Year-End Mtg Spoilers Review Re-Assessment

It’s just a few more hours before New Year’s Eve and I decided to look back at how my assessment or speculations were with regard to the cards that I talked about in the recent Theros Spoiler season two months ago. Let’s start with:

Year-End Mtg Spoilers Review Re-Assessment

Elspeth, Sun’s Champion: I wouldn’t say that my speculation or prediction of Elspeth, Sun’s Champion is off since I was still right with regard to the number of Elspeths that people put in their decks. Not to mention that I did mention that Elspeth would be most fitting in a control shell or a Mono-White shell deck though the latter was a bit off since we didn’t see her much in action in such a deck. Overall, the restrictive mana-cost was remained the biggest factor that kept her in the bench most of the time if not as a one-of or two-of in a control shell.

Year-End Mtg Spoilers Review Re-Assessment

Scry Spells: The spells that I discussed last time namely; Voyages’ End, Read the Bones, Omenspeaker, Magma Jet and God’s Willing each had their own moment under the sun though none of them really made a big impact towards the current Standard format. The one losing the most here would probably be Voyages’ End with no deck in Standard sporting the bounce spell with the scry function. Of all these spells, the most that’s seeing play would be Magma Jet, and followed by a tie between Omenspeaker and Read the Bones.

Year-End Mtg Spoilers Review Re-Assessment

Stormbreath Dragon: My speculation on this one was perhaps the most accurate of all my previous assessments then again, it’s nothing really spectacular since a lot of people had already seen this good ol’ dragon coming. Stormbreath Dragon has seen play in various red-based decks such as Gruul Monsters, Boros Midrange, Dega Naya Control, and many more and it does what it’s expected to do: Kill players outright.

Year-End Mtg Spoilers Review Re-Assessment

“Again, they’re not the power rangers”

The Pantheon of Theros: Though I was able to highlight Thassa as my favorite God of the set, I never imagined that it would be part of the Mono-Blue Devotion shell that’s been putting positive results in tournaments ever since Pro Tour Theros. My evaluation of Heliod on the other hand would be a miss in a sense that though I ranked him highly in my previous article, he was the only God that didn’t get much attention in the current Standard format. Purphoros saw heavy play at the beginning of the new Standard season but eventually waned thanks as the metagame evolved. As of present, the hype on Purphoros has already died down with only a few Boros decks utilizing him. Was I right regarding my evaluation? Partially because though people initially put him in mono-red decks, the card that really did the heavy lifting in these decks would be Fanatics of Mogis. Though I did encounter a deck which used Purphoros and was soundly defeated by it and yes, I can attest that the two damage it deals whenever a creature enters the battlefield does stack eventually. Nylea lived up to the expectations of people seeing fringe play and nothing more nothing less and I can also say that my speculation regarding Erebos is a miss in a sense that though I wasn’t that impressed with what he can do overall, he sees more play as compared to Nylea and or Heliod which I may have regarded highly in my previous article.

Year-End Mtg Spoilers Review Re-Assessment

Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver: Though he may be one of those planeswalkers that got my attention, the truth is that he didn’t live up to what people expected of him or imagined he could become in the current Standard format. His first ability may show promise followed by his second ability but then again, people just ignore him and go head directly to the opponent’s direction to beat him senseless. However, it is still too early to completely dismiss Ashiok, not with Born of the Gods just around the corner.

Overall, I am happy with my Theros Spoiler Assessment. It’s only a few weeks from now before the Born of the Gods spoiler season begins and I am already excited to see what’s in store for every M:tG player out there!

Year-End Mtg Spoilers Review Re-Assessment

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Ashiok “Salonga”, Nightmare Weaver

It’s just a few days before the prerelease and I am still undecided if I would be partaking on this upcoming event primarily due to financial constraints. Not to mention that I am more inclined to just save up for deck pieces that I can use in the new standard metagame. As of the present, all the cards in Theros has already been spoiled and the truth is that contrary to my initial impression of Theros, there are a number of cards that I really found interesting. Sadly, I’ve been preoccupied with a lot of things these last few days which kept me from writing about the newly spoiled cards but no matter, let me take this opportunity to write about one of the planeswalkers which a number of people seem to not find impressive as compared to the first two planeswalkers that were spoiled.

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Ashiok “Salonga”, Nightmare Weaver

Like most of the previous blocks’ first set, they often have three planeswalkers and Theros is no exception. Ashiok, Nightmare Reaver is the third planeswalker to be spoiled after Elspeth, Sun’s Champion and Xenagos, the Reveler. Furthermore, if you’re going to notice, the three planeswalkers generally represents the five colors of magic with Elspeth being the only mono-colored planeswalker representing white, Xenagos representing red and green and Ashiok, representing blue and black.

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Ashiok “Salonga”, Nightmare Weaver

Like with all planeswalkers, Ashiok is difficult to evaluate especially that we’re not sure how the new metagame will look like, setting aside the most likely probability of red-based aggressive strategies swarming the metagame.

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Ashiok “Salonga”, Nightmare Weaver

What initially caught my attention regarding this planeswalker is its low mana cost. Ashiok only cost three mana and if we’re going to look back at previous planeswalkers  which costs three mana, we can confidently say that all of them saw play in the metagame of their times, with the exception of Ajani’s latest iteration which I feel may still impact new standard in some way.

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Ashiok “Salonga”, Nightmare Weaver

Jace Beleren initially didn’t see play right away as compared to Garruk Wildspeaker and Ajani Goldmane. People didn’t appreciate Jace’s +1 ability since it let’s their opponents draw a card and it’s perfectly reasonable. Who would want their opponents to be benefiting from the card that you paid the mana cost for? Not to mention that it’s likely that you wouldn’t be able to play the card you drew in cases where you had just plopped Jace on the battlefield. On the other hand, choosing to draw only for yourself through his second ability reduces his loyalty counter which makes him vulnerable to the opponent’s creatures. His ultimate was rarely used at that time since the metagame was a bit aggressive, with faerie rogues flying around and kithkins drawing their swords, supported by their wizened cenns so there was just not much time to go up to 10 loyalty counters, not to mention that in order for you to do that, you have to use his first ability which allows your opponent to draw a card which is not a good idea. However, the tournament adjusted and people eventually learned to utilize Jace Beleren effectively and eventually became a staple in Faerie decks like Garruk being a staple in green ramp aggro decks at that time.

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Ashiok “Salonga”, Nightmare Weaver

Liliana of the Veil on the other hand was the most expensive planeswalker of her time. When she first came around the standard metagame, people were excited to put her in their Solar Flare decks since it helps enable their plan of discarding a big creature, in this case, a Sun Titan whom they will eventually reanimate through the use of Unburial Rites. This then will bring back copies of Phantasmal Images which will then become copies of Sun Titan themselves, re-triggering the ETB ability of a Sun Titan to get more copies of Phantasmal Images from the graveyard to become another copy of Sun Titan and you get the idea. It should be obvious by now that having no immediate answer to such threats will likely close the game on the spot.

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Ashiok “Salonga”, Nightmare Weaver

Her second ability is also no joke since it definitely gets rid of a creature. However, when UW Delver decks started dominating the metagame, people started to use Liliana less since they tend to get out tempo-ed. Just imagine, a UW Delver deck will simply play the turn one namesake card and then increase the chances of it becoming a reasonable threat through the help of Gitaxian Probe, and Ponder and once it becomes an insectile aberration, they’ll just sit on their counterspells, which was Mana Leak at that time. However, if the necromancer of the veil goes through unopposed then it will spell trouble for any deck since her ultimate is very very relevant and wins games.

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Ashiok “Salonga”, Nightmare Weaver

In fact, even now, Liliana continues to be a staple in some decks, particularly the current Jund Midrange decks. Though Liliana is no longer seen that much these days thanks to the changes in the metagame, she has proven herself to be one of the most powerful planeswalkers to have been designed by Wizards of the Coast. And we’re not even mentioning the havoc that she’s causing in the Modern format as a four-of in a Jund deck and was usually cascaded to by the once-modern format legal card Bloodbraid Elf. And this won’t be possible if not for Liliana’s low-mana cost. And thanks to her low mana cost, playing her on the 2nd turn with the help of a Deathrite Shaman is possible with the Jund deck in Modern.

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Ashiok “Salonga”, Nightmare Weaver

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Ashiok “Salonga”, Nightmare Weaver

“Bloodbraid + Liliana = Devastated Opponent”

Domri Rade is another card that has impacted the current Standard metagame. Though his inclusion is mostly limited to creature-densed decks, his abilities are all worth it. One common interaction would be Domri’s fight ability, the second ability to be exact, being used to target your own Boros Reckoner to fight another creature of an opponent which will then deal damage to the minotaur wizard which in turn, will trigger its ability to redirect damage dealt to it to a creature or player. Even his first ability is relevant since it helps you draw half a card, provided that your deck’s creature density is really high. And truth is that based on my experience, a turn two Domri is hard to deal with especially if you’re a control deck and once you are able to use his ultimate, it’s usually game over for your opponent.

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Ashiok “Salonga”, Nightmare Weaver

And perhaps, the biggest factor which made these aforementioned planeswalkers standard playable is their low mana cost and I believe the same can be said of Ashiok.

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Ashiok “Salonga”, Nightmare Weaver

At first glance, his (or her, though Vorthos Doug Beyer nor anyone didn’t confirm Ashiok’s gender but for the purposes of this article, we’ll refer to Ashiok as a male character) first ability doesn’t seem to impact much of the board. It simply exiles the top three cards of the opponent’s library and nothing more. It doesn’t let you draw cards, nor does it let you deny opponents any resources or even deal with creatures or even create tokens to defend itself. It’s like playing an over-costed Millstone with a free activation that mills the opponent for three cards. Now, would you play a three mana cost millstone when you can simply play a more proactive three mana cost card like Nightveil Specter perhaps? Assuming that Ashiok is in some kind of control shell, would you bother tapping out on the third turn just to mill your opponent three cards which does not affect his board position at all? Considering these factors, it is perfectly understandable why people would easily dismiss Ashiok. However, if we’re going to look closely, Ashiok’s starting loyalty is three and using his first ability brings his starting loyalty to five. Suddenly, the three-drop planeswalker became difficult to get rid off by mere aggression. In order for an opponent to force the Nightmare Weaver to retreat, he has to at least have a total of 5 power on board. And even if he is able to off Ashiok, the turn will likely end with you unharmed.

And take note, this is not putting factors like you having a removal for your opponent’s creatures into account. Looking at the color combination of Ashiok’s mana cost, we have a number of creature removals at our disposal such as Doom Blade, Warp Physique, Devour Flesh, Ultimate Price and many more. We even have a possible turn two Omenspeaker to serve as a chump blocker against your opponent’s creatures who’re planning to deal with a third turn Ashiok. What makes Ashiok’s first ability good is that it has synergy with his second ability.

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Ashiok “Salonga”, Nightmare Weaver

Had to admit that I wasn’t able to understand what Ashiok’s second ability does at first glance but after reviewing it a number of times, I was able to eventually comprehend it. Yay for me. Basically, Ashiok’s second ability is dependent on the creatures exiled using Ashiok’s first ability and ultimate. So after using his first ability the first time to exile three cards, the Nightmare Weaver has the option to put any creature from the exiled cards into play at the cost of his loyalty counter which is equal to the converted mana cost of the creature that you want to put into the battlefield. For example, two of the exiled cards are creatures namely Boros Reckoner and Precinct Captain.

You have the option to get one of those creatures into the battlefield with the added creature type of “Nightmare” under your control, provided that Ashiok’s loyalty counter is equal to the creature’s converted mana cost or less. So if for example Ashiok has five loyalty counters, you can either put the Boros Reckoner into play under your control or the Precinct Captain under your control at the expense of Ashiok’s loyalty counter. If you decide to choose Boros Reckoner then the loyalty counter cost to get him under your control would be three which will reduce Ashiok’s loyalty counter down to two. On the other hand, if you choose to get Precinct Captain instead then the value of X will then be two which will reduce Ashiok’s loyalty counter down to three.

If you’re going to think about it, this is Ashiok’s means of protecting himself; by taking control of a creature that was exiled by either his first ability or ultimate. Just being able to take control of a Boros Reckoner from an RDW opponent can definitely make a big difference when it comes to board state and will surely make your opponent think twice before attacking you or Ashiok for that matter. Even better if you can gain control of a Kalonian Hydra right off the exiled cards and is possible since using the blue black planeswalker’s first ability will increase his loyalty counter to five which is enough for him to make a nightmare out of the hydra. Just imagine doing such a thing on the fourth turn. It can be devastating to the opponent.

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Ashiok “Salonga”, Nightmare Weaver

Even if you’re unable to get a good creature like a Hydra or a Reckoner, being able to generate a chump blocker is still a good thing since you’re not losing leverage. At the worst, the pile of cards exiled don’t have any creatures but at least, you still have Ashiok with a high loyalty counter which can make killing him challenging. Not to mention that you may have spot removals to keep creatures down. Having an Ashiok online against a control player is also advantageous since using his first ability potentially threatens an ultimate in four turns and if not dealt with, can be crippling to the control player.

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Ashiok “Salonga”, Nightmare Weaver

Speaking of his ultimate, it may not appear impressive against an aggressive player since more or less, the aggro player already has dumped most of his hand before you can even activate his ultimate. This is provided that you are also not using his second ability to stem the aggression which will likely keep Ashiok from having enough loyalty to pull off his ultimate. And even if you are able to reach eleven loyalty counters, you’d probably prefer to keep it that way and use his second ability to stall the opponent’s attacks instead of his ultimate. In addition to this, even if you do actually utilize his ultimate, it will still keep Ashiok alive with one loyalty counter for you to be able to continuously abuse his abilities, totally wrecking your opponents’ hand. And yes, that’s opponent with an “s” meaning that if you are able to miraculously pull an ultimate in a game of Commander, then chances are, you’ll be enjoying the look on your opponents’ faces.

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Ashiok “Salonga”, Nightmare Weaver

On the other hand, Ashiok’s ultimate can totally win you control match ups if he is not dealt with right away. Even if he was dealt with using cards like Hero’s Fall, Dreadbore and or Detention Sphere, the damage that he has done on the opponent’s library is irreparable since his first ability exiles cards rather than putting them on the opponent’s graveyard. Though frankly speaking, the chances of you triggering his ultimate may not be that high thanks to cards that specifically deal with planeswalkers, and him being able to come online as soon as the third turn is already a big deal. Remember the Nephalia Drownyard days? Yeah, only this time, you don’t need to leave mana up every end of turn of the opponent to mill their libraries. You only need to play an Ashiok and use his first ability to do that.

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Ashiok “Salonga”, Nightmare Weaver

Of course, it’s still faster to mill the opponent’s library utilizing multiple Drownyards unlike Ashiok due to him being legendary but then again, I guess we can’t have it all huh? Overall, I honestly believe that Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver will make an impact in the upcoming metagame somewhere along the way. That’s it for today! Next time, let’s see what kind of brews we can come up with now that all the cards in Theros have been spoiled!

Thanks for reading!

@ravenknives at Twitter

Raven Knives

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: The Pantheon of Theros Part 2

Hi there! Today, I’ll be continuing the second part of my article discussing my thoughts and evaluation for the remaining two gods of Theros.

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: The Pantheon of Theros Part 2

Frankly speaking, I am not really a fan of green and I initially hated that color for a couple of reasons. However, as of late, I am noticing that Wizards of the Coasts has been effectively addressing green mages’ complaint that green cards are weak and in fact, continues to strengthen green. Just look at the list; Thragtusk, Scavenging Ooze, Voice of Resurgence and many more in Theros and I’ve learned to appreciate what green has to offer and in fact, wouldn’t think twice of playing a green deck. I did construct an RG-based green deck in my early days of Magic as well as a Malignant Growth deck.

What I like about Nylea is her state-based ability which gives trample to all of your other creatures. And yes, I know, it kinda sucks that she doesn’t have it herself but flavor-wise, it’s just right since she’s blessing her worshipers with the ability to trample their enemies so having trample herself is out of flavor. On a serious note, her activated ability is not that impressive for me due to the activation cost but then again, as with the other gods’ activated abilities; it helps you do something worthwhile with your mana in the mid to late game.

Furthermore, even a lowly elf can match up with a Kalonian Tusker with Nilea’s blessings while a loxodon can get damage through even if opposed. Nilea is perhaps the most linear of all the gods when it comes to function and let’s not forget that it’s also easy to make her a creature. And you shouldn’t wonder anymore. We’re talking about the color green here. Elvish Mystic, Kalonian Tusker, Predator Ooze….wait…Not Predator Ooze, I mean, Scavenging Ooze, Sylvan Cataryid, Kalonian Hydra, and even Burning-Tree Emissary fits the bill nicely. I wouldn’t be surprised if Nylea will find herself part of a green aggressive or midrange strategy.

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: The Pantheon of Theros Part 2

And last but not the least is the God of the Dead himself, Erebos. I initially speculated that the black’s god would cost five contrary to majority of the god cycle being four for the reason that Thassa, costs only three. I was also trying to imagine that he may have some recursion ability stacked on him and or something like a state-based effect similar to what Curse of Death’s Hold had but well, so much for my guesses.

These days, it’s not really that difficult to gain life since there are a lot of cards that generate such an effect. Centaur Healer, Unflinching Courage, Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice, Fiendslayer Paladin, Scavenging Ooze, and Thragtusk…. Okay, scratch that, it’s already rotating but you get the idea. With Erebos, God of the Dead in play, your opponents will no longer be able to gain any life. Even if you are not proactively attacking them, simply removing their capability to gain life is a big thing. This works well especially if you’re trying to race with your opponent and you’re in the position wherein you need to be defensive or controlling.

Take note that only your opponents are affected by this stigma and this means that you can still gain life making races more advantageous for you. Right now, a lot of people are excited to play this card primarily for his secondary ability which allows you to draw a card. And I can understand that. Everyone loves to draw cards but just like what Ben Bleiweiss said, “I also think that people saw “draw a card” and went hype over Erebos without closely looking at the cost.” And he is referring to the activation cost which is one black mana and one colorless mana AND two life. It’s nice that you don’t need to tap Erebos to activate his secondary ability and that you can activate it multiple times but the thing is that the life you pay will stack up as the game goes on.

Keep in mind that in order for you to win, you should be able to reduce your opponent’s life to 0. Your opponent may not be gaining any life but then again, if he’s just working towards attacking you and you just keep on drawing because well, you love drawing, then chances are, you’ll be on the losing end. Drawing won’t win you the game alone. Remember, your life is a resource and the higher it is, the more options you have so use Erebos’ ability sparingly. As for his devotion mechanic, well, I haven’t really thought much about it but I feel that making him appear in the realm of mortals is doable. Frankly, Erebos is the least of my favorites among the pantheon of Theros but then again, like Thassa, he’s already around $20 with the former being $5 more. This means that people are valuing him highly. In fact, he’s more expensive as compared to Heliod who’s currently sitting at $10 which I find surprising since I find Heliod’s ability more beneficial in the late game as compared to Erebos since the latter’s secondary ability costs you two life.

Overall, the gods of Theros will surely find their way in their respective decks and only time will tell which of them will greatly impact the new Standard.

Thanks for reading,

@ravenknives at Twitter

Raven Knives

P.S.

As of this writing, the prices of the five Gods have increased from their starting price, particularly Purphoros who was at $25 two days ago but is now already at $30.

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: The Pantheon of Theros Part 2

We can see that Thassa and Purphoros are the most expensive gods among the pantheon, with Purphoros being on the lead. Followed by Erebos and then Nylea. Heliod on the other hand is perhaps the god with the lowest price. Based from this data, we can say that people are dedicating their financial resources into decks which can support the top three expensive gods with Purphoros being on the top of the list, followed by Thassa then Erebos. I am imagining a lot of people are excited in playing their mono-red decks and I am also anticipating a fair number of control players taking advantage of Thassa’s scry ability. As for Erebos, well, I am honestly unsure what decks they could come up with this with the BG lists being the most likely candidate since that’s the next possible Jund Midrange. I know this may sound foolish since no one really knows how the new Standard would look like but we at least have some relevant data to ponder on.

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: The Pantheon of Theros Part 1

I was supposed to write an article about the five gods of Theros yesterday but then again I wasn’t feeling well. In fact, I just posted my article about Stormbreath Dragon earlier this afternoon wherein it should have been posted yesterday evening. Good thing is that I am feeling a lot better as compared to yesterday and I hope that I won’t fall sick again especially that tomorrow’s already Saturday and I don’t want to spend my weekend bed-ridden or anything.

Without further ado, here are the gods worshiped in the plane of Theros.

 

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: The Pantheon of Theros Part 1

“No. They’re not the power rangers.”

Each color is represented by one god, with each of them having the indestructibility characteristic as well as the new Theros mechanic devotion. So how does devotion work anyway? Devotion is similar to the old mechanic chroma which was initially introduced in Eventide wherein it checks the number of a specific mana symbol of a permanent. However, it only checks the mana symbols on the permanent’s mana cost on the upper right hand side of the card and this determines how powerful a card’s ability is. A good example of this is the Eventide card Primalcrux.

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: The Pantheon of Theros Part 1

“Scary? You ain’t seen nothin yet.”

Devotion, on the other hand, checks the total number of a particular mana symbol on the mana cost of all permanents on the battlefield before a certain effect is achieved. Let’s take a look at Heliod, God of the Sun as an example:

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: The Pantheon of Theros Part 1

Its text read “As long as your devotion to white is less than five, Heliod is not a creature (Each W in the mana costs of permanents you control counts toward your devotion to white)”. This means that the only way for you to make Heliod a creature is to have a number of permanents on the battlefield having a total white mana cost of five or more. So this can be in any combination of creatures, or enchantments as long as they have the white mana symbol on their mana costs. You can trigger the devotion mechanic by having a Boros Reckoner in play and a Precinct Captain in play. You can also trigger the devotion mechanic with a Detention Sphere, and a Boros reckoner since Heliod also counts itself as a permanent having a white mana cost symbol. Now, remember that devotion is a state-based effect and if at any time the number of permanents you control having the white mana symbols becomes less than five, then Heliod will revert to being just an enchantment instead of being a creature AND an enchantment. So, if for example you attacked with a devotion-triggered Heliod and then suddenly, your Boros Reckoner gets killed mid-combat, effectively reducing your devotion count to less than five, then Heliod will be removed from combat and reverts back to being only an enchantment. It’s not really that confusing if you’re going to think about it.

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: The Pantheon of Theros Part 1

“Yep. That’s already five white mana symbols”

Moving forward, of all the gods spoiled so far, my favorite would have to be this:

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: The Pantheon of Theros Part 1

“That’s no little mermaid for sure.”

Okay. Maybe the blue mage inside me  is getting the best of me but then again, for only 2U, you get to Scry 1 for free every upkeep! Okay, fine. Maybe I am overreacting here but the thing is, how long has it been since blue had a way to constantly filter their top decks? And the thing is that you can play this card as soon as the third turn and what makes it good is that it’s hard to get rid off since it’s indestructible. Imagine having a turn two Omenspeaker and then playing this next. That’s already scrying for three all in all and also you get to choose to keep the top card before drawing it or putting it at the bottom of your library. Scry 1 may not be impressive at first but it stacks as the game goes on.

Her second ability is also nothing to scoff at and is even better than putting a Spectral Flight on your creature. Furthermore,  as soon as you are able to trigger devotion, your opponent can be sure that he or she will be taking a beating every turn unless he or she is able to deal with some of your blue permanents. And take note, 5 damage is nothing to sneeze at. Even if the devotion mechanic is not triggered, making a creature unblockable is a neat trick. The deck that I am visualizing the most that would make good use of Thassa would obviously be the blue-based contol decks. However, seeing that the UG scry land has already been spoiled makes me think that some sort of Bant or UG ramp deck may be able to effectively make use of Thassa.

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: The Pantheon of Theros Part 1

“Yes. Him again.”

Heliod, God of the Sun is another interesting card from Theros and was also one of the mythic rares spoiled that got my attention. In addition to his godly qualities, Heliod can chunk out 2/1 creatures that counts as both an enchantment and creature. Now, these creatures being enchantments may not mean much at first glance but then again,, if you start thinking of cards that care about enchantments like Ethereal Armor or even Oath of the Ancient Wood in M14, then these creatures being an enchantment becomes more interesting. Sure, the cost to activate Heliod’s token generating ability is a bit costly but then again, it gives you a late game advantage and gives you a place to sink your mana. Remember how the old Counter Post deck wins its games?

This card may serve a purpose in a blue and white-based control deck though it will probably compete with Jace, Architect of Thought for the four mana cost slot. Not to mention we still have Gideon, Champion of Justice who also has the same mana cost as Heliod. Now, this is not to say that Gideon would likely be filling up the four mana slot in such a deck since in my opinion, Jace is a far better card in that slot, or perhaps even Heliod. But who knows? I am just trying to imagine how things would be in the new Standard environment. On a serious note, triggering Heliod’s devotion mechanic is made easier if you have Boros Reckoner and such an idea suggest a mono-white mid-rangey deck. These are only ideas but I think they’re worth exploring.

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: The Pantheon of Theros Part 1

When Purphoros, God of the Forge was initially spoiled, my initial reaction was nothing short of the comment below:

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: The Pantheon of Theros Part 1

However, after reading Adrian Sullivan’s evaluation, and discovering that the price of Purphoros has increased to $25 in a span of a few days, and only has 33 stocks left in Starcitygames as compared to the rest of the cards in the set, I decided to carefully reevaluate Purphoros. I mean, I know I may be wrong but at the end of the day, it still remains to be seen. One reason Liz and I plan to proxy up some cards one of these days and see if this card is really feasible. Now, this is not to say that the other people are making a mistake too and I know I am no pro and still have a lot to learn but I guess I still would like to see how consistent it is and how it will actually impact standard post-rotation.

Setting aside my initial impression on Purphoros, like with Heliod, triggering the devotion mechanic on this card is pretty easy. Imagine this curve:

T1: Rakdos Cackler

T2: Burning-Tree Emissary > Firefist Striker

T3: Hammer of Purphoros

T4: Purphoros, God of the Forge

That’s already 7 red mana symbols which are more than enough to give the god of the forge the ability to manifest into the mortal realm and wreak havoc on your opponent on the 4th turn. If you’ve noticed, we didn’t even rely on a third turn Boros Reckoner to turn Purphoros into a creature. If we’re going to think about it, it DOES make sense to put Purphoros in a mono-red deck, provided that it is designed to be able to potentially trigger the devotion mechanic of the god of the forge as well as push damage consistently to the opponent.

With regard to his secondary ability, I was initially skeptical of it but as what Adrian Sullivan said in his article when he was discussing the implications of having Purphoros in an aggressive red deck.

 

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: The Pantheon of Theros Part 1

 

And he has a point. The damage coming from creatures that enters the battlefield would eventually pile up and can potentially kill the opponent in the long run. Imagine having a Purphoros and a Young Pyromancer on the battlefield and then you throw a let’s say, a Shock EOT of the opponent. That’s already 4 damage the opponent’s going to take! 2 damage from the shock and plus 2 more coming from the elemental token that will enter the battlefield thanks to the triggered ability of the Young Pyromancer as well as Purphoros’ triggered ability. And the thing is that Purphoros is indestructible and this means that the opponent won’t be able to get rid of him that easily. The Dynacharge ability is also a fine mid to late game mana sink, provided you still have creatures to use it for. Overall, I am interested in trying out this card and see how well it will do in the tournament.

Well, that’s it for the meantime. I will cover the remaining two gods in the next article.

Thanks for reading,

@ravenknives at Twitter

Raven Knives

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Stormbreath Dragon

As usual, I immediately checked the spoilers as soon as I got online but the tweets on my twitter account got the best of me and got me looking for two specific cards that were mentioned in some of the tweets namely; Xenagos, the Reveler and Stormbreath Dragon and I find the latter really exhilarating for a lot of reasons. As soon as I finished getting things out of the way at home I immediately went into expressing my thoughts about the new dragon on the block.

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Stormbreath Dragon

It seems like Wizards of the Coasts has gotten the hang of designing constructed playable dragons and I applaud them for that. Magic has designed countless cards having the dragon creature sub-type with most of them having the standard converted manacost of 6 and above. If my memory serves me correct, the first dragon that saw constructed play was Shivan Dragon.

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Stormbreath Dragon

It was during the early days of Magic that this creature ruled the skies followed by Serra Angel and some others. And the thing was that if you don’t have any answer to the undisputed master of the mountains of Shiv, the game will gradually slip away from you. Imagine a time when there wasn’t much good creatures for constructed play with only a handful of reliable spot removals mostly limited to black, with the exception of Swords to Plowshares which is a white spot removal. In fact, even though Serra Angel was one of the best creatures in old Standard or Type 1, which was what Standard used to be called, it didn’t have the mettle to survive a rampaging Shivan Dragon. Time went by and expansion design, particularly creatures gradually developed and dragons continued to be printed.

However, dragons are rarely constructed playable primarily because of their high manacost. Only a few notable dragons saw play back then like Rathi Dragon, Volcanic Dragon, Rorix Bladewing and the four primeval dragons namely; Treva, The Renewer, Darigaaz, The Igniter, Crosis the Purger, and Dromar, the Banisher. And even so, not all of these dragons were a four-of in their respective decks.  Crosis, the Purger on the other hand, still sees play up until the present as a general in the Commander format but as for the rest of dragonkind? Not much.

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Stormbreath Dragon

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Stormbreath Dragon

“The primeval dragons”

Fast forward to the present and what do we see being played in the current Standard format?

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Stormbreath Dragon

Yes. A dragon. So what happened? Well…

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Stormbreath Dragon

That’s what happened and combine it with one of the best abilities that a flying dragon could have which is haste and a decent power and toughness and you got the best ingredients for a constructed playable dragon. Though a lot of people didn’t initially think that Thundermaw Hellkite would see constructed play during the first time it became tournament legal since the metagame environment was all about Primeval Titans rampaging on the opponent’s territory and a certain insectile aberration that has been terrorizing the standard format, it eventually saw play after most of the key pieces of those decks rotated out of standard. But then again, it’s that time of the year again where a block will be rotating out of standard along with a core set and sadly, Thundermaw Hellkite only has a week or two to win games for you before it rotates as well.

Going back to what I was saying earlier, Wizards of the Coast has done a great deal in making dragons more constructed playable. And Stormbreath Dragon is no exception. It may not have the same power and toughness that its hasty predecessor had but its protection from white ability is very relevant. Not only can it dodge an Archangel of Thune, but it can’t be bounced by an Azorius charm nor can it be detained inside a sphere. Though it can killed by mortars, you still gain value from it the turn it comes into play, provided that it doesn’t die to a Putrefy or a Doom Blade. On the other hand, if your opponent is sporting white then chances are, it will be a quick clock, especially once the monstrosity mechanic is activated. And what makes it cool is that making it monstrous turns it into a Stormseeker on a stick. This means that if the opponent dare cast an end of turn Sphinx’s Revelation, he might not appreciate the backlash coming from this hasty flyer. And even if the dragon grows into a huge monster, it won’t be killed by a Selesnya Charm thanks to its protection from white. Another great thing about Stormbreath Dragon is that it’s a manasink in situations wherein you find yourself being flooded with lands.

So what decks would Stormbreath Dragon find itself in? I guess it would be any red-based deck with Kibler’s Gruul list being the most obvious home for it, replacing the Thundermaw Hellkite slot. I am also thinking of a Rakdos Aggro build with the dragon being the top of the curve preceded by Exava. It would look something like this:

 

BR Aggro:

Lands: 24

4 Blood Crypt

4 Rakdos Guildgate

8 Mountains

8 Swamps

 

Creatures: 26

4 Ash Zealot

4 Gore-House Chainwalker

4 Hellhole Flailer

3 Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch

4Rakdos Cackler

4 Stormbreath Dragon

3 Thrill-Kill Assassin

 

Spells: 10

2 Dreadbore

2 Doomblade

4 Magma Jet

2 Shock

 

Sadly, we only have Rakdos Cacklers as the best one drop for this deck. I already considered Legion Loyalist and Foundry Street Denizen however, putting Legion seems underwhelming and FSD works better if there’s BTE in the list. The reason I didn’t put BTE in the list is that it feels like the manabase is too unstable for the deck to take advantage of BTE’s ETB. Of course, I could be wrong here. Though I am confident that Theros would have allied lands spoiled soon, I don’t have any information as of yet as what the BR land’s name would be so this manabase, along with a couple of guildgates would have to do for now. How about Kibler’s Gruul Aggro?

RG Aggro

Lands: 24

8 Forest

4 Gruul Guildgate

8 Mountains

4 Stomping Grounds

 

Creatures: 27

4 Elvish Mystic

4 Burning-Tree Emissary

4 Firefist Striker

4 Ghor-Clan Rampager

4 Gore-House Chainwalker

3 Scavenging Ooze

4 Stormbreath Dragon

 

Spells: 9

1 Chandra Pyromaster

4 Domri Rade

4 Magma Jet

 

These lists are far from perfect but then again, they’re the ones I’ve thought of so far and will likely change as more cards are spoiled. If Liz and I can get the chance to play test with some of these cards through the use of proxies, then it will definitely help me evaluate these lists more. Overall, I really found myself speechless when I first saw Stormbreath Dragon and I was like “[insert random profanity] this card is impressive.” Funny thing was I’ve been saying for a while now that I haven’t found a card in Theros that really got me excited and then this happened. As for this card.

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Stormbreath Dragon

“Wanna join in the fun?”

This will be for another day, the same as with the rest of the god cycle. If in case the fifth god of the set gets spoiled, I’d probably write about the gods first before Xenagos. Well, I guess that’s it for today.

Thanks for reading,

@ravenknives at Twitter

Raven Knives

P.S.

As of this posting, the complete cycle of Gods and the filter lands have been spoiled but I decided to leave the rest of the deck lists unaltered. I’ll probably posting updated lists on the next batch of articles.

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Let’s Scry Again!

Last time, I shared my thoughts about the returning planeswalker Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. This time, I’d like to take this opportunity to share my excitement on some of the cards that already have been spoiled which caught my attention.

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Let’s Scry Again!

Preordain was one of the most effective library manipulation tools around the time when Cawblade and RUG decks were dominating old standard. If there was one lesson I learned when it comes to using it, it is that you should refrain from casting a turn one Preordain on the first game of the round. The rationale behind it was that casting a turn one preordain without knowing what the opponent is playing is ineffective since you wouldn’t know which cards you will need to help sculpt your hand to your advantage. On the other hand, casting a preordain once you already have an idea of the cards your opponent is playing can greatly accelerate your strategy since it helps you get rid of cards that has little to no impact against your opponent.  Preordain was so powerful that even after rotating from the Standard format, it got banned in the Modern format.

But the truth behind preordain being powerful was the fact that it only costs one blue mana and the mechanic Scry. The Scry mechanic, coupled with the cantrip Preordain offers was a powerful combination since it lets you filter the top two cards of your library and drawing one of the two that you need most. And the good news is that the Scry mechanic is once again brought back by Wizards of the Coast through some of Theros’ cards.

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Let’s Scry Again!

Hey! It’s Ms.Tirel again! This time, we see her paying her respects to the gods of Theros, particularly to Heliod, the God of the Sun. How did I know? Well, based on the Theros trailer, Heliod chose Elspeth as his champion against the darkness which encroaches on the land. On a technical note, Gods Willing is the new Faith’s Shield except that the fateful hour mechanic is replaced by the Scry mechanic which I find neat. Not only will this keep your creatures from being killed by spot removal but it will also help you plan ahead since you get to peek on what you will be drawing next. And in case you don’t like it, you can always shove it at the bottom of your library and hope for a better draw.

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Let’s Scry Again!

And here’s another card which portrays Elspeth vanquishing a crimson-scaled Hydra (I wonder what this Hydra can do…). Though I am not really impressed with this card, I decided to include this to the list because of the artwork. The Vorthos in me couldn’t just sit back and ignore this beautiful scenario.

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Let’s Scry Again!

“Yep. Davey Jones’ locker straight ahead.”

I personally like Voyages’ End for the reason that not only can you bounce any creature, but you also get to Scry 1 for the cost of two mana which is a big help for blue mages. This can help stave off the opponent’s aggression while you dig through your library for more answers. It won’t be surprising if blue mages would have a couple of copies of Voyage’s End in their decks.

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Let’s Scry Again!

This card reminds me of Sign in Blood because of the life loss, the card draw, and the color minus the Scry mechanic. I am honestly not sure if this would make the cut in black-based control decks or mid-range black-based deck because of its manacost. There are just better proactive things to do  on the third turn when you’re black such as playing a third turn Lifebane Zombie or a Dreg mangler. However, this might find a place in a UB control shell, supported by a turn two Omenspeaker and other defensive tools. The thing is that Read the Bones is a much better Divination since it lets you take a peek at the top two cards before you draw two cards. It virtually digs four cards through your library which increases the chances of you getting the card that you need at a given time. It may hurt to do so during the earlier turns but then again, if it would get you a long-lasting fix on the board state then the two life loss wouldn’t matter much. Just beware of hyper-aggressive red decks.

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Let’s Scry Again!

This is another one of my personal favorites. (Okay, I am trying not to be biased here given that I am a blue mage) Omenspeaker is obviously the latest but a weaker replacement for Augur of Bolas post-rotation. Weaker in a sense that Omenspeaker doesn’t get you a card the turn she comes into the battlefield as compared to Augur of Bolas. However, what makes her good is that she can dig through your library for an answer while serving as a defense against your opponent’s creatures like what old Augur does. And like with Augur of Bolas, there is a chance that you will miss with her Scry 2 but then again, I think that you have more control over this since you get to choose which cards will stay and which ones will go to the bottom of your library, regardless if they’re lands or spells. So if you need lands, you can just leave the lands on top of your library in the order that you want the same as with spells. Augur of Bolas on the other hand is only limited to giving you an instant or sorcery so if for example you are in dire need of a land and you played Augur, you can either get to have an instant or sorcery but never a land.

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Let’s Scry Again!

This was actually what initially inspired me to write this particular article. When I first saw Magma Jet, I felt excited to play it. The truth is that I haven’t gotten back to playing MTG when Magma jet was first introduced and now that it has been reprinted, I’d at least like to try playing with it. What I like about Magma Jet is that not only does it deal with small threats but also lets you set up what you will be drawing on the next couple of turns. It can also be directed to the opponent if it needs be for only one red mana and one colorless mana. It may not be like Searing Spear in the sense that it’s a two-costed burn that deals three damage but hey, we can’t have it all right? As of now, it hasn’t been confirmed if this would make the cut but my gut instinct tells me that it would.

Anyway, that’s all for today and in case you’re wondering why I didn’t include Thassa, God of the Sea here despite her scry ability, it’s because her card hasn’t been confirmed (as far as I know)yet. Furthermore, I might write about her when all the gods have already been spoiled in another article which focuses on Theros’ gods.

Thanks for reading,

@ravenknives at Twitter

Raven Knives

image credit: gatherer.wizards.com, www.wizards.com/magic

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Let’s Scry Again!

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Elspeth, Sun’s Champion

It’s already been a week or so when the first few cards of Theros were spoiled and like a kid who’s excited to open his Christmas Gift, I always make it a point to check the spoilers the moment I go online. But frankly speaking, I haven’t really seen any card that I am really excited to play with as of yet, with the exception of Thoughtseize since I already have a play set of those. This means that I wouldn’t have to worry about availability nor paying an exorbitant price for it, not to mention that I also get a second chance to play with it

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Elspeth, Sun’s Champion

“Aleksi Briclot’s artwork reigns supreme!”

Moving forward, there are a few cards however that I would like to share my thoughts about starting with a returning planeswalker.

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Elspeth, Sun’s Champion

Why, hello there Ms.Tirel, it’s really nice to see you back!” Elspeth is perhaps the planeswalker I admire next to Jace flavor-wise and I like her recent iterations especially the knight-errant one. But I am having a hard time appreciating the new Elspeth for a couple of reasons. Let’s take a closer look shall we?

Perhaps, the main reason why I am not impressed with Elspeth, Sun’s Champion is her converted manacost.

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Elspeth, Sun’s Champion

I perfectly understand that Wizards of the Coast wants to balance her out by giving her a converted manacost of 4WW because hey, giving her a manacost lower than that would probably make her too powerful. But as Ben Bleiweiss said “Six mana is mostly the kiss of death for the value of a planeswalker.”

If we’re going to look a few expansions back, we saw a couple of planeswalkers like Chandra Ablaze and Sorin Markov that costs 6 mana. Sorin Markov’s first ability was actually good since it can kill weenies and net you some life. In fact, you can even use it to potentially kill the opponent if left unopposed. On the other hand, his second ability is also a powerful one since it can effectively reduce an opponent’s life down to 10 making it easier for you to kill him. Though his ultimate may not be that impressive as compared to the first two abilities which are more relevant, we can say that the overall stats of the Lord of Innistrad is still acceptable. So why did Sorin didn’t see much play? The biggest factor was his manacost. In fact, the only deck which utilized Sorin Markov was a Grixis deck which didn’t even become a major force in the UW delver-filled metagame back in its day. Furthermore, said deck only had one copy if not two and not beyond that number.

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Elspeth, Sun’s Champion

Chandra Ablaze was also another such planeswalker that didn’t see play primarily due to her converted manacost. And unlike Sorin who still see a bit of the metagame, Chandra Ablaze didn’t see play at all.  Examining Chandra’s first ability, we can say that it is mediocre at best since it requires you to give up a card in your hand, which may be more valuable in exchange for dealing 4 damage to a bothersome creature or maybe hit the opponent’s face. Her second ability though is something that you wouldn’t want to be doing especially if you’re already ahead of the game. It’s just too tricky and inconsistent. Her ultimate is also neat but then again, if you’re a red player, wouldn’t it be better to just go the faster route by attacking with creatures as compared to waiting until the 6th turn to plop down Chandra and wait a few more turns before you can activate her ultimate than bother yourself with her abilities?

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Elspeth, Sun’s Champion

Another major factor that kept her from seeing play was that the metagame at that time was filled with Caw-blade and RUG decks that both employ the powerful Jace, the Mind Sculptor who offers four relevant abilities with the last one being a reliable win-condition. And another thing which makes Jace, the Mind Sculptor great is his 4 manacost which means that he can enter the battlefield as early as the 3rd turn for RUG decks during those times. Looking at these factors, there was just no reason to play Chandra especially if you’re already playing JTMS.

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Elspeth, Sun’s Champion

“Better than all.”

Let’s not even delve on Karn, Liberated and Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker though Karn has already found a home in Modern.

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Elspeth, Sun’s Champion

Going back to Elspeth, Sun’s Champion, having a converted manacost of 6 is a bit too steep not to mention that her abilities are not that impressive as compared to her previous versions.

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Elspeth, Sun’s Champion

To be fair, Elspeth’s first ability is decent since it is a means to protect her which is one of the major requirements for a planeswalker to be good. She also has a starting loyalty of 4 which means that it may take a while before she retreats in case she gets attacked. But to quote my status in Facebook the day that she first got spoiled:

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Elspeth, Sun’s Champion

“Just an opinion”

Of course, this is if we’re trying to fit in Elspeth in a conventional UW or Esper control shell or even a URW shell (Good luck to you if your opponent plays Burning Earth). And as I’ve mentioned in the above Facebook comment, Elspeth would probably best fit in a mono-white midrange or control shell. In fact, if you’re going to take advantage of Nykthos, Shrine of Nyx, and you’re able to play permanents with a lot of white mana symbols, particularly Boros Reckoner, it is possible to get Elspeth as early as the fourth turn. Just imagine how much you could do having an Elspeth, Sun’s Champion online on the fourth turn. Of course, we all know that this may not always be the case.

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Elspeth, Sun’s Champion

As of today, a lot of creatures with the Monstrosity mechanic has already been spoiled which makes me think that Elspeth’s second ability may become relevant. Furthermore, there are a lot of creatures in Theros that are monstrous to begin with, having 4 power and even more. Based on this data, there is a possibility that the metagame may slow down at a certain point but I am not sure since it’s still too early to tell. And if it does, we’ll see people packing Elspeth in their decks though the existence of Supreme Verdict makes me think otherwise.

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Elspeth, Sun’s Champion

This would’ve been great if this was Elspeth’s second ability rather than her ultimate similar to Sorin, Lord of Innistrad’s second ability. The thing is that it’s likely that the board may already be stable or may lack a significant number of creatures on both sides for this to even become useful. The only scenario that I am seeing this as something that would become relevant is if you have an online Heliod, God of the Sun who’s already producing a bunch of enchantment clerics. Otherwise, this isn’t really something backbreaking.

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Elspeth, Sun’s Champion

“This will be for another day…”

Overall, I feel that a lot of people are ignoring Elspeth’s converted manacost and overestimating her when it comes to judging her playability and I think people should be more careful in picking the shell that is best for her. I respect Elspeth and all but I just can’t see her being a four-of or even three-of in any dual or tri-color control shell. The most would be a mono-white midrange or control shell. It is true that planeswalkers are hard to evaluate but then again, a planeswalker’s manacost should at least be the first thing that should be taken into account in reference to his or her abilities

 A Sidenote:

I know I said that most 6 costed planeswalkers are close to being unplayable, but the only exception to this rule would be Garruk, Caller of Beasts since all three of his abilities are very powerful. And what makes Garruk far better than Elspeth is the fact that he is in the color that specializes in mana-acceleration: Green. So the chances of being able to play Garruk earlier is higher as compared to Elspeth.

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Elspeth, Sun’s Champion

“Somehow, that Thragtusk behind him doesn’t seem happy being called”

Anyway, that’s all for the meantime. Next time, I will be sharing my thoughts on the cards that seriously got my attention.

Thanks for reading!

@ravenknives at Twitter

Raven Knives

Standard Thoughts on Theros Spoiler Season: Elspeth, Sun’s Champion

image credit: gatherer.wizards.com, www.wizards.com/magic,  www.mtgsalvation.com