Entries from January 2009 ↓

Critical Mass Again

I wish I had a PTQ!

I would play this:

Critical Mass 2009

2 Chalice of the Void
1 Engineered Explosives
3 Sword of Fire and Ice
3 Umezawa’s Jitte

2 Glen Elendra Archmage
4 Trinket Mage
2 Vendilion Clique
2 Venser, Shaper Savant

4 Kitchen Finks

1 Arashi, the Sky Asunder
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
4 Tarmogoyf

1 Academy Ruins
4 Breeding Pool
1 Minamo, School at Water’s Edge
1 Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers
2 Riptide Laboratory
1 Seat of the Synod
5 Snow-Covered Forest
2 Snow-Covered Island
1 Snow-Covered Mountain
1 Steam Vents
1 Tree of Tales
4 Wooded Foothills

1 Chalice of the Void
2 Relic of Progenitus
2 Echoing Truth
2 Repeal
3 Arashi, the Sky Asunder
4 Ancient Grudge
1 Dwarven Blastminer

One of the things that dawned on me recently was how much better the cards are now than Gnarled Mass. I mean you can make the possibly true argument that Isao, Enlightened Bushi was better than Gnarled Mass, but Kitchen Finks and Vendilion Clique really make for a good argument.

It’s not that I’ve abandoned the White deck so much as I don’t think the White deck can win in a format where Storm is one of the top decks. You see Game One you have to be extremely lucky to win, and sideboarded your strategy revolves around Chalice of the Void; if the opponent is playing Luis Scott-Vargas’s version with multiple Shattering Sprees I don’t know how you can reasonably win. Sure you are going to beat the Fae, Red Decks, and so on but I think that an utterly unwinnable matchup against Storm is a dodgy proposition at this particular time.

On balance, this deck (that is, Critical Mass) has no such Storm vulnerability. In fact, I put it as the best deck in the format against Storm (at least from my experience). I have never lost to that kind of combo deck.

You have a couple of things going for you:

  1. Your Birds of Paradise accelerates out your Trinket Mage and supplements your operating mana, allowing you to stick a meaningful Chalice of the Void before you’ve lost the game.
  2. Your Birds of Paradise and Sakura Tribe-Elders give you a slight mana boost allowing you to play Glen Elendra Archmage with U open, as opposed to just tapping out and losing.

I really like the Storm matchup with this deck and would be comfortable playing it all day.

I like the Faeries / Wizards decks in general but I didn’t know how to win the mirror. The mirror seems quite miserable to me (but scouting from the LA floor from ManningBot seems to indicate that the mirror is highly skill intensive… I must confess that I don’t see how to gain an edge by play skill); however this deck has a fair edge over the Faeries / Wizards style of deck.

In a sense it maintains the old Kamigawa-era Critical Mass edge over Jushi Blue. You are a similar deck with fewer permission spells but tremendously more impressive mana and threats. I was in the process of beating up a Faeries player last week when he played Vedalken Shackles. I did some minor math and decided I would try to overwhelm his Shackles… A single hit from any of my significant threats would be enough. I played Iwamori of the Open Fist. He showed me Azami, Lady of Scrolls. I passed. Before the end he played an instant Vendilion Clique and drew two. I conceded game despite having no illusions of possibly losing a turn and a half before. As you can see the deck no longer has any copies of Iwamori of the Open Fist.

My current strategy is to just play a lot of Arashis. I’ve always loved Arashi and it seems fine at beating Wizards. I side the one main deck copy out quite a bit. I think I’ve only ever gone 5/5 against Zoo.

Speaking of Zoo, that is a nigh-comical matchup. You have Sakura Tribe-Elder, Kitchen Finks, and Umezawa’s Jitte all main, plus Engineered Explosives backup. Really, not a difficult matchup.

What is a difficult but not unwinnable matchup is Affinity. Critical Mass is a dog in Game One. I don’t think that the opposing win expectation is much over fifty per cent, but the Affinity Game One wins are all blowouts so it might “feel” very good for Affinity. Certainly they have some margin to play with if they run the multiple Master of Etherium version. Sideboarding makes Critical Mass a heavy favorite. You have all these great guys and all these Ancient Grudges both. I think that I have been generally lucky drawing Ancient Grudges in sideboarded games, but Critical Mass has been an overwhelming favorite in my experience.

B/G Loam has been interesting. This is a matchup that can go either way. I have won most Game Ones in tempo-oriented fashion, but like I said it can go either way. I’ve noticed that Critical Mass has become a heavier favorite in sideboarded games due to the inclusion of the second Relic of Progenitus. Previously I was concentrating on just not getting blown out by Life from the Loam and sometimes losing to the opponent drawing another one. The two Progenitus version has been much more steady and I think Critical Mass is a moderate favorite in sideboarded games, a slight favorite overall.

Overall I would not hesitate to play this deck the day after tomorrow. I have never tested it but I assume Critical Mass would be a dog to a well played and good version of the Martyr deck. Most of the other matchups seem managable if not favorable blowouts.

I have not missed Thirst For Knowlege, largely because the deck is so active and I can get some of the selection / card advantage back with Sakura-Tribe Elder and Sword of Fire and Ice… The one card I sometimes miss, though, is Pithing Needle (usually when faced with some annoying Vedalken Shackles).

Anyway, that’s my deck. I hope you get something useful out of it. Good luck this weekend to anyone playing. I suggest you obtain The Touch.


Grown Ups With Jobs Love MichaelJ Too!

Just a quick fake-update corolla-RE: to yesterday’s Five by Flores (which talked about my five favorite Star City articles last year penned by YT)…

Dictating the Field of Battle

I said Spencer’s forum post was my favorite but I actually forgot about this one, which actually touched what passes for my soul:

i just want to say that this article was very inspiring to me for maybe a very strange reason.
i work as a therapist in substance abuse and i sometimes have clients that have codependency issues with another person.
today we were discussing this persons relationship and how the other person is currently dictating the field of battle and that the client is agreeing to her strategy and will continue to stay with her. by eliminating interaction, such as dredge’s strategy, she can focus on her goal of bettering herself, and when her partner trys to interact in will not matter and she will ultimately lose. either her partner must accept the new terms or will fall further trying to pursue her faulty goals.
thanks mike

I was reminded of this because of an email this morning (which has transformed itself into a Star City forum post also) by Anthony LaCassa, or Ath0919 here and on Star City.


So I just read this article and all I have to say is holy crap!

I feel kind of stupid for being blown away by the article, since it’s pretty much based on simple math and I’m an accountant. I guess this is something I feel that I should have been able to realize on my own without having it explained. That being said, I’ve just begun venturing into competitive Magic over the past few months.

Thanks for this article… it’s the best I’ve read regarding theory on choosing a deck.

(Anthony’s was RE: The Basic Test of Metagaming Competence)

Which just goes to show: It’s not just for teenie weenie kids any more. Grown ups with jobs love michaelj too!

yes Yes YES
I will go over the deck that prompted young Zack Hall to proclaim “you should go into sales” to me yesterday. Maybe later today depending on Lost, Top Chef, etc.


Five by Flores

I was reading Star City Games this week and until I saw a poll for most popular articles by some author or other, I totally forgot they had end-of-the-year awards.

What do you think the chances are that this two-time Writer of the Year gets a nod now that he is no longer in the weeklies? Winky-wink.

Anyway, I decided go go over my eight or so months at Star City in 2008 and pluck my favorite articles. I am pretty sure they are all non-Premium now for those of you who don’t have that service.

Dictating the Field of Battle

michaelj sez:
This article is superbly written. Ego, yes; but still a fact. That is, it is a good read and would have been the kind of article I would have liked to have read had I not written it (actually I liked re-reading it, so I guess it has nothing to do with whether or not I had written it). This article features Dune battle strategy, lightsaber duels, basically everything awesome including passably awesome Magic strategy.

My favorite forum post:

Just wanted to say that as of now this is currently my favorite magic article ever. Like, it was pretty unreal. I’ve read every enderverse novel many times, and I also really like Kurt Vonnegut. I alreayd knew most the startegic content, but if someone didn’t and was looking for a new way to attack a wide open format with many powerful linears like extended, it’s pretty excellent. 

[Had to get a shout out to my man Spencer!] 

Never Settle

michaelj sez:
Just a fair number of good ideas in this one, including getting the pat on the head from Pat, actually learning something while I was working on it, and answering a request by Adam Prosak. Just a pretty good article. I had actually forgotten doing the Wrath of God math; at the time (“that” time, actually) I was playing at my absolute best (this was right before Charleston and my States win)… I think combined with my The Touch tee shirt, GerryT’s mulligan advice, and remembering to do the math when I am pressed with a difficult decision, I will probably knock off a Honolulu PTQ win in one try. On that note…

My favorite forum post:

this article helped me a great deal. 

I see myself as a talented player that never reached his potential for several reasons. Flores points to several directions I should look upon to improve.

Modeling Grand Prix Excellence

michaelj sez:
I had just come back from meeting millionaire copywriter Dr. Harlan Kilstein the first time, and I had inadvertently invented a sub-array of NLP theory, and was all excited about learning how to do modeling correctly. I actually want to do more modeling exercises in my writing in the future (in fact I have been thinking of creating a mulligans model inspired by GerryT’s post in The Hidden Value of MTGO Ringers; I don’t know if you noticed but I am pretty excited about that one. Just a great contribution to the site by Gerry). Also this one has a maddening amount of hand-written sections from The Confusion as well as the best opening page of any novel: madness and goodness both.

My favorite forum post:

And then there’s Thomas Pynchon, who does (almost) everything Stephenson does, but better.

[Actually this is like my least favorite forum post of all time. Ravitz and I went out and bought Gravity’s Rainbow after this forum post and it’s been close to a year and neither of us has finished it yet.]

The Basic Test of Metagaming Competence

michaelj sez:
I actually forgot that I wrote this one. This was both one of the best articles I ever published and not as good as it should have been (I had been keeping it under my hat for about three years to be honest, and didn’t get to flesh out everything I wanted to in one article… It was meant to be a video series). This article lays out the advanced rock-paper-scissors theory I use (or more aptly, “used” when I was really good at that kind of thing during Kamigawa- and Ravnica-era Standard formats) to pick the right deck consistently. Certainly my favorite of the five, and a short list contender for Article of the Year (provided anyone remembers I wrote it… Like I said I didn’t).

My favorite forum post:

Flores! I knew you still had it in you! 
This article hit home with me like no other article since that fateful “How to win a PTQ” last year…” 
Grand Slam. Not close.

A Case for Scissors, and Building the Anti-Deck

michaelj sez:
“What’s a girl to do?”

My favorite forum post:

Man I love the people flaming the advice on sideboards. Honestly, I bet everyone one of you played cards that were awful in your bad matchups for no reason.

So I hope you like reading or re-reading some of 2008’s best stuff, from me, on Star City. Hopefully I will continue to be able to produce passably awesome content now and forever. Hopefully.


PS In case you haven’t noticed (and I think I mentioned it roughly DI times in this article, you should read GerryT’s comment in The Hidden Value of MTGO Ringers. Like right now!).

PPS Follow me on Twitter. Please! I want to feel loved.

Conflux – Knight of the Reliquary

A quick review on Conflux rare, Knight of the Reliquary.


My friend Luis Neiman (aka Luis Not Vargas) asked me last week what I thought of this card, but I hadn’t seen it yet. He described it as a 2/2 for three mana (which it is); to which I said, unexciting. Then he explained how Knight of the Reliquary is basically a progressive Tarmogoyf (or Countryside Crusher) while fixing mana, thinning out lands, or even drawing extra cards!

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. You can only sacrifice a Forest or Plains, but you can get any kind of land you want. So for instance in Extended you can get a Flagstones of Trokair and then another Flagstones of Trokair and they can kill one another, netting you both more lands, and more lands in the graveyard.
  2. You can tutor up specialty lands, such as Academy Ruins, Ghost Quarters, Riptide Laboratories, or even Urza’s parts (though I have doubts about those in any deck that would be willing to play a 2/2 like this one)
  3. Knight of the Reliquary hasn’t got vigilance; so if you want to play searcher, you are either playing defense or simply forgoing your Red Zone rights. It’s not just a free giant monster on the cheap; on the other hand…
  4. In a format like Extended, you might have a gaggle of lands in the graveyard anyway, charging up Knight of the Reliquary from the get-go.

Where do I see this fitting in?

This card can go in a couple of places. First of all, it can be incorporated into any creature deck that can play it. It’s just a good card. Worst case scenario, it should be a serviceable Gnarled Mass, that is, an automatic PTQ winner 🙂

Secondly, Knight of the Reliquary can go into a specific creature deck with a bunch of Forests and Plains and specialty lands, serving much the same function as “any creature deck” but with a more specialized function. It can beat. It can be good. But it can also perform surgery. It can be Dwarven Blastminer, grabbing Ghost Quarters to kill the opponent’s special lands. It can be a slow and inexorable Demonfire, finding Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree, eventually killing the control opponent… but it might take a while. It can even be a kind of Platinum Angel, finding Prahv, Spires of Order to force the opponent to commit more and more resources to the board even as it grows out of easy control.

Then there are the “Karoo” interactions, where Knight of the Reliquary is a kind of Benalish Heralds.

And of course the process of putting lands into the graveyard can give it a synergy with Life from the Loam or Crucible of Worlds (in this case you can call it a Terravore in a pinch).

Finally — that is “finally” in the context of things that I have thought of off the top of my head — Knight of the Reliquary can be a specific puzzle piece that finishes a deck strategy. Maybe it fills the role of a flexible Reap and Sow in a deck that needs to stick two or three different kinds of lands together like Legos.

Snap Judgment Rating: Role Player (high) to Staple (low-medium)


All Conflux

P.S. While you’re here, in case you haven’t read the previous post The Hidden Value of MTGO Ringers, check it out. The comments section is one of the most awesomest ones in the short history of this site, and includes an opening line by GerryT that is the equal of any strategy article that has been written this year. Do yourself a favor and check it out 🙂

The Hidden Value of MTGO Ringers

What does it mean if Adam Yurchick won with a four card opening hand? More than just a good story, I hope! 

I was out to dinner with newly Top 8-ified reigning #1 Apprentice Asher “ManningBot” Hecht and he told me something very interesting: According to Asher, Adam Yurchick (Top 8 at Grand Prix Philadelphia with “old school” U/W ‘Tron among other finishes) won the last round of the Grand Prix on a mulligan to four.

That’s cool.

Cool anecdote, right?

But that’s not all.

According to Asher, “That’s how you know the MTGO ringers… They know when to mulligan.”

Okay. That can just be a bumper sticker statement. Like “everything happens for a reason,” or “there is no such thing as objectivity.” That is, it sounds cool to some people. MTGO ringers (or people who want to grow up to be MTGO ringers) might think this is a great and absolutely true statement!

Let’s assume for a moment that it is true.

What does it mean?

I play a fair amount of MTGO (as you probably know from watching my videos)… I used to play more MTGO, and tournaments as well (in fact, the summer I was very good at Magic, I wrote a lot of articles detailing the 8-man tournaments I was playing all the time, viz. Vore: Still Awesome, Beating Down With Bracht’s Ninjas, and The Next Step in Steam Vents. But since that summer I have de-volved into playing mostly Tournament Practice room just so that I don’t have to set aside three hours at a time.

The difference between how I am playing now and a legitimate MTGO ringer is that there is nothing really at stake in how I play (other than my leisure / entertainment time). So I mostly just never mulligan because I care more about exploring new deck ideas than actually winning MTGO tournaments. But when you are playing tournaments and — like I was that summer — meticulously logging your ratings deltas and tournament win / loss percentages with every deck you play, there is more at stake. Having more at stake encourages you to take mulligans more seriously because your success criteria is / becomes about winning individual games rather than exploring ideas. Tournament Magic is a far different animal from Tournament Practice room, yadda yadda yadda, and more repetitions (when winning specific games actually matter to you) influence behavior (in this case mulligan behavior) over time.

So let’s get back to Adam’s win on four.

Why does it matter again?

According to Asher, “He was unwilling to keep an unwinnable five.”

This is really interesting.

It’s basic math actually.

But while we are actually riding the emotional rollercoaster of a tournament match that might matter, we don’t necessarily pay attention to the math. I was thinking back to a hand I kept in the last round that mattered at the Star City Philadelphia $5,000 tournament. I had just gotten topdecked out of legitimately beating the eventual tournament champion in an extremely hostile matchup (he was dead to any burn spell — and I topdecked Incinerate — but not before he got me by pulling his main-deck Burrenton Forge-Tender a the turn before). What was I thinking at the time? 

Oh, I’m probably going to lose anyway. Keep.

I guess I have to keep this.

Maybe this hand will improve.

Something like this.

If I sat down and had a conversation with myself, I probably could have figured out that the hand I kept — which had very little action — had even less chance of winning the game, a game I had to win if I was going to make Top 8 (and if I had gotten the match, I would have had a pretty good chance of winning the tournament instead of finishing out of the money). 

I had already given up.

So what am I losing if I mulligan?

If I have already consigned myself to losing — or something tantamount to losing like throwing my hands up in the air and praying that some otherworldly forces give me rip after rip so that I can win out of pure hazard and fortune rather than, I dunno, tighter mulligan decisions — then what am I losing by shipping one card? By this reasoning, the card isn’t even good, right?

You don’t mulligan in these situations (I don’t anyway) in order to avoid feeling badly, I guess. I don’t know if there is any other idea. Just some kind of chasing some kind of dead end. You “don’t want to go deeper” even though your one land five card hand has nearly no chance of winning as it is… But what is deeper? Do you have a lower chance of winning than the zero you are stuck with if you stick with this hand?

Seems pretty silly when you say it out loud, right?

I don’t even know if the story about Adam is true (though I assume it’s true). But whether or not it is true, I am going to try to embrace it as life-changing (or at least game-changing) in my own future mulligans.

I hope you get something out of this as well.


Conflux – Martial Coup

A quick review on Conflux rare, Martial Coup.


So this is obviously my favorite card in the set.

I mean… It’s almost like a Decree of Justice stapled onto an Akroma’s Vengeance! It’s like my dream card!

(Sad as that is to say).

Martial Coup is even super expensive, like cycling a Decree for a million guys, or, um, playing Akroma’s Vengeance. Incidentally how much does it suck that Akroma’s Vengeance is going to rotate in Extended after this year? Man! 

Okay, back to Martial Coup…


  • At two mana it’s nothing.
  • At three mana it’s sub-Squire.
  • At four mana it’s barely playable in Limited.
  • At five mana it would be pretty good in Limited, if the creatures had flying.
  • At six mana it’s sadly Pro Tour Top 8 caliber… Yes, in Constructed*

Okay, so the question is, what kinds of decks can make the seven mana required to kick butt with Martial Coup?

Where do I see this fitting in?

In Standard, the obvious answer is Reflecting Pool Control. That deck already plays sevens like Cruel Ultimatum. This isn’t as powerful as Cruel Ultimatum (even at seven) but it is so much easier to play. I was thinking of a U/r/W version (only three colors) for Pro Tour Kyoto and this might be a good option.

Over on Twitter** zeichen95 / Mark Ian suggested playing it as a one-of in Kithkin. That’s a pretty interesting idea, and a nice way to break open the mirror, especially for a beatdown deck that plays a million lands.

In Extended BDM thinks this is a card that can put U/W UrzaTron back into the mix. It is certainly quite powerful if you are playing it for seven or more, and ‘Tron is the kind of deck that can make seven or more.

The reservations I have about this card — and again I am very excited by it — are based on the fact that it does nothing until you hit a gigantic mana count (I cycle my Akroma’s Vengeances at least one third of the time by the way). That probably keeps Martial Coup out of four-of candidacy in most strategies that might be willing to play it.

Snap Judgment Rating: Role Player


* Bonus points if you know what I am talking about.
** To follow me on Twitter: Twitter.com/fivewithflores

All Conflux

Conflux – Banefire

A quick review on Conflux rare, Banefire.


The comparison to Demonfire are pretty obvious, so that’s what I’ll talk about first.

You guys probably know that I was a gigantic Demonfire fan. I played it in G/R Snow, This Girl, and other decks, usually as the killer. One of the most memorable games I had at the 2006 New York State Championships was over Christian Culcano; I swung with my Firemane Angel knowing that he could not resist — really had no recourse from — playing his gigantic Snow seven mid-combat (thanks to Teferi). I had Culcano’s mana tapped and I played ye olde Compulsive Research into a Hellbent Demonfire. We agreed whoever won that deciding third game was going to win the next two (and I upheld).

Thing is… I didn’t have nearly the mana I would have needed to go uncounterable with Banefire.

So the question is… What is easier, Hellbent or X = 5?

Actually… That’s not a question at all. It doesn’t matter. We don’t have the option for Hellbent and we are therefore stuck with this one… Which is fine! This is a very good card and I am going to enjoy — in the words of Jonathan Becker — “being able to win matches again.”

For some of the decks that were the most notorious Demonfire decks, such as B/R, X = 5 would not have necessarily been easy to hit (while Hellbent was pretty easy). On balance, the controlling decks that also liked Demonfire, viz. U/R/W control, will much prefer the X = 5 version. Like playing one of these might be good in Reflecting Pool Control even.

Where do I see this fitting in?

Frankly all different kinds of decks. G/R Ramp decks will be able to go big with this, Reflecting Pool control can play it as an alternate finisher, maybe even combo decks. For example can an Extended deck just produce 21 mana and kill you with this? Is that easier or harder than Storm combo? Blaze was a defining combo kill card a few years back; Banefire is just so obviously better… Do I really need to finish this sentence?

In a sense I am happy I didn’t get this as an official Top Decks preview card. To me it’s just obviously good and workable in lots of places and I don’t know what to say so much as look forward to actually playing with Banefire.

Snap Judgment Rating: Clear and present Staple.

Thanks for reading!


All Conflux

Conflux – Maelstrom Angel

A quick review on Conflux mythic rare, Maelstrom Angel.


Ah… Now I get it!

Previously cards like Conflux (review forthcoming) and Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker seemed very out of whack. Like I guess they can print largely impractical if aesthetically flavorful and eye-widening cards like these… But the main villain? Do you really name the set after a Constructed Unplayable?

With Maelstrom Angel, the formerly impossible becomes free!

I actually thought about this a bit today after seeing this card… Will Magic de-volve to just who can hit the other guy with a Maelstrom Angel? It seems like you can make a deck to be able to cast Maelstrom Angel and pack it with all kinds of impossible jones and hope for the best.

Can you imagine accelerating this one out then getting in there to the tune of a turn five Cruel Ultimatum? Conflux is pretty exciting, too.

Hit you with Maelstrom Angel

Play Conflux.

Hmmm… Go get Firespout, Cruel Ultimatum, Thoughtseize, Cryptic Command… and… um, Beacon of Immortality.

5/5 flying — in Black — seems like a nice recipe for something that is not going to die [easily]. The card is big and Terror-proof to start.

Where do I see this fitting in?

Wherever there are domains in play that have not done anything yet or horribly overpriced cards waiting for a mercy cast, she is there.

Snap Judgment Rating: Ever the Flagship! Even if the ship ain’t that good in the end, it wouldn’t have existed at all maybe…


All Conflux

Conflux – Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker

A quick review on Conflux mythic rare, Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker.


Well that’s big.

I don’t know what to say other than you can really feel the majestic power of this Dragon-Planeswalker with how they’ve laid out the card. Looks great. Certainly scarier than the librarian-Dragon from the old Nicol Bolas card.

The mana is interesting. Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker is actually a slightly easier cast than Nicol Bolas version 1.0 (exchanging a U and R for 2 generic mana).

All right. All right already!

Is it any good?

In play Nicol Bolas is pretty daunting. Activating its “plus” ability puts Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker to eight loyalty, which is very hard to crack.The “minus” ability is just Control Magic. Only it’s better than Control Magic because you can’t Disenchant it. Yes, Nicol Bolas keeps his minions forever… It’s not just a Threaten. Yes, that’s pretty ridiculous. As for the “ultimate” ability, I think that you would have difficulty losing if you activated it.Interestingly, Bolas is designed to live through using the ultimate ability (5+3+3-9=2)… In fact, Nicol Bolas has one more Control Magic left in the barrel (if necessary).

So is it good?

Well that’s the thing… Not conventionally.

A Cruel Ultimatum in the same colors is cheaper and has more immediate effect on the game.

As for Planeswalkers, both Ajani Vengeant and Elspeth, Knight-Errant have similarly effective action… and they can get going much more consistently due to being half the mana cost (Ajani is only Icy Manipulator to Nicol Bolas’s Vindicate, and “only” Lightning Helix to Control Magic, but Ajani’s ultimate ability is just as automatically game-winning and nearly as destructive).

But the fact of the matter is that Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker is probably going to be one of the chase [mythic] rares of the set, and is undoubtedly powerful in play… Plus I recall being told something recently. All the Planeswalkers are meant to be good. So maybe there is a way to “cheat” Nicol Bolas into play that we haven’t seen yet. I mean, if you don’t consider the mana cost, he’s pretty insane.

Where can I see this fitting in?

I don’t think Reflecting Pool Control would necessarily play Nicol Bolas; they have a nice Grixis finisher in Cruel Ultimatum already, and you can only play so many seven or eight mana spells. However I think Planeswalkers might find a one-of spot for this guy. They have a lot of mana (some builds) and others are optimized to make Planeswalkers look good with, say, Rings of Brighthearth.

But unless there is a cheatyface way of breaking Bolas… He’s not even a role player in non-kitchen table Magic.

Snap Judgment Rating: Role Player (low)… but expensive!


All Conflux

Conflux – Esperzoa

A quick review on Conflux uncommon, Espezoa.


I actually had to read this one a couple of times because I got confused. There are only three other Jellyfish in all the annals of Gatherer, and one of them is one of my all-time favorite creatures (Man-o’-War), which also returns creatures to hand and also costs 2U.

Well, I guess Esperzoa doesn’t necessarily return creatures to hand so much as artifacts (but I bet they will be creatures relatively often).

I thought for a bit that this returned artifacts from your graveyard to hand, so I had to look at the mana cost again. Then I figured out it is kind of like Blue (or Esper) Stampeding Wildebeests.
For one less mana, apparently.

There are a couple of different existing models that can rub up against Esperzoa that we know are effective in Constructed or as sideboard strategies:

  1. Stampeding Wildebeests – Back in the dizzle, Stampeding Wildebeests returned such hits as Wall of Blossoms and Uktabi Orangutan to generate recurring card advantage while crashing through the Red Zone with a big 5/4. Esperzoa can return creatures like Sanctum Gargoyle or Sharuum the Hegemon for similar advantage. But it doesn’t just return artifact creatures. Perhaps we will see it resetting limited-use artifacts like Serrated Arrows.
  2. Imaginary Pet – My old Team Discovery Channel teammate and Morphling innovator Patrick Johnson aka PatrickJ used to say “Imaginary Pet has the rules text ‘Destroy target opponent. During your upkeep, pay U1.'” Esperzoa seems like a pretty decent stop sign in Blue for three mana. It is a little smaller than Imaginary Pet around the back (making it weaker against Red or potentially Black), but the flying can be really annoying for some attackers. Will we play this card exclusively for Imaginary Pet-style defense in any decks? Almost certainly not. But the flexibility of being able to scare off some Bears — in Limited or certain situations in Constructed (kind of like a poor man’s Plumeveil) — are not out of the realm of imagination. Then you have some potentially profitable artifacts next to it and you get a whole new way of looking at things!

Where can I see this fitting in?

Pretty sure I just said.

Snap Judgment Rating: Role Player


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