Lately I’ve been a little quiet on the writing front and there are a number of fronts where I’ve had some ideas or thoughts, but just not enough to pen a whole article. Today I thought I would go through some of those MTG impressions and put them together to make a whole post. I’ll be touching on things like the newest Eldritch Moon spoilers, further supplemental products, and even some cards that you should probably revisit because they are super useful. Well, let’s get started.
Everyone has an opinion now that we’ve started to see new cards from Eldritch Moon. I’ve seen people posting about how they love it, others about how they hate it, and others how they are just really bummed that Eternal Masters has all dried up. From where I sit, Eldritch Moon looks like it is going to be pretty amazing and the number one reason is right in the Trailer video which is the new version of Emrakul. The new card looks sweet, the art is stunning, and the story across multiple blocks continues to converge which makes the card all that much sweeter. I’m not going to review big Emrakul right now, but if you’ve seen her you have to admit she looks very powerful and tons of fun.
The second piece of the trailer that got me excited was seeing the Gatewatch arrive on the scene to battle the Eldrazi menace. Now, I don’t suppose we’ll actually be able to get new printings of these Planeswalkers so soon, but the story should be very lively and interesting as our heroes struggle to save Innistrad. When the story is strong and interesting I always find that I enjoy the game a bit more.
One walker we are sure to see a new printing is Liliana and that’s totally ok. I fully expect her to be the black member of the gatewatch because we could clearly see that the cycle of cards was not complete from Oath of the Gatewatch and now that her adopted home is under assault it only makes sense. Now, we aren’t likely to see Liliana of the Veil any time soon, but some new iteration of Lili seems pretty sweet. Really, can they make a bad version of her? I seriously hope not.
The biggest thing with the arrival of Emrakul on Innistrad is that the Magic community seemed to groan collectively when they saw that the threat was the giant flying spaghetti monster. It had been hinted at for months, she didn’t show up in Battle for Zendikar block and was suspected to be elsewhere…and really, what other ultimate menace could really be left? Well, sure enough, we got Emrakul and everyone just groaned because we were sick of the Eldrazi. We just had Eldrazi decks of all sorts run rampant in virtually every major format. Eldrazi were everywhere and were really good and the community was tired of them.
Now, I can admit that I have also had a bit of overload with the Eldrazi recently, but I’m still pretty comfortable with the arrival of Emrakul on Innistrad. The reason I’m pretty comfortable with it is that it continues the story telling arc that began when Sarkhan returned to Tarkir and saved Ugin. From that point on there was no doubt that there was going to be a march towards seeing our intrepid heroes confront the Eldrazi menace and the story has now stretched across three blocks. To my mind that makes for better storytelling than stopping and starting with each new block. I think part of reason that Theros block gets a bit of bad wrap is that it is entirely a self contained story across three sets but come the end of the block the story has met a resolution…an unsatisfactory resolution because Elspeth dies (sort of). Well, now we have a story that has stretched across three blocks (and arguably a Core Set too) and could still extend beyond if the Gatewatch is unable to slay Emrakul. I think that the longevity of the storytelling has made for a far more intriguing story and something that I want to tune in for week after week to see how it unfolds.
There are some very interesting new cards that have been spoiled including Coax from the Blind Eternities which acts like a Glittering Wish variant but for Eldrazi. However, to my eyes the most interesting card is the new printing of an old favorite and that’s the new version of Thalia. Thalia, Cathar Heretic, is a super sweet call back to her original printing and still plays a valuable game in disrupting your opponent by being a Blind Obedience on a stick. My intrigue with her is not so much for Standard because I have no doubt that she’ll fit in many of the Human decks running around, but whether or not she could find a home in a Modern deck. I understand that Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is an integral part of the G/W Hatebears deck that periodically puts up good results and this version is slightly different, but might be a viable option. Modern is a format where plenty of Non-Basic lands are played and being able to slow your opponent down a turn and have their lands come into play tapped might be a significant advantage that shouldn’t be ignored. Is she fast enough at 3 mana to have any real impact in Modern? We’ll soon find out, but she seems interesting and fringe playable.
Also, the new Meld mechanic looks fun but it appears to be something designed to advance the story rather than for playability. The Gisela and Bruna Meld card means you need to have a pair of pricey, rare angels in your deck, get them in play, AND not have them die in order to have them transform. That’s a bit of a stretch in any limited format and with Bruna costing 7 mana to play I can hardly imagine competitive Standard decks being keen to play her. Maybe a casual deck will emerge out there playing these two angels at face value and if you can flip them then you are laughing but that seems like a stretch. Even the Common Meld cards feel like a stretch, but perhaps there will be more that are more playable. We’ll have to wait and see.
With Eldritch Moon just a few weeks there are a few cards that I’ve got my eye on that you might have forgotten about that might take on new playability because they work well with what we are going to find in the newest set. Here are a few things to keep your eyes on.
From Beyond: this is a really interesting enchantment that is going to shine in EDH in a few years as an improved Awakening Zone AND a tutor, but for the time being it is an ingenious way to a) ramp some colourless mana thanks to those Scions b) help you FIND Emrakul in your deck and C) reduce the cost of Emrakul. People are going to say that From Beyond is too slow to be really playable, but let’s look at the facts. If you really want to maximize the cost reduction factor on Emrakul you need a reliable way to get as many different types of cards into your graveyard. One type, namely Enchantments, can be tricky because usually you don’t want your Enchantments in the graveyard. However, From Beyond lets you sacrifice it to go find your biggest Eldrazi meaning you are assured to get an enchantment into your graveyard. If you can keep this thing online for a turn or two, crank out a couple of tokens, and sacrifice those you have now reduced the cost to CAST Emrakul by up to three mana (maybe more) and that’s very significant. I think this has some very real potential to be a card that sneaks into a few decks and that people experiment with because I feel like it could be very good. And then in 3 years time you can use it when you play EDH to go and fetch your scariest Eldrazi and slam it to break your opponents. But that’s for another day.
Harbinger of the Tides: if the game plan looks like it could become a race to how fast you can get Emrakul into play then everyone is going to be looking for ways to fight said race. Harbinger of the Tides might be a reasonable way for Blue decks to slow down the activation of an Emrakul by being able to be played an instant speed without it being an Instant. It doesn’t solve the resolution of the Cast trigger and inevitable Mindslaver effect, but it might set an opponent who has stretched themselves too far to get Emrakul on line back far enough that they can’t recast it and saves you from contending with a 13/13 flying, trample, protection from Instants monster of doom.
Stasis Snare: this is exactly the same plan as the Harbinger of the Tides in a very different colour. This is already widely played removal in White and will likely to continue to be extremely useful to combat Emrakul.
Sanctum of Ugin: I don’t really need to remind you why this is here…this just goes and gets you your giant Eldrazi. End of story.
Surrak, the Hunt Caller: this beefy 5/4 for 4 mana plays remarkably well with something huge and scary like Emrakul because you could potentially give it Haste. That is a terrifying prospect and really gives me a reason to go back and revisit Surrak. On top of the unmistakable synergy with really big Eldrazi creatures, Surrak is ALSO a human meaning that Thalia’s Lieutenant and he are best buds. If G/W human decks look like they need to tussle a bit more and need a little more beef then Surrak could get another lease on life again there too.
I have to admit I’m very excited for the new Eldritch Moon set that is set to come out and the new possibilities that could take shape in the weeks to come. I can’t wait to see the whole spoiler and to the full effect of what is included in the set. Hopefully some new additions will breath new life into some other cards and really make the rest of the summer fun as we head towards Kaladesh and Conspiracy 2.
Thanks for stopping in to read my MTG Impressions and be sure to stop by again next time for another Casual Encounter.
Bruce Gray – @bgray8791
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
This week on Uncharted Realms we got to see what happened to Sarkhan after he saved Ugin and blinked out of existence. No, he did not just cease to exist, as some had predicted. No, Sarkhan is alive and well and he has been whisked back to his own time to find Tarkir is the same…but also wildly different.
The largest single difference is the fact that the Dragons are no longer extinct. In fact they are alive and well and wrecking house on Tarkir. However, the dragons are now in the process of fighting each other. We witness such an exchange when the first herd of Dragons that Sarkhan meets on Tarkir 2.0 (likely from the Temur) are attacked by dragons that are from the Mardu…or whatever is left of them. We’ve got some Dragon on Dragon crime here folks…and that’s awesome!
However, for Sarkhan, he lands in amidst the Mardu and meets people that in the previous timeline were people he was familiar with…namely Ankle Shanker and Zurgo. However, these two no longer remember him. Can you imagine, meeting people that you know and suddenly they are no longer the same people? It must be awfully disconcerting and must have left Sarkhan reeling. Furthermore, Zurgo was his nemesis…and now he doesn’t even remember who Sarkhan is, let alone that they should be enemies. Further to that, Zurgo is no longer the Khan and it becomes clear that the social order has changed dramatically because the word “khan” is not something to tossed around lightly. Clearly Kolaghan and the dragons are in charge and there is no longer a Khan at all.
The same has happened to the Jeskai because Narset is no longer the Khan there, but Taigam (who used to be Sultai if I keep things straight) is now in charge with Ojutai ruling over the territory and Narset is no where to be found. Clearly all of Sarkhan’s world is crumbling because the people he came to rely on, expect, and trust have changed. While his intended goal of saving Ugin and the dragons succeeded, the other pieces are starting to look like they are falling apart. That isn’t good news because it leaves Sarkhan in a very precarious position and with a lot of learning to do in very short order.
What do I find interesting about this? There will be people who critique the fact that Sarkhan still exists despite having altered the timeline so significantly. I’m totally prepared to wash that on the grounds that Sarkhan, being a Planeswalker and having a spark, is largely removed from the ebb and flow of the normal timeline. Come on folks, the guy can jump plane to plane…what’s a little time travel after all?
No, what I find interesting is really the disappearance of Narset. The fact that she is no longer with the Jeskai means that she a) alive and b) likely very different. In my mind this clearly means we’ll be seeing Narset as a Planeswalker. That isn’t really shocking, but it does appear like it might be more and more likely. I am hoping she is full on Jeskai coloured because a three coloured Planeswalker would be amazing. I would not be surprised if one of her abilities is a similar card draw ability like Chandra. It feels like it is an interesting, but not yet broken, design space for Red to use and Narset might be the perfect Planeswalker for it.
Also, Zurgo looks to be getting a reprinting, but he looks like he might get downsized in terms of power because his Helmsmasher variant is a house in Limited. Zurgo Bellstriker? Could he be used to summon Dragon Tokens to the defence of his clan? That would be a thought.
Oh, and did anyone else catch the Vial of Dragonfire reference? Reknowned Weaponsmith might be useful to dig up the Vial in this set because from what was described it sure looked like a fun way to burn out something. It sort of feels like one of those artifacts that you might equip and trigger to deal a large amount of damage (I’d start at 5 and consider moving up to as high as 7)…something akin to Vial of Poison. Because it is a vial it is unlikely to be something you can get multiple uses out of, but in some environments just the threat of activation is enough of a deterrent to hold people off. That would make him far more useful than the creator of Heart Piercer Bow in Khans which is a totally underwhelming artifact.
The last piece that crossed my mind was whether or not the dragons had remained unchanged in the 1280 years since Sarkhan saved Ugin? Are the elder Legendary dragons of each brood still alive or do they have some sort of natural life expectancy? Have any NEW dragon factions and brood emerged? We only got 5 allied coloured dragons in Fate Reforged so there is a chance that we see 5 enemy coloured dragons emerge in this set. Personally, I think that would be awesome if we started to see some rivals emerging and new social re-ordering with humans and humanoids who nor aligned with any of the clans siding with these Renegade dragons. Perhaps that’s wishing more of a story than can jammed into one set as the last act, but I can dream.
Well, that’s all for me today. Thanks for reading and stopping in here at Casual Encounters. Have yourself a great MTG day.
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
In my New Year’s Resolution to keep my column up to date and a little more current I wanted to take a little time to write about some of thoughts I had during the course of the week about some MTG stuff. No deck list tonight…but some things that have caught my interest recently.
I’ve been back and playing Magic now for 2 1/2 years, but I’m finally NOW getting to the point where I am not just about the cards, but the broader community piece as a whole. By that I mean I am starting to appreciate that there is far more to playing Magic than just playing the game, but there are other areas where people can explore and enjoy this hobby as well.
One of the big ones I have overlooked until now has been Uncharted Realms, the fiction that is essentially the telling of the story of what is happening in Multi-verse and helping to explain how and why certain things are happening in the game. You can check it out for yourself here:
Now, the most recent short story was really intriguing because it showed how Sarkhan Vol essentially saved Ugin and prevented the demise of the Dragons on Tarkir by sheltering him from Nicol Bolas after their battle. It was a pretty neat read and I suggest you take a peak. However, as someone new to the tales of here are some of my impressions:
Sarkhan– Up until this point I largely thought this guy was a “Heel” (pardon to WWE reference) that is essentially a pawn of evil. The truth is the guy has had it pretty tough. If you have had MULTIPLE Dragon Planeswalkers in your head, you would be pretty messed up to. I have some interest in this character and will be sure to keep tabs on him. Hopefully they don’t kill him the way they did Elspeth at the end of Theros block. (Prediction: They are totally going to bring her back as a B/W iteration of her down the road when Erebos lets her go.)
Nicol Bolas– This Dude is a jerk of Epic proportions. I know every story needs a villain, and he’s about as good as they come. I like the classic Villain feel to him, although I still prefer his artwork from the original Legends set where he saw print as an Elder Dragon.
Yasova Dragonclaw– I’m not sure what I think of her…I feel like she’s part of the Villain cycle and I would NOT have thought that would be the alignment of the Temur. I really thought if there were going to be a Villain in this set it would be the Sultai…although I suppose that is too easy…but I didn’t think the Temur would be in cahoots with Bolas. Guess that shows how much I know.
Hedron- The cocoon that preserves Ugin…it came from Zendikar…and sure it saves Ugin and allows him to recover and preserve the Dragons. Sure, I get that…but does ANYONE else want to see Eldrazi show up because they can sense something from their plane is being used elsewhere? C’mon…who DOESN’T want to see Emrakul show up?
All in all, I’m a fan and will check back on the story line to see how it develops.
Enhanced Awareness and Card Evaluation
I initially took one look at Enhanced Awareness when I opened my pool at my pre-release and was initially really disappointed. There was some uneasy tension around playing the card and if you read my post about my pre-release you will get the vibe that I wasn’t a fan. I have spent some time thinking about and have clearly determined WHY I don’t much care for the card and unlikely to prioritize it highly as we move forward.
“you wish you had me in your draft pool”
From the outset, Enhanced Awareness looks like a pretty sweet card. 5 mana, instant speed, Draw 3 cards and discard 1. Right off the hop, we know it isn’t better that Jace’s Ingenuity, but it is a little easier to cast because Jace’s Ingenuity is 5 mana, but double Blue while Enhanced Awareness is only a single Blue. However what sets Enhanced Awareness far behind Jace’s Ingenuity is the actual real card advantage netted by casting this spell.
Ingenuity draws you three cards, but you spend 1 card in casting the spell meaning that you have netted +2 cards. 5 mana for 2 cards is pretty sizable and nice amount of card advantage to generate at Instant speed at your opponent’s end step.
Enhanced Awareness draws you three cards, and you spend 1 card in actually casting the spell…so at most you are getting +2 cards out of this spell. However, the added drawback of having to discard 1 more card means that the actual card advantage gained is only +1 card. 5 mana for only 1 card in terms of actual advantage is actual a very poor rate of return. You do just as well with Weave Fate, a much poorer card draw spell in the eyes of many players, and it costs a full mana cheaper.
“Not as bad as everyone thought…huh?”
The only advantage I can discern from this spell is that it actually enables Delve reasonably well, so Delve decks enjoy this. Meanwhile the rest of us aren’t going to play this because the rate of return is quite poor.
There are people that will argue that you do get to dig three cards deeper into your deck and filter for the cards you actually want, meaning that you get to sculpt your hand somewhat. These are true statements, but the fact remains that you are essentially spending your mana on “looting” and netting yourself only a single card for a pretty sizable investment. Players looking to win focus on the efficiency of their mana and the spells they need to cast because that is a prime factor in determining if the spell is going to help you, particularly in a Limited type deck. Think about it, the cost of playing Enhanced Awareness as your card draw is that you need to have a) 5 mana untapped and nothing better to do with it and b) cards in hand that are no good to you to discard in order to improve the card quality in your hand and accept that I am only netting 1 card. Weave Fate, the card that is in direct competition with Enhanced Awareness can be cast a whole turn earlier for 4 mana and doesn’t care one stitch about what you have in hand…and you STILL net 1 card.
I’m not saying that Enhanced Awareness is a bad card, but there are costs associated with it that you need to balance in your Limited deck and so it might not be something you are quick to slam in your draft and run.
This guy has caught my attention and I am clearly going to have to brew with this guy. You take one look at him and he SCREAMS “Jeskai Prowess Deck”. However, I am of the opinion that this guy doesn’t want a Jeskai Deck at all. He really wants a Temur or Bant build to make use of a couple of really disgusting interactions.
Flash is a ridiculous keyword and it is even GROSSER on Auras. You know who really wants Flash Auras? Shu Yun…that’s who. Green has a pair of good ones and Red has a third that is kind of interesting as well.
What could be more fun than attacking with Shu-Yun? Your opponent IMMEDIATELY knows you have something in hand because he’s a Prowess creature. Your opponent, not being a dummy, isn’t interested in creating an unprofitable block and walking into your trick declares no blocks. So, Flash in your Boon Satyr as an Aura, trigger his Prowess, trigger Shu Yun’s Double Strike ability…and end the game on the spot for 16 points of damage.
Ok, that is a best case and your opponent can still respond by removing Shu-Yun, but the exchange is appealing. yes it takes 7 mana to get the whole thing going and that’s steep, but not unimaginable. So, you want some cheaper options? ok.
Feral Invocation. Remember this little gem? This is much cheaper to cast and still means Shu-Yun hits for 12. That’s still a massive chunk of damage in a turn. Dragon Grip was behave in a similar way but is also somewhat more situational in order to meet the Ferocious trigger on the card, but it is an interesting choice as well.
So this is starting to come together. When I have something more final I will be sure to post it here for you guys.
That’s all for tonight guys…thanks for reading.By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters @bgray8791 on Twitter
|Set Name||Khans of Tarkir|
|Block||Set 1 of 3 in the Khans of Tarkir block|
|Number of Cards||269|
|Prerelease Events||September 20-21, 2014|
|Release Date||September 26, 2014|
|Launch Weekend||September 26-28, 2014|
|Game Day||October 18-19, 2014|
|Magic Online Prerelease Events||October 3-6, 2014|
|Magic Online Release Date||October 6, 2014|
|Magic Online Release Events||October 6-22, 2014|
|Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir||October 10–12, 2014|
|Pro Tour Khans of TarkirLocation||Honolulu, Hawaii, USA|
|Pro Tour Khans of TarkirFormats||Swiss:
|Official Three-Letter Code||KTK|
|Initial Concept and Game Design||Mark Rosewater (lead)
Mark L. Gottlieb
and Ken Nagle
|Final Game Design and Development||Erik Lauer (lead)
and Adam Prosak
with contributions from Matt Tabak
|Languages||English, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish|
|Available in||Booster Packs, Intro Packs*, Event Deck*, Fat Pack*
(* – Not available in all languages)
(Magic Online only available in English.)
Khans of Tarkir is going to be a large set—small set—large set block structure (like Innistrad, Dark Ascension, and Avacyn Restored, with a special consideration for Limited and “a time travel element” yet to be revealed.
Tarkir itself is a plane of five warring clans, each worships a different aspect of the plane’s (now extinct) dragons.
Abzan Houses – , Aspect: Endurance, Khan: Anafenza, Symbol: Scales, Theme: Control
Jeskai Way – , Aspect: Cunning, Khan: Narset, Symbol: Eye, Theme: Tricks
Mardu Horde – , Aspect: Speed, Khan: Zurgo Helmsmasher, Symbol: Wings, Theme: Aggro
Sultai Brood – , Aspect: Ruthlessness, Khan: Sidisi, Symbol: Fang, Theme: Resource manipulation
Temur Frontier – , Aspect: Savagery, Khan: Surrak Dragonclaw, Symbol: Claws, Theme: Midrange fatties