Entries Tagged 'Alara Reborn' ↓

Alara Reborn – Jenara, Asura of War

Our snap judgment of Alara Reborn Mythic Rare Jenara, Asura of War.

To be honest I have been trying to find reasons not to like this card.

The reason is that I always like cards like this one (note the Green mana), and that usually costs me.

However I just keep coming back to the fact that I busted a format open by adding some Trained Armodons*, and have literally made the finals of a Constructed PTQ with four Silt Crawlers in my stack.

Given those parameters, the whole “not liking” loses essentially all of its footing. 3/3 flying for three? Awfully solid, if below the high water mark for a format with Incinerate, Agony Warp, and Nameless Inversion (still, I always hate making the investment — I think this is where it comes from).

The White mana is central to the Green and Blue, making it the natural color for Jenara’s rather formidable ability. I don’t think it will be uncommon to see a 5/5 Asura of War crashing on turn four if not turn three.

Where can I see this fitting in?
While it’s possible for control to play Jenara in much the same way that we forced Serra Avengers into control, I think that the most attractive option begins with a first turn Noble Hierarch. Hi-yah!

Snap Judgment Rating: Role Player (high); arguably Staple in decks like Bant Aggro Control, though fists will fly with Kitchen Finks and Rhox War Monk for space.


* Ignore The Fine Line Between Tech and Jank

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Alara Reborn – Sphinx of the Steel Wind

At the risk of stating the obvious, Alara Reborn mythic rare Sphinx of the Steel Wind is the Esper answer to Akroma, Angel of Wrath.


  • Same converted mana cost.
  • Same size.
  • Slightly changed — but appropriately flavorful — double “protection from” at the end (Red and Green being the enemies of Esper, natch).

The big differences are lifelink over haste and trample (kind of a big one), and the fact that this is a colored artifact rather than a triple white Legendary Angel.

As for the cost in total… There is basically no difference beyond flavor; when Akroma was new, White was the dominating color of its Block, and had Eternal Dragon and so on to incentivize and ultimately find the necessary WWW. Present day in-set Magic is about the Shards; Sphinx of the Steel Wind commensurately an Esper billboard.

6/6 for eight mana served Akroma well enough size-wize, to the point that she was the preferred kill card for reanimation strategies for some time (and still holds a reasonable amount of one-of and sideboard space). Akroma uses Sphinx of the Steel Wind as a toilet heads up, of course (one having protection from the other and all).

Protection from Black is generally more useful than protection from Green but you can at least make a Cloudthresher argument in 2009.

The big difference between this card and its thematic acestor is the lack of haste and trample (racing being one of the main reasons Akroma was so popular in tournament decks), replaced with lifelink.

Now for a U/W-ish deck lifelink is probably more exciting, but Akroma was (out of Block Constructed anyway) not generally played by control decks but combo decks. Even if Sphinx of the Steel Wind is pretty good (and it looks to be pretty god), she is not going to hold up in that pure racing department.

Where can I see this fitting in?
I mean tossing Sphinx of the Steel Wind to Spellbound Dragon and immediately popping her back into play with Makeshift Mannequin is the dream… But that will probably never happen outside the kitchen table.

To be honest, I don’t really know. For the mana I would sooner explore Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker, and I’m not exactly getting in line on that one.

But what do I know? Sphinx of the Steel Wind may be the great liberator or something.

Snap Judgment Rating: Role Player


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Alara Reborn – Sages of the Anima

Will Alara Reborn rare Sages of the Anima spice up many decks?

Aesthetically, the card was drawn by Kev Walker. This should clue us in that it is going to be better than it looks. Need a little backup on that? How about…

  • Arashi, the Sky Asunder
  • Chandra Nalaar
  • Damnation
  • Hand of Cruelty
  • Hand of Honor
  • Jace Beleren
  • Kitchen Finks
  • Llanowar Elves
  • Roar of the Wurm
  • Wrath of God

So basically if it’s simply flavorful and awesome, like Llanowar Elves or Hand of Cruelty, they give it to Kev; and if it’s one of the absolute best cards like Kitchen Finks, Wrath of God and other equivalently awesome Wrath of God… they give it to Kev.

Now he has also illustrated less than the best cards, such as Void, Visara the Dreadful, and Watchwolf (as well as others that are not in the last twenty or so cards alphabetically that I can see out of the corner of my eye while I type in real time)… But I still tip the hat to Walker for awesome points ahead of time.

So how about that ability?

It is kind of reminiscent of a Countryside Crusher… You will not be pulling a lot of lands once Sages of the Anima is in play. The upshot is very high (provided you have a greater than 33% count of creatures), but only over time; that is, it takes a while to enjoy the additional flavor afforded by your Sages. Will Price suggested I make a deck based on Congregation at Dawn, but I don’t really see myself doing that (but for that discussion, see Twitter and/or Sages of the Anima at Top8Magic).

So where do I see this fitting in?
The ability is powerful, but tacked on kind of an expensive card. Five is not the most expensive of all cards you would be willing to play by any stretch, but it is still pricier than most cards that are supposed to be able to win the game all by themselves. That means that you have to be playing Sages of the Anima in a deck that can get to five… and also wants to play a long enough game to enjoy the rewards well after the five.

The tricky part is that when you are picking up lots of extra cards (as this card might help you to do), you actually want lands to play! Minor drawback as well as a cool special ability.

So when?

I think there are two cases where you might want to play Sages of the Anima, both out of the sideboard in all likelihood. The better is in a heads up creature fight. You plan for fighting and an eventual attrition victory… a 3/4 isn’t the worst size in these kinds of fights; an endless army is basically the opposive of the worst thing. A similar principle can be applied to fighting decks with some of those other Kev Walker cards; Wrath of God doesn’t stink so bad when you can afford to spread the table and have gas in reserve post-Damnation.

I don’t know a deck at present that would want to play this main deck.

Snap Judgment Rating: Role Player


What do you guys think of the Amazon widget I put in? You can listen to some good tunes while reading Five With Flores now… I wanted to try something different out on the advertising front. Check it out over to the right!

Speaking of the advertising, YouTube seems to know what Mike Flores loves better than ever 🙂

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Alara Reborn – Thought Hemorrhage

Is this card for real? Here comes Alara Reborn rare, Thought Hemorrhage!

I had to read this one about twenty times.

Then I went back and looked up Cranial Extraction to make sure I was reading it right. In fact for a Resident Genius I can be a little slow on the uptake; that is, this is what my computer screen looked like at one point:

So yes, this is basically a Cranial Extraction that can potentially ka-blammo the opponent, a kind of a not-great Blood Oath grafted onto essentially the classic Cranial Extraction.

Longtime readers know that when Cranial Extraction was legal in Standard I played it very heavily; to be fair, I played it so commonly in both Standard and Extended that Two-Headed Giant teammate Steve Sadin used to express concern whenever I didn’t have three Cranial Extractions in a presented deck list. Some of my best decks including Kuroda-style Red and Jushi Blue packed three Cranial Extractions in the sideboard each.

Thought Hemorrhage, when it hits, is at least potentially more powerful than Cranial Extraction. It is essentially Cranial Extraction plus. So why will Thought Hemorrhage have such a less dramatic effect on the Standard metagame when it hits?

Let’s go back to those two decks we mentioned a moment ago…

Kuroda-style Red, played by Josh Ravitz; Top 8 2005 US National Championship

4 Sensei’s Divining Top
4 Solemn Simulacrum
4 Wayfarer’s Bauble

4 Arc-Slogger
3 Beacon of Destruction
4 Magma Jet
4 Molten Rain
4 Pulse of the Forge
4 Shrapnel Blast
1 Sowing Salt

4 Blinkmoth Nexus
15 Mountain
1 Swamp
4 Tendo Ice Bridge

4 Culling Scales
3 Cranial Extraction
4 Fireball
1 Sowing Salt
3 Boseiju, Who Shelters All

Jushi Blue, played by Julian Levin; 2005 New York State Champion

4 Boomerang
3 Disrupting Shoal
4 Hinder
4 Jushi Apprentice
3 Keiga, the Tide Star
4 Mana Leak
3 Meloku the Clouded Mirror
4 Remand
2 Rewind
4 Threads of Disloyalty

2 Dimir Aqueduct
10 Island
1 Mikokoro, Center of the Sea
1 Minamo, School at Water’s Edge
1 Miren, the Moaning Well
1 Oboro, Palace in the Clouds
4 Quicksand
1 Shizo, Death’s Storehouse
4 Watery Grave

3 Cranial Extraction
2 Dimir Aqueduct
4 Drift of Phantasms
4 Execute
2 Rewind

In both cases Cranial Extraction was a Black splash in an otherwise monochromatic deck. Cranial Extraction — especially when it first hit the scene — had a very dramatic effect on the metagame, prompting Psychatog players to touch Morphling for instance, due to not just its ability to wipe out all of a control deck’s win conditions, but the ease of splashing the card.

Forget about Extended for a moment (where we have essentially a Negate / Countersquall situation); where in the modern Standard do we have a deck like a Kuroda-style Red or a Jushi Blue that can slide the Extraction into place? Surely Reflecting Pool Control can make use of this as one of many different available “powerful spells” in a deck that can play all the powerful spells in every color… But that is not the same thing as Cranial Extraction version one point oh, where the addition of a Swamp and some Tendo Ice Bridges could lopside a deck’s iffy (and most popular) pairing, or where some Watery Graves could justify tapping out one turn earlier in the mirror.

Still a card that prompted several double-takes and one trip to Gatherer… Just not the kind of card that will give every deck designer in the room pause, as did the original.

Where can I see this fitting in?
The most obvious home for Thought Hemorrhage is a multicolored control deck such as Standard Quick’N’Toast / Reflecting Pool Control, or what we typically see in Alara Block one-on-ones. Consider…

Scepter of Fugue / Resounding Wave that; untap, Thought Hemorrahage your Scepters. You might be down a card or two, but you’ve changed the tenor of a game where Scepter of Fugue is probably one of the defining threats (or pre-emptive counter-threats to be somewhat more accurate and / or chatty).

Snap Judgment Rating: Role-player (high)


P.S. For everyone who wants to step back in time to read about the development of great decks with three Cranial Extractions such as Playing Fair, Kuroda-style Red, Jushi Blue and others… Those and numerous other triumphs of the pre-Clark Flores Apprentice Program can be found in Deckade, triumphantly back in print over at Top8Magic!

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Alara Reborn – Bituminous Blast

A reaction to Alara Reborn uncommon, Bituminous Blast.

Hey ho friends, frolickers, and followers*!

As you’ve probably noticed both Brian David-Marshall and I have been hammering out one-of card reactions and reviews on some of the gas being leaked on the Alara Reborn Visual Spoiler, Brian on Top8Magic and me here… and on Top8Magic (if you don’t check out both blogs, here is a link to my take on Soulquake).

So this one, like Jund Hackblade earlier in the week, is going to be a double-up.

Brian mentioned in his review of Bituminous Blast that “[i]n Limited it will usually result in a free creature…” but I don’t see that as being necessarily limited to — pardon the French — Limited. I am notoriously not greedy when it comes to two-for-ones (maybe to my detriment… I just like any two-for-one). I don’t see any problem with hammering out a Bituminous Blast and turning over a creature.

For example, mid-combat you might get the holy grail of a full-on three-for-one! He is crashing with two bad guys, one big, one little. You Blast the big one Bituminous-style and flip over a medium-sized monster. I rarely block, but as a fan of two-for-ones, I will gladly take the free card and eat his little with my medium.



One thing I would point out is that they slapped the Cascade keyword onto this card, which implies that there are going to be more Cascade cards like Bituminous Blast (otherwise why not just explain the cool ability on the card sans keyword explanation?).

Why might this matter?

Well Bituminous Blast is probably going to be Constructed quality in the — to borrow an analogy from Brian — vein of a Prophetic Bolt, the possibility of going linear with Cascade cards is really quite amazing! Flip FLIP FLIP!

That is where I want my Blast to take me.

As Brian mentioned Liliana Vess makes for an interesting companion to Bituminous Blast (or any Cascade spell), but per usual I would think twice about playing too many fives.

Where can I see this fitting in?
Two places, and I already touched on both: 1) Any old deck that is willing to invest another two or three mana to get back another two or three mana plus a card in Cascade value; that is, many decks. 2) A Cascade linear deck (imagining of course)… But we’ll have to see about card availability. This will not sheck the foundations of Dominaria as a Tarmogoyf, but it is certaining interesting and should make for some cascades of incremental fun in fun formats.

Stap Judgment Rating: Role Player


* If you don’t know what I mean by “followers” check out http://www.twitter.com/FiveWithFlores and get in on the party!

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Alara Reborn – Spellbound Dragon

A king in Jund, a serf in Esper, a review of Alara Reborn Rare Spellbound Dragon.

First of all let’s look at that flavor text…

“A king in Jund, a serf in Esper.”

I love that flavor text!

Most of you don’t know this about me but I actively avoided drafting Black and to a lesser degree Red in Planeshift simply because I didn’t like the art (Bob Maher used to ask me if I had actually read what the Black and Red cards did); my favorite card flavor-wise is Form of the Dragon. I have always thought they did a fantabulous job of making you feel like you had transformed yourself into a dragon* (plus a good card).

Looping back to this card’s flavor text, you can see how a flyer like this one (which is obviously native to Grixis) might rule the sky in Jund… But is kind of a mope holding the bag in Esper where everyone is drawing cards, returing cards, and, you know, keeping ’em.

Okay. Game play. So how is this supposed to work?

Red for Dragon, Blue for Looter.

From the Dragon side, it isn’t much of a stretch for this to be 5/5 or better. After all you are playing cards like Spellbound Dragon, so 8/5 or so on offense is not much of a stretch.

The potentially counterproductive side is that typically “Looter” effects are meant to improve your hand… When you are chucking spells for damage, you are probably doing the opposite (you have already demonstrated five or more mana so what you are looking for is probably more action, not hoarding extra lands which is what is inevitably going to happen when you start chucking your Cryptic Commands to get in for seven). Then again, how long is the game going to last when you’re clocking with such a Dragon? The notion of relative hand improvement might therefore intersect with our as-yet unfinished explorations of How Card Advantage Works due to the opponent being up against a clock.

Interesting thing is that you of course have options. No reason (other than flash, flair, and probably clock) that you can’t call the Spellbound Dragon your lead and use the Looter half to hold said lead… Just that most of the time that is going to be at odds with the desire for damage.

All in all I really like this card…

But I’m not sure what deck I would play it in.

Where can I see this fitting in?
Well I kind of just said… I don’t know who wants a Spellbound Dragon. There is no present Standard deck that can cast it that would really want it. Interestingly this card defends pretty well against the Standard-standard Broodmate Dragon, but on balance can’t really attack into one unless you are willing to pitch a five (or you have say a Cryptic Command you plan to resolve).

Aesthetically I think the card is built for sky racing (think tap out Blue)… I think it could be reasonable in that kind of a deck but for the fact that that kind of deck is so clearly out-classed at this stage by Quick’N’Toast style Reflecting Pool Control.

One thing I didn’t mention that is quite obvious is that if you can toss cards like Reckless Wurm and Fiery Temper you look like a rock star and bonk like a porn star… But I doubt that is any kind of a real deck.

Hell of a first pick though… But that should be obvious from the intersection of card type and rarity.

Snap Judgment Rating: It’s not Constructed Unplayable, won’t be a Staple or any kind of a format defining card, so I guess that leaves Role Player. I would be very interested to see Spellbound Dragon producing maybe a year from now when the Quick’N’Toast / Reflecting Pool Control competition dies down. Seems like it would be good friends with Volcanic Fallout (provided control decks still want to play that in a post-Faeries format).


* This is basically 100% random but the idea of turning yourself into a dragon reminded me of this Troy Denning book I read back in high school. When I was in high school — close to 20 years ago — I was a big time dice-thrower (you know, before Magic: The Gathering I played me some Advanced Dungeons & Dragons). So I was all into the novels for some of their product releases.

The book I remembered involved some sorcerer-transforming-himself-into-a-dragon action and I recall it being pretty compelling (especially for the genre).

It is by Troy Denning who is actually an excellent writer, one of the best who puts out Star Wars and other licensed properties paperbacks. I did some digging and if you are in the market for some paperback Dungeons & Dragons-style SiFi / Fantasy, I remember enjoying The Verdant Passage.

I did some digging on ye ole Amazon.com and found Verdant Passage for a penny plus shipping

The Verdant Passage, new & used

So if you can afford, um, a penny, I think you’d enjoy the book (provided you like, you know, dragons).

Have fun everyone gaming on tomorrow! (Unfortunately I have to miss… again 🙁 )

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Alara Reborn – Jund Hackblade

Just a quickie on Alara Reborn common, Jund Hackblade.

Jund Hackblade is a hard working little fellow, and one of the more interesting cards that has been spoiled so far.

On its lonesome, Jund Hackblade is relatively uninteresting, a 2/1 for either BR or GR (and speaking of aesthetics, did anyone else notice the relative size difference of the Golgari v. Red mana symbols?)… But if you play a multicolored permanent on the first turn and follow up with this guy, you have a nice 3/2 haste for either BR or GR. Saucy.

The question is, what are you going to use to set him up?

My personal opionion is that Tattermunge Maniac is probably the best option; you can play it for either G or R on turn one, and you actually need G on the second turn even in a primarily Red deck (assuming you are the G side of course), so that makes things smoother.

Brian David-Marshall told me he really likes Figure of Destiny but I think that might be a little bit awkward due to the (I assume) forced Black mana on turn two… But that is probably resolvable by dual land in Blightning Beatdown. Figure of Destiny being a card you might actually want to play, of course.

There is also the possibility of just playing Jund Hackblade on the bonus… That is you don’t optimize to play him out of the gates on turn two… You just run him over (or alongside, actually) Goblin Deathraiders and he becomes a much better mid-game topdeck in a Blightning build with Boggart Ram-Gang and Ashenmoor Gouger.

Where Can I See This Fitting In?
This is a really cool card. It is obviously at its maximum when you can follow up a first turn Figure of Destiny or some such, rocking a Ram-Gang essentially, but I think that was the trap I fell into when initially evaluating it: Thinking only in terms of how good it can be on turn two. Remember that it can be regular on turn two and then you can just play a Ram-Gang the next turn and come in for six anyway; or you can play a Deathraiders on turn two and this plus Tarfire to get in the following turn for six anyway.

Basically you are going to want to play this in a beatdown deck that can support multicolored spells; you don’t just through it into a straight Red version and cross your fingers on the mana; that requires some amount of deck customization, but I don’t think it will be overly difficult. Green with Maniacs, but more likely some evolved take on Blightning. 

Snap Judgment Rating: If there were such a thing as a “defining” Role-Player, this would be it. Not a staple, but also not played “interchangeably” as many and most Role Players.

For a much more extensive discussion of Jund Hackblade and the cards you might want to play alongside it to set up, you might want to check out Brian David-Marshall’s take on Top8Magic.com.

While you’re over there, mise well be a pal and pick up a copy of Deckade, amiright?

Deckade – For those of you who have always dreamed of waking up next to my smiling (or in this case grumpy) face… You can buy one and plop it down onto the nightstand (Jon Finkel does this).


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Alara Reborn – Pale Recluse

In the spirit of Taunting Jon Becker, we bring you Alara Reborn common, Pale Recluse.

To really understand Pale Recluse, I have to reference a similar (and I use the word “similar” loosely) card, Traumatic Visions. Traumatic Visions is a Conflux common. For five mana it can Counter target spell, and has Basic landcycling for 1U.

Jon Finkel has said that this card lets him do basically “everything he could ever want to do” … Counter spells, draw cards, and ultimately play lands. Brian David-Marshall actually argued that this is a poential in Legacy (on top of your deck it can counter Force of Will with Counterbalance).

Let’s dial it back to Alara Reborn.

You see Pale Recluse can do everything Jon Becker wants to do.

Here is a card that can block flying creatures without itself having flying OR dig up for a Forest or Plains. Five mana would be too much for a 4/5 Reach, but we think Becker would certainly play with it on six in forties if not sixties (sixty-ones).

Where can I see this fitting in?
Limited only.

Snap Judgment Rating: Constructed Unplayable… probably.


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