It’s the final day of the War of the Spark spoilers with a ton of common cards dropping alongside the rares that mark the conclusion of the story. I’m not going to be covering all the cards but we’ll definitely take a look at Gideon riding Rakdos like he’s channeling Gandalf the Grey:
I have very little to say about Unlikely Aid aside from the artwork and flavour text being awesome. Giving a creature a bit of extra power so it can kill something is always nice and the addition of it being made indestructible ensures survival in a way that even adding extra toughness sometimes can’t. It’s by no means a bad card and there are practical applications for it but I really only want it in my deck so I can shout “fly you fools” before I play it.
God-Eternal Oketra has finally arrived and isn’t quite as I predicted on day 10. I got the mana cost correct but rather than lifelink abilities she instead has double strike (effectively making her a 6/6) and you get a 4/4 zombie token with vigilance whenever you cast a creature spell. Similar to all the other gods, she gets put back in your library 3rd from the top when killed or exiled. I wasn’t crazy about the double strike at first but it does make her on a similar level to the other gods. As a reminder, their power and abilities are:
- Bontu: Menace with 5 power
- Rhonas: Deathtouch with 5 power
- Kefnet: Flying with 4 power1
- Ilharg: Trample with 6 power
- Oketra: Double strike with 3 power
When matched against these other gods, double strike isn’t so bad. You’re either doing a straight 6 damage or you’re potentially killing something big with the first strike element. I think trample with 6 power is better overall but there are specific applications where 6 double strike is better i.e. up against Yargle, Glutton of Urborg or Inferno Hellion.
The real story though is that zombie token generation engine. Bear in mind that War of the Spark has a lot of buffs aimed specifically at zombie tokens primarily due to the amass mechanic and it isn’t hard to see this getting out of hand; you can give zombie tokens trample with Dreadhorde Twins, flying with Eternal Skylord, hexproof and menace with Gleaming Overseer, and deathtouch with Vizier of the Scorpion. Any of those keywords with a free 4/4 zombie is going to be good but add a Death Baron as well for even more power. In short, if you’re playing around with the amass mechanic and any of these zombie buffs, this seems like the god you want in your deck.
Heartwarming Redemption is a funny old card that is only really useful if you’ve been mana flooded. At turn 4, you should only have 2 or 3 cards in hand at most so to discard those and draw again plus one and then gain around 3 or 4 life doesn’t seem that exciting. If you have 7 cards in hand because you keep drawing land then I can see how it would be useful but it seems an odd insurance policy to have kicking around especially when for the same price you could be getting Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice or Hammer Dropper…
Dreadmalkin seems like a decent one drop with menace pretty much ensuring that you’ll do some damage on turn 2 which could be important for spectacle. The extra ability is also good either for ramping this into proliferate territory or simply as a way to make this a scary creature during the damage step on your opponent’s turn; you can sacrifice anything that is going to die anyway to give this a decent permenant buff that will likely ensure it’s survival and make it a decent threat to respond with. I like that.
A lifelink creature on turn 1 is often a good play. If you’re first on the draw and your opponent doesn’t have a turn 1 creature then it’s an easy way to get a 2 life differential. If you’re second on the draw, it prevents attacks as you’ll block any damage and gain life. If it survives until you get an Ajani’s Pridemate then it is something that needs to be dealt with swiftly. That said, Charmed Stray is not as good as Banehound which has haste for capitalising on a turn 1 play. The extra text to give other Charmed Stray’s a +1/+1 counter seems inconsequential to me and I’m struggling to find a really good use for it; this is definitely not a Rat Colony!
Prison Realm is slightly more interesting as an enchantment in the same vein as Hieromancer’s Cage, Ixalan’s Binding, and Seal Away. On the negative side it doesn’t have flash nor can it stop your opponent from casting other cards with the same name, but it can target any creature or planeswalker and you do get a scry even if your opponent manages to bounce their creature or destroy the enchantment after it enters the battlefield. It’s hard to say if this is better or worse than the other similar enchantments but it does fill out the curve of such enchantments being the only 3 CMC with this ability2. It is also obviously good in the Limited environment.
I’m always slightly wary of creatures with 0 power that increase due to a specific condition. I know that some of the best cards work this way such as Crackling Drake and Hydroid Krasis but I don’t like having to worry about another condition that needs to be met; sometimes it’s hard enough just playing the card in the first place if you’re up against control! With that said, this one feels a bit easier to get away with, especially in Gruul colours where you likely have some heavy hitting creatures.
The best play for this is likely to have either Kraul Harpooner or Lightning Mare on turn 2 as then at least you are swinging for 3 damage when you play this. In reality, this is likely a card to keep for the mid to late game when you already have something like Ghalta, Primal Hunger on the board; it isn’t impossible that you could play your scary big creature with summoning sickness and then immediately play this to capitalise on the haste.
I’m still not completely decided on this one, especially as it occupies the same cost as my darling Rhythm of the Wild but I can definitely see useful applications for it.
All I can think of when I see this card is the song “What I Go To School For” as this seems busted to me3. I first saw it via what I thought was a dubious translation; “it can’t possibly let you proliferate four times” I said but here we are and it does let you do exactly that.
Proliferate. Four times.
That’s enough to get most planeswalkers to ultimate and to probably win a Simic Ascendancy race. That’s crazy! Admittedly it is fairly expensive but the pay off can be so good, especially if you’re running with the Simic +1/+1 counter theme and have a few planeswalkers in play. The other pieces also aren’t terrible4 if you don’t have the need for proliferate; you could give youself 16 life or return four cards from the graveyard to your hand. Of course you can also mix and match so maybe proliferate 2, grab a card, and give yourself 4 life. Just do anything other than creating a citizen token. It’s a great card and I think this will see a ton of play; it is definitely going into my Simic decks at the very least.
Well sadly that is all for this spoiler season. I’m going to be trying to throw a few decks together between now and the formal set release and I’ll be talking about specific cards in more depth as I open booster packs. I’ll also hopefully be writing up the details of my pre-release! If you can’t wait for all of that, join my Discord community or check me out on Twitter.