WAR Spoilers: Wolves, Weirds, and Wole Weversal

We’re on day 5 of the War of the Spark spoilers and it seems to be a day of common creatures with very good flavour text. Before we get to those, we have a rare creature and a rare sorcery to look at:

Tolsimir, Friend to WolvesRole Reversal

The first thing to catch my eye about Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves is the very specifically named token it generates; it’s not a simple 2/2 green Wolf creature but a legendary 3/3 green and white Wolf with the name “Voja, Friend to Elves”. It’s a nice naming convention and I like that the wolf type appears to be getting some more love. In this instance you’re getting 3 life when a wolf enters the battlefield and it gets to fight a creature1. This will play well with the previously spoiled planeswalker Arlinn, Voice of the Pack who can generate wolf tokens and gives them an extra +1/+1. I think the mana pricing is pretty good here; the colours could be tricky to cast if you’re going to a tricoloured deck but two 3/3 bodies, 3 life, and the chance to kill something definitely seems worth 5 mana to me!

Role Reversal is probably the card I’m most excited about today2. Consider that Switcheroo exists at 5 CMC and is limited to exchanging creatures; this card, which is 2 mana cheaper, could let you:

  • Swap your land in a colour your opponent can’t use for their dual land or splash that they desperately need for casting spells
  • Swap a treasure token for a Gate Colossus thus ruining a gate deck
  • Swap a creature token for something far bigger and scarier
  • Swap a planeswalker that is about to die for a planeswalker that is about to ultimate

There is a huge amount of potential for this card and the fact you can swap permanents of the same type makes this insanely good. I’m not quite sure why it is so much cheaper than Switcheroo when it is way more versatile. Is it too powerful? Possibly.

Spellkeeper WeirdSpellgorger Weird

“Weird” is not a creature type I’d come across before and with good reason; there have only been 7 in previous sets. Once again DailyMTG have a great article to coincide with these spoilers that explains the back history of weirds and some of the previous cards they’ve appeared on.

I’m fairly ambivalent on both of these cards. Spellgorger Weird seems the better of the two with the option to grow rapidly in the right noncreature focused deck. Spellkeeper Weird, on the other hand, is a fairly expensive defensive card that still falls to Lava Coil and requires you to pay more to fetch an instant or sorcery from your graveyard. In the right situation that could be invaluable but it just doesn’t seem a great investment to me in standard play. As with a lot of these common creatures, this could be genuinely useful when drafting but I think it is more of a niche fan card than something truly playable. I love that they’ve built these cards as a duo though with names and abilities that keep them in equilibrium; one consumes spells, the other belches them up.

Devouring HellionWardscale CrocodileBanehound

Of the remaining cards, I’ve chosen to focus on these 3 as I believe they have the most interesting abilities and the greatest flavour text; I particularly like the text on Wardscale Crocodile and how it fits into the current story reveals of Ravnica fighting back against the undead invaders.

The Devouring Hellion interests me as it is slightly akin to a Galloping Lizrog with it’s +1/+1 duplication. Something that is becoming clear as we get through more cards is that creatures and planeswalkers are becoming a lot more interchangeable, something highlighted here by the fact that you can sacrifice a planeswalker – I don’t think that has ever been an option before3. If this had flash (using a card like Emergence Zone) it would be formidable when doing a large amount of chump blocking or when you are being swept by Single Combat.

Wardscale Crocodile is your typical big green creature. What it lacks in toughness, it makes up for with hexproof preventing it from being removed by Lightning Strike and friends. It’s a shame that at this price point it doesn’t have trample or menace as that would make it far more useful. Again, it’s something you might use in a draft but is unlikely to see standard play which is disappointing given the great artwork and text. Sidenote: I love the term wardscale to represent a hexproof croc.

Finally, Banehound deserves a mention just for being a nightmare hound4 and having artwork that may well actually give me nightmares! As far as I can tell, this is the first Magic card at 1 mana cost to have both lifelink and haste thus allowing you to get a life differential of 2 on your first turn5. Whilst the hound is unlikely to stick around for long, you can probably guarantee he is going to gain you 2 life in a typical game and he may be a decent deterrent against low toughness aggro decks for a turn or two. I can definitely see a slot for him and I love that this card has been able to have two firsts in Magic history.

That’s all for today but as usual all of the spoiled cards from today are available on my cards page. Once the set is released I’ll be opening a booster pack a day and talking about a single card in a load more depth and you can always catch me on my Twitch channel if you want me to talk about a card in more detail. If you think any of the other cards spoiled today deserve some attention, let me know in the comments.

  1. This will obviously happen straight away as Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves spawns a wolf when it enters the battlefield. ↩︎

  2. And that flavour text is just wondrous. ↩︎

  3. There are several cards that let you make an opponent sacrifice a planeswalker but I can’t think of a single card that lets you sacrifice a planeswalker for a benefit. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong! ↩︎

  4. The first of it’s kind. There are plenty of nightmares and hounds in Magic’s past but never a nightmare hound. ↩︎

  5. Whilst it’s the first card with lifelink and haste, there have been three cards in the past that have had haste with 2 power thus giving you the same life differential, just 20-18 rather than 21-19. ↩︎


WAR Spoilers: Nahiri vs Sorin and some lazotep creatures

We’re on day 4 of the War of the Spark spoilers and kicking things off with a feud that goes back way further than my time playing Magic:

Sorin, Vengeful BloodlordSingle CombatNahiri, Storm of Stone

If you want the full history of the story then you can check out the card preview itself over at DailyMTG which gives a nice abridged recap. All I’m going to say is that damn Nahiri looks like a badass; I’m definitely on her side in this fight especially as she throws some shade in the flavour text of Sorin’s Thirst1.

In terms of the cards themselves, I really like that they both have a -X ability as they give you the all important element of choice that I rave about every time I evaluate a card. Being able to deal a specific amount of damage of your choosing with Nahiri, Storm of Stone or return a creature from the graveyard with a specific CMC with Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord is incredibly useful. I’m not crazy about Sorin’s +2 ability; it can be used as a spectacle trigger for precisely 4 cards if you don’t splash red2 and I guess it might be enough to kill a planeswalker that has been used but it’s really just a disposable loyalty increase to my mind.

Single Combat is an interesting sweeper effect that kills both creatures and planeswalkers making it far more useful than in the current meta Cleansing Nova for the same casting cost. It’s a shame that the player gets to keep one of the big creatures or powerful planeswalkers but you get to as well so it isn’t a terrible approach. Definitely useful in limited but I’m not sure how well it’ll do in standard.

Leyline Prowler

Before I get to the lazotep creatures I want to pick out Leyline Prowler for a special mention. I really like this card as usually a deathtouch creature at a 3 CMC is a little bit weaker than this (see Noxious Groodion, Pitiless Gorgon, Daggerback Basilisk, etc). That it also gets lifelink as well makes it incredibly good. I’m not sure on the tap mana ability; it’s useful if you really need it but kind of spoils the point of having deathtouch and lifelink.

The other reason I wanted to mention it is the specific reference to leylines. I mentioned the old leyline cards from 2006 in my article about Sphinx of Foresight and this does make me wonder if they’ll be showing up later during this spoiler season…

God-Pharaoh's Statue

OK, one more card before the lazotep creatures if only because it’s the statue that Fblthp is Totally Lost on.

Adding an additional cost to your opponent’s spells is always nice but this seems too expensive a card to my mind3; by the time you get around to casting this your opponent probably has enough mana that paying an extra 2 Generic Mana isn’t going to have as big an effect as you might like although it will depend massively on the deck. That it targets all spells rather than just instants or sorceries makes it a good hindrance to big creature decks as well as control decks which I do like.

The second part about pinging your opponent for 1 damage is not as good as Ill-Gotten Inheritance which is 33% cheaper and gains you life. I like that the damage happens on your end step rather that during your upkeep as it means it effectively deals 1 damage when cast but that isn’t a big enough boon for me (and makes it far less useful as a spectacle trigger).

Lazotep BehemothLazotep ReaverInvading Manticore

So it looks like the team that came up with some of the Simic creature cards in RNA have been having some fun in this set as well. A Zombie Hippo!?! I love it and if my time playing Assassin’s Creed Origins has taught me anything it’s that hippos definitely fit within the Egyptian theme of Amonkhet4. The card itself isn’t that impressive being a vanilla 5/4 creature but zombie is a very very relevant type in this meta so it could still have it’s uses5.

Lazotep Reaver is a good cheap way to start amassing a zombie army on the mana curve and the power / toughness isn’t too bad at this price. There isn’t really anything else to say about it but that’s as you would expect at common rarity.

Invading Manticore is another common creature that amasses when it enters the battlefield and has below average power / toughness for the price. Again, as with all three of these cards, it does have that relevant zombie type so in the right deck these could work and they’ll obviously play an important role in games of pauper or when drafting.

Lazotep Plating

The final card I’ll talk about from the 14 spoiled today is Lazotep Plating. When I first looked at it I thought “well this isn’t a card I’d want to play on turn 2” and that’s true; however, it is a great combat trick for later in the game. In many ways I think that the ability text should be flipped as giving you and your creatures hexproof until end of turn is the key part of the card with the amass just being a nice extra. It’s a bit cheaper than most counter spells but works out better against board sweepers like the Single Combat I discussed earlier; your opponent will still lose all of their stuff whereas yours stays put (whereas a counter would keep everything as it was).

I really like the look of this and can definitely see it working well in a blue / black zombie deck; it may just end up in a sideboard to protect against certain styles of opponent but a hexproof shield can be insanely useful especially as there is no other card that does this at the moment6.

That’s everything I’m going to cover today. Whilst the creatures weren’t that impressive in terms of ability, it means we’ll hopefully see something bigger and better tomorrow. Huatli is a planeswalker that has yet to be revealed and I’m sure she is going to have a decent dinosaur buddy with her…

  1. I see you’re out of the wall. ↩︎

  2. Blade Juggler, Dead Revels, Drill Bit, and Spawn of Mayhem↩︎

  3. You could feasibly play it a bit earlier if you cast Jhoira’s Familiar but that doesn’t seem a sensible play. ↩︎

  4. In fact there was a hippo card in Amonkhet: Defiant Greatmaw. I also recall the Mouth // Feed Aftermath card from the same set that gave you a 3/3 hippo token. ↩︎

  5. For example, if it had a +1/+1 counter on it or you had a Death Baron in play, this would get lifelink when paired with Dreadhorde Invasion. That’s pretty good! ↩︎

  6. There are some cards from Ixalan that’ll give hexproof to your creatures (Blinding Fog), your merfolk (Frenzied Raptor), or a specific creature (Dive Down) but nothing that protects all of your creatures and yourself which is super important against sweepers. ↩︎


WAR Spoilers: Fblthp and the Zombies

It’s day 3 of spoiler season and we’re starting to get a look at some rare creature cards:

Neheb, Dreadhorde ChampionEternal TaskmasterDreadhorde Arcanist
Dreadhorde ButcherGrim InitiateGleaming Overseer

During the WAR reveal panel it was hinted that there would be more than just basic zombies in the Dreadhorde and today we get to see how that army is shaping up1. To begin with, I’m really digging the lazotep coating on the zombies that give them that blue colour and also play a key part in the story of how they got here from Amonkhet; it just makes the artwork so much more interesting at a point where zombies really feel overdone in popular culture. It is also nice to see zombies in mana colours other than black2.

Whilst I’m not usually a fan of the zombie decks that exist currently, I can see myself getting excited at the prospects in War of the Spark, especially with something like Dreadhorde Arcanist allowing you to cast sorceries and instants for free from your graveyard; stick a few +1/+1 counters on that and you have a very scary proposition. Similarly, the mana shenanigans3 on Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion appeal to me, especially on a 5/4 trample body for just 4 easily castable CMC. Dreadhorde Butcher, aside from having some badass artwork, is also looking to be a good early play that can ramp up in power but also probably pack a decent punch to any target when it dies (which is always nice against sweepers).

On the lower levels of rarity, I’m not that interested in Eternal Taskmaster or Grim Initiate4 but Gleaming Overseer seems like it could be great; amass 1 is nothing to shout about and the 1/4 for 3 CMC isn’t the best, but making all zombie tokens have hexproof and menace becomes very important when you consider the Zombie Army tokens you get with the amass ability. Pair that with a Death Baron and you can have hexproof, menacing, zombie tokens with an extra +1/+1 and deathtouch. Maybe I need to take another look at a zombie deck…

Fblthp, the LostTotally Lost

Aside from the zombies, we also got to see everyone’s favourite homunculus on not one but two cards! The first is a simple reprint of Totally Lost with updated artwork and flavour text; for what it’s worth, I’m not a big fan of the artwork change but I love the text referencing the Juri Revue that you can see him watching in Captive Audience. The ability itself – putting a nonland permanent on top of it’s owner’s library – can be pretty decent in a milling deck5 but it’s an expensive trick to pull off.

Fblthp, the Lost is slightly more interesting, especially with some of the new cards we’ve seen like Bolas’s Citadel and Vivien’s Arkbow that allow for the library casting you need to get that two card draw. I don’t think it’ll see a huge amount of play in standard though; it definitely seems aimed more at commander. With that said, I’m glad that Fblthp got his own named card, that they made him legendary, and that they gave him an ability which fits perfectly with his personality of just turning up repeatedly. If you want to read more about this card, Gavin Verhey at DailyMTG wrote an article all about Fblthp and how this particular card was made.

It’s been nice having a slight breather with far less cards today. If I had to make a prediction for tomorrow, I’d guess we’re going to see a few more planeswalkers and maybe some rare instants or sorceries. Let me know in the comments what you think about these zombies and what you’re hoping to see as we head to Day 4.

  1. Or should that be amassing? *rimshot* ↩︎

  2. There are currently 21 zombies in standard and they all require black mana with 5 of them also requiring green. This number is going to jump up when WAR is released! ↩︎

  3. Shemanagans? I’m here all spoiler season folks… ↩︎

  4. Loving that blue artwork though. ↩︎

  5. For example, return their big scary creature to the top of their library and then cast something like Opt when you have a Psychic Corrosion in play. ↩︎


WAR Spoilers: Leviathans, Missile Obelisks, and Bear Spirits, oh my!

After 32 cards yesterday I was pretty sure we’d have a slow trickle for the rest of the week; instead WotC have opened the floodgates with a further 40 cards1 including 10 planeswalkers.

Planeswalkers

Kaya, Bane of the DeadKiora, Behemoth BeckonerTeferi, Time RavelerSamut, Tyrant SmasherThe Wanderer
Angrath, Captain of ChaosTeyo, the ShieldmageVivien, Champion of the WildsDavriel, Rogue ShadowmageJiang Yanggu, Wildcrafter

We didn’t get any mythic rare planeswalkers today but there are a number of interesting cards to look at. First of all, there are new planeswalkers to the story in the forms of Teyo, the Shieldmage, The Wanderer, and Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage2. I’m really liking the look of The Wanderer and can’t wait to hear more about that character.

In terms of power and abilities, Vivien, Champion of the Wilds stands out as being pretty powerful with the passive ability that all your creatures have flash whilst Teferi, Time Raveler locks your opponent down so that all spells can only be cast at sorcery speed. I quite like that Angrath, Captain of Chaos gives all your creatures menace and The Wanderer negating all noncombat damage will be useful against Izzet spells decks. There are a few disappointing cards amongst them though; Samut, Tyrant Smasher is far less impressive than she was as a legendary creature in Amonkhet3 and Jiang Yanggu, Wildcrafter letting you tap a creature to give you mana would be good if it didn’t apply only to creatures with +1/+1 counters on it.

The great difficulty with spoiler season is that it is hard to judge how good a card will be in isolation; you generally need to see the whole set to come to a reasonable judgement. That is especially true this time around as it is really hard to tell just how good some of these planeswalker cards are actually going to be in standard play.

Creatures

Augur of BolasAhn-Crop InvaderRising PopulaceErratic VisionaryNaga Eternal
Burning ProphetCruel CelebrantTeyo's LightshieldVivien's GrizzlyKiora's Dambreaker

In terms of creatures, there was quite a wide range on display today from the very basic Naga Eternal to Kiora’s Dambreaker that proliferates upon entering the battlefield. To my mind, Rising Populace and Cruel Celebrant were the most interesting, both causing buffs whenever a creature or planeswalker you control dies. The reason I pick those two out in particular is that I was pleased to see them cover all creatures rather than nontoken creatures which tends to be the norm; that could make all the difference in a token heavy build.

So far, every creature announced has been common or uncommon and they are all monocoloured. I’m hoping that in the next couple of days we’re going to see a few more impressive creatures; I really want to see some dinosaurs make it to Ravnica!

Instants & Sorceries

Crush DissentLiliana's TriumphDovin's VetoSamut's SprintWanderer's Strike
Honor the God-PharaohGideon's TriumphAngrath's RampageDavriel's ShadowfugueTeferi's Time Twist

These cards definitely win the “best flavour text of the day” awards4. There are also some pretty interesting spells in here even though they are all common and uncommon:

The rest aren’t bad by any stretch and it is to be expected that mana costs are going to be on the high side at this rarity level5. We saw a few rare spells yesterday but, again, I’m expecting bigger and better things as we start to look at the rarer cards.

One more thing

As I mentioned yesterday, I’m not planning on covering every single card during spoiler season – especially when there are 40 in one day – but there was one more thing I wanted to highlight from today’s spoilers. During the reveal panel yesterday it was said that Ravnica had it’s own defences to repel Bolas. The land cards unveiled today seem to be revealing those defences…

MountainSwamp

Apparently Ravnica has missile obelisks6. Who knew?

  1. That doesn’t include a number of planeswalkers that were leaked on Reddit which I won’t be covering. It doesn’t feel fair to the people who have those cards to reveal if I’ve already pored over them. ↩︎

  2. Who has been written about extensively in Brandon Sanderson’s Children of the Nameless novella released last year. It was a nice touch that WotC got Sanderson to reveal both Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage and Davriel’s Shadowfugue↩︎

  3. I also really dislike that her companion card, Samut’s Sprint, is her -1 ability as an instant. I want the companion cards to be flavourful and show off more of a planeswalkers personality, not just be the same as their planeswalker card! ↩︎

  4. “The safest place for you is not now” is already a favourite of mine! ↩︎

  5. I want to like Wanderer’s Strike but it is just far too expensive at sorcery speed, especially when you could get a full sweeper in the form of Cleansing Nova for that CMC. ↩︎

  6. There’s a booster joke here somewhere. ↩︎


WAR Spoilers: Planeswalkers, Amass, and Proliferate

Spoiler season officially started today with the unveiling of 17 cards from War of the Spark during a panel at the Mythic Invitational. This was followed by a few more cards being spoiled around PAX East and during the invitational coverage. For the majority of the leadup to the War of the Spark release I’ll be picking just a few cards of interest from each day’s spoilers but today is going to be slightly larger than usual due to the new mechanics.

Planeswalkers

When WotC first announced that there were going to be 36 planeswalkers in the sets, I wondered if they’d be similar to the rest of the Guilds of Ravnica block in that some would be on proper planeswalker cards whereas others would be shown as legendary creatures. Later they announced you’d find one of the planeswalkers in each booster pack which suggested they were going to be actual planeswalker cards. How were they going to balance that?

Jace, Wielder of MysteriesLiliana, Dreadhorde GeneralOb Nixilis, the Hate-Twisted
Tibalt, Rakish InstigatorArlinn, Voice of the PackAjani, the Greathearted
Vraska, Swarm's EminenceTezzeret, Master of the Bridge

It turns out they are balanced by making a fairly large shake-up to what constitutes a planeswalker card. This set is the first to have planeswalkers at anything other than mythic rarity and it looks like the number of loyalty abilities is linked to that rarity level:

  • Uncommon: One loyalty ability that only reduces Planeswalker loyalty
  • Rare: Two loyalty abilities with one increasing loyalty and one decreasing it
  • Mythic Rare: As in previous sets, three loyalty abilities (of which can be a mixture of increasing, decreasing, or staying the same)

A planeswalker with loyalty that can only go down is obviously something very different1 but don’t forget that there are alternate ways to increase planeswalker loyalty; Settle the Score is the best way currently but you’ll also be able to use the new proliferate mechanic.

In addition to loyalty abilities, every single planeswalker has an extra ability that will either be passive (as is the case with Tibalt, Rakish Instigator preventing your opponents from gaining life) or based on a trigger (such as Ob Nixilis, the Hate-Twisted dealing 1 damage to an opponent when they draw a card). This is a really cool way of adding extra value to these cards whilst also making them feel like part of the story; after all, this is meant to be a huge superhero-style throwdown on Ravnica and it’ll certainly feel like that when each player will likely have multiple planeswalkers on the battlefield!

Whilst I’m not going to go too in-depth on any one specific card (as that will come when I start opening boosters), I am utterly intrigued by Jace, Wielder of Mysteries. My first thought was “that’s going to screw over my milling deck” but that was quickly followed by “I can build a milling deck to mill myself”. I can’t wait to start working on that idea!

Something I’ve long been saying in relation to War of the Spark is that if there are genuinely going to be 36 planeswalker cards then we’re going to need some better planeswalker removal. It looks like that will be the case:

Ravnica at WarNo EscapeVraska's Finisher

Each of these cards is a very different form of removal be it a straight up exile, a counter, or destruction in a spectacle2 kind of way. These cards are also great with the artwork; I love that Ravnica at War is showing Emergence Zone from a different angle whilst No Escape puts Jace in the same situation as he was on Ixalan’s Binding.

Something else specific to these cards is that the mtgstory.com label has been expanded to also show which part of the story this card references with two of them showing “Spotlight: Act I”. We’ve heard from WotC previously that this spoiler season is going to be slightly different with a gradual reveal of the storyline so I’m guessing we’re going to see a few more of these cards from Act I before we get to see how this battle is going to end.

Amass

Relentless AdvanceDreadhorde InvasionHerald of the Dreadhorde
Invade the CityWidespread Brutality

Amass is a new keyword ability coming to War of the Spark which allows you to put n number of +1/+1 counters on an Army you control (where n is the number after the amass keyword); if you don’t already control an Army, you can create a 0/0 black Zombie Army creature token first.

This is an interesting mechanic that is doing a great job of telling the story of the army of the dead that Nicol Bolas has picked up from Amonkhet. Whilst an “Army” type isn’t special on its own3, the fact that they can grow over time with this amass ability means they are likely something that is going to need to be controlled. Whilst the ability itself doesn’t let you create multiple armies, there is nothing stopping you from duplicating one with something like Quasiduplicate or Repudiate // Replicate; just be aware that amass only adds it’s +1/+1 counters to one army of your choosing and that they can’t be split between multiples.

The nice thing about these set of spoilers is that they show a huge variety of uses for the amass mechanic:

That last card in particular is going to be one to watch out for especially if you already have a gigantic army.

Proliferate

Flux Channeler

Proliferate is a returning mechanic from 2011 that was mainly used to grow the number of poison counters on a player4. In War of the Spark, you are more likely to use this to buff yourself as it can be used to increase counters on any number of permanents or players. For example, when you proliferate you can:

You can only add counters that already exist and you only get to add one counter. Also, if you choose to use proliferate on a card it will increase all the counters on that card by one; i.e. you can’t increase the number of +1/+1 counters on a Chamber Sentry without also adding an extra phylactery counter if one was there5.

I’m kind of surprised that they didn’t make it a keyword with a number attached. I’d have expected something like “Proliferate 3” where 3 is either the number of counters you get to increase6 or the number of permanents you get to target but clearly they feel this is the better option.

Overall I’m really impressed with the new cards that have been unveiled. Whilst the focus is rightly on the planeswalker redesign, I have a feeling that amass is going to be a huge deal for this set. I’ll be continuing to highlight the best new cards that get spoiled each day but if you want to see all of them you can check out my cards page; once I start opening boosters I’ll be looking at individual cards in a lot more detail.

  1. Shout out to SBMTG who had a fairly good crack at predicting this a few weeks ago with his 1 mana planeswalker that could only decrease loyalty. ↩︎

  2. It feels like the spectacle ability as it only works if you’ve done some damage before casting it. ↩︎

  3. Army is just a type like Zombie, Merfolk, Dinosaur, etc. It doesn’t do anything special on it’s own and it is still just one body. It reminds me a lot of the mob creature in the game Mansions of Madness. ↩︎

  4. A player with 10 or more poison counters lost the game so this was a good strategy. ↩︎

  5. That’s a bad example as you’d likely want to do that anyway but the fact that this rule exists makes me thing there might be some bad counters turning up on future cards. ↩︎

  6. Which would add more flexibility and choice. Do you want to give 3 loyalty to one planeswalker or do you want to just increase it by 1 and give two +1/+1 counters to a creature? ↩︎


RNA Booster: Rakdos Firewheeler

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

Rakdos Firewheeler is a BlackBlackRedRed 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:

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.

  1. Plus 8 from pre-release night, 10 from a fat pack, and 2 from Standard Showdown… ↩︎

  2. 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… ↩︎

  3. 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… ↩︎

  4. 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. ↩︎

  5. Other cards you may have seen by Slawomir include Ajani’s Last Stand and Reckless Rage↩︎

  6. My favourite of which is probably the knight token from Dominaria. ↩︎


RNA Booster: Savage Smash

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

Savage Smash is a 1 Generic ManaRedGreen 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 1 Generic ManaGreen: instant that gives your creature a +1/+1 counter if it’s legendary
  • Hunt the Weak 3 Generic ManaGreen: sorcery that gives your creature a +1/+1 counter
  • Savage Stomp 2 Generic ManaGreen: as above; costs 2 Generic Mana less if your creature is a dinosaur
  • Pounce 1 Generic ManaGreen: instant fight with no additional benefits
  • Prey Upon Green: as above, but 1 Generic Mana cheaper due to sorcery speed
  • Titanic Brawl 1 Generic ManaGreen: instant that costs 1 Generic Mana less if your creature has a +1/+1 counter
  • Undercity Uprising 2 Generic ManaBlackGreen: 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…

  1. Yes, that’s his actual surname. I don’t think he’s a member of the Boros Legion. ↩︎

  2. Interestingly they are all at common rarity aside from Savage Stomp which is uncommon. ↩︎

  3. Well, until the rotation comes and I lose all my lovely dinosaurs 😭 ↩︎


RNA Booster: Tome of the Guildpact

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

Tome of the Guildpact is a 5 Generic Mana artifact with two abilities:

  • Draw a card whenever you cast a multicoloured spell
  • Tap 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!

  1. 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. ↩︎

  2. I expect this trend will continue with WAR. ↩︎


Standard Showdown Booster: Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice

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

Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice is a 2 Generic ManaRedWhite 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 RedWhite 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.

  1. My milling deck came 6th… out of 6. I did win a game but that was due to repeatedly blinking a Wall of Lost Thoughts which amused me greatly as I talked about that very tactic yesterday↩︎

  2. Specifically the GRN Ravnica Weekend #A05 variant. ↩︎

  3. They never tap so can’t ever be targeted by Seal Away↩︎


RNA Booster: Wall of Lost Thoughts

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

Wall of Lost Thoughts is a 1 Generic ManaBlue 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.

  1. That honour belongs to Amaranthine Wall and Junktroller↩︎


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