By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
We witnessed how the Abzan submitted to Dromoka and her brood and accepted fealty to the giant dragon. That’s a mighty tough pill to swallow, but given the fact that the dragons appear to be growing in size and strength, you can see the logic behind this. However, once one Legendary Dragons gets a host of followers, it only stands to reason that the others want the same. I hear Dragons can get a tad jealous. So, you get the scenes that unfolded in this week’s Uncharted Realms and the assaults on the ancient Khans of Tarkir.
This is an interesting development and slightly unique to this sort of fantasy writing. There are LOTS of fantasy novels that have worlds where dragons and humans co-exist, but those universes usually make it such that the humans are the dominant power. In some the dragons are sub-servient beasts that carry knights like steeds. In others, the Dragons have gone into hiding and hoard treasure while avoiding contact with humans. However, in the world of Tarkir the humans are NOT the dominant power. They are prey, the play thing, the sub-servient being to the dragons. That is a new twist and that’s going to likely impact the sort of cards we see in the final story of this Block.
What interests me about this is how the humans are going to fit into this new arrangement. It will be unlike anything we have seen in terms of story, but that should hardly be a surprise at this point. We have already seen that many of the Dragons on Tarkir exhibit a much different series of traits than what is considered to be the “norm” for this genre. Dragons are often seen as being simple, but vicious primitive forces. On occasion they exhibit intelligence and cunning, but usually to serve their own greater good. On Tarkir the dragons of each brood have their own “social order” of sorts and live within those norms…and potentially meaning the humans have no place in that social order. IF they have a place, will it be as an equals to the dragons? Doubtful. Humans are FAR more fragile than the enormously powerful dragons so it is hard to conceive of them being equals. Slaves? Far more likely. But as slaves, what exactly does that mean?
I’m not prepared to speculate on the various social orders fostered by each of the broods, but it will likely give each dragon/clan alliance the chance to renew hostilities against each other because of the lack of a “common” enemy that they previously shared: the humans. It will mean that there will be some pretty exciting Dragon on Dragon crime and some very obviously pushed powerful effects coming up. It will also mean a larger number of dragons that are going to appear in the set going forward.
A few words on Sarkhan and “the Timeline”. I have heard people critique the fact that Sarkhan has effectively altered the timeline, no longer triggering his own spark, and potentially having a cascading effect beyond the plane on Tarkir. I would love to start back tracking through the story and play the “what if” game at each juncture where Sarkhan has played a major role in the events of the Multiverse, but that doesn’t feel productive. It feels like a fun activity, but ultimately the number of parallel planes and timelines that may be created as a result of these changes is pretty immense. I feel like the easiest explanation is likely to be that some alternate planeswalker we haven’t met yet will follow in the footsteps of Sarkhan Vol to maintain the basic structure of the multiverse. From a writing perspective, it is the easiest solution if not the most elegant. All of us who read and enjoy the weekly articles will be decidedly disappointed because it feels like a bit of a cop out. However, from the standpoint of having to totally backtrack and revisit a number of planes this is perhaps the easiest mechanism. However, IF you wanted to go back to all those planes (because they were awesome!) this would present the ideal opportunity to go back and revisit the altered timeline.
Lastly, the death of Elspeth and the removal of Sarkhan from the Planeswalker batting line up is starting to take its toll. Don’t forget, Garruk has gone nuts, Elspeth and Venser are dead, and now Sarkhan just doesn’t exist (at least in theory). Sure, we got Ashiok, Kiora, Ugin and even Xenagos, but the death/removal of some of the more established walkers hurts a little bit. They are kind of like old friends that you can turn to and latch on to…or awesome spells to cast in the middle of the game to push you over the top. Regardless of how you look at them they are powerful characters in the stories of Magic and losing them stings. It might be nice for a change to NOT have a tragic demise to all our favorite walkers…a story with a happy ending usually sells pretty well too.
Thanks for reading…and I hope you have an awesome MTG day.
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
So, I’ve already gone and taken a look at Fate Reforged for Casual play…how about we explore a little Constructed play…namely Standard? Let’s get right into this and take a look.
10– Valorous Stance– This is similar to Reprisal in many regards because it can be used as a removal spell to whack big stuff. Now, 4 toughness can be a bit of hurdle to leap over, but there are many bigger creatures that pack 4 toughness that this efficiently mops up. Butcher of the Horde, the Dragons, Polukranos, Courser, Siege Rhino, Wingmate Roc and a number of other threats all get taken out by this. On top of that, the other mode might make it more relevant than Ajani’s Presence…and the fact that this card can do BOTH things is what truly makes it a solid addition to Standard play. I expect this will certainly see sideboard play, at a minimum, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see this creep into the main board of a few decks.
9- Silumgar, the Drifting Death– I can make a case for this one creeping into a B/U or Esper control build as the win condition along side Ashiok, Prognostic Sphinx, or Pearl Lake Ancient. The evasion, hexproof, and a nasty ability puts this into the realm of discussion and I expect that people will give it a try. What I will remind people is that while this is 3/7 it tussles with other creatures very effectively because it essentially can fight through 4 toughness creatures meaning that Wingmate Roc, Butcher or the Horde, and even a Stormbreath Dragon are hard pressed to block this effectively. The 7 toughness makes it very difficult to kill via combat meaning your only option is a board wipe (or I suppose a Sacrifice outlet) and the control deck ought to have enough counter spells to make that threat fairly minimal. Expect to see this dragon lurking around in Standard for the foreseeable future.
8- Flamewake Phoenix– Temur or R/G Monsters just got one sweet addition to really turn up the pressure. Chandra’s Phoenix was extremely solid last year and this looks no different. It is 2/2 for 3 mana, flies, has Haste, and serves an almost identical purpose. The caveat where you need to attack each turn is no biggie either because if you are on the deck that wants this guy in Constructed then Blocking isn’t really your thing anyway. The trigger to get this guy back is a little different and might be a little harder to trigger depending on the deck, but with things like Ashcloud Phoenix, Savage Knuckleblade, Polukranos and Stormbreath Dragon being in the potential home for this guy it might be feasible. Here comes the nuisance that is a repeatable burn source to Standard.
7- Dromoka, the Eternal– This is intended to be the Abzan curve topper that we could see replace Wingmate Roc. With the Abzan Aggro decks looking to curve out by playing a 2 drop, a 3 drop, a 4 drop and then a 5 drop, this could slide right in. The fact that it can also pump your other creatures can’t be overlooked. Sure, Wingmate Roc can trigger some additional life gain, but the sheer power of a 5/5 flier that adds counters just can not be dismissed. People will certainly test this one out and see what this can do.
6- Wild Slash– Hmmm…an upgrade on Shock you say? Well…Shock has been very good for a long time, so I expect this one to be good too. It will find a way into every single deck playing Red burn spells and no one will miss a beat. At Limited, it will be good too, but it will not win you the game out right. You will need back up in order to seal up those wins, but Wild Slash will be a nice addition to your deck because it pairs well with Ferocious OR Prowess. Enjoy some more first rate burn.
5- Reality Shift– : Is this Blue Removal? It sure looks that way…because you just exiled their Butcher, or Dragon, or God, or …or…ANYTHING and replaced it with a 2/2. I think that’s a good trade in most situations. This looks like it could get insane and really give Blue the ability to deal with relevant threats after they hit the board. So much for respecting the Colour Pie! Blue Removal to the rescue!
4- Soulfire Grand Master: Jeskai Burn/Wins decks just got insane. This unassuming “Bear” just makes Burn decks plain old ridiculous. Your spells get LIFELINK?! You can get them back in your hand?! Good grief. The Lifelink is the back breaker here because it gives burn players a longer lease on life with which to find that all needed burn spell to finish you off by gaining 3,6 maybe even 10 points of life depending on the sequence of spells you can cast. The secondary ability is disgusting, the get your spell back, but it is a pricey cost to pay and most burn decks won’t really be interested in that. I mean, do you really want to spend 3 mana on your Jeskai Charm to burn him for 4…and then pay 4 more mana to get it back? You just spent 7 mana on the spell. If you have 7 mana to play around with in your Burn deck (and you haven’t won outright) you are doing something wrong. So, because of the high cost on the secondary ability I don’t think this will creep into Modern as anything more than a sideboard card, but in Standard I feel like this could take the Jeskai Burn decks to a whole new level.
3- Crux of Fate: I saw this card and said “well, there is your functional reprint of Damnation everyone. Sure, Damnation is 4 mana…and this is 5…but face it folks, you aren’t getting wrath effects at 4 mana any longer. We’ve seen that trend and Wizards has admitted as much. So, 5 mana Black sweepers is the best you can do…and really, wasn’t Damnation just a 4 mana Black sweeper à la Day of Judgment? So, here is your “updated” Damnation card that is Modal. Whatever. No biggie. Now, the 5 mana cost essentially prohibits this from seeing play in Modern or any format where Damnation is legal because Damnation is likely just better in every circumstance, but in Standard, for EDH players looking for a Black wrath effect, and in Limited this will do just as well. Decks rocking Black…thank R & D. That is all.
2- Mardu Shadowspear…So the B/W tribal warriors deck might be good enough to see play in Standard moving forward. Fate Reforged has given us a ton of new Warriors to complement the already disgusting amount of Warriors already available. If you look at the abilities of these new Warriors the deck could take on some frightening abilities and really punish slower decks. The Shadowspear and his Warrior buddies will just run wild and will surprise a lot of people…and while I’m headling Shadowspear here, the truth is he will have a whole pile of his friends that will coming to the party right along with him and will be bringing down the house.
1- Ugin, the Spirit Dragon– And now for the elephant in the room. Is Ugin good enough for Standard…well, he’s certainly good enough, but can you get him onto the battlefield. I figure lots of people are going to try and why not? He’s colourless, ridiculously powerful, and just plain warps the board. This guy is an absolute menace and his ultimate is just plain wrong. His –x ability wipes the board…so why wouldn’t a control deck try and play him? Mono Green Devotion would be keen to give him a try as well, because if you hit that ultimate, what could be more fun than dumping Hornet Queen and Polukranos onto the battlefield for free? No, people are certainly going to try and make Ugin work for them so be ready to have Ugin see play in Standard for a while.
Well, there we have ourselves some of the sweet new treats that Standard is going to get to rock out with. Let’s see how many of these make the cut…and what ones I missed. The Middle set of a block can always be tricky because the cards need to fit into an existing mold and we’ll see just what shakes out in the weeks to come.
Thanks for reading…By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters @bgray8791 on Twitter