Thu, 7 December 2017
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
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:
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.
Fri, 24 November 2017
Tetzimoc, Primal Death is a Legendary Creature - Elder Dinosaur
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...
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!
Thu, 16 November 2017
Did you see this earlier this week?
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.
It's time for our...
Exclusive Preview: Very Cryptic Command!
It's Kind of Like a Cryptic Command
The "Very" variety is reminiscent of the classic in many ways.
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:
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"
Thu, 28 September 2017
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.
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 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!
Fri, 22 September 2017
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
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).
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
Is the payoff on Spitfire Bastion worth the work?
While Mike wouldn't play such a conjectural card (probably), it is useful to think of the final flip as potentially three different cards:
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
Fri, 15 September 2017
This week MichaelJ is flipping out over flip cards! First among them? The Search for Azcanta!
Check Out Search for Azcanta:
We'll come out and say it to begin with: Search for Azcanta is probably undercosted. There have been effects like this in the past, but they didn't cost two mana.
The front side of this card offers powerful library manipulation. Sure. It sets up the top of your deck. But that's not all! Search for Azcanta not only pushes aside clunky or expensive spells, it sets up graveyard synergies!
This card is great with flashback, eternalize, or Renegade Rallier.
Subtly, the "flip" ability is a may, not a must. While you will usually want to be flipping it, there are times that Search for Azcanta will be better for you than Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin. Don't worry: You get to pick.
Search for Azcanta Becomes Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin
Two things on this one:
First of all, it's a kind of weird Rampant Growth. If you have Search for Azcanta on the battlefield and say four lands... When it flips, you will have five or six mana (depending on land drop). That, in and of itself, is a pretty big get for blue.
Of course, Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin is actually just awesome once you get it online. Getting a de facto Impulse every turn will put you way ahead in grinding matchups, and will threaten to bury the opponent in card advantage.
Further, this card is just begging for you to cheat! No, not "cheat" in the sense of getting banned from DCI sanctioned tournaments... Cheating the flip condition. While the front-side enchantment will get you to the point where it will flip eventually, there is no reason to wait around. Cards like Strategic Planning are screaming to help you flip to the legendary land.
Both sides of this card seem like they will be awesome in Approach of the Second Sun decks. Either side will help dig you to your second Approach.
But Wait! There's More!
While Search for Azcanta has our boys the most excited, there are tons of other flip cards worth talking about. We love Legions Landing, generally dislike Arguel's Blood Fast. But where and when will even that be played?
Gotta check out the podcast, to find out!
Thu, 7 September 2017
Thu, 7 September 2017
Regisaur Alpha is one of the premier Ixalan dinosaurs
What is up with this card anyway? Regisaur Alpha offers seven power over two bodies -- three of which have haste -- all for five mana!
How fast can we sign up?
Regisaur Alpha looks great! One of the few poor things about the dinosaur is that it makes Huatli, Warrior Poet look so bad.
Huatli, Warrior Poet spits out Dinosaurs
Regisaur Alpha and Huatli cost the same [total] amount of mana. Assume you're spitting out a 3/3 the first turn you control Huatli. Now, which would you rather have?
Regisaur Alpha's 3/3 token is better than Huatli's 3/3 token, too... Just on basis of haste.
That said, Huatli, Warrior Poet is probably meant to be one of the centerpiece cards of the set. Not only is he a Planeswalker (and therefore theoretically automatically cool), they made not only another Planeswalker version of him, but a badass dinosaur tutor that can go find it.
Huatli might be meant for play in a dedicated Planeswalker deck. Think:
All three Planeswalkers protect themselves well. All three will contribute to expanding control of the battlefield itself. Gideon can both attack and defend. Chandra kills creatues outright. Huatli can make blocker after blocker or gain life turn after turn.
Gishath, Sun's Avatar is one busty dinosaur
Instead of looking at Gishath as a clunky eight mana creature, why not look at it as an eight mana Fireball?
That's right! How much would you pay for a Fireball where x=7? You'd pay eight mana, right? Well Gishath costs eight, and does seven damage with haste... He's kind of an eight mana Fireball, therefore.
Everything else is gravy. The vigilence is going to be awesome... But it's awesome gravy. Next turn's attack? Gravy. This is not to say you should actually pay to get Gishath onto the battlefield... Just if you had to, it wouldn't be that bad of a deal.
There are even more dinosaurs discussed in this week's episode, which takes Ixalan from one green mana to the aforementioned eight drop... and more!
Fri, 1 September 2017
Kick back, pop in your earbuds, and give a listen to our first look at Ixalan:
Ixalan Changes Planeswalker Rules
Jace, Cunning Castaway: Ixalan Planeswalker
Michael notes that Jace seems to have gotten ripped in the Gatewatch.
Patrick notes that Jace, Cunning Castaway boasts one of the fastest Planeswalker Ultimates ever. You might as well Ultimate when Jace's loyalty hits 5 BTW; while the token copies are not Legendary, Jace, Cunning Castaway itself is.
The new Planeswalker Uniqueness v. Legendary rule will change how Planeswalkers get played. Having more Jaces in play is cool and all (and this one actually does that for you) but the big winner has to be Gideon of the Trials.
People just didn't play Gideon of the Trials because they were already playing Gideon, Ally of Zendikar; now there is no disincentive. More importantly, having more than one kind of Gideon in play will give players greater protection for their Platinum Angel-like Ultimate.
Ixalan and the Treasure Theme
Captain Lannery Storm
Layered and flexible, the Captain is probably Mike's favorite card in Ixalan.
Use her treasure now! She is basically a 3/2 haste creature.
Use her treasure later! You can stockpile for a large attack, or save the mana to bust out Glorybringer on the quick!
Use her treasure for mana! What about not pumping the Captain, but just sacrificing her treasure to cast a Shock, Magma Spray... Or even a Fatal Push?
It's all the things Mike never should have loved...
Pro Tour Champion Patrick Chapin and Resident Genius Michael J. Flores talk all the Ixalan that's fit to discuss; spoiled cards, flavor and aesthetics; and of course brewing! Check out Top Level Podcast's first take on Ixalan right here, right now!
Fri, 28 July 2017
God-Pharaoh's Gift is The Postmodern Debtors' Knell...
Compare God-Pharaoh's Gift to Debtors' Knell. Remember: Debtors' Knell was a breaker in both Ravnica Block Constructed and in the Standard of its era!
Both cards cost seven mana. However, the new version is a colorless artifact; consequently, it is an easier seven than Debtors' Knell to get into play.
Above and beyond Debtors' Knell, though, God-Pharaoh's Gift grants haste! Take that, opponent!
Another Home for Champion of Wits
Champion of Wits has been making and breaking all kinds of decks in its short -- yet already storied -- career. Champion of Wits is a key enabler of this artifact.
God-Pharaoh's Gift wants you to put creatures into your graveyard. After all, it is from the graveyard that the dead will rise (and hastily attack). Champion of Wits specializes in putting cards -- creatures or otherwise -- into the graveyard. It helps dig to your God-Pharaoh's Gift (or proxy for). A creature itself, when you return a Champion of Wits, it comes back as a 4/4 creature so you draw even more cards!
The synergies do not end with just fueling creatures.
You can discard God-Pharaoh's Gift itself to the graveyard. Why would you want to do that?
Champion of Wits costs three mana. The very next turn you can Refurbish the God-Pharaoh's Gift directly onto the battlefield! The card is the easiest possible seven mana. But how sweet is it when you play it for just four?
Another three mana facilitator to God-Pharaoh's Gift is Gate to the Afterlife.
I'd say drawing and discarding cards helps you dig to your key spell... But that's not even necessary here. Once you have six creatures in the graveyard (whether from looting, or discarding to Champion of Wits, chump blocking) you can just switch one artifact for the other.
For more on this great strategy, more Champion of Wits, and lots and lots more Mono-Red in Standard, check out this week's podcast now!