Top Level Podcast

Goblin Chainwhirler is the kind of card that can get Patrick Chapin to play Unlicensed Disintegration! Learn all about what makes Chainwhirler so good here.

Direct download: goblin-chainwhirler.mp3
Category:Standard -- posted at: 12:15am EDT

This is History of Benalia:

History of Benalia
History of Benalia

History of Benalia is a three mana Saga.

A Saga is a sorcery-speed enchantment.

It produces two power on the first turn you play it. Then, when you reach Chapter II of the Saga, it produces an additional two power. Consequently -- and not to be too obvious -- but that is four power across multiple bodies for three total mana.

Thanks to Chapter III's "Knights you control get +2/+1 until end of turn[,]" with only the two Knights, you can attack for eight on the card's third turn in play! Because of this, History of Benalia can both burst forward offensively and slow the opponent down with multiple blockers defensively.

This is Lingering Souls:

Lingering Souls
Lingering Souls

Lingering Souls is a card of extraordinary power. It was banned in its original Block Constructed format, and has contributed to any number of decks across multiple formats. Not Block of course, but other formats. Jon Finkel played it to his umpteenth Pro Tour Top 8 in an Esper Delver deck. It has contributed to everything from a white splash in Jund to a colorful wink in Eldrazi Modern decks.

Like History of Benalia, Lingering Souls produces two power for your initial three mana investment. To get the next two power, you need to invest an additional two mana (and in another color).

Certainly, Lingering Souls has some considerable upside relative to History of Benalia. You get more bodies. Those bodies in fact fly. You can get all four on on turn if you have five mana available... But that's the crux of it; with History of Benalia, you never need to pay the additional two mana!

This is Raff Capashen, Ship's Mage:

Raff Capashen, Ship's Mage
Raff Capashen, Ship's Mage

Raff Capashen, Ship's Mage really likes Historic cards.

"Saga" is a Historic type; consequently, Raff likes History of Benalia.

One of the many synergies that you can exploit thanks to Dominaria's heavily Historic themes is to play History of Benalia during times that you couldn't normally play an enchantment or other sorcery-speed card (e.g. Lingering Souls).

History of Benalia has already started showing up in a variety of decks. It is going to be a great card in Historic-themed decks, white swarm decks (or B/W Tokens decks), and will be a consideration for everything from G/W Aggro to U/W Control.

Someone should write a song about how good this card is.

But for now, please settle for this podcast.

Direct download: history-of-benalia.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 11:49pm EDT

Lyra Dawnbringer
Lyra Dawnbringer was at least the second most successful Dominaria card of the set's first sanctioned weekend.

Lyra Dawnbringer and Llanowar Elves

The Legendary Angel wasn't the most successful Dominaria card to debut this past week. That honor would belong to Llanowar Elves... But in at least one MTGO 5-0 deck, Angel and Elf Druid worked hand in hand.

Lyra represents a powerful top end. Not only does this card pay you off for your commitment to cards like Merfolk Branchwalker (that can help dig you to five or more lands), but Llanowar Elves can get you to your powerful 5/5 ahead of schedule.

And what is better than Shalai, Voice of Penty followed by the Dawnbringer? In times past, tapping out for an awesome 5/5 creature might be good defense... But it can stink when the opponent removes it and crushes you with an attack. If you lead off with Shalai, Lyra will have hexproof. So not only will she not be going anywhere (unless the opponent removes your other Angel), but Shalai will crush in with lifelink. Par-tay.

Lyra Dawnbringer and Raff Capashen, Ship's Mage

Raff Capashen, Ship's Mage changes everything!

Leading off with this creature on turn four (presumably at the end of the opponent's turn, ideally when the coast is clear), you will be able to play cards like Lyra at instant speed!

Instant speed Walking Ballista?

Instant speed Teferi, Hero of Dominaria? It may seem counterintuitive to play a planeswalker on the opponent's turn, but the ability to guarantee it resolves may be worth one lost activation. If there is a card that will have zero trouble recouping the lost utility, it is the card-advantageous Teferi.

How about instant speed History of Benalia? How top notch is this potential move? You can make a token at instant speed (potentially blocking with it) and then still get the next 2/2 on your own next turn! This will feel very much like getting both Chapter One and Chapter Two immediately (though only one will be allowed to attack).

Lyra Dawnbringer, Sideboard Superstar

One of the cool things about Lyra is that she isn't even played main deck all the time! U/W decks in the market for creatures might play it main (or they might play only Torrential Gearhulk). But Approach of the Second Sun decks probably wouldn't. Neither would Orzhov Tokens or white Swarm decks.

You know what they all have in common?

2-3 copies of Lyra Dawnbringer coming in after sideboards.

Here.

To.

Stay.

Check out 106:49 on Lyra Dawnbringer now!

Direct download: lyra-dawnbringer.mp3
Category:Standard -- posted at: 7:00pm EDT

Lich's Mastery
Will Lich's Mastery be THE ONLY viable strategy in Standard?

This card is poised to completely warp Standard! It is a draw engine of unprecedented power. Imagine for a moment you were playing a big format and ran Lich's Mastery alongside Nourishing Shoal... The ability to draw cards with little to no incremental mana investment (after the initial six mana investment, of course) is unprecedented!

  • Yawgmoth's Will limits access to your graveyard.
  • Yawgmoth's Agenda locks you down to one spell per turn

This Legendary Enchantment has no such limitations.

Lich's Mastery + Gideon of the Trials

Gideon of the Trials

White is a natural pair to Lich's Mastery in Standard. Renewed Faith is one of the most obvious best buddies. It cycles to help you hit land drops early. Later on, you can draw six -- count 'em six -- extra cards for just one card!

Fumigate is also an awesome addition. The ability to gain one life per creature killed takes on new meaning when each of those creatures represents even more card advantage.

But what about Gideon of the Trials?

Is there a particular synergy with this Planeswalker that can also prevent you from losing the game? Yes!

Not only does Gideon rumble (giving your combo-control deck a way to win) but it can protect you from losing the game by losing your Lich's Mastery. Further, it gives you a redundant synergy with Glorious End.

Any two of the three -- Lich's Mastery, Gideon of the Trials, and Glorious End -- are great together!

Lich's Mastery + Glorious End

Glorious End

Glorious End + Gideon of the Trials was a combo that never quite hit in Standard. Is it awesome? Probably... But it never quite hit.

What happens when you add a third leg to the stool?

What happens when that third leg has hexproof?

Glorious End is just awesome with Lich's Mastery. Can you just Time Walk your opponent with Lich's Mastery in play? Sure. You can also Fog them, Counterspell them, and generally laugh at them from behind your Legendary Enchantment while they expend resources.

But did you ever think about this?

Cast Glorious End on their Turn Five. Maybe on their upkeep?

Untap and play the Lich's Mastery in your hand!

Cool, right?

What if you don't have a Lich's Mastery in your hand... yet? The planned End-Mastery play is a big game, but what might be even more fun is the desperate Glorious End-into-praying-to-draw-Lich's-Mastery. All part of the range.

All Kinds of Lich's Mastery Decks

In this episode of Top Level Podcast, Pro Tour Champion Patrick Chapin and Resident Genius Michael J. Flores discuss all manner of builds around and including this seductive six drop.

Black-White, Mardu, and even straight black takes are on the table.

Gifted Aetherborn? Creatureless? A couple of big guys? A ton of lifelinking Knights? Give this one a listen and figure out how you want your BBB3 to go in the coming months.

Direct download: lichs-mastery.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 12:34am EDT

Tempest Djinn
Tempest Djinn is one of blue's signature cards from Dominaria

Tempest Djinn is Much Stronger Than Serendib Efreet (in the right deck)

Serendib Efreet
Despite its initial appearance, Serendib Efreet was a blue card.

A good place to think about this most respected of Djinn is the Revised misprint, Serendib Efreet. Serendib Efreet was a 3/4 flying creature for U2 (blue, despite the card frame)... With a drawback!

Serendib Efreet saw play in a variety of decks, and fast multicolored aggressive mages would often dip into blue to play it. Again, despite the self-inflicted damage.

Dominaria's Djinn is much harder to cast, sure. That is a lot of blue pips in the top-right!

But, the payoff is also much greater. In a deck with, say, twenty-five Islands, Tempest Djinn's floor is a Serendib Efreet with no drawback. Each and every incremental Island will make it a faster and faster racer.

Tempest Djinn is Like the World's Greatest Rishadan Airship (in the right deck)

Rishadan Airship
Unlike Rishadan Airship, Tempest Djinn can block

In its era, Rishadan Airship was one of the most important creatures played in the Blue Skies archetype.

Rishadan Airship was not great in very many other decks; it could not block consistently, and even when it could block, it would probably die. But offense-wise? Blue Skies was one of the best decks in Masques Block Constructed + was a favorite of some of the best Hall of Famers in Standard.

Tempest Djinn is like a more flexible Rishadan Airship. Again assuming an Islands-heavy (if not Islands-only) mana base, Tempest Djinn presents the same offense as Rishadan Airship -- at least -- but can also block. Not only that: It can block and often survive!

This flexibility is one of the most important aspects of Tempest Djinn. You can tap out for it on turn three, Skies-style to race... Or you can tap out for it on turn three to block a Red Deck's 3/2 attackers.

Or -- get this -- you can tap out for Tempest Djinn, block... And then back over itself (and generally for four damage).

Tempest Djinn will Redefine Blue in Standard

Patrick made a deck.

Mike is wild about it.

Check out how our intrepid duo thinks Tempest Djinn will be played in Standard right here!

Direct download: tempest-djinn.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 12:47am EDT

Warkite Marauder
Warkite Marauder is a heck of a Magic Card

Playing Fair with Warkite Marauder

Let's start with the basics: Warkite Marauder is a pretty cool Magic: The Gathering Card. We've seen people play cards on the order of Welkin Tern -- a blue 2/1 flyer for two mana with a disadvantage -- in Standard Pro Tours.

Warkite Marauder is loads better than the best Vaporkin! It simply doesn't have the disadvantage. Meaning, Warkite Marauder can block whomever it wants.

But that's not all! As a 2/1 creature with flying, Warkite Marauder is not particularly resilient. It's cheap -- evasive maybe -- but also small. Basically anything will kill a Warkite Marauder in combat.

So, the ability to remove flying from a potential blocker is very useful. Get in there for two!

Who Plays Fair? God-Pharaoh's Gift

Here's the thing: A fair Warkite Marauder is pretty good. Better, in fact, than cards good players have played in recent years.

But no one is saying you should "play fair" with it. No sir!

The new style of U/R God-Pharaoh's Gift is basically a Red Aggro deck... But with a graveyard-combo twist. God-Pharaoh's Gift can correct the solo toughness of this Human Pirate, and haste enhances its combat trigger.

The U/R deck can act like Red Aggro (starting with Bomat Courier on turn one, but just happens to have a more explosive relentless end game.

The Real Value of Warkite Marauder

Good by itself.

Good with God-Pharaoh's Gift.

But the real value of this Human Pirate?

Teaming up with Walking Ballista and Fanatical Firebrand, Warkite Marauder can "build a Terminate" ... But it's better than that! This is a "Terminate" that can take care of The Scarab God!

Not only will Warkite Marauder pull The Scarab God's toughness down to one (where it will be easy prey for one direct damage)... But because The Scarab God will lose all abilities, it won't come back.

Boom!

Warkite Marauder is just one of dozens of cards discussed in this episode! Most of the time is actually devoted to Dominaria. Check it out!

Direct download: warkite-marauder.mp3
Category:Standard -- posted at: 1:05am EDT

Shalai, Voice of Plenty

Shalai, Voice of Plenty is a 3/4 Flyer

A 3/4 flyer for four mana is probably not good enough on its own.

That said, there have been highly successful 3/4 flyers -- Angels even -- in the not-so-distant past. All it takes is one good ability and that 3/4 flyer can jump all the way to Staple.

To wit, Restoration Angel:

Restoration Angel
Restoration Angel

Like Shalai, Restoration Angel was a 3/4 flying Angel for only four mana. It ended up dominating Standard thanks to synergy with Thragtusk. Restoration Angel was also great at sliding into the Red Zone thanks to end of turn Flash, after a control deck had tapped for main-phase sweepers.

While Restoration Angel was mostly a Standard card (again due to its extraordinary synergy with Thragtusk), it has seen play in larger formats like Modern, often playing with Kitchen Finks or Flickerwisp.

Shalai, Voice of Plenty Turns off Shock

"You, planeswalkers you control, and other creatures you control have hexproof."

Remember what we said a second ago about just one good ability?

Well Shalai, Voice of Plenty has more than one! Mike focuses on this ability (while Patrick largely focuses on the other). There are many implications to giving not only you but basically everything else on your side of the table hexproof, but one of the coolest is that it turns off Shock.

Or in Modern, it turns off Lightning Bolt.

You can't be the target of the Shock. None of your other creatures can be the target of the Shock. In fact, the Shock can basically only target Shalai. That means, until the bad guys have a second Shock, that first Shock isn't going to be very shocking at all.

What's more, given Shalai's second ability, you can pull it out of even double Shock range with one green activation.

Shalai, Voice of Plenty in Modern

Shalai's "Hexproof" ability is powerful in Modern.

Because Modern has cards like Aether Vial and especially Chord of Calling, the ability to drop Shalai at instant speed adds a powerful dimension.

Current G/W decks, for instance, can slot in [at least one copy of] Shalai as a silver bullet. You can respond to, say, twenty copies of Grapeshot, spoiling the opponent's combo finish.

Even more interestingly, though, Shalai can fill the role of Ezuri, Renegade Leader or Walking Ballista. Shalai is much, much, better than Walking Ballista as a Chord of Calling target, as the latter is generally an inappropriate target.

Walking Ballista
Walking Ballista

G/W decks that can generate "infinite" mana will often use Walking Ballista as an endgame finisher. They make a ton of mana, and can kill however. Shuri might be an alternative. Infinite power from multiple creatures, rather than infinite one-point pings, might be slightly inferior (you need some attackers, you need them to be able to get through, you need a combat phase)... But if you are already playing 1-4 copies of Shuri for the hexproof ability, gaining Chord of Calling efficiency while saving a card slot or two might make sense.

Shalai, Voice of Plenty in Standard

Without a doubt, Shalai, Voice of Plenty is going to shine in Standard.

The one-two (rather four-five) punch with Lyra Dawnbringer is just too sweet.

If you untap with Shalai, you can follow up with Lyra and swing for four. Four lifelink (not just three damage) while leaving a plausible defender.

In some cases just tapping out for an awesome Angel might make sense... But it can still die. In this case, Lyra Dawnbringer will gain hexproof. So good luck getting through a flying, first strike, lifelink, and hexproof defender. Lyra will gobble up Glorybringer without even a scratch. It's not like you can kill it with conventional removal.

"4GG: Put a +1/+1 counter on each creature you control."

It is at least arguable that Shalai's third ability will be even more potent in Standard than Modern (infinite possibilities notwithstanding). This ability is highly comparable to Gavony Township.

Gavony Township
Gavony Township

The deck where you play Shalai is likely going to be G/W. You might have some late-game Llanowar Elves. This ability turns Elves into killers.

But it also turns killers into more vicious killers. Just pulling Shalai and Lyra into the 6+ toughness range is going to be yuge. (They themselves will be yuge.) Shalai might not give itself hexproof, but massive toughness simply means it's tough to kill.

This week's podcast clocks in at nearly an hour and a half.

Shalai, Voice of Plenty is just the first Dominaria card we discuss.

Check it:

Direct download: shalai-voice-of-plenty.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 6:53pm EDT

Danitha Capashen, Paragon
I think you'd be surprised by how much is going on with Danitha Capashen, Paragon.

Danitha Capashen, Pearled Unicorn

Pearled Unicorn
Pearled Unicorn? Creatures have gotten better in the last twenty-five years, it seems.

So... a 2/2 creature for three mana? Pearled Unicorn much?

Why would we even want to talk about Danitha? Isn't she just a 2/2 for three mana?

While few players are excited by the prospect of a 2/2 creature for three mana, there is some precedent. Mike, for example, really loves a Borderland Ranger!

But let's assume you're not searching your library for a basic land... Is it possible that you can stick enough additional abilities onto a 2/2 creature for three mana that someone would want to play it?

That is the challenge of Danitha Capashen.

First Strike is only okay, but first strike and lifelink make Danitha a surprisingly potent combat creature. Vigilence and lifelink together make her defensively solid.

But wait! There's more...

Danitha Capashen, Paragon is surprisingly resilient

How is a 2/2 creature resilient?

Is there a hexproof line we somehow missed?

Danitha Capashen, Paragon is contextually resilient. We've already seen Seal Away, a white enchantment that hits tapped creatures. Well due to vigilance, Danitha doesn't tap.

But what about this?

Cast Down

Cast Down destroys nonlegendary creatures.

Danitha is Legendary!

Basically, we have a situation where two of the most popular point removal cards in Standard will simply not be able to target Danitha Capashen, Paragon. Is she invincible? No. But you don't pay a single mana for this additional ability of resilience.

Danitha Capashen, Engine

We have no idea what "Aura and Equipment spells you cast cost 1 less to cast" will actually mean.

But we've seen the card Goblin Warchief.

Cost reduction abilities like this can be format-defining.

Topics Other than Danitha Capashen, Paragon

There are many. Many!

But the most important is probably the sick new Legacy deck that Patrick brews, live. Will it be the hot new strategy? Sure sounds like a consistent turn-three kill to us.

Check it out!

Direct download: danitha-capashen-paragon.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 9:21pm EDT

Knight of Grace
Knight of Grace is a great example of Dominaria's "Time Spiral" Theme

Dominaria: It's Like Time Spiral Junior

One of the things Patrick and Michael like about Dominaria so far is how it pleasantly references what we love about Magic's past. Cards like Llanowar Elves and Gaea's Blessing aside, Dominaria calls up our favorite worlds, from Benalia to Phyrexia, to tell the set's story.

It's not just reprints. It's not just references. Dominaria also updates some favorites! There may be no better example than Knight of Grace.

Knight of Grace: White Knight 2018

White Knight and Black Knight were two of the most iconic creatures in early Magic.

Not only were they each hyper-efficient, they were each "first" ... Each Block would add a variation. Order of the Ebon Hand; Order of Leitbur. Order of the White Shield... All the way, eventually, to Knight of Meadowgrain and even more recent updates.

The most recent? Knight of Grace and its opposite number, Knight of Malice.

What's going on with Knight of Grace?

  • First Strike - Beacuse these guys typically have first strike
  • Hexproof from Black - Was Protection from Black too powerful?
  • The Buff - This ability has some good texture!

The buff ability here works a couple of ways. If this were way back in 1996, enough players might have black creatures that the +1/+0 might be meaningful.

But you can cheat this ability on yourself, if you're a little mindful.

A B/W creature deck can already enjoy the buff.

But what about off-color cards that you can play without increasing the number of colors...

  • Orzhov Guildmage - This creature can be cast with only white mana, but counts as a black permanent.
  • Batterskull - The token is black.
  • Zombies, various - Both black zombie tokens and white zombie tokens (for Knight of Malice) are readily available in Standard. Again, you might not have to add another color (but get the benefit of another color)

There are more, of course.

To find out more, and which, download the podcast!

 

Direct download: dominating-dominaria.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 12:10am EDT

Dominaria

In Dominaria, Wizards Matter

Here are the first ten Modern Staples -- of the top of our heads -- that happen to be Wizards:

  1. Burrenton Forge-Tender
  2. Cursecatcher
  3. Delver of Secrets
  4. Grim Lavamancer
  5. Baral, Chief of Compliance
  6. Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
  7. Meddling Mage
  8. Snapcaster Mage
  9. Magus of the Moon
  10. Master of Etherium

There are more! Tons more! Those are just the first few we thought of.

Why does this matter? The Dominaria set has a number of cards whose performance improves if you have a wizard on the battlefield. Examples: Wizard's Retort and Wizard's Lightning

Wizard's Retort
1UU
Instant
This spell costs 1 less to cast if you control a Wizard.
Counter target spell.

Put another way, Wizard's Retort is a Cancel… But a Counterspell if you have a wizard on the battlefield.

Longtime listeners probably remember that Mike had some success with another card that was Counterspell if he had a particular creature type: Silumgar’s Scorn. With creatures as good as Grim Lavamancer and Snapcaster Mage being wizards, there may just be ample opportunity to cash in on Wizard's Lightning
in Modern.

Wizard's Lightning
2R
Instant
This spell costs 2 less to cast if you control a Wizard.
Wizard's Lightning deals 3 damage to any target.

There is already precedent to playing three damage burn spells that sometimes cost one and sometimes cost three in both Modern and Legacy. Rift Bolt much?

Being three converted mana cost is actually an advantage sometimes; Chalice of the Void anyone? Grim Lavamancer is already a wizard you might play in either format’s Burn deck!

Mike, at the least, would much rather run one or two copies of this card than, say, Shard Volley.

Dominaria brings us a new Baneslayer Angel

Lyra Dawnbringer
3WW
Legendary Creature - Angel
Flying, first strike, lifelink
Other Angels you control get +1/+1 and have lifelink.

Is this card better than the [multiple] Pro Tour-winning Baneslayer Angel?

Patrick points out that giving other Angels +1/+1 -- and lifelink -- is way better, generally speaking, than protection from demons and dragons. Having a Lyra Dawnbringer in play with a Baneslayer Angel is much better than having two Baneslayer Angels, at least.

Further...

"Lyra Dawnbringer was born to kick it with Mutavault."
-Patrick Chapin

In Dominaria, It’s Actually Pretty Easy to be Green

"You know me so well."
-Mike

What was Mike talking about? Oldies -- and goodies -- Gaea's Blessing and Llanowar Elves are two of the reprints that the Resident Genius has his eyes on. To wit:

Gaea’s Blessing - According to onetime Lead Developer Brian Schneider, "There’s no reason you should need any other way to win."
Llanowar Elves - Patrick thinks this will bring Brian Kibler -- finally -- back onto the Pro Tour. Mike imagines it will be the best card in Standard!

… And that’s just the first third of this podcast!

Sagas, Legendary Sorceries, and rules changes await! Check it out now:

Direct download: dominaria.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 8:51pm EDT