TWR: Theros: Beyond Death Spoilers

Wow, it’s really been over a month since I made any mention of Magic: The Gathering on this blog. I did take a bit of a hiatus over the course of December so that’s a big part of it, but there was a lot of news to come out of the last quarter of 2019. Some things that we knew back then was the schedule of new sets coming in 2020. Theros: Beyond Death is the first of those, and releases before the end of the month. A familiar plane to those who have been playing for years, but another return to a plane we’ve already been too, ala Ravnica. I wasn’t playing during the first Theros block, but I have collected a majority of the Gods introduced in those sets, along with plenty of other cards. You could say I’m familiar with the plane despite my absence from the game the first time around. 

Like previous sets of the past year or so, there is once again a buy-a-box promo card, only available at your LGS. I’ve gotten one of these so far, because where I live currently LGS’s aren’t exactly local. The last box I purchased was War of the Spark a little under a year ago, and I did so through Amazon. The price was actually a bit lower taking this option, so I’m not too worried about the promo card. I do rather like this one though.

Buy-A-Box Promo:

The Gods are returning. We had a newer cycle of Gods during the Amonkhet block, and most of those we reimagined in War of the Spark, having been corrupted by Nicol Bolas. This time around it seems we’re seeing most of the same Gods (albeit not all of the ones from Theros) in differing forms, some good and some bad. The new Athreos is still reanimation based, but instead of bringing the dead back to the battleground immediately (unless an opponent pays 3 life) he puts counters on creatures. Creatures who die with the counters on them return to the battlefield under your control. This means you can target opponent’s big nasties and then wipe to board to bring them all back to your side. He’s a bit pricey CMC wise and I don’t know that I’d want to run him as my commander but he is definitely a key recursion/theft piece.

New God Cycle:

Speaking of the returning Gods, we have 5, one from each color. Erebos, Heliod, Nylea, Purphoros and Thassa are back, and each does something different than they did before. One new God was introduced as well, an RG creature that does similar things to Xenegos. Of these, Erebos is still one of the best, but not as good as his prior form. Heliod has already been pointed out as being broken in combination with Walking Ballista from Kaladesh, as it’s a two card infinite combo. I wouldn’t mind a copy of all of these, but they aren’t the chase cards for me.

Demi God Cycle:

Instead of finishing off the cycle of Gods, instead we are being given Demi-Gods as well. Another cycle with one for each of the five colors, each is a recognizable legendary character from past sets, and to my knowledge all of their prior incarnations were multicolored. Ascending to Demi-God status did one thing across the board — each of these creatures has either power or toughness affected by devotion, which has proven to be a powerful strategy in the past. Daxos is the only character here that I really have an attachment to, and this version of him is pretty weak compared to his Orzhov and Azorius cards. They are uncommon so should be easy to get ahold of.

White:

Moving into the individual colors, I found that there was less that I was excited about than I thought. There are plenty of interesting cards, sure, but there isn’t a lot that I’m dying to acquire. We have another cycle reflecting the wave of Gods, each of them have a spell with their name + “intervention” and they’re modal cards. Most have a good option and then a less good option, but options are goo, and I can see the one above being useful for clearing the board of artifacts and enchantments that you don’t like, or just one at instant speed. Idyllic Tutor needed a reprint, and I’m hoping that means the price comes down. The Archon is a Pegasus lord, and though I don’t think that’s really needed, perhaps another tribe will become viable eventually with more cards like it.

Blue:

Sagas are back too, and Kiora Bests the Sea God was one of my favorites from the set. These enchantments do different things for a few turns before hitting the yard, where in some cases you can bring them back to do it again. Another intervention card here, which is either an expensive counter spell or a way to dig for combo pieces. The other cards are viable in certain strategies, but I’m not dying for any of these.

Black:

A new demon that’s not terrible but is quite expensive. More enchantment creatures that can be great in the right deck. Oh, and Gary (Gray Merchant of Asphodel) got a reprint with new art. Sweet!

Red:

Red got some neat tricks, including a Dragon that gives your creatures double strike, an Ox that is a wheel on a stick that you can cast again from the graveyard, and a decent sort of board wipe for only 4 cmc. Not too bad.

Green:

Green seems to have gotten a lot of love again, and that’s puzzling because it doesn’t really need more ramp. Nyxbloom Ancient gives you crazy mana ramp. Yes, it’s an expensive card and it dies to all sorts of removal, but it can be crazy if it lives. The Dryad gives you more ramp and fixing, Nylea’s Intervention can ramp you for a ton, and landfall decks are drooling. It’s good stuff but I don’t think green really needed the help.

Multi-Color:

In multi-color we have more options that I’m actually kind of into. The Allure of the Unknown is a risky spell but I like the payoff. It’s very political too so a plus. The new Planeswalkers aren’t very exciting, but I do like Ashiok as a character. I really like the Izzet merfolk and think he deserves a spot in both my Tawnos artifact deck and my Shu-Yun voltron deck. Lastly, I really like the Orzhov hound, being a nice 3/3 vigilance, menace lifelink for only 3 CMC, but also being graveyard hate on a stick. It’s not bad. I think a death and taxes kind of deck is in order, with other assholes like Kambal.

Colorless and Land:

Only a couple of artifacts that caught my eye this time around. Nyx Lotus is a pretty good rock that taps for your devotion to a color. It does cost 4 CMC and comes into play tapped though, so perhaps you’ll want a way to untap it on the turn it comes down. The Shadowspear is some nice protection removal and I think it could slot into my equipment deck. As far as lands go, there are some really pretty full art lands that feature just the mana symbols instead of a landscape and not only is that unique but they’re really cool looking. Supposedly there is one per pack, so I did actually consider buying a box just for that reason. If nothing else I get a few packs just to get some of these for a deck.

So that’s that. It looks like a pretty decent set overall, but I’m not as excited for it as I thought I was going to be when it was first announced. Perhaps getting my hands on some new cards will change things.

TWR: Throne of Eldraine Complete Spoiler

Spoiler season for the upcoming Throne of Eldraine expansion has come to a close, and that means I can discuss some of the better cards I’ve seen come with the set. When I originally talked about the set I noted that I wasn’t too excited with much that I had seen to that point, but eventually some decent cards popped up and I knew that I would want at least a few. On that note, I found a nearby LGS that does the prerelease events, so it’s looking like I’ll be going to that next weekend, and I’m looking forward to that mainly because I haven’t been to one in about a year or maybe more. I like the prerelease kits, they come with new dice, a promo card with the date on it, and a few packs to get you started with the set. New cards before the set even releases is great. I still am not very hyped for this particular set, but as I noted in my last post about the subject, I am looking forward to some of the sets coming out next year, and that will be here before you know it.

The somewhat standard product release is changing up a little bit this time around. It appears that there will still be normal booster packs, the themed boosters, and planeswalker decks. However, the new Brawl decks release along side this product, and another new type of pack is being sold as well. Collectors packs are supposed to contain the full art cards that previously were only part of the mythic editions. It doesn’t appear that there will be one of those this time around, but you can buy these (no doubt more expensive) packs to get some of that nice art. The trouble is, well there are some shitty cards getting the treatment. This does however mean that you’ll likely be able to buy singles of these versions of the cards so if you want the nicer copy of particular card that should be doable.

Buy-A-Box Promo:

The buy-a-box promo is actually rather good for this set. A new 5-color general for us commander players, and one that really only needs infinite mana to win the game. He might actually be one of the faster cEDH decks if built properly. I’m sort of interested, but also sort of don’t care. Still, a better card than we’ve seen for a while, but not enough to get me to buy a box. I might grab a single if it’s not outrageous. Next, I’ll go into some of the better cards in the individual colors. Again, with my hype levels being so low, there aren’t too many to talk about.

White:

One of the best cards in the set, Hushbringer is great for hatebear/stax strategies and I can’t wait to get a couple of these for existing decks. Deafening Silence is another stax piece, Happily Ever After is a convoluted win-con but still seems doable. The Archon could work well in some decks as would the Charming Prince, I mainly highlighted them as they are interesting cards.

Blue:

Emry is one of the other best cards from the set. It’s mainly good for artifact decks, but can get you into some loops pretty easily. Gadwick is an interesting card that wants to be a commander but also wants to be in a wizard deck. The mirror enchantment is a great way to get interesting effects from other people’s decks into your own. The mirror artifact is pricey but can be cheapened, and can snowball into some nice card draw. The folio is more group hug oriented, but can be used to mill as well, so a very political card.

Black:

People who like building rat decks rejoice, as the Piper and Witch both support the tribe/strategy. Murderous Rider is a Hero’s Downfall on legs, but also recurs itself. Our twisted elf noble is another strong aristocrat style card, while Syr Konrad benefits from the strategy as well. Rankle looks janky but fun. The Cauldron could be something amazing but it’s pretty convoluted. I like some of these cards more than others.

Red:

Another one of my favorite cards from the set comes with Torbran. He instantly adds 2 damage to any damage source you control. This means if you’re hitting with 5 1/1 goblins, they’re now doing 3 damage each. Combine that with effects from cards like Impact Tremors, and you’re speeding up your damage quite rapidly and red already wants to do damage fast. I see him going into my Krenko deck, while I also really enjoy the new legendary equipment and see that slotting into my voltron deck. Other cards here have some value in particular decks but are less exciting.

Green:

People were losing their shit over The Great Henge. I think it’s okay but not spectacular. The aura is another nice way to eliminate a commander by turning it into a do-nothing 3/3. Not as good as Song of the Dryads but it’s still not bad. I also like Return to Nature, which is flexible removal for a cheap CMC.

Multi/Colorless/Land:

The new land cycle of the castles are pretty bad. There’s another mono colored land cycle that I didn’t bother to highlight, but they are essentially tap lands unless certain conditions are met. I do think Fabled Passage is pretty good, it’s another Evolving Wilds type card, but can have the upside of the land not being tapped. Not as good as the one recently printed in Modern Horizons, but still on a similar level. There are a couple of decent artifacts and one new vehicle (it’s not great) in the set. Most of the multi-colored cards are pretty bad too, but I do like the new mana dork treefolk and the gruul colored spell that lets you play cards through until your next turn. The Boros enchantment is good in conjunction with say Assemble the Legion, with both you can create a bunch of tokens pretty fast.

Overall there aren’t too many cards here I really want. I think outside of the prerelease I’ll probably buy a handful of singles and call it done. Here’s hoping I get something good at the event.

TWR: Throne of Eldraine Spoilers & The Next Year of MTG

We’ve known about the next Magic: The Gathering expansion, Throne of Eldraine for a little while now, but as is customary in the month leading up to a set’s release, we’re entering into spoiler season for it. I saw a few whispers about a Twitch stream that certain community members were given access to, and shortly thereafter we were learning that Wizards of the Coast would be attempting again to push the Brawl format. Most people, myself included, had already written it off as dead, but with the additions to Arena, they have been pushing the format again between paper and digital. I’m not sure if there will be Planeswalker decks, or if these are going to be more comparable to the Guild Kits from the Ravnica block, but whatever the case, a new product is launching with Throne of Eldraine and we’ll see Brawl preconstructed decks for the first time. Here are the face commanders for these sets:

Brawl Commanders:

If you are unfamiliar, Brawl is a Commander variant in that it follows the same color identity and singleton rules, but instead of being 100 card decks they are only 60 cards. They also have a rotation that matches standard, meaning you can only play with standard legal cards. So no putting your Commander deck cards into your Brawl decks. I think it’s a silly limitation and part of the reason I stopped playing standard is because rotation can be expensive. In EDH, you can wait for a set to rotate out and get a good deal on singles you want. Otherwise it’s pretty much the same game. And when it comes down to it, I’m not overly impressed with any of these commanders enough to warrant building a new EDH deck around it. I think the Bant and Esper creatures are more interesting than the others, but I’m sure people playing knights are excited to access to a new color with a new general. Friends of mine seem to be most interested in Korvold, and I’ve seen what sorts of shenanigans you can pull with him but I find it uninteresting. Deck lists were already released for these, though I don’t believe all of the cards have been spoiled just yet. They don’t really seem worth the time, but I’ve heard they are going for $20 a piece so not a lot to invest if you want to build around one.

New Mechanics:

Throne of Eldraine is adding a couple of new mechanics, and though they are kind of interesting and their take on fairy tales aren’t bad, I just haven’t really seen much yet that I’m excited for in the set. I don’t think I’m burnt out on the game because I’m still always brewing, building, writing and thinking about the game. One problem is that I don’t really play much, but even with all of that on my plate I still don’t find much to be excited for. So the new mechanics are Adventure, Adamant and Food Tokens. Various cards from the set reference food and creating food tokens. Some, like the Goose above, will allow you to create food but also to sac food to the goose itself to get a different effect. Otherwise, Food tokens are much like Clues or Treasures before them, but instead of drawing you cards or giving you mana, instead you gain life. I guess Oloro players rejoice, but it just seems like a tacky limited-only thing. The same really goes for Adamant. It’s great for mono colored decks I suppose, because it typically requires you to cast the spell with only one color of mana in order to get a bonus effect. That’s pretty meh, and I haven’t seen one that seems worth it yet. Of course, spoilers have only just begun. Lastly, with Adventures you get the new card frame at top right above. There is a spell side and a creature side to these cards. You can cast the creature normally for its CMC and be done with it, or you can cast the adventure spell (which can be either instant or sorcery) which is then exiled rather than going to your graveyard. You may then cast the creature half of the card from exile for it’s normal cost. I can see ways this could be really good, but the creatures spoiled that have adventures on them haven’t been great.

New Planeswalkers:

A couple of Planeswalkers have been spoiled so far, including the return of Garruk. Apparently Will and Rowan from the Battlebond set are supposed to be around as well, but we haven’t seen them just yet. Garruk looks ok, but I’m not sold; older versions are better. A brand new walker in Oko has appeared as well, and he references those damn food tokens too. I’m not into this guy either. As a matter of fact, I think I still have a hangover from War of the Spark.

In other news, we were treated with the schedule of releases for the next year of Magic: The Gathering. I first saw this information over on Hipsters of the Coast.

 

So, we know that beginning in quarter one of 2020, we’ll be returning to an older plane with Theros: Beyond Death. I’m pretty excited for this one as I wasn’t playing when the original Theros set released but I have purchased many cards from the block. I’m curious to see what sorts of new Gods them might come up with. In quarter two, we’ll be heading to another brand new plane, Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths. Apparently there’s something about building monsters in this set, but I’m not sure if that will be like the fusing of creatures in Unstable, or if it will be more like the meld cards. Whatever the case, the new planes tend to be more exciting than the old. Core Set 2021 will likely have some gems, but overall core sets are dull. Finally, in quarter four we’ll see another old favorite in Zendikar Rising. I didn’t play during either of the Zendikar blocks, though the latter was still standard legal when I came back to the game in 2016. As such, I own a ton of cards from these sets, but I’m disappointed that we won’t get more Eldrazi.

Whatever the case, 2020 looks like a good year for MTG. I’m looking forward to new things to come!

TWR: C19 Spoilers – The Morph Deck

As promised, the Command Zone released a video talking about one of the four new Commander 2019 decks, and Wizards of the Coast revealed the full deck list simultaneously on the Mothership. Follow that link to see the list, you can also watch the YouTube video of the Command Zone directly on that page. Feel free to do that and then you can come back for my commentary. Monday’s deck reveal was of “Faceless Menace,” the Sultai-colored Morph-themed deck. The only thing I’ve noticed is that there are a couple of cards that I can’t seem to find spoilers for although they are present in the deck list, so I cannot comment on those just yet. As themes go, this one heavily leans on the Morph mechanic, which looks to be very powerful and synergistic. However, the mechanic simply isn’t interesting to me as a playstyle, so I don’t think I’m going to pick this one up. Still, let’s take a look at the cards, you might find some of this more appealing than I do.

Alternate Commanders:

The alternate commander suite is very much on theme, but the only one that I think is remotely intriguing is Volrath. His ability to place counters on creatures to make them weaker and then simultaneously be able to copy that creature while remaining a 7/5 is pretty decent. I can see him being his own general and probably being pretty decent due to these colors. Rayami is probably a voltron commander at best. Someone in one of my MTG groups pointed out that Grismold goes very well with Night of Souls’ Betrayal – which is an enchantment that gives all creatures -1/-1 so that he’s getting +4/+4 at the end of each of your turns, but then he’s probably still going voltron and it’s not as if he doesn’t die to removal. So all around I think Kadena herself should remain the obvious choice for commander of this deck.

New Cards:

Each of these preconstructed decks contain a ton of reprints, so there are only a few brand-new-to-the-format cards. Those are pictured above, outside of the couple that I mentioned are not online yet for some reason (Mire in Misery and Voice of Many are the missing cards). I also did not include already spoiled cards, you can check those out in older The War Report posts. There are some things here, but the only card I’d really like to own is the Apex Altisaur, as it would slot into Gishath quite nicely. Road of Return is pretty good, particularly for expensive commanders. I don’t like Sudden Substitution, but I’m sure there’s some trickery to be had with it. The Gift of Doom aura is blah. Thieving Amalgam and Scroll of Fate are great for the morph theme but otherwise fairly useless. Lastly, the Pendant of Prosperity is great for group hug themes but probably not used much otherwise. So overall I’m not really into the new cards made for this deck, and I can safely say there aren’t even reprints I’m dying to have that are included, though some are good cards if you don’t already own them.

Notable Reprints:

I’m not going to go over all of the reprints because they are old news, but I will say that the above are good cards for your collection. Seedborn Muse if fantastic in basically any green deck, but better in those that will abuse it. Deathmist Raptor was one of the beast creature cards that was changed to a dinosaur once the tribe became recognized during the Ixalan block. This is the first reprinting of the card with the new creature subtype. Strionic Resonator is a great card for commanders with triggered abilities, while Thespian’s Stage is a land that combos with several other lands to do fun things. Lastly, Vraska the Unseen is one of my favorite versions of the Planeswalker, though it wasn’t exactly expensive prior to this. Still, these are a nice pick up and if you really enjoy the mechanics in this deck I think it’s going to perform pretty well against the other decks and we haven’t even seen those yet.

The Flashback-themed deck is being revealed in a few minutes. I’ll be back tomorrow with thoughts on that.

TWR: Commander 2019 Spoilers: Round Two

While Gen Con has been finishing up, there were two more panels featuring spoilers from the upcoming Commander 2019 decks. The initial spoilers from a couple of days ago were just the commanders and their accompanying signature cards, and we got even fewer spoilers from there on. However, we are supposed to see a complete deck list for one of the four decks each day from Monday through Thursday next week, so then we’ll really be able to judge the value coming down the pipeline. On Friday, one new legendary creature, a spell and a land were revealed:

This new legendary is pretty nuts. He’s expensive, but only if you pay the full 7 CMC. He has phyrexian mana in his CMC, which we haven’t seen for a while, and is also quite powerful. This means that one can pay either three black mana or six life plust the four generic mana to cast this creature, and that opens up a bunch of options. Not only that, but he also effectively turns all black mana symbols in phyrexian mana which can really help to break black. It doesn’t stop there though, K’rrik also gets +1/+1 for each black spell you cast, and he has lifelink to heal you back up after spending life as a resource. There are some aristocrats, some extort creatures and other lifelinkers to make this into a viable way to cheat a bunch of cards out. I’m looking forward to brewing around this one. Next up, a spell and a land that sort of do the same thing in different ways. The spell is a little more flexible, as it can remove an opponent’s commander and also replaces itself with a card. The land would be more focused on returning your own commander to your hand, but it can only be done during your turn, so it’s likely just an extra blink effect for those commanders who want that. I don’t really find either of these cards very appealing. On Saturday there was another new legendary and one new creature spoiled:

Gerrard is fine I guess. A 4 CMC 3/3 with first strike is very Boros. He plays well with board wipes, particularly those that target both creatures and artifacts, as he will return all of those permanents back to the battlefield afterwards. Seems pretty niche, and not something worth building around. Probably pretty good in a deck that’s wiping often. As for the new creature, the Scaretiller is decent but a little expensive. It will ramp you each time it’s tapped, so this is probably baller in affinity decks that are always tapping and untapping artifacts. Probably good in Windgrace as well, to constantly return lands from the yard to feed your Gitrog Monster.

Overall, I have not been overly thrilled with any of the spoilers so far. I like K’rrik, but I’m not in love. We’ll check back in later this week with more on this set.