Top Level Podcast (new cards)

Learn what makes Experimental Frenzy one of the most exciting new cards from Guilds of Ravnica!

Direct download: Is_Experimental_Frenzy_the_New_Necropotence_.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 1:15am EDT

Patrick and Michael agree in their enthusiasm about Doom Whisperer from Guilds of Ravnica. Great finisher here! Surrounded by many other great cards.

Direct download: Doom_Whisperer.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 1:22am EDT

Guilds of Ravnica continues to wow us! Patrick and Michael continue their takes on Guilds of Ravnica and its many new cards.

Direct download: Some_of_Our_Favorites_from_Guilds_of_Ravnica.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 12:35am EDT

Wizards of the Coast gave us a cool new card from Guilds of Ravnica: Crackling Drake! Patrick Chapin & MIke Flores discuss the new set with Izzet flavor.

Direct download: Crackling_Drake.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 1:25am EDT

Assassin's Trophy is a flexible new tool from Guilds of Ravnica. It's undercosted, powerful, and will see play in all the main formats for years to come!

Direct download: assassins-trophy.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 1:48am EDT

Ral, Izzet Viceroy headlines an Izzet-tacular first look at Guilds of Ravnica! What makes Sinister Sabotage great? Why might you play Firemind's Research?

Direct download: ral-izzet-viceroy.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 1:22am EDT

Your puny little red men are no match for Giganotosaurus. It's a tough cast, though. Is there a legitimate reason to go GGGGG over Verdurous Gearhulk?

Direct download: giganotosaurus.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 8:41pm EDT

Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma
Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma

When might you play Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma?

Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma is the king queen of Bears!

I know, I know... Goreclaw is not a 2/2 for 1G; but Bear it claims to be.

Okay, okay... Let's get past the Vorthos on this card. What might make you want to play it... Or not?

Three toughness.

In a world of where Lightning Strike and Abrade are played in the most popular deck, three toughness is a bit of a liability on a four casting cost creature; at least one that isn't doing something absolutely card advantageous on the way in.

Patrick speculates that the three toughness is a deliberate structural weakness in the card against red -- a weakness green doesn't usually have -- for other reasons.

"Have a little empathy."

Other reasons? Well we'd have to have a doozy of one to accept such a limitation. Maybe a better driving question would be...

WHY Would You play Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma?

Easy: You want to get the drop on a seven-drop.

Goreclaw costs four. Presumably you hit your land drop the following turn. That's five. Alongside Goreclaw's two mana-breaking ability, you can hit something like the new Darigaaz the next turn!

Bam!

Seven!

Kind of need your three toughness four-drop to live for that to work out.

Michael is not necessarily convinced. Among other issues, the best five-power [green] creature in the format [by his estimation], Steel Leaf Champion, not only comes down before Goreclaw most of the time... Even when you draw your creatures in the right order, Goreclaw won't help you cast it.

Another new green monster maybe?

Fine, Fine... How About Runic Armasaur Then?

Runic Armasaur
Runic Armasaur

Runic Armasaur has a lot of awesome things going for it.

Size-wise, this card is comparable to the ubiquitous Thrashing Brontodon. That's not a bad place to start. Runic Armasaur isn't quite big enough to stop Hazoret the Fervent, but five toughness is a big brick wall.

Runic Armasaur is punishing to fetchlands, so may have more impact in larger formats. In Standard, it will prove quite effective against Evolving Wilds.

But where Runic Armasaur will really shine? Walking Ballista! Bam! The best card in Aether Revolt is going to have a really tough time generating card advantage against this particular dinosaur.

Speaking of dinosaurs, If Runic Armosaur is good enough, it may just make Thunderherd Migration good enough. Thrashing Brontodon, Ghalta, Gigantosaurus... There may be just enough dinosaurs to hit critical mass of thunder lizards.

We shall quickly see.

To see more; or hear more, rather, including innovations in Senor StOmPy and Dimir Midrange, click the little play button:

Direct download: goreclaw-terror-of-qal-sisma.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 9:29pm EDT

Sarkhan, Fireblood is an exciting new Planeswalker from M19. Check out its new Dragon-centric synergies and card advantage options in this week's cast!

Direct download: sarkhan-fireblood.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 1:33am EDT

Resplendent Angel
Resplendent Angel is just one of several strong flyers from Core Set 2019, revealed earlier this week.

Resplendent Angel

  • Effect of card: Flying. At the beginning of each end step, if you gained 5 or more life this turn, create a 4/4 white Angel creature token with flying and vigilance. 3WWW: Until end of turn, Resplendent Angel gets +2/+2 and gains lifelink.
  • Converted mana cost: 3
  • Type: Angel
  • Sets: M19
  • Game: Magic: The Gathering
  • Colors: White mana
  • Illustrators: Volkan Baga

Doesn't Resplendent Angel Just Get Killed by Abrade?

That's the problem, right?

As a 3/3 flyer for three mana, Resplendent Angel is a nice package for its cost. Its many other abilities imply that it should be able to take over the game by itself.

But with only three toughness, it is vulnerable to multiple cards in the most popular current Strategy... Not just Abrade but Lightning Strike will eliminate this creature.

While the Angel has the ability to buff itself offensively and gain lifelink... That doesn't cure three toughness versus instant speed removal. The same Abrades, the same Lightning Strikes, will be able to shoot it out of the sky in response.

They can't always get her, can they? And anyway, when she's good, she's got to be really good.

The Resplendent Angel Payoff

Bash!

Hit you for five!

Gain five!

High five!

Extra Serra Angel, yadda yadda yadda.

Is that the payoff?

It is certainly a payoff... But there is no reason to think so narrowly.

Resplendent Angel is pretty efficient: A 3/3 flying creature for three mana is a heck of a Gnarled Mass! But this is a card that can get better in the right context.

What about playing it with Shalai, Voice of Plenty and Lyra Dawnbringer? Giving this creature +1/+1 and lifelink off the bat puts it a long way towards the Serra Angel trigger.

But that's not all!

There are just a critical mass of life gain cantrips. You can cast Renewed Faith, gain six life, and get a 4/4. But M19 brings with it Revitalize. This card can combines both halves of Renewed Faith, but with a little less flexibility.

What we mean to say here is that at some point Crested Sunmare has got to good enough at some point, right? #horsetribal

Tons more M19 in this podcast, including scads more flyers; from Nicol Bolas to his fellow Elder Dragon Legends. Many of them look equally fantastic. Learn more in the cast.

Direct download: resplendent-angel.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 1:14am EDT

Liliana's Contract
Wizards sent us Liliana's Contract to reveal to you!

Liliana's Contract

  • Effect of card: When Liliana's Contract enters the battlefield, you draw four cards and you lose 4 life. At the beginning of your upkeep, if you control four or more Demons with different names, you win the game.
  • Converted mana cost: 5
  • Type: Enchantment
  • Sets: M19
  • Game: Magic: The Gathering
  • Colors: Black mana
  • Illustrators: Bastien L. Deharme

... you draw four cards...

So... Who's in it for drawing four cards?

At five mana for four cards, Liliana's Contract is priced similarly to Tidings. In its day, Tidings was a Standard Staple in Vore decks to a variety of control decks.

While the four life is potentially prohibitive (versus, you know, losing zero life) it's important to note people are paying four mana and two life to draw cards in black right this format.

For one more mana, Lilian's Contract represents a powerful upside.

Its being an enchantment is quite interesting; you can draw four into your Demons, it can sit around waiting for a win, or you can play it after you've already got your Demons.

This implies, of course, people will want to play for the Demons. Some might just want to draw four cards.

... four or more Demons...

Lilian's Contract is powerful and flexible. It can probably fuel a black control deck that happens to play Demons... Or you can play a dedicated Demon-combo deck.

There are multiple playable Demons in Standard. Ammit Eternal has already proved Top 8-capable; while Demonlord Belzenlok is the "big bad" of Dominaria. Lilian's Contract might be great randomly alongside a handful of already-good-enough Demons.

But you can also try a dedicated strategy!

Arcane Adaptation
With Arcane Adaptation, you can turn any creature into a Demon

With Arcane Adaptation in play, it will be much easier to produce four differently-named Demons. Every token, every random body, will get you that much closer to winning immediately with Liliana's Contract.

Thanks again to Wizards! See you back here tomorrow for our regularly scheduled episode.

Direct download: lilianas-contract.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 11:40pm EDT

 

We're already seeing new cards from Core Set 2019! Two of the most promising are the Militia Bugler and Planeswalker Vivien Reid.

Where Would You Put Militia Bugler?

Militia Bugler
Militia Bugler is a source of card advantage that is somewhat restrictive on your deck design.

Mike puts Militia Bugler on "Gonti for yourself" ... He's not wrong. Not that wrong anyway.

Like Gonti, Lord of Luxury, Militia Bugler is a 2/3 creature with an ability once it hits the battlefield. In Gonti's case it is Deathtouch and in the Bugler's case Vigilance. Both of them generate card advantage by looking at the top of someone's library; theirs in Gonti's case, your own in the Bugler's.

Militia Bugler has the benefit of costing three mana rather than four; but comes with a meaningful deck design price: If you're going to get paid off by Militia Bugler, you will have to have a certain number of [other] creatures with a maximum of two printed power.

If you've built your deck appropriately, Militia Bugler plays in the range of Sea Gate Oracle or Court Hussar -- both contributing creatures in their respective Standard formats.

Perhaps most importantly for Standard, Militia Bugler can grab you the zero-printed-power powerhouse, Walking Ballista!

Is Vivien Reid "the green Teferi"?

Vivien Reid
Vivien Reid will be a key Role Player in Standard, if not quite "the Green Teferi".

"I'm not in it for the emblem."
-Mike

Like Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, Vivien Reid is a five mana planeswalker.

Both draw extra cards with their first abilities; both blow up things (with some measure of limitation) with their second abilities. Your mileage will vary substantially with their respective limit breaks, though.

"Even when it lines up right, it's worse than Teferi every step of the way."
-Patrick

Mike's initial love for this card comes from its very obvious superiority over the already-played Crushing Canopy. Sure, Vivien Reid costs two more mana than Crushing Canopy, but the [-3] ability is wildly better! Not only can you potentially keep a draw-engine planeswalker, you gain the ability to destroy artifacts.

This thing is a fantastic answer to Lyra Dawnbringer, right?

Coming back to the card advantage ability, Patrick points out the [+1] is quite a bit better than just drawing a card. You can Impulse for a land if you need it, and otherwise, you're probably digging for Brontodon, Chupacabra, or The Scarab God.

Basically, Patrick likes Bugler best among the new cards; and Mike likes Vivien Reid best. But there are lots of great cards revealed from Core Set 2019. We go over lots more of them.

Direct download: vivien-reid.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 12:13am 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

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

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

Courser of Kruphix
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.

Coalition Relic
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.

Direct download: courser-coalition.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 12:04am EDT

Sanctum of the Sun
Sanctum of the Sun is really -- really -- powerful

Azor's Gateway Transforms into Sanctum of the Sun

Azor's Gateway

Azor's Gateway -- the front side of today's Legendary Land -- is itself a pretty good card. It is both cheaper than Jalum Tome, and cheaper to use (believe it or not Jalum Tome was once a Role Player-level Standard card).

Yes, it sucks that Azor's Gateway exiles cards instead of simply discarding them to the graveyard, but (and you'll probably figure this out in a couple of sentences) that would simply be too powerful once you've flipped the Legendary Artifact into Legendary Land.

Remember - zeroes are close to free, due to land cards.

Cut // Ribbons is Best Buddies with Sanctum of the Sun

Cut // Ribbons

When you flip Azor's Gateway into its final form, you gain five life and have an insane mana engine. Your expectation will almost never be less than an immediate burst of six mana of any color, no matter what hoops you had to jump through to get there.

Imagine you simply have the same life total as your opponent when Azor's Gateway flips...

Aren't they basically dead if you have Cut // Ribbons in your graveyard? If you have, say, twenty life (and the opponent has twenty life) you will go to twenty-five. You can immediately untap Azor's Gateway and tap its opposite number for twenty-five black mana, even if there are no other sources of black in your deck. This nets out to twenty-three life from Ribbons! Boom!

The Cut side of Cut // Ribbons has long been a Role Player-level option. It looks like this card -- which is highly serviceable as a fast reactive card -- may jump colossally in value now that getting it into the graveyard basically kills the opponent.

Remember a moment ago when we were lamenting the exile v. discard limitation on Azor's Gateway? Can you imagine how disastrous simple discarding would be given the incentive of getting Ribbons into your graveyard? This is already a great combination! They can't make it too easy, can they?

Cut // Ribbons acts like a two but is technically a four; that makes it fast enough to defend you front-side, while essentially ensuring victory later. Best. Buddies.

What About Untapping Sanctum of the Sun?

Zacama, Primal Calamity

This Legendary Land is already pregnant with possibilities... But what if you can actually untap it?

In "Chasing Sanctum of the Sun" Patrick argues passionately for the power level of Zacama, Primal Calamity. This Elder Dinosaur might be the payoff that Ramp decks have been looking for since the rotation of the Eldrazi cards. While Zacama doesn't have a built-in durability, it can destroy many different kinds of permanents, as well as generate a massive life buffer. The fact that Zacama has CMC 9 is awesome with Azor's Gateway... I mean, how many nines do you think you can possibly play? It both drives diversity of casting cost for purposes of flipping and gives you an outlet to discard redundant uncastable giants.

Direct download: sanctum-of-the-sun.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 11:45pm EDT

Jadelight Ranger
Our further Rivals of Ixalan review begins with Jadelight Ranger

If there is one thing Mike is famous for, it's playing some goofball green three drops over the years.

Gnarled Mass is one such green creature; but at 3/3 for three mana -- and essentially no other capabilities it is a head scratcher that someone would be able to win with it. The secret, of course, is that Gnarled Mass was never "good" per se. But a 3/3 for three mana could slow down an opposing 2/2 Bushido.

Ditto on Borderland Ranger. And by "Borderland Ranger" we mean Civic Wayfinder. So deep was Mike's love of three mana creatures that could search up a land, when he won with U/R Splinter Twin, he did so with a Pilgrim's Eye in his main.

But what about the belle of this week's ball?

How does Jadelight Ranger compare?

Jadelight Ranger versus Gnarled Mass

Jadelight Ranger seems like a generally stronger card than Gnarled Mass.

Gnarled Mass was a Spirit -- which was good, but could also be a liability in Kamigawa Block -- but was basically always a 3/3 for three mana.

If you're going for size, Jadelight Ranger can be a 4/3 (2/1 with two +1/+1 counters) for the same casting cost. The superior size (sometimes) comes with two Scry triggers! So... Secelction as well as size.

Obvious point: If you want to have a large Jadelight Ranger, and you are lucky enough to "miss" on your first trigger, you can just leave the card on top, guaranteeing you will grow on the second trigger as well.

Jadelight Ranger versus Borderland Ranger

Borderland Ranger has a couple of advantages over Jadelight Ranger.

For one, 2G is easier to cast than 1GG... But not so much easier.

Borderland Ranger also offers true selection. If you have one Island in your library, you can go find it every single time rather than waiting for your White Knight. Jadelight Ranger lacks that level of precision.... lacks this certainty. But it makes up with sheer potential card advantage.

Just as Jadelight Ranger can be bigger than Gnarled Mass sometimes, it can produce more lands than Borderland Ranger sometimes, too! Instead of just one land, it can draw more than one. Compare to: Divination.

Jadelight Ranger versus Rogue Refiner

So sometimes Jadelight Ranger is a 4/3. If you have a Winding Constrictor in play, that might actually jump to, say, 6/5.

And sometimes, it stays 2/1 but draws two lands.

In both cases, you get to scry twice, which is powerful.

But in the middle? It is just a 3/2 that draws you one additional land.

You know what we call a 3/2 creature that produces one extra card? Rogue Refiner.

And while Jadelight Ranger is probably not "better" than Rogue Refiner (less control on size, never draws into a spell, doesn't make energy) even being in the same conversation with one of the best creatures in Standard is significant.

This Merfolk Scout is only the first card we discuss!

More Rivals of Ixalan than you can shake a stick at, right here.

Direct download: jadelight-ranger.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 12:43am EDT

Dire Fleet Poisoner
Dire Fleet Poisoner is our exclusive Rivals of Ixalan preview!

Dire Fleet Poisoner is Incredibly Flexible

A 2/2 Deathtouch creature for only two mana, Dire Fleet Poisoner can play Terror in a pinch.

Much like Go for the Throat, Doom Blade, and the Alpha classic, this card can trade for most creatures at instant speed for just two mana.

Drop Dire Fleet Poisoner during combat and block... And you can trade with just about anything one-for-one. Even creatures that can sometimes dodge one-for-one removal (like Bristling Hydra) can't plead hexproof here... A block will make for a trade, no matter how big the attacker.

Of course, as a 2/2 creature, this Human Pirate can kill 1/x creatures (no matter how tough) and live to tell the tale.

Flash and Deathtouch, go!

Dire Fleet Poisoner's Brilliant Buff

Dire Fleet Poisoner can crash on curve... Imagine you play a first turn Daring Buccaneer. You attack with it and the opponent tosses a Shock at your 2/2.

This card can save your creature while forcing home additional damage.

It can save an attacking Hostage Taker from Abrade, for instance.

It can also help you into favorable trades. For instance, if you are attacking with Kari Zev and the opponent is forced to double block (say, due to menace), the ability to provide both a second point of power and deathtouch can make for an advantageous trade.

... And you get to keep the 2/2 deathtouch body!

Dire Fleet Poisoner is Fast and Flexible

Will there be B/R Pirates? Chances are, this card will help drive the creature choices.

How about B/U? Hostage Taker is a heck of a Pirate.

Want to know more? Check out the podcast!

Direct download: dire-fleet-poisoner.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 1:36am EDT

Vona's Hunger
Vona's Hunger continues the proud tradition of "Diabolic Edict with upside" for three mana

Vona's Hunger as Instant Edict

Diabolic Edict was the first.

It was like a Cruel Edict but better.

Over time we got a variety of three casting cost versions... Foul-Tongue Invocation, Tribute to Hunger, and Oath of Liliana are all three casting cost upgrades to the Edict model (whether instant or sorcery speed). All of them offered a little something extra -- whether life gain or more card advantage -- in exchange for a third mana.

Vona's Hunger can line up almost unprecedented card advantage provided you have the city's blessing.

And the rest of the time? More Edict action for group games ;)

New Keyword: "Ascend" on Vona's Hunger

This instant has a cool new keyword. If you control ten or more permanents, you get something called "the city's blessing" for the rest of the game. Presumably, you can have ten permanents the first time... But if you go below ten permanents upon casting a second Vona's Hunger, you'll still have the city's blessing.

Presumably there will be more cards featuring these new terms; whether you ascend the same way (having ten or more permanents) on all of them is still a mystery.

When would Vona's Hunger like the city's blessing?

It isn't difficult to imagine a time you might want Vona's Hunger on three. For example, any time the opponent is trucking in with a lone Bristling Hydra, you might want a removal card that can kill it no matter how big, no matter how hexproof.

Any time the opponent is protecting a key threat -- say an Electrostatic Pummeler - with Blossoming Defense backup, Vona's Hunger might be the card you want.

But what about the big version? Who can take advantage of it, and when might they want to?

We haven't seen tokens in a while, but the Anointed Procession decks are probably the most consistent at producing 10+ permanents. It's difficult to evaluate the "big" version of this card. It's kind of half a Wrath of God, but also asymmetrical (meaning it does not kill any of your creatures... Just half of the other guy's).

You know when tokens might really, really want Vona's Hunger?

The mirror.

More info here:

Direct download: vonas-hunger.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 12:16am EDT

Rivals of Ixalan Brings a New Vraska

Vraska, Scheming Gorgon

A new Vraska? Yes.

A very good Vraska? The Scheming Gorgon is going to have a tough time competing with the Relic Seeker in Standard.

Seemingly the only advantage Vraska, Scheming Gorgon has over Vraska, Relic Seeker is in being mono-black. Vraska Scheming Gorgon’s best ability is her [-3] to destroy target creature…

This ability is woefully weaker than Vraska, Relic Seeker’s more flexible equivalent… That also produces Treasure.

Vraska, Scheming Gorgon has a potentially powerful [-10] ultimate ability… At least until you think about it for a minute. While this ability can theoretically win the game, practically speaking, you already have to have a substantial advantage to cash in.

You need to have gained loyalty for several turns without losing all your creatures.

You need to have more creatures than the opponent has creatures AND creature removal.

But if you can fulfill these conditions? Sure. Win the game.

Vraska and Angrath: Are They Rivals of Ixalan?

Angrath, Minotaur Pirate

Angrath, Minotaur Pirate

In opposition to Vraska is Angrath, a Minotaur Pirate.

While Angrath may not be the strongest Planeswalker in Standard, Mike thinks it is a straight-up upgrade relative to Vraska, Scheming Gorgon.

For one, Mike could at least imagine using the [+2] ability, and can imagine wanting to play this card to do so!

Say you are up against Mono-White Vampires or B/W Tokens. Wouldn’t you appreciate a recurring way to deal one damage to everything and everyone on the other side of the table? While gaining loyalty?

Mike is pretty “sign me up” for this as a sideboard card, but Patrick not only reserves ultimate judgment for now… He says that if Mike likes this card, he’ll probably LOVE the main set equivalent its existence implies.

Nitpick point: Angrath claims to be a Minotaur PIRATE (even says so in the name) but could not theoretically target itself with that [-3].

The Primal Command of Rivals of Ixalan?

One of the cool features of the beginner Planeswalker decks is the existence of a Tutor to go find a deck’s centerpiece character.

Mike doesn’t hate this one:



Angrath’s Fury

Mike compares it to Primal Command.

Is hie crazy?

Both cards cost five. Both cards affect life total and do multiple things; Primal Command often attacked a land; Angrath’s Fury basically always kills a creature.

Okay, okay: Crazy

Patrick and Mike also chat decks past and present, and visit a successful Standard deck… That eschews Longtusk Cub despite running Attune with Aether.

Direct download: rivals-of-ixalan.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 1:05am EDT

Tetzimoc, Primal Death
Tetzimoc, Primal Death is a Legendary Creature - Elder Dinosaur

"God I hope this isn't a Standard format where this isn't good."
-Patrick

Tetzimoc, Primal Death Invalidates "real" cards

This Legendary Creature - Elder Dinosaur almost doesn't seem real.

Will there be efficient ways to get rid of prey counters? If not, Tetzimoc is going to act as a Plague Wind -- a one-way Wrath of God -- quite often.

What is the low end of Tetzimoc's performance? Double Nekrataal? Just a couple of life points off of Noxious Gearhulk? It seems really powerful either way.

In any case, Tetzimoc leaves a large body with deathtouch on the battlefield. It provides not just a high potential for card advantage, but advances your board at the same time.

It is conceivable, unfortunately, that Tetzimoc will not be good. How could that be?

This creature is great against regular creatures, if even very good, efficient, or huge versions. It would be much less effective in a format based on Energy 187 creatures like Rogue Refiner, nothing but haste, or combo decks.

Tetzimoc is not the only Elder Dinosaur...

Ghalta, Primal Hunger

If you are unsure of the most broken thing you can possibly do with Ghalta, Primal Hunger, what about just starting on a Regisaur Alpha? That costs five mana and puts seven power in play. Seven down leaves Ghalta eminently cast-able.

Imagine this with haste!

On the one hand, Ghalta, Primal Hunger is an exceptional reason for Dinosaurs to finally graduate to Tier One in Standard.

But not for nothing... Decks based around the Primal Hunger are going to get their lunch eaten by decks based on the Primal Death, if you grok.

But Wait, There's More!

This week we hit all five currently spoiled Rivals of Ixalan cards, not just the Dinosaurs.

Ever wanted to learn about the nuances between personal Mana Flare and personal Howling Mine? Check out "Tetzimoc, Primal Death and the Rivals of Ixalan" right now!

 

Direct download: tetzimoc-primal-death.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 12:39am EDT

Did you see this earlier this week?

 

Our #mtgunstable Exclusive Preview will drop Friday. Double casts this week, etc

A post shared by Top Level Podcast (@toplevelpodcast) on Nov 15, 2017 at 8:31pm PST

 

If you did -- this podcast will be the realization of all you've been waiting for!

If you didn't... Why aren't you following the Top Level Podcast Instagram yet? Go ahead. We'll wait up.

Back?

It's time for our...

Exclusive Preview: Very Cryptic Command!

Very Cryptic Command

It's Kind of Like a Cryptic Command

The "Very" variety is reminiscent of the classic in many ways.

  • It is a Command (and in fact, a "Cryptic" one).
  • As such, it has several modes, and asks you to choose two of them.
  • And of course, there is the UUU1 in the top-right corner

But in terms of game play? This is a whole other instant!

Well that's one way to do it...

Isn't it weird that an Un-set card -- ostensibly built for fun rather than Spikes -- is primarily geared towards making:

  • Infinite mana, and
  • Infinite storm count

Isn't it?

Right?

If you have two copies of Gilded Lotus and two copies of this instant you can tap for UUUUUU, cast Very Cryptic Command to untap the artifacts and re-buy your other Very Cryptic Command.

Then you can do this all you want, over and over again.

Welcome to having as much mana as you want! Eventually, you can use one of the other modes to do anything else, move ahead (and presumably take advantage of your limitless mana and storm count).

Fun... For you, at least!

Our thoughts on this most Unstable of Unstable cards in "Very Cryptic Command"

Direct download: very-cryptic-command.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 11:55pm EDT

Pious Interdiction

What Can We Learn from Pious Interdiction?

Often competitive players will look at a card like Pious Interdiction -- which has what might be a desirable effect if at a hefty cost -- and discard it out of hand.

But when was the last time you asked yourself what drove that kind of thinking? Are there contexts where you would want a card like this? If so, when?

Mike -- winner of his Midnight Prerelease -- can certainly point to a time!

Pious Interdiction can be a heck of a Limited card

That's right! Pious Interdiction can certainly get it done in forty card decks!

... That's actually how Patrick and Mike got into the discussion this week! Mike was lucky enough to open four copies of Pious Interdiction, and they did such a great job of nullifying his opponents' key flyers or fat green creatures he was almost ready to sign up for Pious Interdiction in Constructed.

Almost.

The problem -- part of the problem anyway -- with Pious Interdiction is just the cost.

The cost is both the "right answer" and too simple of an answer, though. While this aura is great at interacting with threats like Sealed Deck where so many of an opponent's cards will be more expensive than in Standard, four mana can be a big ask in sixty card decks.

Patrick is quick to caution that general rules about how much things "should" cost for certain effects can be foolhardy. We must always be mindful of context.

Pious Interdiction v. the World

For the current Standard, at least, Pious Interdiction has plenty of context around it, helping to define is viability (or non-viability).

Cast Out also costs four mana, but has so much flexibility around Flash, Cycling, and the option to exile non-creature permanents. For that matter, Cast Out does a much better job, generally, of interacting with creatures! Cast Out isn't always better for four mana, as there are times you will want to gain two life... But it's usually better.

If you're really in the market for an overcosted Pacifism that gains life, might we suggest a Desert's Hold?

Desert's Hold

Desert's Hold doesn't let you get away with deck building free or anything... You have to build your deck with Deserts -- and you have to have Deserts either in play or in the graveyard to get the bonus -- but it both costs less mana and gains more life than Pious Interdiction. Yet Desert's Hold is far from a popular Constructed card.

Join Pro Tour Hall of Famer Patrick Chapin and Michael J Flores in this eye-opening theoretical discussion, plus more -- much more -- actual Constructed quality cards from Ixalan in this week's episode!

Direct download: pious-interdiction.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 11:38pm EDT

Vance's Blasting Cannons

Vance's Blasting Cannons: The Final Flip

Last week, when gushing over flip cards like Search for Azcanta, we hadn't yet had the opportunity to see the red member of the cycle.

Unlike a certain blue transformer for two, this card is a bit controversial. Where, if anywhere, would you want to play it? Would a red aggressive deck ever want to run it over either an indestructible god or a Rowdy Crew?

"Well," Mike points out, "at least the flip condition is a 'may'" ...

Outpost Siege v. Vance's Blasting Cannons

Outpost Siege
Is Outpost Siege where we set the bar?

The most obvious point of comparison for this new card is Outpost Siege.

For its part, Outpost Siege served every role from "main-deck four-of in R/W aggro" to "sideboard role player competing with its day's Chandra at the four". Regardless of how you want to slice it, Outpost Siege was a stronger card than Vance's Blasting Cannons (at least the front side).

To wit:

  • Outpost Siege had two different modes: Not only was it a potential source of incremental card advantage over time, the "Dragons" setting was a way to win.
  • Outpost Siege was not a Legendary permanent. You could have multiple copies in play! Mike probably still has nightmares about facing Sam Black with two Khans and a Dragons on camera
  • Outpost Siege allowed you to play both spells and lands as extra resources. Vance's Blasting Cannons is kinda sorta only 60% of an Outpost Siege (again, with half the options). So 30-33% on its face? How annoying would it be to reveal a land (that you can't play) and then not draw a land (when you need one)? Gross, right?

But the bar isn't whether this is better or worse than Outpost Siege in the abstract; the front-side is pretty much worse. The question is if it is good enough to play anyway.

And we can't answer that question without addressing...

Vance's Blasting Cannons // Spitfire Bastion

Spitfire Bastion
Is the payoff on Spitfire Bastion worth the work?

"Would you play a card that read "RR4. Enchantment. 2R, Tap: Deal three damage to target creature or player?"
-Patrick

Probably not?

While Mike wouldn't play such a conjectural card (probably), it is useful to think of the final flip as potentially three different cards:

  1. The aforementioned 30-33% of an Outpost Siege: This card is a source of incremental card advantage that pays off only after you've untapped successfully with it in play. More than that, it really only pays off after multiple turns.
  2. The conjectural six mana enchantment. This version flips immediately, gives you a potential mana boost (you can still, say, cast a Shock or Magma Spray), but will only offer the full value at very high mana / late in the game
  3. Spitfire Bastion

Spitfire Bastion is a source of inevitability, not unlike fellow land Ramanup Ruins. Decks like U/R Control, for example, can't allow this to flip, because no matter how well they close out on creatures, they will likely lose the game three life points at a time.

Mike -- ever fearful of Kor Firewalker -- points out that as a colorless source of damage, Spitfire Bastion can kill the hell out of Protection from Red creatures.

So what do you think about this last transformer? The Top Level Podcast boys revisit some of the others and a whole mess of Ixalan cards in this week's episode.

 

This week's episode of the Top Level Podcast is brought to you by Mack Weldon. For 20% off your order, visit http://www.mackweldon.com and use the promo code toplevel

Direct download: blasting-cannons.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 1:20am EDT

This week MichaelJ is flipping out over flip cards! First among them? The Search for Azcanta!

Check Out Search for Azcanta:

Search for Azcanta

"Oh hell yeah!"
-Patrick

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

Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin

"... more powerful in play than Library of Alexandria..."
-Patrick

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!

Direct download: search-for-azcanta.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 2:02am EDT

In a special exclusive bonus podcast, Patrick and Michael go over their first impressions on Lookout's Dispersal, a new Pirates-themed instant from Ixalan:
Lookout's Dispersal

 

 

Direct download: lookouts-dispersal.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 11:54pm EDT

Regisaur Alpha is one of the premier Ixalan dinosaurs

Regisaur Alpha

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

Huatli, Warrior Poet

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?

  • A 4/4 dinosaur lord who is making all of your other dinosaurs faster, or
  • A 3 loyalty Planeswalker who could easily die

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:

  • Three: Gideon of the Trials
  • Four: Chandra, Torch of Defiance
  • Five: Huatli, Warrior Poet

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

Gishath, Sun's Avatar

Instead of looking at Gishath as a clunky eight mana creature, why not look at it as an eight mana Fireball?

Huh?

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!

Direct download: dinosaurs.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 2:11am EDT

Kick back, pop in your earbuds, and give a listen to our first look at Ixalan:

Ixalan Changes Planeswalker Rules

Jace, Cunning Castaway
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
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?

Exploring Ixalan

Tishana's Wayfinder
Tishana's Wayfinder

It's all the things Mike never should have loved...

  • Sometimes it's Borderland Ranger
  • Sometimes it's Gnarled Mass
  • Generally it's inconsistent and unpredictable

Sold!

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!

Direct download: ixalan.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 1:59am EDT

God-Pharaoh's Gift

God-Pharaoh's Gift is The Postmodern Debtors' Knell...

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

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?

Refurbish

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?

Redundancy, Incorporated

Gate to the Afterlife

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.

Gross.

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!

Direct download: god-pharaohs-gift.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 12:41am EDT

resilient khenra
Resilient Khenra is one of several aggressive cards covered in this beatdown-oriented episode.

Hour of Devastation brings several aggressive options to Standard. We've mostly talked about powerhouse cards like Hour of Devastation [the card], or big ramp spells like Hour of Promise so far... But the new set can also turn a mean Jackal sideways!

Resilient Khenra: Greater than Grizzly Bears

To start, this card is a 2/2 creature for 1G... Any text on it is going to put it past the classic Grizzly Bears.

As it is, giving a creature +2/+2 one time is comparable to a 2/2 haste creature, according to Patrick.

The question is whether you can afford to play Resilient Khenra in a world that has optimized out Duskwatch Recruiter and Sylvan Advocate. We think... Maybe.

For one thing, Sylvan Advocate has largely lost on the presence of Fatal Push. Later in the game, when Sylvan Advocate is meant to get big, it still has a tiny two in the top-right... Making it a great target for Fatal Push.

Resilient Khenra doesn't have the same problem. It leaves a body, yes, but pushing the tempo with its 187 buff effect is the main reason you choose this card.

Resilient Khenra post-Adorned Pouncer

One of the things that makes this creature so attractive is its ability to synergize with Adorned Pouncer.

Adorned Pouncer

If you start on an Adorned Pouncer, and follow up with Resilient Khenra, you don't merely get +2/+2... You get to exploit the double strike on Adorned Pouncer. So for only two mana, you get four extra damage (and keep the Jackal Wizard body).

Later in the game, the two creatures' Eternalize abilities curve one into the next. Adorned Pouncer costs five to Eternalize, and Resilient Khenra costs six. In the late-game case, Resilient Khenra provides +4/+4 due to the token's superior size, so the multiplier is that much more dangerous.

Appeal // Authority in Tokens, or Anywhere

The G/W color combination isn't limited to Eternalize guys in Hour of Devastation. What about Appeal // Authority?

In a tokens deck specifically, Appeal can deal a huge amount of extra damage for only one mana, while Authority hearkens back to Alexander Hayne's Block Constructed PT win from a few years back.

Together, they may make a splash. Luckily, they're always together.

Give it all a listen:

Direct download: resilient-khenra.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 1:57am EDT

Hour of Devastation
Hour of Devastation is the card red control decks have always wanted.

Hour of Devastation deals 5 damage to each creature...

Red has long had the ability to deal two to three points of damage to multiple creatures for about three mana. Examples include Standard Staples like Kozilek's Return, Radiant Flames, or Sweltering Suns.

But five damage?

Historically, red mages would have had to pay seven or more mana for a big sweep like this. Worse yet, in earlier eras, they would have to take five damage themselves! Earthquake, for example, only hit non-flying creatures.

From these perspectives, Hour of Devastation is really something special.

Blah blah blah... Each non-Bolas Planeswalker

One of the fantastic aspects of Hour of Devastation is how it can deal with Planeswalkers.

Forget about the fact that it can deal with Planeswalkers directly at all, the fail state of this card falls into a convenient place. What is the kind of deck where you would want Hour of Devastation? Something like Zombies, right? A deck where the opponent plays multiple creatures, that sometimes get big... The ability to deal five to all of them is quite attractive against Zombies.

But what about when you don't want a big creature sweeper? Oftentimes, the opposite number to Zombies will be a Control deck. Those decks will very often give you one or more Planeswalkers to kill, especially board control decks.

Hour of Devastation works great in Grixis

This set is very Grixis-oriented. There is a Grixis themed cycle of Gods, and of course the God Pharaoh is in Grixis colors.

Hour of Devastation (red) is highly complimentary to other key Grixis cards. For example, this card does five... And Torrential Gearhulk has six toughness. It's one thing for Torrential Gearhulk to live through the Hour... But what about being able to swing directly?

Consider:

  • Turn 6 - Flash out Torrential Gearhulk (to stabilize, stay alive, just get an advantage)
  • Turn 7 - Play a land; cast it leaving up UU. Get in there for five!

And more! Much more! in "Hour of Devastation is the Best of the Bunch":

Direct download: hour-of-devastation.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 2:57am EDT

Hour of Promise
The Locst God may be on the art, but our bet is that Hour of Promise will be ushering in Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger.

Hour of Promise is no Explosive Vegetation

Mike initially misreads Hour of Devastation as an overcosted Explosive Vegetation. It's not a surprising mistake. Explosive Vegetation costs four, but Hour of Promise costs five. They both go and get two lands; Hour of Promise sometimes makes two zombies.

Oh wait... basic.

Sorry: basic

That is, unlike Explosive Vegetation, Hour of Promise can search up any lands, not just more Forests or whatever!

Example: Go and get two copies of Shrine of the Forsaken Gods

Shrine of the Forsaken Gods
Shrine of the Forsaken Gods

If you can cast Hour of Promise, the implication is that you have five lands in play. If you get two copies of Shrine of the Forsaken Gods, you'll then have seven lands in play, meaning you can tap for nine.

All you have to do is hit your land drop next turn to have ten mana for Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger!

Hour of Promise is More a Thalia's Lancers than an Explosive Vegetation

Mike loves to mark for 4/4 creatures for five mana that have a cool or card advantageous abilities.

Examples:

Hour of Promise is like one of those, but possibly better. Why? Instead of one 4/4 creature, your payoff is two 2/2 creatures. Two 2/2s are sometimes more useful than just one 4/4, but Hour of Promise generates about the same amount of power and toughness.

The "Desert" Clause isn't that big a deal

All you need is one Desert in your first five lands and you'll be dripping in Zombie tokens!

Why? You can just go and get two other Deserts and put them on the battlefield. Now, armed with three Deserts in play, you will soon the be the owner of a pair of Zombie tokens.

The deck design implications are open to explore. Do you want to play lots of Deserts? That would increase your chances of having a Desert in play on turn five. Or, you might only play three total Deserts. Card selection aside, you will have a lot of specialty lands fighting for space in your mana base... You might not have room for too many Deserts.

Pro Tour Champion Patrick Chapin and Resident Genius Michael J. Flores cover many more Hour of Devastation cards in this great podcast. Two words: "horse tribal" ... Check it out now!

Direct download: hour-of-promise.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 2:43am EDT

Doomfall
Doomfall is an extremely flexible, potentially main-deck, card.

Meet the Cruel Edict

Doomfall costs one more mana than Cruel Edict, but even beyond its ability to act as a discard spell, there may be good reason to pay three instead of two.

Rather than merely destroying a creature (as Cruel Edict did), Doomfall exiles it. That is bad news for Scrapheap Scrounger decks! Any creatures that rely on durability or coming back from the dead might have problems with it (e.g. The Scorpion God)

Playing as Transgress the Mind

Again, we see a card that, at 2b, costs a little more than Transgress the Mind. Part of that is just a tax levied against the creature removal side of the spell (you can't very well have a functional reprint of Staple Transgress the Mind that also kills creatures).

But the reality is, Doomfall is not "just" a reprint of Transgress the Mind. It costs one additional mana, but on the other hand you can take anything, rather than only cards that conform to a particular mana profile. That might not feel like it's worth three mana in isolation... But you've always got the Edict opion!

Ultimately, it Can Get Everybody

This card lets you beat a combo deck with creature removal, or kill an attacker with your extra Duress.

Direct download: doomfall.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 2:59am EDT

The Scorpion God
To be honest The Scorpion God is actually near the end of the episode... Still great.

Buckle up for a full-on Hour of Devastation episode! Patrick and Michael hit on tons and tons of cards (and will be back with their own Hour of Devastation preview tomorrow).

The Defeat Cycle

The Defeat Cycle (Jace's Defeat, Gideon's Defeat, etc.) is a quintet of fast color hosers. Most will be Staple in Standard, with a couple of them likely growing up to be cross-format All-Stars (Liliana's Defeat especially).

  • Jace's Defeat - This card is basically Gainsay. You're unlikely to get the Scry 2 very often, but that's not a big deal... Gainsay has been Staple every time it has been available in Standard. Consequently, Jace's Defeat is going to be a great way to compress sideboard slots; it'll be nice having one card that can answer Torrential Gearhulk or Glimmer of Genius.
  • Gideon's Defeat - Mike loves this one, largely because he's been beaten up by Gideon, Ally of Zendikar so much the past year. This card will be great at slowing down everything from Toolcraft Exemplar to the newcomer Adorned Pouncer to Mike's hated Gideon.
  • Liliana's Defeat - Wow, what an All-Star (to be). Super mana efficient; more importantly, in Modern, this will be a Bump in the Night / Lava Spike that also kills Liliana of the Veil at the same time.
  • Chandra's Defeat - Will be bananas in largely the same way as Liliana's Defeat. Will be best buddies with Snapcaster Mage.
  • Nissa's Defeat - While this will be the "clear fifth place" Defeat, it will create a position of privilege for green creatures. Every other color's creatures are poised to be Defeat-ed. Not so green.
Nissa's Defeat
Nissa's Defeat creates a privileged position for green creatures and adds a three-mana Stone Rain back into Standard.

Adorned Pouncer and Eternalize

Adorned Pouncer
Adorned Pouncer is strictly superior to Fencing Ace

Fencing Ace was a good card. It was played as Staple in Jeskai buff decks, and at least a Role Player in Bant Hexproof.

Adorned Pouncer is everything Fencing Ace was... and Also a Cat. And also has Eternalize.

Would you pay five mana for just the 4/4 double striker? Patrick wouldn't. Mike would at least look at it. That the boys are even having this discussion should tell you how good Adorned Pouncer will be.

Thank goodness for Gideon's Defeat's exile clause! Magma Spray will continue to do work.

The Scorpion God

The Scorpion God

The Scorpion God is like three different engines.

"This God doesn't require worshippers."
-Patrick

If you just start with 6/5 for five mana... But with this level of resilience... It's at least worth a conversation. A 6/5 body for five mana isn't too bad; and if you can't kill it?

There are two other abilities, still.

The Scorpion God can mow down a ton of small creatures (and probably draw cards at the same time). It can also shoot at big creatures to get them small enough to tussle with and draw).

This summary doesn't do justice to "The Scorpion God is Just the Beginning" ... The only way to hear everything we're thinking about Hour of Devastation right now, you best give a listen!

Direct download: the-scorpion-god.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 3:50am EDT

Bontu's Last Reckoning
Bontu's Last Reckoning costs three mana. That's great! Isn't it?

What a difference a week makes!

... Depending on what continent you are on.

The Return of Spell Queller in Manila

Spell Queller

The biggest disconnect with recent history IN THE WORLD took place at Grand Prix Manila. We saw the return of the U/W Flash deck... Now featuring Glory-Bound Initiate.

The U/W Flash archetype (and friends like Esper Vehicles) benefit somewhat by a decline in popularity of Mardu Vehicles... Our assessment is that the Heart of Kiran in Mardu Vehicles would run over the comparatively clunky U/W.

But U/W Flash is not about fighting Mardu. Aetherworks Marvel, on the other hand, is a perfect victim of Spell Queller. Basically, Dispel and Negate are the most common "cover" spells for Aetherworks Marvel at five and six mana, respectively... You can neither Negate nor Dispel a Spell Queller. On the other hand, Spell Queller's 2/3 body is perfect for putting Marvel on a clock.

Ulvenwald Hydra and Shrine of the Forsaken Gods

Ulvenwald Hydra

No surprise that Aetherworks Marvel took down a US Grand Prix this weekend past.

No surprise that Standard master Brad Nelson was at the winning deck's helm.

What's cool? What's different?

Brad used Ulvenwald Hydra to great effect in his build's sideboard... Kind of "the difference that makes the difference."

Basically, Ulvenwald Hydra was Brad's "Nissa's Renewwal" ... An expensive green creature, but not nearly as expensive as Ulmamog. Brad could use the Hydra to make a huge threat on its own, but also as an accelerator. If he got Shrine of the Forsaken Gods he would be one two mana closer to hard casting any Ulamogs stuck in his hand.

Dissenter's Deliverance is the Choice of Champions

'nuff said.

Bontu's Last Reckoning and Our First Look at Hour of Devastation

In addition to lots of decks from three Grand Prix across three continents we hit on the three now-known cards from Hour of Devastation. The most interesting topic for this section is probably around the cost of Bontu's Last Reckoning.

Ostensibly, this card costs three mana. That means that it has some synergy with Goblin Dark-Dwellers or certain Expertise cards. It would be a mistake to say that it is just a cheaper Damnation; the fact that it costs three is less of an advantage in most games (how big or dangerous are the creatures coming at you on turn three versus turn four). If you cast it later in the game, the mana restriction is actually pretty disadvantageous.

Net-net, though, we think it will be heavily played.

Direct download: bontus-last-reckoning.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 12:18am EDT

Anointed Procession
It might not look it at first glance, but Anointed Procession is going to enable infinite everything.

Sensei's Diving Top - Banned in Legacy!

"Sensei's Divining Top gets no hat tip from me. There are very few cards -- probably zero in the history of Magic -- that have cost as many human lifetimes as Sensei's Divining Top."
-Patrick Chapin

Patrick and MichaelJ open on a tearful* goodbye to Sensei's Divining Top. While the Top has drawn some bad press due to eating up the clock in recent years, there is no denying its contribution to a number of impossibly inventive decks. Cards from Kodama's Reach to Shrapnel Blast to Counterbalance have all reached the top of the metagame.

Speaking of Banned Cards...

What will be obvious to you listening to this podcast is that the boys recorded "Anointed Procession Makes the Next Infinite Combo" before this week's last minute addendum to the Banned and Restricted list.

So yes, Patrick does a little Felidar Guardian + Liliana brewing... But there are still lots of other great nuggets in this episode (we think).

For instance:

Going Infinite with Anointed Procession

Anointed Procession + Eldrazi Displacer + Drowner of Hope is an infinite combo.

How does this work?

With Anointed Procession on the battlefield, Drowner of Hope will make four 1/1 tokens rather than just two.

It costs three total mana to activate Eldrazi Displacer; three mana will blink Drowner of Hope, putting the aforementioned four tokens into play. That means that you can net one token per cycle (again assuming Anointed Procession is there).

This combination gives you as many Icy Manipulators as you would like... Except they can also attack for infinite damage.

The advantage of this combination is that Eldrazi Displacer and Drowner of Hope are actually "good cards" rather than just combination pieces. After all, even if Anointed Procession is not part of your equation, Drowner of Hope is seven power across three bodies for "just" six mana.

Even without the Eldrazi, Anointed Procession is a surprisingly effective card.

How interested would you be in Nissa, Voice of Zendikar into this enchantment? Making two 0/1 Plant tokens per activation seems like a heck of a defense. How about good old Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Anointed Procession at the same time? Did the best card of the previous format get even better?

We shall see!

Put another way, if your deck is full of token makers, Anointed Procession will increase the impact of one and all.

No, this podcast is not mostly about this cool new combo. There is also Patrick's argument that Zombies will be Tier One, Mike's continued love of cycling, and of course some misplaced metagaming around Felidar Guardian.

Give "Anointed Procession Makes the Next Infinite Combo" a listen now!

* Okay maybe not that tearful in Patrick's case.

Direct download: anointed-procession.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 2:18am EDT

Drake Haven
Drake Haven will be a defining card from Amonkhet

Drake Haven might be Mike's favorite card from Amonkhet...

.. Whatever that means.

Sure, it's Lightning Rift-like (or Astral Slide-like, if you prefer). It screams to collaborate with tons and tons of cyclers printed in the vary same set. Untap with Drake Haven in play, and you have a ready-made source of defense, card advantage, and damage all at once. Mike thinks that Drake Haven could be a centerpiece of the new Standard... After all, it can counter and overwhelm Gideon, is highly synergistic with your own sweepers, and can chase down many Planeswalkers in the air, (at least when you have a turn).

But almost by definition, many playing this card will give you a window to attack.

Turn Three Kills

Flameblade Adept + Noose Constrictor + Shadow of the Grave

There are multiple variations on this kill, and some variability based on play or draw. The simple scenario works like this:

  1. Game Trail + Flameblade Adept
  2. Attack for 1 (19), Swamp + Noose Constrictor
  3. On your draw you have five cards in hand [on the play]. If you discard all of them but one, Noose Constrictor becomes six power, and your Flameblade Adept goes to five power; now use your last card (Shadow of the Grave) to re-buy the four cards you discarded. Discard them again and Noose Contrictor becomes 10 and Flameblade Adept goes to nine. Good thing you pinged for one last turn!

Build Your Own Baneslayer Angel

While maybe not the best against Drake Haven decks directly, White Weenie decks seems to be getting a boost from Amonkhet. Always Watching was always a powerful card to play with the little white men, but combined with the new exert mechanic? Nothing but undercosted, potentially advantageous, attackers!

Glory-Bound Initiate is a perfect option. It comes down on turn two (a turn before Always Watching) and can help you build your own Baneslayer Angel.

Glory-Bound Initiate
Glory-Bound Initiate can become 4/4 on its own, but may have to slow down. Enter Always Watching

Dozens of cards are explored in this podcast. Mike and Patrick can't wait to play Amonkhet!

 

Direct download: drake-haven.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 2:10am EDT

Nissa, Steward of Elements is a rule breaking (or at least bending) new Planeswalker. Plus "Manglehorn is proof Lauer exists and he wants us to be happy"

Direct download: nissa-steward-of-elements.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 12:29am EDT

New Perspectives
New Perspectives, from Amhonkhet

MichaelJ and Patrick return for a special bonus episode! Top Level Podcast has an exclusive preview from Amonkhet.

When New Perspectives enters the battlefield, draw three cards.

New Perspectives starts more-or-less the best way a card can: By helping you draw three cards! In.

(Or, at least, we are interested in further exploration.)

Six mana is a bit steep for the ability to draw three cards, but Patrick claims that this card is actually a "draw four" ... One of the cards is just a zero mana Fluctuator.

Because New Perspectives is a permanent rather than a sorcery (compare to Tidings), you can pick it up or blink it (perhaps with Felidar Guardian) to draw more and more.

As long as you have seven or more cards in hand, you may pay 0 rather than pay cycling costs.

This second line is what puts the "new" in the name. We aren't just talking about a Fluctuator... This card is expensive but far more powerful.

For one, New Perspectives will handle colored mana in a cycling cost, not just discount a 2 to 0. It opens the door to some big opportunities. For instance, why not start with Archfiend of Ifnir on five, untap with the Demon still in play, and then run out New Perspectives? Having (or drawing into) just one or two cycling cards -- TAPPED OUT -- can totally swing the board.

This card represents -- we think -- a whole new way to play.

Check it out!

 

Direct download: new-perspectives.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 12:46am EDT

Gideon of the Trials
Gideon of the Trials from Amonkhet

Gideon of the Trials is a splashy new Planeswalker from Amonkhet. There are lots of things going on with this card that are interesting.

First of all, it is only three mana. Like Jace Beleren and Liliana of the Last Hope before it, Gideon is likely going to find a way into appropriately-colored decks, just because it is so cheap. Conveniently, all three of Gideon's abilities are meaningful and worthy of discussion.

[+1]: Until your next turn, prevent all damage target permanent would deal.

This is Mike's favorite ability on the card.

Gideon of the Trials can completely shut off threat-poor decks; it is in fact outstanding against one threat at a time.

In addition, the [+1] is, in a roundabout way, a source of card advantage. You can force the opponent to play multiple threats by neutralizing the first one. He can be stuck losing an extra card to Fumigate, only to be stuck again a threat-and-a-half later.

This ability is also great against Heart of Kiran. Not only can you shut it off damage-wise (no matter what mode it is in), the fact that Heart of Kiran is Legendary means that you effectively shut off all the copies that are stuck in the opponent's hand.

[0]: Until end of turn, Gideon of the Trials becomes a 4/4 Human Soldier creature with indestructible that's still a planeswalker. Prevent all damage that would be dealt to him this turn.

If Gideon of the Trials only featured the middle ability, it would be comparable to True-Name Nemesis... a 4/4 "basically unstoppable" 4/4 for only three mana (but doesn't play defense)? Pretty solid!

This is the most straightforward of Gideon's three abilities. It's basically always good any time you don't want to be using the [+1].

[0]: You get an emblem with "As long as you control a Gideon planeswalker, you can't lose the game and your opponents can't win the game."

Gideon's emblem is a little tricky. It basically is an emblem that makes present or future Gideons into Platinum Angels. This can be powerful -- For example you can lock out (or at least buy a turn from) certain combo decks. But most conventional decks that attack to beat you can attack Gideon instead. Not awful by any means, but not decisive generally, at least not in Standard.

All-in-all, Gideon of the Trials looks like the most powerful white card we've seen so far from Amonkhet.

There are lots of other cards discussed, as well, in this week's episode! Give it a listen:

 

//

Oh... And bonus episode tomorrow!

Direct download: gideon-of-the-trials.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 1:33am EDT

Glorybringer is one of the flashy cards from the Amonkhet. The is a dragon perfectly poised answer to Gideon, Ally of Zendikar but has other applications.

Direct download: glorybringer.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 1:34am EDT

Check out the Aven Mindcensor Masterpiece! Team Top Level's Craig Wescoe joins Mike and Patrick to show off the latest Amonkhet Masterpiece spoiler.

Direct download: aven-mindcensor.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 12:27am EDT

Saheeli Rai (with Felidar Guardian) threatens to become the dominating strategy in Standard. Learn about some different ways to play Saheeli Rai.

Direct download: saheeli-rai.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 12:40am EDT

Aether Revolt is more than just broken combos and mana engines! Learn about the "fair" side, headlined by Gifted Aetherborn, here.

Direct download: gifted-aetherborn.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 12:59am EDT

Half on the surprising new bans to Modern and Standard; half on the crazy combos and engines from Aether Revolt (especially Felidar Guardian &co.)

Direct download: felidar-guardian.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 1:25am EDT

Winding Constrictor is just one of several cards that Pro Tour Champion Patrick Chapin and Resident Genius Michael J Flores discuss in this week's podcast:

Direct download: winding-constrictor.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 1:26am EDT

Rishkar, Peema Renegade is our exclusive preview from Aether Revolt! Check out what Patrick and Michael have to say about this powerful new Legendary Elf.

Direct download: rishkar-peema-renegade.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 11:49pm EDT

Oath of Ajani is a strategy-specific mana accelerator that might just change everything. It's great early in some decks, great late in others; just great.

Direct download: oath-of-ajani.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 11:59pm EDT

A discussion of the advantages of Dark Intimations from Aether Revolt, with points of comparison like Tidings and Cruel Ultimatum.

Direct download: dark-intimations.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 1:08am EDT

We know from Smuggler's Copter how good a two mana vehicle can be.

Aether Revolt is pushing that limit even more with Heart of Kiran. Make no mistake... This card might be bananas. Imagine playing Heart of Kiran on turn two, then following up with Liliana or Nissa on turn three. You can slam with the Heart of Kiran and still gain ground on the battlefield by destroying a threat or making a Plant.

There are two important things to take away from this card:

  1. You basically get to access Planeswalker loyalty twice per turn. The first use is the regular one; the second is a swing with Heart of Kiran.
  2. Because Heart of Kiran has vigilence, it can block. Got a spare loyalty? You can spring a 4/4 blocker on demand. The best thing? At least early in the Heart's career, you may be able to steal a body or two.

Some of the cards in Aether Revolt -- most notably Ajani Unyeilding -- imply a Planeswalker collective deck. Heart of Kiran might be great in that kind of deck, a two drop that comes down faster than any Planeswalker in Standard, and capable of thriving in a context rich with loyalty.

As explosive as the loyalty-leeching alternate crew cost may be, the regular crew cost on this card is challenging. Crew 3 is much harder to hit than Crew 1; Nissa was already struggling in a Smugger's Copter-first format, but at least Gideon could make 2/2 creatures. Now even [one of] Gideon's tokens need assistance. Not a fatal flaw to this card at all... But something, certainly, to be wary of as you select your creatures.

Direct download: heart-of-kiran.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 2:29am EDT

Yahenni's Expertise is like a Languish married a Bloodbraid Elf

It's that time again! Top Level Podcast's favorite time... Spoiler season.

Early Aether Revolt spoilers bring us three new cards to talk about: Yahenni's Expertise, Trophy Mage, and Scrap Trawler.

Yahenni's Expertise

  • -3/-3 hits a surprisingly sweet spot in the current Standard. Not only is -3/-3 for all creatures not all that bad for 2BB, tons of the best creatures in Standard have three toughness, like Reflector Mage and Spell Queller.
  • While Yahenni's Expertise doesn't give the full -4/-4 that Languish does, the additional ability to cast a card for no additional mana might make this card a powerhouse. For example, you can sweep the board and cast a card drawing spell in one move. In Modern, you might play Yahenni's Expertise and pop an Ancestral Vision!
  • The secondary ability on Yahenni's Expertise can act as a kind of color fixing. Don't be surprised if players cheat a little with this card, splashing additional colors they wouldn't easily be able to cast.


Trophy Mage

  • Trinket Mage and Treasure Mage* have a new cousin!
  • The number of cards you can find with this is huge, varied, and highly flexible. For instance you can lock some opponents out with Ensnaring Bridge... And lock others out with Crucible of Worlds. Psst... Oblivion Stone costs three mana.

Scrap Trawler

  • Four words "Even. More. Card. Advantage."

Our first stab at Aether Revolt!

* Incidentally, Patrick made Top 8 of PT Paris a few years ago packing Treasure Mage for Mindslaver and Wurmcoil Engine only!

Direct download: yahennisexpertise.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 12:48am EDT

There were 32 copies of Smuggler's Copter -- the maximum number -- in the first SCG Open Top 8 with Kaladesh. Play any Smuggler's Copter deck you want.

Direct download: smugglers-copter.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 12:29am EDT

Kaladesh is going to make Magic fast again... And Toolcraft Exemplar will be one of the best, and fastest (and not just in Standard).

Direct download: toolcraft-exemplar.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 12:10am EDT

Voltaic Brawler will be the centerpiece of a new Energy Aggro deck.

Direct download: pure-energy.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 12:24am EDT

Combustible Gearhulk completes the Kaladesh Gearhulk Cycle

 

 

Direct download: combustible-gearhulk.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 2:38am EDT

New set Kaladesh brings with it three (five?) great new Planeswalkers. Pro Tour Hall of Famer Patrick Chapin and Michael J Flores walk through new Nissa, new Chandra; other new Nissa, other new Chandra + Saheeli Rai in this podcast.

Direct download: Planeswalkers-of-Kaladesh.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 12:18am EDT

Birds of Paradise. G. Creature - Bird. Flying. T: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool. 0/1. Birds of Paradise is back in Conspiracy: Take the Crown!

Direct download: birds-of-paradise.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 1:51am EDT

Should Vampires play mono-red?

Should Vampires play mono-black?

Eldritch Moon puts the kibosh on both ideas by giving us Bloodhall Priest. Bloodhall Priest is on-theme, on-mechanic, and on-tribe for both black and red, encouraging a light splash in either. It is part Obstinate Baloth, part Murderous Redcap, and part Inferno Titan... But all awesome for either black or red vampires.

Direct download: bloodhall-priest.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 12:27am EDT

Patrick and Michael talk Bedlam Reveler, tons of additional red cards, red vampires, black vampires, and revisit the colorless emerge wing of Eldritch Moon in “Floor, Ceiling, Bedlam Reveler”. Give it a listen!

 

Direct download: bedlam-reveler.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 10:05pm EDT

Liliana, the Last Hope Joins the Gatewatch

Pro Tour Champion Patrick Chapin and Resident Genius Michael J Flores discuss Liliana, the Last Hope; Oath of Liliana; and a number of other flashy cards from Eldritch Moon in "Liliana, the Last Hope Joins the Gatewatch".

Direct download: liliana-the-last-hope.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 12:07am EDT

Direct download: fortunes-favor.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 1:53am EDT

Gisela, the Broken Blade. 2WW. Legendary Creature - Angel Horror. 4/3. Flying, first strike, lifelink. At the beginning of your end step, if you both own...

Direct download: gisela-the-broken-blade.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 11:32pm EDT

Emrakul, the Promised End highlights the beginning of Eldritch Moon spoiler season

Direct download: emrakul-the-promised-end.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 12:02am EDT

Declaration in Stone. Sorcery. Exile target creature and all other creatures its controller controls with the same name as that creature. That player...

Direct download: declaration-in-stone.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 10:39pm EDT

Arlinn Kord is a spectacular new Planeswalker from Shadows over Innistrad. Find out how to play Arlinn Kord and Sorin, Grim Nemesis here!

Direct download: arlinn-kord.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 10:11pm EDT

"Nahiri, the Harbinger is not obviously super powerful." -Mike "I think Nahiri, the Harbinger is obviously super powerful." -Patrick Well... Which is it?

Direct download: nahiri-the-harbinger.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 12:58am EDT

Epiphany at the Drownyard Exclusive Preview! Find out how players will draw (lots of) cards come Shadows Over Innistrad with this flexible new blue instant.

Direct download: epiphany-at-the-drownyard.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 9:06pm EDT

Patrick and Michael discuss Archangel Avacyn, Thing in the Ice, and other exciting new spoiled cards from Shadows Over Innistrad.

Direct download: archangel-avacyn.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 9:58pm EDT

Patrick and Mike go over some quick hits from Oath of the Gatewatch! How do you cost Oath of Chandra? More Volcanic Hammer or more Searing Blood?

Direct download: oath-of-chandra2.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 12:55am EDT

Is Remorseless Punishment the Next Cruel Ultimatum? And is 64 the New 60? A discussion of Oath of the Gatewatch and Ben Rubin's controversial Abzan deck!

Direct download: remorseless-punishment.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 8:43pm EDT

Oath of Nissa from Oath of the Gatewatch is sure to be one of the highest impact cards in Standard and larger formats. Learn more about this new enchantment

Direct download: oath-of-nissa.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 10:01pm EDT

Warping Wail is Top Level Podcast's exclusive preview via Oath of the Gatewatch. Find out why Warping Wail will be a "whale" of an instant "warping" formats

Direct download: warping-wail.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 3:16pm EDT

Jori En, Ruin Diver has got to be one of the top cards in Oath of the Gatewatch! But Spacial Contortion is the one that'll re-write the rules of deck design

Direct download: jori-en-ruin-diver.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 7:31pm EDT

World Breaker & Endbringer are two large Eldrazi creatures rumored for Oath of the Gatewatch; why is the seven drop better positioned than the cheaper one?

Direct download: world-breaker.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 10:19pm EDT

Chandra, Flamecaller is a rumored new Planeswalker from Oath of the Gatewatch. What do Patrick and Michael think of this splashy new six drop?

Direct download: chandra-flamecaller.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 10:23pm EDT

Kozilek, the Great Distortion is an exciting new card rumored to be in Oath of the Gatewatch. Patrick flies to New York for Kozilek speculation and more!

Direct download: kozilek-the-great-distortion.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 4:43pm EDT

We discuss Makindi Sliderunner, Snapping Gnarlid, and Pilgrim's Eye; three exclusive Battle for Zendikar preview cards!

Direct download: makindi-sliderunner.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 12:45am EDT

Gideon, Ally of Zendikar leads the discussion of new  Battle for Zendikar cards. What'll rotate? What'll matter? What'll Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger eat?

Direct download: gideon-ally-of-zendikar.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 10:30pm EDT

Oblivion Sower is a Window to the Future! What does Oblivion Sower do? What does it imply about Battle for Zendikar or the return of Eldrazi?

Direct download: oblivion-sower.mp3
Category:New Cards -- posted at: 10:59am EDT

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