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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Should You Play Bomat Courier?

Bomat Courier

“Don’t let the Top 8 fool you… [Pro Tour Dominaria] was actually far more dominated by R/B and Mono-Red than it looks.”
-Patrick Chapin

There Were “Only” 23 Bomat Couriers in the Top 8

So the big story of Pro Tour Dominaria was the insane red-ness of the Top 8. With seven of the decks in the Top 8 being black-red or mono-red, the unambiguous card of the tournament was:

Goblin Chainwhirler
The Top 8 of Pro Tour Dominaria featured Twenty-eight Goblin Chainwhirlers
According to this article by Mike, the record for creatures (or for that matter enchantments) in a Top 8 is 28. So Goblin Chainwhirler ties the ceiling held by Sylvan Caryatid and Courser of Kruphix.

BTW – Patrick won that Pro Tour 😉

So here’s the thing… Goblin Chainwhirler is often accompanied by Bomat Courier. In this Top 8 five of the seven Red Decks played both 1:1. The winning Red Aggro, though, ran only three copies of Bomat Courier. Finally, one more mid-range black-red take played zero.

The question remains: Do you side it out? For that matter, is it 100% correct to play Bomat Courier at all?

The Problem: Bomat Courier is No Good in the Mirror

Bomat Courier is a good card… It just has one toughness. In past red mirror matches, the little Construct represented an important source of long-term card advantage. However in a world ruled by Goblin Chainwhirler, it is just a one toughness creature that is out-classed by every other playable card in black-red or mono-red.

Typically, that means you should side out Bomat Courier in the mirror (provided you play it).

Llanowar Elves versus Bomat Courier

Wait a minute! If I should be siding out Bomat Courier, does that mean I should be siding out cards like Llanowar Elves?

No.

What’s the difference?

Bomat Courier, as we said, is out-classed by every other card in an opposing Red Deck. Every card the opponent plays might be better, so it is pure liability. On balance basically nothing is better than Llanowar Elves.

Let me see if I’ve got this right: It’s not just that Bomat Courier is one toughness… It’s that it’s one toughness and generally weak. While Llanowar Elves is also one toughness (ergo Goblin chow) gambling with it might pay off because it’s so gosh darn powerful.

You’ve got it! Fast Llanowar Elves draws can lead to your best stuff, like a turn-two Dinosaur to hold the fort, or the jump to a Ravenous Chupacabra or Hour of Promise to put you ahead of the Red Deck.

Here’s a different question… If so many people are going to be Red Decks, and I should side out Bomat Courier… Should I play it at all?

So… Should You Play Bomat Courier?

“It depends.”

In a format like Unified Standard, where you will play against a maximum of 33% Red Aggro decks, Bomat Courier is probably a good inclusion.

In regular Standard… The clay isn’t dry yet. Will more than 50% of your opponents be Red Aggro? Will 7/8? Or even more lopsided, as Patrick described? If you face an overwhelming number of Red Aggro opponents, it might make sense to eschew the card, or play it in the sideboard, as was done in a recent Grand Prix Top 4.

“Teferi Jokers” don’t Play Bomat Courier

While Red Aggro variants are undoubtedly best, it’s hard to deny the allure of Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. After all, he is in fact a hero. Here are some things you might want to consider if you’re for some reason straying from Bomat Courier beatdown:

  • The top performing (Top 8) Teferi, Hero of Dominaria deck played only two copies. Neither Mike nor Patrick like that; it was essentially a Torrential Gearhulk / The Scarab God deck splashing white.
  • Speaking of splashing for Teferi, Yellow Hat did it with a blue-red control shell.
  • In the realm of “straight” U/W, Brad Nelson dialed it back to win with two copies of Approach of the Second Sun!
  • Conclusion: A lot of the top performers or top players angled their Control decks differently from the core, threat-light, versions from prior to the Pro Tour.

We go over LOTS of lists this week, some of which didn’t even play Goblin Chainwhirler, let along Bomat Courier. Absorb it all here:

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Standard Before Pro Tour Dominaria

Dominaria

Pro Tour Dominaria is this weekend!

Battle lines are drawn. What was unplayable is new again! And it’s not too late for an actual new archetype or two…

Hazoret the Fervent in Red Aggro

With Dominaria, black-red decks have emerged as the Red Decks of choice. We’ve seen Bomat Courier cut (or relegated to the sideboard), and once-ubiquitous threats Earthshaker Khenra and Hazoret the Fervent nowhere to be seen…

But they may be back!

If you think Red Decks (black-red, whatever) are going to be the most popular, Hazoret might be the right four drop. Chandra and Karn are great cards, but almost nothing can stop Hazoret in the mirror.

What you might see here is a movement away from Heart of Kiran with less crew action coming from Planeswalkers. Rather, Earthshaker Khenra might be crewing up an Aethersphere Harvester!

Slight Variations in U/W Control

Teferi, Hero of Dominaria is the four-of center of this archetype.

The question is what else you might be killing with…

Purists will play just the four Planeswalkers, but it is not uncommon to see 2-4 copies of Torrential Gearhulk or a Gideon of the Trials.

U/W is a powerful pillar of this Standard. Creature-poor or even creature-less, this archetype punishes opponents playing creatures removal, and has limited the use of Unlicensed Disintegration from its intuitive default as a four-of in black-red.

New Horizons in New Perspectives!

Our onetime preview card, New Perspectives, returns in a fresh take on the cycling archetype.

This green-driven version uses New Horizons and Gift of Paradise to produce a powerful mana engine with Vizier of Tumbling Sands. Four copies of Shadow of the Grave help keep your fuel up, and then it’s down to one copy of Faith of the Devoted to drain the opponent out, two points at a time.

Or, if you’re in a tight spot, you can just try to get them with Shefet Monitor beatdown.

All these decks, and tons more, will get you prepped and ready to enjoy Pro Tour Dominaria!

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Focus on Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria is the preferred way to win

Four Copies of Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

Earlier in this still-young format, players would run maybe three copies of Teferi.

Now — despite the “Legend rule” disadvantage of diminishing returns — four copies has become absolutely stock. In contrast to versions that ran Torrential Gearhulk or Gideon of the Trials to ultimately deal 20 points of damage… Now all that pressure falls on Teferi to actually win the game.

Torrential Gearhulk is the worst test spell!” claims Patrick. You can’t really pretend the opponent doesn’t have Essence Scatter. Playing a creature — especially an artifact creature — will turn on the opponent’s removal in a way a card like Pull from Tomorrow won’t.

How to win with “Just” Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

The one Commit // Memory can potentially be valuable… But it is presumably not essential.

Teferi is a great realization of control elements. It is this card that largely is there to build advantages; but can ultimately ensure the game going very, very long.

Imagine you have built lots of card advantage primarily through card draw. Then you have the emblem going. Then drawing cards (regardless of how they get drawn) you trigger the opponent down to a small number of permanents.

Maybe that number is even zero!

At this point you can start using the [-3] ability just to not lose the game.

There is nothing stopping you from targeting the Teferi itself, then playing a Teferi out of your hand. You can draw, exile, and library-push / repeat indefinitely with your Teferi[s]. Meanwhile your opponent keeps drawing one card per turn… Until his library is depleted. Yours may go low, but never goes to zero due to all those planeswalkers.

Given a very long game, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria requires no sidekick.

But Can Teferi Beat a Lich’s Mastery?

Don’t get me wrong.

It is not yet the right time for Lich’s Mastery to contend in Standard.

Part of that is the popularity of Teferi decks.

More important, Teferi typically comes alongside Negate, Disallow, etc.

But if you are in the unfortunate position of the opponent actually resolving Lich’s Mastery… The game will probably end in a stalemate.

You can grind the opponent down to no [other] permanents.

You can prevent your self from decking out.

But you still can’t win-win unless you have a direct way of removing the Lich’s Mastery.

It’s a spot like this where Gideon becomes a nice one-of. Cripple the opponent’s resources first, then winning becomes trivial, six cost enchantment or no.

If you’re considering a weird one-of like River’s Rebuke, or playing an actual damage source… Don’t make it because of Lich’s Mastery, though. Please.

Check “Focus on Teferi, Hero of Dominaria” out here:

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Goblin Chainwhirler Against the World!

Goblin Chainwhirler
Despite a prohibitive RRR, Goblin Chainwhirler has been ubiquitous in one- two- or even three-color Red Decks

“Goblin Chainwhirler is the kind of card that gets me to play Unlicensed Disintegration.”
-Patrick Chapin

Goblin Chainwhirler + Soul-Scar Mage

Grand Prix Birmingham’s Top 8 was a wall of Rakdos decks!

While the decks had many cards in common, one could argue that there were two or more sub-archetypes represented, not just one. While most of the B/R decks played four copies of Unlicensed Disintegration, the GP champion himself played only three.

Superficially, we might all look at the Scrapheap Scroungers, vehicles, and burn cards and say “beatdown” … We might be wrong.

Case in point: Some folks played Bomat Courier, some didn’t.

Bomat Courier, a hasty one-drop, is the kind of card you might expect to see when pairing red cards with Unlicensed Disintegration. After all, though Bomat Courier is an artifact, it’s basically a red card… But being an artifact, turns on the enviable instant.

Bomat Courier’s haste lets you hustle out early. Its card advantage long-term has made it a favorite of aggressive red mages.

Why then did it get cut (in some Red Decks)?

There is no one, no one great, answer. But we do know that some Rakdos mages embraced Soul-Scar Mage at the one. This “one-two punch” [really one-three punch] makes the already great Goblin Chainwhirler even more messed up. The ability to spread -1/-1 counters across all the opponent’s creatures is potentially a really big deal.

Goblin Chainwhirler Rounds Out an Eclectic Removal Suite

The Rakdos decks of the Grand Prix Birmingham Top 8 played a wide variety of point removal cards. As we’ve already noted, not all of them even played four copies of Unlicensed Disintegration!

Some played Magma Spray; most “only” Abrade. There was a Cut // Ribbons hither or thither.

Sideboard cards included everything from Fatal Push to Doomfall. Four mana black removal was up for debate, with a split between Vraska’s Contempt and Hour of Glory. And at five? Get ready for The Eldest Reborn!

Point being, there is no consensus among B/R mages as to how they will kill creatures (other than, largely, Unlicensed Disintegration). But even more ubiquitous is Goblin Chainwhirler… a four-of top to bottom. And with good reason…

Goblin Chainwhirler Beats Up Llanowar Elves

Llanowar Elves may be the most important card to come out of Dominaria.

It was heralded as possibly the best card in Standard.

Llanowar Elves gets its butt absolutely kicked by Goblin Chainwhirler. Multiple Llanowar Elves draw? More butt kicking. Possible teammates like Glint-Sleeve Siphoner, and oftentimes Jadelight Ranger / Merfolk Branchwalker can all be swept up in the Chainwhirler’s sweep as well.

If anything limits the power and popularity of the Winding Constrictor decks, it may well be this mighty red three drop.

Not for Nothin’ but Goblin Chainwhirler Crews Heart of Kiran

Consequently, this is a powerful pairing of two cards that can both play offense, and both also play defense.

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How History of Benalia is Lingering Souls

This is History of Benalia:

History of Benalia
History of Benalia
History of Benalia is a three mana Saga.

A Saga is a sorcery-speed enchantment.

It produces two power on the first turn you play it. Then, when you reach Chapter II of the Saga, it produces an additional two power. Consequently — and not to be too obvious — but that is four power across multiple bodies for three total mana.

Thanks to Chapter III’s “Knights you control get +2/+1 until end of turn[,]” with only the two Knights, you can attack for eight on the card’s third turn in play! Because of this, History of Benalia can both burst forward offensively and slow the opponent down with multiple blockers defensively.

This is Lingering Souls:

Lingering Souls
Lingering Souls
Lingering Souls is a card of extraordinary power. It was banned in its original Block Constructed format, and has contributed to any number of decks across multiple formats. Not Block of course, but other formats. Jon Finkel played it to his umpteenth Pro Tour Top 8 in an Esper Delver deck. It has contributed to everything from a white splash in Jund to a colorful wink in Eldrazi Modern decks.

Like History of Benalia, Lingering Souls produces two power for your initial three mana investment. To get the next two power, you need to invest an additional two mana (and in another color).

Certainly, Lingering Souls has some considerable upside relative to History of Benalia. You get more bodies. Those bodies in fact fly. You can get all four on on turn if you have five mana available… But that’s the crux of it; with History of Benalia, you never need to pay the additional two mana!

This is Raff Capashen, Ship’s Mage:

Raff Capashen, Ship's Mage
Raff Capashen, Ship’s Mage
Raff Capashen, Ship’s Mage really likes Historic cards.

“Saga” is a Historic type; consequently, Raff likes History of Benalia.

One of the many synergies that you can exploit thanks to Dominaria‘s heavily Historic themes is to play History of Benalia during times that you couldn’t normally play an enchantment or other sorcery-speed card (e.g. Lingering Souls).

History of Benalia has already started showing up in a variety of decks. It is going to be a great card in Historic-themed decks, white swarm decks (or B/W Tokens decks), and will be a consideration for everything from G/W Aggro to U/W Control.

Someone should write a song about how good this card is.

But for now, please settle for this podcast:

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Lyra Dawnbringer Debuts!

Lyra Dawnbringer
Lyra Dawnbringer was at least the second most successful Dominaria card of the set’s first sanctioned weekend.

Lyra Dawnbringer and Llanowar Elves

The Legendary Angel wasn’t the most successful Dominaria card to debut this past week. That honor would belong to Llanowar Elves… But in at least one MTGO 5-0 deck, Angel and Elf Druid worked hand in hand.

Lyra represents a powerful top end. Not only does this card pay you off for your commitment to cards like Merfolk Branchwalker (that can help dig you to five or more lands), but Llanowar Elves can get you to your powerful 5/5 ahead of schedule.

And what is better than Shalai, Voice of Penty followed by the Dawnbringer? In times past, tapping out for an awesome 5/5 creature might be good defense… But it can stink when the opponent removes it and crushes you with an attack. If you lead off with Shalai, Lyra will have hexproof. So not only will she not be going anywhere (unless the opponent removes your other Angel), but Shalai will crush in with lifelink. Par-tay.

Lyra Dawnbringer and Raff Capashen, Ship’s Mage

Raff Capashen, Ship’s Mage changes everything!

Leading off with this creature on turn four (presumably at the end of the opponent’s turn, ideally when the coast is clear), you will be able to play cards like Lyra at instant speed!

Instant speed Walking Ballista?

Instant speed Teferi, Hero of Dominaria? It may seem counterintuitive to play a planeswalker on the opponent’s turn, but the ability to guarantee it resolves may be worth one lost activation. If there is a card that will have zero trouble recouping the lost utility, it is the card-advantageous Teferi.

How about instant speed History of Benalia? How top notch is this potential move? You can make a token at instant speed (potentially blocking with it) and then still get the next 2/2 on your own next turn! This will feel very much like getting both Chapter One and Chapter Two immediately (though only one will be allowed to attack).

Lyra Dawnbringer, Sideboard Superstar

One of the cool things about Lyra is that she isn’t even played main deck all the time! U/W decks in the market for creatures might play it main (or they might play only Torrential Gearhulk). But Approach of the Second Sun decks probably wouldn’t. Neither would Orzhov Tokens or white Swarm decks.

You know what they all have in common?

2-3 copies of Lyra Dawnbringer coming in after sideboards.

Here.

To.

Stay.

Check out 106:49 on Lyra Dawnbringer now!

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Mastering Lich’s Mastery

Lich's Mastery
Will Lich’s Mastery be THE ONLY viable strategy in Standard?
This card is poised to completely warp Standard! It is a draw engine of unprecedented power. Imagine for a moment you were playing a big format and ran Lich’s Mastery alongside Nourishing Shoal… The ability to draw cards with little to no incremental mana investment (after the initial six mana investment, of course) is unprecedented!

  • Yawgmoth’s Will limits access to your graveyard.
  • Yawgmoth’s Agenda locks you down to one spell per turn

This Legendary Enchantment has no such limitations.

Lich’s Mastery + Gideon of the Trials

Gideon of the Trials
White is a natural pair to Lich’s Mastery in Standard. Renewed Faith is one of the most obvious best buddies. It cycles to help you hit land drops early. Later on, you can draw six — count ’em six — extra cards for just one card!

Fumigate is also an awesome addition. The ability to gain one life per creature killed takes on new meaning when each of those creatures represents even more card advantage.

But what about Gideon of the Trials?

Is there a particular synergy with this Planeswalker that can also prevent you from losing the game? Yes!

Not only does Gideon rumble (giving your combo-control deck a way to win) but it can protect you from losing the game by losing your Lich’s Mastery. Further, it gives you a redundant synergy with Glorious End.

Any two of the three — Lich’s Mastery, Gideon of the Trials, and Glorious End — are great together!

Lich’s Mastery + Glorious End

Glorious End
Glorious End + Gideon of the Trials was a combo that never quite hit in Standard. Is it awesome? Probably… But it never quite hit.

What happens when you add a third leg to the stool?

What happens when that third leg has hexproof?

Glorious End is just awesome with Lich’s Mastery. Can you just Time Walk your opponent with Lich’s Mastery in play? Sure. You can also Fog them, Counterspell them, and generally laugh at them from behind your Legendary Enchantment while they expend resources.

But did you ever think about this?

Cast Glorious End on their Turn Five. Maybe on their upkeep?

Untap and play the Lich’s Mastery in your hand!

Cool, right?

What if you don’t have a Lich’s Mastery in your hand… yet? The planned End-Mastery play is a big game, but what might be even more fun is the desperate Glorious End-into-praying-to-draw-Lich’s-Mastery. All part of the range.

All Kinds of Lich’s Mastery Decks

In this episode of Top Level Podcast, Pro Tour Champion Patrick Chapin and Resident Genius Michael J. Flores discuss all manner of builds around and including this seductive six drop.

Black-White, Mardu, and even straight black takes are on the table.

Gifted Aetherborn? Creatureless? A couple of big guys? A ton of lifelinking Knights? Give this one a listen and figure out how you want your BBB3 to go in the coming months.

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Racing with Tempest Djinn

Tempest Djinn
Tempest Djinn is one of blue’s signature cards from Dominaria

Tempest Djinn is Much Stronger Than Serendib Efreet (in the right deck)

Serendib Efreet
Despite its initial appearance, Serendib Efreet was a blue card.
A good place to think about this most respected of Djinn is the Revised misprint, Serendib Efreet. Serendib Efreet was a 3/4 flying creature for U2 (blue, despite the card frame)… With a drawback!

Serendib Efreet saw play in a variety of decks, and fast multicolored aggressive mages would often dip into blue to play it. Again, despite the self-inflicted damage.

Dominaria’s Djinn is much harder to cast, sure. That is a lot of blue pips in the top-right!

But, the payoff is also much greater. In a deck with, say, twenty-five Islands, Tempest Djinn’s floor is a Serendib Efreet with no drawback. Each and every incremental Island will make it a faster and faster racer.

Tempest Djinn is Like the World’s Greatest Rishadan Airship (in the right deck)

Rishadan Airship
Unlike Rishadan Airship, Tempest Djinn can block
In its era, Rishadan Airship was one of the most important creatures played in the Blue Skies archetype.

Rishadan Airship was not great in very many other decks; it could not block consistently, and even when it could block, it would probably die. But offense-wise? Blue Skies was one of the best decks in Masques Block Constructed + was a favorite of some of the best Hall of Famers in Standard.

Tempest Djinn is like a more flexible Rishadan Airship. Again assuming an Islands-heavy (if not Islands-only) mana base, Tempest Djinn presents the same offense as Rishadan Airship — at least — but can also block. Not only that: It can block and often survive!

This flexibility is one of the most important aspects of Tempest Djinn. You can tap out for it on turn three, Skies-style to race… Or you can tap out for it on turn three to block a Red Deck’s 3/2 attackers.

Or — get this — you can tap out for Tempest Djinn, block… And then back over itself (and generally for four damage).

Tempest Djinn will Redefine Blue in Standard

Patrick made a deck.

Mike is wild about it.

Check out how our intrepid duo thinks Tempest Djinn will be played in Standard right here:

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Warkite Marauder Breaks Out

Warkite Marauder
Warkite Marauder is a heck of a Magic Card

Playing Fair with Warkite Marauder

Let’s start with the basics: Warkite Marauder is a pretty cool Magic: The Gathering Card. We’ve seen people play cards on the order of Welkin Tern — a blue 2/1 flyer for two mana with a disadvantage — in Standard Pro Tours.

Warkite Marauder is loads better than the best Vaporkin! It simply doesn’t have the disadvantage. Meaning, Warkite Marauder can block whomever it wants.

But that’s not all! As a 2/1 creature with flying, Warkite Marauder is not particularly resilient. It’s cheap — evasive maybe — but also small. Basically anything will kill a Warkite Marauder in combat.

So, the ability to remove flying from a potential blocker is very useful. Get in there for two!

Who Plays Fair? God-Pharaoh’s Gift

Here’s the thing: A fair Warkite Marauder is pretty good. Better, in fact, than cards good players have played in recent years.

But no one is saying you should “play fair” with it. No sir!

The new style of U/R God-Pharaoh’s Gift is basically a Red Aggro deck… But with a graveyard-combo twist. God-Pharaoh’s Gift can correct the solo toughness of this Human Pirate, and haste enhances its combat trigger.

The U/R deck can act like Red Aggro (starting with Bomat Courier on turn one, but just happens to have a more explosive relentless end game.

The Real Value of Warkite Marauder

Good by itself.

Good with God-Pharaoh’s Gift.

But the real value of this Human Pirate?

Teaming up with Walking Ballista and Fanatical Firebrand, Warkite Marauder can “build a Terminate” … But it’s better than that! This is a “Terminate” that can take care of The Scarab God!

Not only will Warkite Marauder pull The Scarab God’s toughness down to one (where it will be easy prey for one direct damage)… But because The Scarab God will lose all abilities, it won’t come back.

Boom!

Warkite Marauder is just one of dozens of cards discussed in this episode! Most of the time is actually devoted to Dominaria. Check it out!

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