Bloodbraid Elf versus… Bogles?

Bloodbraid Elf
Bloodbraid Elf also broke out of its ban this week; but first… Bogles!
Dan Ward piloted Bogles to the Grand Prix Toronto trophy last week. Bogles!

Dan Ward is one of the strongest deck designers in the world. He first hit our radar with that innovative Kari Zev’s Expertise combo deck at SCG Regionals about a year ago. That deck was so awesome (or at least awesomely angled), WotC R&D banned almost immediately.

Moving formats over to Standard, Dan produced a legitimate contender archetype in U/W Approach of the Second Sun. Yes that U/W Approach of the Second Sun.

And while Dan can’t claim to be the first person to suit up a Hexproof creature, he never let up on his trademark innovations. Like…

Leyline of Sanctity in Bogles

Dan played three copies of Leyline of Sanctity in his main deck. This may seem like an odd choice for the strategy… If it isn’t in your opening hand, Leyline of Sanctity will just clog your grip later. Further, Leyline of Sanctity provides little or no offensive value to this attack-oriented deck. Why might Dan have played it?

  • He’s playing a Hexproof deck: With 4 copies of Slippery Bogle and 4 copies of Gladecover Scout, Ward is clearly heavy on the Hexproof plan. His creatures are largely free and clear to wear powerful buff Auras, but they’re not quite immortal. Do you know what suited up Hexproof guys hate? Edict effects. Do you know that one of the best Edict effects is also one of Modern’s Staple three-drops? Leyline of Sanctity can defend you from Liliana of the Veil.
  • Lantern just won the Pro Tour: While it doesn’t defend you from Pyxis of Pandemonium or Ghoulcaller’s Bell, Leyline of Sanctity turns off not only Codex Shredder but the Lantern decks’ many hand destruction sorceries.
  • It makes racing difficult: Dan was able to overcome Jon Stern’s Burn deck in the Toronto finals. Leyline of Sanctity is pretty decent against Burn decks, turning off all the Lava Spikes and taking the edge off of most of the rest of the burn cards. Can Searing Blaze suddenly target Slippery Bogle?

All in all, a pretty cool three-of.

Bogles in Context

Dan on Bogles in the future
Them’s fightin’ words, am I right?
Fighting words or not, Dan might have a point. His version, with Leyline of Sanctity, actually cuts off two of Jace, the Mind Sculptor’s abilities. They can’t Fateseal or Ultimate you without answering the Leyline. Plus, unless they are on Damnation or Supreme Verdict, fast, huge, Hexproof guys can be hard to race.

Further, if you’re planning to use Bloodbraid Elf to grab Lightning Bolt or other spot removal… That plan isn’t so good against Bogles. Plus, with a couple of buff auras, most of Dan’s cards will be able to tussle with a 3/2 and walk away, easily.

Grab the popcorn!

Because if Champion-Bogles remains good enough, it will soon clash with Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Bloodbraid Elf in Modern!

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Jace, the Mind Sculptor Unban

Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Jace, the Mind Sculptor is about to make its Modern debut

Jace, the Mind Sculptor Banned?

Not any more!

Earlier this week, some pretty big news broke that has instantaneously flipped Modern from Patrick’s least favorite format to most favorite format! We were too excited to keep our reactions bottled up until Thursday. Don’t worry, this is an EXTRA episode: We’ll be back Thursday 😉

When in doubt, use Jace, the Mind Sculptor to Brainstorm

Jace has never been legal in Modern before. For many format aficionados, this will be the first time they have Jace in front of them at a Modern table. With so many abilities to choose from… Which one should they pick?

Noted Jace, the Mind Sculptor master (and Magic: The Gathering Pro Tour Hall of Famer) Patrick Chapin says that, in the dark, it should be the Brainstorm ability. That isn’t going to be true all the time — Jace both has a ton of abilities and Modern is a diverse format after all — but it’s a good place to start.

Why might you want to use the [+2] “Fateseal” ability instead? Usually it will be because the opponent has some kind of red spells to attack Jace. You know, like Lightning Bolt.

Speaking of which…

Is Blightning Good against Jace, the Mind Sculptor?

Not surprisingly, Patrick and Mike reminisce about some of their old Jace Standard decks. Patrick attempts to recuse himself, being both a Grixis-lover and a Jace-lover. Mike is happy to jump in, being a Jace-Grixis fan himself.

Mike’s favorite take on Jace in Standard was alongside Blighting. He cites the ability to attack Jace as well as the opponent’s hand.

Patrick points out that — especially at the same casting cost — Kolaghan’s Command is probably a better choice. It is arguable that Kolaghan’s Command + Lightning Bolt is actually a better anti-Jace plan than Blightning. “Blightning is too tempo-negative.”

The Kolaghan’s Command argument is strong. Not only is it an instant, you can set up Snapcaster Mage and lace together multiple cards to deal sufficient damage.

New Jace, the Mind Sculptor Decks

Mike himself — longtime Modern devotee of Lava Spike — is threatening to switch allegiances to Team Jace.

Our intrepid pair do tons of brewing in this episode. For example, a pretty sweet-sounding Bant deck list from Patrick featuring Spell Queller inspired by Wrapter’s “Counter-Cat” from way back when.

What about Courser of Kruphix with Jace?

  • Courser is a great three; Jace is the best four (better than all, we have it on good account)
  • Courser has awesome toughness, so can defend Jace well
  • Together these cards build life and card advantage; and can affect the top cards of your library, further strengthening both sources of card advantage!

What deck idea does Mike not like? No Oath of Nissa / Oath of Ajani

When you’re playing with Jace and Liliana, your cards are just better than theirs; he doesn’t like the idea of messing with your mana when you can just play more consistently.

Also, thumbs down to “Jace in Merfolk”. Because, Merfolk.

More, many more, ideas in this special episode!

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Young Pyromancer at Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan

Young Pyromancer
Young Pyromancer posted Top 8 in two different strategies

Young Pyromancer Goes Wide in Blue-Red

Just as there are a variety of viable Young Pyromancer decks, there are a variety of viable blue-red decks in Modern. The one that made Top 4 of Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan was a flexible build by Pascal Vieren.

Vieren’s deck played several creatures… Four copies of Snapcaster Mage, three copies of Thing in the Ice, and of course three Pyromancers. All of those creatures excel with instants and sorceries. Snapcaster Mage gives you card advantage with them. Thing in the Ice flips into a huge monster when set up by them. And our Human Shaman can build an army while doing something else.

Vieren’s deck can win multiple ways. Thing in the Ice clears all the blockers and presents a threat by itself; while the Pyromancer can push a lead once you’ve already got it. Lightning Bolt is one of the most efficient tempo plays you can make. Of course Cryptic Command can both answer threats and tap all the blockers in one move.

Young Pyromancer Goes Even Wider in Mardu Control

Gerry Thompson — already a PT Champion and friend to the ‘cast — put up another Top 8, this time with a Mardu Pyromancer build.

It takes a singular kind of deck designer to figure out to play one copy of Manamorphose… But in Gerry’s deck, it doesn’t just power up the Pyromancer, it gives you white mana for Lingering Souls! Cool little card in support of the Human Shaman.

The advantages in Gerry’s deck all build on one another. Cheap instants and sorceries like Inquisition of Kozilek fuel not just the Pyromancer, but put fodder into the graveyard for Bedlam Reveler. More important is Kolaghan’s Command… Not only is it even more redundant discard, the ability to re-buy a creature is always nice; but what about when the creature is a card advantage engine?

All That and the Kitchen Sink

There was more, much much more, to the Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan Top 8 than a 2/1 for 1R.

We leave no deck un-discussed!

No, not even that one.

Check it all out now:

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Gambling on Path of Mettle

Path of Mettle
Let’s get something out of the way:
Path of Mettle is actually awesome!

Path of Mettle is almost effortless to play

When Path of Mettle enters the battlefield, it triggers a Simoon-like effect, dealing a point of damage to every creature that lacks first strike, double strike, vigilance, and / or haste.

The solution is simple: Just play creatures with one or more of these abilities, and the “Simoon” trigger will be one-sided; largely a Simoon for the same amount of mana.

We can consider the deck played by US National Champion Craig Krempels to the Top 8 of last week’s Team Open as a model for this strategy, but many Red Deck creature shells can suffice.

All of Bomat Courier, Earthshaker Khenra, Ahn-Crop Crasher, Hazoret the Fervent, and Glorybringer (you know, just the creatures the old Ramunap Ruins deck played) start out with haste. This makes the first line on today’s enchantment “free”.

But flipping it is nearly free, also!

So long as you are playing such creatures, turning your Legendary Enchantment into a Legendary Land shouldn’t be too tough.

When you flip Path of Mettle, you’re doing it. You’re really DOING IT

Metzali, Tower of Triumph
When the Path becomes Metzali, Tower of Triumph, “Triumph” may be closer than it initially seems. This land is super disruptive to many different kinds of opponents.

The “red” ability largely serves as a stand-in for the now-banned Ramunap Ruins.

The “white” ability has a broad range of applications, including (but not limited to) cutting of the ability for many control decks to win. Attacking with one creature? How about “randomly” putting that creature into the graveyard? The “white” ability can also ignore hexproof, so it is potentially a problem for the Hydras out of Energy variants.

Okay, sold! Um… So what’s the gamble around Path of Mettle?

Why? The mana base of course!

Craig played a couple of Plains in his twenty-two land aggro deck. It was vital for him to play enough red (especially untapped) to be able to field some sixteen one drop creatures.

Will WotC print another Boros dual land? Will they just reprint one we already love?

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No Room for Longtusk Cub

Longtusk Cub
Unlike its friends Attune with Aether and Rogue Refiner, Longtusk Cub was not banned.
It just isn’t getting played for some reason.

No Longtusk Cub in Temur Monsters

William Ho finished 5th in the Standard portion of the Team Open with Temur Monsters.

While he played a variety of both two drops and Energy themed cards… Longtusk Cub was not one of them.

“It’s surprising to me that Longtusk Cub wouldn’t make the cut in this deck with ten removal spells AND AN ENERGY THEME…”

That said, Thrashing Brontodon made an important debut in this deck. Per Patrick…

“Thrashing Brontodon is the Truth”

  • 3/4 for three mana is actually pretty solid right now. Believe it or not, the size alone is a positive consideration in this format.
  • Thrashing Brontodon gives you main deck ways to deal with Cast Out or specialty enchantments
  • It also lessens a deck’s potential reliance on Abrade. A deck like Temur Monsters can potentially lean on the side of Harnessed Lightning (to feed an Energy theme) instead of Abrade’s flexibility. You don’t need Abrade to be as flexible because Brontodon is.

“Does Voltaic Brawler make sense over Longtusk Cub?”

“No. Next question.”

No Longtusk Cub in Golgari Constrictor

Andreas Campion finished second in the Team Open with Golgari Constrictor.

Once again we have a deck with 12+ two drops (more, if you count Walking Ballista)… Again no Longtusk Cub.

Campion’s deck plays four copies of Merfolk Branchwalker but only three copies of Jadelight Ranger. Patrick suggests if you only have room for seven, tilt the other way (with four Rangers). Mike argues to play eight, and just cut a land. After all, that is a lot of Explore.

No Longtusk Cub in Sultai Energy

Were we always supposed to be playing four copies all along?

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Perhaps the best deck of the weekend was Dan Jessup’s Sultai Energy.

This deck is notable for its use of four — count ’em, four — copies of The Scarab God main deck! Were we supposed to be playing all four all along?

Glint-Sleeve Siphoner… Merfolk Branchwalker… Servant of the Conduit… Again twelve two drops, but no Longtusk Cub!

Did everyone just think the most dangerous Grizzly Bears from the last format got banned?

Where in the world?

Don’t worry, there is no shortage of deck discussion, just Cub appearances. Check out “No Room for Longtusk Cub” now:

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Rampaging, Ramunap, Rivals, and Rants

Lots of bans in Standard this week. But Rampaging Ferocidon?

Rampaging Ferocidon

Rampaging Ferocidon Banned in Standard

Of the four most recent bans, three are relatively understandable.

  • Attune with Aether – Perhaps the most obvious of the Standard bans, Attune with Aether is the quintessential one mana manipulation spell that is just too good. There is ample precedent for cards like Ponder and Preordain being banned at the one. Why not Attune with Aether? Attune with Aether is essentially a Lay of the Land (a “good enough” card) with an Energy add-on.
  • Rogue Refiner – Rogue Refiner is just a cantrip. It’s a 3/2 creature for only three mana that does two things. Unfortunately one of which is “draw a card”. Rogue Refiner is probably a little too good, but it isn’t clear it would or should have been banned if not for all the other Energy cards.
  • Ramunap Ruins – So it turns out that Temur Energy wasn’t even the highest performing deck in Standard. Ramunap Red was! While Ramunap Red might have been challenged by Temur Energy, it was absolutely great at killing everyone who didn’t buy into the “there are only two decks” Standard paradigm. Ramunap Ruins is the card that sets this deck apart. Getting rid of Ramunap Ruins makes room for other decks post-ban.

So these three make sense.

You might not have bet on Ramunap Ruins… But it makes sense.

Rampaging Ferocidon wasn’t the best, or the second-best, or the eighth-best card in Mono-Red. In fact, many Mono-Red decks didn’t even play four copies main deck!

The Brilliance of Banning Rampaging Ferocidon

While counter-intuitive, the Rampaging Ferocidon ban is wonderful in a certain light.

Forget for a moment about the Randy Buehler-era paradigm of banning only the broken cards. What about banning cards that make the format less fun?

The problem with Rampaging Ferocidon is that it makes it very — very — difficult to sideboard against Red Decks. It’s nice to be able to side in life gain cards and have them work, right? But even cards like Regal Caracal become liabilities… It stinks to trigger Rampaging Ferocidon but not be able to cash in on lifelink.

And Rivals of Ixalan, Too!

While most of this podcast is a discussion of the recent bans (plus a master class in game design by Patrick), we would be remiss to leave out some of the new cards that, you know, came out last week.

What red creature might make a massive impact coming up?

A flyer that pre-empts Glorybringer and might even compete with Hazoret, the Fervent?

Check out “RRRR” to find out!

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This episode is sponsored by ZipRecruiter. Top Level Podcast listeners can post jobs to ZipRecruiter for FREE at Ziprecruiter.com/TopLevel

Chasing Sanctum of the Sun

Sanctum of the Sun
Sanctum of the Sun is really — really — powerful

Azor’s Gateway Transforms into Sanctum of the Sun

Azor's Gateway
Azor’s Gateway — the front side of today’s Legendary Land — is itself a pretty good card. It is both cheaper than Jalum Tome, and cheaper to use (believe it or not Jalum Tome was once a Role Player-level Standard card).

Yes, it sucks that Azor’s Gateway exiles cards instead of simply discarding them to the graveyard, but (and you’ll probably figure this out in a couple of sentences) that would simply be too powerful once you’ve flipped the Legendary Artifact into Legendary Land.

Remember – zeroes are close to free, due to land cards.

Cut // Ribbons is Best Buddies with Sanctum of the Sun

Cut // Ribbons
When you flip Azor’s Gateway into its final form, you gain five life and have an insane mana engine. Your expectation will almost never be less than an immediate burst of six mana of any color, no matter what hoops you had to jump through to get there.

Imagine you simply have the same life total as your opponent when Azor’s Gateway flips…

Aren’t they basically dead if you have Cut // Ribbons in your graveyard? If you have, say, twenty life (and the opponent has twenty life) you will go to twenty-five. You can immediately untap Azor’s Gateway and tap its opposite number for twenty-five black mana, even if there are no other sources of black in your deck. This nets out to twenty-three life from Ribbons! Boom!

The Cut side of Cut // Ribbons has long been a Role Player-level option. It looks like this card — which is highly serviceable as a fast reactive card — may jump colossally in value now that getting it into the graveyard basically kills the opponent.

Remember a moment ago when we were lamenting the exile v. discard limitation on Azor’s Gateway? Can you imagine how disastrous simple discarding would be given the incentive of getting Ribbons into your graveyard? This is already a great combination! They can’t make it too easy, can they?

Cut // Ribbons acts like a two but is technically a four; that makes it fast enough to defend you front-side, while essentially ensuring victory later. Best. Buddies.

What About Untapping Sanctum of the Sun?

Zacama, Primal Calamity
This Legendary Land is already pregnant with possibilities… But what if you can actually untap it?

In “Chasing Sanctum of the Sun” Patrick argues passionately for the power level of Zacama, Primal Calamity. This Elder Dinosaur might be the payoff that Ramp decks have been looking for since the rotation of the Eldrazi cards. While Zacama doesn’t have a built-in durability, it can destroy many different kinds of permanents, as well as generate a massive life buffer. The fact that Zacama has CMC 9 is awesome with Azor’s Gateway… I mean, how many nines do you think you can possibly play? It both drives diversity of casting cost for purposes of flipping and gives you an outlet to discard redundant uncastable giants.

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Jadelight Ranger and More Rivals of Ixalan

Jadelight Ranger
Our further Rivals of Ixalan review begins with Jadelight Ranger
If there is one thing Mike is famous for, it’s playing some goofball green three drops over the years.

Gnarled Mass is one such green creature; but at 3/3 for three mana — and essentially no other capabilities it is a head scratcher that someone would be able to win with it. The secret, of course, is that Gnarled Mass was never “good” per se. But a 3/3 for three mana could slow down an opposing 2/2 Bushido.

Ditto on Borderland Ranger. And by “Borderland Ranger” we mean Civic Wayfinder. So deep was Mike’s love of three mana creatures that could search up a land, when he won with U/R Splinter Twin, he did so with a Pilgrim’s Eye in his main.

But what about the belle of this week’s ball?

How does Jadelight Ranger compare?

Jadelight Ranger versus Gnarled Mass

Jadelight Ranger seems like a generally stronger card than Gnarled Mass.

Gnarled Mass was a Spirit — which was good, but could also be a liability in Kamigawa Block — but was basically always a 3/3 for three mana.

If you’re going for size, Jadelight Ranger can be a 4/3 (2/1 with two +1/+1 counters) for the same casting cost. The superior size (sometimes) comes with two Scry triggers! So… Secelction as well as size.

Obvious point: If you want to have a large Jadelight Ranger, and you are lucky enough to “miss” on your first trigger, you can just leave the card on top, guaranteeing you will grow on the second trigger as well.

Jadelight Ranger versus Borderland Ranger

Borderland Ranger has a couple of advantages over Jadelight Ranger.

For one, 2G is easier to cast than 1GG… But not so much easier.

Borderland Ranger also offers true selection. If you have one Island in your library, you can go find it every single time rather than waiting for your White Knight. Jadelight Ranger lacks that level of precision…. lacks this certainty. But it makes up with sheer potential card advantage.

Just as Jadelight Ranger can be bigger than Gnarled Mass sometimes, it can produce more lands than Borderland Ranger sometimes, too! Instead of just one land, it can draw more than one. Compare to: Divination.

Jadelight Ranger versus Rogue Refiner

So sometimes Jadelight Ranger is a 4/3. If you have a Winding Constrictor in play, that might actually jump to, say, 6/5.

And sometimes, it stays 2/1 but draws two lands.

In both cases, you get to scry twice, which is powerful.

But in the middle? It is just a 3/2 that draws you one additional land.

You know what we call a 3/2 creature that produces one extra card? Rogue Refiner.

And while Jadelight Ranger is probably not “better” than Rogue Refiner (less control on size, never draws into a spell, doesn’t make energy) even being in the same conversation with one of the best creatures in Standard is significant.

This Merfolk Scout is only the first card we discuss!

More Rivals of Ixalan than you can shake a stick at, right here.

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Exclusive Preview – Dire Fleet Poisoner

Dire Fleet Poisoner
Dire Fleet Poisoner is our exclusive Rivals of Ixalan preview!

Dire Fleet Poisoner is Incredibly Flexible

A 2/2 Deathtouch creature for only two mana, Dire Fleet Poisoner can play Terror in a pinch.

Much like Go for the Throat, Doom Blade, and the Alpha classic, this card can trade for most creatures at instant speed for just two mana.

Drop Dire Fleet Poisoner during combat and block… And you can trade with just about anything one-for-one. Even creatures that can sometimes dodge one-for-one removal (like Bristling Hydra) can’t plead hexproof here… A block will make for a trade, no matter how big the attacker.

Of course, as a 2/2 creature, this Human Pirate can kill 1/x creatures (no matter how tough) and live to tell the tale.

Flash and Deathtouch, go!

Dire Fleet Poisoner’s Brilliant Buff

Dire Fleet Poisoner can crash on curve… Imagine you play a first turn Daring Buccaneer. You attack with it and the opponent tosses a Shock at your 2/2.

This card can save your creature while forcing home additional damage.

It can save an attacking Hostage Taker from Abrade, for instance.

It can also help you into favorable trades. For instance, if you are attacking with Kari Zev and the opponent is forced to double block (say, due to menace), the ability to provide both a second point of power and deathtouch can make for an advantageous trade.

… And you get to keep the 2/2 deathtouch body!

Dire Fleet Poisoner is Fast and Flexible

Will there be B/R Pirates? Chances are, this card will help drive the creature choices.

How about B/U? Hostage Taker is a heck of a Pirate.

Want to know more? Check out the podcast:


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Top Legacy Podcast

Brainstorm
Brainstorm is the most popular spell in Legacy

Legacy will return to the Pro Tour in 2018

For the first time in a decade, Legacy will return, as a format, to the Pro Tour.

This time, it will represent 1/3 of the formats in the upcoming Team events (alongside Standard and Modern). With 2017 winding down, Patrick and Michael thought it a great time to showcase the most popular cards and strategies of the Legacy format.

Legacy and “the Brainstorm Experience”

As stated above, Brainstorm is the most popular spell in Legacy. Part of that is that, unlike some other formats, you can actually play four copies of Brainstorm!

If you are in the market for a Brainstorm, there are many similar options. Ponder is the second most popular spell, for instance. Unlike Brainstorm, Ponder allows you to shuffle your library without an additional card.

That said, Brainstorm has a couple of things going for it beyond some of the competition. Most importantly is Brainstorm’s synergy with fetchlands. Instead of just fixing your next draw, Brainstorm can actually correct your draw! Rip a creature removal spell against a combo deck? Brainstorm can potentially fix your hand by shuffling away the errant removal spell.

If you’re super into Brainstorm, beyond even the first four copies, you can select from Preordain, Serum Visions, Thought Scour, and many more.

Legacy is the Home to Very — Very — Cheap Spells

  1. Brainstorm – Brainstorm, the most popular spell in Legacy, not only costs a single blue mana, it potentially digs you to additional lands.
  2. Ponder – Whatever we just said about Brainstorm’s casting cost goes for Ponder early game as well.
  3. Force of Will – While Force of Will claims to be five mana, it is in fact played for zero mana more than half the time.
  4. Deathrite Shaman – The most popular creature in Legacy costs only one mana (whether it is black or green); further, Deathrite Shaman is itself a mana source.
  5. Surgical Extraction –
  6. Swords to Plowshares – Swords to Plowshares has not ceased costing a single white mana since Alpha.
  7. Flusterstorm – Flusterstorm is a powerful, largely Legacy-centric permission spell. Part Force Spike, generally much better than a Spell Pierce, Flusterstorm boasts the best of both cards… The single blue mana in their collective top-right corners.
  8. Gitaxian Probe – <
    Similar to Surgical Extraction, Gitaxian Probe is super cheap at only one Phyrexian blue mana… And like Surgical Extraction, Gitaxian Probe will be played for even less than one mana — zero — a high percentage of the time. This will especially be true in combo decks looking to drive through their libraries and / or play multiple spells in a single turn.
  9. Snapcaster Mage – The second-most popular creature in Legacy is a bit of an oddball. The only two casting cost card in the Legacy Top 10, Snapcaster Mage nonetheless lets you re-cast one of the other super cheap / hyper efficient spells on this list.
  10. Daze – Like Snapcaster Mage, Daze has 1U in its upper right; unlike Snapcaster Mage, you will very rarely pay any actual mana to play it. Not only that, playing Daze on your own turn will sometimes set you up to re-play the same land, untapped.

The extraordinarily low casting costs of this format’s spells depict many fast, hyper-efficient early game, decks; some of which play fewer than 20 lands due to their low curves and ability to see more than one card per turn.

Where will Patrick and Michael Start in Legacy?

You can probably guess.

But they still tell you.

To find out, check out this week’s podcast right here!

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