Exclusive UMA Preview: Sovereigns of Lost Alara

Sovereigns of Lost Alara
Sovereigns of Lost Alara was the defining centerpiece to a powerful strategy.

This spirit is big…

But it’s not really that big for its cost. I mean… 4/5 for six? That barely qualifies as a fatty. Now 4/5 for four might be more like it.

Well… Sovereigns of Lost Alara did have Exalted. When attacking alone, it was more of a 5/6 for six, right? Sure, sure. But maybe more importantly, its Exalted had “haste”. Like, if you had a creature already in play, it could attack and get the Exalted.

But still… 4/5 for…

What about 15/16 for six?

Fifteen-sixteen? What are you talking about, Willis?

Eldrazi Conscription
How about you go and get Eldrazi Conscription?

Oh yeah, there’s that second clause after “Exalted”. If you attacked with a creature alone — Sovereigns or someone else — you could search your library for an Aura and play it for free. It just made sense to play a huge one that had a huge impact on the game (that you wouldn’t normally want to pay retail for).

Enter: One of the most successful Standard decks of its era.

Give our little preview / recap a listen:

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Is Experimental Frenzy the New Necropotence?

Experimental Frenzy
Mike thinks Experimental Frenzy is a Necropotence-esque card.

What does he mean by this? To Mike, Experimental Frenzy is going to inform both deck design and in-game play. Like Necropotence, the Frenzy is going to offer a relentless stream of card advantage limited only by how much land you have in play.

But the card — at least when surrounded by a bunch of cheap creatures and burn — is really good at playing many cards per turn + hitting that land drop. That said…

Experimental Frenzy gets stuck on consecutive lands

Sadly, this is a true story.

Part of the long-term challenge in building Experimental Frenzy Red Decks will be how you solve this problem. There will be multiple possible solutions. Here are some ideas:

  • Dismissive Pyromancer – A Human Wizard, this card synergizes with the Wizard’s Lightning you’ve already got. The Pyromancer can shoot at large creatures but also change the top card of your library under Frenzy.
  • Treasure Map – An amazing tool against mid-range and Control decks, Treasure Map is one of the best possible cards to have in play while under Frenzy. It can help you dig to what you need early, then keep your gas going late.
  • Field of Ruin – Mike is currently sideboarding this card as his extra land. Not only does it have text against stuff like Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin; it can change the top card of your library while you are under Frenzy.
  • Risk Factor – a new card from Guilds of Ravnica, Risk Factor can be played from the graveyard while you are under Frenzy, often changing your top card. For next level performance, try discarding Risk Factor to your Risk Factor.

The Best of the Rest:

Boros Angels – Find out about the new home of Lyra Dawnbringer and friends.

G/W Tokens – Mike claims this is the most powerful initial deck in the format.

Blue control (various) – Get ready for a change of pace!

One thing is for sure: Standard is waaaaay different than it was a couple of weeks ago. Check it out:

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Doom Whisperer: The Critics Agree!

Doom Whisperer
Doom Whisperer is great, and is going to be great!

This Nightmare Demon has a solid body for its casting cost.

This creature easily passes Magic’s lowest bar. At 6/6 for 3BB, Doom Whisperer is far bigger for a five drop than many tournament (or at least Standard) Staples. For comparison, cross-archetype All-Star Glorybringer was only 4/4 and current Baneslayer Angel Lyra, Dawnbringer is 5/5. Doom Whisperer towers over most of its competitors… Or, rather, tramples over them.

Oh yeah, both flying and trample are kind of thrown in!

Doom Whisperer is a lockdown threat.

While its size and its evasion are both spot-on, neither is what really makes this card so interesting. Surveil 2 — with no attached mana requirement — is something special. The Whisperer can break an opponent in multiple ways. We think its most common use will be in mid-range control decks. In such decks, the Nightmare Demon can utilize Surveil to ensure drawing action, turn after turn. In some decks it will be able to load the graveyard with jump-start cards, or even trigger Narcomoeba and Crippling Chill. But the “mere” ability to keep a permission spell on top for three turns will be enough to win most races.

It can be played in multiple different strategies

There is no reason to damn Doom Whisperer to Mono-Black Control. I mean, Mono-Black Control is probably going to be a reasonable home… But so will Orzhov Control, Golgari, Sultai, and other color combinations. That is because a 6/6 flyer for five can slot right into many of those strategies. Creature decks sometimes need a huge finisher, Control decks need a way to win at all: This card can fit both those roles and almost everything between them.

This week’s podcast offers some Doom Whisperer consensus over last week’s… But also explores a card Mike thinks will make a big splash in Modern (which Patrick thinks is fringe playable, and maybe only by Reid Duke); a selection of small evasion creatures (you might want to buy back from the graveyard); and an exploration of Guilds Goblins. Check it out:

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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).