Thu, 15 March 2018
In Dominaria, Wizards Matter
Here are the first ten Modern Staples -- of the top of our heads -- that happen to be Wizards:
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
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
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
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.
In Dominaria, It’s Actually Pretty Easy to be Green
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."
… And that’s just the first third of this podcast!
Sagas, Legendary Sorceries, and rules changes await! Check it out now:
Fri, 9 March 2018
Does Manamorphose go in every deck? Apparently it at least goes in Burn now!
Manamorphose in Every Deck?
We've kind of nudged and nudged and winked and winked about it.
One Hall of Famer plays three Manamorphose in a deck that doesn't usually play it; another Pro Tour Champion runs a singleton. Together they get it right.
Manamorphose has been Staple essentially since its printing. There is almost no better card in Storm combo. Not only does it dig in that deck like a blue card, with Goblin Electromancer on the battlefield, Manamorphose even nets mana!
But in Burn?
The Implications of Manamorphose in the Red Deck
Josh Utter-Leyton brought Manamorphose to Modern Burn for perhaps the first time!
The Innovations are not all intuitive (so we'll rattle through them). First of all, with Manamophose but not fringe garbage like Shard Volley, Josh will just draw his Lightning Bolts and Lightning Helixes more often than other Red Decks. That's a given. He is also better set up to grind with those Bedlam Revelers (in-part powered by the Manamorphoses). But colors matter more now!
Tips and Tricks that have nothing to do with Manamorphose
Is Burn Even Good? Manamorphose or No?
Uh, Bogles just won [again].
This time with 4x Leyline of Sanctity MAIN DECK.
I guess listen to the podcast first!
Thu, 1 March 2018
Merfolk Branchwalker is great on two
Think you know what's going on in Standard? Mono-Red Beatdown, some vanilla Sultai with The Scarab God, maybe some B/U Control?
Have we got a GP for you...
Merfolk Branchwalker, Ajani Unyeilding, and Carnage Tyrant?
PT Champion Ari Lax just missed the Top 8 with his Naya Monsters deck. A surprising take on a relatively intuitive build, Ari opted to play Ajani Unyeilding, Cast Out, and Thopter Arrest as white splashes.
Merfolk Branchwalker teams up with multiple 2/x buddies to build towards ambitious mana.
Lax's take played tons of cards that cost four mana or more between deck and sideboard, topping up with some powerful, game-winning, six drops.
I mean come on. Carnage Tyrant! Rawr.
The Khenra Technology: Merfolk Branchwalker in G/R Monsters
Tyler Schroeder won Grand Prix Memphis with a brand new take on Gruul creatures.
We've seen similar shells before. After all Merfolk Branchwalker and Jadelight Ranger make a lot of sense together. Twos and threes, these creatures attack, block, fix the top of your library, and generate card advantage.
By the same token, Rekindling Phoenix and Glorybringer represent a similar thematic duo. Great red flyers with built-in card advantage capabilities, these 4/x creatures represent the kind of high end payoff that you really want to get to with your green explorers.
So where is the innovation?
Adding Earthshaker Khenra and Resilient Khenra as a third pair creates a whole new dimension to the deck. Because "explore" creatures like Jadelight Ranger and Merfolk Branchwalker can put cards into the graveyard, they can imply future card advantage because you can play the respective Khenra cards out of the graveyard.
This is new technology!
Often when Merfolk Branchwalker flips a land, we call that card advantage; now if it flips a Khenra -- and puts it into the graveyard -- it is stockpiling future card advantage!
Will this become an industry standard way to play Standard?
Find out more in this week's podcast!
Thu, 1 March 2018
Courser of Kruphix. Swoon.
Courser of Kruphix was a centerpiece of Patrick's Pro Tour Journey Into Nyx-winning Abzan* deck. This three drop is already a fringe player in Modern. Our prediction is that it becomes even more popular.
Courser of Kruphix is of efficient size for its casting cost.
2/4 for three mana is deceptively great in-context. Courser of Krupix is too big to kill with a lone Lightning Bolt. In this podcast, Mike shares a story of being forced to run his fellow enchantment creature Eidolon of the Great Revel into an opposing Courser of Kruphix and blowing a Bolt to finish it off. But resistance to opposing removal isn't the only story told by this defining creature...
Courser of Kruphix is great with Bloodbraid Elf
First of all, Courser of Kruphix is the exact right casting cost to max out Bloodbraid Elf's Cascade ability. When you flip a Noble Hierarch, you get two cards -- essentially a Lotus Petal plus the Hierarch itself -- but when you flip a Courser of Kruphix, that Lotus Petal is upgraded to a Black Lotus. So great!
But that's not all... Courser of Krupix is good before Bloodbraid Elf, not just being flipped by Bloodbraid Elf. The ability to see the top card of your library can be useful when you play interactive cards. For example, Bloodbraid Elf decks often play cards like Path to Exile or Terminate. If the opponent doesn't have a creature on the battlefield, flipping one of those with cascade will result in a wasted trigger. Courser of Kruphix can help you aim your cascades a little bit better.
Courser of Kruphix is and "Better than All"
As a three drop with solid toughness, Courser of Kruphix is an efficient pre-Jace, the Mind Sculptor play. It can defend Jace well on the turn you tap out for it. But that's not all! Courser of Kruphix's ability to see the top card of your library (and play lands from it) is delicious when combined with Jace's Fateseal and Brainstorm abilities. You can fix your hand by putting a land on top with Jace, and then play it with Courser. Or you can dig deeper (with either) to get a fresh look (for either).
This card from Masters 25 will surely go up in popularity.
Also Revealed: Coalition Relic
With the ability to tap for any color of mana, Coalition Relic once held a special place as a five-color control enabler. It was also a solid accelerator, taking you from three to six in a single turn!
Patrick and Michael are cooler on this preview than Courser of Kruphix, though.
There are just too many cards people play in Modern that beat up on Coalition Relic (often with value): Kolaghan's Command, Abrupt Decay, and certainly Ancient Grudge! The Lantern deck's performance in Modern recently has jut put too much of a target on artifacts, at least artifacts of this casting cost.
Still, was sweet in its time, and may yet be sweet again if and when the format shifts.
Check out our Exclusive Masters 25 Previews Podcast here!
* Abzan before it was "Abzan" if you grok.
Fri, 23 February 2018
The Hazoret the Fervent Invocation
Hazoret the Fervent in Modern?
Tell ya what, Top Level Podcast fans: We're skipping Modern for the week. Patrick intends to "activate the  ability" ... Starting next week.
Were there multiple Modern events last weekend? Yes.
But the world is about to change, officially, and soon.
That Gruul Eldrazi deck? How do you think that is going to run once Bloodbraid Elf starts pumping out Eldrazi Obligator? Exactly.
So for now: Innovations in Standard!
Half Hazoret the Fervent Decks
The SCG win by Todd Stevens with Dimir Control may throw you off. And Ali Aintrazi's Four-color Mastermind's Acquisition in third place is certainly exciting. But make no mistake: Hazoret the Fervent is a fixture of something like half of the top performing players, whether Mardu Vehicles or Red Decks (including, I guess, Boros Path of Mettle decks).
Fear not! The control decks are aware, playing cards like Moment of Craving, Vraska's Contempt, or even Gift of Paradise to defend their life totals.
The Price of Hazoret the Fervent
Hazoret is a powerful threat. And not just in the mirror! (But particularly in the mirror.)
Generally, we think four Hazorets is mandatory. There are other powerful four drops in red, but Hazoret is often completely unstoppable. Further, redundant copies can always be tossed for two damage.
Hazoret doesn't come cheap, though: This God demands sacrifice! In deck building an otherwise ("take two"). Not only is it an expensive card (in more ways than one) but Hazoret generally implies playing with cheap set up cards. Bomat Courier is almost always on board. There are a smattering of other one drops, removal cards, and so on in every successful Hazoret deck... You need to drop your hand in order to get this card online.
Mardu has its own concerns. In a sense Mardu is "an homage" to Toolcraft Exemplar + Unlicensed Disintegration. Don't shave either down to three copies (ew). In fact some builds push redundancy with Inventor's Apprentice.
None of this makes the Mana any easier BTW.
More in the cast!
Fri, 16 February 2018
Bloodbraid Elf also broke out of its ban this week; but first... Bogles!
Dan Ward piloted Bogles to the Grand Prix Toronto trophy last week. Bogles!
Dan Ward is one of the strongest deck designers in the world. He first hit our radar with that innovative Kari Zev's Expertise combo deck at SCG Regionals about a year ago. That deck was so awesome (or at least awesomely angled), WotC R&D banned almost immediately.
Moving formats over to Standard, Dan produced a legitimate contender archetype in U/W Approach of the Second Sun. Yes that U/W Approach of the Second Sun.
And while Dan can't claim to be the first person to suit up a Hexproof creature, he never let up on his trademark innovations. Like...
Leyline of Sanctity in Bogles
Dan played three copies of Leyline of Sanctity in his main deck. This may seem like an odd choice for the strategy... If it isn't in your opening hand, Leyline of Sanctity will just clog your grip later. Further, Leyline of Sanctity provides little or no offensive value to this attack-oriented deck. Why might Dan have played it?
All in all, a pretty cool three-of.
Bogles in Context
Them's fightin' words, am I right?
Fighting words or not, Dan might have a point. His version, with Leyline of Sanctity, actually cuts off two of Jace, the Mind Sculptor's abilities. They can't Fateseal or Ultimate you without answering the Leyline. Plus, unless they are on Damnation or Supreme Verdict, fast, huge, Hexproof guys can be hard to race.
Further, if you're planning to use Bloodbraid Elf to grab Lightning Bolt or other spot removal... That plan isn't so good against Bogles. Plus, with a couple of buff auras, most of Dan's cards will be able to tussle with a 3/2 and walk away, easily.
Grab the popcorn!
Because if Champion-Bogles remains good enough, it will soon clash with Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Bloodbraid Elf in Modern!
Wed, 14 February 2018
Jace, the Mind Sculptor is about to make its Modern debut
Jace, the Mind Sculptor Banned?
Not any more!
Earlier this week, some pretty big news broke that has instantaneously flipped Modern from Patrick's least favorite format to most favorite format! We were too excited to keep our reactions bottled up until Thursday. Don't worry, this is an EXTRA episode: We'll be back Thursday ;)
When in doubt, use Jace, the Mind Sculptor to Brainstorm
Jace has never been legal in Modern before. For many format aficionados, this will be the first time they have Jace in front of them at a Modern table. With so many abilities to choose from... Which one should they pick?
Noted Jace, the Mind Sculptor master (and Magic: The Gathering Pro Tour Hall of Famer) Patrick Chapin says that, in the dark, it should be the Brainstorm ability. That isn't going to be true all the time -- Jace both has a ton of abilities and Modern is a diverse format after all -- but it's a good place to start.
Why might you want to use the [+2] "Fateseal" ability instead? Usually it will be because the opponent has some kind of red spells to attack Jace. You know, like Lightning Bolt.
Speaking of which...
Is Blightning Good against Jace, the Mind Sculptor?
Not surprisingly, Patrick and Mike reminisce about some of their old Jace Standard decks. Patrick attempts to recuse himself, being both a Grixis-lover and a Jace-lover. Mike is happy to jump in, being a Jace-Grixis fan himself.
Mike's favorite take on Jace in Standard was alongside Blighting. He cites the ability to attack Jace as well as the opponent's hand.
Patrick points out that -- especially at the same casting cost -- Kolaghan's Command is probably a better choice. It is arguable that Kolaghan's Command + Lightning Bolt is actually a better anti-Jace plan than Blightning. "Blightning is too tempo-negative."
The Kolaghan's Command argument is strong. Not only is it an instant, you can set up Snapcaster Mage and lace together multiple cards to deal sufficient damage.
New Jace, the Mind Sculptor Decks
Mike himself -- longtime Modern devotee of Lava Spike -- is threatening to switch allegiances to Team Jace.
Our intrepid pair do tons of brewing in this episode. For example, a pretty sweet-sounding Bant deck list from Patrick featuring Spell Queller inspired by Wrapter's "Counter-Cat" from way back when.
What about Courser of Kruphix with Jace?
When you're playing with Jace and Liliana, your cards are just better than theirs; he doesn't like the idea of messing with your mana when you can just play more consistently.
Also, thumbs down to "Jace in Merfolk". Because, Merfolk.
More, many more, ideas in this special episode!
Fri, 9 February 2018
Young Pyromancer posted Top 8 in two different strategies
Young Pyromancer Goes Wide in Blue-Red
Just as there are a variety of viable Young Pyromancer decks, there are a variety of viable blue-red decks in Modern. The one that made Top 4 of Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan was a flexible build by Pascal Vieren.
Vieren's deck played several creatures... Four copies of Snapcaster Mage, three copies of Thing in the Ice, and of course three Pyromancers. All of those creatures excel with instants and sorceries. Snapcaster Mage gives you card advantage with them. Thing in the Ice flips into a huge monster when set up by them. And our Human Shaman can build an army while doing something else.
Vieren's deck can win multiple ways. Thing in the Ice clears all the blockers and presents a threat by itself; while the Pyromancer can push a lead once you've already got it. Lightning Bolt is one of the most efficient tempo plays you can make. Of course Cryptic Command can both answer threats and tap all the blockers in one move.
Young Pyromancer Goes Even Wider in Mardu Control
Gerry Thompson -- already a PT Champion and friend to the 'cast -- put up another Top 8, this time with a Mardu Pyromancer build.
It takes a singular kind of deck designer to figure out to play one copy of Manamorphose... But in Gerry's deck, it doesn't just power up the Pyromancer, it gives you white mana for Lingering Souls! Cool little card in support of the Human Shaman.
The advantages in Gerry's deck all build on one another. Cheap instants and sorceries like Inquisition of Kozilek fuel not just the Pyromancer, but put fodder into the graveyard for Bedlam Reveler. More important is Kolaghan's Command... Not only is it even more redundant discard, the ability to re-buy a creature is always nice; but what about when the creature is a card advantage engine?
All That and the Kitchen Sink
There was more, much much more, to the Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan Top 8 than a 2/1 for 1R.
We leave no deck un-discussed!
No, not even that one.
Check it all out now!
Fri, 2 February 2018
Let's get something out of the way:
Path of Mettle is actually awesome!
Path of Mettle is almost effortless to play
When Path of Mettle enters the battlefield, it triggers a Simoon-like effect, dealing a point of damage to every creature that lacks first strike, double strike, vigilance, and / or haste.
The solution is simple: Just play creatures with one or more of these abilities, and the "Simoon" trigger will be one-sided; largely a Simoon for the same amount of mana.
We can consider the deck played by US National Champion Craig Krempels to the Top 8 of last week's Team Open as a model for this strategy, but many Red Deck creature shells can suffice.
All of Bomat Courier, Earthshaker Khenra, Ahn-Crop Crasher, Hazoret the Fervent, and Glorybringer (you know, just the creatures the old Ramunap Ruins deck played) start out with haste. This makes the first line on today's enchantment "free".
But flipping it is nearly free, also!
So long as you are playing such creatures, turning your Legendary Enchantment into a Legendary Land shouldn't be too tough.
When you flip Path of Mettle, you're doing it. You're really DOING IT
When the Path becomes Metzali, Tower of Triumph, "Triumph" may be closer than it initially seems. This land is super disruptive to many different kinds of opponents.
The "red" ability largely serves as a stand-in for the now-banned Ramunap Ruins.
The "white" ability has a broad range of applications, including (but not limited to) cutting of the ability for many control decks to win. Attacking with one creature? How about "randomly" putting that creature into the graveyard? The "white" ability can also ignore hexproof, so it is potentially a problem for the Hydras out of Energy variants.
Okay, sold! Um... So what's the gamble around Path of Mettle?
Why? The mana base of course!
Craig played a couple of Plains in his twenty-two land aggro deck. It was vital for him to play enough red (especially untapped) to be able to field some sixteen one drop creatures.
Will WotC print another Boros dual land? Will they just reprint one we already love?
Fri, 26 January 2018
Longtusk Cub, unlike Attune with Aether and Rogue Refiner, was NOT banned last week. So why is it missing from Energy deck after Energy deck?