TWR: Double Masters Spoilers

The World of Magic: The Gathering is a strange place. Not only does Wizards of the Coast seemingly pull new product ideas out of their asses, but some of their newer offerings are beginning to feel a bit like a cash grab. The secondary market is making things worse to be fair, but creating products that appeal to a wide audience and then selling them at an already high MSRP (which technically doesn’t exist for them anymore, but they’re still selling to distributors at particular price points for particular products, while those distributors then mark up to sell to an LGS, who then marks up to sell to you) lends itself to that concept. We’ve seen a pattern of core sets and normal standard rotation sets along with supplemental products for years, but the inclusion of themes and collector’s boosters have artificially inflated the prices of some boxed products. They’ve even taken a chunk of the secondary market for themselves by releasing products like Secret Lair which are just new-art reprints of sought after cards which they sold for what typically ended up being more than the cards were worth. I occasionally splurge to get some bling for a favorite deck, but when said bling becomes prohibitively priced (packs and sealed products that are randomized are gambling, after all) with a risk attached, I’m probably out. I’ll save some coin and buy singles.

So this pattern has persisted as we’ve been seeing these supreme collector’s items with each new set, and though secret lairs have slowed down for a while, we then had a hubbub about shortages in printing of Jump Start, which was already in high demand before release. This is all old news, by the way, but I have yet to comment. So this set is considered an “unlimited print run” which means as long as there’s demand, they will continue to print. WotC has already said that there will be more of Jump Start coming down the pipeline, but that didn’t stop some eBay from grabbing up the product, and then marking up the boxes because of the shortage. Reportedly, some customers even had orders cancelled stating that they didn’t have enough product on hand (despite taking preorders) and then immediately relisted for more money. This set in particular is on par with a standard set though, so it’s not worth the $200+ that people are charging for a box, while you can grab a box of Core 2021 right now for $99. As such, people are stupid for falling for these price gougers, but also it’s sad that it’s happening. Enter the next elephant in the room:

We haven’t had a “masters” set in a couple of years. The last one was Ultimate Masters, and it was hailed as one of the best masters sets in years. I rather enjoyed the reprints I was able to get my hands on. Despite the fact that we have Commander Legends coming later on this year which is specifically made for EDH players, masters sets have always provided needed reprints for eternal formats. As such, I was excited for Double Masters despite the fact that it’s a terrible name. When we started getting promos, it became clear that there were a large number of needed reprints of cards that have become really expensive to buy singularly — this set has proved once again that the idea works, but they didn’t stop at simple reprints, instead there is something more for that collector with deep pockets (maybe you?).

Typical masters sets have more expensive packs than those in standard sets. This is presumably because there are more “chase cards” that are worth more money, despite the fact that reprinting cards costs exactly 0% more for WotC to produce compared printing new cards. There is usually something “premium” to draw you to one of these sets, and though it wasn’t a masters set, I’d argue that Mystery Boosters did this right. They reprinted OG art and added a foil in each pack and those foils were cards that were separate from the normal list of cards in the packs, along with being the first foil printing for those cards. That’s a cool little “gamble” while you’re really chasing the other cards in the set. Whatever the case, masters boxes are only 24 packs instead of the 36 packs that come in standard sets. So we’ve accepted paying more and getting less, and it’s probably too late to go back on that. But I remember sets back in around 2017 that were like $7 a pack instead of $4 a pack, while more recent sets were +/- $10 a pack. Typical box price of Ultimate Masters was between $200-250. This set, mainly because people know this is “limited print run” has already begun to spike, and boxes are over $300. The only real difference? Well, nothing really. There are two rare slots per pack, that’s something I guess. They have the box toppers, but I’m actually unsure if those are even part of buying a box of Double Masters due to another product that was also announced, which is this sets’ “collector booster.”

The VIP Edition is one pack of cards. It’s something like 33 cards, but you’re getting a chunk of full art lands (which are also reprints), still get foil commons and uncommons, and then you get box toppers. To be fair, the box toppers are awesome, and the ability to grab full art, showcase, or alternate art cards in regular packs in nearly every set this year has been pretty cool. But at the same time, the VIP booster costs like $100 for 33 cards while for $300 you get 360. Which is ridiculous to think you’re paying $1 per tiny piece of cardboard. Whatever the case, I’m really happy to see the reprints here. I need cards like Dark Confidant, Blightsteel Colossus, and a couple of the swords. I need a Mana Crypt and a Jace, the Mind Sculptor. I’m hoping the prices plummet enough to grab some singles, but with box prices what they are I can’t justify the gamble. Anyway, rant over. I do want to share the box toppers because they’re gorgeous, but otherwise that’s all I have for today.

Boxtoppers:

Mythics:

Rares:

Fancy Lands:

(Only in the VIP edition)

Izlain out.

TWR: Jumpstart Previews

It seems that 2020, despite being a pretty shit year by real life standards, has actually been a pretty great year for Magic: The Gathering. Not only did we get Theros: Beyond Death early on, we then got Commander 2020 and Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths released at the same time (which was planned, as some of the cards contained in the precons were also from the new set so that made sense. Those products’ release dates were pushed back, and because of that it’s not been long and we already had Core Set 2021 spoilers with a release this week, and another new set called Jump Start that is coming down the pipeline soon. We also still know about Commander Legends and Zendikar Rising coming later in the year, and that’s if they don’t spring any more surprises on us. Whatever the case, I realize I just went over the Core Set 2021 spoilers a couple of days ago, but since we have already seen the full set for Jump Start, let’s dive right in, shall we?

Jump Start is a set that is aimed at new players, much like the core sets are. What seems to be different here is a smaller selection of new cards, with a huge swathe of reprints, some being pretty juicy. There’s not a ton of new cards that are very exciting, and honestly there’s only some reprints that even affect me, but newer players can bolster their collection rather quickly with these two sets, and veterans can most likely pick up some reprints of things they need for a bit cheaper due to the extra printing. I’ve broken down the cards into colors, highlighting the new cards for each, along with some of the more important reprints (cards that have creeped up in price and should be looked for to grab for a discount).

White:

New Cards:

Honestly I can’t say that there is anything here that I am dying to have. Quite honestly, most of the new cards are pretty meh for me personally, but I know a handful of people who are excited by some of the new cards so I still thought it was worth sharing. You can check them out individually and see if there’s anything that appeals to you.

Reprints:

On the reprint side of things, I’ve actually wanted a copy of Linvala for a long time, and she was getting a bit expensive, so this probably means grabbing her as a single shouldn’t be too difficult. Otherwise there are some decent staples being reprinted, notably Path to Exile and Cathars’ Crusade.

Blue:

New Cards:

The new blue legendary Bruvac has mill players losing their minds. There’s already a two card combo with him that essentially allows you to mill one person out entirely, or perhaps that could be you if you’re going for the labman/Jace/Thassa’s finish. Otherwise there’s some jank here that I’m not entirely amazed by.

Reprints:

Rhystic Study has needed a reprint for a long time now, as it’s been increasing in price for a while and is basically a staple in any deck running blue. Get your copies while you can! The others are just some cards that were a few bucks and should probably come down in price a bit.

Black:

New Cards:

I rather like the Witch of the Moors. It’s kind of high CMC but the effect is worth it in decks that want these types of effects. Tinybones is the other new Legendary creature people have been going crazy for, but I don’t think it’s as great as its made out to be. We’ll see how people break him before we really judge.

Reprints:

A ton of good reprints here! I own most of them, but this is a great time to get a copy of Sheoldred which I’ve wanted for some time. Otherwise you’re looking at a ton of cards that are useful in many different black decks that had all seen an increase in price. This set, if nothing else, is bringing down singles prices for the masses.

Red:

New Cards:

I’m somewhat interested in the new Goblin, as I do like making adjustments to Krenko when I can. He’s not the most exciting, but he does buff the team and sometimes that’s good enough. I also like the Chaos Rider for my burn deck, but otherwise the rest is pretty ho hum.

Reprints:

Speak of the devil, Krenko himself got a reprint in the set, along with some other red staples for the EDH format. I own all of these cards already but sometimes having an extra copy or two is worth it. If I wasn’t already buying a box of Core 2021 I might consider a box of this set as well just for value.

Green:

New Cards:

Green seems to have gotten the least amount of love in this department, but there are some decent cards here. Green doesn’t seem to need much help these days, so there’s that.

Reprints:

Some great reprints to be had in the color though. Craterhoof has gotten really expensive, which some of these other cards aren’t too bad but should still come down in price a bit. I’d like a copy of Selvala, only because I don’t own her and she seems pretty good from what I’ve seen.

Colorless/Lands:

New Cards:

I skipped over multi-color because there was like five cards in the whole set and they were all reprints and not very good. When moving onto this category, we get a new cycle of lands that are essentially dual tap lands, but instead of being locked into two colors, they are locked into one and you get to choose the other color. It’s decent for fixing, and probably only really useful in a 5 color deck, but it’s still better than a straight up guildgate, in my opinion. I’ll have to see them in action to really make a determination on their worth.

Reprints:

A couple of decent artifact reprints that were becoming a bit of money. Then we get some reprints of some decent specialized lands, with Riptide Laboratory being of most interest to me simply because I don’t own it. Still, overall a good selection of reprints in this set, so if you are looking to expand your collection, this is probably a good place to do it.

TWR: Core Set 2021 Spoilers

Magic: The Gathering’s next set just saw its prerelease weekend, and will release for retail this coming Friday. Once again we’re back to the summer months and that means a new Core Set. Core Sets were a thing for a long time during Magic’s history, then went on a hiatus for a couple of years, and then came back strong. We saw a bunch of goodies in Core 2019 and Core 2020, but both of those sets paled in comparison to what’s coming with Core 2021.

This set also marks the first time that a core set received the collector booster treatment, which seems to be the new standard for all sets. We have normal boosters, theme boosters and collector boosters, along with boxes of each and the ability to still open up alternate art/border cards in normal packs. So far I haven’t bothered with buying any collector packs, and theme packs are mainly for people just starting out so I avoid those as well, but I’ve still managed to pull some showcase cards regardless. So here’s what we know about the set, let’s take a look at a selection of cards that I’ve found interesting.

Buy-a-box Promo:

Normally I’m not too interested in the buy-a-box promo cards, and honestly this one is more of the same. A big change did come down with this card being spoiled though, as it is part of the first set to include the creature type “dog” and as such all “hound” creature types were since errata’d to say “dog” instead. Dog tribal might be a thing now, if you’re into that sort of thing. Cat tribal was already a thing, but now with this commander you can do some sort of combination tribe. If that’s your thing, have at it. I’ve preordered a box but have found that when I’ve done so in the past off of Amazon I don’t receive the promo card, but it is what it is.

New Planeswalkers:

It’s been a while since we’ve seen more than a couple of new planeswalkers in a set, and this time we get one for each color. Basri is the only “new” planeswalker, while the others you’ll already know from past sets. However, all of them are pretty decent additions to certain decks, and I would really like a copy of that Teferi, as would most people I’d assume. Garruk also looks pretty nice for my mono-green deck as does Liliana for my zombie deck. Either way, new planeswalkers are always nice toys to play around with.

Shrine Cycle:

I’m not really into this, but once this cycle of shrines was spoiled, people were jumping on the shrine tribal bandwagon. Much like gates-matter decks (typically helmed by Golos as he can tutor for them) this would require all six of these shrines along with the five others that existed in Kamigawa, and even then I don’t see it as much of a deck, nor do they really feel like a win-con in themselves, just value engines that take far too long to get out onto the board to really make a difference. In Battlecruiser jank decks can work, but if you want to play decks with any sort of consistency, this is probably not the route you want to take. The Green and Blue ones are probably decent enough on their own but even then they’re not amazing.

Reprints:

There are a bunch of good reprints in this set and I think that has probably brought the hype levels up a bit. I’ve only singled out a few, but right off the bat you have a reprint of OG Ugin, which is already pretty expensive and sought after. Next is Grim Tutor, which hasn’t seen a reprint in probably 20 years and was a super expensive card as a result, and though it’s not as good as Demonic or Vampiric Tutor, it’s just a step behind and better than most other options. Azuza is a card that’s gone up in price a bit, and Heroic Intervention was getting pricey for a while as well. I really like seeing the reprint of Fabled Passage, and I think they should continue with it and Prismatic Vista so that we can have strictly better Evolving Wilds and Terramorphic Expanse cards. Or just an additional two fixing lands per deck. With that said, let’s look at the new cards I found most interesting:

White:

Honestly white didn’t do so hot in the new card department, but they did get some nice reprints so it’s probably a trade off. A new dog adds to the tribe, while Nine Lives is a funky enchantment that you could theoretically give away and cause someone to lose the game with. Mangara is card draw, but its so conditional it’s likely people just don’t attack you, but you’ll probably get a few draws off of their additional spells per turn. Finally, a cleric that taps to make Angels, which could be pretty decent in the right deck.

Blue:

Blue did a little better with new cards. Teferi’s enchantment gives extra card draw and a ton of decks will run it. Barrin is good in wizard tribal for shenanigans. See the Truth is great if you can recur/cast it from the graveyard. And finally, a couple of new counterspells that could be decent fits in many decks.

Black:

Black sees a few interesting new cards, my favorite being Vito, who is Sanguine Bond on a creature, and will help with consistency in many aristocrats decks. If you have a bunch of deathtouch sources, the Blightfang will definitely help do some damage. The standard bearer is pretty good too if you know a bunch of stuff is going to die (board wipe) and you can flash it in to draw some cards. Lastly, Witch’s Cauldron is a decent sac outlet that will draw some cards, and that’s sometimes the best thing to do during a turn.

Red:

I’m really loving some of the new red cards. Double Visions simply let’s you copy spells for free. The two new goblins are instant adds to my Krenko deck, as they both have amazing abilities that I think can be exploited. Fiery Emancipation is also pretty amazing, in that it triples damage, so it’s going straight into my Torbran deck where it will find the most use. The dragon is kinda meh, but if you have a deck that uses them it might be a good fit.

Green:

Not a lot going on in green, but I did really like the Elder Gargaroth, as it’s an undercosted 6/6 with three keywords and attack/block triggers. Simply busted and it’s going into my mono-green deck post haste. Garruk’s Uprising is a better version of cards that do the same thing, if you’re playing big green beaters, it’s going to draw you cards and also give your creatures trample, which is amazing. Jolrael is an interesting new commander that will probably see some play but I’m not super interested.

Multi-Color:

I highlighted cards here that I think will see play, but honestly the only one I’m interested in is the new Radha. I already run both of her other versions in my Gruul deck, but I feel like she might actually be worth running as the commanding in place of Klothys, and that’s my plan as soon as I get a copy. Otherwise some generically decent cards on display here.

Colorless/Lands:

Only one new land was introduced and it’s only good if you’re playing any of the creature types listed on it. It’s also only good for adding +1/+1 counters, so unless you’re already doing that theme it’s probably not worth a slot in your deck. The new Chromatic Orrery however, could find itself in multiple decks. I know it wants to go into Golos immediately, as it will allow me to cast things for free with a simple tap of the artifact.

Overall I think the set looks really good and I’m glad I have a box on the way. I’ll have to discuss another set that is releasing shortly as well, called Jump Start, that I didn’t think I’d bother writing about but it turns out after spoilers there are somethings worth mentioning. I’ll be back soon.

The War Report: Semi-Competitive Gitrog

While we were on quarantine, we ended up with extra money. We also had a lot of time on our hands so my lady and I did online shopping for most of our needs, but some wants too. I had been pining over missing out on the Mystery Boosters that went on sale at the end of last year, due to the fact that I had to pinch every penny to get us moved into our house. With the little bit of extra money laying around, she gifted me not one, but two boxes of the set, and I was very excited to dig into them. The main reason I wanted a box of the set (but two was even better) was because of the inclusion of Mana Crypt in the box, and at first it seemed like people were pulling at least one from every box. I thought for sure between the two boxes I would have pulled one, but alas it was not meant to be. Still, I got a bunch of foil versions of cards I was using, extra copies of important cards like Demonic Tutor, and some cards that I had considered buying over the years, but didn’t, usually because of higher price tags. All in all I was happy with the packs, but one creature stood out to me as one I should try to build:

The Gitrog Monster isn’t new by any means. Releasing with the return to Innistrad a few years ago, he’s been cEDH viable for a long time. The typical deck revolves around lands, but in the sense that dredge and lands work hand in hand with his abilities. So yes, lands do matter in this deck, but not in the sense that we’re playing a landfall deck. Seeing that the flash/hulk combo piloted by several different commanders became the meta after a time, so Gitrog took a backseat, while the banning of flash a couple of months ago most likely makes him more prominent again. Whatever the case, I’ve never built a lands matter deck, and I also hadn’t to this point put together another high powered deck besides Zur. I have brewed bloodpod, but it still hasn’t been thrown together yet. So when we look at Gitrog, two things stand out: First, we have to sacrifice a land each upkeep to keep him into play, but he draws us a card in return. Then if we can sacrifice or discard or mill lands from the top of our library, we can definitely do some fun things.

The Combo:

The combo Gitrog is famous for involves a few key pieces. First, you’ll need Dakmor Salvage either on the battlefield, in your hand or in the graveyard. Next, you’ll want your commander on the battlefield with a discard outlet. Note that we’ll want this discard outlet to be free and repeatable, so no untapping elements are necessary. Depending on your setup, you’ll either sacrifice the Dakmor Salvage from the field, discard it from your hand prior to the Gitrog trigger, or if it’s already in your graveyard you’ll sacrifice a different land. Because dredge is a replacement effect, at the beginning of your upkeep you’ll sacrifice a land to Gitrog, but then instead of drawing a card off his second trigger, you’ll replace the draw with Dredge 2, per Dakmor Salvage’s ability. This means you put the top two cards of your library into your graveyard and return Dakmor Salvage to your hand. You can then discard it again to get a draw trigger but replace it with dredge and you can then draw your entire deck. However you might not be able win with this ability alone, so for added consistency we have Kozilek included in the deck because once he hits the graveyard while you’re doing your dredge trick, he will then shuffle himself and your graveyard back into your library so you can keep going off. Obviously with a discard outlet like Ayala’s Influence, you’ll be getting an army of 2/2 bears in the process, and can simply find your Finale of Devastation for the win. Otherwise, the typical win con sees this loop finding you a lotus petal or dark ritual and then producing infinite mana by infinitely casting it. You can then use that mana to wipe the board using Assassins’ Trophy or similar removal cards over and over again, and then loop into Finale or Exsanguinate to win. There are a few ways to do it, but the main gist of it is that you’ll want to hold off on casting your commander until you have a way to start dredging, and then find Dakmor Salvage as soon as possible.

There are a lot of moving parts here, and a lot to keep track of. In the couple of games I’ve played with it, I’ve managed to pull off wins, but I don’t know that I had ample enough competition. I tried to hold it back from being a straight copy of the deck in the cEDH primer, but it relies on much of what is on that list. I put some custom tweaks in, and having played it I’ve enjoyed it. I don’t feel the need to go into specifics, you can see my deck list here, and you can read the primer over there. If you’re into cEDH, this one should already be on your radar.

TWR: Torbran, Thane of Red Pings

This column has slowed down a little as of late because of the delay to the release of Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths and Commander 2020. The release of those products was pushed back from April to this Friday, May 15th. As such, I’m still a couple of days away from getting my hands on new cards with which to build decks, and though I’ve already shared a couple of brews that I have intended on making as soon as I get a couple of the new precons, I’m still waiting. I’m super stoked for some of the cards from the main set, but I’m really looking forward to two out of the five new precons, and I think that will get me back to playing a bit more regularly and of course brewing up some new decks. Despite the fact that I’m in a bit of a lull with the game, I did manage to get some time in with two new decks last weekend (along with playing several games with existing ones). One of those I actually brewed on Friday night, put together on Saturday and played a couple of games with — this is the deck we’ll be talking about today. The other is a more competitive one utilizing a strategy I have never tried before — I’m happy to say that it worked pretty well on its first couple of games as well, but I’ll talk more about that one another time. For now, let’s look at another commander from Throne of Eldraine, Torbran, Thane of Red Fell:

When Throne of Eldraine was being teased, I pegged this guy as a must have card for a variety of decks, but didn’t really consider using him as a commander. It turns out that despite not being really into much of Eldraine at that time, that there were more cards I ended up using from the set than anticipated on top of finding a really fun commander in Yorvo, Lord of Garenbrig (whom I might add will benefit from cards coming in these new products). Anyway, I came across a guide that suggested using Torbran as the general of a ping deck, which has generally been thought of as a weak option for EDH. However, once I started looking at synergistic red cards from over the years of Magic’s history, I started to see the potential. First of all, Torbran isn’t a pinger himself, but he definitely supports the idea. With him on the battlefield, he’ll increase the effectiveness of pinging units by increasing their damage output by 2. This means a card that reads tap: deal 1 damage to <target> now says tap: deal 3 damage to <target>. But Torbran doesn’t stop at amplifying pinging creatures, rather he counts all red sources of damage — something red has had added to its suite of burn in interesting ways over the years. First up, let’s check out our army of pingers.

Pingers:

Each of these creatures will tap to deal 1 damage to a target. Sometimes the target is a creature, sometimes a player, sometimes all opponents, sometimes all players. Some have haste, others have defender, but they all will eventually be able to lightning bolt at will. Three cards of note here are Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh, Goblin Sharpshooter and Syr Carah, the Bold. The first is one of the original flip walkers, and while being able to ping for only 1 damage herself, with Torbran on the board she will immediately flip int a viable planeswalker that can still do damage. The Sharpshooter is tricky to use, but is part of some combos that I didn’t originally include in this build but might at some point. Still, with him tapping for 3 damage with our commander, we should be able to activate him more than once in a turn. Combos with Kiki-jiki and Splinter Twin (also Zealous Conscripts) might be added as finishers but so far I’ve liked the way the deck has performed without being too combotastic. Lastly, Syr Carah is also from Eldraine and while she is a pinger as well, she also allows us to get some value off the top of our deck, which is certainly welcome in red.

Other Forms of Damage Over Time:

So the meat and potatoes of our strategy is to burn our opponents down faster than they can kill us. Doing it with the pingers we’ve gone over can work, but it’s going to take some time. As such, I’ve added a slew of options that will punish our opponents in their own ways. Casting spells? Electrostatic Field and Firebrand Archer will do damage just for casting them. Playing creatures? Purphoros will do 4 damage to each opponent with Torbran on the field. Playing lands? Tunneling Geopede will shoot lighting bolts for doing so. You get the picture. We’re trying to make sure that no matter what we’re doing and no matter what the board state is, you’ll still be slowly whittling away your opponent’s life totals, and at some point should be able to threaten wins. In my first game with the deck I managed to get out Purphoros and a Sulfuric Vortex, so I was dealing 4 damage a turn to each of them while only taking two of my own, then dealing more damage by playing creatures, and I didn’t even get the fun stuff like Ancient Runes or Burning Earth. Zo-Zu the Punisher also looks like a ton of fun.

Notable Inclusions:

Since it’s red, we have a few ways of making a large chunk of mana. As such I included cards like Electrodominance, Jaya’s Immolating Inferno, and Comet Storm as potential finishers off of a big swing of a turn. Dockside Extortionist can give you a bunch of treasures at once, Neheb the Eternal is a mana engine, and mid to late game Mana Geysers can net a ton. We also have Past in Flames to get back some of these spells if we need to later on, while Outpost Siege is extra card advantage. The version of Chandra I included is also pretty busted, simply because she can’t be countered and immediately gives our opponents an emblem that deals them damage each turn, which is perfect for this deck. Since we aren’t running board wipes due to having lots of ways to remove problematic creatures with our pingers, I’ve included some in the form of creatures that when paired with Torbran essentially end up being partial board wipes on top of doing damage to our opponents at the same time. Lastly, Ghirapur Orrery can help us ramp but that effect is symmetrical. However, if you find yourself with no cards in hand (as many red/burn decks do) we get to draw 3 cards which is likely going to help us more than our opponents. Plus it’s about the only nice thing this deck does.

In testing it has worked well, but I can suggest adding Kiki-Jiki, Splinter Twin and Zealous Conscripts if you’re looking for a way to end stalled out games. I may do so myself.