Fri, 20 April 2018
Tempest Djinn is one of blue's signature cards from Dominaria
Tempest Djinn is Much Stronger Than Serendib Efreet (in the right deck)
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)
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!
Fri, 13 April 2018
Warkite Marauder is a heck of a Magic Card
Playing Fair with Warkite Marauder
Let's start with the basics: Warkite Marauder is a pretty cool Magic: The Gathering Card. We've seen people play cards on the order of Welkin Tern -- a blue 2/1 flyer for two mana with a disadvantage -- in Standard Pro Tours.
Warkite Marauder is loads better than the best Vaporkin! It simply doesn't have the disadvantage. Meaning, Warkite Marauder can block whomever it wants.
But that's not all! As a 2/1 creature with flying, Warkite Marauder is not particularly resilient. It's cheap -- evasive maybe -- but also small. Basically anything will kill a Warkite Marauder in combat.
So, the ability to remove flying from a potential blocker is very useful. Get in there for two!
Who Plays Fair? God-Pharaoh's Gift
Here's the thing: A fair Warkite Marauder is pretty good. Better, in fact, than cards good players have played in recent years.
But no one is saying you should "play fair" with it. No sir!
The new style of U/R God-Pharaoh's Gift is basically a Red Aggro deck... But with a graveyard-combo twist. God-Pharaoh's Gift can correct the solo toughness of this Human Pirate, and haste enhances its combat trigger.
The U/R deck can act like Red Aggro (starting with Bomat Courier on turn one, but just happens to have a more explosive relentless end game.
The Real Value of Warkite Marauder
Good by itself.
Good with God-Pharaoh's Gift.
But the real value of this Human Pirate?
Teaming up with Walking Ballista and Fanatical Firebrand, Warkite Marauder can "build a Terminate" ... But it's better than that! This is a "Terminate" that can take care of The Scarab God!
Not only will Warkite Marauder pull The Scarab God's toughness down to one (where it will be easy prey for one direct damage)... But because The Scarab God will lose all abilities, it won't come back.
Warkite Marauder is just one of dozens of cards discussed in this episode! Most of the time is actually devoted to Dominaria. Check it out!
Thu, 5 April 2018
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:
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Thu, 29 March 2018
I think you'd be surprised by how much is going on with Danitha Capashen, Paragon.
Danitha Capashen, 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 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!
Fri, 23 March 2018
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?
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...
There are more, of course.
To find out more, and which, download the podcast!
Thu, 15 March 2018
In Dominaria, Wizards Matter
Here are the first ten Modern Staples -- of the top of our heads -- that happen to be Wizards:
There are more! Tons more! Those are just the first few we thought of.
Why does this matter? The Dominaria set has a number of cards whose performance improves if you have a wizard on the battlefield. Examples: Wizard's Retort and Wizard's Lightning
Put another way, Wizard's Retort is a Cancel… But a Counterspell if you have a wizard on the battlefield.
Longtime listeners probably remember that Mike had some success with another card that was Counterspell if he had a particular creature type: Silumgar’s Scorn. With creatures as good as Grim Lavamancer and Snapcaster Mage being wizards, there may just be ample opportunity to cash in on Wizard's Lightning
There is already precedent to playing three damage burn spells that sometimes cost one and sometimes cost three in both Modern and Legacy. Rift Bolt much?
Being three converted mana cost is actually an advantage sometimes; Chalice of the Void anyone? Grim Lavamancer is already a wizard you might play in either format’s Burn deck!
Mike, at the least, would much rather run one or two copies of this card than, say, Shard Volley.
Dominaria brings us a new Baneslayer Angel
Is this card better than the [multiple] Pro Tour-winning Baneslayer Angel?
Patrick points out that giving other Angels +1/+1 -- and lifelink -- is way better, generally speaking, than protection from demons and dragons. Having a Lyra Dawnbringer in play with a Baneslayer Angel is much better than having two Baneslayer Angels, at least.
In Dominaria, It’s Actually Pretty Easy to be Green
What was Mike talking about? Oldies -- and goodies -- Gaea's Blessing and Llanowar Elves are two of the reprints that the Resident Genius has his eyes on. To wit:
Gaea’s Blessing - According to onetime Lead Developer Brian Schneider, "There’s no reason you should need any other way to win."
… And that’s just the first third of this podcast!
Sagas, Legendary Sorceries, and rules changes await! Check it out now:
Fri, 9 March 2018
Does Manamorphose go in every deck? Apparently it at least goes in Burn now!
Manamorphose in Every Deck?
We've kind of nudged and nudged and winked and winked about it.
One Hall of Famer plays three Manamorphose in a deck that doesn't usually play it; another Pro Tour Champion runs a singleton. Together they get it right.
Manamorphose has been Staple essentially since its printing. There is almost no better card in Storm combo. Not only does it dig in that deck like a blue card, with Goblin Electromancer on the battlefield, Manamorphose even nets mana!
But in Burn?
The Implications of Manamorphose in the Red Deck
Josh Utter-Leyton brought Manamorphose to Modern Burn for perhaps the first time!
The Innovations are not all intuitive (so we'll rattle through them). First of all, with Manamophose but not fringe garbage like Shard Volley, Josh will just draw his Lightning Bolts and Lightning Helixes more often than other Red Decks. That's a given. He is also better set up to grind with those Bedlam Revelers (in-part powered by the Manamorphoses). But colors matter more now!
Tips and Tricks that have nothing to do with Manamorphose
Is Burn Even Good? Manamorphose or No?
Uh, Bogles just won [again].
This time with 4x Leyline of Sanctity MAIN DECK.
I guess listen to the podcast first!
Thu, 1 March 2018
Merfolk Branchwalker is great on two
Think you know what's going on in Standard? Mono-Red Beatdown, some vanilla Sultai with The Scarab God, maybe some B/U Control?
Have we got a GP for you...
Merfolk Branchwalker, Ajani Unyeilding, and Carnage Tyrant?
PT Champion Ari Lax just missed the Top 8 with his Naya Monsters deck. A surprising take on a relatively intuitive build, Ari opted to play Ajani Unyeilding, Cast Out, and Thopter Arrest as white splashes.
Merfolk Branchwalker teams up with multiple 2/x buddies to build towards ambitious mana.
Lax's take played tons of cards that cost four mana or more between deck and sideboard, topping up with some powerful, game-winning, six drops.
I mean come on. Carnage Tyrant! Rawr.
The Khenra Technology: Merfolk Branchwalker in G/R Monsters
Tyler Schroeder won Grand Prix Memphis with a brand new take on Gruul creatures.
We've seen similar shells before. After all Merfolk Branchwalker and Jadelight Ranger make a lot of sense together. Twos and threes, these creatures attack, block, fix the top of your library, and generate card advantage.
By the same token, Rekindling Phoenix and Glorybringer represent a similar thematic duo. Great red flyers with built-in card advantage capabilities, these 4/x creatures represent the kind of high end payoff that you really want to get to with your green explorers.
So where is the innovation?
Adding Earthshaker Khenra and Resilient Khenra as a third pair creates a whole new dimension to the deck. Because "explore" creatures like Jadelight Ranger and Merfolk Branchwalker can put cards into the graveyard, they can imply future card advantage because you can play the respective Khenra cards out of the graveyard.
This is new technology!
Often when Merfolk Branchwalker flips a land, we call that card advantage; now if it flips a Khenra -- and puts it into the graveyard -- it is stockpiling future card advantage!
Will this become an industry standard way to play Standard?
Find out more in this week's podcast!
Thu, 1 March 2018
Courser of Kruphix. Swoon.
Courser of Kruphix was a centerpiece of Patrick's Pro Tour Journey Into Nyx-winning Abzan* deck. This three drop is already a fringe player in Modern. Our prediction is that it becomes even more popular.
Courser of Kruphix is of efficient size for its casting cost.
2/4 for three mana is deceptively great in-context. Courser of Krupix is too big to kill with a lone Lightning Bolt. In this podcast, Mike shares a story of being forced to run his fellow enchantment creature Eidolon of the Great Revel into an opposing Courser of Kruphix and blowing a Bolt to finish it off. But resistance to opposing removal isn't the only story told by this defining creature...
Courser of Kruphix is great with Bloodbraid Elf
First of all, Courser of Kruphix is the exact right casting cost to max out Bloodbraid Elf's Cascade ability. When you flip a Noble Hierarch, you get two cards -- essentially a Lotus Petal plus the Hierarch itself -- but when you flip a Courser of Kruphix, that Lotus Petal is upgraded to a Black Lotus. So great!
But that's not all... Courser of Krupix is good before Bloodbraid Elf, not just being flipped by Bloodbraid Elf. The ability to see the top card of your library can be useful when you play interactive cards. For example, Bloodbraid Elf decks often play cards like Path to Exile or Terminate. If the opponent doesn't have a creature on the battlefield, flipping one of those with cascade will result in a wasted trigger. Courser of Kruphix can help you aim your cascades a little bit better.
Courser of Kruphix is and "Better than All"
As a three drop with solid toughness, Courser of Kruphix is an efficient pre-Jace, the Mind Sculptor play. It can defend Jace well on the turn you tap out for it. But that's not all! Courser of Kruphix's ability to see the top card of your library (and play lands from it) is delicious when combined with Jace's Fateseal and Brainstorm abilities. You can fix your hand by putting a land on top with Jace, and then play it with Courser. Or you can dig deeper (with either) to get a fresh look (for either).
This card from Masters 25 will surely go up in popularity.
Also Revealed: Coalition Relic
With the ability to tap for any color of mana, Coalition Relic once held a special place as a five-color control enabler. It was also a solid accelerator, taking you from three to six in a single turn!
Patrick and Michael are cooler on this preview than Courser of Kruphix, though.
There are just too many cards people play in Modern that beat up on Coalition Relic (often with value): Kolaghan's Command, Abrupt Decay, and certainly Ancient Grudge! The Lantern deck's performance in Modern recently has jut put too much of a target on artifacts, at least artifacts of this casting cost.
Still, was sweet in its time, and may yet be sweet again if and when the format shifts.
Check out our Exclusive Masters 25 Previews Podcast here!
* Abzan before it was "Abzan" if you grok.
Fri, 23 February 2018
The Hazoret the Fervent Invocation
Hazoret the Fervent in Modern?
Tell ya what, Top Level Podcast fans: We're skipping Modern for the week. Patrick intends to "activate the  ability" ... Starting next week.
Were there multiple Modern events last weekend? Yes.
But the world is about to change, officially, and soon.
That Gruul Eldrazi deck? How do you think that is going to run once Bloodbraid Elf starts pumping out Eldrazi Obligator? Exactly.
So for now: Innovations in Standard!
Half Hazoret the Fervent Decks
The SCG win by Todd Stevens with Dimir Control may throw you off. And Ali Aintrazi's Four-color Mastermind's Acquisition in third place is certainly exciting. But make no mistake: Hazoret the Fervent is a fixture of something like half of the top performing players, whether Mardu Vehicles or Red Decks (including, I guess, Boros Path of Mettle decks).
Fear not! The control decks are aware, playing cards like Moment of Craving, Vraska's Contempt, or even Gift of Paradise to defend their life totals.
The Price of Hazoret the Fervent
Hazoret is a powerful threat. And not just in the mirror! (But particularly in the mirror.)
Generally, we think four Hazorets is mandatory. There are other powerful four drops in red, but Hazoret is often completely unstoppable. Further, redundant copies can always be tossed for two damage.
Hazoret doesn't come cheap, though: This God demands sacrifice! In deck building an otherwise ("take two"). Not only is it an expensive card (in more ways than one) but Hazoret generally implies playing with cheap set up cards. Bomat Courier is almost always on board. There are a smattering of other one drops, removal cards, and so on in every successful Hazoret deck... You need to drop your hand in order to get this card online.
Mardu has its own concerns. In a sense Mardu is "an homage" to Toolcraft Exemplar + Unlicensed Disintegration. Don't shave either down to three copies (ew). In fact some builds push redundancy with Inventor's Apprentice.
None of this makes the Mana any easier BTW.
More in the cast!