Some of Our Favorites from Guilds of Ravnica

Guilds of Ravnica
Guilds of Ravnica continues to wow us!

Patrick and Michael continue their takes on Guilds of Ravnica and its many new cards.

Michael Sun Rises and Falls with Doom Whisperer

Michael is over the moon for this black five drop. Reminiscent of both his tap-out strategies and the Titan cycle, Doom Whisperer is one of the best “last” cards you can play. In an attrition battle? Your opponent will fade some of the time. Remember to pay 2 life? You simply won’t.

That’s just the fair side! Combine Doom Whisperer with a little Jump-Start and the cards will flow. With enough life, you can self-Mill your entire deck if you have to. This would give you access to a level of self-mill that, at least according to Mike, hasn’t been seen since the days of Hermit Druid.

Patrick Asks if Beacon Bolt isn’t exactly what Izzet ordered

This ability — to deal a variable amount of damage — for just three mana is highly consistent with what Izzet decks seem to want to do. It’s not going to be tough to juice that graveyard… Especially when so many different cards are pointed at the same thing.

Etrata, the Silencer is just cool

Okay… Maybe not “just” cool. Cool AND good!

This card has a built-in card advantage engine… Even when it’s not cheating to win the game. Only thing is? Sometimes it just wins.

With a resilient toughness greater than you might typically see for a four drop, Etrata, the Silencer is tough to kill. And you can’t ever block it. Need a reason to steer clear of Mono-Green StOmPy? Look no further. This card will shred Mono-Green if the battlefield is at parity… And there isn’t much StOmPy can do about it.

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Crackling Drake is Our Official Guilds of Ravnica Preview

Wizards of the Coast gave us this great, cool, preview card: Crackling Drake!

Crackling Drake

Crackling Drake is Not a Dragon 🙁

… That doesn’t mean that you can’t play it with Dragons. At UURR casting this card on turn four consistently is going to be a challenge. At least, you are going to have to build a specialized mana base for it.

But that’s okay!

Crackling Drake may not be a Dragon, but it can possibly play well with Dragons… One Dragon in particular.

Niv-Mizzet, Parun
Niv-Mizzet, Parun

Both of these cards really like instants and sorceries. The four mana Drake gets more power from casting instants and sorceries, while the six mana Dragon draws extra cards.

Speaking of which…

Crackling Drake has lots of text

Two things to note:

  1. Crackling Drake draws a card when it enters the battlefield. THAT IS REALLY GOOD!
  2. The Drake also counts both the graveyard and exile. This is an important point for a couple of reasons… In powered formats, you can cast Demonic Consultation to do dozens of damage on the spot. In Standard, there is a huge advantage to playing jump-start cards. They go together like peanut butter and chocolate.

Thanks again to Wizards for our great preview! You can listen to our podcast on this new card now:

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Get Ready for Assassin’s Trophy

Assassin's Trophy
Assassin’s Trophy

Assassin’s Trophy is in Rare Company

Assassin’s Trophy has a down-side: That is plain to see. It in fact has the same down-side as Staples like Path to Exile and Settle the Wreckage.

Mike notes how players had question marks around the white cards before they had all become so popular. This caused some players to underrate them, and might cause some players to underrate the Golgari instant.

The truth is, this card is beyond flexible. Patrick thinks it would see non-zero play at four mana. It’s not actually so far off of an Utter End.

Compare it to Vindicate: Once you get past the ugly down-side, Assassin’s Trophy is a full mana cheaper and an instant (versus Vindicate’s sorcery). While you can’t really get the Vindicate / Recoil play pattern of the old Esper Angels deck… We probably wouldn’t want to see that anyway.

Assassin’s Trophy Can Blow Up Lands

Compare it to Ghost Quarter: Mike once underrated Ghost Quarter because of the inherent lack of card advantage. The same issue is present here, and becomes pronounced if you ever point this at a land. But! What happens when you aim it at a nonbasic land? When you’re taking out an Urza’s Tower, do you care so much that they are getting a basic Forest back?

It gets better: The opponent can run out of basics. At some point, you can overwhelm the opponent with so much redundancy with Field of Ruin and other, similar, effects that the opponent will literally have no basics to search up. If you have Crucible of Worlds + Ghost Quarter (in Modern), you can even start hitting their basic lands!

Look for this card to be a four-of Staple in Standard and wider formats. It’s so good (and so cheap to start) Mike even thinks it’ll see play in Nullhide Ferox decks.

Nullhide Ferox

It’s so good, people will play it in the same 75 (if not 60) as a card that says you can’t cast noncreature spells.

Tons more Guilds of Ravnica, besides! Check it out:

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Don’t forget: Bonus episode tomorrow!

Ral, Izzet Viceroy (and lots more Izzet)

Ral, Izzet Viceroy
Ral, Izzet Viceroy is one of the most exciting new cards from Guilds of Ravnica

Ral, Izzet Viceroy is not “the man” … yet

While Teferi, Hero of Dominaria is still the top Planeswalker topping control deck curves… Ral has some great things going for him.

Don’t underestimate Ral’s enormous starting loyalty! Ral can essentially start at six loyalty. Even when Ral is killing a creature, he will have two loyalty left. Two is so much more than one in a world with Goblin Chainwhirler.

While Ral’s [-3] ability is substantially behind Teferi’s defensive ability, all three options on this card are still awesome. His card drawing ability is great and his ultimate looks backbreaking.

Sinister Sabotage is even better than you think

Sinister Sabotage
Sinister Sabotage

Sinister Sabotage is the strongest Counterspell since Cryptic Command. It is intuitively more flexible than Dissolve. Surveil 1 is simply stronger than Scry 1. Both abilities can leave a useful card on top of your deck. Surveil 1 can not only make it even less likely for you to draw an undesirable card than putting it on the bottom of your deck, you can also exploit graveyard synergies. For example, you can bin a card like Radical Idea (or any Jump-start card).

Don’t sleep on this one: It’s awesome.

There are plenty of reasons to try Firemind’s Research

Firemind's Research
Firemind’s Research

On the surface, Firemind’s Research looks like a Search for Azcanta… In actuality, it’s more of a Dynavolt Tower.

While not necessarily a four-of in every Izzet deck, this card has solid potential. It pays you back for playing the instants and sorceries you want to play anyway; plus gives you a way to win!

Tons of Guilds of Ravnica action in this new podcast. Listen to it all in “Ral, Izzet Viceroy (and lots more Izzet)”

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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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