Entries from April 2010 ↓

Why Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre?


Ulamog, the Infintie Gyre ∙ The Sauce ∙ Getting There
How to Get There ∙ Playing Awesome Cards + Hitting Land Drops ∙ … and Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre

My Playtest Copy of Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre:

Photo Credit: Brian David-Marshall, aka @Top8Games

Anyone who has read my previous posts on Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, or perhaps my comeback article at TCGPlayer.com knows that I am completely confused about which Eldrazi giant is which, which ones have which powers (or whatever); so even if I am playtesting, the one I have is just “Eldrazi Guy”.

But which Eldrazi guy?

I originally wanted to actually full-on game with Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, but Josh Ravitz and Sean McKeown explained to me that I would only get to fifteen mana in a dream world. The other option was the draw-four Eldrazi guy (whatever his name is); however the situations you want any Eldrazi guy basically amount to 1) not getting decked, and 2) killing the other guy’s copy of Jace, the Mind Sculptor. When you play Ulamog, even if the opponent counters your “finisher” you get it (and everything else) back; but you can kill his Jace no matter what.

So what is the deck where in we are playing ye olde Ulamog?

Raka XXX aka tBVotBD

4 Everflowing Chalice

1 Cancel
3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
3 Mind Spring
4 Spreading Seas

3 Ajani Vengeant

4 Lightning Bolt

3 Day of Judgment
1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
3 Martial Coup
2 Oblivion Ring
4 Wall of Omens

3 Arid Mesa
4 Celestial Colonnade
4 Glacial Fortress
5 Island
2 Mountain
4 Plains
3 Scalding Tarn

1 Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre
2 Scepter of Dominance
3 Cancel
1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
1 Ajani Vengeant
4 Baneslayer Angel
1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
2 Oblivion Ring

The original version of this deck — with which I did most of the playtesting — had no Wall of Omens; they don’t have Wall of Omens on MTGO. That version had one more copy of Martial Coup, Mind Spring, Cancel, and Island.

I had to shave four cards to fit four Walls but didn’t know which ones initially. I felt like four copies of three different X-spells was super sexy; but even with Critical Mass, I made key changes to cards we played for deck naming purposes at the 11th hour to improve performance (if I hadn’t cut some Gnarled Masses for Consuming Vortexes, I wouldn’t have beaten Tim in the Top 4 of the PTQ, for the slot). Wall of Omens is certainly good enough to warrant cutting stuff.

The X-spells went under the Thomas Dodd school of “when playing a Flores deck, cut the most expensive card”; Cancel went on account of being an unplayably bad piece of poop, and with four more cantrips, I could afford to cut a surplus Island. Grok? Good.

So why is this deck tBVotBD?

Basically I started with the super successful Tapout U/W decks and realized that as good as they are, they are structurally unsound decks. These are decks that have to win with creatures, but they are themselves full of Wrath of God, playing in rooms full of Wrath of God. By substituting mediocre cards like Sphinx of Jwar Isle with awesome sauce like Ajani Vengeant, we can create, basically, King Hulk.

King Hulk, the Green Scar

We all know that Hulk is the Strongest One There Is. The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets. Hulk’s main flaws are 1) he is an idiot, and 2) he is counterbalanced by a pantywaisted genius. However when Hulk perceived a betrayal by Earth’s leading heroes resulting in the death of his wife, he was able to manifest a version that was in complete agreement with itself. Both Hulk and Banner were loved by her, and so in seeking a mutual revenge they felt a solidarity of purpose. Moreover the loss of his wife made Hulk madder than ever; limitless rage equating with limitless potential.

King Hulk was able to defeat basically every hero on the planet Earth, up to and including the Sorcerer Supreme — the king of all Magic — Dr. Strange. That’s how awesome sauce he was.

And with this deck we have the commensurate King Hulk manifestation in Magic: The Gathering. A U/W deck that is not at odds with itself. It plays a high level of threats but doesn’t destroy them itself. In fact, with a larger Wrath of God count, including Martial Coup which is the strongest one of them all (kind of the Hulk of Wrath of God variants), it can overpower regular Tapout U/W decks planning to win with Knight of the White Orchid beatdown, et al.

That is the baseline theory of the deck.

The practice of the deck is to constantly refill its hand with cantrips and card drawing while engaging in mana-profitable activities, like trading one card for many cards or activating Planeswalkers to awesome sauce effect.

Because these are probably easy concepts for readers of this blog to understand, I won’t belabor them; expect a longer exploration of the deck on Monday. For now, I will just explain some of the more unusual card choices:

You basically have to play two Counterspells in a deck like this. I would prefer to play Countersquall but these colors don’t let you play Countersquall. So the other option is Negate, which is basically a terrible Countersquall.

Aside on Countersquall v. Negate

When [someone] was in [his] mid-20s [he] dated mostly women in their 30s. [This person] dated a fair range, from not-quite-20 to late 30s.

Countersquall is a stunning thirtysomething, the fine wine of permission. Initially you will look at Countersquall and see a Negate with some disincentive. The Black mana nags at you for a moment until you realize that given your resources, there is basically no difference between BU and U1. So once you get past that Black you see that Countersquall is actually just the Negate that knows what she is doing, knows what she wants, and gets there aggressively.

Negate on balance is only a sometimes-Countersquall, and when she is a Countersquall, a less effective one. Negate isn’t sure who she is, and is in fact sometimes Essence Scatter — almost the opposite of what you want — and sometimes a Flashfreeze, which is a whole other story.

In sum, Negate can give you the benefits of Countersquall, but not really help you get there (you still have to do about one [absolute] mana more work without getting one mana more value); and a fair amount of the time, Negate isn’t even Negate.

Negate can drive you crazy.

Countersquall gives you basically exactly what you want, and does so expediently.

End aside.



You see, the Counterspells in Standard are so bad that you really only want to counter one spell (maybe two if you count Cruel Ultimatum) and that spell is Mind Sludge. That is why you want Countersquall. Unable to play Countersquall I refused to play her penniless wannabe twentysomething [toothless] cousin, so opted for two Cancels.

I figured that sometimes I might have to Counterspell an Eldrazi giant, so mize.

That said, Cancel is without a doubt the worst card in this 75, so it was a not difficult cut when I had to go Wall of Omens, even if it put me behind the default two copies of Mind Sludge on the head-to-head.

Spreading Seas
Easily the best Blue card in Standard — yes, better than Jace, the Mind Sculptor — and the only reason this kind of a deck is so dominant (yep, I said it) against Jund and Red Decks. Had this been Treasure Hunt or See Beyond, we could lose to level up or Raging Ravine. Instead we draw cards while putting the opponent further and further behind on the battlefield so that he can commit more and more resources into our…

Scepter of Dominance
This card will be Staple in White decks following this weekend. I originally brainstormed it for the Borderland Ranger deck as a method of 15/15-suppression that also had other functions. This card basically does exactly what you want… Smashes Hell’s Thunder, forces creature decks into over-commitment, protects you from Celestial Colonnade after you play Wrath of God on Mythic, laughs off Gideon Jura, and gets the opponent into the complete lockdown. Do you know how many times I have gotten the triple Spreading Seas, Ajani Vengeant, Scepter of Dominance manascrew draw? Once. That’s right — once; but it was freaking awesome.

Like I said I will report more on Monday, but I wanted to make sure my sicky sick loyalists had the sauce for tomorrow.

I plan to win. You should now, too.



“Awesome” Also Includes Forked Bolt

In the quite likely event that you read Top Decks last week, you know that I listed not just Flame Slash but Forked Bolt in the “awesome” at one mana category. This post is going to be a follow up to the Flame Slash post as well as a brief discussion of its one mana twin / competitor / equal and opposite.

First of all, I just wanted to should out to our great FiveWithFlores.com community for some of their additional Flame Slash commentary.

I focused on Malakir Bloodwitch (probably because I tend to think of Naya first… and Burst Lightning was an important component of the World Championship winning deck); but Twinblaze pointed out that Flame Slash is good against Putrid Leech, and Alfrebaut and some others talked about using Flame Slash to help a beatdown deck get past Wall of Omens, or a Red Deck deal with problem creatures like Rhox War Monk (and any Red mages out there know what a serious problem that 3/4 can be).

So what about Forked Bolt?

Forked Bolt
Forked Bolt

Forked Bolt v. Lightning Bolt

First up, it is not strictly true that Lightning Bolt is better than Forked Bolt. I mean it is probably true, but it isn’t even strictly true that Forked Bolt is better than Shock. I mean we all know that Lightning Bolt is the better card due to the twofold “I deal three damage” and “I do those three damage at instant speed” brothers, but we can’t say strictly.

Because of that, I don’t know that Forked Bolt will do much displacement of Lightning Bolt in the first four slots allotted to Red one mana removal spells (don’t forget that Boss Naya and Naya Allies don’t even play four Lightning Bolts main deck). However I feel like Forked Bolt will be a second string main deck card more readily than Flame Slash.

After all, it goes to the head.

Forked Bolt v. Burst Lightning

Forked Bolt v. Burst Lightning makes for an interesting comparison. Burst Lightning — at least before Rise of the Eldrazi — sat on the front line of the second string. There were decks like Grixis Burn that actually appreciated a Burst Lightning and the ability to deal four points of damage. As a Shock variant, Forked Bolt is not going to match that incentive from Burst Lightning.

How about killing little guys?

I have found a lot of tension during the first couple of turns of a game, especially against Vampires or Naya decks… Which one mana spell should I use? Against Vampires you often want to clear out a Vampire Hexmage before playing Ajani Vengeant; against Naya the target is Birds of Paradise or Noble Hierarch. So do you Lightning Bolt or Burst Lightning?

It’s been months and I still have no clue!

Against Vampires you typically want to save Lightning Bolt for Vampire Nighthawk… But sometimes you have to make sure you have ammunition for Vampire Nocturnus (I mean, should the worst happen). Against Naya, you usually want to save Burst Lightning for Knight of the Reliquary (provided you can still deal with it at all, Burst Lightning will often be better than Lightning Bolt) or Woolly Thoctar; on the other hand, the Burst Lightning deck I played for months would often have to respect Great Sable Stag.

While Forked Bolt can’t actually kill a Woolly Thoctar [by itself], it does remove a lot of the tension on the first turn. For example Forked Bolt versus Lightning Bolt is not much of a fight when you are faced with Noble Hierarch, Birds of Paradise, or Vampire Hexmage; you can kill any of those little guys, and send an extra point to the opponent’s head. Perfect!

Subtly, Forked Bolt is a good supplement to Lightning Bolt when you have to kill a larger creature. You can tag team to take down a Woolly Thoctar, say, and still point the last ding ding at the opponent; while that doesn’t make up for the craptastic-ness of blowing a second card on a three drop, paying yourself back a point is nice (or you can snag an X/1 while you’re at it, to more-or-less break even).

Forked Bolt v. Flame Slash

As far as second string single [mana] sorceries go, these two are both awesome… but don’t really compete for the same jobs. They are like Diet Coke and Vitamin Water.

Forked Bolt does something pretty unique; in the past you needed to invest three mana for this effect. And even if it was good (Osyp made Top 8 the first Pro Tour Electrolyze was legal), no one has played it in forever… We just don’t like to deal two damage for three mana even when we get to draw a card. Make no mistake, this card can be a blowout against some draws. You know those games where the Green deck kept two lands and two Elves (or whatever Birds / Druids)? Forked Bolt can Mind Twist them at the same time as manascrewing them on one of these draws.

Plus, Forked Bolt is so much more versatile. You can pick it up and point it (or, as we’ve said a couple of times, point half of it) at the head. That makes it hell off the top.

Flame Slash is different. Flame Slash is surgery. That might be a strange thing to say given what a generally inflexible, brute force (if awesome) card Flame Slash is. But think about it: You want Flame Slash for a specific job. Specific kinds of decks want it, typically out of the sideboard, to get rid of or compete against known — dangerous — quantities.

In the words of the great Tsuyoshi Fujita, “Depends on the metagame.”

I think Flame Slash is unlikely to be a main deck card, but quite likely to be a sideboard Staple.

I think Forked Bolt will be the new second string main deck card, largely replacing Burst Lightning in that role. That is due to the ability to go to the head and the ability to deal with common creatures while still hitting for a little damage (all for so little mana, of course). However depending on how the metagame evolves one might be more common than the other. Alternately the decision might be dictated by what deck is making the decision. For example, I don’t really see my school of Naya decks fighting over little X/1s rather than caring about the much-mentioned Malakir Bloodwitch.

But it would be perfectly reasonable for some Red Decks to go the other way.


Stuff to Watch

Because you demanded it (and by “you” demanding it, I mean because I felt like writing it), my nightly television schedule!

I watch maybe six hours of television per day; probably more on the weekends. People are sometimes surprised to hear that, and there are other grownups / parents who seem horrified to hear that. However the fact is I stay up working most nights… Either working on my blog or other Magic-related projects (or just playing Magic Online); and of course I wrote a real live book last year.

My wife is much more reasonable than I am and goes to bed at a halfway reasonable time. But for me? I just like having the television on while I am up.

Anyway, I was inspired by Facebook posts by Ken Krouner and then Osyp Lebedowicz recently and decided to do something that Zvi Mowshowitz does on an (at least) annual basis; and post my general tv schedule. Of course I am not 100% married to any given time of day (thanks to DVR), but for the most part, this schedule will adhere to the regular times or nights that these shows appear.

DVR and On Demand:
There are some shows that I never watch live; I just watch them on Prime Time On Demand; these shows include veteran comedy Parks and Recreation and Justified. Who even knows when they are on?


In other circumstances I would list shows like Entourage (incidentally coming off a blah season but absolutely five star season finale) or Dexter (ditto to the season finale; was not blah), but I wanted to concentrate on what I am watching right now.

60 Minutes
I don’t watch 60 Minutes slavishly, but I enjoy it and watch it most Sundays; partly based on the fact that it comes on right before…

The Amazing Race
Another show I don’t watch slavishly; back in the day I was an immovable fan of Fox’s Sunday night lineup (The Simpsons, Malcolm in the Middle, Arrested Development, etc.); now we watch The Amazing Race partly as compromise, having moved over the years between Law and Order: Criminal Intent, Alias and the various masterful HBO Sunday lineups including The Sopranos, Deadwood, Rome, and so on. Katherine got me into Survivor and Big Brother very early in our relationship but it took years for us to tag onto The Amazing Race, which is (critically at least) considered the best of the competition reality lot. I would rate it as pretty gripping / pretty good; but if there were a strong HBO option at this time of the year, I would probably be taking it.

Breaking Bad
The amazing thing about Cranston is that he was on what was on (pre-Arrested Development) the best comedy on Fox [and probably on television] but never really got the attention for his comedic or physical work (largely overshadowed by Jane Kaczmarek who was of course fabulous); but now that he is playing the exact opposite character on the exact opposite show, he’s rocked the back-to-back Emmy Awards. I know that Breaking Bad is generally marketed as “the best show on television”. I don’t know I would rate it there; it is very good, though. It is like Weeds in that it follows the formula of The Breakout Novel (starting the characters in the shit, then putting them increasingly deeper in it), which ensures its gripping-ness. Gripping it is, and challenging like nothing else on television.


Monday is a heavy television night for me. Because I watch two “simultaneous” teevee shows on Monday, it is consequently a heavy DVR night. Here goes:

How I Met Your Mother
Zvi rates this as the best comedy on television. I don’t know that I would have it as top 3 even, but I love How I Met Your Mother anyway.

Like much of the initial audience, I started watching because of the Doogie Howser, M.D.-meets-Willow Rosenberg casting… and never stopped. They aren’t even the main characters!

I adore this show (which most of you remember was initially just drafting on American Idol‘s popularity); it has sustained a strong level of quality for years. It somehow features not just great writing but the hottest woman on earth (which is a not uncommon joke on the show), and a cast of truly lovable misfits and geniuses.

Gossip Girl
Longtime Top 8 Magic podcast listeners know that I long called Blake Lively as “the next it girl” two years before the premiere of Gossip Girl. That’s how good michaelj is at calling an it girl 🙂

Gossip Girl is a lot less interesting than it was in, say, the first two seasons when we were still trying to figure out who Gossip Girl was / is; I must admit that despite the acquisition of Kristen Bell (who is the voice of Gossip Girl), I was initially embittered at the fact that Gossip Girl supplanted my all-time favorite television show Veronica Mars on the CW. What, they couldn’t have two shows set in an environment of mystery and rich teenagers? I still like Gossip Girl enough to follow it closely, based on an adoration of Blake Lively (versus Serena) and Chuck Bass, though I am kind of annoyed by every other character but Nate Archibald (who is the unsung baller of the show, having tagged basically every major character-ette despite being poor for about half a season) and Little J (us something-Js have to stick together).

This last season is easily the worst season ever. However the show has not gotten less gripping, and being the worst season of one of the best shows of all time does not remove it from the must-view list. The way they are scripting 24 right now, I am tired just watching. Poor Renee. Poor Jack.


They had me with the pilot-closer “Don’t Stop” and haven’t let go. This show features so many people I love (Kristen Chenoweth being the best example) and such great performances of such great music… If you don’t watch Glee (and twice-plus), you’re dumb basically.

Is the final one the best season ever of one of the best shows ever (like a mirror to 24, kind of)? I don’t know. But I can’t look away. If you aren’t deeply into Lost yet, you are in for a treat. I am going to re-watch my DVDs from season one starting this summer. There are so many details that even though I know the macro story, I bet I will love making small connections for myself all along the way; I can’t imagine how great it will be for first time viewers.

A lot of the criticism of Lost comes from a position of ignorance. Zvi actually makes the best analogy when he talks about the complexity of Magic (you know, the best game of all time); yes, it’s complex. Lost is a complex show. Both are necessarily complex and difficult for new devotees. But if they weren’t so complex, they wouldn’t be so unassailable. And they both are. When was the last time a president moved the State of the Union for a television show. TDG.




It took me a while to get into V because it was originally on Wednesday nights, when I have Movie Klub… But it ended up being the first show I bought to watch on my iPod. V is so surprising and scary it made me jump while watching it on a little three inch screen.

I am not unique but probably still a little bit unusual in that I am a current fan who was also an original 1980s V fan. However I have some additional crossover in that Elizabeth Mitchell’s character Juliet was my favorite character on Lost, and she is the lead on V now. Anyway, a very watchable show that I don’t like to miss. Full of alums from Firefly and other SF geek stuff you might like.


Earlier this week, KK was lamenting the lack of good television on Wednesday nights. Wednesdays are actually a special case for me; I have Movie Klub, hosted by the incomparable Lan D. Ho at casa Jon Finkel and try to hit that every week. I don’t have any real / regular Wednesday night viewing, but I really should catch up with Top Chef Masters and possibly The Ultimate Fighter. But right now, I am behind on both.


Arguably the first great competition reality show, Survivor is now in its 20th (?) season… and this is probably the best season ever. Survivor: Heroes v. Villains is an All-Star season that brought back all of my favorite players (Tom, Boston Rob, and Russell H.) along with a host of other popular players (Rupert, JT). The game play has been amazing. The best players have been putting on a clinic and the players who were supposed to be some of the best are all gone now. Russell made a move that looked to me like the best move ever on his way to ousting the dominant Boston Rob (early favorite for “best ever”) and just last week Parvati (Russell’s chief ally) made a move that required a truly inspired read on the enemy — the perfect marriage of information and opportunity.

Like much of the Survivor audience I fell in love with Russell’s hardcore game play last year, and he took the #1 spot in my opinion from Tom, despite finishing only second. This year I was afraid that Russell might not have been able to play his balls-out swing-for-the-fences style, but he has been as aggressive as ever, and a dominating player from the social side, making plays that cracked Boston Rob’s numbers advantage and eliminating JT (with JT never seeing the blindside coming). However it might be Parvati (seductive winner of the last All-Star season) who emerges as the best player of all time. KK (Survivor superfan) and I are separately rooting for our favorites between these two allies, against one another.

The Office
By the second season, I had The Office as the funniest show of all time. While I think that it has dipped in quality somewhat, I still have it as the #2 comedy on television.

30 Rock
Arguably the best show on television, probably the best written, and certainly the best comedy.

So obviously it will lose its Emmy lock to Glee later in the year (but I’d be fine with that). One half an hour I try to hit every week, and without fail.


Ben 10 Alien Force / Ben 10 Ultimate Alien, Batman the Brave and the Bold, Star Wars – The Clone Wars

These are all Bella’s shows; we watch them on Saturday morning before the rest of the family gets up, typically; however they all get DVR’d on Friday night.

Batman the Brave and the Bold is charming; it has more of a reverence — even fanboy quality — for the superhero mythos than any Batman cartoon in recent memory. I will not soon forget the Christmas episode when [robot] Red Tornado gets Batman a mug that reads “World’s Greatest Detective” for a gift. It is probably not a better show overall than the early 1990s Bruce Timm / Paul Dini Batman: The Animated Series that spawned the Superman and Justice League franchises, but I like Batman the Brave and the Bold more than the 2000s The Batman.

Star Wars – The Clone Wars really hit its stride this season; much better than the first. I love a lightsaber fight.


Doctor Who

Without a doubt the high point of my television week is my favorite show, Doctor Who.

Back when Battlestar Galactica was on Friday nights on The SciFi Channel, I secretly looked forward to Doctor Who even more.

I have been a Doctor Who fan since the age of four. I used to dream about his companions as a kindergartner and after a fair sized gap based on living in the wilds of western Pennsylvania (I don’t think our PBS affiliate had Doctor Who), I came back to Cleveland, eyes stuck on Peter, Colin, and Sylvester (Doctors five, six, and seven) until the show’s cancellation at the end of — if I recall — my Seventh Grade year. I saw the made for tv movie as a freshman in college, but like everyone else I didn’t like it. Today, Doctor Who I find better than ever.

Peter Davidson was “my” Doctor growing up (Doctor #10 David Tennant has said the same thing), but Tennant ended up my favorite Doctor of all time. He wound up his run just earlier this year.

The show has re-started a bit with Matt Smith as the eleventh man [in continuity] to play The Doctor, with Stephen Moffat taking over as head writer with this season. My sister and I have been positively giddy, because Moffat wrote all the best eps the past several seasons anyway (typically creepy one-ofs).

If you don’t know what I am talking about, here are the basics:

  • The Doctor is / started out basically the smartest man in the universe. He is a Time Lord, a member of a race who can travel through all space and time. In fact he was chief among the Time Lords. In the early 1960s he quit his job as Lord President of the Time Lords to run around all of time and space adventuring. Yes, he is a bit mad.
  • The original actor who played the Doctor was quite old but the show had to go on; the writers conceived of an idea where — by nature of their immortal alien backgrounds — Time Lords can change their faces and regenerate bodies that have been ravaged by age or ravaged by bullets (as in the case of #7)… Really just opening the show up to a separate actor. The Doctor is in a sense the same person (same genius, same madness, same sense of justice), but each actor puts a very different personality on that framework. They are all different men as well, act differently, and so on.
  • In the current continuity, The Doctor is the last of the Time Lords and has basically declared himself God. While 99% of the time he exudes a foppish, fun-loving, outward persona, he harbors a darkness that did not exist before the 2005 reboot. You see it was the Doctor who was responsible for the destruction of all his own people — and these are a people who could theoretically travel through time and space — in order to end a great war. My favorite element of the current series (that was not really present when I was a kid) is when the Doctor goes all Alpha Male on the enemy. He can beat a conquering alien in a swordfight, stop an entire invasioni single-handedly with no weapons, or get really nasty; for example a family of aliens who tried to steal the Doctor’s immortality… he made them immortal, but basically locked them in unending hell-like punishments for crossing him.
  • The Doctor has always travelled in his adventures with designated Companions (usually beautiful British women), though apparently there is no sex. My favorite companion was Dr. Martha Jones (an actual medical doctor); my second favorite Companion is Matt Smith’s current one, Amy Pool, a scottish redhead who was the victim of the Doctor’s absent minded time meddling starting at the age of seven. She is also a superbabe in that pasty redheaded Scottish way that we Americans only see on foreign television shows.

If that seems SF-nerdy, oh well. Doctor Who is the epitome of SF nerd television. Doesn’t matter. Favorite show. Et cetera.

As with Figure of Destiny, I am embedding a YouTube video of my favorite Doctor Who episode of all time, “Blink” at the end of this blog post. “Blink” won the short form Hugo Award in 2008 (Moffat’s third consecutive win for a Doctor Who episode, beating out Battlestar Galactica‘s best ever episode, “Pegasus” in 2006). The Companion is Martha Jones (my favorite), and the Doctor is David Tennant (my favorite); however most of the screen time goes to Carey Mulligan, who in the last two years has become an international celebrity via her roles in Public Enemies, An Education, and the upcoming Wall Street sequel.

I hope you like “Blink” … As I said it’s my favorite ep ever, and I find it genuinely creeptacular; if you do, there is hope you might like the rest of the show, and thereby adopt it as your favorite as well.

Peace out,


Did I Mention Flame Slash = Awesome?

One of my favorite new Rise of the Eldrazi cards is Flame Slash. Here’s why…

Flame Slash
Flame Slash

I don’t think Flame Slash has gotten nearly the respect it deserves.

Is it Lightning Bolt? No.

Is it as good a card as Lightning Bolt? Not really.

Flame Slash is a sorcery rather than an instant. That means you can play it about half as often as Lightning Bolt (even less often if you think about it… You can play Lightning Bolt on your own upkeep, end step, and so forth); Lightning Bolt — long the benchmark for riotous Red — is so much more versatile. It can go to the head (Flame Slash can’t), it can mess up a double block, it can take out a Raging Ravine.

Flame Slash can’t do any of that.

Lightning Bolt is way overpowered. We all know that. Those of you who have been following this blog for a year or more — or me on Twitter or whatever — know that I was skeptical about Lightning bolt really coming back. It is just so overpowered… That, and we were perfectly willing to play Volcanic Hammer in Extended or in Standard Black-based control decks or in ‘Vore or a dozen other places it seemed like a dream world for Lightning Bolt to come back.

Lightning Bolt was the Old Soldier. It wasn’t needed (or at least it didn’t seem needed).

The thing is… Flame Slash is way overpowered, too.

One of the only things that has kept Red removal interesting since, I dunno, Alpha is the fact that it has a high water mark of three; great when a Grixis deck needs to take out a Great Sable Stag… less so when the classic Sligh has to do battle with a Serra Angel.

Modern Standard has its Serra Angel, too; this girl:

Malakir Bloodwitch
Malakir Bloodwitch

You’ll probably recall that Naya Lightsaber sided a pair of Burst Lightnings. They were there, primarily, for a base-White deck to deal with Malakir Bloodwitch (I had Andre siding Burst Lightning in against Boros Bushwhacker, too, but when they were on the mid-range strat going second, Burst Lightning was a lot less effective).

So how about Flame Slash?

Even worse against Boros Bushwhacker.

But how about Malakir Bloodwitch defense?

Couldn’t be better.

I think that you will find Flame Slash to be one of the best cards in the new set. It is probably not going to be a main deck card. Ironically — in a world with options like Searing Blaze — it might not even get Red Deck sideboard love. But for White or Naya decks (at least those unwilling to invest in a Day of Judgment), I think Flame Slash will become the option of choice for suppressing Malakir Bloodwitch and Woolly Thoctar… Or just another one mana play that can help out against, say, a Noble Hierarch on the first turn.

I don’t think it matters a whole lot that Flame Slash is a sorcery. Yes, it is much worse against a man land, but for the most part, creatures give you a window to deal with them before they start whaling away at your life total (no offense to Vengevine). As such, while Flame Slash is less flexible than the current options… Who cares? You don’t make friends with salad, and you don’t win Pro Tours with flexibility (well, maybe sometimes you do… But forget any times that would conflict with my awesomely pithy claim).

In sum: Flame Slash – awesome.

Go fight win!


Double Feature

Well, here it is… The first Five With Flores video in close to a year!

The audio could be better, but hey — a little out of practice.

Enjoy 🙂


The Sunday Sideboarding Guide

For reference, please see yesterday’s deck, Rhox Meditant Deck 2010 version 1.0:

1 Ajani Vengeant
4 Bloodbraid Elf
4 Captured Sunlight
4 Enlisted Wurm
4 Naya Charm
4 Steward of Valeron

4 Borderland Ranger

4 Lightning Bolt
4 Baneslayer Angel
1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant

4 Arid Mesa
5 Forest
4 Jungle Shrine
2 Mountain
3 Plains
4 Raging Ravine
4 Stirring Wildwood

2 Ajani Vengeant
4 Great Sable Stag
4 Goblin Assault
2 Celestial Purge
3 Day of Judgment

Before Sunday’s PTQ I wanted to do an update to the sideboard, which was haphazardly thrown together just based on cards I like. As good as Goblin Assault is, I think that it has to be cut. The sentiment from Twitter was that the metagame will be:

  • Jund
  • U/W
  • Boss Naya
  • Vampires
  • White Weenie
  • Red Decks
  • Allies

One way I like to develop sideboards is to figure out what I can afford to side out. Let’s look by archetype:

My entire deck is actually quite strong against Jund in Game One, which is one of the reasons this deck has a fair advantage. I had a game [one] tonight where I drew several Captured Sunlights (rather than Bloodbraid Elves) that kind of let my opponent into the game when he drew multiple Bloodbraid Elves. It might not be accurate to say I was behind (even though I was behind on cards and the battlefield, because I eventually drew an Enlisted Ultimatum which flipped up a Baneslayer Angel and I easily won from 22 (he had used a lot of removal spells on my Borderland Rangers early on).

This deck is just set up very well against Jund and is likely to win the first game. A lot of people decry the Borderland Ranger but it is a heck of a stop sign against their best creature.

You can get away without sideboarding but Captured Sunlight is one of the weaker cards over a strong mix. Also on the draw I would side out my Planeswalkers; they are hard to defend:

-1 Ajani Vengeant
-4 Captured Sunlight
-1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant

On the draw (and most Game Twos will be on the draw), I would side in 4 Great Sable Stag and 2 Celestial Purge. Note that if I had more copies of Celestial Purge, I would likely side them in over Lightning Bolt (leaving, say, two Lightning Bolts)… But there is nothing wrong with Lightning Bolt on the draw, in particular for Putrid Leech defense.

I don’t particularly like Lightning Bolt on the play. You don’t really need Lightning Bolt to defend against Putrid Leech when you are on the attack. Also Planeswalkers are a lot better playing.

-4 Captured Sunlight
-4 Lightning Bolt

+2 Ajani Vengeant
+4 Great Sable Stag
+2 Celestial Purge

I am not sure who is favored in the matchup between Borderland Ranger and Jace, the Mind Sculptor. The U/W matchup can go either way, but so far it seems to favor the Naya deck due to the card advantage and Planeswalkers.

It can definitely go either way in particular based on which version the opponent is running; for example the Knight of the White Orchid + Martial Coup deck is going to be much harder to beat because of its card advantage and potential 5/5 flying advantage (post-Wrath) than a deck that can only win with Planeswalkers against Bloodbraid Elf and Planeswalkers. Put another way, Knight of the White Orchid actually effectively blocks Bloodbraid Elf, Steward of Valeron, and Borderland Ranger… all of the non-5/5 creatures in the deck. And even Baneslayer Angel is only even with the opponent’s Baneslayer Angel.

The only card you really want to cut is Captured Sunlight. Baneslayer Angel is marginal but might be very effective against Sphinx of Jwar Isle, and will at least keep pace with the good 5/5.

The next worst card is Lightning Bolt, though I don’t know I would side all of them out all of the time. Lightning Bolt can be relevant against Planeswalkers, and can get White Orchid out of the way.

With the present sideboard, I could see going
-4 Captured Sunlight
-2 Lightning Bolt

+2 Ajani Vengeant
+4 Goblin Assault

Note that if I had the third Ajani Vengeant in my sideboard I would bring it in, and while I only have a clear four slots to remove, I can remove between 6-12 cards without being unhappy.

All that said the great danger of the U/W matchup is being completely blown out by their White cards. Martial Coup, uncontested Baneslayer Angel, good night.

Boss Naya:
All 60 of my cards are pretty good in this matchup.

However I want to be a combination of fast — but defensively fast — and powerful. I don’t need to be offensively fast, though I can seize a Steward of Valeron draw, particularly on the play.

However Boss Naya is weakest against a combination of Wrath of God and card advantage; note that I don’t want to remove Lightning Bolt and Naya Charm even if I go Wraths because I want to remain very limber defensively, so as to avoid a Kayo from his Bloodbraid Elf dream draw. One thing to think about is mitigating the damage Wrath will do to me… That means siding out Steward of Valeron, which can actually propose icky Who’s the Beatdown questions… I’d just as rather avoid them.

-1 Captured Sunlight
-4 Steward of Valeron

+2 Ajani Vengeant
+3 Day of Judgment

Note that I only have three copies of Day of Judgment to side in; I’d like the full four against Boss Naya, and would be willing to move a Captured Sunlight for that option (Ajani at the same mana cost can also gain life).

Surprisingly, I lost a match to Vampires tonight. In both Game One and Game Three, he drew multiple copies of Malakir Blood Witch. This deck doesn’t have a great direct answer to Malakir Blood Witch (but for Day of Judgment); I lost Game One to triple Malakir Blood Witch by exactly one point of life (which means I probably missed something somewhere). Game three I didn’t draw Day of Judgment.

Given that I don’t really want to invest in Burst Lightning the way Naya Lightsaber did for Malakir Blood Witch, the best option is probably to go with the fourth Day of Judgment, per the Boss Naya matchup. The “right now” sideboarding numbers are / were:

-1 Ajani Vengeant
-3 Naya Charm
-4 Steward of Valeron
-1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant

+4 Great Sable Stag
+2 Celestial Purge
+3 Day of Judgment

The sideboarding seems a little bit weird, I know. Planeswalkers are a bit expensive given what you want to do on four mana and a potential liability against Vampire Hexmage. Speaking of four mana, the reason Steward of Valeron leaves because of Day of Judgment… Again, you just don’t want to have extra cards going away with your Wrath. Most of the rest of the creatures are two-for-ones. However unlike some other matchups, you want to keep Captured Sunlight for two reasons: 1) It is superb for racing where Malakir Blood Witch is an important threat on the other side, and 2) It Cascades into Great Sable Stag. Again, with a fourth Day of Judgment, I would be very comfortable siding the fourth Naya Charm. You can play either the beatdown or the control against Vampires, but you are more likely to play the control, with Day of Judgment and powerful two-for-one threats, including the almost unbeatable Great Sable Stag. Enlisted Wurm into Day of Judgment is just too filthy.

Small note: Great Sable Stag is only only almost unbeatable. Try not to leave him by himself, for fear of Gatekeeper of Malakir.

White Weenie:
I haven’t played versus the current White Weenie decks with this deck yet, but I have played a fair amount from the White Weenie side (Conrad Kolos “Kor” Landfall version), and I think White Weenie should be an easy battle. The White Weenie (that is, Kithkin) decks over the summer were stronger and faster, and the Borderland Ranger deck of that era had a commanding percentage… without Baneslayer Angel.

The matchup from the summer PTQ season was basically fast removal (Lightning Bolt and Naya Charm) suppressing the opponent’s ability to run the good guys over; Enlisted Wurm flipped the Wrath of God of the era (whatever the heck its name was) would ensure the late game. No reason why the same shouldn’t stay true.

-4 Bloodbraid Elf
-1 Steward of Valeron
+2 Ajani Vengeant
+3 Day of Judgment

Siding out Bloodbraid Elf seems unusual, I know, but it is the result of a lot of testing, again from the summer version of the decks. Basically Bloodbraid Elf has almost no value on the table due to the ability of the opponent to glut the board (especially if they have Kor Firewalker or the equivalent), whereas Captured Sunlight can help keep your spirits up as you live long enough to start playing trump cards.

With a fourth Day of Judgment, Steward of Valeron #2 would of course be the cut.

Red Decks:

+2 Ajani Vengeant
+2 Celestial Purge

-3 Enlisted Wurm
-1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant

You can cut a Naya Charm instead of the third Enlisted Wurm (fairly difficult to play) but all of the abilities on Naya Charm are highly relevant (instant speed creature removal, re-buy on a Baneslayer Angel or other powerful spell; you can also tap a Hell’s Thunder especially in a gang attack). But overall Enlisted Wurm — often the strongest card — is the weakest card just due to its expense.


Allies is a faster, more aggressive version of Naya than either Boss Naya or this deck. The main strategy should be to try to slow down the Allies attack and win with Day of Judgment. Despite Ajani Vengeant often being insane against aggressive decks featuring Red mana symbols, can quickly become irrelevant as Kazandu Blademaster and the lads get too big. I would err on the side of consistency in this case and cut the one and not bring in the others like we do in other beatdown matchups.

-1 Ajani Vengeant
-2 Enlisted Wurm
+3 Day of Judgment

Given this exercise, I think I would make some small adjustments to the sideboard:

3 Ajani Vengeant
4 Great Sable Stag
2 Goblin Assault
2 Celestial Purge
4 Day of Judgment

Goblin Assault is quite strong but can be replaced with Ajani Vengeant in the control matchup. Losing the fourth option for Day of Judgment isn’t that bad because you can just keep a Lightning Bolt against U/W, which is fine. The fourth Day of Judgment seems very worthwhile for the Boss Naya, White Weenie, Vampires, and Allies matchups all.

Good luck on Sunday… But only if you play this deck. Bad luck otherwise ;p


Currently Reading: The Umbrella Academy: Dallas

Double Up on Stirring Wildwood


stirring wildwood ∙ Stirring Wildwood ∙ STIRRING WILDWOOD! Rah!


Stirring Wildwood
Stirring Wildwood

Yesterday’s Borderland Ranger deck was a hit. I liked it a bit, but something wasn’t quite right. I’m not sure if it was the mana consistency (not terrible but not quite… you know… right).

On Twitter follower Gareth Lewin suggested cutting Black. At first I thought that would be ridiculous because of the loss of Bituminous Blast and new It Girl Resounding Thunder… But after playing a bit, it seems like this might be the right way to go.

If nothing else, cutting down to only three colors gives us the opportunity to double up on man-lands, adding Stirring Wildwood to the already excellent four-pack of Raging Ravines.

Rhox Meditant Deck 2010 version 1.0

1 Ajani Vengeant
4 Bloodbraid Elf
4 Captured Sunlight
4 Enlisted Wurm
4 Naya Charm
4 Steward of Valeron

4 Borderland Ranger

4 Lightning Bolt
4 Baneslayer Angel
1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant

4 Arid Mesa
5 Forest
4 Jungle Shrine
2 Mountain
3 Plains
4 Raging Ravine
4 Stirring Wildwood

2 Ajani Vengeant
4 Great Sable Stag
4 Goblin Assault
2 Celestial Purge
3 Day of Judgment

Okay, what are the differences between this deck and yesterday’s deck?

-1 Ajani Vengeant
-4 Bituminous Blast
-4 Resounding Thunder
+4 Steward of Valeron
+4 Baneslayer Angel
+1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant

I cut one copy of Ajani Vengeant (beloved Ajani Vengeant) for one Elspeth, Knight-Errant. You can argue as to which Planeswalker is stronger (I don’t know that it is at all clear), but especially given the erratic nature of Cascade in this deck with no Bituminous Blast and no chain into exclusively Mind Rot-like discard spells, you really don’t want to flip over the second Ajani Vengeant, which happens sometimes. Also the greater emphasis on White mana makes main deck Elspeth and Baneslayer Angel relatively easy to cast… So why not?

Bituminous Blast and Resounding Thunder obviously went with the basic Swamp (et al).

Adding Baneslayer Angel is medium-obvious given the switch in mana…

But the real story of this deck is the addition of Steward of Valeron.

I lost a tight match with Jund tonight. Finally I had a semi-normal night where half or so of my opponents were all Jund. We went into the third; I went to six, he had the perfect Putrid Leech / Sprouting Thrinax / Bloodbraid Elf curve. I basically got flattened. My spells were okay, but his perfect curve starting on turn two (on the play) was just too vigorous that game (I think the four-color Borderland Ranger deck has a long run advantage over Jund, still).

So my inspiration following Gareth’s suggestion was to start my own curve a bit earlier. Steward of Valeron is probably somewhat less powerful than Putrid Leech (again, this is an Ajani v. Elspeth fight with one being more powerful than the other but both cards being quite good and relatively close in power level); but in a Cascade deck heavy on fours (especially one with “good” mana)… Steward of Valeron can help us stick the third turn Bloodbraid Elf, Ajani Vengeant, Captured Sunlight, or Knight-Errant; accelerate into a faster Baneslayer Angel or Enlisted Ultimatum, et cetera ad infinitum.

In sum, I have been Cascading into Steward of Valeron more than I would like… But it isn’t like I’ve dropped any matches because of that (so far).

Mana Base:
-4 Exotic Orchard
-2 Mountain
-1 Swamp
-2 Verdant Catacombs
+1 Forest
+3 Jungle Shrine
+1 Plains
+4 Stirring Wildwood

The mana in this deck is clearly improved with the removal of Black. Not only do we get even more Stirring Wildwood man-land violence, we get to play four Jungle Shrines. Naya Lightsaber was criticized for playing no Jungle Shrines (which was clearly correct… see also Boss Naya), but in a deck with no dedicated one drops but relatively heavy on fours, Jungle Shrine is a not-surprisingly welcome addition. I think the mana is near-perfect [despite at this point being a non-Tectonic Edge deck.

A card conspicuous by its absence in this version is Path to Exile. I am fairly obsessed with not missing on Cascade, and Path to Exile is no good from that standpoint, at least main deck. Path to Exile will likely be added at least to the sideboard if Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and his pretty girlfriends prove playable for Standard Qualifiers and Regionals (or whatever they are calling it this year).

It probably shouldn’t be blatantly obvious that this kind of deck can compete with Jund. It’s kind of like Naya Lightsaber… Naya cards with the exception of Blightning are in our opinion more powerful than Jund cards. Baneslayer Angel being heads up more impressive than Broodmate Dragon, and in this deck, Enlisted Wurm backing her up on the six. Bloodbraid Elves are even more-or-less, the White Planeswalkers are about 100x better than Garruk Wildspeaker, and Naya Charm is a legitimate trump.


Play a little Naya Charm and you will be very happy with the results in a variety of matchups. The ability to Falter past blockers, Fog while setting up an Alpha Strike, or play Lightning Bolt / Regrowth… All the abilities are bonkers actually (but mostly the combat / anti-combat one).

The real tension is between Blightning and not-Blightning; or in this case Borderland Ranger specifically.

As we saw in yesterday’s deck (or for example in Kelly Reid’s Jund deck) Borderland Ranger can go just fine in Jund. I am going to make a relatively controversial argument (but hey — it’s my blog!) that the two cards are not so far apart in power.

I was the first person to start calling Blightning the strongest card in Standard; but hear me out:

  1. Both cards cost three mana, but Borderland Ranger is marginally easier to play.
  2. Both cards give you what we might call a (+1) in card advantage immediately; Blightning will punish opponents who took a trip to Paris and make for relatively difficult decisions for some opponents with certain draws… Borderland Ranger has none of these features, but can increase your consistency to play over time, and will generally ensure that you hit your fourth mana (and we know this deck is strong on four).
  3. Blightning does three immediately; Borderland Ranger does nothing immediately, but has arguably no upper limit to how much damage it can do.
  4. Borderland Ranger is an excellent card against opposing Bloodbraid Elves, essentially even on cards but one faster, negating Bloodbraid Elf in combat (+1 for Borderland Ranger!)

If you think about it for a while, I think that you will see that Borderland Ranger isn’t getting lapped or anything by Blightning. Blightning is generally stronger in particular because of its ability to fight Planeswalkers (in particular off a Bloodbraid Elf), but even there Borderland Ranger has some action; the point is, the card can compete, and it isn’t so far off in speed or power level.

Anyway, that’s the deck.

It has been performing very nicely for me, including a superb record so far against Jund. I know Rise of the Eldrazi is going to change things, you know, starting this weekend… But I think that there might be some merit to trying this deck, say this Sunday.

Battle on Five with Flores fans!


Currently Reading: The Master Butchers Singing Club (P.S.)

The Return of Borderland Ranger!

Because, you know, Enlisted Wurm-into-Borderland Ranger is plus-two cards.

Weapons of the Enemy

2 Ajani Vengeant
4 Bituminous Blast
4 Bloodbraid Elf
4 Captured Sunlight
4 Enlisted Wurm
4 Naya Charm

4 Borderland Ranger

4 Lightning Bolt
4 Resounding Thunder

4 Arid Mesa
4 Exotic Orchard
4 Forest
1 Jungle Shrine
4 Mountain
2 Plains
4 Raging Ravine
1 Swamp
2 Verdant Catacombs

2 Ajani Vengeant
2 Maelstrom Pulse
4 Goblin Assault
4 Baneslayer Angel
3 Day of Judgment

With this deck we return to the style of Cascade that I ran in some PTQs to near-Top 8 finishes in the era before falling in love with Blightning.

The deck satisfies a relatively strong power level (despite missing the absolute best card in the format, and generally so closely associated with Bloodbraid Elf)… an “ultimatum” in the form of not just Enlisted Wurm Ultimatum, but the eight mana option on Resounding Thunder.

I lost a bit after getting locked out by Jace, the Mind Sculptor; and a close one against a Goblin Guide / Hellspark Elemental beatdown deck (topdeck mode… I drew three straight lands to his one Hell’s Thunder). But the rest of the matches went pretty well tonight.

In particular, the deck seems pretty solid against Jund.

Borderland Ranger actually matches up pretty well against Bloodbraid Elf. Bloodbraid Elf will usually only net two cards on a Blightning, so Borderland Ranger can match it card-for-card; Borderland Ranger, being a turn quicker, acts in superb anticipation of the more heralded two toughness Green creature. In the late game, this deck has both Enlisted Wurm and Baneslayer Angel to match scales and wings (respectively) with Double Dragon.

I would actually like something a bit faster against the Red Deck. If you draw Lightning Bolt in your opening hand, it is very difficult to lose; but if you don’t, your first answer is circa turn three, and against a turn one Goblin Guide on the draw, you’re just going to discard a bunch; i.e. “poop”. There. I said it. If you can play your game, Captured Sunlight chaining into Baneslayer Angel has been pretty good. I am not 100% on the right sideboarding strategy. I won a close one with four Enlisted Wurms in my deck, but was chewing my nails down to bloody stumps waiting for my sixth land against a triple Goblin Ruinblaster draw; I swapped Bituminous Blast back in for the third (which should have been great against all the Red Deck hasters), but they never came up. The deck probably wants at least two Enlisted Wurms just to have a way to win; don’t forget that Enlisted Wurm can morph into Baneslayer Angel with some regularity*.

Obviously by the Standard PTQs and Nationals Qualifiers we are going to have fifteen-drops to worry about… I actually think siding a bunch of gigantic Eldrazi might be a strategy for this deck against those Blue bastards.


* Not actually that regular.

Rise of the Eldrazi – Eldrazi Temple

Just how good is Rise of the Eldrazi Rare, Eldrazi Temple?

Pretty elfin’ good, we think.

Eldrazi Temple

The first thing I thought when I saw Eldrazi Temple was “Temple of the False God”.

Longtime readers know how YT feels about a Temple of the False God. I played Temple of the False God in my Biorhythm deck, the first deck (to my knowledge) that broke Windbrisk Heights (though I used Naya Rith’s Charm rather than Spectral Procession as my trigger finger), and many other decks that ran cards like Eternal Dragon, like the G/W Control deck that Brian Kibler used to make the Top 8 of US Nationals in 2004.

Temple of the False God was a little greedy. It was not useful, for instance, on turn one. Even as a second land, Temple of the False God can make you scratch your noggin and throw one back… teary-eyed as your regret the non-action on that Eternal Dragon in your close-to-sick opener.

How about Eldrazi Temple?

The name itself hearkens to Temple of the False God… Temple to Temple, as it were.

Provided you can use colorless mana, Eldrazi Temple is good starting on turn one. I had to double-take on the second ability:

T: Add 2 to your mana pool. Spend this mana only to cast colorless Eldrazi spells or activate abilities of colorless Eldrazi.


Sadly, Everflowing Chalice is not Eldrazi.


So what good is Eldrazi Temple?

Well, you are one mana closer to slamming down that Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. Fifteen mana is like thirty mana when compared to fourteen mana (this is a concept that GHWeiss turned me onto a couple of years back). Think about it: The idea of being “manascrewed” with fourteen lands in play is probably strange, but being manascrewed is really about the absence of your ability to play your spells. Emrakul costs fifteen mana. When you’ve missed drop fifteen a couple of turns in a row, that can start feeling insurmountable.

A core function (and almost the only reason you will add a colorless land like this one to your deck list) of Eldrazi Temple is going to be pulling you to virtual-fourteen, one mana closer to your bombastic Eldrazi boom booms.

Which boom booms?

Gigantors are hawt and all, but I think this one will be the most commonly played of the lot:

All is Dust

All is Dust “only” costs seven mana; with Eldrazi Temple that pulls it down to non-Temple of the False God Akroma’s Vengeance mana. Multiple copies of Eldrazi Temple may have your opponents tearing their hair out.

All is Dust is [generally] more powerful than Akroma’s Vengeance (despite not cycling), in particular because it poops on Gideon Jura or Sarkhan the Mad. On the other hand, the main reason we played an Akroma’s Vengeance-based deck in 2004 was to blow up all the artifact lands (which All is Dust doesn’t do… Not that it matters in 2010).

All is Dust seems — at this point, before I’ve actually played any Rise of the Eldrazi — as the most “splash-able” of the big Eldrazi spells. Most of the other cards seem like the kind of stuff you will have to play Summoning Trap and / or a ton of specialized mana to play; but All is Dust will see play in regular control decks as catch-all Wrath redundancy or Planeswalker suppression.

Eldrazi Temple, when casting Emrakul, will feel like a free fifteen. With All is Dust, it will play out like twelve mana when you are under pressure. I know that it won’t be exactly like those gigantic amounts of mana when you look at the board and lands tapped, but when cards that cost 10-11 mana are competing with Blightning and Countersquall, the value of mana acceleration this good — and this opportunity cost-less — can’t be exaggerated.

Long story short – Staple

Go get your playset. If you have any designs on fatty boom booms over the next two years, you will probably want four.


Currently Reading: Justice Society of America: Thy Kingdom Come, Part 3

Rise of the Eldrazi – Emrakul, the Aeons Torn


Rise of the Eldrazi Mythic Rare; Emrakul, the Aeons Torn!

(So this is what you get for fifteen mana).

Emrakul, the Aeons Torn

Is this card very good?

Last week we talked about not having a great frame of reference for Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre at 11 mana; the fact is, Ulamog is more-or-less on-par with Darksteel Colossus (which was a tournament Staple as a one-of in Block, Standard, and Extended Tooth and Nail decks, and Vintage Tinker decks). Both Ulamog and Darksteel Colossus cost 11 mana for huge creatures. 11/11 is bigger than 10/10 but whatever… Two hits from either will smite many a mage. Both creatures are indestructible, and both creatures feature a “Gaea’s Blessing” clause.

As I said, Darksteel Colossus was a tournament Staple, and Ulamog is probably the stronger despite being marginally smaller. Ulamog is a Desert Twister; though he can be countered, his Vindicate effect can’t really be. And while Ulamog hasn’t got Trample, Annihilator 4 is a fair trade-off. After all… How much is the opponent going to have lying around to block with?

But what about the card at hand — Ulamog’s co-Eldrazi conspirator; Emrakul, the Aeons Torn?

If we have relatively little framework for 11 mana biggies, what about fifteen-casters?

The second coming of Draco!

In the case of Emrakul, I think the mana cost may be an advantage. Maybe not in the hard-casting business, but don’t forget that we’ve seen hefty cards like this one prominently featured in tournament competitive decks in the past. To wit, Draco in the Erratic Explosion strategy (more on this later).

Given the availability of an Erratic Explosion analogue, I would rate Emrakul, the Aeons Torn at Role Player – High at a minimum.

But in addition to being one of raw-largest creatures we have ever seen, Emrakul, the Aeons Torn is covered in text.

Emrakul, the Aeons Torn is particularly good against permission spells. I think that that particular wing of Magic: The Gathering may be operating at an all time nadir due to the incentive to playing gigantic Eldrazi plus the presence of Summoning Trap. So while many gigantic creatures will theoretically be vulnerable to Essence Scatter or whatever, you really don’t want to put your opponent in a position where he can miss Summoning Trap into Emrakul, the Aeons Torn.

Both of Emrakul’s first two lines of text are relevant against permission. Obviously it can’t be countered (holy relevance), but the second line subtly overcomes an Overrule as well. Emrakul doesn’t have to resolve or hit the ‘field. It’s enough to cast it in order to Time Walk.

Emrakul, the Aeons Torn is very effective against permission.

Emrakul has even more text.

Flying – He can block attackers that might otherwise be able to race, viz. Baneslayer Angel.

Protection from Colored Spells – Interestingly other Eldrazi can interact with Emrakul. Five Searing Blazes or whatever, though? Even though they only cost a paltry ten mana in aggregate… Not so much.

Annihilator 6 – Ka-pow.

If there is one thing you can say about Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, it’s that he’s covered in rules text.

Also, you can’t be decked.

Also, you can’t be decked.

Okay, maybe you can be decked, but it’s a lot more difficult with even one Emrakul, the Aeons Torn in your deck than without.

The “Dakrsteel Colossus” Gaea’s Blessing wannabe ability probably helps to control the Eldrazi power level. The concern would be reanimation for mana savings.

Emrakul, the Aeons torn will be plenty good even without Summoning Trap shenanigans.

Snap Judgment Rating – Staple