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.

The War Report: Double Masters

Today some big news came down from the mothership. The majority of releases and plans for Magic: The Gathering for the rest of 2020 was already pretty much laid out: We knew about Core Set 2021 coming in the summer, Zendikar Rising in the fall, and the Commander-focused booster set coming towards the end of the year. Other supplementals like Spellbook: Chandra and some similar product focusing on green cards along with the Jump-Start product have already been announced as well. I honestly didn’t think anything else could be crammed into the year, but that changed this morning.

So at the end of 2018, the last masters set “for a while” was released. Called Ultimate Masters, it was one of the best masters sets to release in a while. The original Modern Masters sets along with Eternal Masters were all well received and packed a bunch of value, while Iconic Masters and Masters 25 were perceived as flops. I had good luck with all of the masters set packs I purchased over the years (starting with Modern Masters 2017) but I do see where there were less “good” cards in those sets. So WotC decided to go out with a bang, releasing Ultimate Masters and saying that the product line would go on hiatus. A year and a half later, here we are getting an announcement for a new masters set, called Double Masters. It’s a pretty uninspiring set name, and honestly could have been spruced up a bit, but when you read on you’ll see the reasoning.

Double Masters

Release Date: August 7, 2020

  • 332 cards
  • 24 packs per booster box
  • 15-card booster packs, with two rares and two foil cards per pack! (And, yes, those foils can be up to two additional rares.)
  • Two non-foil showcase box topper cards included in each booster box
  • Available in English, French, German, Simplified Chinese, and Japanese

Double Masters will be available on Magic Online starting August 6 (ONE day early!) for $6.99 per booster. It will not be redeemable.

This bullet list gives us a ton of information without saying much at all. It’s a pretty standard set size, along with having the standard lower pack count than a main set release, which should lead us to believe they will retail for $250 or so a box given the typical $10 a pack price point. Since WotC has done away with MSRP, it’s anyone’s guess how much actual pack/box prices will end up, especially if we’re still dealing with COVID-19 complications for production and shipping which leads to shortages and artificial inflation. This happened with Ikoria/C20 products despite WotC delaying physical release by a month. I’ve had conversations with people who don’t have an LGS and got scalped buying product online, and those who couldn’t find the product they were looking for a box stores. I was fortunate to get C20 at my local Wal-Mart for normal price ($40 each), and pre-ordered a fat pack of Ikoria for a normal price off of Amazon, but it did affect some nonetheless. Where we start to see the pattern change, is in the pack contents: Two rares and two foils per pack, so the potential for up to four rares in any given pack. That’s not gonna drive the price up at all, will it?

While the Mystery Booster product did give us many important reprints that brought the price down on some more expensive cards, many of those cards have already leveled off, and some cards that I bought within the last few years have recently spiked by 100% or more, so the need for reprints is ever present. Masters sets have always been a good device for providing reprints and bringing down some of the ridiculous prices that cards can garner, but because of the reserve list, some cards will simply never be reprinted and will never be affordable. Thankfully the PlayEDH Discord community is proxy-friendly, but WotC is not building financial sustainability when cards become prohibitively priced and Timmy on the Internet is just going to print out copies from his home computer. This, like Mystery Booster and other masters sets before it, has the ability to provide needed reprints in a more affordable manner, along with building security for the company from pack sales. I’ll still buy this product even if it doesn’t have my most wanted reprint, but we want more quality sets like Ultimate Masters and less of whatever Masters 25 was.

Two reprints were officially spoiled, though the set doesn’t release until August, and we’ll get the proper spoiler season in July. As is becoming a standard thing, box toppers (full art alternates) are included and we’ve seen two of them, though I’m not sure if there will be more added to the pool. Blightsteel Colossus definitely deserves a reprint as it’s been creeping up in price for a while, but Doubling Season was reprinted not long ago in Battlebond, so I think there were better options (I still want another reprinting of Mana Crypt dammit!). Either way the art looks nice and they’re good cards to have. I hope the rest of the set has a good amount of cards on this level, and it should have a large pool or rares since we’ll be getting two a pack. Thankfully there should be less chaff to dig through.

WotC made sure to get in the fact that there wouldn’t be fetch land reprints in this set, but they said they are coming this year. I imagine they won’t come with Zendikar Rising because it’s a standard set and I don’t see them putting those lands in the standard environment, so my money is on the commander booster set, where they can immediately say the reprints of those lands are not standard legal. More on this set when we get to spoiler season in a couple of months.

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.