Mono Black Devotion

mono black devotion

by Steve ‘DDT’ Giannopoulos

The new standard format has been around for almost 2 months now and Devotion decks are pretty much where it’s at. We all pretty much know about Mono Blue Devotion since the Pro Tour, but there’s another devotion deck that made a smaller splash on that Pro Tour. It’s gained quite a bit of popularity and it’s not that expensive to assemble. I would pretty much recommend it to anyone looking to build a Standard deck since it will probably be a good archetype for pretty much most of Standard without necessarily needing any new cards (aside from a mass removal spell) to be released in the rest of Theros block.

Mono Black Devotion

Standard Format


Creatures: 15

Desecration Demon
Erebos, God of the Dead
4 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
4 Nightveil Specter
Pack Rat

Instants: 10

4 Devour Flesh
2 Doom Blade
4 Hero’s Downfall

Sorceries: 4

4 Thoughtseize

Enchantments: 6

4 x Underworld Connections
2 x Whip of Erebos

 





Lands: 25


4 Mutavault
1 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
16 Swamp
4 Temple of Deceit


Sideboard


1 Dark Betrayal
2 Duress
1 Illness in the Ranks
3 Lifebane Zombie
2 Notion Thief
2 Pharika’s Cure
1 Pithing Needle
2 Ratchet Bomb
1 Ultimate Price

The first thing you will notice is the amount of removal this deck packs. It actually seems pretty excessive, does it not? Well there are a few reasons for it.

Hero’s Downfall

hero's downfallIf 300 had minotaurs …

This spell is definitely as good as advertised. It destroys pretty much any creature as well as chipping in against pesky planeswalkers. If you are aware that your opponent is playing some powerful planeswalkers, you’ll probably want to save this removal spell for them and endure the pain of whatever creature is making you miserable. I too often see players burning through their removal spells like they had a gazillion of them in their decks. It’s hard to inform them that this is a bad thing – especially if they end up winning their game. If all that’s attacking you is a lowly Elvish Mystic you probably won’t mind taking one in order to destroy a Polukranos that your opponent is likely to cast shortly after. It’s all about the read you get on your opponent and how you can anticipate plays. This is obviously something that is acquired over some time with much experience and knowledge of the format you are playing.

For those of you that are not 100% percent familiar with how planeswalker abilites work, you will probably only get the destroy a planeswalker after it has activated one of its abilites first.

Here’s an example:

hero's downfall bigImagine that hoof a little lower … Ouch!

You are holding a Hero’s Downfall with appropriate untapped mana and your opponent just cast Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. He declares that he will be activating Elspeth’s +1 ability in order to make 3 1/1 Soldier tokens. You choose to respond with a Hero’s Downfall. You will be destroying the much hated planeswalker but its ability will still be lingering on the stack waiting to resolve.

I know that newer players actually have an easier time understanding this than older ones, but once you remove the source of an activated or triggered ability – the ability will still resolve afterwards. I say this because I play pretty much everywhere around my area (Montreal, Canada) and see constant arguments about this. It’s usually an older grizzled veteran arguing with someone younger. I sometimes get asked for my thoughts/rulings which I provide much to the chagrin of the player who is wrong.

The above example can also be used when deciding your next course of action if it were another planeswalker. Meet Jace, Architect of Thought. He’s single, smart and knows his way around Ravnica …. uh, I mean he’s very annoying to deal with when he’s on your opponent’s end of the battlefield.

jace architectHe sure does get around

Your opponent just cast a Jace, Architect of Thought and you have a Nightveil Specter in play plus a bunch of lands and one card in hand (Hero’s Downfall). He activates the -2 ability on Jace revealing 2 lands and an Aetherling. You make two piles and he chooses the Aetherling pile. Knowing that he can only realistically cast Aetherling on turn 7 and this being his Turn 5, what is your course of action? Do you just burn the Hero’s Downfall now or simply finish Jace off with Nightveil Specter, thus forgoing the ability of Nightveil Specter (since it actually needs to damage a player)?

To many of you the answer is simple: just attack Jace with Nightveil Specter and ignore whatever possible 1 mana (Azorius-colored) solution your opponent may or may not have. In the medium to long run you probably made the right call, but newer players are more impulsive and will probably not want to take any chance on Jace staying in play. They’ll just use Hero’s Downfall because they think they have ‘no choice’. I know the example is a little oversimplified but you get the point, I hope. A big part of the game is all about choices whether game-changing or not. What land to play first, when to cast Thoughtseize,etc all involve you making an educated guess or strong technical play. On turn 1 versus an Azorius control deck you probably want to play a Mutavault to start things off, knowing that you can start attacking him as of turn 2. You probably don’t want to play a Swamp into a Thoughtseize since he won’t really be casting much up until turn 3 anyways. The opposite is probably true versus a Red/Green Devotion deck. You can’t just blindly play the same way regardless of the matchup. Of course if it’s Game 1 and you have no idea what your opponent is playing then by all means consider the turn 1 Thoughtseize play as it will give some much much needed information as well as getting rid of their best/most threatening card in hand.

Thoughtseize

thoughtseize1Looks like something just blew up in Socrates’ face 

While technically not a removal spell, you can still view it as one and sometime even more like a counterspell since it more or less prevents your opponent’s card from resolving. It’s sort of like a proactive counterspell. On the surface, Thoughtseize is pretty basic: you cast it as soon as you can and get rid of your opponent’s best card or whatever card you would allow him to deal with your threats. Sometimes it’s a card-drawing spell, planeswalker, big creature or another Thoughtseize. It’s really always varied and the card is trickier to cast than you think.

thoughtseize2Most people prefer the original artwork

The thing with discard spells is that they lose their effectiveness later in the game where players tend to have less cards in hand. It’s also probably a really bad top deck past a certain turn as well. This is the cast most of the time, but it’s not set in stone. As I said before, you would want to hold onto it versus a control deck so as to hit a more relevant card later on. If you are afraid of a Sphinx’s Revelation then wait to cast it on turn 4 or 5 since the chances of your opponent having it in hand is slightly increased. They would have drawn 3-5 extra cards at that point. If your opponent is playing an Esper deck, which also runs Thoughtseize, it becomes a little more difficult to figure out when you have to cast it. Do you want to prevent them from casting their Thoughtseize or do you have enough gas in hand to not care if they do. Do you think they’ll just Thoughtseize your Thoughtseize ?

If you wait too long, maybe you’re going to cast it only to see that your opponent was holding a handful of lands or even worse:

loxodon smiterSucks to be you

A lot of times, especially against Red decks, you will probably side out some amount of Thoughtseizes. You don’t want to be damaging yourself since it will just cut down the amount of damage your opponent has to deal you to win. It’s not entirely bad against them, but you probably don’t want to draw more than 1 early on. You can still make them discard something like a Boros Reckoner or a Fanatic of Mogis.

Enough about disruption for now, let’s see how the deck eventually wins:

Creatures

Gray Merchant of Asphodel

gray merchantWhat a cute little zombie !

This little cute is not from the Walking DeadHe usually has a big impact on most games and usually drains for about 8-10 life which is extremely significant. Of course your opponent can actually destroy him in response thus lowering the life drain by 2. The great thing is that he also allows you to stabilize by giving you a half decent blocker as well. Say you were getting beaten down by some Lotleth Trolls or Ash Zealots or even Fleecemane Lions (with your opponent stuck at 4 mana). Gray Merchant of Asphodel can come down on turn 5 and recoup some lost life and stem the bleeding. Sure, often times he will just chump block something but that’s fine because he can also gain us more life via Whip of Erebos (both by lifelinking and being reanimated). I have had situations where I needed to Hero’s Downfall my own Gray Merchant only to reanimate it with Whip of Erebos causing a massive game-winning life swing.

This playful zombie is also the main reason we want to maximize on our black permanents. Underworld Connections or Nightveil Specter is most likely than not going to be cast on turns 3-4. Both of these cards are somewhat hard to remove permanents and they stick around long enough to make our opponent miserable. Nightveil Specter is fairly immune to a lot of commonly played removal spells (Doom Blade, Ultimate Price, etc.) Of course he gets hit by Detention Sphere, Hero’s Downfall, Supreme Verdict, Lightning Strike but that pretty much gets anything out of the way. It’s a shame that it’s loss of life and not ‘deals damage’ because that would have really been wrong with the Whip of Erebos.

Nightveil Specter

nigthveil specterAt one point you couldn’t even give these away

As seen in the Mono Blue Devotion deck, this little flyer is extremely good. It’s not for nothing that his selling price skyrocketed from 50 cents to almost 10 dollars. I like to think that my original assessment of it was more or less decent. I never dismissed it as a junk rare or said it was unplayable. I would love to say that I traded heavily for it and have infinite copies of this stocked up in a closet somewhere but that is not the case.

Nightveil Specter is just really good right now. It can exile opposing lands thus helping you hit your land drops each turn to the point where you can start casting pretty much anything from under it. I enjoy it against control decks when you start taking their counterspells from them (since you also have a smallish blue splash thanks to Temple of Deceit). It’s worded differently than Daxos, since it says ‘play’ and not ‘cast’. I mention this because the Daxos thing came up a lot in all the Theros pre-releases I played in/judged. Originally the Mono Black deck ran 4 main deck Lifebane Zombies but Nightveil Specter is clearly better at the moment. The zombies have been relegated to the sideboard. To be honest though, I have to say that sometimes you really hate having 4 Mutavaults in the deck because you will draw them early on and have problems casting early Nightveil Specters. It’s a small price to pay to run 2 of the best cards in Standard though.

Desecration Demon

desecration demonIt’s a win/win situation

This is another Nightveil Specter type of card. It was definitely not a bulk rare though, but it was like 2-3 dollars. Some fringe Golgari control decks emerged towards the end of Inninstrad/Return to Ravnica Standard which brought its value up quite a bit. I’m not sure many people would have guessed it would one day be worth 10-15$. I surely did not. Most viewed it as a borderline playable card with no home. I remember thinking Abyssal Persecutor was pretty good back in Zendikar block, but Desecration Demon is probably the best Juzam Djinn ‘reprint’.

The original list ran 4 Desecration Demons , but with cards like Elspeth, Sun’s Champion it becomes slightly less good. This is why it’s fine to just run 3 at the moment. It, like Nightveil Specter is somewhat harder to get rid of than your average creature. It gets hit by Ultimate Price but not Abrupt Decay (which hits Nightveil Specter). Desecration Demon is also way out of range of pretty much all played burn spells. If your opponent is willing to trade two Lightning Strikes to kill it then that’s fine by us. That’s six less damage we have to worry about from an aggro deck. He also contributes 2 black mana to our all-important ‘devotion to black’ count.

Pack Rat

pack ratLooks just like the Pack Rat token !

Wait! this isn’t Return to Ravnica limited, is it? Nope, it’s just that Pack Rat has now become constructed playable. One of the main reasons being that the tokens it creates are actual copies. This means that they have a mana cost and everything, which contributes to our devotion count. Also, since we usually draw an extra card each turn with Underworld Connections the Rat is just that much better. It’s great to pitch extra lands to it but there’s even more. You can discard a Gray Merchant of Asphodel to Pack Rat if you fear something like a Syncopate counter (since it would exile the Pack Rat). If you happen to have a Whip of Erebos in play then you can discard it at the end of your opponent’s turn and return it to the battlefield with the Whip on your turn. This basically makes for an ‘uncounterable’ Gray Merchant. You even get to haste attack with it in order to really rub it into your opponent’s face.

Against decks like Selesnya Aggro and company, the Pack Rat is at its finest. Their removal suite is almost non-existent. You don’t even care if your Pack Rat gets within Selesnya Charm range because you will probably have 4 other Pack Rats in play. That’s a good thing. Another small detail is what happens when we have this card in play:

mutavaultIs there anything it can’t do?

Mutavault is just an awesome inclusion in M14. It messes up our opponen’ts combat math when paired with Pack Rat (yes, it counts as a rat too). It basically reads as:

1: +1/+1 to all Pack Rats in play.

Of course if you have to cast Pack Rat and are worried about removal you can always wait until turn 5 so that you can activate it and get another copy of itself. In that same vein, you can always bring it back with Whip of Erebos if it got destroyed by something like a Supreme Verdict or whatnot. Eventhough the original card will be exiled at end of turn you will get an opportunity to discard a card to make a Pack Rat token and keep the party going. Detention Sphere might sometimes ruin your day though, but if you think it’s worth it … you can always destroy your Pack Rat in response if there is another copy in play (and most importantly, if it’s worth it to do so). The target of Detention Sphere won’t be there when its ability to exile resolves and your other Pack Rats will be safe.

Card Advantage

Let’s go with the simple definition for this: drawing more cards than our opponent. +1’ing ourselves. One particular card in this deck does it (well, two actually).

underworld connectionsSomewhat of a Phyrexian Arena

I recall suggesting that many people jump on this card before Theros was released and I for one am glad I did. From a monetary standpoint it didn’t really jump much in value but they are super easy to trade. My reasoning for its value jump was not exactly what it ended up being. I thought it would be bolstered by some Theros ‘enchantment matters’ sub-theme but that was not the case. Nope, it’s just because of good old Mono Black. For once the people that ‘foretold’ of the resurgence of mono black decks were correct (after about oh, fifteen or so times of being wrong?)

“Mono Black is back in Standard!” – Some Guy at the release of some recent set

You are basically drawing an extra card a turn at the cost of 1 life and one mana. Technically it doesn’t cost mana but in reality it does, since you have to tap your enchanted land to activate Underworld Connections. Casting this on turn 3 will not immediately net us one card and thus make it worthless if our opponent manages to Detention Sphere, Golgari Charm or Abrupt Decay it on their following turn. It’s sort of important that if we are going to waste a card like this early on we at least get to cycle it in case it gets dealt with. On turn 3 you probably want to be casting a Nightveil Specter instead anyhow. Of course there are times when that is not feasible as we discussed above due to the triple black mana requirement. Most of the time you should be fine though.

Dropping one of these early on against another control deck will grant us a ridiculous advantage. If you draw multiple Hero’s Downfalls at this point – feel free to burn them on whatever you see fit (just kidding!). A lot of the time we will just be making extra Pack Rats or using Underworld Connections to draw our Gray Merchants in order to end the game. This card is almost always sided out against the mono red decks though, since we basically waste a turn doing not much against them AND we lose life. That is not a good combination of things to be doing against that particular archetype.

Erebos, God of the Dead

erebos god of the deadI prefer Erebos, God of the Greedy

Contrary to Thassa, God of the Sea we don’t want to be drawing this guy all the time. He’s either really good or just terrible. The great thing about him is that his static ability half-nullifies Sphinx’s Revelation and the drawback of Devour Flesh. He’s obviously really good in the mirror match. The older deck list even ran one copy of Erebos in their sideboard because of that. He randomly has a really high toughness thus making him the ‘toughest’ of the five gods. This is sometimes really good since it minimizes trample damage, though there is not much trample to be had these days.

The life payment on the card draw ability is the same as Greed but with an extra colorless mana tacked onto it. It’s sometimes necessary to use when you’re really digging for that hard to find Gray Merchant to finish your opponent off. When you’re attacking with him you’re probably winning or you might just be doing it to gain enough life to survive (with Erebos’s Whip out). Just like all the other gods, he is very vulnerable to Selesnya Charm (though you probably won’t encounter much of those).

On a side note, I have seen many people play this guy as their Commander and he seems to be pretty insane since creature removal won’t work on him early on. Since you start games at 40 life, his card-drawing ability is rather great. I actually run one in my totally random Teysa Commander deck as well as a Heliod, God of the Sun just for laughs. I try to get devotion with some black and white enchantments but the overall deck is very underpowered. Most of the time making them into creatures is worse.

Side In, Side Out

Finally we have what seems to be a very strange sideboard. I must admit that the Notion Thieves are my touch, so you might just want to add an extra Duress and Doom Blade or Pharika’s Cure instead of those. I wanted to make the opponent second guess the blue mana from Temple of Deceit. Most people will just assume it might as well be a Temple of Silence and that it’s purely for Scrying purposes. That’s pretty much correct, but I like the ‘spiciness’ of having Notion Thief in the sideboard versus Blue/White and Esper decks. Sometimes you get to that point where no matter how many Duress or Thoughtseizes you resolve against them they get that one topdecked Sphinx’s Revelation that just puts them back in the game. Notion Thief somewhat takes care of that. With four Temple of Deceit and some card draw, you get to eventually be able to cast a Notion Thief. It’s fine if it’s late game because their game-breaking Sphinx’s Revelation will also be late game.

notion thiefJust try it

Give Notion Thief a try, you might end up liking it. It’ also not too bad in the mirror match since it nullifies their Underworld Connections (though it dies to their Dark Betrayal and Hero’s Downfall). I would pretty much obviously take out a couple of Doom Blades for it.

Lifebane Zombie is there for the odd Boros Reckoner, Loxodon Smiter, Polukranos and such. I used to prefer running it over Nightveil Specter maindeck since it was easier on the mana and could Intimidate its way past would-be blockers to kill planeswalkers like Elspeth (since it also doesn’t die to the -3 ability on Elspeth). It can even 2 for 1 Green or White decks if it trades with one of their in play creatures as well. I usually take out a couple of Nightveils to fit in the Lifebanes.

Pharika’s Cure is mostly for mono red decks which usually demolish mono black. I would run four if your local metagame is infested with Red aggro decks. It deals with early threats like Ash Zealot, Rakdos Cackler and the like. You can also use it on one of your own creatures in desperate times to gain some life if your opponent has no creatures to speak of. A lot of mono black decks just don’t run this card at all and ignore the mono red matchup since it’s already so bad for this deck.

Illness in the Ranks is there to shore up our weakness against tokens, namely 1/1 soldier tokens created by Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. It also contributes to the ‘Mono Black Devotion Fund’ which can make a small difference (every black mana counts). Other tokens might come from Voice of Resurgence, Hammer of Purphoros, Assemble the Legion, Heliod, Master of Waves, Precinct Captain or even opposing Pack Rats. That’s the more likely sources but there are quite a few more (Trading Post, Vraska, Xenagos). It’s not terrible but we don’t want to waste our sideboard slots on more than one.

Duress is obviously there against the Blue/X control decks since it basically one for one’s their best noncreature card in hand (of which there are usually many). You might be kicking yourself if you used up a Thoughtseize earlier on and Duress them with an Aetherling in their hand.

Finally, the Ratchet Bombs are somewhat of a catch all solution to things like tokens, Detention Spheres and other bothersome permanents. This deck has a lot of trouble killing stuff when there are too many opposing permanents on the battlefield at once. It would of course greatly benefit from a Damnation or Mutilate kind of spell in the future, but for now other options include:

A) Splashing White for Merciless Eviction. Costs too much but can get rid of other permanents that mono black has problems dealing with (artifacts and enchantments).

B) Splashing Green for Vraska, Putrefy, Abrupt Decay and Golgari Charm. The problem is figuring out which and aside from Golgari Charm, the rest don’t do the mass removal thing.

C) Not Splashing, not caring and just play good old Mono Black Devotion.

I’m pretty sure you’ve figured out that I just like option C for the moment since the other ones are just plain inefficient or awkward.

Shipwrecked: A Theros Limited Experience

shipwrecked

by Steve ‘DDT’ Giannopoulos

It’s Friday and it’s nice outside. Unfortunately I won’t be able to enjoy it much because I’m going to spend most of it playing some Magic. I motivate myself to go to a local store’s FNM. They have a Type 2 tourney at 6:00pm followed by a draft at around 9:30 pm. However, today’s the midnight pre-release of Theros as well so I have a lot on my plate. I could just go to the pre-release, but I’m a gamer at heart and I want to get as much Magic: the Gathering in on one weekend without being completely wasted in between pre-releases.

I grab the good old Golgari control deck that’s been faring really well this last month and a half figuring that with one week of Innistrad/M13 Standard to go it’s foolhardy to create something new. I may possibly write a bit on the deck, time permitting. It’s a great metagame call and allows you to play some underplayed cards like Desecration Demon and Mutilate. You can probably also call it GB Rock or ‘The Rock‘ and it’s actually pretty fun to play.

desecration demonThat would certainly explain its sudden price surge …

round 1 banner

vs. USA Aggro/Burn

I face a random USA Aggro/Burn deck with Delver of Secrets, Guttersnipe and Nivix Cyclops. My opponent is an OK player but is rather impulsive in nature as well. He tends to play burn-style decks then complain because he gets ‘flooded’ past turn 5. I keep a 5-lander in Game 1 and game very much punished for it. I thought I would buy myself some time by playing an Ultimate Price on his Delver of Secrets, but I get my first of many WTF? moments of the day when he responds with a Faith’s Shield. He doesn’t get to flip his Delver in like forever, but he had double Izzet Charm in hand to make sure that my Liliana turn 3 and 4 do not resolve. It’s a sad state of affairs as I continue to draw land after land and try to ‘race’ wth my Mutavault only to see it get Searing Speared. I didn’t have much gas to begin with, so it’s not like I ran out. I just lost really badly. The story does end well however, as I pretty much did what the deck does and gained enough life to get out of any kind of burn range and beat him down with bigger creatures. I also more or less destroyed all his creatures with the variety or removal the deck packs (all of them being good versus that particular deck).

1-0

round 2 banner

vs. Naya Blitz

I’ve face this guy before and it never seems like he ever plays enough lands in his deck. The one win he got off me once was due to 4 x Boros Charms. In Game 1 he goes Experiment One into Strangleroot Geist and then Loxodon Smiter. I can’t even Mutilate fast enough and even at that it would cause his Strangleroot Geist to come back and finish me (since it has Undying). Game 2 is much much different as I have some Tragic slips for his Experiment Ones and a Scavenging Ooze later on to make sure his Strangleroot Geists do not come back. Scavenging Ooze is probably the addition that made this deck much much better than it originally was. Before the deck used to run main deck Cremates which were kind of a concession to the Reanimator decks at the time. On the third game my opponent gets stuck on mana and I just play Thragtusks and Disciple of Bolas to put myself out of any kind of danger whatsoever. I easily win that one afterwards.

2-0

round 3 banner

vs. Elves

I know my opponent quite well since we usually go hang out at the local bar and grab a bit to eat after these FNM’s. I know he usually plays elves but he had been talking about trying random decks before rotation. When he wins the die roll and starts off with a forest, I know I’m in a bit of trouble. He casts Elvish Mystic and follows up with Elvish Archdruid on his turn 2 and another on turn 3. My Mutilate was looking good before he cast that second Archdruid. While the GB Rock deck plays a lot of swamps it packs quite a few nonbasics as well (other than Overgrown Tomb). With 2 swamps in play by my turn4 I cannot even cast mutilate to take out as much as a Elvish Mystic. He just really really puts the hurt on me. Game 2 is very similar only this time he plays Druid’s familiars to get out of Mutilate range followed up by Wolfir Silverhearts. He had also emptied out his hand fairly quickly to the point where targetted removal even the biggest of creatures was not accomplishing much.

2-1

round 4 banner

vs. UW Control

This is a matchup I have had the pleasure of playing on numerous occasions. The deck”s pilot is not really patient enough to play this archetype and as such makes many mistakes. Game 1 is really good for me since I get to peek at his hand with Lifebane Zombie and remove a Restoration Angel. It also allows me to confirm he does not have double white nor does he have a Supreme Verdict. I repeatedly attack with 2 x Mutvault and Lifebane Zombie to close it out early. In Game 2, I start off fairly strong and cast a Turn 5 Duress hitting a Sphinx’s Revelation and seeing no Snapcaster Mages. The game goes slightly longer than I like and one of my Thragtusks gets Syncopated. He also gets to draw and resolve a Sphinx’s Revelation to come back and win this somewhat long game. With about 15 minutes left for Game 3 we both pick up the pace. I get to resolve a Turn 2 Appetite for Brains on Restoration Angel and also notice that he has no counterspell or Detention Sphere in hand. I get a turn 3 Underworld Connections and the rest is pretty much history. He did get to play a Turn 5 Jace, Memory Adept against me. My deck runs Mutavaults and Thragtusks so I’m not sure just how good of an idea that sideboard plan was. I guess he really had nothing else since his list just seems different from the norm. He ran 2-3 Terminus on top of Supreme Verdicts which I felt was excessive. In his defense though, he got color-shorted on one white and had to activate his Ghost Quarter on an Island to get his second source of white in order to cast Supreme Verdict.

Final record: 3-1

So that record merits me two boosters, which is pretty good if you consider that it’s only a 2$ buy-in. I pull a Sanguine Bond and a Kalonian Hydra, which I am quite thankful for as I traded most of mine away early on.

kalonian hydra

Yummy Value!

and now onto the final M14 Draft

m14 logo

I snap value pick a Fiendslayer Paladin because sometimes it’s just the right thing to do. As a rule, if the card value is 8$ or greater I will usually value pick it early on. The draft stakes are not high either, at 8 people it was like 3-2-1-1-1. I ended up with a pretty sweet Black/White draft deck overall featuring 2 of my favorite draft cards: Gnawing Zombie and Blightcaster. They have 3 toughness and a good enough impact on the board be it early, mid or late game. I also had 4 Charging Griffins and a Serra Angel. I would at times side in/out my Strionic Resonator as it worked with over half the cards in my deck (including the always good Banisher Priest).

round 1 banner

vs. Black/Green

I face my friend that was running Elves in the standard portion of the FNM. Game one is close but he gets the better of me with his Sengir Vampire + Fireshrieker. I had to go for an Alpha strike to win, but he cast a Wring Flesh to go down to 2 and take the game on the back swing. Game 2 goes by normally aside from the odd Millstone that popped up on his end. We go to Game 3 and he gets two Millstones in play with no much else. I draw a lot of lands but eventually some Charging Griffins and a Banisher Priest to take out his Sengir Vampire. I eventually get there with a couple of more swings.

1-0

round 2 banner

vs. Blue/Red

The guy’s deck seemed like something very similar I had drafted a week ago during a friendly draft. It was a Blue/Red Scourge of Valkas, Shivan Dragon, Dragon Egg deck. Only his main issue is that he ran the Dragon Hatchlings and did not have any sac outlet for his Dragon Eggs. I had a Trading Post and Barrage of Expendables in mine. The game goes by quickly as he needs to firebreathe his Dragon Hatchling to do any real damage to me and I just attack with whatever I am happy to trade with. He hits on of my creatures with a Scourge of Valkas later on but is met with a Pacifism afterwards. Game 2 was really really weird. He just got out a Phantom Warrior and a Shiv’s Embrace by turn 4. Unfortunately I had a Mark of the Vampire on one of my 2-power creatures and followed it up with an Angelic Accord. I was getting and Angel token that turn, was taking 6 or so damage, getting 4 life back, making another Angel token. It was basically over and he scooped revealing a hand of just lands. He would have maybe won had he draw into Frost Breath and Archaeomancer or Chandra’s Outrage.

2-0

round 3 banner

vs. Mono Blue

It’s down to me a pretty good player I know playing Monoblue with 2 x Opportunity. He offers me the draw so we can go grab food instead. I’m definitely down with that! There’s less than one hour left for the pre-release registration and I don’t intend to play on an empty stomach.

Final Score: 2-0-1

Pre-Release Time!

I register and select my color: Blue

I thought I was more of a Golgari or Boros, but the more I examine my playstyle and actions in general, I pretty much know I am a Dimir kinda guy. I’m not always very direct,slightly secretive and don’t always reveal my true self, much like the Dimir. I even pasted the little Dimir Guild sticker on one of my trade binders.

Getting a Blue Pre-release pack gives you this bad boy:

shipbreaker kraken

That’s a pretty ‘Monstrous” effect

However, most of you will recognize him undet this form:

shipbreaker-kraken 2

I very much prefer the artwork on this pre-release version, the Kraken seems more menacing

I come in a little late from eating at the pizza place and have less time to build my deck. I crack open my boosters and get nothing really good in the blue one (Meletis Charlatan). I figure his stats are ok and I may use his ‘Fork’ ability once in a while, so he makes the cut. The other Rares/Mythics are not worth mentioning, save Thoughtseize (which I promptly put in my trade binder). I have enough decent looking blue cards to build something worthwhile, but no Omenspeaker or Triton Tactics. I really was looking forward to having at least a copy of one of those. Then I started looking though the color combinations I could build and noticed I had two of these:

horizon chimera theros

New Restoration Angel? Well, maybe not …

It did everything I wanted the deck to do. Potentially it could destroy a random attacker with 1 power. trade with anything really threatening at 3 toughness or less or simply be flashed in and be ready to attack on my turn. This card has 4 abilities by the way and the lifegain was very relevant in many of my matches. I add the green enchantment destruction, some mana fixing/accelerators (Sylvan Caryatid, Voyaging Satyr, Traveler’s Amulet) and the deck is almost complete. Unfortunately I am short on playables and after examining the rest of my pool I figure I can go Black for a couple of removal spells and Rescue from the Underworld. The black cards each contained only one black mana symbol in their cost and I had 3 swamps, Traveler’s Amulet, Sylvan Caryatid and Unknown Shores.

The deck seemed ok when I was goldfishing a few sample starting hands. No bombs were going to be winning me my games except for Shipbreaker Kraken himself. I really liked the potential turn 3 4-drops that Sylvan Caryatid and Voyaging Satyr enabled. Pairings are called and I notice that I am facing some Asian dude and for once it’s not my roommate (we end up facing each other a lot even at bigger events). I go to my table and don’t recognize this player at all.

round 1 banner

vs. Blue/White

We roll dice, wish each other luck and the game is under way. He starts off with an Island and I know the game is probably going long. I start to get beat down by some fliers and I don’t must up much of anything until turn 6. The pivotal turn of the game where I cast, you guessed it, Shipbreaker Kraken. Must be nice! It must be also nice to have 2 lands in hand knowing that if i survive two more turns I can get a foothold in winning this game. He’s playing Blue/White so I am almost sure that as long as I don’t attack when he has 4 mana up (Divine Verdict) then I am not losing my Kraken. Turn 8 rolls around, I drop my 8th land and pass the turn. I can activate the Kraken’s ability at the end of my opponent’s turn so why rush it? Also, it would leave me with open mana on his turn to run a counter or response to something he may do (eventhough I have none in hand, but he doesn’t know that). He only has 4 creatures and doesn’t drop a fifth on his turn. the end of turn comes and I activate my Kraken (“Release the Kraken!”). He simply looks at the battlefield and scoops up his cards. Game 2 is somewhat similar, only I got the Voyaging Satyr, Sylvan Caryatid acceleration. This allowed me to cast Shipbreaker Kraken turn 4 and activate if turn 6. I know right?

1-0

round 2 banner

vs. Black/White

I’m facing a girl this time and she actually beat a decent player to get to 1-0, so I’m under the impression that she knows her stuff. She has me down to 5-6 pretty early in the game, but I cast a Horizon Chimera and then I cast the other one at the end of her turn again. Having stabilized the ground and gaining two life a turn while beating down for 6 in the air means I got this one.

Game 2 is just really bad for her as I get to copy Fade into Antiquity and copy it with Meletis Charlatan. I then get to the point where I copy Thassa’s Bounty with him as well. The game is clearly out of reach for her as I get to win without my pet Kraken. She reveals a grip of 3 Ray of Dissolution and I asked her why she didn’t side them out. I tell her that I had exactly two enchantments in my deck and played none on game 1. She said: “Well, you never know.” On that she was correct, I may have had some Bestow dudes she did not see but to keep all 3 copies just seemed a poor choice.

I help her modify her deck so that she only has one copy of Ray of Dissolution and noticed that she did not have more than 13 creatures while playing and aggro deck. We move that up to 17 since the deck was mostly a weenie deck (she had the White pre-release kit). We play a game for fun which is much closer than previous games, but this time Shipbreaker Kraken appears to seal the game. Still, she is more satisfied with the newer build, so I wish her good luck on her remaining games.

2-0

round 3 banner

vs. Green/White

I’m facing a pretty good player that I have played against in every possible format. I believe we are pretty much 50/50 versus each other, meaning I’m a little worried about my undefeated streak coming to an end. He also helped me splash the black cards in my deck and thus has a bit of an advantage since he knows all of my deck’s contents. I get a terrible start on Game 1 and he gets the exact opposite. He cracks his Burnished Hart after attacking me with it and a few other guys. On his turn 5 he has 7 mana and I am still unsure if he had the White or Green pre-release kit. I’m fairly certain he took white, since it’s the one most thought had the best creature. I get to kill one of his creatures with Time to Feed + Sedge Scorpion. I get a couple of high toughness fliers into play as well to cut down his offensive options. I eventually get to Shipbreaker Kraken range, but can’t attack with it since he’s always representing Divine Verdict. I use the Monstrosity effect of it at the end of one of his turns and he concedes since at the point the damage the Kraken may have done while attacking did not matter and his guys don’t untap right away even if he hits it with Divine Verdict. Game 2 is similar to one of the previous ones i had where I accelerated the Kraken on Turn 4 and he offered little resistance. I had also cast Griptide on his Burnished Hart on turn 3 to prevent him from getting any kind of acceleration early.

Afterwards we both agree that my deck is much much better than originally thought. He tells me I better not randomly lose any of my two last rounds, since this is definitely a 5-0 deck. I promise him I won’t.

3-0

My roomate is 2-0-1 at this point and I’m scared that we might face each other. It would be terrible since we share our cards and this would me that we would lose out on prize payout. He needs to g 4-0-1 to get 21 boosters and I need to go 5-0 to get a box. We go check the pairing and….

round 4 banner

vs. NOT my roomate Red/White

I had actually seen this guy play next to me in the previous round and his deck seemed like a decent aggro deck but I never saw him drop a really good card. Also he made quite a few play errors versus a deck similar to his. Based on those observations, I am fairly confident that I have got this.

Game 1 starts out with him attacking early on, but I get enough higher toughness dudes to soak up his offense. I get down to 2 life and it’s the lowest I’ll get to in this game. Horizon Chimera helps me get back into the game and gets me 3 life the turn I cast Thassa’s Bounty. I end the game at 10 life while flying over whatever creatures he has.

Game 2 is somewhat scary because he plays a Magma Jet on my Horizon Chimera. I cry a little on the inside since it’s the first time one of my Chimera dies. Despite the Scry from the Magma Jet, he seems to be flooded somewhat. He hard casts his Celestial Archon, but at that point it’s a little too late for him to do any real damage because….

shipbreaker-kraken 2

It’s baaaack!

This was yet another match-up where I had to fear Divine Verdict. So I tap down 4 of his guys and slowly grind down his life total with my other creatures. I think I’d compare the Kraken to a one-sided Supreme Verdict at this point because that’s almost what it always felt like.

4-0

In other news, my roomate goes to 3-0-1 and needs to win his last game to get 21 boosters.

round 5 banner

vs. Green/Blue

I’m facing another player I know as we are the only ones at 4-0. I’m unsure about intentionally drawing with him so that we each get 21 boosters. He’s a nice guy and the thought of randomly losing to end up with only 6 boosters at 4-1 is good enough reason to accept a draw. We shake on it, hand in our result slip and decide to play for fun and bragging rights.

Since the actual result of these games is irrelevant, I’ll just admit I got beaten badly. He flooded the board with creatures while I could not do the same. His pre-release kit was Green and he had a Bow of Nylea, Prophex of Kruphix and lots of fatties. I only had so much time to stabilize between casting some Voyage’s Ends.

4-0-1

voyage's end

Thus ends my first pre-release

My roomate won the game to also go 4-0-1 so we get to crack a lot of boosters. We open some good stuff but nothing really noteworthy except a Thassa and a Thoughtseize. We go home and get some much needed sleep. Then I get up, but it’s not morning time. It’s 12:30 and most other pre-releases have already began. I quickly go on Facebook and check the local store events then notice that one of them starts at 1:30pm. I call them to confirm and they assure me that it’s ok if I’m a little late. I wake up my roomate and we rush to the store.

Pre-Release # 2

I decide to go with yet another Blue pre-release kit since Shipbreaker Kraken was insanely good. I open yet another Thoughtseize and joke about how I’d much rather open it in my winnings than in my Sealed pool. Looking over my options, I spot no eally good 2-color deck. I go with the one that allows me to stabilize the mid game and to deal with opposing bombs : White. With 2 Divine Verdicts, Coastline Chimera and a Spear of Heliod, I was pretty sure to be able to contain most aggressive decks. Sadly, I again have no Triton tactics nor do I have any Omenspeakers. The Spear and Daxos are the only rares in my deck except for Shipbreaker Kraken, but that was a given when I selected my color.

Pairings are announced!

round 1 banner

vs. Blue/White

So I start off facing the same combinations of colors as I did yesterday. Fair enough! I recognized the guy as one of the regular customers who was frequenting the last card store I worked at. He recognized me too and was not too happy to be facing me early on. I assure him that my deck is far from good.

Game 1 is pretty close, but I end up losing to a Dauntless Onslaught targetting two of his unblocked creatures. Not much I could have done at the point but make the proper bocks to not lose and hope to win on the back swing (which never occured). Game 2 is very very different with me going full aggro by casting an early Spear of Heliod and beating down with a Daxos of Meletis who is now a pain to block. I gain some life and cast some of his deck’s cards. I never was really in bad shape during the game and was dealt pretty much most of the damage with Daxos.

daxos of meletis

So far so good in Limited formats

In the final game I get to Divine Verdict his Celestial Archon to gain a good moment of respite. I really don’t know why people are so impatient with this card. I would always want to Bestow this card. I get to cast Daxos in this game as well but he gets double blocked this time. I opt to let combat damage resolve and kill both his guys I had a Nimbus Nayad enchanting him. Taking out two of his fliers seemed fine as I’d get a 2/2 flier back anyhow. A few turns later he casts his own Shipbreaker Kraken (he got one in a boosters). I cast Voyage’s End to buy some time and hope to win with my fliers. The card I Scry is  Vanquish the Foul, which I decide to keep on top. I could have sided this card out but I figured with all the Bestow creatures he had there was probably going to be a 4/4 or bigger creature on his end eventually. I destroy the Kraken he re-casts the following turn and we’re both in no condition to attack (we each had a Nimbus Nayad and a stalled ground position. I draw a Heliod’s Emissary and Betsow my Nimbus Nayad with in order to start attacking. Low risk, high reward at this point. I attack, tap his Nimbus Nayad and get 5 points of damage in. The following turn I try the same thing but am met with a Divine Verdict. I decide to save my Nayad by casting Voyage’s End on it. I then Bestow my Heliod’s Emissary with the Nayad, basically re-creating the same beast. He then casts his own Vanquish the Foul on my Heliod’s Emissary and casts a Wingsteed Rider. The Aura-fest continues when I cast a a Hopeful Eidolon for its Bestow cost on my Nimbus Nayad. I figure that with his available mana he can’t do much from what I have seen other than target his 2/2 flier and trade with my 3/3 flying lifelinker. He just lets it through and just never really gets to trade with my creature as he draws blank the following 2-3 turns.

1-0

round 2 banner

vs. Red/White

He starts of the game with a Priest of Iroas which can be pretty annoying against me if I don’t get it off the board so that it doesn’t kill one of my Bestow creatures. I get a Travelling Philospopher to trade with Priest of Iroas and another 1-power guy later on, which clears the way for my Bestow creatures.

traveling philosopher

For when you need that 23d card in your deck

The rest of the game was pretty much one-sided. I just attacked with my enchanted creatures which were always bigger and/or had evasion, so we move onto game 2. The following game is just ridiculous. I start off by casting Daxos of Meletis. The following turn I Bestow Hopeful Eidolon and the the turn after that I Bestow Nimbus Naiad ending up with a super creature akin to Banesalyer Angel. And that’s al she wrote!

2-0

round 3 banner

vs. Blue/White

I’m facing one of the store’s better players and he’s yet another person who chose the White pre-release kit. He starts off strong with some Heroic creatures:  Battlewise Hoplite and Fabled Hero. I am rather instantly unsettled as to the probably outcome of this match. I draw Divine Verdict, think for a bit, play my land and pass the turn. It’s fairly obvious that he will attack and I’m more than happy to trade my removal spell for either of these guys (though I obviously prefer Fabled Hero). He attacks with both and plays Dauntless Onslaught. He Verdict Fabled Hero and gladly take 5. I cast a Thassa’s Emissary to potentially draw a couple of cards. He attacks with his Battlewise Hoplite, bluffing a potential combat trick. These is no real reason for me to block/trade as I would really like to draw with my Emissary, so I let the Hoplite through for 3.

thassas emissary

Crabs are cool again! Well, maybe not …

The crab draw my one of my best defensive creatures: Coastline Chimera. I cast it and figure that I’m probably going to have to lose it to the following attack. My opponent chooses to not attack with his Battlewise Hoplite this time. Clearly this is a mistake? He basically is confirming that he had no combat trick. Then again, maybe he’s just not happy to just take out a Coastline Chimera. Beats me, but it also means I can’t really attack with my Crab. I’ll assume he knows what he’s doing so I’ll just lay down my sixth land and cast Shipbreaker Kraken (since I’m fairly sure that Stymied Hopes is not maindeck-worthy). I get to the 8-mana mark a couple of turns later, attack with everything but Kraken and get a concession from my opponent.

Game 2 I sided in some lifegain in the form of Lagonna-Band Elder and Ray of Dissolution. It ended up being just enough to edge him out in the damage race. No kraken this time, just all my little dudes versus his Heroic team. Not much in terms of trading since I was mostly flying and choosing not to trade any of my other creatures for his unless absolutely necessary. It became necessary in the end and allowed me to counterattack for just enough to win. There were a few removal and bounce spells along the way, but this game was pure and simple Magic.

3-0

round 4 banner

vs. ???

I honestly do not even remember this match at all. it even shows up as Unknown, Unknown in my match History on the DCI site. I think he just auto-scooped due to intimidation. Ha! as if! Try as I might I just really cannot remember this one.

4-0

round 5 banner

vs. Green/Blue Good stuff

This is the store’s regular judge and I usually judge their Monday Standard events since he only usually does FNM‘s. I saw what he opened and already did not want to face him. Polukranos, Thassa, Boon Satyr and Stormbreath Dragon. It was as though he had already won. Despite being the only player at 4-0, I had to face off against him as he was 3-0-1. I honestly would have rather faced the other 3-0-1 player.

Game 1 is close enough until Thassa hits the board and makes his guys unblockable. It’s fairly easy to win when your opponent can’t really interact.

The following game is rather close as well, with me gaining small amount of life with Daxos, but flipping lands or smaller spells and not casting them. He accelerates with Karametra’ Acolyte into Polukranos who is ready to go Monstrous x =3 the very same turn. That does not happen. Instead it does X = 6 the following turn taking out 2 of my guys plus the creature who had to block him. I cannot possibly recover from this (even Kraken is not enough) since I am dead on the following attack.

4-1

Unfortunately we could not have drawn, since he would of ended up lower than the 4-1 and  might have ended up second. We had to play and the prize differential was not huge. It was something like 15-13-10-etc. I ended up third place since the other guy with a 3-0-1 record also won. My packs were so-so with my best card being:

thoughtseize

You know it!

Up Next …

Part 2 of this rather lenghty article. I just saw the word count and 5000+ seems a tad much. Stay tuned for my report on the following 2 pre-releases I attended.

 

Theros Previews: Wave 2

previews wave 2

by Steve ‘DDT’ Giannopoulos

A whole lot has been revealed since the last Wave, so let’s get down to it.

Elspeth, Sun’s Champion

elspeth thero

The ‘big’ Elspeth

The first thing you’ll notice is the increase in mana cost over the previous two Elspeths. Of course there has to be some reason behind it, right? Well, we get a +1 ability that gives us a nice ‘comeback’ ability. Putting three tokens a turn for the initial investment of 6 mana is really not a bad deal. She pretty much protects herself really nicely (as Elspeth has historically been known to do).

At -3 loyalty we get a Retribution of the Meek.

retribution of the meek

Last time I saw this was in my Legacy ‘Death and Taxes’ deck a few years back

We can immediately activate this ability and potentially have Elspeth stick around long enough to continue churning out three tokens a turn. Not too shabby! Especially if we consider that we are playing a white-based deck versus cards like Blood Baron of Vizkopa, who is especially against us. We get to kill quite a few ‘monstrous’ creatures as well, since they pretty much all grow past 3 power once their ‘monstrosity’ ability is activated. This is probably why she is shown slaying a Hydra in some of the promo art.

elspeth promo art

Monster Extermination service fee: 6 mana

This ability becomes even more relevant considering that our opponents will probably be enchanting their creatures as well It works so-so versus bestow, since it will kill the original enchanted creature but the aura then becomes as creature itself. So far I don’t think there’s any Bestow creature that seems particularly competitive so that might just be a moot point.

Let’s take a look at that ultimate:

-7: You get an emblem with “Creatures you control get +2/+2 and have flying.”

Nice ultimate bro! Once you finish coming from behind, you get to lay the smackdown on your opponent by buffing your team forever. If you’re really lucky you can even ultimate twice in one game (though it’s doubtful that your opponent isn’t dead by that point). I’m sure the Doubling Season casual decks will have tons of fun overkilling with that ability, since you can ultimate the turn she comes into play.

In a regular Standard game of Magic: the Gathering, I’m not sure how often you’ll get to even ultimate once. I would just content myself with the three tokens a turn. All in all, this Elspeth wasn’t as awe-inspiring as the original but she’ll definitely see some play. People tend to dismiss the higher costed planeswalkers, but I think that last Standard season showed that some of them (like Garruk, Primal Hunter) are quite good despite the higher than average mana cost.

Chained to the Rocks

chained to the rocks

Journey to Nowhere, with a twist!

Of course the initial thought  is: ‘ I’m going to need some Sacred Foundry‘. While the card is a cost-reduced Journey to Nowhere, it does require you to probably splash red (unless there is a Blood Moon effect that is yet to be spoiled). Imagine a mountain enchanted with both this and the following card:

awaken the ancientThen again, maybe not

The card is 100% playable in a format where each color has at least one indestructible ‘God’ card (soon to be previewed). You get to handle them once they become creatures. Thing is, they are all pretty content in remaining in play as enchantments too. You might never get to really use it on their ‘Legendary Enchantment Creature – God’ cards. It might just become a test of patience in which they delay in ‘animating’ their God card until you play your ‘Chained to the Rocks‘. Will the other colors get some good creature removal such as this?  Continue following the spoilers to find out.

Gift of Immortality

giftofimmortality

Great flavor and sweet card

So not all Auras are going to be Bestow creatures, but this one has a heck of a lot of value attached to it. Whether it’s saving your creature from ‘Supreme Verdict‘ effects or repeatedly sacrificing it each turn to get its ‘entered the battlefield’ ability to trigger over and over, Gift of Immortality has you covered. This is also going to go into many Bruna, Light of Alabaster Commander decks as well (so are quite a few other Auras in this set).

You can also maybe use this on one of your creatures that the opponent took from you and then regain control of it when it dies (or more likely when you use a removal on it). Imagine this thing with a sac outlet on an Acidic Slime ? Good times! This is probably why the slime did not get reprinted in Magic 2014, on top of beeing really good versus an ‘enchantment matters’ block.

Heliod, God of the Sun

heliod god of the sun

from the greek ‘Helios’ meaning Sun

Another God card revealed in Theros! At first glance he seems pretty good although not nearly as good as the blue one – Thassa. He can spam some tokens at a steep cost, but for some reason they are enchantment creature tokens? This is obviously relevant, with cards that are soon to be spoiled no doubt. The Serra’s Blessing your team ability is better in Standard than any other format, where creatures are more dominant.

Maybe he can team up with Gideon, Champion of Justice and form some kind of ‘creatureless’ weird control deck. You can be sure that with the increasing number of  noncreature permanents that are likely to see play in Standard, Gideon is in a good position to shine. We can always hope right? You can always run some weird 5-color God control in which you do nothing but spam tokens and never have devotion to make them creatures (to obviously make them even more ‘indestructible’, since they can’t be unsummoned, -x/-x’d and ‘sacrifice a creature’d. It’s probably just sill talk, but if this game has taught us anything it’s that almost anything is possible.

Like Thassa, Heliod is pretty undercosted for a creature. You can easily run him in a White-based aggressive deck just for his statistics and Vigilance to all your creatures ability. If the two gods spoiled so far are any indication, these cards are going to be one of the hottest commodities in recent memory.

Hundred-Handed One

hundred-handed one

Ninety-Nine!

On statistics alone, this guys is pretty decent but his Monstrosity ability is soooooo flavorful and feels almost Unglued-like. He basically becomes a 6/8 vigilance and can block up to 100 creatures. It seems fairly ridiculous that it would ever need to block that many creatures. I can think of a Modern deck that can make that many creatures, times a hundred or more : Splinter Twin/Pestermite or Kiki-Jiki/ Deceiver Exarch. The problem is that they make infinite tokens and that this guy doesn’t get a bonues when he blocks, so he’ll just die to one wave of attackers.

I know, I know, it seems harsh. The truth is that it’s the kind of card that has a good casual appeal as well as being borderline playable. Since Monstrous can be activated at instant speed and he has vigilance, he can shut down most would-be opposing counterattacks.

Phalanx Leader

phalanx leader

Finally, a smaller creature!

Here we have another example of the Heroic ability (the anti thesis to the Monstrous ability). It’s actually not a bad Heroic ability, since you get to put counters as opposed to just temporarily boost your creatures (as we saw with a few other Heroic abilities before). He includes himself in the boost, so understandably he’s just a 1/1 creature to start.

I can picture him in a Boros-style deck (one that didn’t quite materialize in Return to Ravnica/Innistrad Standard). Play a few efficient Red/White creatures and then a cheap instant/sorcery that can target 2 or more creatures (unfortunately ‘Overload’ won’t work in that respect, but Martial Glory seems good now).

martial glory

Maybe, just maybe ….

Vanquish the Foul

vanquish the foul

Removal at a great cost

I really don’t like much about this card, save maybe the artwork. It’s sorcery speed for starters, which is something you almost never want your removal to be. It feels like we’re basically paying too much for the ability to Scry in white. Reprisal cost only 2 mana and was Instant speed. I can understand that it might not seem quite fair comparing newer cards to older ‘powerful’ cards, but Reprisal was hardly a power card.

In sealed formats (which most of you will be participating in during Theros Pre-releases), feel free to include this in your deck as the format is much slower. There’s almost no excuse to put this in your Constructed decks, ever!

Gods Willing

gods willing

Some reasonably costed Heroic action

As opposed to the above card we reviewed, Gods Willing is not charging us much to Scry. In essence, it’s practically free.  Apostle’s Blessing saw a bit of Standard play and continues to see some play in various Infect builds in Modern. For one less mana (or 2 less life), we get the ability to Scry as well. With Snapcaster Mage gone from Standard, we won’t be abusing this any time soon. This is not to say that it’s not going to find its way into a deck or two.

Wingsteed Rider

wingsteed rider

More white cards featuring Pegasi

Before you ask: Yes, I had to Google the plural of Pegasus! Other than that, there is not much to say about this card. It doesn’t benefit the rest of your creatures for its Heroic Trigger. Pht! Some ‘Hero’ this turned out to be.

Artisan of Forms

artisan of forms

Conditional Clone. Good of Bad?

Before even getting to compare this thing to Clone, there’s an important keyword that appears on this and is not on Clone: Target. I’m not talking about the retail giant that has taken over Zellers here in Canada either.

target store

We basically now have to work harder to copy another creature. The card costs half as much. The creature can exist on the battlefield on its own. We can’t copy shroud or hexproof guys. We can switch what we copy by simply targetting our creature. The clone ability can be responded to. We don’t get to copy ‘enters the battlefield’ abilities.

The above is a quick summary of Pros and Cons initially observed on Artisan of Forms. We do get to potentially copy an Monstrous creature, activate Monstrous and potentially copy a creature that can then make further use of the +1/+1 counters. It just seems like som much work in a Magic: the Gathering world where we have become increasingly accustomed to ‘instant gratification’ on our creatures (with about two years of ‘enter the battlefield’ effects.

There are probably going to be some neat tricks to perform with this card, although none come to mind at the moment where I have to review about 30 or so new cards. I would pick up four early just in case.

Curse of the Swine

curse of the swine

Mono blue gets ‘mass’ removal too

Based more or less on Circe from Homer’s Odyssey as seen here. This card may seem rather funny at first, but it’s potentially very playable in Standard. It exiles, for starters. This means that the ‘Gods’ are not safe from it due to indestructibility. It’s good early and late game as well. There may be the odd play that requires you to ‘upgrade’ a few 1/1 creatures on your end into 2/2 green boars ( don’t laugh! ok, maybe giggle a little).

“Ready your boar tokens, because tonight we swine in hell!”

Lost in a Labyrinth

lost in a labyrinth

Look out for those Minotaurs!

Not a particularly exiting card, Lost in a Labirynth is clearly destined for some Limited action. Perhaps if Wizards of the Coast had contacted us to have an exclusive preview on this card, I would have a more detailed account on how ‘awesome’ it is.

Omenreader

omenspeaker

It’s clearly no Sea Gate Oracle

At one mana less than Sea Gate Oracle, this card is just not quite good enough to make the cut in any competitive deck. It does not net you a card (like Augur of Bolas could) and that is argument enough to not consider it when deckbuilding. Unless of course some combo deck were to see the light and you absolutely need to Scry mad for all the pieces.

Sealock Monster

sealock monster

Another candiate for Quest of Ula’s Temple

Perhaps even more evidence that Kiora Atua is in this block?

kiora atua

Dare we dream?

Thassa’s Emissary

thassas emissaryNot too ‘ shcrabby’ eh?

A decent-sized creature that’s bound to be picked up high enough in drafts and thrown into a couple of Sealed decks. Good ability, Hill Giant-sized body/cost and potential bonus later game with the Bestow ability. Unfortunately for you sea creature lovers out there: does not ‘combo’ with Quest for Ula’s Temple.

Voyage’s End

voyage's end

Unsummon+ Scry = this little gem

Yes, you are basically paying extra for the Scry cost. If you were dissapointed that Unsummon was not in M14, you should be glad right now. You can prevent Monstrous from triggering since it checks on resolution to activate the actual Monstrous ability as per the F.A.Q.

Both Unsummon and Vapor Snag saw their fair share of Constructed play so it’s not a stretch to imagine this in some kind of temp-oriented deck.

Wavecrash Triton

wavecrash triton

Such a rude little Merfolk!

So you get to tap their creatures while pumping your Wavecrash Triton? I somehow don’t see that occuring in the realm of the playable. In limited it can get interesting with a 4-drop Bestow ability to get a lead when damage racing. I do like how at first glance you think the merfolk wizards seems gigantic compared to the ships until you realize that he’s simply in the foreground and the ships are in the background.

Cavern Lampad

cavern lampad

Nymphs are black?

So here we have another Bestow creature or, as I like to call them ‘Reverse Living Weapon’. As opposed to the Living Weapon Mechanic, you cast these as enchantments first THEN they become creatures. Interesting … Other than that you get a generic enchantment which then becomes a generic creature. Not so interesting …

Gray Merchant of Asphodel

gray merchant of asphidel

An interesting take on Corrupt

This innocent enough looking card can get out of hand quickly enough. You can run cards like Dark Prophecy and Underworld Connections to ‘ramp’ up into this. Assuming you had a turn 1 or turn 2 black permanent as well, that can add up to an 8-point life swing!

Allright,I might be stretching it a bit. The fact remains that this card should not be totally ruled out as unplayable. To top it off, it doesn’t target an opponent. Your opponent will not be able to save himself by making himself Hexproof.

That is also the most cartoonish Zombie I have ever seen on a Magic: the Gathering card.

Read the Bones

read the bones

Let the Sign in Blood comparisons begin!

Part Divination, part Sign in Blood, part Serum Visions. All very very decent. You can pretty much dig up to 4 cards deep with it but not be able to potentially kill your opponent with it (like with Sign in Blood). It also allows you to splash another color to your black deck more easily. Well, maybe not if you run blue (as they usually have the bulk of the card draw).

Also, the quote is very philosophical/creepy. I expect it will be fighting with Underworld Connections for the 3-drop slot in an enchantment matters block.

Rescue from the Underworld

rescue from the underworld

Just when you thought reanimator was dead

A two for one if it’s countered or a two for one the other way if it’s not. You essentially want to sacrifice a value creature so that you get more out of it when it returns to the battlefield again. Sacrificing a Monstrosity seems ok too, if you wish to remake it Monstrous and activate its sweet effect.  Angel of Serenity anyone?

angel of serenity

Just when you thought it was out of the question …

The instant speed on this is reminiscent of other great reanimator cards like Makeshift Mannequin. With more or less enough hate, the reanimator archetype has been left alone at the time being. I believe that it is poised to make a comeback at one point or another. What better time than the very beginning of a new format?

Whether it ends up being the reanimation target or the sacrificed creature, you’ll be glad either way.

Thoughtseize

thoughtseize

Is that Socrates? I mean, is that really Thoughtseize?

The great moment most Modern players have been waiting for is at hand: Thoughtseize reprint is confirmed! For starters, this will probably know down the ridiculous 60$ price tag of the Lorwyn version by quite a bit. It’s great to have it back. Not simply because it obviously increases the value you can open in Theros, but because it gives you a very good reason to play Black. You see, black has been very very underplayed in Standard as of late (criminally underplayed, even).

Thoughtseize is a bit of a skill-testing card (especially now with Snapcaster Mage gone). Sure, sometimes you will cast it on turn one and completely punish a greedy opponent who kept a bad hand. For example, someone who kept a one Forest hand with Elvish Mystic and 5 2-cost or higher cards.

The thing is: you don’t necessarily want to cast it on turn one. Against slower decks, you have much more time to cast it at an opportune time. It can force a counterspell so that you can then cast and resolve your threats. It can also stop their ‘bomb’, gamechanger,etc by casting Thoughtseize it the very turn before they can possibly play it. Of course that last part applies a little less versus decks packing countermagic.  The main card it may end up hitting on like turn 4 is Sphinx’s Revelation which is sure to still be a heavy hitter in the new Standard format (eventhough  it’s usually the time where quick red decks tend to appear).

Sphinx's Revelation

You’re only kidding yourself if you think you’ve seen the last of this card

In older formats, however, it’s not uncommon to see Thoughtseize cast on turn one. The format is much faster and more combo-oriented. Sometimes you may even end up discarding an opposing Thoughtseize/ Inquisition of Kozilek just to protect your hand from backlash.

Akroan Crusader

 

akroan crusader

Sweet art and abilty

Akroan Crusader is going to no doubt be part of some kind of Boros Weenie deck in the new Standard environment. You might have to target him pre-combat to fully benefit from his Heroic ability, but you will at least always get the 1/1 token. As with many heroic cards you want to try and find multi-target instants and sorceries to trigger more than 1 Heroic ability each times. Remember: cheap Auras also do the trick. It’s a shame Rancor just rotated, but if you’re more into casual Magic nothing’s stopping you from playing it in conjunction with Heroic creatures.

rancor

You will be missed once October rolls around, little Rancor!

Flamespeaker Adept

 

flamespeakeradept

Scry me a river!

This card is rather odd in the usual red card + set mechanic combo. Cards like Lightning Rift and Burning Vengeance actually pump out damage while you go around cycling cards and flashbacking stuff. This card does not guarantee any kind of damage, it only provides a few tricks here and there without possessing any form of evasion. Still, decently sized to continuously attack as a 4/3 first strike and can do somewhat ridiculous damage with Magma Jet in the set as well.

For now, strictly a card you would see in a 40-card deck.

Magma Jet

 

More to come later today…