Wednesday, 20 January 2016

MTG: 15 Intriguing Casual Cards from Oath of the Gatewatch


The Eldrazi have launched their offensive on Zendikar, and some of the multiverse's most powerful Planeswalkers must band together to fight off these monstrosities.

Thus, they make an Oath of the Gatewatch, the name of the new Magic: The Gathering set coming out later this month.

It is no secret that I wasn't fond of the previous set (Battle for Zendikar), and I'm looking forward to the next block. That said, every set has its treasures and gems for casual players. Here are the 15 cards that intrigue me the most. 

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The one major change to the rules comes in the form of COLOURLESS mana versus GENERIC mana.

In the past, these two terms were interchangeable. A Sol Ring tapped for 2 colourless mana, and a Juggernaut needed 4 generic mana (mana of any colour, or colourless) to be cast. They both had the same number denoting the cost (2), so we didn't think much of it.

Now, colourless mana refers specifically to mana devoid of any colour (as it should), and there are now cards that specifically require colourless mana. This new mana symbol '<>' will now show up on any source tapping for it, rather than the old (1). Yup, Sol Ring now taps for '<> <>'.

To illustrate, here are two intriguing cards.

15. WASTES



Magic has always had five basic land types. Over 20 years into the game we get our sixth in the form of Wastes, which taps for a colourless mana.

What makes it special is that it is searchable via any card that can fetch a basic land. Colourless EDH decks will also love the fact they can now have basic lands tailored specifically for them.

If you are playing any deck that needs the diamond mana, you will need a LOT of these. The art, too, is beautiful, especially the Bismuth one on the left.

14. MATTER RESHAPER




Much like the popular Solumn Simulacrum, the Reshaper is a source of card advantage that can slot into many different types of decks.

Granted, this is a little harder to get out (colourless versus generic), and it's just one extra card, but a decently efficient creature that gets you a card, or a permanent (even planeswalkers!) on the board, is the type of thing casual players can easily find a use for.

Oh, and does Matter Reshaper remind you of anybody? No?

Try and unsee this...

13. KAZUUL'S TOLL COLLECTOR


I don't think he has any Toll House cookies :'(

This scary looking ogre hasn't received a lot of attention, but any ability that costs (0) is always worth some sort of look.

You know that feeling you get when you spend three mana to cast Loxodon Warhammer, three more mana to equip your creature, and then your opponent kills that creature in response? Yeah, nobody likes to get Time Walked.

Why not pile on three or four pieces on the Toll Collector and go to town?

If you are playing the Red-White equipment deck, playing Sunforger suddenly becomes much easier.

 

12. REFLECTOR MAGE


I love me some bouncy castles, especially when they come with some killer art.

The problem with bounce spells is that you can boing-boing their big fattie, but then your opponent re-casts it and you are back to square one.

Reflector Mage gives a bit of a reprieve as they can't just simply replay the same creature the very next turn. In a game where you are trying to defend against their biggest threat, or key combo creature, Reflector Mage is a great way to give yourself more time to find a more permanent answer to your imminent problem.

11. KALITAS, TRAITOR OF GHET


Speaking of creatures that give extra value, the new and improved Kalitas seems like he would make a fun Commander general to build around.

Kalitas turns every removal spell into a token generator, and gets rid of that creature permanently. Being able to use those tokens to make Kalitas bigger is just gravy. The bigger he gets, the more life you gain, and the more your opponents are forced to chump-block Kalitas... which gets you even more tokens, etc etc

Equip a Darksteel Plate on Kalitas, wrath the board, and you now have your own personal Zombie army while your opponents can only stare at their empty battlefield.

10. WALL OF RESURGENCE


While this might not be the most mind-blowing card, the fact is that you are getting 3/9 worth of creature for just three mana - That's absurd!

9. THOUGHT-KNOT SEER

"I see what you did there!"

Here we have a card a lot of pro players have had their eyes on, especially as it reminds us of Legacy staple Vendilion Clique. You can swipe your opponents best card in hand, or key combo piece, and then they simply get some random card back when it dies.

For us multi-player Mages, Thought-Knot Seer allows for even more cruelty.

The death trigger simply states 'target opponent', so you don't have to be nice to the player that you swiped the original card from.

You believed I was going to let *you* draw that card? I thought not!

(Fine, I am no LSV when it comes to puns)

8. REALITY SMASHER


Speaking of cards that pro players will look forward to, I expect we'll see a lot of Reality Smasher as a curve-topper in aggressive decks in the upcoming Standard format.

A 5/5 with trample and haste for five mana is already potent, but the fact your opponents need to spend an extra card to simply target it makes this thing a nightmare to see on the other side of the board. Whatever happens, you aren't coming out of a tangle with Reality Smasher without cuts and bruises.

Better get that Wall of Resurgence out! :p

7. GOBLIN DARK-DWELLERS

More like 'dork' dwellers, am I right?

It's not often that red gets blatant card advantage, but Goblin Dark-Dwellers is one way for red mages to experience what blue mages always feel.

I like the idea of the dwellers as a curve topper (probably next to Reality Smasher) in aggressive red/burn decks. Cast the dwellers on turn five, and flash back a Lightning Bolt or some other cheap burn spell. The menace ability makes the dwellers hard to block, too.

In more control/midrange builds, these fellows can flash back a lot of toolbox cards: Kolaghan's Command, Terminate, Electrolyze, etc... It's basically one way for red to get its own Snapcaster Mage, albeit without the flash.


Better yet, flashback something like Ancestral Vision, and build your own bear red Mulldrifter!

6. WANDERING FUMAROLE


Welcome to Jes's Combo Corner! (canned applause)

Today, we have Wandering Fumarole from Oath of the Gatewatch. This land can animate and turn into an elemental than can flip its power and toughness. Seems nifty, right?

Digging into the old junk box, we find Ceaseless Searblades.


As Wandering Fumarole turns into an ELEMENTAL, and its activated ability costs (0), just activate its ability over and over and make the Searblades as big as you want. Easy, breezy, beautiful Cover Girl.

5. LINVALA, THE PRESERVER


Side note: According to my wife, Linvala looks like Lightning from Final Fantasy 13. I didn't play that dreck of a game, so I'll take her word for it

I don't know how I'm going to keep fitting all of these awesome angels into my Akroma EDH deck, but I need to find space for the newest Linvala.


Her abilities hearken back to the aptly-named Timely Reinforcements, one of the cooler control cards in recent history. Beautiful art and relevant abilities make her useful in a variety of decks. Slower decks will appreciate how she can help play 'catch-up'.

4. NISSA, VOICE OF ZENDIKAR


Three-mana Planeswalkers have always been good, and Nissa, the damage sponge, is no exception.

The ability to keep producing chump blockers makes her a great defensive option. In token-heavy builds, or decks that care about +1/+1 counters, her permanent pump is quite useful. She's good early, and pretty good late-game, as well.

3. ENDBRINGER



There has to be a heavy metal band with this name somewhere in the world, right?

Here we have the card that was obviously designed for us multi-player Mages, especially with the "untap Endbringer during each other player's untap step" text.

I love how flexible Endbringer is, and how political you can be with its abilities. Ping off that chump blocker? Clear a path so you can attack her Nissa? Or, maybe I'll just draw a card. The 5/5 body is beefy enough, too.

This is the type of card that you don't really build around, but one you can shove into many different decks that can support the '<>' mana requirement.

2. CRUSH OF TENTACLES


My wife knows how much I *love* tentacles ^.^

As a six-mana mass bounce spell, it's adequate. As a five-mana mass bounce spell that gets you a slimy friend? Much better!

Blue has all sorts of easy cantrips that allow you to play this for the Surge cost... just Ponder your existence or Brainstorm a plan, and then wash away your opponents' tears and leave them staring down an angry, hungry Octopus.

1. ELDRAZI DISPLACER



Welcome back to Jes's Combo Corner!

If you thought the Wandering Fumarole trick was neat-o, wait until you see the #1 casual card from this set: Eldrazi Displacer.

As creatures continue to get printed with powerful 'enter the battlefield' effects glued on, 'blinkers' like the Displacer will continue to be MVPs and sought-after by EDH and Kitchen table players, alike.

You can combo Eldrazi Displacer with either Emrakul's Hatcher or Brood Monitor.




Just sacrifice the three tokens for three mana, and you can blink the token maker infinite times. Combo this with a Soul Warden (+1 life) or Zulaport Cutthroat (-1 life), and you have a machine gun that will mow down any number of rebel armies.

The great thing about the Displacer is that it doesn't have to bother with that summoning sickness nonsense, and it can be used multiple times per turn. As long as you have enough precious diamonds, you can blink to your heart's content.

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So, I am excited about a few of the cards in this set, even if the Allies vs. Eldrazi storyline is a giant bore. What cards are my other filthy casuals on the lookout for?

Friday, 13 November 2015

MTG: 15 Intriguing Casual Cards from Commander 2015

Although Return to Zzzzzzzzendikar was a disappointing experience, it seems that we are getting our Christmas, after all, as Santa WOTC decided to stuff all of the cool toys into this year's Commander stocking.

While the Commander 2015 offering is a 'casual' product by its very nature, my review is from the point-of-view of a 60-card kitchen table player. Some of the new cards don't work very well in our environment, while others deserve multiple copies in certain decks.

Honestly, it was hard to whittle down the list to just fifteen. There are easily thirty new cards that I want to try in various casual decks. It is great to feel excited about Magic again!

15. DAWNBREAK RECLAIMER


Another awesome angel with beautiful art, the reclaimer is part of a cycle of 'I'll scratch your back and you scratch mine' cards, that allow you and one opponent to help each other out. The effect is powerful, but not one-sided...

...unless you are smart and play graveyard removal. "I'll reanimate my Akroma, and you get NOTHING!"

The downside is that your graveyard can be full of weenies and low-impact creatures, so you might have to get our your negotiating skills to return something more useful...

14. ARACHNOGENESIS


Let's face it, the real name of this card is SPIDER FOG.

"Spider fog, Spider fog
does whatever Spider fog does!"

There have been many one-sided Fog effects, but this one nets you some creepy crawlies in the deal. Depending on how many creatures are attacking you, the # of spiders you get may be able to take down one of the attackers. If not, you still have blockers to negate a future attack.

Bonus points if you throw a bunch of plastic spiders on the table when playing this card.

13. KARLOV OF THE GHOST COUNCIL


Teysa's grandpappy is the true patriarch of the Orzhov, and he loves to suck blood just as much as his ghostly brethren.

Triggering the life gain is pretty easy, and this becomes a much more powerful version of Ajani's Pridemate, who gets just one measly +1/+1 counter for each lifegain trigger.

I'm not sure how keen I am to shrink Karlov to take care of a single creature, but the ability is a nice safety valve.

Karlov easily fits into Orzhov decks, and can get out of hand quite quickly. Low cost and low maintenance. BUY NOW!

12. PATHBREAKER IBEX


Never has a goat been more scary... Pathbreaker Ibex gives you a potential overrun+ on each of your attacks, clearing the way to take out multiple opponents.

The ability is a bit slow, but it's also one that you never want to let your opponent untap with. The Ibex basically says "Deal with me, or die!"

I just wish this card had a more relevant creature type, like Beast, so that it could fit into more tribal-oriented decks.

11. MEREN OF CLAN NEL TOTH


Here we see the new Experience Counter feature. Even in 60-card casual games, Experience Counters will still stick around, so that's not an "EDH-only" rule.

Meren promises a Raise Dead each of your end steps, at the very least. We know, however, that green/black decks can easily sacrifice numerous creatures quite easily, like Eldrazi spawn and scion, and Meren can quickly become a daily reanimator.

At 3/4 for four mana, she's efficient enough for normal Golgari decks, and her ability will slowly grind out card advantage.

10. GRASP OF FATE


Sure, it's just a fancier Oblivion Ring, but when has that spell not been good?

This version can hit a threat from each opponent, allow you to (temporarily) take control of the board and deal with multiple threats. If you are already playing O-Rings in any deck, this is an easy upgrade.

Remember that the card says 'up to one', so you can get political and not remove a threat from an opponent's board, if you feeling generous.

9. SKULLWINDER


Love the name, and love the art. This literal Rattlesnake card will keep opponent's threats at bay, while allowing you a cheap Regrowth effect. I hope this is a more budget-conscious replacement for Eternal Witness.

Sure, the effect isn't as one-sided, but the political aspect (there's that word, again) adds another cool dimension to the card. Need your opponent to wrath the board? Let them get back their wrath, while you re-load for the post-wrath wasteland.

...Or you can just get back a Fetchland on Turn 3 and give an opponent nothing from their empty graveyard. *sad trombone*

8. DAXOS THE RETURNED


Elspeth's ex-boyfriend is back, and looking rather sad :'(

I already have a B/W Enchantment deck, and Daxos will fit right into it as an enabler.

Daxos is cheap to cast, and can start pooping out little creatures to help trigger your Constellation abilities. While he doesn't look to be an All-Star, he's an easy include in specific decks, and makes a good late-game mana sink.

7. DAXOS'S TORMENT


Now we see why Daxos is looking so weepy. Aww, poor wittle Daxy!

This enchantment seems innocuous, but I think it is incredibly powerful.

It comes down as a 5/5 flyer, with haste, on your fourth turn, and multiple instances will give you a plump army of temporary demons to smack opponents around with. I'd love to attack for 10 damage in the air on my fifth turn, wouldn't you?

The tormentors also dodge most sorcery-speed removal, so Wrath of God isn't going to do much for your rival.

6. ILLUSORY AMBUSHER

"IT'S A CAT!"

Here we have a very interesting way for blue decks to draw cards.

Somebody attacking you with some giant monster? Flash in the ghost kitty and get back a robust return on your investment.



Yes, the kitty can be killed before it has a chance to block and deal damage, but, like any good stock, there is no return without risk.

The kitty also has four power, so it could take out some decent amount of attackers, too.

Combo corner: Play Blasphemous Act to clear the board...and draw 13 cards! *giggle*

5. RITE OF THE RAGING STORM


I love creating chaos, and I love cards that force my opponents to hurt each other.

Sure, you are giving every opponent a mini-Ball Lightning on their turns, but they can't attack you with it, and like any carpenter with a new hammer, they'll want to use it on something.

Just sit back and watch the carnage.



4. MYSTIC CONFLUENCE


Remember Cryptic Command, that annoying POS overpowered instant? Just like the original Command cycle, it seems that Blue gets the best one, and it isn't even close. (Thanks, WOTC)

Just casting the spell as it reads feels as orgasmic as taking a massive piss. Counter their spell, bounce their threat, and replace itself?



This card is just pure tempo and card advantage, and being able to select multiple modes makes this useful at any time of the game. Control decks will want a full playset of this bad boy.

3. GIGANTOPLASM


Aww, it's a giant cute homunculus! ^.^  *squee*

Flavour Fail: How is this not an Ooze? It's a plasm, after all!

There have been many new clone+ effects, but this one has a bit of extra text that makes it even more useful.

Notice a few words missing at the end of that activated ability?

"UNTIL THE END OF TURN"

Yup, you can make this permanently smaller or larger, depending on the game state, and the effect doesn't just vanish after one use. Make sure you are aware of this little bit o' trinket text.

2. BLADE OF SELVES


While this sword doesn't boost your creature's power or toughness at all, it does add this incredible new MYRIAD ability to it.

Commander/EDH players have been touting this as the must-have card of the set, and it will only ever get better as better creatures are printed. With the way we have 'enter the battlefield' abilities tacked on to more and more creatures, this blade is bloody nuts!

Creature Denail: Blade + Flametongue Kavu or Shriekmaw




Creeping Mold: Blade + Acidic Slime or Indrik Stomphowler




Card Draw Insanity: Blade + Mulldrifter



The possibilities are endless, and there are definitely some crazy combos and shenanigans players can dream of. I bet a few epic stories will come of this card...just be prepared to be Target Numero Uno once you slam this down.

1. MIZZIX'S MASTERY


This, by far, is the sweetest build-around-me card of the set, and I already have dreams of abusing this card like Rush Limbaugh abuses Oxycontin.

There are so many expensive spells that I'd love to play, but THE COST IS TOO DAMN HIGH!

Just find a way to dump some of these spells into the graveyard, get up to 8 mana, and boom-chaka-laka!










There has to be more broken things that can be done with this spell, and I look forwarding to brewing.

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So, what cards from this set tickle your fancy? There are so many new toys to unwrap!