Entries from April 2009 ↓

Part One – Captured Sunlight? Really?

In which MichaelJ reacts to a controversial comment about Alara Reborn common Captured Sunlight.

So this one is from the Twitter files.

Michael Dean Conway (aka @mikeconway13) shipped an interesting couple of Tweets over the last couple of days. Based on some of our recent reviews on Alara Reborn in general, Cascade specifically, I wanted to share this one with you:

This of course got the gears moving.

First off I had to go and look up Captured Sunlight. I didn’t know off hand which one Captured Sunlight was (I just had a vague recollection that I only liked Bituminous Blast and Bloodbraid Elf and not really any of the other Cascade spells in the set). Turns out it is this one:

Captured Sunlight

Now remember, on Twitter you only get 140 characters to express your thought; but in this case Mike is able to squeeze out a pair…

  • Everyone is touting Bloodbraid Elf.
  • He thinks Captured Sunlight will be the top Cascade spell in Standard.

As for the first, I can’t disagree. In fact, when I first blogged about Bituminous Blast, the first thing that happened was that people started telling me to look at Bloodbraid Elf. Like I said earlier, I only remembered liking the pair of those cards (and to go with the sentiment of Mike’s Tweet)… Bloodbraid Elf, BLOODBRAID ELF, BLOODBRAID ELF.

Now as to the second, Mike actually got me thinking about Captured Sunlight. I immediately disagreed… but that’s not ultimately the point. My perspective changed to…

What would make Captured Sunlight the best Cascade spell in Standard?

To an extent, that one is easy.

Is Bituminous Blast the best spell in Standard? No.
Is Bloodbraid Elf the best spell in Standard? No.

Yet early consensus is that one of these spells — neither of which is the best spell in Standard — is the best Cascade spell in Standard.

Which of them is better than Loxodon Hierarch?

That’s right!

But wait! Why do I ask?

The superficial connections between Captured Sunlight and Loxodon Hierarch should probably be pretty obvious. Both cards share the same mana cost at four; both cards help you gain four life immediately. Unlike Bituminous Blast and Bloodbraid Elf, Loxodon Hierarch was at one point the best card in Standard (more on that tomorrow). If I can make Captured Sunlight as good — or even better than — Loxodon Hierarch, then by default wouldn’t that make Captured Sunlight the best card in Standard?

Not in this Standard, unfortunately *cough* Bitterblossom *cough* … Though we might arguably pass the efficacy of one of the two assumed default-best Cascade spells in the format.

This part is surprisingly easy…

  • Four mana – check.
  • Four life – check.
  • 4/4 body… versus random card on top.

To make a long story short, we can bias a deck to spit out things on the order of Wooly Thoctar. When we do that, we can potentially over-shoot even the bar on Loxodon Hierarch!

Okay, here are the caveats, though…

Ultimately, I don’t think we want to engage in precision deck design just to make Captured Sunlight good. It was an interesting mental exercise, but our deck probably needs things on the order of Rampant Growth or even Firespout that are going to make the card look silly sometimes.

However it’s nice to know that if we wanted to, we could actually pass Loxodon Hierarch in card power.


Because we might also pass “interesting” to practical (like Mike originally started to argue)… Albeit probably not main deck.

But I think I’ll leave that for tomorrow.

Thanks for the firestarter, Mike.

(Totally different Mikes, of course).

All Alara Reborn

Following up on Dauntless Escort

The following post on Alara Reborn’s Dauntless Escort was inspired by Brian Kowal, Brian David-Marshall, and whoever else was commenting on my Facebook wall.



First came…



But more importantly*



To Tim,

I suppose that for some people calling Dauntless Escort an Ironclaw Orcs is a bit of a stretch. After all one is a below average 2/2 for two mana and the other is an above average 3/3 for three mana. However what I was trying to get across in my article on the mother ship was that in either case the creature in question — Ironclaw Orcs or Dauntless Escort — might appear to be a problem, but probably isn’t ultimately the problem. It’s what that creature represents, be it hte packages of damage that will eventually fuel the Philosophy of Fire or the fact that the opponent’s plan simply might not work any more (can’t sweep)… In both cases these creatures are the threat equivalent of the opposite of what we in marketing call “be benefit of the benefit”. Grok?

To Brian, Brian, and everyone else…

Of course Dauntless Escort reminds us of a Gnarled Mass! Thanks for being proud of me Burger King (but no BDM, I don’t think it was implied at all). Normally when I go to the well for a Silt Crawler or Gnarled Mass it’s because I feel like I have to establish as a baseline that a 3/3 for three mana can be playable in Constructed and on top of that look at this cool ability… I didn’t think Dauntless Escort had that challenge up front. That’s all.

But if you insist, “Gnarled Mass” everyone!

Staple, etc.


All Alara Reborn

* See how I did that?

Alara Reborn – Putrid Leech

The latest in a long line of great two drops — in a game largely defined by great two drops — is Alara Reborn COMMON Putrid Leech!


Just want to shout out to @burgessm on Twitter (Matt Burgess) for ye ole Tweet:

Without it I may have overlooked Putrid Leech for immediate examination. Sure. How? Okay. Probably not.

Putrid Leech is one of the best [offensive?] two drops we have seen in some time!

The baseline stats are what we would typically expect for any two drop: 2/2 for two mana. But it plays like a 4/4… if you want it to.

One of the things that might not be immediately obvious (I know I had to go back and read the card a couple of times) is that Putrid Leech is a functional (optional) 4/4 on both your turn and the opponent’s turn (if you so desire). That is, it isn’t a “disadvantage” that you can use the pumping ability only once per turn. Don’t think of it as Firebreathing so much as a swap upgrade from 2/2 to 4/4 with no mana cost.

So if you want to attack and the opponent wants to put a 2/2 in front of your Putrid Leech, you can pay two life for his card. Or if you want to attack and he doesn’t do anything you have the option of a 2-to-0 or 4-to-2 life point delta (a two point differential in either case). Subtly when you are on the draw in a matchup where both players are running two drops (or say the opponent is planning on two drop followed by Jund Hackblade), you can just tap out for Putrid Leech on turn two and turn off his third turn, theoretically even an “optimal” offensive one in the abstract.

One card you may want to compare this to is Flesh Reaver. Many of you probably know that I was lucky enough to win an Extended PTQ a few years back with a beatdown deck featuring Flesh Reaver (designed by all time great Brian Schneider)… Putrid Leech is practically quite similar, and excepting the second color functionally superior to Flesh Reaver (you only need to pay two life to deal four damage); the corner case being that Flesh Reaver can “kill both players” but you will win because the opponent dies before the collateral trigger occurs (like I said, a corner case).

How much does it matter that Putrid Leech is a Zombie?

At this stage I don’t see it mattering very much. Most of the Zombie decks we have seen in the past have been straight Black or Black/Red… But that doesn’t mean that — especially with the greater variety of playable B/G dual lands — that we couldn’t see Putrid Leech in a Zombie deck; remember that Shepherd of Rot has seen non-zero Constructed adoption; in my snap judgment opinion Putrid Leech seems like the stronger individual card.

Where can I see this fitting in?
Putrid Leech seems like an awesome offensive card in a deck that can manage the mana. Maybe the same deck as Jund Hackblade or one of its cycle?

Putrid Leech also seems like it can be a decent flex card on two in a progressive board advantage deck (like it can be an offensive two drop or hold off the attack while you get further along to your Lord of Extinction and such.

We both know I always make decks like this one so here is a sketch that crosses my first pass Lord of Extinction deck from Top 8 Magic with my Bloodbraid Elf ideas, crossed with my Jund Ramp deck from 2008 States, inspired by my Charleston Batman deck:

2 Makeshift Mannequin
2 Shriekmaw

4 Bituminous Blast
4 Bloodbraid Elf
4 Broodmate Dragon
4 Lord of Extinction
4 Putrid Leech

4 Civic Wayfinder
4 Rampant Growth

4 Lash Out

6 Forest
1 Mountain
2 Reflecting Pool
4 Savage Lands
3 Swamp
4 Treetop Village
4 Vivid Grove

3 Mind Shatter
4 Mournwhelk
4 Kitchen Finks
4 Cloudthresher

What I really want for this deck is a third Makeshift Mannequin and four currently non-existant copies of Gift of the Gargantuan… um and Volcanic Blowout as well. How greedy am I?

Bituminious Blast into Bloodbraid Elf into Gift of the Gargantuan? Ka-pow! I guess I’ll have to settle for Civic Wayfinder.

With all the stuff I want, it kind of marginalizes the topical Putrid Leech, huh? 🙂

The fact of the matter is that I got a lot of experience playing decks like Batman and This Girl, and with those decks, which are powerful creature decks that largely play their games on the board, you want to get something down as early as possible to start hassling control decks. On that note the eventual list may require a Banefire or four.

Let’s all get cracking!

Snap Judgment Rating: Role Player


All Alara Reborn

Alara Reborn – Bloodbraid Elf

Channel your inner Aaron Forsythe with Alara Reborn uncommon Bloodbraid Elf!

Did you know that Worth Wollpert (aka @DJ__Nox)* and I used to play with Talruum Minotaur? Actually to be completely accurate I think that Jon Finkel (aka @Jonnymagic00)*, Worth Wollpert, and I used to play Talruum Minotaur. And by “play” I mean play properly, that is in 60 card decks!

If I remember it correctly I was visiting Worth’s parents’ house (they had just taken us to Outback Steak House — mise) and I was a stud and won the PTQ the next day, beating future friends Adam Katz in the round of 8 and the elusive Matt Wang (aka @MattWang97) for the Blue Envelope. Worth made me pay for all day parking, citing the “big winner” clause, plus his mommy and daddy had taken us to Outback the night before.

Worth didn’t actually have to play in the PTQ on account of being on the Gravy Train but he would stay up all night playing Apprentice with Jonny Magic; the deck Worth liked at the time was a U/R deck with Impulse, Force of Will, Man-o’-War… and then for some reason Fireblast and Talruum Minotaur. It was a super fun deck to play and I ran with it in all the side tournaments that I played in at that particular Pro Tour on account of not making day two (which included a couple of 8-man wins, including victories over such masters as A. Comer and T. Walamies). For his part Worth won the Ohio Valley Regional Championship that year with what can only be described as an Air theme deck including Wall of Air and Air Elemental… but also, you know, also Force of Will and Thawing Glaciers.

Ye olde Counter-Hammer deck:

3 Cloud Elemental
1 Diminishing Returns
4 Force of Will
4 Impulse
4 Man-o’-War

4 Frenetic Efreet

1 Earthquake
4 Fireblast
2 Hammer of Bogardan
4 Incinerate
4 Suq’ata Lancer
2 Talruum Minotaur

3 City of Brass
5 Island
11 Mountain
4 Thawing Glaciers

3 Nevinyrral’s Disk
4 Hydroblast
2 Time Elemental
2 Earthquake
4 Pyroblast

This is neither here nor there except as a point of comparison. Brian Kowal recently wrote on my Facebook wall that he was proud of me that I didn’t write about Gnarled Mass in my Dauntless Escort preview on the mother ship. But here? Bloodbraid Elf is kind of like Talruum Minotaur-plus, right? You give up a point of toughness but get a free card and 1-3 mana on the bonus, which can almost be like another card. You probably can’t play Bloodbraid Elf in the kind of deck that Jonny, Worth, and I played it in on account of the multiple colors plus no Force of Will et al, but the Cascade mechanic makes this Blue-ish anyway!

And that’s ultimately what you get – a card that is marginal at best on the stats (but close to the playability line if we expand our horizons to include more haste), but with a significant enough cantrip / Tinker-ish bonus that we can more seriously consider playing it.

Where can I see this fitting in?
The teaser asked you to channel your inner Aaron Forsythe but the previous section spoke to Deadguys past. What about the CMU side of that original Voltron-ic super team?

Cards like this make me think about Aaron due to a deck design principle he taught me in 2000, when he was heavy up with Angry Hermit, the deck that he used to put two Team CMU players into the Top 8 of the US National Championships, which was also one of the highest win percentage decks of the Swiss format. Here is Aaron’s legendary deck:

3 Masticore

4 Birds of Paradise
4 Deranged Hermit
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Plow Under
2 Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary
3 Skyshroud Poacher
3 Yavimaya Elder

4 Arc Lightning
4 Avalanche Riders

11 Forest
2 Gaea’s Cradle
4 Karplusan Forest
2 Mountain
4 Rishadan Port
2 Treetop Village

2 Ancient Hydra
4 Blastoderm
2 Boil
1 Masticore
1 Splinter
3 Thran Foundry
2 Uktabi Orangutan

From the Napster side I can say that this deck was an absolute terror. Regular Trinity Green was essentially a layup but Aaron’s deck, which could Arc Lightning our permanents was much more difficult to defeat. One of the default ways that Napster would beat Trinity was simply to ignore them and blow up their hand and creatures so that they simply couldn’t ever win, but Aaron built Angry Hermit with a new and different algorithm: Mana and Bombs.

What does “Mana and Bombs” mean?

Look at his deck – There is almost no fluff. The closest thing to filler is Arc Lightning, which is itself a two- if not three-for-one (given the most popular deck being Trinity); and maybe a four-for-one against Napster depending on the Phyrexian Negator situation. Everything else in his deck is a card that he can pull off the top, slam down onto the table, that matters, and matters now… That, or a piece of mana that lets him play faster, viz. Rofellos-into-Plow Under.

Mana and Bombs.

So what does this have to do with Bloodbraid Elf?

I think Bloodbraid Elf might have a nice place in the whole “Mana and Bombs” way of deck design. I was inspired in Bloodbraid Elf’s official preview by our friend Bill Stark:

Try these on for size:

Bloodbraid Elf flipping… Jace Beleren?

Bloodbraid Elf flipping… Sprouting Thrinax?

Bloodbraid Elf flipping… Glorious Anthem?

Bituminous Blast flipping Bloodbraid Elf flipping… Incinerate?

It was the last bit that got my brain moving. I think that Bituminous Blast is, with its slightly more powerful cantrip-Tinker a fine card to start a Cascade chain; these two cards — and possibly more cards in the new set, I make it a point not to comment about unofficial cards for the most part — could be the basis for an Aaron Forsythe-style G/R deck. But Incinerate? I think the deck would rather have something like a Lash Out to help set up even more Cascade goodness!

The tension with Mana and Bombs is obvious when we are talking about Cascade because you really never want to be flipping irrelevant 1/1s once you are in the five mana zone. Therefore I think that the low cost cards are going to be from the Mind Stone and Rampant Growth camp, which have some more long term usefulness, especially in a deck that is looking to top deck bombs.

There may in fact be some synergy between these cards and a Ramp idea I explored with Lord of Extinction over at Top 8 Magic.

Snap Judgment Rating: Playable… Depending on the deck it can range from Role Player to Puzzle Piece if not Flagship.


All Alara Reborn

* Appropriately, I am aka @FiveWithFlores.

Alara Reborn – Bant Sojourners

Unsurprisingly, michaelj loves a Bant Sojourners.

The crew and I sometimes joke that there was a point about four or five years ago when my brain broke. For a long time I was all about the most efficient paths to attack. I ran Suicide Black every tournament for three tournaments straight, winning a PTQ, scoring Top 4 at my Regionals, and then winning the eventual heartbreaker for 9th place at Nationals. I built TDC Heat which we talked about recently, a metagame-killing G/R beatdown deck. Then Napster, which for all its mid-range surgical power was a first turn Phyrexian Negator deck as well. And the summer I spent every week in the Top 8 of a PTQ I was attacking with Fresh Volunteers.

But right before the birth of my daughter my noggin broke and ever since I have been in love with Eternal Dragon and anything related to Eternal Dragon, viz. Decree of Justice.

As a person who has many times gladly cycled for one 1/1 for four mana, it should come as no surprise that I can easily see myself playing a Bant Sojourners. While it doesn’t have the mid-range trumping power of a Decree of Justice, it’s like you get a one mana discount on your Soldier token!

The interesting thing now is that I think I would feel cheated with such a discount; after all I could pay one more mana and get a full 2/4 chump out of it. Decisions, decisions!

Where can I see this fitting in?
In all seriousness the answer is probably 40-card decks.

Once you get over the initial “cool” rush it isn’t as easy to justify the space in a 60 card deck. The best fit would be some kind of high end Counterspell control deck, to keep the velocity going especially in games where you didn’t draw a Mulldrifter but that is a stretch. These decks are really into killing people with their Broodmate Dragons nowadays, so fake threats that can generate a little bit of card velocity (not even really card advantage) might just lack the power to matter. It is kind of like the theory of more-sies.

Back when the format was Jushi Blue, Heartbeat of Spring, et al more-sies was an issue (ditto on basically any format with a viable Battle of Wits deck); basically at the States where I came in second, I beat a Heartbeat deck in the Swiss. It was actually one of those classic Stage Two v. Stage Three fights were I completely owned him in Stage Two. I was stifling any and all comers with Remand and Mana Leak and Jushi Apprentice kept my cards coming. But I realized that I was eventually going to run out and die. How could I run out? I was out-drawing him two-to-one. The problem was that my cards were swiftly declining in relevance. Remand is worthless when he can just re-play the spell due to having enough mana; Mana Leak is quite leaky when they can pay. Even though I ostensibly had more cards in hand he had more-sies because of ultimately having access to more cards that mattered given sufficient time.

You already know the answer to this: Deny him that time!

Once I realized what was going to happen eventually I went tap-out mode and raced.

Anyway, more-sies for you.

One other cool idea I had was Reveillark. This creature sets itself up, and it is the right power to fit!

Snap Judgment Rating: Role Player (low)
Not unplayable per se… But I don’t see a lot of doors being banged down for Bant Sojourners in Constructed.


All Alara Reborn

Alara Reborn – Lord of Extinction

How is Alara Reborn Mythic Rare Lord of Extinction an Elemental and not a Lhurgoyf? Plus: The story of the amazing disappearing Mortivore.

I think you’re supposed to be reminded of a Lhurgoyf on this one. It’s one more mana than the classic Lhurgoyf but Pow! … How many times more powerful than the original Lhurgoyf (which back in the day I loved by the way) is Lord of Extinction?

The main deck I played Lhurgoyf in was one of the few that actually played Lhurgoyf in the main deck. I had rarely been so confident in a deck as this one, which I had used to win two tournaments immediately prior to Regionals 1998:

TDC Heat

4 Giant Growth
4 Granger Guildmage
4 Jolrael’s Centaur
3 Lhurgoyf
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Muscle Sliver
4 Quirion Ranger
4 River Boa
3 Uktabi Orangutan

2 Fireball
4 Incinerate

9 Forest
2 Karplusan Forest
3 Mountain
4 Mountain Valley
2 Undiscovered Paradise


2 Simoon
4 Tranquil Domain
1 Uktabi Orangutan
2 Boil
3 Dwarven Miner
3 Pyroblast

I don’t know if that was my Regionals list (I actually think I played four Uktabi Orangutans main and cut a Centaur), but it was the more recent of the two tournament report deck lists that I found. Yeah, now that I think of it I played Hall of Gemstones which was like a City of Solitude against Blue and also foiled the main combo deck of the day (Cadaverous Bloom).

This deck was exceptional against the Red Decks and the Blue Draw-Go / Rainbow / Big Blue decks of the era, plus it always seemed to pull it out against Tradewind decks; weaker against Living Death and combo. So of course at Regionals I lost in the first round to Sligh, drawing two lands in two games (though to be fair my opponent correctly just killed all my Elves). Speaking of Lhurgoyf, I just remember drawing that alleged monster against Tradewind and doing nothing as there were no creatures in the graveyard. Lhurgoyf just sat there against — if you can believe it — Trained Armodon as I was eliminated from Top 8 contention with a deck that I had tested more than probably anything else in my life at that point.

The Lhurgoyf strategy resurfaced about five years later for Regionals 2003. Our weapon of choice was Mono-Black Control. The main deck was superb, being the favorite against basically every deck in the metagame (we had not tested against Wake for Regionals); the issue was Compost in sideboarded games. Osyp suggested we side in Mortivore, which would be very big in attrition games (like Lhurgoyf was against the Sligh decks back in 1998), hoping to circumvent the Compost card advantage.

I ran with Osyp’s idea and ultimately produced I think the best sideboard strategy of my career.

Mono-Black Control

1 Chainer’s Edict
4 Corrupt
4 Diabolic Tutor
4 Duress
1 Haunting Echoes
3 Innocent Blood
1 Mind Sludge
4 Mutilate
2 Skeletal Scrying
4 Smother
4 Undead Gladiator
2 Visara the Dreadful

2 Cabal Coffers
24 Swamp

2 Cabal Therapy
2 Chainer’s Edict
1 Engineered Plague
1 Haunting Echoes
2 Laquatus’s Champion
1 Mind Sludge
4 Nantuko Shade
1 Skeletal Scrying
1 Visara the Dreadful

Osyp figured that having a large regenerating monster like Mortivore could simultaneously hold down the fort and make up for Compost card advantage; I realized that we could upgrade our regenerating creature with a little more mana and actually change how the game was played.

By changing our mindset and looking at our Black one-for-one removal as “Blue” “removal” (basically Unsummon et al) once a Compost was in play, we just used our one-for-ones to buy time while we set up a Black burn plan. Laquatus’s Champion was not just a regenerating creature set to hold down the fort but an efficient Fireball. With his 187 effect and one swing, we could easily “two-card-combo” the opposing G/R deck out with just one Corrupt, Compost or no.

I ultimately lost to Astral Slide playing for Top 8 (a nearly un-losable matchup, sadly), but to this day am very proud of the sideboard plan (especially given the Tutor nature of the deck), and consider this build, which put Paul, Josh, and myself all in prize position, even if none of us qualified, a triumph of deck design and metagaming.

Oh, but this blog post was supposed to be about Lord of Extinction, or Lhurgoyf 2K9.

Lord of Extinction is just plain awesome I don’t know what else to say. Yes he is a little bit more expensive than Lhurgoyf, but the upgrade to all cards in all graveyards rather than just creatures is huge, especially in Black. For instance you just keep killing guys with one-for-ones, you get +2/+2 with every Terror effect.

All that said, “aesthetically” I don’t get not just the not-Lhurgoyf thing, but given the name and power level, a not-Lord (or even not-Legend) byline.

Where can I see this card fitting in?
While I find Lord of Extinction to be a stronger card than Lhurgoyf, I also feel like it might be a little less applicable. A four mana spell can fit into a twenty land deck as we saw with TDC Heat, when that deck is poised either to win attrition wars with Red Decks or to “recover” when an opposing U/W deck taps out for Wrath of God; in both cases the G/R deck is supposing it will draw into sufficient lands to play its powerful four drop. This doesn’t really work for Lord of Extinction; the kinds of decks that can play it don’t really want to play Lhurgoyf as it was played in TDC Heat.

Instead, the card is just simply good. It should easily be 5/5 or greater on turn five, just from everyday actions. Therefore in addition to being a cleanup card, a Wrath of God recovery card, or the nail in the coffin of an attrition fight, it can just be played, as in Reflecting Pool Control. Can you play Lord of Extinction? That is, can you produce one Black and one Green mana? If so, it is probably pretty good.

The only question is if it is good enough, that is, will it take the place of a Broodmate Dragon, Chameleon Colossus, or Nath of the Gilt-Leaf?

The answer is, Sometimes Lord of Extinction will be, but not always.

Snap Judgment Rating: Role Player (high)


All Alara Reborn

P.S. Both of the TDC Heat tournament reports and my Mono-Black Regionals report which includes the arduous development of the Laquatus’s Champion sideboarding strategy are detailed in Deckade. These are tough reports to find (and in the Mono-Black report’s case, basically impossible unless you still have Brainburst Premium). But they and close to 700 more pages of great Magic strategy await you over at Top 8 Magic!

Alara Reborn – Defiler of Souls

We bring you a look at a much improved Woebringer Demon, Alara Reborn Mythic Rare Defiler of Souls!

As I mentioned in the excerpt, the card that this makes me think of is Woebringer Demon.

When I originally wrote about Woebringer Demon, it was I believe my first attempt at a set review. I went back and looked it up… I had Woebringer Demon on Flagship originally.


No, that one never made Flagship.

However that 4/4 flying Abyss for five mana was actually pretty good. I will refresh your memory if you didn’t recall: I personally played Woebringer Demon in a deck; arguably one of my best performances ever, my Charleston Batman deck:

8 Plains
9 Swamp
2 Belfry Spirit
4 Blind Hunter
4 Ghost Council of Orzhova
3 Godless Shrine
4 Mortify
4 Orzhov Basilica
2 Orzhov Pontiff
4 Orzhov Signet
4 Skeletal Vampire
3 Teysa, Orzhov Scion
2 Gleancrawler
3 Hour of Reckoning
4 Last Gasp

2 Muse Vessel
4 Castigate
3 Culling Sun
2 Debtors’ Knell
2 Orzhov Pontiff
2 Woebringer Demon

If I recall correctly, I won every single time I sided Woebringer Demon in. I usually brought it in when I was playing against Simic Sky Swallower; it was a 4/4 Diabolic Edict that generally struck their mighty 7/7 and locked the opponent out of ever being able to have a board presence before I did them in.

… And Woebringer Demon was not half the card that Defiler of Souls will be.

Defiler of Souls costs exactly one Red mana more than Woebringer Demon. In return you get two key differences between the cards:

  1. +1/+1 (not bad)
  2. A slightly different take at The Abyss

While the size difference looks to be a perfect upgrade, the sacrifice line is different on these cards, neither one being strictly better than the other. Defiler of Souls is the more flexible card: If you simply don’t play any monocolored creatures, Defiler of Souls has zero downside. You can play him whenever you want and he will generally just be annoying for the other guy.

On balance — and this is kind of obvious and silly and at the same time irrelevant — you could never side in Defiler of Souls in the spots where Woebringer Demon was useful for me in Charleston; basically Defiler of Souls don’t eat no Simic Sky Swallowers. Not that that matters of course; for Charleston we would be talking about a very specific metagame, and it is unlikely Simic Sky Swallower and Defiler of Souls will ever be facing off anyway… But it was still something I wanted to mention.

Basically on Defiler of Souls you get decent Dragon stats and a body that can chomp on some — even “most” — decks on the bonus.

Where can I see this fitting in: Defiler of Souls would be a fine killer in a Reflecting Pool Control style of deck; he has no interaction with Plumeveil but chews on the creatures in most of the obvious decks. If some kind of progressive creature deck like I played in Charleston were viable, he could top up there as well (usually you just want a body to step up, this is a pretty good one). Or you could build around the Defiler of Souls as a Flagship; that won’t be popular but some players will try it. I would expect one of the first two options as the most likely paths for serious play.

Snap Judgment Rating: Role Player


All Alara Reborn

Alara Reborn – Qasali Pridemage

302 words on hot Alara Reborn common Qasali Pridemage.

The first thing you notice is that there is no “u” in “Qasali”. Does that make Qasali Pridemage Arabic? Just putting it out there.

Qasali Pridemage is a quality two-drop.

Interesting that our boy Billy Moreno just won a PTQ for Pro Tour Honolulu. Because at the last Pro Tour Honolulu he struck a virtual Top 8 with a Zoo deck that played two different two-drops that are at least superficially comparable to Qasali Pridemage:

  • Watchwolf, and
  • Kami of Ancient Law

Why a Watchwolf?
The price is right — GW — for similar functionality. Watchwolf was something special when it first came out; less so today with Wild Nacatl and a string of other great creatures; on offense, Qasali Pridemage can be pretty 3/3 himself.

Why a Kami of Ancient Law?
It’s pretty obvious, right? In fact Qasali Pridemage is even more versatile although the additional mana cost is a little steep.

Where can I see this fitting in?
Really only one or two kinds of decks… small creature beatdown decks or Zoo decks, possibly with Exalted sub-themes, main deck or in the sideboard. Qasali Pridemage is harder to play and less forgiving under pressure than Kami of Ancient Law (or Ronom Unicorn); those cards were played in a fairly narrow band of decks (Boros and Zoo), with Kami of Ancient Law seeing some Orzhov play largely due to Tallowisp sub-themes only. Despite its [Watch]wolfish leanings, I don’t see Qasali Pridemage being a lot more popular across a lot more different kinds of decks.

Snap Judgment Rating: Role player; probably typically a two-of sideboard card.


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Alara Reborn – Maelstrom Pulse

The guy who did the preview on the mother ship is a righteous master, but we will nevertheless try our best with Alara Reborn rare Maelstrom Pulse.

Like the man said, looks like a slow Putrefy, acts more like a Vindicate cross-bred with an Echoing Ruin.

Where can I see this fitting in?
This is the interesting question… “Classically” speaking it would be a card for The Rock; Maelstrom Pulse is after all in the traditional colors of The Rock. People love their Green creatures, Siege Towers, and whatnot; so for Standard especially we can see this in The Rock and that kind of a deck.

However we live in a world of cheap mana; that is, mana that is easy to come by if you have the resources, not financially cheap. Today’s mana bases even in Standard are anything but… Therefore Maelstrom Pulse is the kind of card that can find a home outside the traditional confines. I think that it can be played as a surgical non-four-of in Reflecting Pool Control if for no other reason that Reflecting Pool Control can cast it (I mean just look at the name).

Those kinds of control decks are always in the market for removal of some sort and this is the rare card that can kill Ajani Vengeant, Swans of Bryn Argoll, Seismic Assault, Bitterblossom or all the damn Bitterblossom tokens! In a sense Maelstrom Pulse can be considered a space saver because in playing it Reflecting Pool Control can avoid having to play so many different kinds of cards for different situations.

Snap Judgment Rating: Clear and present Staple, if not automatic four-of.

Overall, this Mike Flores did a fine job with the Two Great Traditions article on the mother ship. You should read it if you haven’t already.


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Alara Reborn – Blitz Hellion

A review of Alara Reborn rare, Blitz Hellion.

This is the part where I make superficial comparisons to other card(s)… This time I will randomly pick three-odd characteristics of Blitz Hellion for cross reference:

  1. Mana Cost: I choose 3RG
  2. Size: I choose 7/7
  3. Abilities: I choose Trample

What do you get?

That’s right!

A Shivan Wurm!

Shivan Wurm was lauded as one of the best creatures ever when it first hit print, and was a decent sideboard card in Fires of Yavimaya decks.

It is kind of difficult to compare these two cards — Blitz Hellion and Shivan Wurm — head-to-head; they are just so different. Shivan Wurm was a slow warrior built to win brawls. Blitz Hellion is a much different kind of card, almost like a burn spell.

As far as burn spells go… The “blitz” in Blitz Hellion makes it fairly similar to a Beacon of Destruction. Instead of five direct damage you can do up to seven… But you don’t get to pick. If you are just going to the face (and the opponent doesn’t have anything) you can win; otherwise the opponent can move to absorb much of your attack (even if it doesn’t score a victory… You are “losing” the Hellion anyway); plus, you can’t really aim a Hellion at your opponent’s Dragon.

On the other hand, Blitz Hellion gets in like a Blistering Firecat; and we know from the old Red Deck Wins testing that you usually win whenever you can stick a Blistering Firecat [in a deck with sufficient burn to exploit basically three-and-a-half cards worth of damage].

Where can I see this fitting in?

A high end burn deck is the most logical place to try Blitz Hellion; that, or a deck with a heavily aggressive burn and haste theme… Maybe he will be friends with Jund Hackblade?

Snap Judgment Rating: Role Player


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