Top 5 Fridays 2nd Edition

Hello friends, I’m here again, two weeks in a row! How could anyone top that level of consistency?

Writing something like this that’s fun and frivolous is somewhat like lubricating a machine, making it easier to get rolling on some other things I’ve been wanting to write, so I should even have a few things to post while in France for the upcoming World Magic Cup, which is nice.

But for now, I’ve got some things to rank, like miser Modern cards and Soul Calibur characters, and rank them I shall!

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My Cube, and Why I’m Building It

Hello friends. Today I’m going to talk about the Magic: the Gathering cube that I’m building, and how I arrived at the reasoning behind it.

Aside: If you don’t know what a “Cube” is, the short version is that is typically a collection of cards someone compiles, in order to play with their friends. Many people build their cube as a sort of ‘all-star’ game of Magic, taking the best, most powerful cards from every set, but each one is different.

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The Law of the Cube – Stephen Murray

Noble charity endevours, I wrote a thing for them! Go look at the Cube24 WordPress page, follow them on Twitter and so on!



Today, we have a special Guest Star!

Scotland-StephenMurrayWhile we have many eager cubers booked in for the event on Saturday, there’s always room to squeeze in a post from the odd person who can’t make it…

…particularly when that person is perennial Scottish National Team member, Stephen Murray!

Cap’n Scotland was kind enough to lay out his Law of the Cube for us, and I have no desire to hold him back any longer…

Stephen’s Law of the Cube

Hello friends! I am sadly unable to attend the rollicking good time that is Cube24, but being unable to cube has never stopped me from thinking about cube before, all kinds of cubes!

Time to dispense some laws, no betraying them now.

1. When drafting cube, do the sweet thing

Unless you’re playing in the first ever Cube Draft Pro Tour (I’m waiting, WotC) you’re mostly playing for pride among friends…

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The Trials of the Youtube Videos

I am not a technical wizard. I might be able to work my way through problems on PCs, build them and figure things out over time, but I’m not really familiar with things like video editing software or the logistics of streaming. For a while, I had been making plans to record videos, and publish them on the Youtube. It has been surprisingly frustrating and difficult, a comedy or errors, a stramash even. I finally finished uploading some today.Read More »

What Happened to Casual MTGO?

Hello friends. You know, I have read quite a few articles about MTGO (Magic Online) and ways that it could be improved. Many of them have good ideas! However nearly all of them I’ve encountered have focused on the competitive end of the spectrum. Add a pack to prizes here, change entry fees here, optimise EV on this, only have queues for Standard/Draft/Modern and so on.

Very few of them acknowledge the other side of the magical coin, that of the casual players. I’m probably a bit on the unusual side in that I love playing casual decks and tournament decks alike. I’ve been a few Pro Tours, but I also can’t get enough of attacking with krakens and wolves or playing some off-the-wall rare that bends the rules of the game. While I have often prepared for events on Magic Online, the vast majority of my time on it has been playing kooky decks for fun.Read More »

Battle for Zendikar Constructed Predictions Finale! (Gold and Artifacts)

Welcome back for the last section of my set review! You can find part 1 here, part 2 here, and part 3 here. The full spoiler is still here, and the official soundtrack for this section is here.

Let’s go!

Angelic Captain: I expect if you have enough Ally creatures to make this worthwhile, you’d be better off casting Overrun instead. Obviously this is a bit better if you end up just trying to get there with your one remaining creature, but I would prefer something with more immediate impact on the turn I play it in an all-Ally deck.

Bring to Light: Probably the most exciting card in the set from a deck building standpoint. It starts off as a powerful card and will only become more powerful over time as new cards are printed. Seems playable in both 4 or 5 colour decks, but you definitely don’t want it in a deck that can only cast it for 3 unless there’s some kind of cool combo that is printed later.

Bring to Light definitely seems best when you’re not the aggressor, since you can more easily tailor your deck to brutally punish most kinds of assault. Single Rhino attacking you? Find Gilt-Leaf Winnower. Bunch of Thopters and pals? Tragedy strikes. Just trying to play a single guy out to avoid you going those things? Trumping their guy with a Rhino will do as well. Maybe they are trying to get sneaky with a SiegeConclave their face in!

On the offence, well, Rhino for 5 mana is okay, but you’re less likely to threaten most opponents that’s on the same level of brutality as a Languish against an opponent that is weak to it, except maybe an Ojutai against decks that can’t kill it. Another typical weakness of a deck built to be flexible is that if your opponent is trying to go bigger than you, your deck is probably too reactive to stop them effectively with a cheap toolbox.

It isn’t trivial to play all 5 colours either, even with all the fetchlands and duals in the world. In addition, if you want enough good targets for this to find, you run the risk of having a deck that’s too filled with 4 and 5 mana cards to survive the early turns. It also doesn’t go well with other Converge cards, which you probably want to look into for your multi-coloured deck.

My opinion is that you’re more likely to want to cut down on the powerful one-of effects to only the absolute best, and be perhaps just play a couple of these. It is very powerful, but if you end up needing to cast this regularly for things like Ruinous Path, well, you probably just want more Ruinous Path in your deck and be more efficient.

Brutal Expulsion: I can dream of the double-use value, but being able to use both modes profitably isn’t going to come up that often. It doesn’t hit the enemy face, and doesn’t counter spells efficiently or permanently. Would be better if there were cards like Delver or Young Pyromancer to both kill and be supported by this, but there aren’t. I think this will be popular fine as a 1 or 2-of in decks that can cast it easily, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to put this in my deck.

Catacomb Sifter: I think this card is certain to break into constructed. It doesn’t depend on the ‘Green Black Sacrificial Stuff’ deck being playable at all, rather when being a 2/3 creature is in a fine spot in the metagame. Sometimes all the creatures in a format are too big for that to matter, in which case this won’t be a 2 for 1, and you don’t need it right then. If there are a lot of 2/2s, then you get a useful body and a Scion for a low-ish cost which can shut down the enemy very well.

The Scry effect is just a nice bonus, I don’t think anyone would play it for that ability if the body isn’t relevant. Against control it’ll often be a better threat than ludicrously powerful mythics like Drana and Undergrowth Champion just by virtue of leaving a 1/1 behind, which relates back to the point I made earlier about ‘big dumb monsters’ gradually getting replaced by value guys as removal improves. A prime example of this is in modern, with most 4 drops being essentially unplayable since they get removed easily and usually for less mana than you cast them for, but Chandra’s parents are actually quite playable there!

I’m willing to believe that other 3 drops will see more play, and maybe the format just end up a bunch of decks doing the most powerful things possible to each other all the time, leaving the Sifter outclassed. But I predict that by the end of BfZ standard, Sifter will have been one of the most quietly hard-working cards in the set.

Drana’s Emissary: I KNOW it’s a Wind Drake. But it’s also an Ally, and triggers all these random lifegain cards if that ever matters. I just like draining my opponent for one each turn, it makes me happy. Okaaaay, it is probably just outclassed by… nearly everything, but it’s probably surprisingly good if you’re playing a budget BW deck at FNM.

Dust Stalker: 5 power of haste for 4 isn’t a bad deal. You don’t necessarily even need many if any other colourless creatures in your deck to play this! It would be very easy to splash with fetchlands, and this type of card has been playable before. Good in a world full of sorcery speed removal as a repeatable source of damage, and Zurgo has shown how this can be useful even on a tiny creature. You can’t play too many of these if that is your plan though, don’t want to get Dust-flooded, but I expect it to pop up now and then.

Fathom Feeder: I think this would be pretty great if instead of needing to tap 5 mana to draw a card, may it could be costed the same as Jushi Apprentice. But, instead, most of the time this will be a Typhoid Rat and outside of limited that seems like a low power level to be on. While it’ll rarely be absolutely dead, and once in a while a game will stall and it can take over the game with card drawing, I think the majority of the time you will be underwhelmed by this card.

Maybe if the UB Ingest/Processing deck gets more cards it’ll be a thing, but UB control won’t want to play this maindeck and give enemy removal spells targets, and once you’re a 3 colour deck this becomes a bit tricky to cast on time for in exchange for a low reward. Like the previously mentioned Apprentice, Fathom Feeder does join a long list of cards that control decks might want to sideboard in against each other.

Forerunner of Slaughter: A serviceable 2 (or 3!) drop for your Red/Black deck. The Haste ability makes it somewhat flexible for your mana curve by itself, and might occasionally give a Hangarback Walker, Nettle Drone, Endless One or even just some Thopters haste.

Grove Rumbler: Oh dear, another 3/3 for 4 mana. That probably dooms it, but it does at least trample in for 7 off of a fetchland! I could imagine a GR landfall deck being desperate for an explosive 4 drop that can defeat a Rhino in single combat.

Herald of Kozilek: A 2/4 for 3! That might make it situationally playable since Blue/Red tends to be a colour combination that wouldn’t mind a decent blocker. I’m not sure exactly what colourless cards U/R decks want to play though. While there’s the obvious ‘Devoid’ themed aggro deck to try out, playing a pair of Nettle Drones or something doesn’t seem too exciting, and UR doesn’t seem like it has the tools to be better at casting the big Eldrazi better than say, a green deck.

I guess maybe the flavour text is totally right on this one, what is the purpose of this thing? Maybe it’s a plant for next set where this will become amazing, but until then don’t think a Herald of Kozilek deck does anything special.

Kiora, Master of the Depths: Kiora comes with more loyalty than last time, but is a bit worse at defending herself to compensate. Sure, you can untap something to block, but it’s hard to block big trampling creatures and sometimes your creature will die with Kiora quickly following them to the grave. The -2 ability means you’ll rarely be down cards at least, and she does require an answer out of control decks fairly quickly lest she let you bury opponents in extra cards and mana.

One area that people have already picked up on is that she ramps very well. Much in the same way that an unchecked Xenagos could let you rocket-boost into brutal expensive cards, untapping a mana creature and land can lead to some disgusting plays, especially with Shaman of the Forgotten Way. Obviously, this requires your board to not get murdered while you set this up, which is somewhat unlikely, but it’s another sequence of cards that demands a removal spell from the opponent, unless they want to be buried by powerful plays.

I don’t think she will see as much play as the other Planeswalkers since she’s not as broadly applicable, but she’ll rarely be terrible either, since at her worst she’ll usually get you a couple of cards and gain you some life.

March from the Tomb: If you are planning to combo-kill people with a lot of dead Ally creatures, Rally the Ancestors will usually get the job done better. But it’s also possible that there’s not enough support to make it a good idea to go all-in on filling your graveyard, and that this will do the job most of the time. It’s also pretty good value to get a few guys back to keep battling with if you’re not quite ready to kill them, a task that Rally is generally terrible at doing, so even without combo-kills you can sideboard this against removal-laden decks to keep up the pressure.

By the nature of the card, it can’t be played by anything but Ally decks, and even within them it’ll be fairly fringe, but you’ll want to own a few in the event the next set has Ally dudes that made the deck superb somehow.

Munda, Ambush Leader: I don’t like that you have to put non-Ally cards to the bottom, since it means if you need to draw something like Rally or March from the Tomb, you have to elect not to use the ability since additional Ally things are not going to help you find them while replacing your draw for the turn. If you are at a stage in the game where all you need is to draw Ally-based gasoline, then Munda does that job very well. As I mentioned before, if you have a Munda or two in your deck, you can get away with playing something like one Warcaller or one Lantern Scout and have a reasonably good chance to dig desperately for one if you need it.

It is worth noting that you are ‘looking’ at the top 4, and you are not forced to reveal the Ally creatures you see there, since it’s hidden information from your opponent. This means if you are going to draw a bunch of weak creatures, you are actually able to ‘fail to find’ any allies, and then try again when you trigger him again.

Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper: While he looks like he seems like he goes straight in an Awaken theme deck, I’m not sure that’s actually the case. He doesn’t do anything for you your spells don’t already do, and is sort of expensive to play and protect with counterspells if you’re setting up for the long game.

Never fear though! I think Noyan has some potential, but it’s more like a weird combo card perhaps in a deck featuring Jeskai Ascendancy. If there are some more cheap cantrips available at some point, untapping with him in play lets you potentially chain together cards like Anticipate and Treasure Cruise, untapping your now-animated lands to deal tons of damage like a weird sort of Guttersnipe/Talrand. That doesn’t seem like a particularly flattering comparison since Guttersnipe wasn’t good, but this card is blue, making it naturally better at being in a deck that is playing a bunch of blue card drawing cards.

You know, if they print some cheap ones. Unlike right now, where he feels slightly clunky, but ‘make a creature upon playing a spell’ has a strong lineage of being playable text on magic cards.

Omnath, Locus of Rage: Dragonlord Atarka is still legal in standard. Omnath is very powerful, but I’m pretty sure Atarka is better in the majority of match ups for the foreseeable future due to the value of immediate removal. Against a deck like Esper where Atarka rarely kills anything, Omnath could come in and do some good work, but those are also the kinds of decks that are good at restricting your resources, making it very difficult to play Omnath and a land on the same turn for 5/5 goodness.

Omnath will enjoy being totally sweet in Commander though!

Resolute Blademaster: This better be the blade, or Riot! This is more of a finisher for a non-combo Ally deck since it doesn’t particularly work in any meaningful way with putting a bunch of allies into play at once.

Effects like this are a Savage Beating when they work, but they have never hit the big time, as they only work with a strong board presence, and don’t do anything while behind. The advantage of this over something like Berserkers’ Onslaught is that you can play exactly one of them in your deck and look for it with Munda when it’ll be useful, and brings an extra couple of power to the table itself. (mostly relevant with Chasm Guide)

Roil Spout: As annoying as Time Ebb is, it hasn’t made waves in constructed yet, maybe just a tiny little bit when it could also hit lands. Making Dismisser into a 4/4 is fairly appealing, but I think the non-Awaken mode will be too underwhelming, and even when Awakened, if your only targets are things like Den Protector or Rhino it’s not a wonderful situation.

Sire of Stagnation: A sideboard card for matchups where they want to make lots of land drops and are not also able to very easily counter/kill this and then untap and punish you. 5/7 is pretty big, and if they are forced to play even 1 land then you’re quite happy, but by the time you play this most opponents will either not need to play any more lands, or be able to handle it anyway. Hence, it’ll often basically seem to have no ability.

It will also make people hate you in Commander possibly as much as they would if you’d played Consecrated Sphinx!

Skyrider Elf: I just wanted feel nostalgic for Gaea’s Skyfolk, and they sort of mated it with a Manta! It is versatile, and not embarrassing at any price point, so maybe it’ll appear to fill up some curves and apply some pressure, and maybe it’ll be easy enough for an Ally deck to play for some evasion. It is also cheap to return with March from the Tomb and since it returns as a 0/0, it can enter play to trigger Kalastria Healer and leave play to trigger Zulaport Cutthroat without needing any sacrifice effects. You know, if you are looking for weird ways to maximise life-draining on your Marches.

Ulamog’s Nullifier: Same goes for this as I mentioned about a certain card that hates creatures being able to breathe. To go out of your way to exile a bunch of cards, you want a bigger payoff. This is nice, but probably not worth the effort yet.

Veteran Warleader: This card has seen many forms over the years, and it’s usually never worth it due to the requirement of you over-extending your cards into a board wipe. I think this will suffer the same fate, but at least with the March/Rally package, having all your creatures put into the graveyard isn’t the game ending scenario it usually is for creature swarm decks.
Okay, the gold cards are finished off.

No, not that kind of finished off! Gold cards will be back in Oath of the Gatewatch!

Time to look at all the undoubtedly numerous powerful artifacts!

Hedron Archive: Is… is that Jace there with the barrel-body? Was he always like that? I guess he was after he became a Planeswalker, since apparently wearing a barrel causes you to flip. Do the stars of Donkey Kong Country actually Planeswalk from barrel to barrel?

I wonder how this gear fits into the world of wizard fashion?

I really like this card. It lets you ramp into expensive things while still having a plan to solve the issue of having too many mana sources and not enough action. It is a high cost in terms of board position/tempo to play this on turn 4 and do nothing else if you’re on the draw, but hopefully the big spells you follow up with will compensate.

Pilgrim’s Eye: Finally, a much desired reprint of this Modern powerhouse. Timely, as I’m sure the price was about to skyrocket.

Unfortunately for this fan-favourite card, I don’t really see anyone being desperate enough for mana fixing with now with all the good lands available, and you can play Nissa assuming you want to hit land drops while applying something to the board. I’d recommend you passover this pilgrim in favour of something else.

That’s it! That’s all the cards. I did skip over some cards like Dispel since I figured everyone has seen those enough times already to know if you want them in your sideboard or not. :3

A couple of people told me I was somewhat generous in my application of ‘possibly playable’, but I’m fine with that. For me, it’s valuable to consider what makes a card almost good instead of actually good, since it gives me something to work on for evaluating future cards too.

To provide a couple random examples off the top of my head, have you ever tried to play Dragon Appeasement? Probably not, since that card was Not Good Enough for constructed by a long way. But, having tried out the card casually, I know that the effect on the card is very strong. Appeasement cost way too much, and the drawback was far too steep, but if I consider what a playable version of that card might look like, well, maybe it will look more like Smothering Abomination, a card that is cheaper, has a drawback that is sometimes an upside, and can attack. Hooray!

Maybe a less wild example would be Utopia Tree. That card came out during Invasion, and was reprinted in 9th, and didn’t see a lot of play either time despite Invasion being multicoloured block. Why? Well, while it did have the same text as Birds of Paradise which is great, costing 2 turned out to be a huge downside, making it much easier for your opponents to kill it off before you got the mana boost. There weren’t a lot of 1 power creatures around either, so it couldn’t block most of the time. So what would it take to make the Tree playable? Perhaps you could make it harder to kill, or make it better at blocking? Turns out they did both with Sylvan Caryatid, which looked underwhelming at first due to memories of prior unplayable 2-mana ramp creatures and I encountered seemingly unfavourable comparisons to Birds, Hierarch, and Rampant Growth, but Caryatid quickly became popular.

Anyway, thanks for taking the time to read my rambles. I expect to be writing more regularly again for now on, so I hope you’ll join me again, even when I talk about non-Magical things!

See you later!

Edit: I forgot to add in a link to my Twitter account again. I am not really big on this self-promotion thing. :3

Battle for Zendikar Constructed Review and Predictions! (Green and lands)

Hello again! It’s time to crack on with my evaluation of Battle for Zendikar. You can find the first part here, the second part here, and the full spoiler to follow along with right here if you wish to check it all out and see what cards I skip right over.

Beastcaller Savant: I don’t understand all the buzz around this card. Yes, I am sure that this will be effective in the aggressive Ally decks, mostly because some of the best ones cost 4 mana, partly because the haste part might actually be useful for claiming use of various Ally bonuses right away. But I just don’t see this card being good outside of those. For the most part, the haste just won’t be that useful, and not tapping to cast spells is a massive drawback.

Even if you have *mostly* creatures in your deck, would you not rather play something like a Leaf Gilder to let you play a Gideon or Kiora on turn 3? Realistically Rattleclaw Mystic will be the 2-mana ramp creature of choice for multi-coloured decks for the time being. Even if you want to play Woodland Wanderer for maximum counters, I don’t think the times this card making all colours will be important enough compared to the times you can’t cast your non-creatures effectively.

You can certainly make a deck with all creatures, even non-Ally ones, and this will be a perfectly acceptable card in those decks. But you just have to be sure that the deck is really not improved by adding some Planeswalkers or Charms etc.

Blisterpod: Heeey, another Doomed Traveller. This will more or less only go into sacrifice themed decks with cards like Captain Smothersworth and friends. As a 1/1 for 1, you are very unlikely to be wanting to use it in a regular beatdown deck, and the Scion is not available reliably enough to ramp with.

It’s never going to be too flashy, but Blister will quite happily leap to your defence before you throw it into whatever engine you want to use, time and time again.

Call the Scions: This provides just too little for 3 mana in constructed. It *does* combine well with Smothering Abomination, becoming a weird Thoughtcast type of effect with it in play, and perhaps they just won’t print any better cards that make Scions and you need more producers in your deck. In that case… okay, I suppose this has a chance to see play in that particular niche. I have to imagine you will have 4 Catacomb Sifter in your deck before any of these though!

Earthen Arms: I don’t actually think this will ever be played, but then again, what if next set they print a bunch of Hexproof guys, and the next Daybreak Coronet that can only be cast on creatures with +1/+1 counters? What then?

Eyeless Watcher: Basically the same card as Call the Scions if all you want are the tokens, since for the extra mana you only get an additional 1/1 with no abilities. As loose-but-maybe-synergistic-enough as Call might be, this just feels too far down on the loose side of things considering all power in 4 drops right now.

From Beyond: As sweet and popular as Awakening Zone was, it never really made much of an impact on the big stages. This sort of effect is a bit slow to get going compared to say, just casting a giant monster on turn 4. You need time to make it work, and that’s not something you really want if you are just intending to use the Scions to ramp. For that kind of deck, you are more likely to want explosive mana growth to get you there as soon as possible, and not in a way that is relatively easily disrupted by having your Scions killed off. (though this WOULD be a resilient card in the sideboard for that strategy against very slow decks that are trying to limit your resources)

So, to take best advantage of this, you’re not REALLY looking to play it in a ramp deck, despite how it looks. With the Scions having power, this actually can be used as a way to gain incremental advantage through trading with a slow, grindy control deck. The more you can stall and remove threats while this builds up the better. since you can cash it in for Ulamog at any time, opponents will be forced into either dealing with this or trying to kill you, which is hopefully pretty difficult for them if your deck has the right answers.

I actually see this as sort of pseudo-Planeswalker that eschews loyalty. It’s main ability is to make a 1/1, but if you get to use that ability enough times, you get to ‘ultimate’ and bring in the titan, and even if you don’t get to ultimate, hopefully the 1/1s are doing work, trading for creatures and hassling the enemy.

Greenwarden of Murasa: I absolutely adore cards like this. I’m talking about big, expensive card advantage engines that you can’t play too many of, lest your hand be clogged with cards that aren’t overly impactful on their own but are very satisfying to resolve. Now that Elspeth has finally left standard, it’s now much safer to play a big guy without evasion and expect it to do something useful so the 5/4 body is not irrelevant. If you ever get to say, return a Ruinous Path, trade in combat with a Rhino, then return a Rhino of your own then I have to imagine you are winning this particular way of attrition.

It’s even worth noting that the ‘dies’ trigger is not mandatory. This means that if you have the time and the means, you can pass up some short-term value in order to return it later with another copy or Den Protector.

As with all these cards, this does get better with the more good cards you already have in your deck to return, and Abzan does tend to be a collection of the format’s best cards so I expect to see one in the more controlling versions of the deck at least.

Infuse with the Elements: I don’t have high hopes for this card at all, but if it so happens a bunch of powerful multi-coloured Hexproof creatures get printed then it has a certain amount of appeal. +4/+4 is no joke, and not being an enchantment reduces vulnerability to stray enchantment removal. Don’t get your hopes up through, Boggles players, I don’t anticipate any cards on the level of Saint Traft any time soon.

Jaddi Offshoot: When times are tough, and you need to defend yourself from 2/2 creatures, Jaddi Offshoot will do the job. It’s not fancy, but either a red deck removes this with a burn spell, or you’ll probably gain something like 7 life between blocking and landfall triggers. It does become less effective if people are playing many 1/1 Goblins to swarm around it, but I don’t see how much more you can want from one green mana!

Nissa’s Renewal: There is power here, but it’s not broadly playable. 7 life is a nice bonus, but for 6 mana you expect something of a hay-maker from a card, not simply more set up. This is fine in a turbo-ramp deck, but that deck might not be that strong, since it falls into the usual ramp-strategy trap being inconsistent with needed to draw just enough ramp or giant things or else the deck falls flat.

Where I think this deck might have most potential is in an Eldrazi deck with sweepers. Imagine playing a couple of ramp spells, with your opponent flooding the board to try to kill you off before you start casting monsters. Then you take a turn off developing your mana to blow up their creatures. But wait, you’re still in danger, what if they play Rhino into Rhino to finish you off? That’s where the lifegain on this comes in handy, putting you out of burn range while also getting you to the land count of 10/10 creatures. That’s where this is advantaged over Oblivion Sower, because while a 5/8 should help you stabilise, it doesn’t put the game away against an opponent with a few burn spells in hand in the times where this will.

On the other hand, if your opponents are slower than you, with the Sower you might be able to beat them up with your 5/8, so just use your judgement as to what’s happening in the metagame for what’s better positioned at the time.

Retreat to KazanduGrazing Gladeheart won players many, many races in Zendikar limited, but didn’t make much of a splash in constructed. While 2 life per land is a good rate, it just died a lot when you sideboarded it against red decks. This Retreat doesn’t have that issue, so it might have a chance. Gives you a nice life cushion against red decks when you’re under pressure, but if you are not, you get the added bonus to quickly increase your clock on the opponent.

I can’t imagine it being worth the card if your opponent is not actively trying to reduce your life-total as soon as possible AND you need to be playing a lot of lands, so sideboard material only. Unless mono-green landfall-and-+1/+1-counters is about 50 times better than I think it could be.

Rot ShamblerIt’s another sacrifice theme deck synergy card. There are quite a lot of cards in this set like Blisterpod and Salvage Drone that really aren’t powerful at all… unless there are juuuust enough cards that care about their tiny abilities that suddenly turn them into playable. I think this is less likely to be good than the Zulaport Cutthroat since at least you are pretty certain to get the damage in from the sacrifices you make, but in certain matchups this might be surprisingly effective. If your opponent doesn’t have removal you can make this very large quite quickly if you want.

Scythe Leopard: Ah, the playable member of the Scythe family. Yes, people will play this in their decks and it will be regularly putting them in their aggressive decks that can make green mana on turn 1. It’s not nearly as punishing as the old landfall guys though, so even if you get through for the maximum a few times, you still need to do a fair amount of work to put your opponents away, and these guys are not very good at that when you reach the mid-game and beyond even if you are topdecking fetchlands.

You might say, ‘of course, it costs one mana, what do you expect it to do?’. But the best 1 drops historically are useful into the latter parts of the game, like Grim Lavamancer shooting things or Student of Warfare hitting the gym and getting beefy. In standard right now, you have Zurgo that can haste in later and evade sorcery kill spells and Lightning Berserker that is extremely threatening later as alternative options, and you can play Abbot at the 2 drop slot too which is a great topdeck.

This is why I predict that the landfall friends will be taking a back seat to the more universally powerful aggro cards until those rotate out of standard, or they give us more reasons to value a more explosive deck over a consistent one.

If you want to talk about say, a non-red landfall aggressive deck, then I don’t think that there are enough cards to support that strategy at the moment until they let you play 8 copies of this and Champion of the Undergrowth. And even then, many decks in the format would be excited to face generic slightly-above-average-size creature beatdown decks.

Snapping Gnarlid: Basically everything I said above relates to this guy. The payoff even when firing on all cylinders just isn’t high enough to compensate for the times when it’s not working out so great.

Sylvan Scrying: Though there are quite a few toolbox targets, it doesn’t feel worth your time unless you’re finding something as powerful as Cloudpost or Urza’s lands.

Tajuru Stalwart: Ally decks don’t have a lot of 3 drop options, and you could do worse than a 3/4 for 3. Unfortunately for the Stalwart, it doesn’t combine that well with the various cards that return your creatures to play, even if a 0/1 will trigger Kalastria Healer just as well as any other creature. It doesn’t bring any special abilities to the Ally table, unless you count ‘being quite big for an Ally’ as an ability, so the best way to use this seems to be to play at against red, as a creature that can survive a turn before you play Lantern Scout for value.

Tajuru Warcaller: The best card to Rally back to life if you have a Chasm Guide handily lying around somewhere. It’s not as sure a thing as just draining them out with Kalastria Healer, but much more explosive since even a medium-sized Rally (in terms of creatures returned) should give you enough huge people to smash your opponent with, and a big Rally for 7+ creatures should be usually lethal even through the staunchest resistance. That does make Rally cost 7 mana in this scenario though, if only there was an Ally that tapped for spell mana. 😦

Undergrowth Champion: As mentioned before, this is one of many creatures in standard at the moment that really require answering. Landfall growing him permanently makes him very difficult to out-muscle with regular creatures and he naturally shrugs off red removal. Assuming you don’t just run him out nakedly on turn 3 that is. Against red, please make sure to play him on turn 4 with a fetchland, and he might as well be indestructible after that.

There are some really nice +1/+1 counter synergies from Khans block you can pair this with (Hardened Scales being the most obvious) but even ignoring those, this is the kind of card that is good alone anyway, even if your support cards don’t work as planned.

The catch is that this will die all the time. Green quite often has creatures that are very large for their cost, and no other abilities (assuming they aren’t trying to damage this) and they never become dominant. As formats progress and control decks become more refined at dealing with the format, big dumb monsters lose ground to creatures that always pass the Doom Blade test. Still, this is cheap enough that it’s not a disaster if it gets killed.

So like Drana in black decks, play it in your green aggressive strategies, don’t be too sad when it dies. Also, get used to leaving spare fetchlands in play and resist the urge to ‘thin your deck’ when you have the possibility of drawing one of these.

Woodland Wanderer: What was I saying about big dumb monsters? To be fair, this is smarter and bigger than most. Even if it’s just a 5/5, having trample to smoosh chump blockers into the dirt and vigilance to play defence makes this very powerful. Best if your opponents have to spend their removal on say, Undergrowth Champions or Dranas first, leaving Wandermania to run wild.

Destined to be overshadowed by Siege Rhino for popular use while you have a choice between the two because of that pesky life drain value Rhino gives you, this is still the kind of threat that will always be somewhat playable. Watch out for it occasionally coming out of sideboards of otherwise creature-light decks in the same way the ol’ sideboarded Brimaz plans used to go, since it’s not that hard to splash for cards in the new fetchland/dual land format.

On to the lands!

Ally Encampment: You will definitely play it in Ally decks. ~unique strategic insights~

The Blighted Lands:

There are a lot of good multi-coloured lands at the moment, so even a 3 colour deck might be able to afford one or two of these, but more likely we’re talking about 1 or 2 colour decks for the most part.

The black one: Great! An edict you get randomly in the late game is usually going to be relevant. While the impact of this effect goes way down against Hangarback Walker and so on, if your opponent is trying to kill you with Dragonlord Ojutai this is a huge obstacle to the usual gameplan of ‘play Ojutai, and never have it die’. Take that, Silumgar’s Scorn!

The red one: It’s not horrible, but one of the weakest in the cycle. I think in most mono red decks I’d be more tempted by Foundry of the Consuls since I expect it will usually also deal 2 damage and often more, so I think this will see the least play.  Even without competition from that card, on turn 7 or so a sandbagged Looming Spires will probably let you get in more damage overall.

The white one: Wait, the red one will see the least play? Less than the lifegain one? Well, the thing with this one is while it will be relevant the least often, when it does matter, this will probably win the game on the spot. Gaining 6 life will put you out of reach of most burn decks, even just 4 essentially counters a Firecraft. You obviously have to be playing a white deck with a lot of creatures in it in order to use this, which aren’t that uncommonly occurring in competitive fields, and if you happen to be playing something like Secure the Wastes you can make 5 guys at the end of their turn, and gain 10 before they know what hit them. Obviously I’m not expecting playsets of this to be a regular occurrence, but I am sure this will be played less than it *should* be, even if that number is ‘1 or 2 occasionally’.

The green one: This is just a solid good-value land. The land which will be used as a 4-of the most often, you’ll see it in ramp decks and some multi-coloured decks and some decks that are really moving in on the landfall theme. Certain to be played forever, as it will also slot into every green Commander deck. Don’t lose yours!

The blue one: There’s a sort of tension with this card, in that the type of deck that can play this card and get the mana to use it is the same type of deck that really doesn’t want to lose any lands since there are probably a few expensive Awaken costs you want to use or perhaps you want to cast Ugin and Scatter to the Winds on the same turn. Unlike the black one you probably won’t get a chance to safely use this until the extreme late game in or in a control mirror match, but when you do it’ll feel real nice.

Fertile Thicket: If you are playing a lot of basic lands, and definitely need to hit your first few lands in a game, this is like a land with Scry 5 for lands. I can totally see playing a couple of these if that is the case. The ability is not mandatory, so you can absolutely not use it if you don’t want to put a land on top of your deck later on.

Looming Spires and Sandstone Bridge: I’m lumping these together because they have more or less the same role in their decks. They’re meant to help your early guys get through, but you don’t want to play a lot of enter-the-battlefield-tapped lands in your aggro decks. I suppose the cost to playing a couple of these isn’t too high, assuming you get in an attack you otherwise wouldn’t. I’m just not sure the reverse wouldn’t also be equally true, that you’ll miss an attack you’d normally get because you couldn’t play a creature on curve due to one of these taking up your second or third land of the game, balancing out the benefits over time.

Mortuary Mire: A reverse of the Fertile Thicket, this is definitely best late game. Black decks tend to not rely on a smooth curve as much as red or white beatdown decks, so the cost of entering play tapped early isn’t as bad. I think this will see the most play out of this cycle, since it’s relevant for the largest amount of time in a game, and just gets better as it goes. You can play it in grindy decks (getting Rhino and Den Protector) and beatdown decks (getting Drana or Dust Stalker) and in the synergy decks to get an important piece of your puzzle like Smothering Abomination or Nantuko Husk.

Skyline Cascade: Perfect for decks with board sweepers. Freezing a Rhino for a turn while you build up your mana is exactly what you want, since if the opponent is too afraid to play more creatures into Planar Outburst you’ve taken a weird kind of Time Walk. I don’t think you can play this in many other decks, but fortunately blue decks tend to like being paired with cards that clear away all enemy creatures.

Lumbering Falls and Shambling Vent: The new manlands aren’t as good as the old manlands, but that’s fine. There’s a vast spectrum of power levels that a manland can exist in that is worse than an all-star like Celestial Colonnade. If you’re playing the appropriate colours and can afford to play them, you will quite happily. They might not be useful every game, but just having extra things to do with your mana is great and occasionally you will get to snipe a Planeswaker with one, or at least force the opponent to use a plus-loyalty ability instead of a minus-loyalty ability just to prevent them being assassinated by a walking piece of land. Both of these like to receive +1/+1 counters too, so bonus!

Sanctum of Ugin: This is a weird card. Doesn’t do anything until you’re casting a giant thing, at which point you can get more giant things? This would probably go in the same deck as the next colourless land, and seems fine. If you play a lot of these and Shrines you are probably stuck on mono-green or near to it, in order to fetch up enough lands to get everything running. If a deck exists where you can survive long enough to let you play multiple big spells in a row, this seems like exactly the type of lands you want lying around for use.

Shrine of the Forsaken Gods: I like these! If you have one of these in play, at the bare minimum you can cast an Ugin a turn earlier, and having multiples opens up the possibility for terrifyingly fast Ulamogs. Again, I think you’re locked out of playing anything but mono colour or at least base-green if you want to play the full package of these colourless lands, but it might be worth it. If such a deck can be made to survive all the different aggro decks, it seems like they would be really consistent against midrange and control.

Spawning Bed: Where are the Camarids, huh? I think the activation cost on this is a little pricey, especially if you wanted to use the Scions for sacrificial value or something along those lines, limiting this to those who want some extra mana. It does provide a significant boost to reaching the boss, but you also have to take pretty much a whole turn off doing other things to use it, making it generally worse than the Shrine for the purposes of land-based ramp.

The new dual lands:

They are all great in standard, of course. I also think some of them will see play in modern, since some decks usually fetch a bunch of basic lands anyway, and it would be nice to play one of the appropriate lands to find later in the game and not have to get shocked to do so like the older ones.

So, just the gold cards and artifacts to go. I hope you will join me again soon for those. If you want to leave some comments or feedback, feel free to do so below, (I will insert a more use-friendly comment system soon) or say something on Twitter @JechtMurray.

See you later alligators!

Scalding Tarn: Wait, what’s this? How did this get in here? Clearly, if you see any of these, it must be some kind of printing error. Send any you find to me, and I will take care of it for you…

I’m asking you, since I’m all out of wishes.