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, 25 August 2017
The Scarab God ends games quickly
Pro Tour Champion Patrick Chapin and Resident Genius Michael J. Flores begin their discussion of The Scarab God in an odd context... Splashed in a version of Michael Jacob's Temur Emerge!
Even here, The Scarab God is just a remarkable threat. After all, it is a 5/5 creature for five mana to start. Killing The Scarab God is a challenge, to say the least. The other two lines of text are as good as they are anywhere.
The Scarab God against Gate to the Afterlife
One of the big incentives to The Scarab God right now is its ability to interact with God-Pharaoh's Gift type decks.
Whether on its own or in concert with Kalitas, The Scarab God puts tremendous pressure on the opponent's graveyard. Consequently, the opponent might never have six creatures in his graveyard, say.
What should you steal? And when?
Angel of Invention is one of the best cards you can reanimate.
Patrick likens this combination to Donate / Illusions of Grandeur! The increased size of Angel of Invention (4/4 to start, when a zombie instead of just an angel) combined with the creature's natural lifelink protects your own life total while smashing for a ton in the air.
Depending on your archetype, The Scarab God might want to reanimate Trophy Mage. Trophy Mage in the current Standard only has the purpose of finding Gate to the Afterlife (which, in turn, only has the job of setting up God-Pharaoh's Gift)... This not only gives you potential redundancy but can keep your deck strong through the mid-game, even through multiple copies of Abrade.
The Scarab God needs no help
Mike speculates you might want to play Strategic Planning to help fill your graveyard.
Patrick cautions that the god needs little help in filling your own graveyard. The creature, remember, is huge and next to impossible to kill! The Scarab God will typically do fine just reanimating whatever the opponent gives you for targets (though he concedes that getting the big five itself into the graveyard for purposes of Liliana reanimation might be nice).
The two riff on a potential new B/U deck, based on Patrick's GP Denver Grixis build.
This podcast covers many additional topics... Everything from Brad Nelson's continued dominance of Standard (this time with Temur Emerge) to the U/R Advanced Stitchwing deck, to speculation about post-rotation deck archetypes. Check it out now!
Thu, 17 August 2017
Mike can't stand Shrine of Burning Rage in Modern :(
You'd think Mike would be happy about a Burn deck winning Grand Prix Birmingham... But he just can't wrap his head around Shrine of Burning Rage replacing Eidolon of the Great Revel at the two. To Mike, Eidolon of the Great Revel is simply one of the strongest cards in Modern; by contrast...
Patrick does little to turn his opinion around.
Burn deck aside: Scalding Tarn
Mike hates Arid Mesa in Modern Burn decks. While many lands are functionally identical for mono-Mountains fetching (Bloodstained Mire and Wooded Foothills have essentially the same text here), Arid Mesa is most likely to tip the opponent off.
It doesn't come up super often, but if you pass your first turn with the fetch in play, you tend to want the opponent to fetch for an untapped shock land; they are least likely to do this against Arid Mesa.
Mike therefore likes Scalding Tarn in a 4/4/4 split.
Patrick points out a four-fetch distribution has some merit.
The two wax on the difference between the two of them playing a first-turn Scalding Tarn. It doesn't matter which red fetch Michael plays... The jig is up before he ever breaks it. Patrick, though, is a longtime Grixis mage. He would get even more value from turn one Scalding Tarn when playing Burn than most!
Poor Mike :(
More and More Modern
With three big Modern tournaments across three continents to work from, Pro Tour Hall of Famer Patrick Chapin and Resident Genius Michael J. Flores have much to discuss. Everything from Storm to TitanShift is up for discussion. Check it out now!
Fri, 11 August 2017
Sorry, Earthshaker Khenra. Your window may have already closed :(
Sylvan Advocate Hates Earthshaker Khenra
On the way to yet another Grand Prix Top 8, Standard superstar Brad Nelson time traveled and re-innovated the B/G Winding Constrictor deck last weekend, bringing back Sylvan Advocate over Grim Flayer or Longtusk Cub at the two.
Sylvan Advocate? What is this? 2016?
Grim Flayer is great. Longtusk Cub is great. Even Glint-Sleeve Siphoner can be pretty effective. You know what's even better? Three toughness.
Sylvan Advocate comes down as a 2/3 (forget about its size in the future)... Meaning that it can withstand a Shock on turn two, unlike the other B/G two drop options. As a 2/3, it also pwns tiny 2/1 Earthshaker Khenra.
And at 4/5? It chomp Chomp CHOMPS even a 4/4 Earthshaker Khenra later in the game!
Approach of the Second Sun Hates Earthshaker Khenra
Mike's sidekick over at the Ancestral Recall Podcast, Roman Fusco made another Star City Games Classic Top 8 last weekend... This time with an innovative U/W Approach of the Second Sun deck designed by Roman's frequent collaborator (and Regional Finals victim) Dan Ward.
This U/W deck is truly creature-less (and for purposes of Torrential Gearhulk, artifact-less). That completely blanks Earthshaker Khenra teammate Abrade. While haste is helpful across many of the Mono-Red deck's creatures, the ability to prevent blocking also takes up relevant space on the text box. Against no creatures? No additional value.
But the thing that really, really hates the Red Deck?
The old school instant has an amazing superpower against Mono-Red. If the opponent has one card in hand only, you can Unsummon another creature (putting a second card in the opponent's hand) to blank an attack by Hazoret the Fervent. And of course, if you Unsummon the 4/4 backside on an Earthshaker Khenra, that will be that.
This should surprise no one, though: Approach of the Second Suns decks hate Earthshaker Khenra.
Grasp of Darkness Hates Earthshaker Khenra
Grasp of Darkness really, really hates Hazoret the Fervent... But will settle for murdering a hasty Jackal Warrior, let's be honest.
Grasp's new teammate Gifted Aetherborn, though... 2/3 over 2/1 again, etc. etc. And if the Red Deck needs to spend its second turn pointing an Abrade at Gifted Aetherborn? It won't even have time to drop Earthshaker Khenra on curve.
To find out what other cards and decks are creating a hostile Standard environment for our poor Jackal Warrior, check out this week's episode!
Fri, 4 August 2017
Ramunap Ruins may be the most important new card from Hour of Devastation.
Earthsaker Khenra? Yeah! That's a great creature, we'll grant you... But it's still just a creature. Ramunap Ruins can't be countered and gives players a resource to lean against instead of flooding out.
This land enters the battlefield untapped. It essentially has the superpoower of tapping for both red and colorless; it can support Eldrazi Obligator (or Reality Smasher), not just a purely red creature rush.
Ramunap Ruins finishes off control players. The idea of locking down Standard with counterspell control decks will be a thing of the past. Eight life? Ten life? What life do you think it is safe to stabilize? As long as it has enough Deserts, Ramunap Ruins will work to close out games. This will make for a really tough metagame for U/R Control.
Ramunap Ruins can enjoy a critical mass of haste. This is the true golden age of Red Decks. This might be the most important card on the list, but being able to tap it on turn one for a Bomat Courier; then turn two for an Earthshaker Khenra; then maybe dip into a Lathnu Hellion on turn three is an embarassment of (hasty) riches.
It is not good enough, however to drive Arborback Stomper to playability.
Give this week's episode a listen 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!
Fri, 21 July 2017
Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh is already exceeding expectations
So how are we going to play Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh? There are so So SO many ways!
Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh in a Planeswalker Control Deck
Michael Hamilton opened up the new season with a win. Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh made a one-of appearance in his [otherwise] Jeskai Control deck.
A dedicated Planeswalker control deck with lots of cards that can interact with the opponent's threats is a great home for Nicol Bolas. It's a redundancy on your other permanents, can borrow against the architecture of the rest of your deck, and ultimately just presents an even more powerful threat than the rest of your deck.
You can play an Energy Aggro deck, complete with Longtusk Cub and Bristling Hydra... And just finish with Bolas.
This use of the card just requires you to deal thirteen damage in the first seven turns. Pretty trivial, right? You can just play the big Planeswalker for seven, to deal seven. Not only is Nicol Bolas the best "Demonfire" we've had in years (especially given the seven-for-seven mana cost)... If for some reason something went wrong, you would still have a Planeswalker to help over the next few turns.
An Energy deck is actually particularly great for this... Because Energy is somewhat spotty to come by, you might find yourself stranded with Nicol Bolas in hand, but not the mana to cast it. The Aether Hubs of the Energy strategy go a long way in ensuring the solo black (or whatever is needed) is available, versus being stranded as a colorless.
With Bolas at both extremes of the metagame, there remains a wide number of decks, from Mono-Red StOmPy to U/R Prowess Burn. This podcast covers them all most:
Fri, 14 July 2017
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.
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:
Fri, 7 July 2017
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?
And more! Much more! in "Hour of Devastation is the Best of the Bunch":
Fri, 30 June 2017
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.
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
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.
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!
Fri, 23 June 2017
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.
Thu, 22 June 2017
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).
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 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 is like three different engines.
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!
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!
Thu, 6 April 2017
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.
: 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].
: 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!
Fri, 31 March 2017
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.
Tue, 28 March 2017
Check out the Aven Mindcensor Masterpiece! Team Top Level's Craig Wescoe joins Mike and Patrick to show off the latest Amonkhet Masterpiece spoiler.
Fri, 24 March 2017
Pro Tour Champion Patrick Chapin and Michael J Flores discuss not just Dynavolt Tower but all the key moves and trends to keep you up to date on Standard.
Fri, 17 March 2017
PSulli joins Patrick Chapin & MichaelJ in a discussion of how to find one basic Mountain, and whether 21 or 26 lands is right for Torrential Gearhulk decks.
Fri, 10 March 2017
Take a [playable] Murder. Make it easier to cast (for a least some decks). Add a "cantrip Lava Spike" for zero additional mana. Unlicensed Disintegration
Fri, 3 March 2017
Nicholas Byrd won the most recent Modern Open with a wonderfully positioned Ad Nauseam deck. This style of deck combines the mana acceleration of Simian Spirit Guide, Pentad Prism, and Desperate Ritual with a number of esoteric and specialized cards to kill with a solo Lightning Storm.
Thu, 2 March 2017
Somebody must like them:
MichaelJ and Patrick sure got some sweet preview cards from Modern Masters 2017 Edition!
Mike's Modern Masters Spoiler:
Compulsive Research is near and dear to Mike's heart. He has both filled his own graveyard with Firemane Angels and forced opposing Firemane Angel decks to draw a lethal number of cards. This is a card that allows you to access every part of the veritable buffalo.
What Patrick Wants to Find in a Modern Masters Pack
We all know what a soft spot Patrick has for Grixis. There is no more "Grixis" card than Cruel Ultimatum.
Top Level Podcast shares some war stories, and tells you why Compulsive Research and Cruel Ultimatum are some of the most exciting cards in Modern Masters 2017 Edition:
Back to our regularly-scheduled podcast tomorrow.
Fri, 24 February 2017
Death's Shadow produced a clean break -- including both Grand Prix and team event wins -- and is probably the best deck in Modern.
Weren't Bannings Supposed to Nerf Death's Shadow?
Just a few weeks ago there were bannings.
Golgari Grave-Troll was there for Dredge. Yes, Dredge would still be viable, but its biggest, burliest, enabler disappeared.
Gitaxian Probe is kinda sorta not a real Magic: The Gathering card. Why does Gitaxian Probe even exist? The banning of this card pushed a pin into the collective bubbles of decks like Infect, Storm, and... Death's Shadow.
Gitaxian Probe had a special place in the old Death's Shadow deck. Sure, the new version still has cards like Mishra's Bauble, but Gitaxian Probe also cost the Death's Shadow deck life (in most cases), (oddly) helping to grow the centerpiece threat.
A More Interactive Death's Shadow Deck
The previous version was mostly an offensive deck. Wild Nacatl or Monastery Swiftspear got the ball rolling; the creatures were much more plentiful... but the interaction was deemphasized.
The current version is almost a Jund deck. This deck has only a few creatures (even if they are doozies)... It has a ton of midrange interaction instead. Fatal Push, a ton of direct hand destruction including the maximum numbers of both Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek, and even Tarfire have repositioned the archetype.
In addition to having the superpower of being one mana, Tarfire is a Tribal Instant. As such, it's really useful for 1) buffing Tarmogoyf, and 2) getting Traverse the Ulvenwald online super quickly. Some versions even have Seal of Fire to make Tarmogoyf that much bigger!
Most of the offense in this strategy is accomplished by only two creatures: Death's Shadow and Tarmogoyf. Unfortunately -- and especially given the printing of Fatal Push -- neither of those guys is hard to kill. The deck can weather opposing removal in a number of ways...
Thirteen creatures have never stretched so far.
Fri, 17 February 2017
Kari Zev's Expertise is already format-warping.
Years from now, when we look back on Aether Revolt, it will likely be the case that what we remember most about the set is how badly it helped players to cheat.
Cheat on costs, that is.
Kari Zev's Expertise is at this point the most prominent example of how Aether Revolt can break -- really break -- the rules of Magic to gain a massive advantage. Dan Ward was the first person to innovate Kari Zev's Expertise in Modern (though he lost in the finals of his Regional Chapionship, to Mike's apprentice Roman Fusco playing the Inspiring Vantage Burn deck).
How Does the Kari Zev's Expertise Combo Work?
Dan played Simian Spirit Guide, so he could pop off the Expertise against a second turn beatdown card (say a Grim Flayer). Threatens can be good cards in and of themselves, but this one also gives you the opportunity to play a two mana card for free.
The most important two mana card you can play is Breaking // Entering:
Note two things about these cards:
When you are casting Breaking // Entering this way, you never give the opponent a chance to use Relic of Progenitus or Extirpate. If you separately cast Breaking and then Entering, the opponent would have a chance to respond, but entwined this way, it is just one giant beating.
Ward's deck still had Goryo's Vengeance, Cathartic Reuinion, and other traditional enablers.
All That and Fatal Push!
Fatal Push is going to continue to be highly effective in Modern... A card (for once not Rare or worse) on the order of Path to Exile. One of the reasons that Ward's deck seemed so reliable is that he lacked the small creatures that make Fatal Push such an effective defensive card.
Pro Tour Journey Into Nyx Champion Patrick Chapin and Resident Genius Michael J. Flores go over not just a number of ways to cheat costs in Modern, but run down ideas for other archetypes like Burn, Grixis Control, or Abzan Company. Check it all out in this week's episode!
Fri, 10 February 2017
Should wotc ban Scrapheap Scrounger? This unassuming two-drop has more going on than its stats. Scrapheap Scrounger may be a key to solving the metagame.
Fri, 3 February 2017
Which deck will be the most popular at PT Dublin? Green-Black Delirium? Black-Green Energy? Find out what Nahiri is doing in Copy Cat and more!
Thu, 26 January 2017
Walking Ballista combines flexibility, combo defense, and raw power. Possibly the strongest card in Aether Revolt, Walking Ballista is the true inheritor to Hangarback Walker.
Fri, 20 January 2017
Saheeli Rai (with Felidar Guardian) threatens to become the dominating strategy in Standard. Learn about some different ways to play Saheeli Rai.
Fri, 13 January 2017
Aether Revolt is more than just broken combos and mana engines! Learn about the "fair" side, headlined by Gifted Aetherborn, here.
Tue, 10 January 2017
Half on the surprising new bans to Modern and Standard; half on the crazy combos and engines from Aether Revolt (especially Felidar Guardian &co.)
Fri, 6 January 2017
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:
Mon, 2 January 2017
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.
Thu, 29 December 2016
Join Patrick Chapin and Michael J. Flores on a Magical review of 2016.
Thu, 22 December 2016
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.
Fri, 16 December 2016
A discussion of the advantages of Dark Intimations from Aether Revolt, with points of comparison like Tidings and Cruel Ultimatum.
Fri, 9 December 2016
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:
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.
Fri, 2 December 2016
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.
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!
Fri, 25 November 2016
Happy Thanksgiving from Top Level Podcast!
Thu, 17 November 2016
Say Blood Moon wins the last big Modern event. What's the plan? How about we go UrzaTron with 4 Karn Liberated?
Before we start...
If you haven't had a chance to fill out our survey, we'd really appreciate it! (It only takes 30 seconds)
Okay... So part of this is just Tom Ross. How is Tom Ross a real person / Magic: The Gathering player? Tom's reaction to Blood Moon winning Grand Prix Dallas was to play an even slower deck that relied on not just nonbasic lands... But getting three particular nonbasic lands onto the battlefield!
Part of it is that Tom correctly assessed that people would prepare for Blood Moon decks, maybe making decks good against anti-Blood Moon decks that much better. It turned out he was right!
G/W Tron over G/R Tron
The main [deck] reason to play green-white UrzaTron instead of the more traditional green-red build is Path to Exile. That is, Tom played Path to Exile over Pyroclasm in the starting sixty.
Three copies of a spot removal card is hardly the whole point, though. Not only does the Tron deck manage Path to Exile better than almost any other deck (who cares if the opponent gets one extra basic land when you are tapping yours for three?), it makes much better use of the white mana... Just elsewhere.
Seven is big, and they just get bigger
The natural one-two-three is Urza's Tower, Urza's Power Plant, and Urza's Mine in some order. That allows you to tap for seven mana with just three lands, or the cost of a Karn Liberated.
On eight mana you get Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and ten mana gives you Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. Seemingly every play from there allows you to go "over the top" of a fair opponent's game plan. It's just about hitting your lands, and then landing almost any hitter to win.
Karn Liberated is only one answer to Blood Moon
There are a ton of direct answers to Blood Moon in Tom's deck, incidentally... Karn can remove a Blood Moon from the battlefield, as can either Ugin or Ulamog. Casting those cards might be tough under a Blood Moon, though (and World Breaker might be even tougher with its colored mana in seven). However Oblivion Ring costs just three mana to start. If Tom is not under substantial life points pressure, he can work an Oblivion Ring to really asymmetrical advantage. It can free up his lands from under Blood Moon easily, regardless.
The deck has a good number of answers to obvious threats and strategies. Main deck Relic of Progenitus can give Dredge fits, while Spellskite will have an Infect player's head scratching. Tom's deck isn't necessarily about locking out a game forever... Some of these tools are just there to buy time; remember - given a window to make a play, it's unlikely there is one on the other side of the table better than one of Tom's.
Plenty of G/W Torn, but More Modern in "Karn Liberated and the Answer to a Blood Moon Victory"
Fri, 11 November 2016
Skred. R. Instant. Skred deals damage to target creature equal to the number of snow permanents you control. A Coldsnap Role Player takes the Modern stage!
Thu, 3 November 2016
Verdurous Gearhulk and Ishkanah, Grafwidow are both formidable five drops. With multiple successful versions of Delirium, which should prove the Staple?
Fri, 28 October 2016
Here's the thing -- Prized Amalgam costs 1UB. One BLUE Black. The deck doesn't even have blue mana! It can't cast Prized Amalgam, only kill you with it.
Thu, 20 October 2016
Sorry beatdown boys... It looks like this is /actually/ a Torrential Gearhulk format! Find out about the Pro Tour's hot Torrential Gearhulk decks here.
Thu, 13 October 2016
Two big topics on this week's cast! 1: We revisit Schools of Magic per a Sean O'Brien Patreon request, and 2: Blossoming Defense and more Kaladesh in Modern
Fri, 7 October 2016
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.
Fri, 30 September 2016
Is new Kaladesh card Madcap Experiment too good in Modern? Learn about a sweet one-card combo that might just make it so!
Fri, 23 September 2016
Kaladesh is going to make Magic fast again... And Toolcraft Exemplar will be one of the best, and fastest (and not just in Standard).
Fri, 16 September 2016
Voltaic Brawler will be the centerpiece of a new Energy Aggro deck.
Mon, 12 September 2016
Fri, 9 September 2016
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.
Thu, 1 September 2016
Wild Nacatl potentially pushes Naya Burn from "Lava Spike Deck" to "Red Aggro" in terms of macro archetype. What are the trade-offs for this move in Modern?
Thu, 25 August 2016
Patrick Chapin and Michael J Flores explore exciting and powerful decks that DIDN'T make the Top 8 of the Star City Invitational in New Jersey. In particular the U/G Crush of Tentacles archetype had two players with 7-1 records or better... And of course there was Shaheen Soorani with an undefeated Esper Control...
Fri, 19 August 2016
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!
Thu, 18 August 2016
Distended Mindbender fills in for Elder Deep-Fiend this week in Jund Delirium, a good stuff -- even "great" stuff -- deck that combines Emerge, B/G Delirirum, and Kozilek's Return into one of the most high quality (and anti-Bant Company) decks in the format.
Thu, 11 August 2016
Mike and Patrick explore the top decks from Pro Tour Eldritch Moon, including a couple with Elder Deep-Fiend as their centerpieces.
Thu, 4 August 2016
Pro Tour Champion.
Grand Prix Champion.
Now... SCG Open Champion!
Osyp Lebedowicz took down the Baltimore Open with a G/W Tokens deck that used no new Eldritch Moon cards... But his utilization of Tragic Arrogance as a three-of main deck might have been even more innovative.
Patrick Chapin and Michael J Flores discuss.
Fri, 29 July 2016
A discussion of the immediate format-warping effects of Eldritch Moon's Spell Queller!
Fri, 22 July 2016
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.
Thu, 14 July 2016
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!
Fri, 8 July 2016
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".
Wed, 6 July 2016
Thu, 30 June 2016
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...
Fri, 24 June 2016
Emrakul, the Promised End highlights the beginning of Eldritch Moon spoiler season
Thu, 16 June 2016
Fri, 10 June 2016
Thu, 2 June 2016
Thu, 26 May 2016
Goblin Dark-Dwellers. 3RR. Creature - Goblin. Menace. When Goblin Dark-Dwellers enters the battlefield, you may cast target instant or sorcery card...
Sun, 22 May 2016
"Toxic Deluge. Two and a black. OWN your opponent." -Patrick Chapin
Thu, 19 May 2016
Dakmor Salvage + Seismic Assault + The Gitrog Monster
Thu, 12 May 2016
Thu, 5 May 2016
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet is one of the best, most important creatures in Standard...
So why are we calling Kalitas poor and unappreciated?
Thu, 28 April 2016
Drownyard Temple. T: Add to your mana pool. 3: Return Drownyard Temple from your graveyard to the battlefield tapped.
Thu, 21 April 2016
Thu, 14 April 2016
Always Watching. 1WW. Enchantment. Nontoken creatures you control get +1/+1 and have vigilance.
Thu, 7 April 2016
Eye of Ugin was banned in Modern this week!
The macro storyline here is this: The Eldrazi deck in Modern was too good. It was the best on a number of dimensions, but most folks looking in would identify a deck full of Sol Rings pumping out de facto undercosted threats. Something was going to give (and almost certainly from the mana front).
Thu, 31 March 2016
Declaration in Stone. Sorcery. Exile target creature and all other creatures its controller controls with the same name as that creature. That player...
Thu, 24 March 2016
Arlinn Kord is a spectacular new Planeswalker from Shadows over Innistrad. Find out how to play Arlinn Kord and Sorin, Grim Nemesis here!
Tue, 15 March 2016
"Nahiri, the Harbinger is not obviously super powerful." -Mike "I think Nahiri, the Harbinger is obviously super powerful." -Patrick Well... Which is it?
Sun, 13 March 2016
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.
Thu, 10 March 2016
Patrick and Michael discuss Archangel Avacyn, Thing in the Ice, and other exciting new spoiled cards from Shadows Over Innistrad.
Thu, 3 March 2016
Hardened Scales came seemingly out of nowhere to place multiple finishers in the Top 8 of Grand Prix Houston. Find out what finally made Hardened Scales.
Thu, 25 February 2016
Pulse of Murasa is a cheap and easy splash for a surprising number of decks. It can help break rules and help fight beatdown decks... Surprise!
Thu, 18 February 2016
Pro Tour Champion and Pro Tour Hall of Famer Patrick Chapin joins MichaelJ in a discussion of the Magic Online Championship Series (MOCS) Standard decks.
Thu, 11 February 2016
Reality Smasher smashed its way into six of the Top 8 best performances from PT Oath of the Gatewatch! Learn about these decks & how to beat Reality Smasher
Thu, 4 February 2016
Mike and Patrick talk tons and tons about Thopter Engineeer, but also Rally the Ancestors, Reflector Mage, and Collected Company decks and more in this cast
Thu, 28 January 2016
Reckless Bushwhacker is a new Goblin Warrior Ally from Oath of the Gatewatch that helped win the very first StarCityGames.com Standard Open, once made legal
Fri, 22 January 2016
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?
Thu, 14 January 2016
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!
Thu, 7 January 2016
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