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While Koth is a new face, the other two plainswalkers visiting the metallic plane of Mirrodin are pretty familiar.  Venser, who is also known as Venser, Shaper Savant, is one of them.

It would only make sense he would show up on Mirrodin, he was a master artificer after all. If that isn’t enough of a tie-in to a plane full of artifacts, he also has experience with Phyrexians, having tinkered with the lifeless husks of Phyrexian soldiers left after the events of Invasion.

So, lets see what he does.

+2 Loyalty: Exile target permanent you own. Return it to the battlefield under your control at the beginning of the next end step.
What does it do? Well, a few things comes to mind.

1. Blink a creature to
a. Trigger any come into play ability it might have.
b. Remove any damage, counters or enchantment on it.
c. Evade any enchantment targeting it (such as Mind Control).
d. Hide it from wrath effects
e. Untap it.
f. Reset any counters on it.

2. Blink a land to
a. Untap it
b. Trigger any come into play effects it might have
c. Remove any damage or counters on it (it can happen).
d. Hide it from wrath effects.
e. Reset any counters on it.
f. Trigger landfall effects.

3. Blink an artifact to
a. Untap it.
b. Reset any counters on it.
c. trigger any come into play effects it might have.
d. Hide it from wrath effects.

4. Blink an enchantment to
a. Choose a new target.
b. Reset any counters on it.
c. Choose a new condition (color, creature type, ect…)
d. Hide it from any wrath effects.
e. Untap it (I think there are a few).
f. Trigger any come into play effects.

5. Blink a planeswalker to
a. Reset any counters on it.
b. Hide it from wrath effects.

Oh, I almost forgot he did other things.

-1 Loyalty: Creatures are unblockable this turn
What does this do? Enables you to sneak your creatures in to chip away at an entrenched opponent, or deal the final blow.

-8 You gain an emblem with “Whenever you cast a spell, exile target permanant”‘
What does this do? Gives you an insurmountable advantage, even if Venser leaves play. With the ability to exile a permanent; any permanent you want (including lands) with every spell you cast, it will be virtually impossible for your opponent to make any headway.

Overall, Venser does what a lot of good cards have done over the years; give you an incremental advantage which really add up. This strategy has proven to be pretty successful in the past, and an being able to blink any damn permanent makes this blink effect more powerful than any before them.

The game is always full of creatures and other permanents with come into play abilities. Many aren’t that great on their own, but when subject to the kind of abuse Venser can facilitate,  they become powerful tools. Remember Momentary Blink? Remember Revillark? Both became integral parts of successful decks; decks which usually remained viable until rotation.

None of those cards ever had a clause which allowed you to basically lock out a game just for using them a couple times. Venser’s final ability can. With the ability to cast an un-targetable O-Ring with each spell, you can turn the tide of a game and make sure your opponent doesn’t gain any ground for the rest of the game.

I may like Koth of the hammer a whole lot, but my money is on Venser as the “big” planeswalker of the set. Abusing the hell out of your permanants will be so fun.


Mirrodin is no stranger to planeswalkers. After all, the artificial plane was originally made by one. Now, three more planeswalkers will be visiting the metallic world. What will their impact be on Mirrodin and Standard?

While two of the new planeswalkers are familiar, there is one fresh face; Koth of the Hammer. Koth looks like a local boy, a member of the Vulshok tribe, to be exact. Mountain barbarians, known for their metalworking skills as well as the fiery magic they use in battle.

Lets see what homeboy brings to the table.

+1 Loyalty: Untap target Mountain. It becomes a 4/4 red Elemental creature until end of turn. It’s still a land.
What does this do? Untaps a mountain and makes it a 4/4 hasty monster as well as a land. The body on these elemental lands makes them pretty relevant; able to take down blockers and tangle with all but the biggest critters. Don’t forget, they still tap for R.

-2 Loyalty: Add R to your mana pool for each Mountain you control.
What does this do? essentially doubles the amount of Red mana you can produce. Having access to powerful spells and creatures earlier than usual is a pretty tried and true path to victory. This second ability can also make up for any elemental land monsters lost in combat by making remaining mountains do double duty. It can also help with mana screw.

-5 Loyalty: You get an emblem with “Mountains you control have T: This land deals 1 damage to target creature or player.'”
What does this do? Gives you the ability to pay 1 R to deal one damage to target creature or player for the rest of the game. The effect persists even if Koth bites it. Mountains played after the ability is triggered can still deal damage. These killer mountains can do a lot of things like clear the board, sneak in a few extra points of damage each turn or deliver the final, fiery blow. I would call this a pretty fair victory clock. No opponent can stand for long with this kind of firepower trained on them.

Koth is my favorite planeswalker of the set. I like it when I know exactly what a card does, and Koth doesn’t put on any airs. Koth is a powerful tool for aggressive decks. He helps you to put the pressure and keeps you from running out of gas, something that has always plagued aggressive players. Koth does this masterfully, by giving Mountains extra utility. With him in play, lands can be monsters,  produce extra mana and burn your opponent’s world down around him. Running out of burn spells or relevant monsters isn’t so much a problem. Drawing too few lands isn’t so much of a problem. A land glut turns into a boon.

I’m not going to speculate on whether or not Koth will make mono red a sustainable archtype or not. I will say Koth addresses  some of the failings of mono red and other agressive decks, but doesn’t keep other decks from evolving to stymie red’s tactics as they usually do.

Koth will make playing red a lot of fun. Imagine combining him with Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle? There are plenty of fun, aggressive red creatures out there too, not to mention some fun new ones, like Galvanic Blast.

I’m really excited about Scars of Mirrodin but not for the same reasons a lot of other people are. Sure, I love to see new cards. I also love a block rotation, It clears the accumulated film from the Standard pool. What I’m mostly excited about, though, is the return to something familiar

Mirrodin? F*** it. Phyrexia is back.

When I first started playing Magic, the game had a story. It wasn’t just a quick glimpse though a single block such as what we’ve seen since the end of the Invasion block. It was a story spanning many blocks. In this story, there was a strange artificial plane called Phyrexia. Players mostly caught glimpses of Phyrexia through a smattering of artifacts in various sets, often offering great power but demanding an equally great sacrifice.

However, Phyrexia and it’s inhabitants would soon force their way onto the plane of Dominaria, the plane where the Magic storyline took place. The  final set of the Mirage block, Weatherlight, featured the creation of the Weatherlight’s crew and their search for the pieces of the Legacy in preparation for the Pyrexian invasion.  The Rath cycle continued the story of the Weatherlight and the assembled heroes as they assault the plane which would be the platform for the attack. The Urza’s block focused on the planeswalker Urza, mortal enemy to Phyrexia’s master,  Yawgmoth, and his search for allies and artifacts capable of holding off the impending Phyrexian invasion. The Masques block continued the story of the Weatherlight’s crew (kind of). Finally, the Invasion block saw the actual, massive attack on Dominaria and  Yawgmoth’s eventual defeat at the hands of Urza and his allies.

Hints of the who the Phyrexians were hidden in cards since the Ice Age block.  Three blocks focused on the coming invasion. The invasion took an entire block for itself.

I drifted out of magic by Apocalypse anyway, so I didn’t notice the story of the Dominaria I knew come to a close with the victory of the Coalition over Yawgmoth. Apparently, with the Odyssey and Onslaught blocks, players traveled to a harsh, future Dominaria. Wizards then dropped the storyline entirely, opting to stell short stories as each block visited an entirely new plane.

Since then, not much of the old plane has been seen. Karn, the Silver Golem, creator of Mirrodin was a key player in Phyrexia’s defeat. In Time Spiral block, players got a glimpse of a shattered Dominaria; a victim of centuries of struggle.

It was during Time Spiral I started playing again. I was a little depressed by the story. Not that I was a huge Melvin. I didn’t read the books. It was just neat to have this evolving storyline and characters to follow. It had to end sometime. I’m sure Wizards and the players were getting tired of Dominaria. After all, 4 blocks and the Weatherlight set is a long time.

It just never felt the same though. I felt like those people who came home to find a strip mall built on their old neighborhood. Sure, the new stuff is cool, and the game is about the cards, after all. I just felt as if something was missing. It is hard to invest yourself in a plane if you’re only there for a year. The stories were neat, the villians were cool, but they just weren’t as cool.

Call it the “Darth Maul Effect”. It is just hard for something to have an impact when you know it isn’t going to be around much longer.

Darth Vader Yawgmoth, now there’s a villain. Pyrexia knows how to start an epic struggle. Nice and slowly. I’m glad to see it creeping back. A familiar villain can be a lot of fun.  

Mirrodin is a natural fit for Phyrexia. It is an artificial plane, like Phyrexia was. It is constructed of metal, much like Phyrexia was. Karn, was instrumental in Yawgmoth’s defeat, and it is through him the new Phyrexia will born. 

Of course it won’t be like the old Phrexia, obviously. Yawgmoth is dead. His followers and the plane destroyed. Only the plane’s foul, oily taint survived. It is, in nature, like old Phyrexia, and has begun to change Mirrodin.

I may be looking at things through ichor-tinted glasses, but even the new mechanics are Phyrexian in nature. Sure, they’re Mirrian too, but how different are the too planes, really?

Metalcraft: If you control 3 artifacts, do X. So far, we’ve seen metalcraft give bonuses and activate abilities on creatures an artifacts. The cumulitive power of artifacts is obvious on Mirrodin, but the Phyrexians were partly machine too, and their sheer numbers gave them power as well.

Imprint: Discard X to give X some quality of the discarded X. We haven’t seen a lot of imprint abilities yet, but usually they involve creatures mimicking or becoming another and artifacts gaining the ability to cast discarded spells. As I recall, mimicry was one of Phyrexias favorite tricks.

Infect: Creatures (and possibly spells) with the infect mechanic do damage as either -1-1 counters (to other creatures) or poison counters (to players). I believe 10 poison counters equals a game loss, and as of yet there is no way to remove them. This one is purely Phyrexian. Infectious plagues and terrible poisons were Phyrexia’s most terrible weapons, and their deployment killed thousands of Dominaria’s defenders in an instant. Hundreds of thousands died slowly from the after effects. Yawgmoth himself, once a healer and a medicine man, manifested himself as  a colossal cloud of toxic gasses during the final battle with Urza and his champions.

 

Proliferate: The Proliferate mechanic adds counters to anything that already has counters. The player controlling the permanent or spell with proliferate gets to choose which permanents this effects. Did I mention Phyrexians relied on great numbers and the spreading of plagues?   

While I’m gushing about Phyrexia, a few other familiar things come with Scars of Mirrodin. The return to the plane Mirrodin, for one. I believe it is the first time we’ve returned to a plane since the Onslaught block. Charge counters return, as do the Myr. The set, of course, will be mostly artifacts, but colored spells do exist. Spell bombs are back again, as is the indestructible Darksteel. All of Mirrodin’s races are still there.

Mirrodin is exciting too, I guess. I didn’t get to play Mirrodin 1, so I’m looking forward to the artifact centric Mirrodin 2.0.  I just wouldn’t be as excited if Phyrexians weren’t involved.

The cards are looking pretty cool, too.

Check out the official Wizards site for information on Scars of Mirrodin, and keep an eye on MTG salvation if you like set spoilers. Rich? Check out Starcity Games and start buying spoiled cards at horribly over-hyped prices.

Top: Geth of the Vault, with Phyrexian enhancements. Bottom: Tsabo Tavoc, commander of the Phyrexian invasion force. Interesting, no?

How do you make Timmy-sized creatures playable? Pay for them slowly.

It is pre-release day, and sadly, I cannot attend due to a sudden change in work schedule. I don’t actually play Magic these days, but a sealed event really sounded like fun. Maybe I’ll make the release.

In the meantime, I’ve looked over the RoE spoilers over at MTG Salvation. RoE is weird. It seems pretty different from what we’ve seen so far. While I’m not going to try and figure out how the new card will affect the standard meta just yet, I do have some opinions on the new mechanics and themes of the set.

Levelers

I don’t like the leveling creatures. Most of them are awful and it just doesn’t “feel like Magic” to me at all. However, some of the levelers are pretty good, and leveling is probably better than I want to admit. You can power your monsters up in installments instead of having to have a lot of open mana at once, such as the case with Figure of Destiny.

Jorga Treespeaker was the first leveler to catch my eye. She doesn’t actually cost you anything to level her the first time, and there’s probably no reason to level her past that. Student of Warfare is pretty decent as a 3/3 with first strike for 3. Mono red might find a reason to live with Kargan Dragonlord. Others might turn out to be better than they look at first. After all, you eventually get a pretty massive guy or game-changing effect if they sit there long enough. Levelers will probably be sneaky like that.

Rebound

I love rebound. It makes me think of cascade. I get a beneficial effect for doing nothing I wouldn’t do otherwise, which is a bit like cheating. Most of the rebound spells are reasonably costed for what they do, and so getting to play them twice for the same price is great. The drawback of having to play the free copy during your upkeep could hurt you some times, but on other occasions it might actually help.

For example, Consuming Vapors on the rebound might keep your opponents from playing a creature during their turn. If it misses the second time around, the first sacrificial effect and the life gain is well worth 4 mana. Staggershock could also prevent your opponent from playing a creature, and the recurring spell can always hit the player.

Totem Armor

Totem armor seems like an interesting idea to spice up auras, which don’t usually see a whole lot of play. These new enchantments provide not only a bonus, but get around the two-fer effect when an enchanted creature gets zapped by a single spell. They also offer creatures the ability to fight usually bigger things without dying. This being said, none of them are really that exciting.

Hyena Umbra is pretty cool, giving a +1+1 boost plus first strike, not to mention the secondary totem effect. The untap all lands effect of Bear Umbra might be useful in some sort of combo deck.

The Eldrazi

The Eldrazi themselves seem like Timmy’s wet dream to me. They are huge, overpowered creatures. All Eldrazi have annihilator, which is ridiculous and will probably turn tides even with the smallest values. The “bigger” Eldrazi all have a Feldon’s Cane effect if they go into a graveyard from anywhere, so they can’t be cheated into play via graveyard games, but others effects still work fine.  It also gives them the opportunity to end up in your hand again. The big guys all have some ridiculous effect just for playing them too. Even the “smaller” Eldrazi do some pretty cool things.

I’m scared of these guys. Luckily the “smaller” Eldrazi are still pretty expensive and don’t have the protection or effects of the “bigger” guys. The bigger ones will likely cause a scoop, especially the insane Emrakul. They make great finishers, if you can pull off the mana.  There are all sorts of cards who spawn Eldrazi critters who can be sacrificed to produce the colorless mana it takes to summon these beasts.

I’m not a huge fan of the Eldrazi myself. I don’t want to see games evolve into everybody playing mana ramp, first one to Emrakul wins. Flavor wise they are what they were intended to be; invincible assholes. The spawn producing cards are mostly bad, though the ones that net you a creature and the 0/1 tokens are kind of interesting, though most are overpriced. 

At the moment, I don’t see Eldrazi mana-ramp being a hot strategey, but I do see some of the Eldrazi getting play. Kozilek is a resonably priced finisher with a great “when cast” effect, which is perfect for the kind of decks I think he will be played in. The Artisan of Kozilek is pretty neat too, and probably under priced for what he is; a big, scary Eldrazi who brings another monster back from the dead. Lets not forget there are other things to do with scads of colorless mana other than cast Eldrazi.

The Rise of the Eldrazi spoilers have been steadily rolling out at MTG Salvation and other sites. More of what the new set has to offer has been revealed. So far, it looks pretty ridiculous.

I mean rediculous in terms of individual card power. Look at this stupid thing.

Yes, Emrakul is ridiculous. I think he/she/it just might be the biggest, meanest monster ever printed, though rumors abound about an even bigger Eldrazi. Sure, Emrakul is far from invincible, but he is damned close. Other Eldrazi monsters are already pretty burly already; just look at Kozilek or Ulamog. It is safe to say giant, game winning monsters with crazy powers and even crazier mana costs are at least a sub-theme to this set. It is Rise of the Eldrazi, after all.

A new and ridiculous mechanic has been introduced as well; level up (or leveler, whatever the hell you want to call it). Some creatures can now gain levels by paying an activation cost. Various new abilities and power/toughness upgrades come with different level brackets. It works somewhat like Figure of Destiny combined with the flip cards from the Kamigawa block.

Also ridiculous, the two new planeswalkers; Sarkhan the Mad and Gideon Jura. Both bring something completely new to the planeswalker archtype. Sarkhan has no ability with which to add loyalty counters to him. He ticks away slowly until the last counter is removed. Gideon is the first planeswalker to have the ability to attack players directly as a creature can. It is pretty exciting.

There also seems to be a small colorless mana side-theme to Rise of the Eldrazi as well, which is to be expected when the blocks flagship creatures are colorless. However, it wasn’t clear how it would be implemented aside from the Eldrazi themselves. Now we see lots of cards which create minions with the ability to sacrifice themselves for 1 colorless mana. It appears there will be plenty of  spells available to “Dark Ritual” the ridiculous Eldrazi creatures into play, or pay X mana costs.

Finally, something else ridiculous; Starcity Game’s response to my letter. I have never seen a more blatant “non-answer” to a specific question. Good work.

 My letter:
I was wondering if Starcity Games might consider allowing customers to consolidate multiple pre-orders now that singles are being sold as spoiled.
In order to get the best prices, customers will have to buy early and buy often, which will lead to multiple shipping costs. I am also curious; why you are selling singles as spoiled? I know the eBay market does this, but I also don\’t pre-order product on e-bay because the prices are driven by mostly baseless speculation and new-card hype. I would hate to see the same at Starcity Games. Being able to buy new product as early as possible may appeal to some, but I
think it was just fine when pre-order day was after the pre-release.

Response from Starcity Games:
Thank you for your inquiry.  Our Pre-Order policy is to not combine orders once they are placed.  We do understand your feedback and issue with the
singles being put up at different times.  We do try to work with our customers as best we can. Unfortunately, we do not know at the beginning of pre-order sales what the single cards will be.  Once they are discovered we do make the decision whether or not to make that card available for pre-order.

During the Worldwake spoiler season, I mentioned in my article, Money Mythics, that Starcity Games was selling singles as they were being spoiled.  I also talked about how this affected prices.

More like Kozilek, Butcher of Wallets. Maybe he's a good control finisher. Terrible reanimator target though.

More like Kozilek, Butcher of Wallets. Maybe he's a good control finisher. Terrible reanimator target though.

Well, now that a few Rise of the Eldrazi cards have been spoiled, most notably Kozilek, Butcher of Truth, I am starting to think I was correct . In fact, I just e-mailed Starcity Games to ask them a few questions and make my opinion known, whatever good that will do.

Just in case you didn’t know, Kozilek is selling for $30 on Starcity Games right now.

I don’t like the idea of cards being sold as spoiled for a couple of reasons. First and foremost; prices only go up. Prices for spoiled singles are usually set according to (mostly) baseless speculation, new card hype and maybe a little bit of precedent (which usually doesn’t take into account changing game environments). Sometimes a card is just damn good in a vaccuum, and that helps to inflate prices as well. Finally, when a card pre-sells as spoiled, if it has a slight chance of being a staple, people buy it up, which also causes the price to rise, which in turn, makes people think it is a hot-item, so they buy it. You can see how this loops.

Want to see proof? Look how much Abyssal Persecutor was selling for before it actually hit the shelves.  $39.99. It didn’t even get a lot of good press, Timmy  just thought it was good and bought it up like crazy. Jace, the Mind Sculptor was at $59.99 before the pre-release, and hasn’t dropped yet, despite the fact he hasn’t made a huge impact on any meta yet. Patrick Chapin likes him, so I guess that still makes him worth $240 a playset.  

Ouch.

It used to be just eBay sellers and some of the “other” online shops that sold singles as spoiled, but now the big guys are  doing it too, which means now you have to buy early and buy often if you want to get a card with potential at a reasonable price. Unfortunately, it was one of the reasons I didn’t buy at the other places.

The second reason I don’t like Starcity Games selling cards as spoiled is their pre-sale policy, which prohibits combining orders for pre-sale items. I guess if you want to lock in good prices on spoiled cards, you better like paying shipping for each playset you order.

Of course you could always wait until the cards are actually released like I did. By then I decided I didn’t really want Jace, the Mind Sculptor; at least not at $60 a pop for something that hasn’t proven itself yet.

Here is a copy of my letter

I was wondering if Starcity Games might consider allowing customers to consolidate multiple pre-orders now that singles are being sold as spoiled. In order to get the best prices, customers will have to buy early and buy often, which will lead to multiple shipping costs.

I am also curious; why you are selling singles as spoiled? I know the eBay market does this, but I also don’t pre-order product on e-bay because the prices are driven by mostly baseless speculation and new-card hype. I would hate to see the same at Starcity Games.

Being able to buy new product as early as possible may appeal to some, but I think it was just fine when pre-order day was after the pre-release.   

Over at MTG Salvation, six Rise of the Eldrazi cards were spoiled today; one for each color and one colorless card. 

 Go check it out. 

 While the cards themselves may not be all that cool, getting to see some of the new mechanics to be included in the set definitely is. 

 Lets take a look: 

 Annihilator x: Whenever this creature attacks, defending player sacrifices x permanents.
It appears Annihilator was sussed a while ago, judging by the comments on various forums. The idea of making an opponent sacrifice a permanent each time a creature merely attacks is intoxicating. The varying value of is interesting too. We’ve already seen it in staggering values of 3 and 4, both of which are likely to swing the game in the attackers favor in a single turn. However, it could be powerful enough in values of 1 and 2 as well, if printed on the right creature. So far, both on colorless Eldrazi creatures, but it is unknown to me at this point whether or not they will appear on creatures of color.    

Totem Armor: If enchanted creature would be destroyed, instead remove all damage from it and destroy this Aura.
Totem Armor seems to be a combination of the guide auras (Elephant Guide, Griffon Guide) and the phantom creatures of the Odyssey block’s Judgement. However, instead of getting a bonus and a new creature when the enchanted beast dies, you save the creature and lose the bonus. Totem Armors could make for a good insurance policy, but history shows creature enchantments don’t usually see a lot of play.  

Rebound: If you cast this spell from your hand, exile it as it resolves. At the beginning of your next upkeep, you may cast this card from exile without paying its mana cost.
Rebound is a bit like Flashback, but for free. Graveyard removal doesn’t touch Rebound either. The drawback is you must use the spell during your next upkeep, or lose it forever, so you cannot wait for the most opportune time to re-cast.    

Another thing of interest is the colorless theme. So far, only the colorless spells seen are the Eldrazi creatures, but if the future-sighted Ghostfire is any indication of things to come, other colorless spells with effects traditioanlly associated with a specific color will appear. The good news, is this adds a unprecidented flexibility to any kind of deck, provided the colorless cards are useful. The downside is if a colorless card is good enough and every deck in the format (possibly multiple formats) wants it, expect to pay out the nose. 

The Eldrazi creatures are interesting too. So far, the spoiled Kozilek and Pathrazer look pretty intimidating. However, with their ridiculous power comes a ridiculous casting cost. Several things seem to be working to help speed the appearance of the mammoth beasts on the battlefield though. Eye of Ungin not only helps you dig a colorless spell out of your library, but it lowers the cost of those spells by 2. Chalice of the void is a good colorless mana accelerator. Also, if Corpsehatch is any indicator of what is to come, future card will also help in speeding Eldrazi to player’s sides. A

As always, more cards will have to be seen to determine whether these new mechanics will change formats. The forums will undoubtedly be alight with speculation on how each will impact the game, but we’ll have to wait a while to start making an opinion outside of a vacuum.