Infinite Obliteration!

Infinite Obliteration
As if simple obliteration were not enough…

Top Level Podcast is proud to present Infinite Obliteration — our exclusive preview from Magic Origins!

For those of you who are used to visiting Top Level Podcast on Thursdays only… This week is a bonus.

For those of you who are visiting us the first time this week (to see our cool exclusive preview Infinite Obliteration)… Welcome! You can read some of our thoughts (largely curated from our podcast) here… But we’d really love it if you gave the podcast a listen. We are happy you are visiting and hope you enjoy your first experience with Top Level Podcast.

“You know what might be obliterated by this card? … Decks that have four Ojutais to win.”

Infinite Obliteration:

  • Can shut off every road to victory in an Esper Dragons deck
  • Takes advantage of an early game Silumgar’s Scorn or Foul-Tongue Invocation (the opponent tells you what’s in his hand)
  • Blunts the card advantage of Den Protector or Deathmist Raptor (because it can exile cards from the opponent’s graveyard, cutting off recursion)
  • Combines nicely with the BBB Spell Mastery trigger on Dark Petition (making for a tight toolbox “one-card combo”)
  • Comes out ahead of / pre-empts most of Standard’s big threats (because of its relatively cheap cost)
  • Really takes the wind out of a Siege Rhino deck’s sails
  • … And lots more we haven’t thought of yet!

Top Level Podcast is:

  • Patrick Chapin – “The Innovator”; author of Next Level Magic and Next Level Deckbuilding; member of the Magic: The Gathering Pro Tour Hall of Fame and winner of Pro Tour Journey Into Nyx.
  • Michael J Flores – The Resident Genius; noted writer and deck designer; author of Deckade and The Official Miser’s Guide.

Top Level Podcast is a competitive Magic: The Gathering podcast, generally focused on Standard and other tournament-relevant Constructed formats. We publish our podcast every Thursday. If you like what you see (and hear) on this visit, we invite you to come back next week, or subscribe.

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Why Nissa, Vastwood Seer Will be a Top 10 Card

Nissa, Vastwood Seer
Nissa, Vastwood Seer (aka Nissa, Sage Animist) is going to be a Top 10 Magic: The Gathering card in Standard.

What Mike has been thinking about all day…

He has a Hornet Nest in play. His opponent, feeling clever, dashes in a Goblin Heelcutter… The Hornet Nest will not be able to block.

But wait!

Mike casts Collected Company, revealing Nissa, Vastwood Seer and Liliana, Heretical Healer.

He goes and gets a Forest with Nissa, then blocks the Goblin Heelcutter (triggering Liliana, who then flips and makes a 2/2 token).

… And all these cards are good!

The number of amazing flips to Collected Company in Magic Origins is staggering. Nissa, Vastwood Seer isn’t the only Planeswalker you can flip with Collected Company… You can actually flip them all!

Patrick notes that “Mike has always had a fondness and appreciation for Borderland Ranger” … But it turns out that Mike really had always had a fondness and appreciation for Civic Wayfinder.

Civic Wayfinder is a card Mike learned to love in Ravnica Block; and later adopted in place of the less-consistent Knight of the White Orchid in Reveillark decks.

“Nissa is the worst ever Civic Wayfinder… But the best ever everything else.”

“Civic Wayfinder has the power of suck.

“It’s like SATYR Wayfinder… No one wants to kill it so it gets in for seven.”

In addition to fetching only basic Forests (instead of any kind of basic land), Nissa has the additional drawback of being a Legend.


The upside of Nissa is enormous. Patrick pegs the value of her flip-side (Nissa, Vastwood Seer) at five mana; and points out that flipping Nissa takes zero incremental mana.


  • Nissa is great on turn 2 (she is likely to be good friends with Elvish Mystic)
  • Great (or at least good) on turn 3
  • … But if you draw Nissa on turn 10, instead of sucking you win the game
  • Nissa, Vastwood Seer is essentially what you want in a Magic: The Gathering card. It’s good early and it’s great late.

With Windswept Heath, Wooded Foothills, or Evolving Wilds in play, Nissa has the ability to protect herself. If the opponent attempts to somehow kill her — either in response to searching for a basic Forest or putting her Planeswalker-flip ability on the stack — you can break the fetchland in response, putting another Nissa trigger on the stack.

Nissa, Sage Animist
It would be perfectly reasonable to pay five mana for this card.

While the focus of this podcast is Nissa, Vastwood Seer (and her opposite number) Michael and Patrick discuss numerous other cards from Magic Origins, plus make a special announcement! Check back early next week to find out more.

“Why Nissa, Vastwood Seer Will be a Top 10 Card”

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Fifty Percent Kytheon, Hero of Akros

Kytheon, Hero of Akros
This podcast is half about Kytheon, Hero of Akros

Going in, podcast un-listened-to… You probably figure this is a podcast half about Kytheon, Hero of Akros… and half about Gideon, Battle-Forged.

But you’d be wrong!

It’s half about one of the fastest new Planeswalkers from Magic Origins… But the other half is about Patrick’s performance with Grixis Control at Grand Prix Charlotte last weekend.

“Congratulations and condolences.”

You see, Patrick tore through the tournament and finished with only two losses when the Swiss rounds finished… But “only” finished in ninth place! Oh no!

But “no condolences necessary” says our resident Pro Tour Champion. He had a great time and spends the first long stretch of “Fifty Percent Kytheon, Hero of Akros” teaching a master class on Modern Grixis Control.

Patrick’s Ninth-Place deck:

3 Gurmag Angler
2 Tasigur, the Golden Fang

4 Cryptic Command
1 Dispel
2 Mana Leak
1 Remand
4 Serum Visions
4 Snapcaster Mage
2 Spell Snare
4 Thought Scour

1 Electrolyze
2 Kolaghan’s Command
1 Shadow of Doubt
4 Terminate

4 Lightning Bolt

2 Creeping Tar Pit
3 Island
1 Mountain
4 Polluted Delta
4 Scalding Tarn
2 Sulfur Falls
2 Steam Vents
1 Swamp
2 Watery Grave

1 Batterskull
1 Spellskite
1 Damnation
1 Shriekmaw
1 Slay
2 Dispel
1 Flashfreeze
1 Countersquall
4 Fulminator Mage
1 Izzet Staticaster
1 Keranos, God of Storms

“Grixis with four Cryptic Commands… It’s what I was born to do.”

“Fifty Percent Kytheon, Hero of Akros” has a stack of lessons for the prospective Grixis player; here are just a few…

  • Patrick played against three Burn decks and went 6-2 against them in games… With no Sun Droplets or Dragon’s Claws! He eventually didn’t side in Batterskull or Spellskite, either. The trick is… “Every single Burn player is sitting there with a Destructive Revelry in hand. The problem is that every single Burn player expects you to have 3-4 Dragon’s Claws.” Because of this artifact sideboard cards like Batterskull, Spellskite (or more traditional ones) lose value.
  • A different paradigm is just to drop a 5/5 and defend it with “a bazillion Dispels”
  • Tarmogoyf and Siege Rhino define size in Modern at 4/5… Making the 5/5 Gurmag Angler king.

“Once you have a Zombie Fish on your side, all bets are off!”

Patrick finished in 9th place… But all props to his fellow Pro Tour Champion, fellow Hall of Famer, and fellow member of Team Ultra PRO Paul Rietzl who came in 10th place with a Naya Collected Company build:

Paul’s 10th Place Deck:

4 Loxodon Smiter
4 Knight of the Reliquary
3 Qasali Pridemage

1 Birds of Paradise
3 Collected Company
4 Noble Hierarch
3 Scavenging Ooze
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Wild Nacatl

4 Lightning Bolt

4 Path to Exile

4 Arid Mesa
2 Forest
1 Kessig Wolf Run
1 Horizon Canopy
1 Mountain
1 Plains
1 Sacred Foundry
2 Stomping Ground
1 Temple Garden
4 Wooded Foothills
4 Windswept Heath

1 Choke
1 Blood Moon
1 Bonfire of the Damned
2 Grim Lavamancer
2 Magus of the Moon
1 Kataki, War’s Wage
3 Kor Firewalker
2 Stony Silence
2 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben

If you are in the market for a fair deck in Modern… This is probably the deck!

Paul’s Naya has a good clock, tons of hateful creatures to generate discrete advantages, and can punish ostensibly more powerful decks with Collected Company.

Finally, Mike and Patrick highlight Zac Elsik’s Lantern Control Prison:

Lantern Control, by Zac Elsik

4 Codex Shredder
4 Ensnaring Bridge
4 Ghoulcaller’s Bell
4 Lantern Of Insight
3 Mox Opal
3 Pithing Needle
2 Pyrite Spellbomb
3 Spellskite

2 Duress
3 Inquisition of Kozilek
2 Surgical Extraction

3 Gitaxian Probe

2 Abrupt Decay

4 Ancient Stirrings

2 Academy Ruins
2 Blackcleave Cliffs
2 Copperline Gorge
2 Ghost Quarter
4 Glimmervoid
4 Llanowar Wastes
1 Tendo Ice Bridge

1 Grafdigger’s Cage
4 Sun Droplet
2 Welding Jar
1 Bow of Nylea
3 Nature’s Claim
1 Ancient Grudge
3 Pyroclasm

Elsik’s deck is one of the coolest, most elegant, decks we’ve seen in years!

Patrick in particular loves it because it’s so rare we see Prison decks any more. This is a deck that locks down the opponent’s draw steps with Lantern of Insight combined with either Codex Shredder or Ghoulcaller’s Bell. Zac can see the opponent’s top card (generally letting him draw a land) while getting rid of any actually relevant spells… While actually killing the opponent! (if slowly).

The low casting costs in Elsik’s deck combine with Ensnaring Bridge to cut off the attack phase as the elegant elements start coming together.

It’s the SECOND half of this podcast that is about Kytheon, Hero of Akros (and his opposite number, Gideon, Battle-Forged). Michael and Patrick detail the fast rate on the front side and spitball ways you can flip Kytheon on or ahead of schedule.

“Kytheon is sweet /
“Grixis is sweet /
“Team Ultra PRO is taking all the sugar in the world and pouring it into one single cup of coffee.”

Give “Fifty Percent Kytheon, Hero of Akros” a listen now!

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Time to be Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver!

Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver
What a time to be playing Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver!

Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver had quite a weekend at the TCGPlayer Invitational:

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa continued his historic run with Esper Dragons, using an updated list (including main-deck Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver):

Esper Dragons by Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

1 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

3 Bile Blight
2 Crux of Fate
2 Foul-Tongue Invocation
4 Hero’s Downfall
3 Thoughtseize

2 Anticipate
4 Dig Through Time
2 Dissolve
4 Silumgar’s Scorn

1 Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver
4 Dragonlord Ojutai
1 Dragonlord Silumgar

2 Caves of Koilos
4 Dismal Backwater
1 Flooded Strand
2 Haven of the Spirit Dragon
3 Island
4 Polluted Delta
2 Swamp
4 Temple of Deceit
4 Temple of Enlightenment
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

3 Drown in Sorrow
1 Foul-Tongue Invocation
2 Tasigur, the Golden Fang
1 Thoughtseize
2 Ultimate Price
2 Disdainful Stroke
2 Dragonlord’s Prerogative
2 Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver

In Paulo’s deck, Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver shifts from being a main-deck trump in the Control mirror to a way to gain advantage against midrange decks with Courser of Kruphix.

As you probably know, Patrick and Michael recently joined Team Ultra PRO. Their Team Ultra PRO teammate Adrian Sullivan continued his epic performance with Dimir Control… This time packing all four copies of Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver main deck!

Dimir Control by Adrian Sullivan

3 Perilous Vault
2 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

2 Bile Blight
1 Crux of Fate
4 Hero’s Downfall
1 Liliana Vess
2 Silence the Believers

1 AEtherspouts
3 Dig Through Time
1 Dissipate
4 Dissolve
1 Dragonlord’s Prerogative
1 Interpret the Signs
2 Jace’s Ingenuity
1 Negate

4 Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver

4 Dismal Backwater
3 Island
1 Opulent Palace
4 Polluted Delta
3 Radiant Fountain
3 Swamp
4 Temple of Deceit
1 Temple of Enlightenment
3 Temple of Malady
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

1 AEtherspouts
2 Bile Blight
1 Cranial Archive
2 Disdainful Stroke
3 Drown in Sorrow
1 Negate
1 Pearl Lake Ancient
1 Pharika’s Cure
1 Tasigur, the Golden Fang
2 Thoughtseize

Adrian’s deck occupies a strange, wonderful, and potentially advantageous place in the metagame. With literally no creatures main deck, Adrian’s Dimir Control can exploit a peerless amount of “dead” card advantage. Imagine a deck like Mardu Dragons, that usually gains an advantage by compacting value into cards like Draconic Roar and Foul-Tongue Invocation: Any such decks with lots of cards to make creatures dead… Will itself be stuck with dead draw after dead draw.

One of the unique features of Adrian’s deck is its Temple splashing with cards like Opulent Palace and Temple of Malady.

Opulent Palace is kind of a “dual land” here (tapping for both blue and black), but Temple of Malady is a carefully-chosen scry land that actually taps for green.

Remember: This is a deck with the Maximum Number of copies of Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver! Green mana access is perfect here! If Adrian steals your Polukranos, World Eater, he can actually use it to gobble up your Elvish Mystics.

In addition to discussing Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa’s Esper Dragons and Adrian Sullivan’s Dimir Control, Patrick and Michael discuss GR Devotion and other recent top finishers.

Patrick and (last week’s guest) Christine Sprankle will be the celebrity guests at the Star City Games event Grand Prix Charlotte next week!

Patrick will be signing Next Level Deckbuilding!

Christine has launched a Patreon! We couldn’t talk about it last week but we’re happy to point it out this week! If you love Christine’s cosplay make sure to check it out (and contribute)!

All this and more in “Time to be Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver!”

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Christine Sprankle and Kaalia of the Vast

“This is not a podcast with a great reputation right now.”

Welcome to “the most ridiculous episode of Top Level Podcast ever” featuring our first guest ever: “one-time World Champion / two-time Pro Tour” cosplayer Christine Sprankle!

Christine has made the big time as a cosplayer, being featured in Rolling Stone magazine this week for her cosplay of Avacyn, Angel of Hope.

Christine Sprankle as Avacyn, Angel of Hope; photo by our good friend Joey Pasco

Also featuring…

  • The first time Mike cheated at Magic
  • Commander chats!
  • Mike is a super newbie at Commander (and barely knows the rules)
  • Comparing Kaalia of the Vast to Butcher of the Horde
  • A special place called the Command Zone
  • The best part of cosplay
  • A certain foil Tarmogoyf
  • Christine in Charlotte


That’s so awesome to me that you play this card —
It’s like the centerpiece of your deck —
It’s your commander — it’s defining the colors of the cards you can play, it has a special ability that defines which other cards you will choose, so you’re going to bend all of your choices around Angels Demons and Dragons because of Kaalia [of the Vast]… And yet you have no expectation of never being able to use her ability.

Around the Internet:

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