The Masterful Design of Dream Trawler

Dream Trawler is a wonderfully designed Magic: The Gathering card

Dream Trawler… Is Mike’s favorite card from Theros Beyond Death

Now that the whole set has been revealed, Mike has a slam dunk favorite card… And it’s this big sphinx!

  • Flying, Lifelink
  • Discard a card: Dream Trawler gains hexproof until end of turn. Tap it.

A large flyer with five toughness and lifelink is reminiscent of Baneslayer Angel. This card actually costs a little more (6 instead of 5 mana). But this one offers a little something extra: It doesn’t die to Doom Blade.

“Protect the Queen”

One of the most celebrated blue strategies of all time is “protect the queen”. Rather than using your permission to stop threats like a Draw-Go deck; or to force through your combo like Trix or High Tide… Protect the Queen seeks to use permission to defend a key creature.

Usually the creature — often a large flyer — will win the game in just a few swings. You don’t need enough permission to stop everything… Just enough to keep the creature alive for as long as it takes to win. Finite and finite.

There are two advantages for protecting this sphinx.

First, you can use any card to give Dream Trawler hexproof. You don’t need to draw into particular permission.

Secondly, and subtly, you can consistently attack. Because of its draw-aligned ability (and lifelink) Dream Trawler is better on offense than defense. The trick is, if the opponent lets you attack, your Dream Trawler will already be tapped. If they use removal mid-combat, you can discard without losing the damage.

Everything to Every One

Dream Trawler has a little something from all the great and iconic control finishers from over the years. Like evrything from Serra Angel on down, it’s a large flyer… Six mana instead of five, maybe, but similar.

While it doesn’t have vigilance, Dream Trawler’s lifelink allows it to play offense and defense simultaneously. Its hexproof makes protecting it easier.

But how about those other two lines?

  • Whenever you draw a card, Dream Trawler gets +1/+0 until end of turn.
  • Whenever Dream Trawler attacks, draw a card.

It’s got some power-buffing like Psychatog.

It draws cards when attacking like Ophidian.

But even more than its nostalgia; even more than its improvement on just dying to Doom Blade; Dream Trawler is an elegantly designed card. Come listen to Patrick’s breakdown on how this creature is a masterwork:

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There’s Lots to Love with Thassa, Deep-Dwelling

Meet Thassa, Deep-Dwelling from Theros Beyond Death:

Thassa, Deep-Dwelling

Let’s break down Thassa’s abilities…

Indestructible is great! Especially if you turn Thassa “on” with devotion to blue of five or greater, a 6/5 indestructible for four mana deserves a second look.

“3U: Tap another target creature” though…

Probably too much mana.

If you’re in for Thassa, you’re probably in for that exile ability.

Thassa, Deep-Dwelling as a “personal Howling Mine”

One of the most obvious ways to play Thassa, Deep-Dwelling is with a lot of 187 creatures. If you play any creatures with abilities that trigger when they enter the battlefield, Thassa represents an easy way to build card advantage over time.

It does what it does without any incremental mana requirements every turn.

If you just choose and play creatures that generate card advantage, this God will help you generate lots of card advantage! What about…

Thassa’s Oracle from Theros Beyond Death

Thassa’s Oracle is a perfect MichaelJ card! Highly reminiscent of his beloved Omenspeaker, Thassa’s Oracle is even more on-brand with Thassa’s devotion to blue theme. It’s a card that can help you to set up your early game and blocks effectively for its casting cost. And, of course… Sometimes it just wins the game!

Arcanist’s Owl from Throne of Eldraine

How about this Bird?

Arcanist’s Owl is a good “engine” card. Meaning, once it’s already on the battlefield, Thassa can profitably exile it for more and more card advantage. Not for nothing, but the Owl also increases your devotion to blue by four (despite being an artifact). Interestingly, because it is an artifact, it can be a good target for other deck manipulation. For example, Emry, Lurker of the Loch is an early game creature you might want to play. Emry is another nice setup spell, and a worthy exile target itself.

Both these cards make nice friends with Meteor Golem!

Meteor Golem

It’s not going to be easy to lose once you start “Blinking” Meteor Golems every turn.

Best of the Rest

  • Which Elder Giant is best… And why?
  • How do you counter the un-counter-able?
  • Rating Interventions
  • All the ways you might want to UNLEASH THE KRAKEN

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All the Ways to Play (and break!) Heliod, Sun-Crowned

Heliod, Sun-Crowned

Heliod, Sun-Crowned + Walking Ballista deals infinite damage (and gains infinite life!)

As if we didn’t get enough out of Walking Ballista…

This combination is great because it can be played in not only Modern (and larger formats) but Pioneer!

The simple procedure:

  • Play out Heliod, Sun-Crowned on three mana
  • Play Walking Ballista for four mana (possibly the next turn) for a “2/2” Walking Ballista (two +1/+1 counters)
  • On turn five you can use Heliod’s ability to give Walking Ballista lifelink, then remove a counter from the Ballista to get the party started! Remove a +1/+1 counter to deal a point of damage; lifelink means you’ll gain a point of life… Meaning you can put another +1/+1 counter on the Ballista.

This is awesome, of course; but you’ll have to be a little careful. For example you can’t go three-into-four cleanly. A 1/1 Walking Ballista will die before it can get the next counter.

That said, there are ways to be faster otherwise; for example…

Mortal’s Ardor

Mortal’s Ardor saves you a ton of mana. For instance you can play Heliod on turn three and then a 1/1 Walking Ballista on turn four. Follow up with a Mortal’s Ardor for only one more mana and you will also make the Ballista a 2/2.

With this three-card combination you don’t have to use 1W and Heliod to turn on the Ballista. Mortal’s Ardor fulfills both size and lifelink requirements… Heliod’s job in this case is “just” to pay off infinite +1/+1 counters.

“Holy Tooth and Nail, Batman!”

-Mike

If You’re Interested in Another Color… Can we Interest You in Green?

Collected Company is a potential option because Heliod, Sun-Crowned is a creature card whether it’s a creature on the battlefield.

From the perspective of Collective Company, Heliod is priced to move. Walking Ballista, however, is not. But…

Spike Feeder

At least in Modern, Collected Company into Heliod and Spike Feeder doesn’t even require any more mana. Just remove a +1/+1 counter from Spike Feeder to gain two life, and Heliod will pay it back. You don’t kill the opponent outright, but gaining infinite life will usually win the game.

Builds including these cards can also exploit cards like Archangel of Thune for redundancy.

“Soul Sisters” Can Break Heliod, Sun-Crowned in a Variety of Formats

There are no shortage of Soul Warden effects.

In Theros Beyond Death alone, we’ve got…

Daxos, Blessed by the Sun

If you’re on the Mono-White Beatdown train, you can just play Daxos and Walking Ballista in the same turn (which will trigger Daxos, and therefore Heliod, and therefore grow Walking Ballista) to again save mana.

The advantages of this build are many. Daxos and Heliod are highly synergistic coming from the whole “Devotion to White” angle. You probably have great fundamental expectation against decks like Mono-Red or Boros Burn. And a legitimate Plan B attack strategy.

While it lacks the infinite damage (and infinite life gain) of the Walking Ballista builds in Pioneer or Modern, a Standard deck can play these two cards together… With a great likelihood of actually turning Heliod into a monstrous 5/5 for three.

And lots, lots more…

Example:

What’s better, Birth of Meletis or Wall of Omens?

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How to Think About Klothys, God of Destiny

Klothys, God of Destiny
Klothys, God of Destiny is a little tricky

Is Klothys, God of Destiny Great at Attacking Graveyards?

… Kind of.

Mike starts his analysis this week talking about how this card might interact with the newly-revealed Elspeth; and the Escape mechanic in general.

Klothys, God of Destiny can only go after one card at a time, and the timing has to be right. This is not a “Tormod’s Crypt” sort of card, especially in larger formats.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t incredible.

“Put me down for five stars.”

-Patrick

Compare Klothys to Sulfuric Vortex…

Sulfuric Vortex sees regular play in Legacy.

Like Klothys, God of Destiny, Sulfuric Vortex costs three mana. But unlike Klothys, it can be destroyed. Moreover, both players take damage! Instead, here, the opponent loses two life while you gain two life!

Setting aside the life gain implications, that Drain Life-like ability — turn after turn — is an incredible deal for three mana. The trick to this card is that the “graveyard hate” aspect is not central to its general game play.

Setting Up Klothys, God of Destiny

Okay genius!

Doesn’t Klothys ask us to do something to get it online? Sulfuric Vortex can just sit in play, but Klothys actually has to gobble on non-land cards in some graveyard or other to get going.

What about just playing Magic?

Just play out your stuff. Play out a creature. The opponent will either kill it or your creature will get going. What about combat? Creatures killing one another put cards into one or both graveyards.

Or you can fuel it yourself! A Lava Spike deck might love this card. They burn the opponent and create fuel for Klothys.

Yet…

Klothys, God of Destiny is also great against Lava Spike decks! It is a persistent source of life gain. This is especially relevant where the opponent is putting cards into their own graveyard for Klothys to eat.

Corollary: Red Decks will be incentivized to play Grim Lavamancer more than ever (to exile cards from their own graveyards in response to Klothys doing it for you).

Oh, and sometimes Klothys, God of Destiny is a 4/5 indestructible creature

Seven devotion is a steep price, but you’ll get it online… sometimes.

Don’t look for Klothys to need to be a huge combat creature to contribute, though.

Plus! Grey Merchant of Asphodel and a handful of red and green fatties from Theros Beyond Death. Check it all out:

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First Look at Theros Beyond Death

Theros Beyond Death previews are already upon us!

Here come our thoughts about some of the most exciting spoilers to hit the Internet this week…

About that [-3] on Elspeth, Sun’s Nemesis…

Elspeth, Sun’s Nemesis is all about Escape

Elspeth, Sun’s Nemesis is a curious Planeswalker. A Planeswalker with only “minus” abilities is not something we’re used to seeing… And Elspeth has three of them!

Patrick points out that — including the Escape — Elspeth, Sun’s Nemesis actually has four abilities. This is where the [-3] comes in.

The [-3] allows you to put Elspeth into your graveyard any time you used the [-2] the previous turn. It’s not that gaining five life is so exciting… It’s that gaining five life without using any mana might be. This will bury Elspeth, allowing you to Escape her for 4WW. Depending on the disposition of your graveyard, you will be able to loop Elspeth casts over and over to produce tons of 1/1 tokens and grind down the opponent’s interaction.

Ahiok, Nightmare Muse is…

Can Ashiok compete at the five?

Ashiok, Nightmare Muse has some stiff competition. At a minimum, the five casting cost Planeswalker division includes Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God!

But that doesn’t invalidate Ashiok, Nightmare Muse entirely.

  • For one thing 2/3 Nightmare creature tokens are an interesting asset in a world where other people are trafficking in 2/2 creatures.
  • Ashiok can answer “anything” with his [-3] minus

“Probably better than Deathbellow War Cry.”

-Patrick

When do you want Athreos, Shroud-Veiled from Theros Beyond Death?

Athreos, Shroud-Veiled

Hot take: Athreos is pretty expensive relative to its impact on the board at the point it resolves. While indestructible, Athreos might not be able to block!

However!

In a grindy matchup, Athreos might be completely unbeatable. If you give this card enough time (in a matchup where creatures, combat, and removal matter)… It’s going to be tough to beat.

Check out our First Look at Theros Beyond Death now!

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The Great Henge and Other Great Cards from Throne of Eldraine

The Great Henge

  • 7GG
  • Legendary Artifact
  • This spell costs {X} less to cast, where X is the greatest power among creatures you control.
  • {T}: Add {G}{G}. You gain 2 life.
  • Whenever a nontoken creature enters the battlefield under your control, put a +1/+1 counter on it and draw a card.

How Cheap Does The Great Henge Have to Be Before You’re Into It?

This Legendary Artifact is clearly powerful.

It’s reminiscent of top end threats like The Immortal Sun… A big artifact that helps you out with mana and makes your guys bigger and draws you extra cards. But then again, it’s nine — nine — mana at retail cost. Luckily you can get it for less mana… If you do the work.

Mike thinks The Great Henge is “stupid” at four mana.

What if all you did was cast this card on turn three?

If you play Lovestruck Beast on turn three, you will have a five power creature in play already. That discounts The Great Henge from nine mana to four… Which is how much mana you will probably have the next turn!

Boom!

Now go ahead and tap for Good Game and run out something like this… With an extra +1/+1 counter, even!

Barkhide Troll is durable with one +1/+1 counter on it… But two?

The Henge gets really powerful in the middle turns, where you can use its mana production to Ramp, rather than just make a two drop. It’s not out of the question to lay out a 5/5 Questing Beast (or so) the turn The Great Henge hits the battlefield.

So Many Great Cards from Throne of Eldraine

  • We already thought Throne of Eldraine was pushing Adventure creatures… And then we met Brazen Borrower. Wow what a future teammate to Nightpack Ambusher!
  • We finally have the context to talk about Edgewall Inkeeper and Lucky Clover. Will Adventures-linear be a thing?
  • Who would have thought that in a set this big and flashy that a common Island would be the cross-format All-Star? Mystic Sanctuary could be a problem with, like, fetchlands; Crucible of Worlds; Cryptic Command… You know, all the cards Azorius Control decks already want to play in Modern.

Check it all out now!

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So Much Brewing With Throne of Eldraine

Nobody’s Making You Tap Castle Locthwain

Castle Locthwain is a nuanced, powerful, but not obvious new tool.

Castle Lochtwain is already splitting the community.

“It’s not that good,” say some. “You’re just going to take, like, eight damage.”

Well… Did you think maybe you’re supposed to take eight?

The reality is that you don’t have to tap it. It’s relatively low cost to get into your deck, but presents a lot of useful options.

  • If you’re in topdeck mode, Castle Locthwain from Throne of Eldraine is pretty great. You’re only going to take one and you’re going to dig past your opponent.
  • Some strategies — like Death’s Shadow — actually reward you for losing life. You’re welcome.
  • Subtly, this is a way you can generate card advantage — at the end of your opponent’s turn, no less — even if they’ve got Teferi, Time Raveler in play!
  • Whatever Esper! It’s probably just great in black-red decks.

Castle Vantress is an Expensive Way to Do It

Castle Vantress offers an ability we all want… But it kind of costs a ton.

Don’t expect this member of the Throne of Eldraine “castle” cycle to be super popular. “It could be okay to play one” says our beloved Pro Tour Champion, but it’s essentially five mana to not actually draw an extra card.

Probably effective in slow, grinding, matchups; though.

Castle Garenbrig is going to be a four-of

There are totally going to be decks with, like 17 Forests, 4 Castle Garenbrig.

Castle Garenbrig, on the other hand, is a super obvious contributor from Throne of Eldraine. Many decks are just going to play Forests and Castle Garenbrigs (say four copies)… Which will turn Castle Garenbrig into, essentially, a Forest.

… Except you’re going to be able to land Feasting Troll King (and its Food tokens!) a turn early.

This card is essentially an Ancient Tomb with no life loss drawback that also washes mana. Castle Garenbrig just looks great!

Will Castle Ardenvale be the Gem of Throne of Eldraine?

Compare Castle Ardenvale to…
Kjeldoran Outpost.

Castle Ardenvale is more-or-less just better than Kjeldoran Outpost. If you think back to the Outpost’s era, you either had a strategy to beat it… Or you lost to it.

Cards like this one are especially useful because they occupy “land” slots instead of “spell” slots. That means you can save space for other things, and win incidentally with an army of free 1/1 creatures.

Stomp // Bonecrusher Giant will be a cross-format All-Star

Stomp would be close to good enough by itself… But add on the Giant?

Stomp // Bonecrusher Giant is “clearly of the Top 5 cards in the set” according to Patrick.

We agree the card will be highly played in Standard. Michael, for instance, thinks it will immediately Top 8 a Star City Open the first week the card is legal.

On top of that, though, Patrick thinks the card will see play in not only Modern but Legacy and even Vintage! In Legacy, they already play all kinds of terrible red three drops, and this one has a removal spell tacked on. The needs in Vintage are quite specific, and this card does multiple things reasonably well.

There is too much Throne of Eldraine in this podcast to summarize here

  • The Magic Mirror…
  • Fae of Wishes…
  • Black Lance Paragon…

… Really, more brewing than you can even fit in The Cauldron of Eternity.

You’ll just have to listen to the podcast:

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Rosethorn Halberd from Throne of Eldraine

Rosethorn Halberd is our exclusive preview card from Throne of Eldraine

Rosethorn Halberd: It’s Like an Unholy Strength for G

Unholy Strength was a playable card in multiple Constructed formats past. Giving a single creature +2/+1 for B was solid in certain Suicide Black builds…

Now we have essentially the effect at G!

It’s important to remember Rosethorn Halberd is kind of an Unholy Strength with upside. The free equip makes the card very comparable to that age-old creature enchantment, but the fact that you can move it if you have five mana (or continue to reap value in a long game) is all on the bonus.

Rosethorn Halberd… Plus Shimmer Dragon?

Shimmer Dragon is a new card from Throne of Eldraine that has Mike’s creative juices flowing. It’s reminiscent of Mahamoti Djinn… But has multiple abilities that come online if you have artifacts in play.

In a sense, Rosethorn Halberd is just a cheap artifact. You can drop it before you play Shimmer Dragon. If you have enough [cheap] artifacts, you might be able to start Shimmer Dragon off with hexproof!

Further, the tapped-ness (or not) of Rosethorn Halberd is irrelevant. Ergo, you can use it to help draw cards if you have another artifact!

It also plays both ways! If you have Shimmer Dragon first, you can just play Rosethorn Halberd, get the free equip, and end up with an even bigger Dragon. At the same time… Everything else still applies. You just get a quicker clock.

Rosethorn Halberd is Reminiscent of Rancor

Though Rosethorn Halberd is very reminiscent of Unholy Strength, there is a lot of Rancor to it, as well. Unlike Unholy Strength, Rancor has some grind and long game to it… Just like this artifact that doesn’t go anywhere if its creature teammate dies.

Rosethorn Halberd even has a little upside relative to Rancor! If you were to cast Rancor and the opponent removed the target creature in response, Rancor would go to the graveyard. If your intended creature is destroyed before Rosethorn Halberd can buff it, you get to keep Rosethorn Halberd. The next equip might be painful… but you won’t lose the card.

There are lots of tricky things you can do with this card, from receiving the ministrations of an Animating Faerie (Bring to Life), to buffing the same Faerie in another order!

But Patrick thinks its best contribution will be in green aggressive decks.

Let me introduce you to Barkhide Troll or Wildborn Preserver.

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Wildborn Preserver in Simic Flash

Wildborn Preserver

Wildborn Preserver is a home run!

On its face, Wildborn Preserver “isn’t too far off” …

A 2/2 Flash creature for 1G isn’t the greatest on its face… But it’s still pretty good. This card can come down on turn two to mug the opponent’s Healer’s Hawk.

Boom! Simian Grunts card advantage!

Of course it is a great compliment to — and just another fast drop for — the Simic Flash deck. You can play mostly on the opponent’s end step, leaving up mana for permission, or creatures like this one, obviously.

Given its Flash and low cost, this card is a great two mana teammate to Brineborn Cutthroat. Interestingly enough, it almost doesn’t matter which you play first: They buff each other!

Wildborn Preserver has great synergy with Nightpack Ambusher

Playing a fast Wildborn Preserver [whether or not you mug the opponent’s one drop] is potentially good on its own. But the card gets ca-razy once you add centerpiece Nightpack Ambusher to the mix.

Nightpack Ambusher is a creature itself (giving you the opportunity to buff the Preserver). But more importantly, it spits out more and more Wolf creature tokens in future turns. Importantly for specifically this card, it just matters that you make creatures… It doesn’t care if they’re Elves, Wolves, tokens, or anything else specifically.

Therefore you can make a 2/2 (really 3/3) Wolf creature token and tap a little mana to buff the Wildborn Preserver. You can always leave up 1UU for your permission spell… Or not, if you don’t think the opponent will have a play. It won’t take long for your 2/2 to grow up into a 10/10.

Wildborn Preserver isn’t the only great creature, or green creature we talk about this week…

Michael and Patrick are initially split on Questing Beast.

They are not, however, split on the unmitigated beatdown that will be Feasting Troll King. Wow is that card great.

Both play offense-defense, and both are aggressively costed. Not a bad time to be a green creature…

More in the podcast:

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Garruk, Cursed Huntsman and Our First Looks at Throne of Eldraine

Garruk, Cursed Huntsman looks to be “the big card” of the new set.

Elspeth is back… Just in Garruk’s body

A few years back, months before we knew the word “Abzan” (and fell in love with Siege Rhino) Patrick won Pro Tour Journey Into Nyx with Elspeth, Sun’s Champion.

Like Garruk, Cursed Huntsman, Elspeth had three abilities: One made token creatures to attack or defend; the “minus” could destroy a creature or some creatures with value; and her third ability gave a buff to all her friends.

Both Planeswalkers cost six mana.

Heck of an act to follow… But with these abilities? Garruk looks to be up to the task.

[0]: Create two 2/2 black and green Wolf creature tokens with “When this creature dies, put a loyalty counter on each Garruk you control.”

This sure is an interesting [0] ability!

Unlike most Planeswalkers Garruk, Cursed Huntsman can’t add loyalty naturally. Outside of a proliferate synergy or Ajani piggyback, Garruk will rely on his Wolf sidekicks to gain loyalty.

What should the opponent do when Garruk makes two Wolves? Attacking into them will put Garruk in position for the [-6] immediately! They’re tough to block, if you’re going to respect that eventuality, as well.

Not for nothing: If other Garruk Planeswalkers are legal in the format, Garruk, Cursed Huntsman will be able to make them that much better.

[-3]: Destroy target creature. Draw a card.

This second ability is just awesome.

Garruk, Cursed Huntsman can come down; whack the opponent’s best creature, and leave a two loyalty Planeswalker. This is essentially a three-for-one!

[-6]: You get an emblem with “Creatures you control get +3/+3 and have trample.”

This emblem is basically a persistent Overrun. Imagine Garruk lives. All your future Wolves will be 5/5 trample creatures!

In the alternative, you should have access to 6+ mana. Surely you can do something interesting with that (and your hot new emblem).

Throne of Eldraine is hot and hilarious already! We go over all the new mechanics, and many other cards in this week’s podcast. Give us a listen now!

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