As you can see, I got lucky with some very solid creatures. All but 5 of my dudes could fly, and almost all of them had some sort of ability relevant throughout the game. I could usually get in the quick beats and the deck curved out quite nicely. The deck didn’t really have a lot of big creatures, so the long game strategy was to muck up the field and sneak in for a few damage each turn if possible, and I could spend a lot of time setting up a fatal strike. The deck could consistently pull out of a downward spiral if I drew a few key cards.

Merfolk

Total a-holes.

I’m not going to go play by play. Instead, I will say a few words about the best cards of the deck.

Merfolk Seastalkers
This guy was the MVP of my deck, making the game a nightmare for my opponent. Having three of these bomb uncommons in my sealed pool is likely the reason my deck performed so well. The ability to tap non-fliers for three mana, without having to tap themselves, is nuts. The stalkers are also have islandwalk and a 2/3 body. Finally, they only cost 3U. Playing these guys with six or more mana meant I didn’t have to sacrifice my fragile flyers to block anymore, and were often the beginning of the end for my opponent.  Dropping them on turn four if my opponent was having a slow start made for a very easy game. The islandwalk was surprisingly relevant too.

Tempest Owl
A 1/2 flier for 1u. If I paid 5uu, he taps three permanents when he comes into play. His kicker ability allowed me to mount a fatal attack more often than I thought it would. He also made a decent chump blocker.

Welkin Turn
A 2/1 flier for 1u. I found him in my opening hand quite often and usually he was good for early damage. I did find his drawback, not being able to block non-fliers, to be a problem. However, the damage he could usually get in made it worth the pain. 

Sphinx of Lost Truths
I never played him without the kicker and he always seemed to pull me out of a tight spot. Most of the time he ended up being a removal magnet, but the three cards were always worth it. 

 The rest of the cards

Gomazoa: Nice blocker and virtual removal. Interesting card.
Pitfall Trap: Nice, easy way to take care of big monsters. Beware, there are a surprising amount of fliers in Zen.
Shepherd of the Lost: Nice abilities for a decent price. A removal magnet. Didn’t see her but a couple of times.
Kor Aeronaut: He flies for WW, never kicked him.
Kazandu Blademaster: 2/2 first strike and Vigilance for WW. Better with allies. 
Kor Hookmaster: Taps an enemy for  two turns. Can be handy. 
Sky Ruin Drake: 2/5. Nice blocker.
Sphinx of Jwar Isle: 5/5 flier with Shroud. Not bad. Second ability is wierd. Didn’t seem him much unfortunately.
Into the Roil: Card drawing and a bounce.
Paralyzing Grasp:Kinda removal. Good with Merfolk Seastalkers.
Shieldmate’s Blessing: Seems good but never did a lot for me.
Spidersilk Net: Nice, inexpensive  way to add extra toughness to fragile creature.

It seems blue and white were popular colors. I know at least 5 (including myself) of the top 8 played B/U. It seems there are quite a few fliers in these colors, and blue has some tough, cheap blockers. Most decks I had problems with were B/U, as they often had fliers of their own which I could not tap down or hit with Pitfall Trap.

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Zendikar has been fully spoiled. Starcity has gone live with presales of singles. Wallets are screaming for mercy in unison across the planet.

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Thanks WotC; we were bored with our playsets of Wrath anyway.

The enemy colored fetchlands are going for between $15 and $20 a pop right now, with Misty Rainforest and Verdant Catacomb selling the highest. Day of Judgment is at the $15 mark. The greatly anticipated Lotus Cobra is selling at a whopping $25.

On the bright side, Devout Lightcaster isn’t even $2 yet; get her while she’s cheap.

Besides the obvious staples like the fetches and the wrath replacement, Zendikar is full of super powerful cards. Lorywn is  rotating out and  a power vacuum is being created. Nobody knows what standard is going to look like in a few weeks. Right now, there is infinite possibility.

To be honest, I have never seen cards like what Zendikar is packed full of. It is not just the power level of the cardboard, but the strangeness of the set. When Timespiral block dropped and Alara took its place, we got plenty of neat new cards, but it felt like the same game. I feel there is going to be an interesting shift in the game soon. 

Perhaps you should be safe and just buy a whole set.

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With less than two weeks to go before the release of Zendikar and rotation of Lorywn, MTG Salvation, the official WotC site and various other outlets are pouring out the previews. 

While many are speculation on which of the new cards will be tournament playable, others are looking at what Alara block cards will get better with Zen.

Here are a few I’ve come up with, along with others which seem to be getting  a close look by others.

Knight of the ReliquaryKotR

Knight of the Reliquary has all sorts of things going for it when Zendikar becomes legal. Its ability to search out any land not only makes it a good candidate for consistently hitting landfall triggers but it can also grab the cool new lands coming out. It also plays well with fetch lands, getting bigger with each one you sacrifice; not to mention the lands you feed to its ability.

Ranger of Eos

Ranger of Eos is losing some 1 drop targets, but acquiring some others. Zendikar previews have already revealed some quality one-drops, and the set isn’t fully spoiled yet. Scute Mob, Goblin Guide and Steppe Lynx will probably be popular search targets for Ranger of Eos in the near future.

Knight of the White Orchid

Another landfall enabler, KotWO comes with a 2/2 first strike body. It will probably help white decks power the Steppe Lynx on turn two if the kitty hits competitive play, and add to the plains count for Emeria, The Sky Ruin.

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The Lorywn/Shadowmoor block will be rotating out in two weeks. When the tribal-themed block first hit the shelves, people went nuts. The power level of the cards was  just insane. Planeswalkers made thier first appearances. Even now, with the Alara block, most of the successful decks in standard are based on Lorywn/Shadowmoor engines.

Luckily, I like change. I will be glad to see the standard staples of the past two years leaving. Yes, it means I won’t get to see my opponent roll his eyes on a second-turn Bitterblossom, but it also means I won’t have to seem my dudes taped and my opponent draw a card during my declare attack phase again.

Here is a look at some of the departing cards we love to play and hate.

BitterblossomBitterblossom
This one has to come first. The sour flower turned into a beast fast and will be just as much of a pain in the ass as it ever was until the 2nd of October. It turned one life into an evasive pinger each turn, powering faerie decks into the stratosphere. It blocked, it attacked. Mistbind Clique always had a target, more dudes were around for Scion of Oona to power up and Spellstutter Sprite was a great third turn counter. Faeries was okay before the blossom, but it became, and remains a top contender since the printing, even after five expansions.

Cryptic Command
Blue always had plenty of ways to hose the opponent, but Cryptic Command really takes the cake. It gives the blue mage two out of four relevant choices. Casting a spell or declaring attackers against an opponent playing Cryptic Command is a tense experience; things can go wrong fast. The command met with a lukewarm reception at first, but it soon found a home as an automatic 4 of in every deck running blue. It paired with the monstrous Bitterblossom to help make Faeries one of the most punishing decks ever.

Figure of Destiny
Figure of Destiny is one of the best one-drops in the game. It’s ability to become a relevant creature though every phase of the game made it very efficient. It cost 11 mana to power it up to an 8/8 flier with first strike, but being able to drop a threat turn one that had to be answered eventually was worth the cost for a lot of players. The figure made its home in the Demigod Red, Boat Brew, R/W Tokens, Kithkin and B/W Token decks.

Reveillark
Another card that was immediately adopted, Reveillark made graveyard shenanigans possible without messy sorceries. A 4/3 flyer with the ability to bring back two buddies back from the grave when it left the game (in any way)soon powered a whole slew of decks revolving around 2 toughness creatures. Knight of Meadowgrain, Mulldrifter, Figure of Destiny, Meddling Mage and Knight of the White Orchid are just a few of the friends the elemental made. Fighting through a swarm of quality creatures is tough. Having to do it two or three times (through counter-spell backup) was just stupid.

Reflecting Pool
Crazy decks require crazy mana, and Reflecting pool was whatever you wanted it to be. The re-print of the Tempest favorite soon found itself powering 4 and 5 colored decks almost immediately, and will continue to do so until it rotates out in two weeks. By itself, it was good, but it was dynamite when paired with Lorywn’s vivid land cycle. 

WindbriskWindbrisk Heights
Out of all the hideaway lands, Windbrisk Heights is by far the most loved and the most feared. It found a home with mono-white Kithkin players when it was first printed, and continued to be played in R/W decks like Boat Brew and eventually cheated in spells in B/W Token decks. The ability to play a costly spell or combat trick on the cheap with three or more guys pushing into the red zone was one of the reason these deck were so effective.

Doran
A monsterous 5/5 for three mana needs no explanation. The difficult mana cost turned out to be nothing doing for the crazy mana fixing of the Lorwyn/Shadowmoor block, and became even easier with Alara.  Doran made plenty of friends and enemies with his ability to switch power and toughness during an attack, making some favorite attackers useless and great defenders pretty toothy.

Kitchen Finks
The epitomy of efficiency in a creature, the finks gave you a 3/2, a 2/1 and 4 life for three mana, either green or white. He was good at attacking and blocking. He made red decks cry and helped control stay alive.

Chameleon Colossus
While Chameleon Colossus didn’t have the staying power of the previously mentioned cards, it has a special place as one of the cards that was absolutely amazing in the right situations. Usually that situation came when black was kicking ass and need a foil. It did will against faeries, if it could make it through the counter magic. It found a home in Elf and Doran decks. More recently, it became a nice addition to Jund decks and against Jund Decks.

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At the end of Preview Week one, we’ve gotten a pretty good look into the world of Zendikar. We’ve learned alot about the wild, untamed plane and the people living there. We’ve also seen a good deal the new cards, and with them new and returning game mechanics.

When a new set brings with it new keywords or card types, there is always a lot of speculation on how they are going to change the various formats. Sometimes it turns out ot be a great deal, such as cascade (especially in Alara block). Sometimes it doesn’t make much of a difference, such as Time Spiral’s vanishing.

Sphinx

The truth? Your hair looks stupid.

Kicker
Kicker is not new, but a returning mechanic from the Invasion block. Kicker allows you to pay an extra cost for an added or boosted effect when playing a spell. Kavu Titan and the battlemage cycle are good examples of a popular cards with the kicker mechanic. While most cards with kicker are sub-par or simply “meh” for the cost, it is their flexibility to be several things which makes them exciting. Some, like the titan, could fill a roll as either an early or late drop. Desolation Angel could simply be a nice flyer or a land-destroying finisher. 
For more on kicker, see the Mike Flores article (along with a Zen preview) here.  

Landfall
Landfall is entirely new. Cards with landfall have an effect which is triggered whenever you put a land onto the battlefield under your control. Sometimes it needs be a specific type of land. So far, some of the landfall effects seen include creating tokens, adding counters to creatures, dealing damage and giving bonuses until the beginning of the end of turn step. On the right cards with the right triggered abilities, this could be quite the powerhouse since it requires very little of the player other than doing something they would normally do in the first place; play a land.

Intimidation 
Intimidation is a new color-based evasion ability. Creatures with intimidate can only be blocked by creatures sharing a color with it or artifact creatures. Not that anybody was playing black so they wouldn’t get hit by fear, but at least swamp  mages have to worry about it too now.

Creature type: Ally
Ally is a new creature type. So far, it looks as though most ally cards either trigger an effect on other ally cards when they come onto the battlefield or have an effect triggered when other ally cards come onto the battlefield. Some effects count the number of allies in play. These effects include adding counters or looking at a players hand and drawing cards equal to the number of allies in play.

Instant type: Trap
Trap is a new card type given to instants which can be cast at no or reduced cost if a certain condition is met. Some of these conditions include opponents playing a specific number of spells, searching libraries or attacking with a single creature.

There also seem to be a good number of enchantments which operate by accumulating “quest” counters. The enchantment is played and the counters are given each time a specified action takes place, such as a creature going to the graveyard or an opponents turn passing where you take no damage. Once a certain number of “quest” counters accumulate, the enchantment can be sac’d and an effect happens such as creating a creature token or returning creatures from the graveyard to your hand. One spoiled so far has a cost required to activate the enchantment, but does not require sacrificing it.

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Psst, kid! Play a fetchland!

Everything interesting so far. The new card types are kind of funny, especially when you consider the fact the mechanics have been done before; they just didn’t have a name. All sorts of blocks had creatures that benifited from each other, and others had cards which could be played at an alternate cost if certian conditions were met. As for intimidate; it’s just fear.  

The return of kicker seems like alot of fun. I’m personally looking forward to playing with this, since I missed it in Invasion. Landfall looks interesting too, especially with the new fetch land cycle.

Landfall also looks like it has the most potential to be a little bit broken, like cascade. Neither mechanic actually requires any skill, only that a player does something they would normally do. Both of them also have the potential to be incredibly powerful. To get great value from cascade, all you have to do is a cascade card worth playing andgood cards which can be flipped. With landfall, all you have to do is have a card with a good landfall mechanic and some lands in your deck. Already I see a few cards and card combinations with landfall which look pretty scary.

However, with all of the new card types and mechanics, it will be impossible to see how powerful they will be or what impact they will have on the metagame until all of the cards have bene spoiled. It doesn’t matter how crazy the keyword or mechanic is if the card isn’t worth playing. Even then, we may have to wait for the next few sets to see their true potential.

Either way, here’s hoping for some fun with the coming of Zendikar and new game mechanics.

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Nissa Revane was spoiled Monday in this article on the official Magic site.

Nissa

I am pretty surprised they made a tribal planeswalker. Every single one of her abilities deals with elves. It matches flavor-wise to her character, but it seems a little funny they would make her such a one-trick pony. I suppose Tezzeret is a “tribal” planeswalker too, but artifacts can fit into a variety of decks. Nissa fits in Elf decks; period.  

Her abilities are pretty solid. She plays both offense and defense well, drawing out attackers and gaining life for having them in play. In an elf deck, I’m sure there will be plenty of other pointy-eared conspirators too, so the life total could skyrocket.

The question is; will there be elves when Lorywn/Shadowmoor rotates? We’ll have to see. I know there will at least be this guy.

 

NissaChosen

Funny, they would make a specific card for her to search for. I’m guessing searching for any elf card, even with converted mana cost of 2, would be over powered. Especially in formats other than standard. It’s cooler than making an elf token.

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