Fri, 9 June 2017
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
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
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
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.
Fri, 2 June 2017
New Set on the Block Amonkhet had a pretty good weekend in Modern, across three continents, last week. Amonkhet cards contributed to all of the main macro archetypes: Control, Combo, and Beatdown!
Amonkhet Control: Glory-Bound Initiate in Esper
At Grand Prix Kobe, Akio Chiba slotted Glory-Bound Initiate into his creature-poor Esper Control deck, Stonefore Mystic style.
Can't disagree with you there!
Chiba played a four Painful Truths deck, where the life gain from Glory-Bound Initiate could be really effective in fueling his main card advantage engine. Glory-Bound Initiate is just that good in Modern!
Subtly, exerting Glory-Bound Initiate may not have that much of a downside, as opponents may actively try to trade with it.
Amonkhet Combo: Vizier of Remedies in Collected Company decks
Vizier of Remedies + Devoted Druid is an infinite mana engine.
Devoted Druid says "Put a -1/-1 counter on me and I'll untap."
Vizier of Remedies says "Go ahead and untap. But Don't worry about the -1/-1 counter, no problem."
Once you've got infinite green mana access, the world (or at least your deck) is your oyster. Here are some of the things players did last weekend:
Amonkhet Aggro: Harsh Mentor in Burn
Meanwhile back in Baltimore, MD -- USA -- Pro Tour Top 8 competitor Stephen Neal added a Harsh Mentor as his "fifth copy" of Eidolon of the Great Revels.
Neal's version was super atypical for Burn (at least since the release of Inspiring Vantage), going up to some fifteen creatures... But still finding room for some unique spell choices.
Shard Volley, anyone?
What is important for Amonkhet fans is that Harsh Mentor might be Burn's best friend in certain matchups. Of course it makes life harder on the fetchland player, but think about Affinity: Harsh Mentor makes doing stuff like activating an Arcbound Ravager downright dangerous.
TLDR: Amonkhet hit Modern hard last weekend; and it hit from Control, Combo, and Beatdown. Obviously more on this story as the format continues to develop.
Listen to "Amonkhet in Modern" now for even more decks and details!
Fri, 26 May 2017
With the rise of U/R Control in Standard, Pull from Tomorrow reaches center stage...
or does it?
U/R Control (generally with Pull from Tomorrow) really took off last weekend!
U/R Control made Top 8 of both Grand Prix Montreal and Grand Prix Santiago. This was a big pickup, post-Pro Tour, for an archetype that did not crack Top 8 at PT Amonkhet.
In Montreal, Maxime Aubin played only a single Pull from Tomorrow.
But in Santiago, Niels Noorlander made numerous departures in his Top 8 deck...
Hieroglyphic Illumination versus Pull from Tomorrow
Pull from Tomorrow is the more powerful card, sure; comparable (and maybe even better than) Sphinx's Revelation. The problem? It's basically always expensive. So expensive, that in a pressure filled format this ace has been reduced to as few as one copy main deck.
Can you realistically slot in Hieroglyphic Illumination?
Hieroglyphic Illumination is almost always going to be worse that Glimmer of Genius... Provided you plan on casting it. (Scry being as valuable as it is)
On the other hand, Hieroglyphic Illumination has another mode!
U/R Control in Context
Tons of removal, one-for ones, and card advantage make for a great lineup against Zombies.
Permission, consistent ability to hit land drops, and card drawing make U/R a contender against Aetherworks Marvel.
Put it all together? You might have a real option against the most popular decks from Pro Tour Amonkhet.
Check out "How Many Copies of Pull from Tomorrow?" for more discussion on these cards, plus G/R Energy, Bant Marvel, and more!
Fri, 19 May 2017
Liliana's Mastery was center stage for the Top 8 of Pro Tour Amonkhet
How many copies of Liliana's Mastery are you supposed to play?
This is an interesting question to be sure!
Pro Tour Amonkhet winner Gerry Thompson (shout out to @g3rryt) played three copies in his mono-black Zombies deck.
You can certainly defend the Mastery as a three-of ("If Gerry did it, it was right." -Patrick), but there are some pros and cons to this decision. The Zombies archetype would certainly play fewer than twenty-four lands if it didn't have a five drop at the top of the curve... Does it make sense, ultimately, to cut a copy?
How about two?
First-time Top 8 competitor (and onetime Top 8 Magic Mockvitational winner) Christian Calcano (shout out to @CCalcano) cut another! Christian's deck was very similar to Gerry's, just trading one Liliana's Mastery for an additional fast removal spell.
On the other hand, the black-white version played all four copies (at the cost of a couple of two drops).
So what is the right number?
If you think Zombies is the ascendent archetype (it did just win the PT) you may want to play all four copies. To be fair, even two-of Calcano ran the other two Liliana's Masteries in his sideboard.
Liliana's Mastery is an Asymmetrical Crusade
It's not just a Crusade, it's a Grizzly Fate. It's a giant, spread across multiple bodies.
For five mana, you get two 2/2 Zombies... But they are automatically 3/3 by default due to the enchantment itself. It's cool, especially in a mirror, to make all your Zombies bigger, but that's not all.
At the point that you are hitting five drops, you really just want to draw more and more of this thing. You get card advantage two-for-one and all your Zombies get bigger and bigger, snowballing the advantage.
Liliana's Mastery Killed Verdurous Gearhulk
Poor Verdurus Gearhulk.
Not long ago it was the huge five-drop of choice, kicking Ishkanah out of B/G top ends. It could be a big body itself, or it could spread value across multiple bodies. Especially with Winding Constrictor, Verdurous Gearhulk could create an immediate and compelling swing.
Liliana's Mastery just does the same thing, better.
Same cost, similar impact.
Except when it isn't.
The Gearhulk is 8/8 on the low end whereas the Mastery is "only" 6/6... But the Mastery is across two different bodies. It can also potentially spread even more damage, depending on how many Zombies you already have.
And if you are B/W?
It is great with both Binding Mummy and Wayward Servant, creating multiple triggers even as it buffs the two-drop.
Check out mad strategies for both Zombies and Marvel in "Mastering Liliana's Mastery"
Fri, 12 May 2017
Kefnet the Mindful rewards familiarity with common play patterns
Amonkhet Gods versus Theros Gods
WotC R&D did a great job of echoing the aesthetics of the Theros gods with cards like Kefnet the Mindful. For example, Kefnet shares a casting cost with Thassa, God of the Sea. Both creatures are indestructible. Both require special conditions before they can attack or block.
Unlike their Theros cousins, Amonkhet Gods start off as creatures. Even if Kefnet the Mindful can't attack or block, it can, say, crew a Heart of Kiran. While that is pretty good (Thassa is just an enchantment before you have sufficient devotion to blue), it also exposes Kefnet to interaction.
"Indestructible" isn't as Indestructible as it Used to be
Amonkhet provides all kinds of ways to interact with an indestructible creature like Kefnet the Mindful. Even the new cycling islands like Irrigated Farmland and Fetid Pools have reawakened the incentive to play Engulf the Shores. So while vanilla damage might not be able to kill Kefnet, your opponents may well have tools. For example:
Cast Out - Cast Out can handle any type of permanent. Being indestructible doesn't protect Kefnet from being exiled.
Commit // Memory - Bounce-type spells are great against Kefnet. Not that they are so much better against Kefnet than other creatures, but a card like Commit // Memory ignores one of the main features of the card that you are paying for.
Oath of Liliana - Perhaps most depressing, the opponent can just lay an Oath of Liliana, killing a Kefnet that is theoretically indestructible, even if it isn't primed to attack or block yet.
Kefnet the Mindful's Mental Shortcuts
The rules of engagement have changed dramatically with the introduction of Amonkhet to Standard. For example having one mana open means something very different than it did a few months back. You can cycle a Censor... or pay for a Censor. Or (especially in sideboard games) you can cast a Dispel.
Kefnet the Mindful by itself implies a surprising number of tactical play patterns. Check out these...
If you have only four cards in hand at the end of the opponent's turn, you can attack even if you are tapped out.
If the opponent has exactly seven cards in hand, cast your test spell before he attacks
You don't have to choose whether you want to pick up a land until after the card draw resolves
Sound interesting? This episode also features more Mardu Vehicles, Zombies, and all manner of control decks. Give "Getting Familiar with Kefnet the Mindful" a listen now!
Fri, 5 May 2017
Glory-Bound Initiate is a fast and flexible human warrior. Its exert opens the door to building with Always Watching. Its humanity: Thalia's Lieutenant. Go!
Fri, 28 April 2017
It might not look it at first glance, but Anointed Procession is going to enable infinite everything.
Sensei's Diving Top - Banned in Legacy!
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).
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.
Fri, 21 April 2017
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:
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 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!
Wed, 12 April 2017
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"
Fri, 7 April 2017
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!