Fri, 15 September 2017
This week MichaelJ is flipping out over flip cards! First among them? The Search for Azcanta!
Check Out Search for Azcanta:
We'll come out and say it to begin with: Search for Azcanta is probably undercosted. There have been effects like this in the past, but they didn't cost two mana.
The front side of this card offers powerful library manipulation. Sure. It sets up the top of your deck. But that's not all! Search for Azcanta not only pushes aside clunky or expensive spells, it sets up graveyard synergies!
This card is great with flashback, eternalize, or Renegade Rallier.
Subtly, the "flip" ability is a may, not a must. While you will usually want to be flipping it, there are times that Search for Azcanta will be better for you than Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin. Don't worry: You get to pick.
Search for Azcanta Becomes Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin
Two things on this one:
First of all, it's a kind of weird Rampant Growth. If you have Search for Azcanta on the battlefield and say four lands... When it flips, you will have five or six mana (depending on land drop). That, in and of itself, is a pretty big get for blue.
Of course, Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin is actually just awesome once you get it online. Getting a de facto Impulse every turn will put you way ahead in grinding matchups, and will threaten to bury the opponent in card advantage.
Further, this card is just begging for you to cheat! No, not "cheat" in the sense of getting banned from DCI sanctioned tournaments... Cheating the flip condition. While the front-side enchantment will get you to the point where it will flip eventually, there is no reason to wait around. Cards like Strategic Planning are screaming to help you flip to the legendary land.
Both sides of this card seem like they will be awesome in Approach of the Second Sun decks. Either side will help dig you to your second Approach.
But Wait! There's More!
While Search for Azcanta has our boys the most excited, there are tons of other flip cards worth talking about. We love Legions Landing, generally dislike Arguel's Blood Fast. But where and when will even that be played?
Gotta check out the podcast, to find out!
Thu, 7 September 2017
Thu, 7 September 2017
Regisaur Alpha is one of the premier Ixalan dinosaurs
What is up with this card anyway? Regisaur Alpha offers seven power over two bodies -- three of which have haste -- all for five mana!
How fast can we sign up?
Regisaur Alpha looks great! One of the few poor things about the dinosaur is that it makes Huatli, Warrior Poet look so bad.
Huatli, Warrior Poet spits out Dinosaurs
Regisaur Alpha and Huatli cost the same [total] amount of mana. Assume you're spitting out a 3/3 the first turn you control Huatli. Now, which would you rather have?
Regisaur Alpha's 3/3 token is better than Huatli's 3/3 token, too... Just on basis of haste.
That said, Huatli, Warrior Poet is probably meant to be one of the centerpiece cards of the set. Not only is he a Planeswalker (and therefore theoretically automatically cool), they made not only another Planeswalker version of him, but a badass dinosaur tutor that can go find it.
Huatli might be meant for play in a dedicated Planeswalker deck. Think:
All three Planeswalkers protect themselves well. All three will contribute to expanding control of the battlefield itself. Gideon can both attack and defend. Chandra kills creatues outright. Huatli can make blocker after blocker or gain life turn after turn.
Gishath, Sun's Avatar is one busty dinosaur
Instead of looking at Gishath as a clunky eight mana creature, why not look at it as an eight mana Fireball?
That's right! How much would you pay for a Fireball where x=7? You'd pay eight mana, right? Well Gishath costs eight, and does seven damage with haste... He's kind of an eight mana Fireball, therefore.
Everything else is gravy. The vigilence is going to be awesome... But it's awesome gravy. Next turn's attack? Gravy. This is not to say you should actually pay to get Gishath onto the battlefield... Just if you had to, it wouldn't be that bad of a deal.
There are even more dinosaurs discussed in this week's episode, which takes Ixalan from one green mana to the aforementioned eight drop... and more!
Fri, 1 September 2017
Kick back, pop in your earbuds, and give a listen to our first look at Ixalan:
Ixalan Changes Planeswalker Rules
Jace, Cunning Castaway: Ixalan Planeswalker
Michael notes that Jace seems to have gotten ripped in the Gatewatch.
Patrick notes that Jace, Cunning Castaway boasts one of the fastest Planeswalker Ultimates ever. You might as well Ultimate when Jace's loyalty hits 5 BTW; while the token copies are not Legendary, Jace, Cunning Castaway itself is.
The new Planeswalker Uniqueness v. Legendary rule will change how Planeswalkers get played. Having more Jaces in play is cool and all (and this one actually does that for you) but the big winner has to be Gideon of the Trials.
People just didn't play Gideon of the Trials because they were already playing Gideon, Ally of Zendikar; now there is no disincentive. More importantly, having more than one kind of Gideon in play will give players greater protection for their Platinum Angel-like Ultimate.
Ixalan and the Treasure Theme
Captain Lannery Storm
Layered and flexible, the Captain is probably Mike's favorite card in Ixalan.
Use her treasure now! She is basically a 3/2 haste creature.
Use her treasure later! You can stockpile for a large attack, or save the mana to bust out Glorybringer on the quick!
Use her treasure for mana! What about not pumping the Captain, but just sacrificing her treasure to cast a Shock, Magma Spray... Or even a Fatal Push?
It's all the things Mike never should have loved...
Pro Tour Champion Patrick Chapin and Resident Genius Michael J. Flores talk all the Ixalan that's fit to discuss; spoiled cards, flavor and aesthetics; and of course brewing! Check out Top Level Podcast's first take on Ixalan right here, right now!
Fri, 25 August 2017
The Scarab God ends games quickly
Pro Tour Champion Patrick Chapin and Resident Genius Michael J. Flores begin their discussion of The Scarab God in an odd context... Splashed in a version of Michael Jacob's Temur Emerge!
Even here, The Scarab God is just a remarkable threat. After all, it is a 5/5 creature for five mana to start. Killing The Scarab God is a challenge, to say the least. The other two lines of text are as good as they are anywhere.
The Scarab God against Gate to the Afterlife
One of the big incentives to The Scarab God right now is its ability to interact with God-Pharaoh's Gift type decks.
Whether on its own or in concert with Kalitas, The Scarab God puts tremendous pressure on the opponent's graveyard. Consequently, the opponent might never have six creatures in his graveyard, say.
What should you steal? And when?
Angel of Invention is one of the best cards you can reanimate.
Patrick likens this combination to Donate / Illusions of Grandeur! The increased size of Angel of Invention (4/4 to start, when a zombie instead of just an angel) combined with the creature's natural lifelink protects your own life total while smashing for a ton in the air.
Depending on your archetype, The Scarab God might want to reanimate Trophy Mage. Trophy Mage in the current Standard only has the purpose of finding Gate to the Afterlife (which, in turn, only has the job of setting up God-Pharaoh's Gift)... This not only gives you potential redundancy but can keep your deck strong through the mid-game, even through multiple copies of Abrade.
The Scarab God needs no help
Mike speculates you might want to play Strategic Planning to help fill your graveyard.
Patrick cautions that the god needs little help in filling your own graveyard. The creature, remember, is huge and next to impossible to kill! The Scarab God will typically do fine just reanimating whatever the opponent gives you for targets (though he concedes that getting the big five itself into the graveyard for purposes of Liliana reanimation might be nice).
The two riff on a potential new B/U deck, based on Patrick's GP Denver Grixis build.
This podcast covers many additional topics... Everything from Brad Nelson's continued dominance of Standard (this time with Temur Emerge) to the U/R Advanced Stitchwing deck, to speculation about post-rotation deck archetypes. Check it out now!
Thu, 17 August 2017
Mike can't stand Shrine of Burning Rage in Modern :(
You'd think Mike would be happy about a Burn deck winning Grand Prix Birmingham... But he just can't wrap his head around Shrine of Burning Rage replacing Eidolon of the Great Revel at the two. To Mike, Eidolon of the Great Revel is simply one of the strongest cards in Modern; by contrast...
Patrick does little to turn his opinion around.
Burn deck aside: Scalding Tarn
Mike hates Arid Mesa in Modern Burn decks. While many lands are functionally identical for mono-Mountains fetching (Bloodstained Mire and Wooded Foothills have essentially the same text here), Arid Mesa is most likely to tip the opponent off.
It doesn't come up super often, but if you pass your first turn with the fetch in play, you tend to want the opponent to fetch for an untapped shock land; they are least likely to do this against Arid Mesa.
Mike therefore likes Scalding Tarn in a 4/4/4 split.
Patrick points out a four-fetch distribution has some merit.
The two wax on the difference between the two of them playing a first-turn Scalding Tarn. It doesn't matter which red fetch Michael plays... The jig is up before he ever breaks it. Patrick, though, is a longtime Grixis mage. He would get even more value from turn one Scalding Tarn when playing Burn than most!
Poor Mike :(
More and More Modern
With three big Modern tournaments across three continents to work from, Pro Tour Hall of Famer Patrick Chapin and Resident Genius Michael J. Flores have much to discuss. Everything from Storm to TitanShift is up for discussion. Check it out now!
Fri, 11 August 2017
Sorry, Earthshaker Khenra. Your window may have already closed :(
Sylvan Advocate Hates Earthshaker Khenra
On the way to yet another Grand Prix Top 8, Standard superstar Brad Nelson time traveled and re-innovated the B/G Winding Constrictor deck last weekend, bringing back Sylvan Advocate over Grim Flayer or Longtusk Cub at the two.
Sylvan Advocate? What is this? 2016?
Grim Flayer is great. Longtusk Cub is great. Even Glint-Sleeve Siphoner can be pretty effective. You know what's even better? Three toughness.
Sylvan Advocate comes down as a 2/3 (forget about its size in the future)... Meaning that it can withstand a Shock on turn two, unlike the other B/G two drop options. As a 2/3, it also pwns tiny 2/1 Earthshaker Khenra.
And at 4/5? It chomp Chomp CHOMPS even a 4/4 Earthshaker Khenra later in the game!
Approach of the Second Sun Hates Earthshaker Khenra
Mike's sidekick over at the Ancestral Recall Podcast, Roman Fusco made another Star City Games Classic Top 8 last weekend... This time with an innovative U/W Approach of the Second Sun deck designed by Roman's frequent collaborator (and Regional Finals victim) Dan Ward.
This U/W deck is truly creature-less (and for purposes of Torrential Gearhulk, artifact-less). That completely blanks Earthshaker Khenra teammate Abrade. While haste is helpful across many of the Mono-Red deck's creatures, the ability to prevent blocking also takes up relevant space on the text box. Against no creatures? No additional value.
But the thing that really, really hates the Red Deck?
The old school instant has an amazing superpower against Mono-Red. If the opponent has one card in hand only, you can Unsummon another creature (putting a second card in the opponent's hand) to blank an attack by Hazoret the Fervent. And of course, if you Unsummon the 4/4 backside on an Earthshaker Khenra, that will be that.
This should surprise no one, though: Approach of the Second Suns decks hate Earthshaker Khenra.
Grasp of Darkness Hates Earthshaker Khenra
Grasp of Darkness really, really hates Hazoret the Fervent... But will settle for murdering a hasty Jackal Warrior, let's be honest.
Grasp's new teammate Gifted Aetherborn, though... 2/3 over 2/1 again, etc. etc. And if the Red Deck needs to spend its second turn pointing an Abrade at Gifted Aetherborn? It won't even have time to drop Earthshaker Khenra on curve.
To find out what other cards and decks are creating a hostile Standard environment for our poor Jackal Warrior, check out this week's episode!
Fri, 4 August 2017
Ramunap Ruins may be the most important new card from Hour of Devastation.
Earthsaker Khenra? Yeah! That's a great creature, we'll grant you... But it's still just a creature. Ramunap Ruins can't be countered and gives players a resource to lean against instead of flooding out.
This land enters the battlefield untapped. It essentially has the superpoower of tapping for both red and colorless; it can support Eldrazi Obligator (or Reality Smasher), not just a purely red creature rush.
Ramunap Ruins finishes off control players. The idea of locking down Standard with counterspell control decks will be a thing of the past. Eight life? Ten life? What life do you think it is safe to stabilize? As long as it has enough Deserts, Ramunap Ruins will work to close out games. This will make for a really tough metagame for U/R Control.
Ramunap Ruins can enjoy a critical mass of haste. This is the true golden age of Red Decks. This might be the most important card on the list, but being able to tap it on turn one for a Bomat Courier; then turn two for an Earthshaker Khenra; then maybe dip into a Lathnu Hellion on turn three is an embarassment of (hasty) riches.
It is not good enough, however to drive Arborback Stomper to playability.
Give this week's episode a listen now:
Fri, 28 July 2017
God-Pharaoh's Gift is The Postmodern Debtors' Knell...
Compare God-Pharaoh's Gift to Debtors' Knell. Remember: Debtors' Knell was a breaker in both Ravnica Block Constructed and in the Standard of its era!
Both cards cost seven mana. However, the new version is a colorless artifact; consequently, it is an easier seven than Debtors' Knell to get into play.
Above and beyond Debtors' Knell, though, God-Pharaoh's Gift grants haste! Take that, opponent!
Another Home for Champion of Wits
Champion of Wits has been making and breaking all kinds of decks in its short -- yet already storied -- career. Champion of Wits is a key enabler of this artifact.
God-Pharaoh's Gift wants you to put creatures into your graveyard. After all, it is from the graveyard that the dead will rise (and hastily attack). Champion of Wits specializes in putting cards -- creatures or otherwise -- into the graveyard. It helps dig to your God-Pharaoh's Gift (or proxy for). A creature itself, when you return a Champion of Wits, it comes back as a 4/4 creature so you draw even more cards!
The synergies do not end with just fueling creatures.
You can discard God-Pharaoh's Gift itself to the graveyard. Why would you want to do that?
Champion of Wits costs three mana. The very next turn you can Refurbish the God-Pharaoh's Gift directly onto the battlefield! The card is the easiest possible seven mana. But how sweet is it when you play it for just four?
Another three mana facilitator to God-Pharaoh's Gift is Gate to the Afterlife.
I'd say drawing and discarding cards helps you dig to your key spell... But that's not even necessary here. Once you have six creatures in the graveyard (whether from looting, or discarding to Champion of Wits, chump blocking) you can just switch one artifact for the other.
For more on this great strategy, more Champion of Wits, and lots and lots more Mono-Red in Standard, check out this week's podcast now!
Fri, 21 July 2017
Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh is already exceeding expectations
So how are we going to play Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh? There are so So SO many ways!
Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh in a Planeswalker Control Deck
Michael Hamilton opened up the new season with a win. Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh made a one-of appearance in his [otherwise] Jeskai Control deck.
A dedicated Planeswalker control deck with lots of cards that can interact with the opponent's threats is a great home for Nicol Bolas. It's a redundancy on your other permanents, can borrow against the architecture of the rest of your deck, and ultimately just presents an even more powerful threat than the rest of your deck.
You can play an Energy Aggro deck, complete with Longtusk Cub and Bristling Hydra... And just finish with Bolas.
This use of the card just requires you to deal thirteen damage in the first seven turns. Pretty trivial, right? You can just play the big Planeswalker for seven, to deal seven. Not only is Nicol Bolas the best "Demonfire" we've had in years (especially given the seven-for-seven mana cost)... If for some reason something went wrong, you would still have a Planeswalker to help over the next few turns.
An Energy deck is actually particularly great for this... Because Energy is somewhat spotty to come by, you might find yourself stranded with Nicol Bolas in hand, but not the mana to cast it. The Aether Hubs of the Energy strategy go a long way in ensuring the solo black (or whatever is needed) is available, versus being stranded as a colorless.
With Bolas at both extremes of the metagame, there remains a wide number of decks, from Mono-Red StOmPy to U/R Prowess Burn. This podcast covers them all most: