Core Set 2020 is finally here! I may have got a little carried away at pre-release as I ended up purchasing 85 boosters with a further 10 arriving at the weekend1. That gives me an awful lot of opportunities to write about cards though so without further ado I’ll crack open the first pack and pick a card to discuss:
Leyline of Combustion is a enchantment that deals 2 damage to an opponent if they target either you or one of your permanents with a spell or ability. Like all leylines, you can choose to have it start on the battlefield at the beginning of the game.
As I mentioned in my Core Set 2020 Primer, there is a leyline in each colour and they all work in the same way with the ability to start the game on the battlefield if they are in your opening hand, a trick which is much easier to pull off with the London Mulligan3. The white, blue, and black leylines are all reprints from previous sets but the green Leyline of Abundance and this red Leyline of Combustion are completely new to M204. There are several people who think that the advantage of a leyline is too good with it starting out on the field for free but I disagree; most of these enchantments have a very narrow scope (i.e. making the player hexproof) and they don’t usually become useful until the later game5. As with all Magic cards, there is a balance as enchantments are relatively easy to destroy with cards like Broken Bond, Disenchant, and Thrashing Brontodon. They also have a fairly tricky casting cost if you’re in anything other than mono colour and at a stage where the ability they provide likely isn’t good enough to make you want to cast it on curve. Finally, whilst it is easier to get at these leylines with the London Mulligan, that means you are likely going to start the game several cards down especially as one of your cards is now on the field and likely not terribly useful. That isn’t to say leylines are bad – they most definitely aren’t – but they aren’t some big bad game breaking piece either.
With all that said, damn this card looks good! When I first saw the card I thought it was just spells that targeted creatures so my mind was instantly drawn to control decks with their bounces and counters. The fact that it is spells and abilities and that it isn’t just creatures but permanents instantly makes this way more powerful. For one thing, it protects itself; even if it does nothing but get destroyed by Mortify it will still do 2 damage to the opponent. Ideally you want to do a lot more than that but at the base level it is still good if you managed to cast it for free. It is also important to note that the ability triggers whenever you or a permanent becomes a target, not when it’s resolved. This means you can counter a spell targeting you and you’ll still do the 2 damage.
The best way to think about this leyline is as a massive deterrent. You’re basically daring your opponent to sling spells at you as every time they do they’ll get hit. Sometimes they’re going to take that risk as they may straight-up lose the game if they don’t use removal or hit you with a burn spell. Whilst not particularly useful against creature heavy decks, any kind of control or burn deck is going to suffer heavily at the hands of this leyline.
Note that the leylines are not legendary enchantments6 so you can have multiples of these in play at the same time; this helps prevent you from getting bounced and countered (as with two on the field this would do 4 damage when one gets bounced and another 2 damage when the second one is countered on the way back in) but it is also a good way of doubling, tripling, or even quadrupling that threat level.
In terms of combos, there are a few nice things that can be done with this:
- Chandra, Awakened Inferno, widely regarded as one of the best cards of M20, pairs up nicely. Chandra will always be able to generate at least 1 emblem that starts dealing 1 damage to opponent every turn but she can be destroyed or bounced in response; she needs to be removed quickly though as otherwise her abilities are bonkers so your opponent is always likely to do something meaning you get a free 2 damage on them.
- Jaya, Venerated Firemage will add 1 extra damage from any red source which includes this leyline. If you manage to have two leylines out then that means 6 damage!
- You’d think that spectacle would be useful with this leyline but the reality is that all ten spectacle cards in Standard currently are either creatures or sorceries; if your opponent uses an instant against you on your turn then of course the 2 damage can activate spectacle to get you cheaper creatures or spells, especially in the early game, but this isn’t going to be of any use if they sling a spell during their turn.
- Angrath’s Marauders will double the damage of your leyline(s).
- Immolation Shaman will help lock down activated abilities from your opponent even further by adding an extra 1 damage.
- If you can time it right, The Flame of Keld could be a good way of getting 4 damage in to an opponent. Just wait until section III of the saga to bring in something you know your opponent will want to counter and see if they go for it; if they do, you hit them for 4 damage, if they don’t, you have something good on the field.
- Wildfire Elemental is great if you have several creatures as they’ll all get +1/+0 until end of turn for every time the leyline does damage.
In reality, you don’t need any of these pieces in order to feel the benefit of this leyline; it’s going to serve it’s purpose as a threat to those that would try and target you or any of your permanents. Whilst I don’t usually like the leylines from the point of view that the casting cost isn’t worth it if you find it later in the game, I’m willing to make an exception for this one. It would be nice to have it on the board from the start but I can see situations where I’d still play this on turn 4.
If you’re playing mono-red, this seems like an easy card to take a punt on. I’m certainly going to be trying it out in a few of my red decks.
Update: I’ve been using this card a little on MTG Arena and had a hilarious experience that proves this card is good even if cast in the late game. My opponent played Patient Rebuilding which I followed up with the leyline. The rebuilding is not optional so at the start of opponent’s upkeep it would hit me triggering the leyline for 2 damage. This was further compounded when they played a second Patient Rebuilding so I was now hitting them for 4 damage per turn. The game ended pretty quickly.
2 x 36 booster boxes, a pre-release sealed kit with 6 boosters, 2 boosters won at pre-release, and 5 boosters total from the Planeswalker decks (that now only have 1 per pack rather than 2 to reduce the cost). The next 10 are coming from the Bundle Box which isn’t available until Core Set 2020 launches fully this weekend. ↩︎
Which is an incredible card and will definitely be discussed later (although I already technically own one from the Chandra Planeswalker deck). ↩︎
Again, see my Core Set 2020 Primer for details on this but you essentially now keep drawing 7 cards but then discard X cards where X is the number of mulligans you’ve taken; this means you see more cards and have more of a chance of getting a leyline in your hand. ↩︎
The older red leylines include “Leyline of Lightning” from Guildpact that let you pay every time you cast a spell to deal 1 damage to a player whilst “Leyline of Punishment” from Magic 2011 prevented all players from gaining life and stopped damage from being prevented. I think this new one is better. ↩︎
Which is the one thing I would change. Having multiple copies of this on the battlefield at the start of the game seems nuts. ↩︎
With spoiler season over it’s time to take a look through the new mechanics and cards in Core Set 2020 to give you a basic primer on what you can expect both at pre-release and beyond. I’m not going to go through every card but I will try and showcase some of the important themes, returning mechanics, and a few of the really good cards you should be paying attention to.
Before I get to that, though, I need to mention the Loxodon in the room launching alongside Core Set 2020; the London Mulligan. Trialed at the Mythic Championship London 2019, the London Mulligan switches things up by removing the scry and instead always allowing you to draw seven cards and then place x number on the bottom (where x is the number of mulligans you’ve performed). For example, currently if you mulligan from seven cards you would draw six cards and then choose to stick or go down to five cards, four cards, and so on. Once you’ve stuck with a hand, you then get to scry 1. With the London Mulligan, you would instead go from seven cards to drawing another seven cards but then choosing six to keep; if you mulliganed again you’d draw seven cards but keep five, and so on. There is no scry but you are getting far more benefit as you get to choose the x best cards from a full draw rather than just being given x cards. It seems like a great change and will be especially noteworthy with some returning cards as we’ll see shortly. The London Mulligan is the official way to mulligan as of the launch of Core Set 2020 (including the pre-release weekend).
With that out of the way, let’s jump into some returning mechanics!
Protection hasn’t been seen in Standard for some time but it is back and it sounds like we could be seeing a lot more of it in the future. In a nutshell, protection means that a creature can’t be interfered with by a certain colour. For example, if we look at Unchained Berserker, this card has protection from white meaning that a white creature can’t block or deal damage to this creature and spells with a white casting cost can’t target, deal damage, or enchant this creature. It also can’t equip anything with a white casting cost. This is an incredibly good mechanic against specific colours as it is more powerful than hexproof; you are effectively indestructible if you block a white creature and you act like a River Sneak when attacking against white creatures. There is one creature available for each colour which each have protection from an opposing colour; Shifting Ceratops may as well be called “Screw You Teferi-o-saurus”!
There is also Gods Willing, a instant that lets a creature gain protection from a colour of your choice until end of turn (with a free scry bunged on the end for extra measure). This is very, very good; If you get it in sealed, you will play it.
The counter to protection is a concept known as “colour hosing”, cards that do something but only to specific colours. For example, Devout Decree can exile a creature or planeswalker for the low cost of , but only if it’s black or red. Fry can deal 5 damage to a creature or planeswalker for the low cost of , but only if it’s white or blue. There is an entire clever pie system that determines which colours oppose each other and which are allied but the important thing with all of these is that they are very rarely going to main deckable; they are tricks you keep in your sideboard so that you can use them should you need them in game two and three. You don’t want a Noxious Grasp in your deck and then find out you’re up against a Rakdos deck!
An important thing to note with both protection and colour hosing; when they mention a colour, the spell they are targeting only needs to have it in the casting cost, it does not need to be only that colour. For example, protection from blue will protect you from Teferi, Hero of Dominaria as it costs and therefore is a “white blue” card. Remember also that there are some cards which are specifically “all colours” such as Sphinx of the Guildpact; these would be blocked by any colour of protection even though the casting cost was colourless.
Another returning mechanic is Leylines. These are enchantments that can start the game on the battlefield if you have them in your opening hand after any mulligans have taken place. This is one reason why the London Mulligan is so good as you have a far higher chance of finding one of these cards. I’m particularly excited by Leyline of Anticipation for making all your spells flashable (which includes creatures and sorceries) but I also like the idea of using Leyline of Abundance with Llanowar Elves for potentially 4 mana on turn 2…
Fresh from War of the Spark, you may well have questions about the planeswalkers in this set. How many are there? Do they have static abilities? Are there common ones? For the most part everything is straightforward again in this set with planeswalkers back at mythic rare status with three activated abilities and no static abilities. Each of them looks pretty good with Mu Yanling, Sky Dancer probably being the best of the bunch. I do like that Ajani, Strength of the Pride does just create Ajani’s Pridemate tokens though!
Things get a bit more complicated with Chandra as she has three versions in the main set; an uncommon, a rare, and a mythic rare. However, the lower rarities still have three abilities but they are a lot less powerful1. Again, there are no static abilities2 and these are the only exceptions to the mythic rare rule mostly because the set is ostensibly about Chandra.
That gives us a total of seven planeswalkers in Core Set 2020 which goes up to twelve if you count the versions in the Planeswalker Decks that I’ll get to much later on.
Each colour gets itself a “Cavalier” which is an elemental knight creature that usually gets a keyword ability, an enter the battlefield ability, and a death trigger. Each of them is a mythic rare and costs 2 colourless and 3 of the specific colour. They are all fairly good but Cavalier of Gales is probably the best due to it being shuffled back into your library when it dies. Cavalier of Flame is probably the worst as it doesn’t have a keyword ability like the others do and the leaving trigger isn’t really going to be that powerful as you likely didn’t have many cards to discard in the first place as part of the ETB trigger.
There’s a nice cycle of rare legendary creatures which are all massively expensive but share a casting component of three of their particular colour. All of them are very good but the attack bonus on Drakuseth, Maw of Flames seems very good if your opponent has a wide board. It’s also very important to note that Gargos, Vicious Watcher does work with casting costs so you can use this and pay just to get a Hydroid Krasis where is ; the 8/7 toughness with vigilance was enough for the cost but that hydra price drop and the fight ability make this card crazy good.
Yet another thing that has been bought back from the past is the concept of coloured artifacts, in this case a cycle of 5 artifacts at the uncommon level. I really like the look of Mask of Immolation but I can see Wolfrider’s Saddle being very good in a deck with Arlinn, Voice of the Pack.
There is one further coloured artifact in the form of Chandra’s Regulator, a rare card that we’ll see again when I get to the various promos for this set. If you’re playing with any of the six Chandra’s that will be in Standard then this artifact is a no-brainer.
This is a bit of a fun cycle with rare instants or sorceries that each do something twice be that searching a library for two cards with different names to go into your hand as is the case with Shared Summons or return two permanents you lost this turn back to the battlefield with Brought Back. I particularly like that the doubling is clearly shown in the artwork for each card and also that each one has an alliterative name3.
Life-Gain Tapped Lands
Core Set 2020 includes a full helping of dual lands in the form of life-gain tapped lands; they enter the battlefield tapped but you gain 1 life as they do so. They are all commons and of the type “Land”.
There are also five “temples”, dual lands that enter the battlefield tapped but they give you a scry 1 when they do so. These lands are all rares and are also of the type “Land”. At that rarity level, I would have liked to have seen these be along the lines of Shock Lands and contain the type of each land they represent i.e. Temple of Mystery would be “Land – Forest Island” so that it could be used in conjunction with something like Nissa, Who Shakes the World. I just don’t think a scry is enough to elevate a tapped dual land to rare.
I’ve covered some of the core mechanics of the set but there are a few cards that deserve a special mention. I’ll be opening a booster pack a day and choosing a single to do a deep dive into once the set launches, but for now here are some quick thoughts on the cards that caught my eye during spoiler season.
- Planar Cleansing: A great sorcery that beats Cleansing Nova when it comes to sweeping destruction. Kills everything but lands (so creatures, planeswalkers, artifacts, enchantments, equipments, sagas, and so on).
- Rule of Law: An enchantment that prevents all players (including yourself) from casting more than one spell each turn. Really great for control decks especially if you know you can counter the one spell you’re allowing your opponent to cast. Note that it is “each turn” so you can cast a spell on your turn and your opponent’s turn.
- Brineborn Cutthroat: I mention this one purely to reference the fact that tribes are fairly well accounted for across the board. Vampires and elementals are definitely big but there is love for dinosaurs, merfolk, goblins, and pirates as well. This card also seems pretty good for an “end of opponent’s turn” surprise.
- Tale’s End: This is a great counter spell that is definitely going to see a lot of play; it can stop planeswalkers from landing but can also be used to stop a planeswalker ultimate from going off.
- Blood for Bones: An interesting sorcery which has an important flow to it’s text; you can sacrifice a creature on the battlefield and then return that one to either your hand or battlefield should you wish to (i.e. if it has a really good ETB trigger). Definitely one to watch out for.
- Bloodthirsty Aerialist: Did you want an Ajani’s Pridemate in black? Here’s one that flies with a very relevant creature type!
- Dread Presence: Swamp landfall that lets you draw a card for a bit of life loss or deal 2 damage and gain 2 life. I love the choice and I love the possibilities with a card like this. I’m also really loving seeing landfall abilities in Standard at the moment4.
- Embodiment of Agonies: Usually the core set is aimed at beginners. The relative complexity of this card (and the spelling out it requires) shows that this is not the case this time around.
- Rotting Regisaur: A 7/6 dinosaur for 3 mana. Are you insane?
- Glint-Horn Buccaneer: It’s nice to see a minotaur pirate that isn’t Angrath. His mana sink ability is also pretty good and could feasibly end a game if you have enough mana.
- Marauding Raptor: After the disappointing dinosaur in War of the Spark, I was overjoyed to see this raptor especially as it effectively replaces Otepec Huntmaster and Forerunner of the Empire. Beware, though; if you use this in combo with a Polyraptor then you get into an infinite loop which will cause the game to end in a draw, not a win5.
- Nightpack Ambusher: Another tribe that gets a good outing is wolves. This one has a particularly interesting end step condition again suggesting this is not the basic set one might think it would be.
- Voracious Hydra: Oh, you wanted another Hydra with an cost you could exploit with Gargos, Vicious Watcher? Here ya go.
- Kaalia, Zenith Seeker: If you’re running a deck with lots of angels, demons, and dragons, then this is a fine cleric for your deck. Even without those, a 3/3 flyer with vigilance for 3 (albeit difficult to cast) mana is not too shabby.
- Yarok, the Desecrated: Doubling ETB triggers is always fun as are creatures with both deathtouch and lifelink.
- Bag of Holding: Looks like the D&D crossover goes both ways! This is also a pretty decent card although you do need to remember to keep track of what you exiled with it.
- Golos, Tireless Pilgrim: If you’ve read this far and were wondering where the five-mana spells were at, Golos is available for you. Note that his ETB trigger can pull any land, not just a basic land.
- Grafdigger’s Cage: This is a reprint from way back when but it is going to be insanely useful in the current meta. There is basically no risk at having this in your sideboard at the very least as a way to neuter undergrowth, jump start, and a load of very specific cards.
There is one card that is so special it deserves to be shown and get a bit of extra discussion:
It’s always nice to see a card that harkens back to the world famous Black Lotus and this one does so with a number of caveats that can be easily circumvented. First of all, a hexproof land is always a good thing and tapping for three mana of any color6 is insane. It does enter tapped, which is fair enough, but the requirement to sacrifice two lands effectively means this doesn’t gain you much extra benefit. You can, of course, sacrifice those lands after you’ve tapped them for mana (which is sensible) but we can go a few steps further…
For starters, try using Brought Back which will allow you to bring back both of those lands straight away. An alternate strategy would be to use Crucible of Worlds to bring the lands back over time or you could just leave them there and buff Elvish Reclaimer. For my money, the best synergy is Blood Sun which removes all non-mana abilities from lands meaning that this card doesn’t have hexproof, doesn’t enter tapped, and doesn’t require you to sacrifice any lands. That works so well I picked up four copies just to be on the safe side for any possible price increase once the set launches!
Whichever way you play it, this is an incredibly good card and will likely be one of the most expensive on the singles market for this set.
There are a number of extras for this set beyond the 280 cards in the base set.
Buy-a-Box Promo: Rienne, Angel of Rebirth (#281). You get a free foil version when you buy a 36-booster box. A good card for Hero of Precinct One decks and Commander but otherwise not terribly interesting.
“Fat Pack” Bundle: An alternate artwork foil version of Chandra’s Regulator is included in the 10-booster bundle along with 20 foil land cards and an oversized die.
Planeswalker Decks: There are 5 planeswalker decks to purchase, one for each colour. They each include a foil copy of the planeswalker and 4 cards that are unique to the deck encompassing numbers #282 to #301. As usual, the cards aren’t actually that good (hence the ~£12 price point for a 60-card deck) but they are good for newcomers and for people that need to collect all the cards!
Spellslinger Kit: New this time around is the Spellslinger Starter Kit which encompass numbers #302 to #344. These are two pre-built mono-coloured decks that are designed as a way to teach two players how to play. Interestingly, there are a few unique cards in this kit and there are a number of reprints which are considered to be Core Set 2020 and so will therefore survive rotation. For example, Aggressive Mammoth would have left Standard after rotation but he lives on thanks to this beginner kit!
One final thing to note is that tokens have been redesigned in this set and are now full artwork! Here’s a look at all 12 tokens that you can find in Core Set 2020:
Best Artwork Award
Best Flavour Text
Another difficult choice but I’m going to go for Tale’s End; the attribution to Unknown is just perfect.
Best Card Of The Set
This card has already sparked a lot of debate and will do for a long time to come. A 7/6 for 3 mana. 3 mana!?!? Add to that some awesome artwork, funny flavour text, and the creature type “Zombie Dinosaur”7 and we have a winner.
I think that just about covers it. I’ll be back with a report on my pre-release at the weekend and then I’ll be doing regular booster pack openings with a deep dive into a single card each day starting on Monday 8th July. From that date I’ll also be back to streaming MTG Arena regularly on my Twitch channel.
Let me know your thoughts about Core Set 2020 in the comments below and feel free to join my Discord community to carry on the discussion about all things Standard.
Ironically the rare has two 0 loyalty abilities and a -2 whilst the uncommon has a +1, -1, and -2. ↩︎
Chandra, Awakened Inferno is an exception as she can’t be countered but that isn’t really the same as the static abilities in War of the Spark. There isn’t anything crazy like “opponents can’t gain life” or “all your forests tap for double mana”, etc. ↩︎
I really like the quirky naming conventions that sometimes occur in Magic such as the split cards in the recent Ravnica block always sharing the same first three letters on each half of the card. ↩︎
Rule 720.4: If a loop contains only mandatory actions, the game is a draw. ↩︎
Although do note that this is three mana of any one colour; you can make it but you can’t hvae it be . Also note that three of one colour works very nicely with that legendary creature cycle I mentioned back up the page… ↩︎
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.
It looks like we’re on the penultimate day of War of the Spark spoilers and we’ve got lots to look at including a few planeswalkers, the last two cards of the finale cycle, and some interesting sorceries around Liliana’s story:
To start with, let’s look at Narset, Parter of Veils, a planeswalker that is guaranteed to screw up my milling decks based around Psychic Corrosion. Her static ability prevents opponents from drawing more than one card a turn instantly stopping basic spells like Opt and Revitalize but also tricksy enchantments like The Immortal Sun. This probably makes her a good card but the -2 ability is also useful in the right deck allowing you to basically scry for enchantments, equipments, sorceries, instants, and artifacts. If your deck is heavy on those, then this could be a decent play.
Narset’s counterpart, Narset’s Reversal, is far more interesting to me. The wording is a little odd but it appears to be a counterspell that puts the card back in the opponent’s hand rather than in their graveyard. Furthermore, you get to cast it and choose a new target for the copy. It’s the first time we’ve seen a spell like this in Magic history with even the individual parts being relatively rare. It seems a little odd thematically to me as the spell is both being cast and being given back to the opponent for them to cast again1 but it still has it’s uses. Whilst I don’t think it’s as good as a straight up counter, it could feasibly let you finish a game if you manage to redirect a killing blow from an instant back to the opponent before they get a chance to cast it again. Realistically this is only going to be good for limited play.
Our next planeswalker is going to be a boon for dragon lovers as Sarkhan the Masterless lets each of your dragons deal 1 damage to any creature that is attacking you or a planeswalker you control. His +1 ability allows all planeswalkers you control to become 4/4 dragon tokens until end of turn and his -3 lets you create a permanent 4/4 dragon token. If you’re running a dragon deck then this seems like a no-brainer to me. I like that he can protect himself by dealing damage directly to anyone that attacks him and the ability to turn boring old planeswalkers on the field into flying 4/4’s for your attack step is also useful and potentially game ending in a super friends deck.
Sarkhan’s Catharsis isn’t terrible but there is better removal out there for a cheaper price. This is going to be useful in limited and I like that it doesn’t need Sarkhan the Masterless to boost it but I can’t imagine this is ever going to see standard play.
Ugin’s back and he has a fairly decent static ability in the right deck; all colourless spells cost less. That is going to pair nicely with Meteor Golem and Gate Colossus whilst also making cards like Field Creeper and Diamond Mare totally free! His +1 ability is a form of card advantage in that you create a 2/2 spirit creature and exile the top card of your library; when the token dies, the card goes into your hand. I love abilities like this and the fact you get a 2/2 flyer for free is nice as well. Finally, the -3 ability allows you to destroy any permanent that is one or more colours. That is incredibly good as most permanents are at least one colour and that will obviously deal with all the planeswalkers but this one. That’s actually better than Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God’s ability of the same cost as this lets you destroy enchantments, equipments, vehicles, lands, and artifacts!
Ugin, the Ineffable also pairs really nicely with his counterpart card, Ugin’s Conjurant. It’s a spirit creature that enters the battlefield with +1/+1 counters equal to the mana spent on it but when it takes damage it removes that number of counters; you are effectively dealing permanent damage to the creature rather than having it restored to full health at the start of upkeep. I really like that mechanic and can’t remember seeing it in Magic before. Whilst I’m not usually a colourless fan, these two cards are giving me some interesting deck ideas that I’m keen to explore. My only wish is that Ugin, the Ineffable was maybe just 1 or 2 mana cheaper.
We’ve got another Gideon planeswalker and his static ability is basically the same as the +2 ability on Gideon, the Oathsworn apart from you get a 4/4 instead of a 5/5 and it is automatic whenever it is your turn. This effectively prevents your opponents from using things like Shock on him during your turn but I don’t love the ability. His +1 is more useful giving a target creature either vigilance, lifelink, or indestructible until end of turn whilst his -6 lets you exile a nonland permanent. I’m not crazy about this card2 but it has obvious synergies with Gideon’s Triumph and Gideon’s Company. I do like the artwork and the low casting cost though…
Now we’re getting to the more exciting cards. Liliana gets two story-focussed cards today starting with Price of Betrayal, a sorcery that lets you remove 5 counters from a thing be they planeswalker loyalty, +1/+1 counters, or any other type of counter that can be used. It’s effectively a reverse proliferate 5 on a single target. The obvious usage is to kill a planeswalker3 but it could also prevent you losing the game to Simic Ascendancy and stop decks reliant on spawning copies of Galloping Lizrog. I love the artwork, I love the flavour text, I love the ability, and I really love the pricing. This is a must have card if you’re using black mana.
Command the Dreadhorde is another Liliana card that is thematically on point. You can choose any number of creatures or planeswalkers from all graveyards and put them onto the battlefield; they deal damage to you equal to their CMC. It’s an expensive card but it’s a big bomb, especially in the limited environment. Being able to resurrect your opponent’s planeswalkers and creatures to the battlefield is an incredibly useful ability and the life cost is both a fair mechanic and a nice piece of storytelling showing you giving your life to bring them back. Again, I love everything about this card and will definitely be using it in some decks.
The finale for today4 is the last two cards of the finale cycle. Finale of Glory lets you create X 2/2 soldier tokens with vigilance which is pretty good; if X is 10 or more, you also get X 4/4 angels with flying and vigilance. That is utterly crazy and will definitely end a game if you have the mana to pull it off. I think that even paying 7 total mana makes this good enough as you’d be spawn 5 vigilant creatures but if you can get up to 12 mana you’ve won. Similarly, Finale of Devastation is a crazy powerful card letting you search your library or graveyard for a creature with CMC X or less and put it onto the battlefield; if X is 10 or more, then all of your creatures get +X/+X and gain haste until end of turn. Another game finisher5 and one that is definitely going into my dinosaur deck if only for the awesome artwork and possibly my favourite flavour text of the set. These two finales definitely seem the strongest of the cycle and can definitely be useful even at relatively low mana costs whilst entering into batshit crazy mode once you hit 12 mana.
That’s all for today but join me tomorrow for the final spoilers of the set! If you want to talk about any of the cards spoiled thus far, join my Discord community or pop a comment down below.
Possibly straight away. If they have mana available then they can cast it again immediately as it is back in their hand. Would maybe be better putting it onto top of library as otherwise they can respond to your countering their spell with their spell which is… weird. ↩︎
Partially because I dislike Gideon as a character. Luckily this is the last time I’ll see him 🤭 ↩︎
Which is crazy cheap for ! ↩︎
Well the clue is in the name but still… ↩︎
After seeing Nicol Bolas transform into a God yesterday, today we get to see the planeswalkers storming the citadel and Kaya taking up the oath of the Gatewatch. Before we get to that we have a new cycle to look at:
Last week we saw Finale of Promise but it turns out that was the first of what is presumably going to be a 5 card cycle. Each one costs plus two mana of a single colour and contains some ability based on X which gets far better if X is 10 or more. Today we got:
Finale of Revelation: to draw X cards. If X is 10 or more, then you get to shuffle your graveyard into your library first, then untap five lands and you have no maximum hand size for the rest of the game. That last clause is particularly good as most “no max hand size” conditions are attached to things that can be destroyed; not so here which could be useful with Commence the Endgame although to be honest you’ve probably already won the game by this stage1.
Finale of Eternity: to destroy three creatures with toughness X or less. If X is 10 or more, return all creature cards from your graveyard to the battlefield. That is pretty nasty, especially if you’ve been playing a Golgari undergrowth deck where you’ve purposefully been putting creatures in the graveyard to boost cards like Rhizome Lurcher or Mausoleum Secrets. This can be upset very easily by Remorseful Cleric or Sentinel Totem though which is a shame as you likely won’t get any other benefit from pumping 12 mana into this2.
I always like to see land cards that have some kind of weird ability on them. Blast Zone is a perfect example in that it uses “charge counters” to destroy nonland permanents; specifically you have to pay , , and sacrifice it but then you deal damage equal to the number of counters you have. You get a charge counter for free when it enters the battlefield and you can then pay and to add X number of counters. Remember that you can also increase the counters using the proliferate mechanic. I really want to like this card but it has a few issues: the obvious first point is that it hurts everything, including your own permanents, which isn’t ideal; secondly, to add counters you have to do them in bulk and the card which means you then can’t perform the sacrifice (unless you have a way of untapping it). This isn’t terrible but it makes it a lot harder to use as a mana sink and puts a big target on it. That it can destroy everything but land is really good but I’m not sure it’s worth the hassle involved to pull it off.
Casualties of War is far simpler and is your all-in-one destruction spell. You can choose to destroy an artifact, creature, enchantment, land, or planeswalker and you can perform each option once. If you’re lucky, you could perform all of them but more often than not I suspect this will be used to kill a creature, land, and planeswalker. The cost is high and depending on your mana pool it may not be the easiest to cast but it is a super flexible piece of removal and I like it for that reason. Obviously it would be nicer if it was at instant speed or if it was something along the lines of “pick 4 and you can choose each one more than once” but I still think it is good if you’re running Golgari colours.
Storm the Citadel is the sort of card my milling deck hates; all your creatures get +2/+2 until end of turn and if they hit a player or planeswalker then you get to destroy an enchantment or artifact. The +2/+2 is always nice but being able to effectively destroy enchantments for free is really good when running up against a deck that uses a lot of them. Again, I’d love this so much more if it was an instant but I think there is still value in this one.
As if the Simic Guild didn’t have enough scary creatures with +1/+1 interactions, here comes Bioessence Hydra. 4/4 with trample but when it enters the battlefield it gets a +1/+1 for each loyalty counter on your planeswalkers and whenever a loyalty counter is placed on a planeswalker you get that many +1/+1 counters. Oh, and it has trample. This is going to be a top notch card in a lot of decks; I’m already thinking of the horrible ways this can be mixed with Simic Ascendancy, especially with low-cost high-loyalty planeswalkers like Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner. I have a feeling that the rules will be such that bringing a planeswalker into the battlefield doesn’t trigger this as you aren’t technically placing a loyalty counter; however, this will still be a cool trick if you have a lot of loyalty on the field already. I’m excited for this one!
The final card on a much quieter day of spoilers is Oath of Kaya, a enchantment that performs a lightning strike when entering the battlefield as well as giving you 3 life. Thereafter, it will deal 2 lifelink damage to a player if they declare at least one attacker against one of your planeswalkers. The card is probably going to get the most value in a superfriends deck with a ton of planeswalkers but there are likely better 3 mana cards you could be playing. I really like that there is an “Oath of [name]” card every time a new planeswalker joins the Gatewatch and this card deserves a mention if only for the story implications.
That’s all for now but you can keep up with all the latest spoilers by joining my Discord community and you can check out all the spoiled cards so far on my cards page. You can also join me on Twitch where I play MTG Arena every Monday.
It’d be a decent way to use those 5 untapped lands although you will need one more mana from somewhere to pay for it. ↩︎
i.e. if X is 5 or X is 10 you are likely still killing the same three creatures; the only benefit to paying the full 10 is to get all your creatures from the graveyard which can be scuppered fairly easily. ↩︎
The day I’ve been waiting for has finally arrived as a dinosaur makes it’s way to Ravnica!
Whilst she was shown in in Ixalan, Huatli was presented in in Rivals of Ixalan. That same colour treatment is used again here but with hybrid mana making her nice and easy to use in my preferred Gruul deck. When I first saw her static ability I was a bit disappointed as I had thought that dinosaurs were generally big powerful cards that this would then weaken. It turns out I was wrong; of the 72 dinosaurs in Standard, there are only 12 that would be reduced by this card with 21 getting a boost1. Of course, this does mean your Carnage Tyrant is now weaker which I don’t love. If the text let you choose the highest between toughness and power I still wouldn’t like this ability, but the fact it can weaken your creatures makes me uneasy. It might find a home in a defender type deck but I’m not seeing it. Her -3 ability is better and that she starts with such a high loyalty is really good2 but I’m not convinced that some life gain is enough to make this a playable card.
Huatli’s Raptor is a bit better. A 2 mana 2/3 dinosaur with vigilance that proliferates when it enters the battlefield. I feel like this needed to be a 1/4 to make it play better with Huatli, the Sun’s Heart but it’s a fine card. I’m more of a fan of dinosaurs but there is certainly a home for this.
I mentioned a few days ago that we were probably due to see the Jace Planeswalker deck and it finally arrived today. As usual, the cards are a little weak to account for the fact they are part of a $15 deck but Jace, Arcane Strategist isn’t too bad. Whenever you use the +1 ability you’re going to get to put a +1/+1 counter on another creature and if you have something like The Immortal Sun in play you’ll get this even if you choose to use his -7 ability to prevent your creatures being blocked. It also plays with Jace’s Triumph to give you extra cards.
That ultimate is a bit easier to get to with Jace’s Projection which has a mana sink for adding loyalty counters to a Jace planeswalker whilst also getting +1/+1 counters every time you draw a card. The “wizard” type also makes this play nicely with a whole host of other cards so this one is good if you are planning on using a Jace; I’d recommend Jace, Cunning Castaway or Jace, Wielder of Mysteries. Guildpact Informant is great if you can make it unblockable with Aether Tunnel but Jace’s Ruse is going to be useless outside of specific play with this planeswalker deck3.
And now we get to the real meat of the set; Nicol Bolas has become a God and is using The Elderspell to steal sparks from planeswalkers. Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God fits well with this theme in that he can use the loyalty abilities of any planeswalker currently on the battlefield which is particularly nice; if you are able to increase his loyalty quickly with some proliferate tricks then you are feasibly going to have a wide range of ultimate options open to you. That said, his own abilities aren’t too shabby either. +1 to draw a card and your opponent has to exile a card or permanent; a lot of the time they’ll choose to get rid of land they don’t need, especially in the end game, but it’s a nice bit of icing on top of card draw. Similarly, a -3 to destroy a creature or planeswalker is pretty good; Vraska planeswalkers nearly always have a destroy creature ability at this loyalty price so to be able to destroy planeswalkers as well is good. The best part of the card is undoubtedly the ultimate, an alternate win condition so long as you remove all of their legendary creatures and planeswalkers; there are four legendary creatures with flash so that should be watched out for but this undoubtedly going to be a fun card to play with. If I had a criticism, I think that such a powerful card would have been better done as a double-sider like Nicol Bolas, the Ravager // Nicol Bolas, the Arisen, maybe using the counters or the amass ability to get him to transform. It’s a small quibble though and I’m looking forward to trying this out. Another idea would be that this should have had the same “you may put it into its owner’s library third from the top” text that other gods have but that really would be very powerful; it’s odd to have Dragon-God in the name but not be a God creature type.
The Elderspell was mentioned during the WAR reveal panel and is very, very good. We were promised effective planeswalker removal for a set with 37 planeswalkers and this does not disappoint. lets you destroy any number of planeswalkers and then give one of your planeswalkers double that number of loyalty tokens. That is utterly sick with Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God. If you had 7 mana to spare, you could cast Bolas, then cast the Elderspell to kill all enemy planeswalkers, give Bolas the tokens, then trigger the ultimate. You only need to kill two planeswalkers to get that to work and crucially you can kill your own. If I could choose one card from the set that I thought was broken, this would be it; bear in mind it is the planeswalker equivalent of Cleansing Nova but it costs 3 mana less and it gives you a ridiculous buff and you get to choose what dies. Crazy!
The final card I’m going to look at today is Commence the Endgame. This would have been a great candidate for flipping into Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God as it depicts his ascension to godhood but I won’t quibble about that. For 6 mana, you can an uncounterable instant that lets you draw two cards and then amass with the number of cards in your hand. At the minimum, this will be draw 2 and amass 2 which isn’t a great rate but it can be horrendously busted if you are doing some shenanigans with Nezahal, Primal Tide or Reliquary Tower. I don’t think it’s a card I’ll be using but I could see it getting some play. I had to mention it though if only for the hilarious name.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more spoilers but as usual you can check out everything spoiled so far on my cards page. You can also drop a note in the comments or join my Discord community if you want me to talk about some of the cards I didn’t cover today including Ashiok, Dream Render, Deliver Unto Evil, and Soul Diviner.
That means there are 39 dinosaurs this card does nothing to whatsoever which is a shame as it feels a waste especially with staples like Burning Sun’s Avatar, Etali, Primal Storm, Ghalta, Primal Hunger, Raging Swordtooth, etc. ↩︎
I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: these planeswalker decks are a great way of having “fair” matchups with friends and as a way to get somebody interested in playing Magic. The sets come with a deck that is ready to go along with 2 boosters so you can start deck building by augmenting the one you have. They are in no way competitive at your local game store or on MTG Arena though. ↩︎
Well I was expecting another god and some heroic deaths today but instead Ravnica has turned into a hippie festival and they’re bringing back a dragon!
To begin with we have a nice cycle of “bond” cards that each represent two of the guilds joining forces. The flavour text is wonderful on these and I love the conjoined logos of the guilds within the artwork; it’s a shame those same icons didn’t make it as a watermark on the card as per guild specific cards. Each bond is fairly expensive (except Bond of Flourishing), is of uncommon rarity, and is a sorcery:
- Bond of Discipline: Tap all of your opponents creatures and your creatures gain lifelink. I’ve lost many a game to Tempest Caller and I’m sure this has similar game-winning stature. Even if you don’t win then, you’ll presumably gain a lot of life.
- Bond of Insight: Mill your opponent and yourself for four cards each and then you get to return two instants or sorceries to your hand. I don’t love this, even if it does let you get stuff you’ve already played. For me this needed an extra bonus like “instants or sorceries cost less until end of turn”.
- Bond of Revival: Return a creature from the graveyard to the battlefield and give it haste. Very nice, especially as these spells usually bring back creatures tapped.
- Bond of Passion: It’s an Act of Treason with a Shock bolted on that costs more. That’s not passion, that’s going through the motions.
- Bond of Flourishing: Look at the top 3 cards of your library, put a permanent in your hand, and gain 3 life. Seems pretty decent to me as you’re likely draw 2 permanents in a regular deck.
Yesterday I pointed out that there were cheaper ways to give all your creatures a +1/+1 than Gideon’s Battle Cry. Today we got Pledge of Unity which does exactly that and gives you 1 life gain for every creature you control. This is a useful ability, especially at instant speed where it can double as a combat trick. It’s also a great thing to do before a proliferate in order to ensure you get maximum benefit.
Jace’s Triumph is a direct replacement for Divination that will give you one extra card if you control a Jace planeswalker. That seems like a good deal if you’re already planning on using any of the four versions of Jace that will be available in standard once WAR is released. The most interesting thing about this card is the flavour text; Jace has outsmarted Bolas’ plan…
Finale of Promise is one of those cards that I hate because it is just a big wall of text. It’s the sort of card you need to go and get your glasses for when it hits the battlefield. In any case, it’s a mythic rare sorcery that lets you cast both a single instant and a single sorcery from your graveyard with X CMC and you don’t have to pay the cost. If you do that, those cards get exiled which is fair. If X is 10 or more, then you can copy each of those spells twice and choose new copies for those targets. What this ultimately means is that you can pay 12 mana to cast two spells worth 10 CMC from your graveyard three times each which is bananas. There’s a reason this is called a finale; it will end a game very easily if you have the mana to pump into it and the powerful spells in your graveyard. Whilst my first thought went to Nexus of Fate, I foolishly forgot that it never goes in the graveyard so that doesn’t work. Boneyard Parley three times seems pretty nasty though as does Vivien’s Invocation. There aren’t that many big bad spells in standard though so it is more likely you’re going to pay around for X so you can spend 6 mana on spells totalling 8 mana or that you pump it up to but do that just so you can cast something like Electrify three times. In a spell heavy deck this will be a finisher but it isn’t necessarily as exciting in standard as you might first think!
Now we get to the big story development of the day. Niv-Mizzet has a plan to be reborn and it seems to have worked. Starting with Contentious Plan, you get to proliferate and draw a card. It might only be a sorcery but that is way better than Aggressive Urge, especially in the mid-game. It’s also probably better than Radical Idea if you have a few creatures with counters or some planeswalkers.
Firemind Vessel is an artifact that lets you tap for two mana of different colours. It’s always nice to be able to tap for two and the restriction that they have to be different colours isn’t too bad; it isn’t going to help you cast a splash card that needs two of a colour if you don’t have at least one of it already but it will help you cast all sorts of splashes if you need to. Perhaps a card like Niv-Mizzet Reborn which has one of those fun “every colour” casting costs that we’ve not seen since in standard since Magic 2015! Whilst you might think casting this is difficult even with Firemind Vessel, I’d remind you we live in a meta that contains Prime Speaker Vannifar and Neoform so this won’t be hard to cast. To begin with, he’s a 6/6 flyer which is always nice but when he enters the battlefield you may look at the top ten cards of your library and choose a card for each exact colour pair and put it in your hand. That is a cool ability that will likely draw you a couple cards and slots nicely into a gates deck especially as it’ll let you draw more gates. Oh, and don’t forget that Ilharg, the Raze-Boar can cast Niv-Mizz and really, really abuse that ETB trigger!
That’s all the spoilers for this week but you can check out everything spoiled so far on my cards page. You can also drop a note in the comments or join my Discord community if you think there is something I’ve missed.
Oh dear. With the Gruul smashing up the city and Chandra killing Dovin, it almost looked like the fight back against Bolas was working. Unfortunately he ain’t just bringing back zombies from Amonkhet; he’s bringing back gods…
So far Oketra1 appears to be missing but we do get three legendary zombie gods plus a sorcery that references them. Enter the God-Eternals likes referencing the number four with it dealing 4 lifelink damage to a creature, milling your opponent for four cards, and then letting you amass 4. For what it’s worth, I don’t like the templating on the card with the huge block of text making it a little more complex than needed to work out what is going on. The card itself is pretty good though; 5 CMC for potentially killing a creature, gaining 4 life, milling some cards, and then getting a 4/4 body (or giving an existing army a permanent +4/+4) is decent. As with most sorceries it would be nicer at instant speed but there are several ways to pull off that trick now.
As for the gods themselves, I really like the theme they have running through. Each one is in a specific colour (I imagine Oketra will be when she appears) and each one can be placed third from the top of their owner’s library whenever they are killed or exiled. You likely remember this text from yesterday when we were looking at Ilharg, the Raze-Boar who is the god ensuring that every colour has a god. Aside from that lovely piece of text, each one gets a keyword and then a triggered ability:
- God-Eternal Bontu: Menace plus ETB trigger to draw cards based on number of creatures you sacrifice
- God-Eternal Rhonas: Deathtouch plus ETB trigger to double power and give vigilance to all your other creatures until end of turn
- God-Eternal Kefnet: Flying plus you may reveal your card when you draw and if it’s an instant or sorcery you can cast a copy for less
The interesting thing to me is that God-Eternal Kefnet is cheaper than the other gods and thus has the lowest stats being a 4/5 creature. I’m not sure why they didn’t have the extra mana and just make this a 5/5 or a 5/6 and then be able to stick with the theme? The ability is an interesting one but the wording makes me wonder if you have to reveal the card before you know what it is; as you draw it suggests I need to show it to you as I’m showing it to myself and in that case it’s a bad card. If I get to choose when I already know what it is then that’s fine2 but you’d kick yourself if you didn’t reveal and it was one you really wanted to cast twice and similarly you’d kick yourself for showing off a bomb you can’t use yet. The other two are fine and the fact that they have ETB triggers means they’d pair well with Ilharg, the Raze-Boar.
If I had to guess, I’ll assume Okreta will appear in the next day or two and will be a with lifelink, some form of ability trigger based on “when you gain life, do x”, and then the same clause about being put back into the library when she dies. In summary, I love the god cards.
We’re not quite done with the gods though as God-Eternal Kefnet makes an appearance on Tamiyo’s Epiphany ensuring that Tamiyo’s usual role of a bystander recording events can’t happen. I always like a “draw two cards” spell and having the scry 4 before it makes this seem a good alternative to Chemister’s Insight3 or Pirate’s Prize, both of which are at the same exact mana cost. It’s probably also worth spending one extra mana than Divination to gain that scry.
Tamiyo, Collector of Tales is an interesting planeswalker with an ability that prevents your opponents making you discard cards or sacrifice permanents. This doesn’t prevent milling from something like Psychic Corrosion but instead stops cards like Drill Bit or Burglar Rat as well as Silverclad Ferocidons or Undercity’s Embrace. In fact, Tamiyo may as well be called “Screw You The Eldest Reborn”. Her first ability lets you choose a nonland card name, look at the top four cards, and then put any that match the name into your hand. This is effectively a reverse Unmoored Ego but the fact that you have to choose a nonland name makes this a hard trick to pull off unless you’re using her in a Persistent Petitioners deck! Her -3 ability returns a card from your graveyard which is actually far more useful given that the first ability is nearly always going to put 4 cards in your graveyard. Overall I don’t love this planeswalker but she could be useful against certain opponents that are doing the whole sacrifice or discard thing.
We now move onto the Gideon Planeswalker deck and the four unique cards that are contained in it. In my experience, the pre-purchased planeswalker decks are great fun to play with people new to magic but the cards in them are pretty poor (as you’d expect from a deck retailing at around $15). The planeswalkers are usually particularly disappointing and Gideon here is no exception having only two abilities rather than the usual three for a mythic rare in WAR. His base ability is pretty good giving any attacking creatures (minimum 2) that aren’t Gideon’s a permanent +1/+1 counter. His +2 is fairly interesting in that he turns into an actual creature and can attack but won’t suffer damage; the downside is that he can’t use this ability on the turn he was summoned (but you’ll nearly always activate it to give him the +2). Finally, he has a -9 ability that allows him to sacrifice himself to kill every creature your opponent controls. That is pretty good but it irks me that he’ll nearly always have 1 loyalty at the point he dies to cast it.
I say “nearly” because there is proliferate but there is also Gideon’s Company, a creature that lets you pay to put a loyalty counter on a Gideon planeswalker. It’s also effectively a Ajani’s Pridemate but you gain two +1/+1 counters when you gain life. This could actually be a playable card even without Gideon! Bearing in mind the other planeswalker deck contains Jace but we’ve already seen Jace, Wielder of Mysteries in the main set, I think it’s a safe bet there will be a better Gideon planeswalker card still to be revealed; that is likely the one you want to use with Gideon’s Company.
Desperate Lunge has some great artwork and could be an important plot point but aside from that it’s fairly forgettable. Similarly, Gideon’s Battle Cry is only useful if you are using Gideon, the Oathsworn which probably isn’t advisable; Unbreakable Formation is a cheaper way to give all your creatures a +1/+1 counter at sorcery speed.
The final card to talk about is very exciting for me. Spark Double is an illusion creature that becomes a copy of a creature or planeswalker you control apart from it has an extra +1/+1 counter or loyalty counter and it isn’t legendary. The first thing that excites me about this card is that it is a far better fit for my Etrata deck than Lazav, the Multifarious as it can duplicate a card on the field rather than one in a graveyard; getting an extra +1/+1 is a nice bonus too! The second exciting thing is the ability to clone planeswalkers and give them an extra leg up when they enter the field. You might think that this is useful in order that you have another chance of hitting an ultimate but in many ways this is going to be best used to duplicate the passive abilities a planeswalker has; for example two Domri, Anarch of Bolas mean that every creature as +2/+0; two Dovin, Hand of Control means your opponent has to pay to cast artifacts, instants, or sorceries; two Ob Nixilis, the Hate-Twisted means your opponent takes two damage every time they draw a card. That is going to be fun to build around!
We’re almost at the end of the week and it looks like we’re going to have a good story to mull over the weekend. I’m expecting we’ll see Oketra tomorrow and maybe even see one of our heroes die. You can keep up with all the latest spoilers by joining my Discord community and you can check out all the spoiled cards so far on my cards page.
She’s the one that looks like a cat. ↩︎
I guess you could do a surveil beforehand but that’s beside the point. ↩︎
Although Chemister’s Insight is an instant so even without the scry it is more useful sometimes and the extra crack at it makes it very good still. This isn’t a drop-in replacement by any means but there are times when scry 4, draw 2 is going to be better than draw 2 instantly, draw 2 again at instant speed if you discard. ↩︎
We’re on day 91 of the War of the Spark spoilers and the war against Bolas is getting a little Gruuling…
Our first look at Domri “Sounds Like Adam Ant On MTG Arena” Rade is a little disappointing compared to his card in Ravnica Allegiance. This is sitting at the exact same cost as Rhythm of the Wild which automatically makes your creatures uncounterable and gives you the choice of buffing new creatures to +1/+1 or giving them haste.I do like the extra mana (especially as you can use it straight away) and the -2 to get creatures to fight is always useful in my enrage deck but it doesn’t do quite as much as I’d like to see from a Domri planeswalker card. His companion card, Domri’s Ambush, is slightly better in that it’s an amped Rabid Bite. For the same CMC, you get a +1/+1 counter and you can choose to deal damage to a planeswalker or a creature. I generally prefer the fight versions of these cards (due to enrage) but this is definitely an easy swap for Gruul decks using Rabid Bite.
We also got to see a Kronch, a new creature which appears to be a cross between a giant boar and a pug2. For you get a 4/3 creature without trample that can’t attack alone. Interestingly, there is also Kronch Wrangler for which is a 2/1 creature with trample that gets a +1/+1 counter whenever a creature with power 4 or more enters the battlefield (creating synergy with the Raging Kronch). I really don’t understand why the small rider gets trample but the big beast doesn’t. If you can pull both in a draft then they obviously are going to work well together but the lack of trample on the Kronch means I couldn’t recommend it in standard, especially when it is again occupying the mana slot for Rhythm of the Wild.
If Domri was a bit of a disappointment, Nissa more than makes up for it. First of all, in a mono-green deck she is going to just double your mana pool straight off the bat which is incredibly good in a deck that you likely want to fill with big scary green creatures. Her +1 ability doesn’t excite me too much as I’m just not a fan of lands that turn into creatures although at least in this case you aren’t really wasting mana thanks to her passive ability. However, her ultimate is phenomenal; “Search your library for any number of Forest cards, put them onto the battlefield tapped”. It’s easy to think that this is so great because you now have all the mana in the world3 but I think the bigger advantage is that you now know you are going to draw actual cards rather than top-decking land; that is a ridiculously good trick to have up your sleeve. I want this card and I want it now.
Nissa’s Triumph is also pretty good if you’re mana screwed or if you have Wayward Swordtooth allowing you to find 2 or 3 forests and put them in your hand. It’s a simple spell but one that could be incredibly useful in the right situation. The artwork is also great on this card as it shows us the Awakening of Vitu-Ghazi, the Selsnya guildhall turned beastie. I really want to like this card but it makes it so difficult. First off, it’s literally a giant stomping land yet it doesn’t have trample. That is bullshit. Secondly, if you play it on turn 5 you likely can’t do anything with it even though it has haste as you’ll have tapped all your lands. A 9/9 creature is good and you can spare land for it if you are using Nissa, Who Shakes the World, but I hate the fact that A LITERAL WORLD-TREE can be blocked by a thopter token. Come on.
The next MTG expansion (coming in April or May) is titled “War of the Spark” and revolves around the battle between the Gatewatch and Nicol Bolas. Perhaps we’ll see Ilharg heralding the apocalypse then?
Score one for me! First of all, thank goodness this has trample; I would have lost the will to live if it hadn’t. Secondly a 6/6 for 5 mana is nice, especially when it also lets you put any creature from your hand onto the battlefield attacking (even if you do have to return it). That is a great ability especially as it allows for all kinds of mana shenanigans. For example, I can presumably use this to bring in a Polyraptor? If I do, then there are numerous ways I can trigger it’s clone ability and those tokens won’t disappear on my end step. Also, consider having multiples of this card; you only need one on the battlefield and the rest in your hand in order to spiral upwards very quickly5. That last piece of text that allows this to survive death or exile is also really nice; I think the only way to stop that would be if you had to either discard the card into your graveyard or if it was milled in as then it is in the graveyard but it hasn’t technically died. Might need a judge ruling on that one…
This has been one of the most exciting spoiler days in my opinion and I can’t wait to get Nissa, Who Shakes the World and Ilharg, the Raze-Boar into my decks. Feel free to join my Discord community if you want to discuss these cards in more depth or if you feel I’ve missed something.
And I see what you did WotC giving Day9 his spoiler cards on Day 9. Nothing escapes these peepers. 👀 ↩︎
You probably think that’s a misspelling of pig but it isn’t. My pug, Niles, snorts and drools and never attacks alone. ↩︎
If you are running mono-green then that is likely going to give you around 24 forests on the battlefield that can be tapped FOR 48 MANA! ↩︎
Quick hot takes on other cards. Topple the Statue: nice story card and maybe useful in limited. Thundering Ceratok: this would be good with that non-trampling Kronch. Dreadhorde Twins: the cycle of “give every keyword to zombie tokens” continues (I approve). Living Twister: this must be some commander thing I don’t understand. Chainwhip Cyclops and Martyr for the Cause: meh. ↩︎
For example, if I attack with Ilharg, that could let me pull an Ilharg from my hand which is then attacking so can pull something else from my hand. If I had both on the battlefield prior to combat and attack, then I can pull in two creatures from my hand (or more if I have another Ilharg in hand). The mind boggles. ↩︎
We’re on day 8 of the War of the Spark spoilers and it’s pretty much all about the planeswalkers.
Let’s kick things off with Dovin and Saheeli. They are both low cost planeswalkers starting with 5 loyalty although unless you can increase that Saheeli is going to get a maximum of two activations to Dovin’s five. With Dovin your opponent is going to be paying more to cast artifacts, instants, and sorceries, a fair enough ability given the low cost of getting him on the board; it you play it on turn 3 then that could feasibly screw up a deck that is sticking tightly to a mana curve. His -1 ability is also fairly good in that you can prevent all damage that would be done by a permanent be that a creature, planeswalker, or even something like Ill-Gotten Inheritance. It’s a shame planeswalker abilities activate at sorcery speed as it would be a far greater deterrant if you could lock creatures down during their attack phase. Usually we get to see a card named after the planeswalker at the reveal; I can’t yet tell if Dovin simply doesn’t have one or if he is breaking the pattern and getting Law-Rune Enforcer as his companion. Regardless, the enforcer seems a good first play card especially as you only need to pay and tap to then tap a creature with CMC 2 or greater. That seems really useful, especially in limited.
Saheeli is a bit more interesting in that her ability spawns 1/1 servos1 whenever you cast a noncreature spell essentially making her cheaper2 and better3 than a Murmuring Mystic. Her -2 ability lets you turn an artifact into a copy of a creature or artifact you control effectively allowing you to make your little servo be whatever monstrosity you have on the board. Her companion is Saheeli’s Silverwing, a 2/3 flyer that lets you peek at the top card of your opponent’s library when it enters the battlefield. I’m a sucker for a peek ability and it’ll be the first time this has been in standard since 2010 so colour me excited.
Jaya’s abilities are very straightforward with her passively giving any damage from a red source an extra 1 damage. I like planeswalker cards like this which are nice and simple to understand but can easily become your undoing if you forget about them4. Her -2 ability (which can be activated twice by default giving her starting 5 loyalty) does 2 damage to any target; you’d think that actually means 3 damage given her ability but it specifically says “if another red source” which makes me think it doesn’t. Fortunately her companion card, Jaya’s Greeting, does get the benefit of the planeswalker text boosting it from 3 damage to any creature to 4 damage followed by a scry 1. For the same mana cost you could use Lightning Strike which would hit any target and also get the +1 damage clause so I’m not too excited by this. I guess the scry is nice but WotC seem to be adding that to anything they think is a little undervalued at the moment.
And speaking of scry, Ral, Storm Conduit also makes use of it as a +2 ability to his base 4 loyalty. The more interesting ability is the -2 that allows him to copy your next instant or sorcery and give it new targets especially as his passive ability pings an opponent or planeswalker for 1 damage whenever you cast an instant, sorcery, or copy of either. That effectively means that his -2 ability is going to hit something for 2 damage (or two things for 1 damage each) and duplicate a spell. That is pretty good, especially in the instant and sorcery heavy Izzet decks. Add to that Ral’s Outburst, a Lightning Strike that lets you look at your top two cards and put one in your hand and one in your graveyard. Again, in Izzet wizard decks that is going to be a mighty fine card although it’s a shame that it costs the same as the planeswalker. I love the flavour text though!
The big excitement of the day was getting a look at everyone’s favourite hothead, Chandra, Fire Artisan. Her passive ability is a bit of an odd one in that she deals damage to target opponent or planeswalker equal to the number of loyalty counters being removed from her. The only loyalty reducing ability she has is a -7 that lets her exile the top seven cards from her library and then play them this turn. As it stands, there is no way to remove loyalty counters from her in standard aside from using that minus ability. There is one card in the history of Magic that can remove loyalty counters: Heart of Kiran, an Aether Revolt vehicle that let you take a planeswalker loyalty counter rather than pay the crew cost. Could that be seeing a reprint shortly or is this ability aimed at the modern and commander folk? It’s still a semi-useful ability as using the +1 ability and proliferating will get you that ultimate fairly quickly but it seems a shame to waste a passive ability slot on something so esoteric. Speaking of the +1 ability, it allows Chandra to effectively draw a card and play it this turn otherwise it gets exiled which is decent.
Update: OK, I’m an absolute idiot. Planeswalkers have loyalty counters removed WHEN THEY ARE DEALT DAMAGE 🤦🏻♂️. I take it all back, this card is good. It works as a good deterrent to being attacked and if your opponent hesitates that damage is only going to grow. This is good.
Chandra’s first companion card, Chandra’s Pyrohelix, is a simple instant that lets you deal 2 damage to one target or 1 damage each to two targets. This could be a useful planeswalker finisher, a decent spectacle trigger that can also kill a token, or it could pair nicely with Jaya, Venerated Firemage to be 3 damage to one target or 2 damage each to two targets. I’m glad this is an “any target” spell rather than a “target creature” spell but there seem to be far better ways to accomplish the same in standard already. Chandra’s Triumph is likely the more interesting card given that it appears to show Chandra defeating Dovin. It’s also yet another spell today that can be compared to Lightning Strike given the 3 damage at a 2 CMC. This one does have a “target creature or planeswalker” clause so not quite as good as Lightning Strike but the damage does increase from 3 to 5 if you control a Chandra planeswalker; that’s a decent amount of damage that could go up to 6 damage if controlling Jaya, Venerated Firemage or Ral, Storm Conduit.
That seems to be the real story of the day; synergy. I guess it is no coincidence that this is happening when the story is showing the fightback of the “good” planeswalkers but the number of abilities that help buff other planeswalkers released today shows a complex synergistic weave that is going to be fun to unravel and exploit.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more spoilers but as usual you can check out everything spoiled so far on my cards page. You can also drop a note in the comments or join my Discord community if you think there is something I’ve missed.
I am utterly intrigued to see how many tokens are going to be in this set. By my count there are 9 unique tokens so far and 1 emblem (but there’s still a long way to go). ↩︎
And she’s hybrid mana so you could play this in mono blue. ↩︎
That applies to both your opponent forgetting and making a big mistake but also to yourself; I’ve seen many a game lost because the player forgot to use an ability they had on the battlefield. ↩︎