It’s the final booster of my 36-pack box1 and whilst there were no new cards it also wasn’t that disappointing. I managed to get a foil guildgate, the final token I needed for my collection, and an 8th copy of Persistent Petitioners. I’m going to be taking a break from daily boosters2 until we get to War of the Spark but I will be posting the odd deck tech as we build up to spoiler season. I’ll also be streaming some MTG Arena over on my Twitch channel.
For now though, lets take a look at an uncommon Rakdos creature:
Rakdos Firewheeler is a 4/3 creature that deals 2 damage to an opponent and 2 damage to either a creature or planeswalker when it enters the battlefield.
First and foremost, this is a good spectacle trigger allowing you to play this on turn 5 alongside something like Drill Bit3. It can also be useful against both relatively low-toughness creatures or as a way of killing planeswalkers that have maybe already used their mid-level ability. Along with that you also get a decent 4/3 body which is a pretty good return on investment. I can definitely see an argument for having this in a lineup that was able to play Judith, the Scourge Diva a turn or two before this card appears especially as there aren’t many other Rakdos coloured cards I’d rather play at a 4 CMC; maybe Ill-Gotten Inheritance or Experimental Frenzy but it would depend on the opponent.
As an added point of interest, this card follows a cycle in both GRN and RNA of uncommon creature cards that cost 2 of each of the guilds colours4:
- Azorius: Sphinx of New Prahv
- Boros: Truefire Captain
- Dimir: Nightveil Predator
- Golgari: Golgari Findbroker
- Gruul: Sunder Shaman
- Izzet: Crackling Drake
- Orzhov: Basilica Bell-Haunt
- Selesnya: Conclave Cavalier
- Simic: Frilled Mystic
Once again I’m a huge fan of the artwork and flavour text; if yesterday’s card summed up the Gruul, this one definitely sums up the Rakdos! Whilst I really like the art by Slawomir Maniak5, I think I prefer the promo version by Tyler Walpole who is a relative newcomer with only 9 designs so far6; I suspect we’ll be seeing a lot more of him in the future.
And on to the future we go! I’ll be back with some deck techs over the coming weeks before we jump head first into spoiler season for War of the Spark. With the recent news that it will contain 36 planeswalkers I can honestly say that I’m intrigued as to what WotC have got for us.
Plus 8 from pre-release night, 10 from a fat pack, and 2 from Standard Showdown… ↩︎
Unless there is anything in particular you’d like me to write up? If so, just get in touch. I’m also still debating whether I want to spend £50 to get the last 21 cards I need or whether to spend £80 on another 36 boosters where I’ll likely get most if not all of them… ↩︎
Doing this effectively makes this a Rafter Demon if you paid the spectacle cost apart from the demon has lower toughness, doesn’t do the damage on entry into the battlefield, and you don’t get to pick which card is discarded. OK, it sounded a lot more similar when I first started this train of thought… ↩︎
The Golgari and Orzhov both have extra cards in these mana costs but they aren’t uncommon creatures; the Golgari have Izoni, Thousand-Eyed as a legendary creature and the Orzhov have Kaya’s Wrath as a sorcery. ↩︎
In my final week of booster packs it seems like I’m doomed not to find any new cards! Today saw more copies of Slimebind, Wrecking Beast, and Judith, the Scourge Diva so I’m going to take a look at a common Gruul combat trick:
Savage Smash is a sorcery that gives one of your creatures a +2/+2 until end of turn and makes it fight a creature you don’t control.
One of the things I like most about the Ravnica blocks is that the identity of each guild is so defined and unique; you can look at just a handful of cards from a guild to instantly know what they are like. This card definitely fits into that description with the amazing artwork by Zoltan Boros1 and the flavour text that sums up perfectly what it is to be a member of the Gruul clan. Boros has been illustrating cards for years but you may recognise the similarity between this card and Gruul Spellbreaker; both use similar colour palettes and contain an explosion of liquid! I’m also a big fan of his artwork on Carnival // Carnage which is more cartoony, almost in a Borderlands style.
In any case, this card is a typical Gruul combat trick allowing you a slight buff that should allow you to destroy a creature either before or after your attack phase. As it runs at sorcery speed, there is no opportunity to use this during your opponents turn; I would have preferred this to have been at the uncommon rarity level and be castable at instant but it is what it is.
As with all tricks of this nature, one thing you need to watch out for is that you do actually fight another creature, emphasis on the word fight. This means that your health will likely be reduced going into your attack phase or that you may be casting it at a point where your health is already lower due to a previous attack. There are cards which specify that you just deal damage equal to your power, for example Rabid Bite, but this is specifically a fight and so any damage you take will stay with you until the end of your turn.
There are quite a few cards that are of a similar nature to this in that one of your creatures fights an opponents creature:
- Ancient Animus : instant that gives your creature a +1/+1 counter if it’s legendary
- Hunt the Weak : sorcery that gives your creature a +1/+1 counter
- Savage Stomp : as above; costs less if your creature is a dinosaur
- Pounce : instant fight with no additional benefits
- Prey Upon : as above, but cheaper due to sorcery speed
- Titanic Brawl : instant that costs less if your creature has a +1/+1 counter
- Undercity Uprising : sorcery that gives all your creatures deathtouch until EOT and then you choose one to fight an opposing creature
As you can see, there is a wide variety of these “fight” cards crossing a range of mana prices and casting speeds2. Savage Smash slots in nicely by giving you a larger buff than the others but it is only a sorcery and that buff does only last the turn; for my money, Savage Stomp is the superior card as the +1/+1 it confers is permanent and the casting cost can be ridiculously cheap if targeting a dinosaur which I nearly always would be in a Gruul deck3.
With that said, I could definitely recommend this card in the limited environment as it is effectively removal; there aren’t many creatures that’ll survive a buffed Gruul clansman head-butting them…
Today’s booster was disappointing on two fronts; no new cards and it was the lowest value booster I think I’ve ever had coming in at just £0.68! Duplicates included such things as Flames of the Raze-Boar, Sunder Shaman, Growth Spiral, and Quench but I’m going to talk about the rare card in the pack:
Tome of the Guildpact is a artifact with two abilities:
- Draw a card whenever you cast a multicoloured spell
- to add one mana of any colour
The first thing to note is that this card is only suitable for a very specific deck, namely one built around Hero of Precinct One. If you don’t have a load of multicoloured spells in your deck then this card is not for you.
The second ability could be useful for mana fixing, but you can already do that with Chromatic Lantern which is cheaper and allows you to make all of your lands any colour. Instead, I think that ability is there solely to help offset the cost of the card a little; for example, on turn 5 you can waste all your mana on this card and then immediately tap it to summon a Footlight Fiend for card advantage (and presumably spawn a 1/1 token with the hero as I talked about last week).
As it stands, there are only three cards in Standard that trigger something on the back of the casting of a multicoloured spell; this card, Hero of Precinct One, and Rampaging Monument1. They cover a good range of casting costs so definitely fit the curve nicely and you could end a game pretty quickly with all of these in play. Turn 5 is around the point you are going to be top-decking so to get card draw automatically when you’re going to be slinging spells around is excellent; they should, in theory, just replace themselves. As I mentioned previously, GRN and RNA have over triple the number of multicoloured spells that previous sets in Standard have2 so triggering this should be relatively easy.
I really need to write up a deck based around this “cast a multicoloured spell” mechanic as it seems like it could be very powerful. Between this article and the one on Hero of Precinct One I feel I’m most of the way there already!
There are also a few similarities the other way in terms of casting a spell to trigger a draw, namely Beast Whisperer with creature spells, Niv-Mizzet, Parun when anyone casts an instant or sorcery, Sai, Master Thopterist when casting artifacts, Satyr Enchanter when casting enchantments, and Vanquisher’s Banner when casting a creature of a chosen type. ↩︎
I expect this trend will continue with WAR. ↩︎
I headed to my local games shop today to play in the Standard Showdown event. Unfortunately I didn’t win1, but due to a lucky die roll I did get to walk away with an RNA booster and one of the Standard Showdown boosters. In my RNA booster (and the one I opened this morning) I got very little of interest: End-Raze Forerunners, Sphinx of Foresight, and two copies of Rakdos Firewheeler being the most noteworthy. However, the SS booster came with a foil Swamp2, a foil version of The Mirari Conjecture, a Dread Shade, and this card:
Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice is a 2/5 creature with flying, mentor, and a special ability: at the start of combat on your turn, it gives a +2/+0 until end of turn along with trample if it’s a red creature and vigilance if it’s a white creature. The more perceptive amongst you will realise that this basically means this is a 4/5 flying creature with mentor, trample, and vigilance.
The reason I chose this card to discuss over The Mirari Conjecture is that I lost two games to it tonight. My milling deck has a few defensive measures but the one I had filling my hand was Seal Away, something that is completely and utterly useless against vigilant creatures as I discovered to my chagrin3.
I had thought that this was one of the more powerful mentor cards but it turns out there are four others with equal or higher power: Truefire Captain, Light of the Legion, Hammer Dropper, and Barging Sergeant. That said, the ability to add +2/0, trample, and vigilance can be applied to any other creature so you could technically make Hammer Dropper a 7/2 with mentor, trample, and vigilance if you so wished. You could also use that ability on any of the other 13 cards with mentor in order to boost Aurelia herself…
The fact that this is, to all intents and purposes, a 4/5 means that the 4 CMC is well below rate especially when you consider the other bonuses it confers. Whilst obviously designed for a Boros deck, this could easily pair with some of the afterlife tokens the Orzhov produce or to mentor a Crackling Drake if you haven’t graveyarded many instants or sorceries.
Something about the Boros Legion and angel creatures just doesn’t appeal to me personally so I’m highly unlikely to make use of this card despite how good it is. That said, if you are building a deck and you feel like you could use some extra power, this definitely seems a good way of providing a powerful offensive card that buffs via mentor whilst also being vigilant for defence.
Another pack without new cards but I did get a spare Incubation Druid which will help reduce the cost of completing a physical version of my Ruse of an Ooze deck. I also picked up useful copies of Clear the Mind and Gate Colossus but I’m going to talk about a Defender card I might end up using rather soon:
Wall of Lost Thoughts is a 0/4 creature that mills your opponent for four cards when it enters the battlefield.
This is obviously going to play well in a milling deck, especially if you have some blink spells1 to help re-activate it whilst doing a fake chump block; bonus points if you use Blink of an Eye whilst you have a Drowned Secrets in play!
As a defender, this also slots well into decks built around High Alert and Arcades, the Strategist allowing this to effectively become a 4/4 with vigilance. It isn’t the best wall around2, but it is still immensely useful in the 2 mana slot. Unless you’re up against a flyer or something with deathtouch you will likely prevent your opponent from attacking on turn 2 and 3 giving you time enough to ramp into something to counter whatever threat comes along. If you need to sacrifice this later in order to stop a lot of damage, then so be it; if it survives until turn 4 it is has done it’s job as far as I’m concerned.
As ever, I love the artwork and flavour text for this card although I do wonder if it could have been improved by making it a “Gate of Lost Thoughts”; the gate type is particularly useful in Ravnica and thematically it seems like this is something you walk through to lose your thoughts; the artwork even shows a doorway! That said, maybe adding the option for it to tap for mana was seen as a step too far and that is likely a precondition to earn the gate type.
The reason that I’m particularly excited to see this card today is that tomorrow I’m going to be taking my milling deck to the Standard Showdown and I suddenly realised I was going to need a sideboard. With not much time to order in any specific cards, I’m limited to those cards that I already have. This card is one that I mentioned in my potential for sideboarding so a duplicate of it comes at a particularly useful time. I’ll definitely be testing this out in Arena tonight to see if it can earn it’s place in my deck tomorrow.
No new cards today but I did get a fair amount of removal in the form of Get the Point, Consign to the Pit, Scorchmark, and Arrester’s Admonition. There is also a card which I’ve a few good experiences with already:
Dagger Caster is a 2/3 creature that deals 1 damage to each opponent and 1 damage to all opponent’s creatures when it enters the battlefield.
Whilst the power and toughness are below rate, the ETB trigger is incredibly useful for triggering spectacle which helps you claw back some of that mana. That is how I primarily used this card when I drew it from my first booster during the Ravnica Allegiance pre-release.
Since then, I’ve found it to be particularly useful at killing most tokens1 and dealing with Rat Colony. It is also useful with my favourite ability, enrage, allowing you to do everything from finding a land or untapping a permanent to cloning a raptor or doling out 5 damage should you have the right creatures in play.
Aside from that there isn’t a whole lot more to say about this card. No immediate synergies come to mind beyond using it alongside enrage although I think Forerunner of the Empire is the better choice for the same mana cost. If you’ve got some in your deck then you could try a bounce like Arrester’s Admonition to trigger the effect again although there are likely better uses for your mana.
I did get good use of it when drafting so I can definitely recommend it for that in a Rakdos deck but I’m still not 100% sure on how big a place this has for me in standard. I’m currently experimenting with this in an updated dinosaur deck but I feel like I need more spectacle cards in order for it to earn it’s place.
Especially those frustrating saproling decks which always seem to crop up on Arena. ↩︎
Another booster pack and, amazingly, another day with a new card. I had a few interesting cards such as Open the Gates, Rubble Reading, and Spirit of the Spires but I’m predictable going to discuss the rare find:
This is an interesting card as you are giving the opponent the choice of giving you a single piece of mana or losing two of their own at least once per turn. If they are using a lot of card draw spells like Chart a Course, Chemister’s Insight, or any of the RNA lockets, then that is going to be a far higher penalty.
For me, this card is looking particularly nice for my milling deck for a few reasons:
- It helps give me just a bit more mana that can be immediately used for counter-spells. This is especially useful with Syncopate where mana advantage over your opponent is required.
- It would really hurt decks that use Niv-Mizzet, Parun which I’ve been struggling against over the past few weeks. Letting my opponent burn through their mana or give me extra mana would be a consolation when Niv Miz is constantly activating!
- It potentially wastes an opponents turn by getting them to use an enchantment destroyer such as Mortify or Crushing Canopy; I’d much rather have them waste that on Smothering Tithe then on my Psychic Corrosion.
If I was being picky, a tithe is specifically 10% of income. It would have been cool if there had been a way to work that into the card, perhaps tying the penalty to the number of cards in play or total mana spent during the game. That said, a mana penalty is more than reasonable and certainly pricey during the early stages of a game.
I’m definitely going to playtest this card in Arena over the coming days with my milling deck to see if I should include it in the Standard Showdown I’m playing in next week. I have a feeling it might be a keeper…
[13-03-2019] Update: Something I hadn’t considered (which was suggested to me by a player at the Standard Showdown) is that this could pair really nicely with Revel in Riches. A very interesting proposition!
Which can be tapped and sacrificed to give one mana of any colour. Coincidentally I read an interesting piece on “treasure” tokens the other day over at Daily MTG answering a question as to “how did treasure tokens end up becoming deciduous?”. ↩︎
Today marked the start of my final 10 RNA boosters1 which came from the fat pack needed to access all the basic land cards in the set. Weirdly the packaging is a matt light blue rather than the shiny blue my previous 50 or so boosters have been. In any case, there were a few useful cards such as Sentinel’s Mark, Mammoth Spider, and the spectacle inducing Spear Spewer but I also found one of the final mythic rare cards I need:
I usually start off by describing the card but I’m going to jump straight into the artwork today as it is stunningly good. The level of detail, art style, and colour are all utterly divine. If you take a look at a full resolution copy then you can see a ton of extra detail like the Rakdos cages, lashings of blood, and a guy trying to control his stomach. You may also notice everyone’s favourite homunculus, Fblthp, sitting atop a soldier that is averting his eyes. It sums up a Rakdos “show” in a far better way than a direct shot of the action would. I was going to say that I would buy a print of this in an instant2 – fortunately Dmitry Burmak does sell prints and so rather than “I would” I can say “I have”! He also has a rather wonderful store where he sells his artist proofs and will even draw sketches on the back. I may be picking up a few of those…
Anyway, onto the card itself:
Captive Audience is a enchantment that you place on an opponent. They must then choose one of the following actions that hasn’t yet been taken at the beginning of their every upkeep:
- Set their life total to 4
- Discard their hand
- Allow their opponents to create five 2/2 zombie tokens
Ouch. This is definitely in the category of “game ending bombs” as it effectively gives your opponent 3 turns to live unless they have a way of getting rid of enchantments. As you are presumably casting this on turn 7, the option to discard their hand is likely the lesser of three evils as they may well be top-decking anyway. Similarly, setting their life total to 4 may actually be a boon in the late game if they’ve already taken a ton of damage. Letting you create five 2/2 tokens, though, is definitely a very bad choice for them, especially if you have something like Judith, the Scourge Diva in play.
The thing I like most about this card is that it is just pitch-perfect in design. It’s a chaotic Rakdos card that is going to make you smile whilst your opponent grimaces. It might not be the best mythic rare or 7 CMC card but it could certainly top a list of “most fun to play”.
A word of advice if you plan to use this in your deck; make sure you have a few copies of Mortify on hand just in case your opponent manages to switch this over to you with something like Eyes Everywhere. You’ll also obviously want to try and cast this when your opponent is tapped out so you at least get the benefit of one of the conditions.
Incubation Druid is a 0/2 creature with two abilities:
- to add one mana of any type you can produce. This goes up to three mana if it has a +1/+1 counter.
- Pay to Adapt 3 (add three +1/+1 counters if there aren’t any on it already).
As with most Simic cards, the adapt mechanic is useful in the mid-to-late game and I’ve already talked extensively about how this can be exploited by cards like Galloping Lizrog and Simic Ascendancy. For what it’s worth, this is only one of two cards with Adapt 32 and there are only three other cards3 with the higher Adapt 4 level.
The real talking point though is that mana ramp ability. By default, this is a Llanowar Elves that costs extra to transfer 1 power to 1 toughness and give you access to any mana you could make rather than just . That isn’t a bad deal on it’s own, especially if you are splashing beyond your means4. That you can triple that mana so long as you have a +1/+1 counter is exceptionally good though, especially in a meta that is packed with ways to do that. It is easy to look at this and assume you’re going to pay to activate the adapt and thus not access this ramp until turn 5 but that’s a poor way of thinking. For example, let’s assume the following turns:
- Forest and Llanowar Elves.
- Sunpetal Grove, Incubation Druid, and Stony Strength.
- Congrats, you have 6 mana available to you in combos from to and that’s before you’ve even played a land card this turn! Did someone say Carnage Tyrant?
More than double mana on turn 3 is exceptionally good but can get even better if you were then to cast something like Wilderness Reclamation thus ensuring you have some mana held back for counter spells or instant combat tricks. Whilst we didn’t use it to it’s full potential in the plays above, Stony Strength does untap a card so you could cast another one on a druid during your opponents turn to buff it, untap it, and then give you access to 3 more mana instantly. Remember too that you can hold mana in hand so assuming 6 mana is available to you on turn 3, you could tap everything to get that mana, pay to cast Stony Strength on the druid to add another 3 mana to your pool giving you a total of 8; now cast Polyraptor. That is pretty sick on turn 3…
I’m not a fan of the GRN/RNA cycle of lockets for anything outside of Limited (and even then I tend to avoid them). I should probably write an article about them at some point. ↩︎
For example, maybe you’re splashing to make use of a Cleansing Nova; as long as you have one of these on the field then you can cast that even if you only have one Plains out or something like Hallowed Fountain. ↩︎
Hero of Precinct One is a 2/2 creature that will create a 1/1 Human token whenever you cast a multicoloured spell. I’m always a fan of cards that can generate tokens whenever something unrelated happens as they can often overwhelm an opponent if not dealt with swiftly. For example, here are a couple of standard cards that create tokens on an easily repeatable basis:
- Deeproot Waters: Create a 1/1 merfolk with hexproof whenever you cast a merfolk spell
- Desecrated Tomb: Create a 1/1 bat with flying whenever one or more creatures leave your graveyard
- Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle: Create a 1/1 vampire with lifelink whenever one or more nontoken vampires you control attack
- Murmuring Mystic: Create a 1/1 bird illusion with flying whenever you cast an instant or sorcery spell
- Regal Bloodlord: Create a 1/1 bat with flying if you gained life this turn
- Verdant Force: Create a 1/1 green saproling at the start of each upkeep
- Sai, Master Thopterist: Create a 1/1 thopter with flying whenever you cast an artifact spell
- Resplendent Angel: Create a 4/4 angel with flying and vigilance if you gained at least 5 life this turn
Hero of Precinct One slots into this philosophy well, especially in the Ravnica block where there are a far higher ratio of multicoloured spells when compared to previous sets1. It is fortunate that there are so many ways to trigger this as you don’t get much value from the tokens themselves being basic 1/1 humans with no abilities2. Saprolings are the nearest comparison but at least they have several cards that give them bonuses3; humans have no synergistic cards whatsoever.
Regardless, there are still a couple of good options for pairing. First of all, Judith, the Scourge Diva can turn your tokens into 2/1’s and deal 1 damage to any target if they happen to die. Secondly, Heroic Reinforcements will give you an extra pair of tokens and give all creatures +1/+1 and haste (which is useful as you’ll get an extra token just by casting this). If you cast Hero of Precinct One on turn 2, Judith, the Scourge Diva on turn 3, and Heroic Reinforcements on turn 4, you can have four 3/2 tokens attacking alongside a 4/3 Judith and 4/3 Hero. 20 damage across six bodies on turn 4 with the potential for two of them to hit for 1 damage if they are killed? I like those odds. Things get even better if you manage to play multiple copies of Hero of Precinct One for additional tokens per spell.
It’s great that WotC got Bram Sels to do the artwork for both the Hero of Precinct One and the RNA human token as you can see a direct link between the two; the token scene is just a bit further zoomed in and shows the people behind the titular hero4. The guy with the pitchfork is a bit weird though especially as it only has two tines5 and I can’t imagine there is much farm work on Ravnica…
Percentage of multicoloured cards in standard sets in descending order are: RNA (31.5%), GRN (31.1%), RIX (9.8%), DOM (7.9%), XLN (6.2%), and M19 (4.5%). That’s a total of 245 multicoloured cards out of the 1639 currently in standard (14.9%). ↩︎
Not to be confused with the GRN soldier token which is a white 1/1 with lifelink. It’s instead exactly the same as the M19 soldier token which is a white 1/1 with no abilities. It’s a little confusing sometimes! ↩︎
In a weird way it reminds me of the excellent card game Gloom where you can overlay cards with transparent ones to change their effect; this feels like the hero could have the human tokens overlaid on top which is just awesome. ↩︎