Palace Jailer Wins the Pro Tour!

Palace Jailer
Palace Jailer made two of the Top 4 Legacy decks at the Pro Tour… including the winning Death & Taxes!

Death & Taxes is a “High Tier One” Archetype in Legacy… Thanks to Palace Jailer

New addition Palace Jailer helps to catapult this strategy to a legitimately defining deck in Legacy.

Death & Taxes has performed for years… But largely as a metagame deck. For example, the presence of main-deck Karakas has helped the deck to foil Sneak and Show. Sneak and Show’s key creatures — Griselbrand and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn — are perfect targets for the Legendary Land.

But with Palace Jailer and other toys from Conspiracy: Take the Crown, the power level and flexibility of this already-viable deck has increased substantially.

Palace Jailer doesn’t quite work like Fiend Hunter

Fiend HUnter
Fiend Hunter

“Um… How do I become the monarch?”

“Well… Did you play with any cards that make you the monarch?”

Patrick notes that the Jailer offers exactly the kind of edge Mike loves. While Palace Jailer looks like another take on the Fiend Hunter mechanic, it actually relies on a unique Conspiracy: Take the Crown mechanic. Many players just won’t read the card and will snap Lightning Bolt the Jailer hoping to get their creature back… not realizing that they aren’t the monarch.

That makes Palace Jailer essentially a white Nekrataal that exiles creatures with no targeting restrictions. Not only can this card smash almost any creature in a 187 — permanently — it can work well with Flickerwisp and other old standbys of the Death & Taxes archetype.

Casual Sets contribute heavily to Death & Taxes

Containment Priest
Containment Priest

From Commander 2014
This card is an absolute monster against Sneak Attack, Show and Tell, or reanimation strategies.

Council's Judgment
Council’s Judgment

From Magic: The Gathering – Conspiracy
Council’s Judgment is like a Vindicate or Maelstrom Pulse that does extra damage against folks who don’t read the card. Here’s a hint: When the opponent casts this, agree with them. Otherwise, you could lose more permanents!

Recruiter of the Guard
Recruiter of the Guard

From Conspiracy: Take the Crown
This tutor helps search up cards like today’s Palace Jailer. Simply awesome in a deck with cards like Stoneforge Mystic, Containment Priest, and Aether Vial. Recruiter of the Guard can get you the right tool for the right matchup at the right time.

There was lots more to the Pro Tour than Death & Taxes and Palace Jailer. Check all the tech out here:

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Everything You Can Do With a Graveyard Marshal

Graveyard Marshal
Graveyard Marshal

  • Mana Cost: BB
  • Converted Mana Cost: 2
  • Types: Creature — Zombie Soldier
  • Card Text: 2B, Exile a creature card from your graveyard: Create a tapped 2/2 black Zombie creature token.
  • Flavor Text: “Rise and shine, my dears. We have work to do.” —Isareth the Awakener
  • P/T: 3 / 2
  • Expansion: Core Set 2019 (Rare) Core Set 2019
  • Rarity: Rare
  • Card Number: 99
  • Artist: Mark Behm

Graveyard Marshal is Helping to Make Zombies Happen

The SCG Classic in Indianapolis this past weekend featured not one but two Zombies decks in the Top 8!

One of them, played by Joshua Satterfield, was the winner.

Graveyard Marshal is one of the most important new cards in this strategy. In fact, the two drop from Dominaria does a ton of things that the deck wants. The first and most obvious is that Graveyard Marshal is an aggressive three-power creature for only two mana.

I mean… So is Scrapheap Scrounger.

But that’s not all. Not only can Graveyard Marshal actually block, but it’s a Zombie!

So you can go…

  1. B Diregraf Ghoul
  2. BB Graveyard Marshal
  3. BB1 Death Baron!

Boom!

You can truck in for a massive seven damage on turn three this way. Speaking of blocking (you know, the thing Scrapheap Scrounger doesn’t do well), any Zombies will trade up like champions with Death Baron buffing them.

Graveyard Marshal Can Frustrate The Scarab God

Everyone knows how powerful The Scarab God can be. It is a massive card advantage engine that can go completely over the top of foolish midrange decks with good creatures.

You know who can spit in the eye of The Scarab God and its four mana reanimation ability? Graveyard Marshal. The opponent has to leave up 2BU to try to make a 4/4 Zombie. The Marshal can hang back with an economical 2B to pre-empt The Scarab God’s attempt. At some point you’ll just run out of creatures. Which is fine (because you’re not getting annihilated by The Scarab God).

Putting it All Together with Graveyard Marshal

Zombies just might be the dark horse strategy to bust open this weekend’s Pro Tour.

With Diregraf Ghoul and Dread Wanderer at the B, it has an eight-pack of two power creatures for one.

There is an equal number of three power creatures for two.

It’s not just that Zombies plays eight Lords on three… It has Liliana’s Mastery too! This strategy has an almost unending number of ways to generate advantages and buff already aggressive creatures.

The big differentiation between this deck and StOmPy though is the creature elimination. Zombies has a ton of green’s aggression, but has great removal including Vraska’s Contempt (one of the best cards in the format overall).

Zombies is just the beginning of this week’s exciting podcast…

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Breaking Thunderbreak Regent in Modern

Thunderbreak Regent
Thunderbreak Regent is a key card in the new Skred Dragons deck

Thunderbreak Regent won the Classic in Skred Dragons

A brand new archetype has hit Modern! Though we’ve seen other “Skred Red” decks in the past, the won played by Ozzy Kelly last week broke quite a bit of new ground.

Yes, it plays Skred and Snow-Covered Mountain.

The new / important part is the addition of Sarkhan, Fireblood.

While there have been predecessors packing five drop Dragons like Stormbreath Dragon or Thundermaw Hellkite, Ozzy’s plays three different kinds, including last summers hit, Glorybringer. Sarkhan, Fireblood makes the big Dragons much faster.

Predictably, this was Mike’s favorite deck of the weekend. “There is nothing about that name I didn’t like,” says of the onetime Resident Genius.

Would Nicol Bolas, the Ravager Improve Skred Dragons?

Just as predictably, Patrick wonders if this straight red deck shouldn’t just be Grixis… Because of course he does.

Wouldn’t Nicol Bolas, the Ravager be a welcome addition to any Dragons-centric strategy?

He does have a good point. But of course you can’t add Nicol Bolas and stay mono-red. The question becomes why would you want to be mono-red?

The incentives are Skred (need lots of Snow-Covered Mountains) and Blood Moon. How often would you prefer Skred on one mana to, say, Fatal Push? Fatal Push is better a lot of the time, and in particular against Death’s Shadow. Death’s Shadow, of course, made a mini-comeback this past weekend.

Patrick does concede that you might just want to be a Blood Moon deck.

The Best of the Rest…

Sarkhan, Fireblood fronting a new archetype — that won the tournament, mind you — is the biggest news RE: M19 in Modern… But it’s not the only new card from Dominaria or M19 in Modern.

Elvish Clancaller made a predictable debut in an Elves Overrun deck. A Crusade with upside, Elvish Clancaller is in particular synergistic with Collected Company for instant-speed buffs.

Lyra Dawnbringer made numerous appearances in U/W or Jeskai Control decks… Sometimes with, sometimes in lieu of, Baneslayer Angel. What is interesting is that Baneslayer Angel is generally better than Lyra Dawnbringer (especially if Dragons are going to be a thing)… But the first Lyra Dawnbringer is better than the second Baneslayer Angel. Rawr.

All your old favorites plus a brand new As Foretold deck are all one click away…

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Nicol Bolas, the Ravager Rules the Skies

Nicol Bolas, the Ravager
The world belongs to Nicol Bolas, the Ravager. We just live in it.

Nicol Bolas, the Ravager didn’t quite win

We’ll talk a bunch about Nicol Bolas, both here and on the podcast… But it’s important to note that despite three appearances in the Top 8 (three-Bolas each time), Grixis finished second.

The top performing deck of the tournament was actually StOmPy! Already one of the strong archetypes last format, StOmPy added a tight little two-drop that is appearing as a four-of in almost every list:

Thorn Lieutenant
Thorn Lieutenant

Thorn Lieutenant is actually easier to cast than Elvish Warrior… But retains its 2/3 body. On top of that are a pair of powerful abilities. Imagine how cool the token-making ability might be with Blossoming Defense!

Thorn Lieutenant’s pump ability is deceptively relevant. Do you play it every game? No. Do you want to be in a position to use it in most games? Still probably not. But you’ll be happy it’s there sometimes! StOmPy gets tangled in a surprising number of games where its mana is plentiful but its drops are best suited for early game.

Great that Thorn Lieutenant can essentially suit himself up!

Nicol Bolas, the Ravager out-stripped other control cards

Nicol Bolas, the Ravager appeared in three decks at the recent Classic. All three decks played three copies. This put Bolas at a higher level of play, generally, than incumbent control finishers Torrential Gearhulk and The Scarab God.

For example, Todd Stevens placed fifth with:

  • 3 Nicol Bolas, the Ravager
  • 2 Torrential Gearhulk
  • 2 The Scarab God

There was a decent amount of variation among these decks, with no consensus around Arguel’s Blood Fast or Search for Azcanta. A possible sign of a sea change in the format? Four main-deck copies of Glint-Sleeve Siphoner in Jonathan Job’s second-place list. Who’s afraid of Goblin Chainwhirler?

Nicol Bolas, the Ravager is four-of sometimes, too!

Mike’s favorite Bolas build was Trevor Mensinger’s 11th place deck.

Unlike the Top 8 decks, Trevor played a Dragon-centric Red Deck. He not only ran four copies of Nicol Bolas, but four Glorybringers and a pair of Demanding Dragon! Much of the rest of Trevor’s deck were typical Red Deck cards like Scrapheap Scrounger, Pia Nalaar, and Unlicensed Disintegration. The red-centered deck employed Sarkhan, Fireblood to great effect. Not only did the new planeswalker help deploy Dragons, but could discard Spit Flame for more and more card advantage!

For those few listeners who are interested in non-Dragon-centric topics, this podcast discusses when you should play Lyra Dawnbringer, Viashino Pyromancer, and Sifter Wurm. Check it out!

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Giganotosaurus or Not to Giganotosaurus

Giganotosaurus

Your Puny Red Men Are No Match for Giganotosaurus

I mean, give Mike a break.

Mike went 1-3 at his first event… Where he had Spit Flame and a Dragon.

Then, to redeem himself, he went 2-2 in the one where he had a Banefire.

His little red creatures were no match for Giganotosaurus. Patrick concedes that a man might be scarred by such an experience. I mean… GGGGG!

But Mike insists that he wants to play it in Standard.

Giganotosaurus is Not as Good as Verdurous Gearhulk

Patrick points out that Verdurous Gearhulk is still legal in Standard.

“It doesn’t eat an Abrade.”

“It doesn’t leave a bunch of +1/+1 counters everywhere, either.”

Is Mike insane?

The Payoff of Giganotosaurus

Mike insists that he wants to try Giganotosaurus. It can sit right on the turn-three curve! I mean…

  1. T-1 Llanowar Elves
  2. T-2 two Elvish Rejuvenator
  3. T-3 three GGGGG!

Yeah? Yeah?

Mike likes Elvish Rejuvenator because, not slaved to basic lands, it can flip over a Desert on turn two or three. This not only sets up a three-to-five Ramp; it can get the first Desert you need for Hour of Promise.

Patrick is still unconvinced.

The main problem isn’t that a 10/10 for five mana — in Sealed Deck or no — isn’t formidable. The problem is that you really have to warp your mana around the ability to produce five green mana on demand.

But here’s the secret:

We already had Thrashing Brontodon. Now there’s Runic Armasaur. Ghalta, Primal Hunger is cake to cast when you have so many big bodies.

The secret is that at a critical number of Dinosaurs, you get to legitimately play Thunderherd Migration.

Thunderherd Migration

Thunderherd Migration is the payoff!

Most of the time we think about what we’re Ramping into as the payoff. But this is a case where we get to play one of the most powerful cards in the format… That no one else gets to play.

So, what do you think? GG with the GGGGG?

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Gloreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma v. Runic Armasaur

Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma
Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma

When might you play Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma?

Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma is the king queen of Bears!

I know, I know… Goreclaw is not a 2/2 for 1G; but Bear it claims to be.

Okay, okay… Let’s get past the Vorthos on this card. What might make you want to play it… Or not?

Three toughness.

In a world of where Lightning Strike and Abrade are played in the most popular deck, three toughness is a bit of a liability on a four casting cost creature; at least one that isn’t doing something absolutely card advantageous on the way in.

Patrick speculates that the three toughness is a deliberate structural weakness in the card against red — a weakness green doesn’t usually have — for other reasons.

“Have a little empathy.”

Other reasons? Well we’d have to have a doozy of one to accept such a limitation. Maybe a better driving question would be…

WHY Would You play Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma?

Easy: You want to get the drop on a seven-drop.

Goreclaw costs four. Presumably you hit your land drop the following turn. That’s five. Alongside Goreclaw’s two mana-breaking ability, you can hit something like the new Darigaaz the next turn!

Bam!

Seven!

Kind of need your three toughness four-drop to live for that to work out.

Michael is not necessarily convinced. Among other issues, the best five-power [green] creature in the format [by his estimation], Steel Leaf Champion, not only comes down before Goreclaw most of the time… Even when you draw your creatures in the right order, Goreclaw won’t help you cast it.

Another new green monster maybe?

Fine, Fine… How About Runic Armasaur Then?

Runic Armasaur
Runic Armasaur
Runic Armasaur has a lot of awesome things going for it.

Size-wise, this card is comparable to the ubiquitous Thrashing Brontodon. That’s not a bad place to start. Runic Armasaur isn’t quite big enough to stop Hazoret the Fervent, but five toughness is a big brick wall.

Runic Armasaur is punishing to fetchlands, so may have more impact in larger formats. In Standard, it will prove quite effective against Evolving Wilds.

But where Runic Armasaur will really shine? Walking Ballista! Bam! The best card in Aether Revolt is going to have a really tough time generating card advantage against this particular dinosaur.

Speaking of dinosaurs, If Runic Armosaur is good enough, it may just make Thunderherd Migration good enough. Thrashing Brontodon, Ghalta, Gigantosaurus… There may be just enough dinosaurs to hit critical mass of thunder lizards.

We shall quickly see.

To see more; or hear more, rather, including innovations in Senor StOmPy and Dimir Midrange, click the little play button:

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Sarkhan, Fireblood Spits Flame!

Sarkhan, Fireblood
Sarkhan, Fireblood

Sarkhan, Fireblood

  • Effect of card: +1: You may discard a card. If you do, draw a card.
    +1: Add two mana in any combination of colors. Spend this mana only to cast Dragon spells.
    -7: Create four 5/5 red Dragon creature tokens with flying.
  • Converted mana cost: 3
  • Type: Legendary Planeswalker – Sarkhan
  • Sets: M19
  • Game: Magic: The Gathering
  • Colors: Red mana
  • Illustrators: Grzegorz Rutkowski

+1: You may discard a card. If you do, draw a card.

Sarkhan’s first ability is kind of like a Tormenting Voice you can play each turn. This is a pretty powerful “plus” ability to tack onto a three casting cost Planeswalker.

It’s totally up to you if you want to actually discard the card; but looting to fix your hand with no associated mana cost is generally pretty attractive.

You can get an extra boost — a “personal Howling Mine” even — if you combine Sarkhan with the right cards. A great example might be new Instant Spit Flame:

Spit Flame
Spit Flame

In a deck with a decent number of Dragons, Spit Flame let you essentially draw a card for R. But not just any card… a solid removal spell with obvious re-buy implications!

The “Dragons” bit is a decent sized clause though. Which brings us to…

+1: Add two mana in any combination of colors. Spend this mana only to cast Dragon spells.

Sarkhan is at his best in a deck with a decent number of Dragons. His second “plus” ability is quite the rule-breaker… While building loyalty!

In case you missed how powerful this ability is at first glance, Sarkhan can jump you from three mana to six in a single turn.

The implication is that you have three mana, because that’s what this card costs. Ditto on red.

If you make your next land drop, you’ve got four; add two mana from the second +1 and you’ve got Palladia-Mors mana!

Palladia-Mors, the Ruiner
Palladia-Mors, the Ruiner

Sarkhan is going to do best with some kind of red Dragons; but his second +1 can take care of up to two incremental colors.

Palladia-Mors is a good example as he illustrates the jump from three to six in a single day; and with conditional hexproof, makes for a good guardian for Sarkhan to hide behind.

-7: Create four 5/5 red Dragon creature tokens with flying.

This card’s third ability is great, and a decent part of what makes it work.

Not for nothing, but four 5/5 Dragons make 20 power

an plausibly “loot” with the [+1] a few times, just to get to the Ultimate limit break here. Four 5/5 Dragons make for 20 power, remember. So this is not just a potentially card advantageous Ultimate, but a straight up kill on the battlefield.

Check out our take on Sarkhan, Fireblood in this week’s podcast!

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… And when you’re done, we’d love it if you gave Mike’s new [Muggle] podcast a try. It’s called “Such a Crock” and co-stars his better half. The first episode is about Forbidden Sex (so Mike is making it easy for you to click).

Is Resplendent Angel the Real Deal?

Resplendent Angel
Resplendent Angel is just one of several strong flyers from Core Set 2019, revealed earlier this week.

Resplendent Angel

  • Effect of card: Flying. At the beginning of each end step, if you gained 5 or more life this turn, create a 4/4 white Angel creature token with flying and vigilance. 3WWW: Until end of turn, Resplendent Angel gets +2/+2 and gains lifelink.
  • Converted mana cost: 3
  • Type: Angel
  • Sets: M19
  • Game: Magic: The Gathering
  • Colors: White mana
  • Illustrators: Volkan Baga

Doesn’t Resplendent Angel Just Get Killed by Abrade?

That’s the problem, right?

As a 3/3 flyer for three mana, Resplendent Angel is a nice package for its cost. Its many other abilities imply that it should be able to take over the game by itself.

But with only three toughness, it is vulnerable to multiple cards in the most popular current Strategy… Not just Abrade but Lightning Strike will eliminate this creature.

While the Angel has the ability to buff itself offensively and gain lifelink… That doesn’t cure three toughness versus instant speed removal. The same Abrades, the same Lightning Strikes, will be able to shoot it out of the sky in response.

They can’t always get her, can they? And anyway, when she’s good, she’s got to be really good.

The Resplendent Angel Payoff

Bash!

Hit you for five!

Gain five!

High five!

Extra Serra Angel, yadda yadda yadda.

Is that the payoff?

It is certainly a payoff… But there is no reason to think so narrowly.

Resplendent Angel is pretty efficient: A 3/3 flying creature for three mana is a heck of a Gnarled Mass! But this is a card that can get better in the right context.

What about playing it with Shalai, Voice of Plenty and Lyra Dawnbringer? Giving this creature +1/+1 and lifelink off the bat puts it a long way towards the Serra Angel trigger.

But that’s not all!

There are just a critical mass of life gain cantrips. You can cast Renewed Faith, gain six life, and get a 4/4. But M19 brings with it Revitalize. This card can combines both halves of Renewed Faith, but with a little less flexibility.

What we mean to say here is that at some point Crested Sunmare has got to good enough at some point, right? #horsetribal

Tons more M19 in this podcast, including scads more flyers; from Nicol Bolas to his fellow Elder Dragon Legends. Many of them look equally fantastic. Learn more in the cast:

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Liliana’s Contract is Our M19 Preview

Liliana's Contract
Wizards sent us Liliana’s Contract to reveal to you!

Liliana’s Contract

  • Effect of card: When Liliana’s Contract enters the battlefield, you draw four cards and you lose 4 life. At the beginning of your upkeep, if you control four or more Demons with different names, you win the game.
  • Converted mana cost: 5
  • Type: Enchantment
  • Sets: M19
  • Game: Magic: The Gathering
  • Colors: Black mana
  • Illustrators: Bastien L. Deharme

… you draw four cards…

So… Who’s in it for drawing four cards?

At five mana for four cards, Liliana’s Contract is priced similarly to Tidings. In its day, Tidings was a Standard Staple in Vore decks to a variety of control decks.

While the four life is potentially prohibitive (versus, you know, losing zero life) it’s important to note people are paying four mana and two life to draw cards in black right this format.

For one more mana, Lilian’s Contract represents a powerful upside.

Its being an enchantment is quite interesting; you can draw four into your Demons, it can sit around waiting for a win, or you can play it after you’ve already got your Demons.

This implies, of course, people will want to play for the Demons. Some might just want to draw four cards.

… four or more Demons…

Lilian’s Contract is powerful and flexible. It can probably fuel a black control deck that happens to play Demons… Or you can play a dedicated Demon-combo deck.

There are multiple playable Demons in Standard. Ammit Eternal has already proved Top 8-capable; while Demonlord Belzenlok is the “big bad” of Dominaria. Lilian’s Contract might be great randomly alongside a handful of already-good-enough Demons.

But you can also try a dedicated strategy!

Arcane Adaptation
With Arcane Adaptation, you can turn any creature into a Demon
With Arcane Adaptation in play, it will be much easier to produce four differently-named Demons. Every token, every random body, will get you that much closer to winning immediately with Liliana’s Contract.

Thanks again to Wizards! See you back here tomorrow for our regularly scheduled episode.

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Militia Bugler and Vivien Reid

We’re already seeing new cards from Core Set 2019! Two of the most promising are the Militia Bugler and Planeswalker Vivien Reid.

Where Would You Put Militia Bugler?

Militia Bugler
Militia Bugler is a source of card advantage that is somewhat restrictive on your deck design.
Mike puts Militia Bugler on “Gonti for yourself” … He’s not wrong. Not that wrong anyway.

Like Gonti, Lord of Luxury, Militia Bugler is a 2/3 creature with an ability once it hits the battlefield. In Gonti’s case it is Deathtouch and in the Bugler’s case Vigilance. Both of them generate card advantage by looking at the top of someone’s library; theirs in Gonti’s case, your own in the Bugler’s.

Militia Bugler has the benefit of costing three mana rather than four; but comes with a meaningful deck design price: If you’re going to get paid off by Militia Bugler, you will have to have a certain number of [other] creatures with a maximum of two printed power.

If you’ve built your deck appropriately, Militia Bugler plays in the range of Sea Gate Oracle or Court Hussar — both contributing creatures in their respective Standard formats.

Perhaps most importantly for Standard, Militia Bugler can grab you the zero-printed-power powerhouse, Walking Ballista!

Is Vivien Reid “the green Teferi”?

Vivien Reid
Vivien Reid will be a key Role Player in Standard, if not quite “the Green Teferi”.

“I’m not in it for the emblem.”
-Mike

Like Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, Vivien Reid is a five mana planeswalker.

Both draw extra cards with their first abilities; both blow up things (with some measure of limitation) with their second abilities. Your mileage will vary substantially with their respective limit breaks, though.

“Even when it lines up right, it’s worse than Teferi every step of the way.”
-Patrick

Mike’s initial love for this card comes from its very obvious superiority over the already-played Crushing Canopy. Sure, Vivien Reid costs two more mana than Crushing Canopy, but the [-3] ability is wildly better! Not only can you potentially keep a draw-engine planeswalker, you gain the ability to destroy artifacts.

This thing is a fantastic answer to Lyra Dawnbringer, right?

Coming back to the card advantage ability, Patrick points out the [+1] is quite a bit better than just drawing a card. You can Impulse for a land if you need it, and otherwise, you’re probably digging for Brontodon, Chupacabra, or The Scarab God.

Basically, Patrick likes Bugler best among the new cards; and Mike likes Vivien Reid best. But there are lots of great cards revealed from Core Set 2019. We go over lots more of them.

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