Oath of Kaya is Pretty Horrible

Oath of Kaya

Oath of Kaya is Pretty Horrible… For anyone who wants to play fair Magic

In this episode, Mike reveals his favorite card from War of the Spark

It’s Commence the Endgame!

Commence the Endgame

Here’s his thinking: Commence the Endgame is a hefty six mana, yes; but it does everything he ever wanted. It draws “only” two cards. But instead of the other two cards he might get from, say, a Dragonlord’s Prerogative, the rest translates into a kind of Maro. This, of course, feeds into his new pet mechanic: Amass.

Patrick is a little less impressed. “It’s just another card draw spell that makes a dude,” says the Hall of Famer.

“I don’t know if it’s the best card; but it’s my favorite.”
-MichaelJ

Everything You Could Ever Want to Know About Oath of Kaya from War of the Spark

  • Don’t love Commence the Endgame? Mike posits Oath of Kaya might be the actual best card in the set.
  • It’s like a slow Lightning Helix. Throwback to fourteen years ago: Mike wrote the original preview for Lightning Helix on the Mother Ship!
  • But it’s not just a slow Lightning Helix. This card is a massive disincentive to anyone wanting to play fair Magic at all. Remember all those shiny Viashino Pyromancers WotC gave away to MTG Arena players a few months back? They’ll never see the light of the stage or the ning of a strike again. Not with this around.
  • “Well if they never trigger the second ability it’s just worse than a Lightning Helix.” -Patrick

God-Eternal Oketra is… Very Difficult to Kill

God-Eternal Oketra

It’s not actually unkillable. It is, in fact, very difficult to kill.

God-Eternal Oketra is also an amazing card advantage engine! “People have built their entire deck design around much worse value than ‘cast any creature'” in the past.

This card seems tailor made for G/W. It prevents you from being punished for drawing a late game Llanowar Elves. In fact, you’ll get a nice five-damage-for-one-mana return on one of those!

Additionally, cards like Growth-Chamber Guardian will be extra useful as they can help ensure a steady stream of triggering creatures. Just a great card.

Our intrepid duo talk more and more great cards! War of the Spark just keeps giving them to us! We have no idea what Standard will look like in a couple of weeks; but it’s going to be… Different for sure.

Check out our new episode in full:

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The Most Exciting Feather, the Redeemed Combos

Feather, the Redeemed

Feather, the Redeemed requires little-to-no actual redemption.

Normally when someone tells you they have a 3/4 flyer for three mana you ask them how much damage you are expected to accept in return. This one actually gives you an insane card advantage engine in exchange for being charged negative-one mana in creature casting cost.

Some of our initial Ideas on How to Break (or at least exploit) Feather, the Redeemed:

  • Modern: Aurelia’s Fury – Remember this card? It’s like a Fireball and an Abeyance fell in love, got married, and had an instant speed baby. Conveniently, Aurelia’s Fury is already in R/W! At four mana you can ping Feather, ping your opponent for one, and lock them out. Until they can break up this combo, the opponent will be unable to cast non-creature spells on their turn. Because you ping Feather, you get this one back; because you ping the opponent, the clock gets one faster while ruining their plans.
  • Modern: Lightning Helix – Nice job having four toughness, Feather! At four mana you can just hit Feather on your turn AND on the opponent’s turn to gain six per turn cycle. Obviously at its most effective against an opponent who is unable to deal the fourth point but also is trying to kill you with damage.
  • Standard: Defiant Strike – An Opt machine!
  • Standard: Reckless Rage – Perhaps the most exciting showcase of what Feather can do, Reckless Rage from Rivals of Ixalan gives you a “Slaughter with buyback” for one mana per cycle.

Sweepers and Other Topics

As you might suspect, we go over several topics from War of the Spark. But one of the more interesting ones is around all the sweepers available. Here are some cool takeaways:

  • Time Wipe – You can cast this even if you don’t have any creatures. No surprise there. But what if the opponent doesn’t have any? Time Wipe to bounce your own Augur of Bolas is… Not horrible. A five mana Boomerang is way better than a dead card.
  • Solar Blaze – Is it good at all? It’s certainly good with Aurelia… Only Deafening Clarion is better. “Closer to Ritual of Soot than Kaya’s Wrath.” -Patrick

Give it a listen:

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Chandra, Fire Artisan has a Hell of a Static Ability

Chandra, Fire Artisan

Chandra, Fire Artisan from War of the Spark

The newest take on Chandra starts off with a very different kind of ability for a Planeswalker… A non-loyalty one!

It’s important to note that it doesn’t matter who removes the counters from Chandra — you or your opponent — or how they are removed. You can take them off with that [-7], or by operating a Heart of Kiran in some format. Or, in the most obvious scenario, you tick Chandra up from four loyalty to five; the opponent attacks her to death… And gets five to the face for his trouble.

But let’s talk about that [-7] for a second, shall we? In addition to a Wheel of Fortune like effect (that doesn’t force you to discard your hand!) Chandra will give the opponent a zinger for seven. That’s kind of like an Ultimate itself, isn’t it?

This new Chandra is going to be an important tool in the new Standard. It’s probably easier to work with than Experimental Frenzy, for instance. A Red Deck is far less likely to “get stuck” than under Frenzy, because Chandra lets you keep playing cards normally, on top of her [+1]. And when you go [-7] to try to finish the game? A Red Deck can both appreciate dealing seven to the opponent’s face and have a low enough set of casting costs to actually take advantage of the Ultimate’s time limitation.

Verdict: This card is going to be awesome in Standard!

War of the Spark: The Best of the Rest

Chandra is actually the last card we talked about this episode, more or less. Check out some other War of the Spark discussions:

  • Niv-Mizzet Reborn – A hell of a Mulldrifter! “Somehow a Tidings with selection that has a 6/6 flyer attached”
  • Angrath’s Rampage – Mike was originally lukewarm until he realized this card kills Bogles and Geist of St. Traft. “Modern, here we come!”
  • Dreadhorde Invation – Patrick thinks one of Mike’s favorite cards so far is only pretty good. Just remember that a 1/1 ground creature (or +1/+1 counter) is much worse than a whole new 1/1 flyer.
  • Bolas’s Citadel – How much would you pay for an Experimental Frenzy that would not shut down your ability to use your hand?

All these, and tons more!

You’ll have to give Chandra, Fire Artisan (and pals) a listen to find out more:

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Storrev, Devkarin Lich is our Exclusive War of the Spark Preview

WotC asked us to introduce you to:
Storrev, Devkarin Lich

Storrev, Devkarin Lich is Close on the Body

“There was a time when a four casting cost 5/5 cost you a life a turn and everyone was signing up for that.”

Storrev is “only” 5/4 Trample… But on the other hand it doesn’t cost you a life per turn. Furthermore, being Legendary is actually an upside in a world where Cast Down is one of the most common removal cards.

Point being, this Legendary Zombie Elf Wizard is close on the stats… Not close enough without its abilities maybe, but…

You’re Really Going to Want Storrev for the Hit Trigger, Though

Storrev is essentially a 5/4 trampling Ophidian.

For a card of this type — which often come out at 1/3 for three or even four mana in the case of Thieving Magpie — Storrev has outstanding power and toughness.

But that’s not all!

Trample is really meaningful here!

The opponent can’t just throw chump blockers or small token creatures in front of Storrev in order to prevent the card advantage trigger. Hand in hand, the ability to attack opposing Planeswalkers (and not just opponents themselves) makes Storrev a highly flexible attacker and source of card advantage.

What Might You Want to Get with Storrev, Devkarin Lich?

Storrev is fine as an attrition / grinding tool. Or as the realization of the old Jamie Wakefield “it’s the last fatty that kills you” theory. Storrev can clean up after you’ve traded a bunch and that’s great.

However, you can also do some aiming with this card. Here are some ideas (that, admittedly, transcend just Standard).

  • Sakura-Tribe Elder – You can play the Rampant Growth-like Staple Snake to get Storrev out on turn three… And then get it back with your first attack!
  • Cycling creatures – One of Storrev’s strengths is the ability to “aim” its card drawing, rather than just drawing whatever is on top of your deck. But if you want that kind of ability, creatures with cycling or landcycling work great. Engine!
  • Plaguecrafter – Sacrifice this to itself and you can clear a path for your Legendary Zombie Elf Wizard… And have fuel to clear a path again next turn.
  • Explore creatures – Merfolk Branchwalker and Jadelight Ranger can put random creatures into your graveyard… Right where Storrev can get them back for value!
  • Planeswalkers – Especially some of the new War of the Spark ones that only have “minus” abilities. Reload!

We’ll be back tomorrow!

But first, give our Free Preview Podcast a listen:

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Skewer the Critics (and other spectacular Spectacles)

Skewer the Critics
Get ready to Skewer the Critics

Krark-Clan Ironworks… We Hardly Knew Ya!

Or, we’ve known you for seventeen years. Either or.

The King is Dead! Long live Ravnica Allegiance.

Skewer the Critics and Light Up the Stage Are Already Making Waves in Standard

Skewer the Critics is like “Rift Bolt 2K19” according to Mike. Along with Light Up the Stage (aka “Red draw-two”), these Spectacles are driving success for initial builds of Mono-Red.

Patrick and Michael agree that the initial Mono-Red decks in Standard are going to be balls to the wall aggressive. This is a move away from the Arch of Orazca / Treasure Map Red Decks; or even the Experimental Frenzy builds that have been such important pillars of Standard for the last few months. This is because they believe in the importance of racing Wilderness Reclamation decks. If you let one of these upcoming Rampers get going, no midrange deck will be able to keep pace.

Skewer the Critics and Light Up the Stage in Modern

Michael argues that these same Spectacle cards will be outstanding in Modern. Skewer the Critics does basically the same thing as every non-creature card in a Modern Red Deck… And it does so for only one mana, assuming Spectacle. Mike’s thinking is that moving down casting costs is the most important thing a Red Deck can be doing right now; plus, the ability to cut a land lets you increase spell and threat density.

WATCH THIS SPACE for a Modern recap (assuming Mike kicks butt and takes names this weekend in New Jersey).

Make Mine Rakdos: The Black Spectacles

  • Drill Bit – Patrick points out how this can pay off a player for running aggressive one drops. Mike sees it as a supplement to Duress (probably out of the sideboard) but is a little skeptical of the Spectacle.
  • Spawn of Mayhem – Awesome in part because it so easily enables future Spectacles.

… Plus a Top-Five card that is sure to make your Wilderness Reclamation even more broken. All in:

“Skewer the Critics (and more spectacular Spectacles)”

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Wild About Wilderness Reclamation

Wilderness Reclamation
“[Wilderness Reclamation] is not an okay card.” -Patrick

Wilderness Reclamation “doesn’t seem close”

The task seems to be figuring out cards that are good with Wilderness Reclamation. The card looks to be a slam dunk. We’ll walk through some basics on this card, then get to some of the historical comparisons.

Let’s start with Growth Spiral. Growth Spiral allows you to play Wilderness Reclamation on turn three. That’s great by itself.

You can’t normally just tap out for a four mana do-nothing and expect to live through the next few turns, but Wilderness Reclamation will untap your lands on your own end step. Depending on your other colors, you will be able to defend yourself with anything from Fog variants to Settle the Wreckage for the turn.

Turn five (or turn four with Growth Spiral) starts getting really interesting.

You can open up by playing Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. You do the whole “draw a card” thing with Teferi, then move to your end step. Teferi will untap two lands. Wilderness Reclamation will tap all five. Put one effect on the stack, tap Teferi’s bounty in response, and you’ll have access to seven.

You know: For Nexus of Fate.

“Let me get this right,” says the babe in the woods. “It’s turn four and I have both this and Teferi in play… Plus I’ve just hit a recurring Time Walk?”

“Yes,” replies the Hand of Fate.

“How quickly can I sign up for your Bant Newsletter?”

You don’t even have to play Teferi, or white at all. This card works just fine and dandy with Nexus of Fate with or without Teferi, and untapping all your lands every turn is hyper synergistic with Search for Azcanta.

How Might We Properly Gauge Wilderness Reclamation?

One of the things that’s great about this card is that, in addition to being able to spitball a cool two-three-four sequence with Teferis and Time Walks… We can just compare it to things we know have already performed.

Compare it to Thran Dynamo.

Thran Dynamo cost four mana and gave you three back immediately. Presuming your mana is all coming from lands, Wilderness Reclamation is generally — and immediately — just better. Rather than colorless mana, you get colored mana back. Rather than just three, you get four (or more). Even better, you get more and more mana over time assuming you hit your land drops.

Ditto on Gilded Lotus. Rather than paying five up front, you only have to pay four. Again, Wilderness Reclamation will generally give you more mana than the celebrated Lotus; and pay you more and more mana over time.

The Best of the Rest

  • Theater of Horrors – Looking for an alternate engine? As long as you’re aggressive, this card is generally better than Phyrexian Arena
  • Basilica Bell-Haunt – Mike comes completely around on this card. Patrick has him comparing it to Loxodon Hierarch and Siege Rhino. Synergies with The Eldest Reborn push the Bell-Haunt over the finish line.
  • Shimmer of Possibility – Impulse at sorcery speed… Not great but good at finding Wilderness Reclamation!
  • Pteramander – Solid deal for one mana.

Lots more in the podcast proper. Give it a listen!

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The Beginning and End of Angel of Grace

Angel of Grace
Angel of Grace is the Beginning… But Will Often be THE END

Angel of Grace is card #1 for Ravnica Allegiance; so… The Beginning. But it will often be the end (of the game). This Angel is an extremely powerful threat creature. Let’s check out how:

Angel of Grace has both Flash and Flying

A 5/4 flyer with flash for 3WW is no joke. With no other abilities, it would still be a consideration to play. Having flash gives this creature some important tactical advantages. Here are some examples:

  • You can double up big threats against a permission deck. Test spell them with Angel of Grace; waltz it into an Essence Scatter, but then resolve your Lyra Dawnbringer the next turn.
  • Take advantage of your opponent’s Teferi window: A common play pattern will be to tap out for Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, and then draw a card. U/W players will have at least two open lands for your next turn. Usually this will mean some amount of defense, especially if they just drew Essence Scatter with their Teferi. But with this flashy Angel, you can resolve a big 5/4 before their two lands untap. Even better, you’ll be able to attack with it, not just resolve it!
  • In general, any “threat” deck can put pressure on the opponent — whether it’s with Knights, tokens, or whatever — forcing them to cast Cleansing Nova. With Angel of Grace, you just have an instant speed window to resolve a big beater, to keep on the pressure the next turn, while the opponent is tapped out for their sweeper.

Did you say “Angel’s Grace”?

“When Angel of Grace enters the battlefield, until end of turn, damage that would reduce your life total to less than 1 reduces it to 1 instead.”

This card is obviously a little punny.

It doesn’t have Split Second (or some of the other clauses of the original instant) but this middle ability will certainly come up. It can undo a lethal attack, many combo kills, etc.

Oh, and the opponent still has to deal with your 5/4.

4WW, Exile Angel of Grace from your graveyard: Your life total becomes 10.

Like we said, we’d consider Angel of Grace without these last two abilities. This one is in particular free. You can dump the Angel for free with Search for Azcanta, or get some free value from Explore guys like Jadelight Ranger or Merfolk Branchwalker.

Regardless of how you get your Angel into the graveyard, this last clause can make your opponent miserable. You can activate the ability at instant speed. It’s not a spell so your opponent can’t Negate it. On top of all that… The card itself is on the bonus; you’re not using a card in hand or creature in play to adjust your life total.

Least important block of text? Maybe. But it’s still there, and will contribute to the success that this card can help contribute, from tournament number one.

Check out even more Ravnica Allegiance discussion here:

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Exclusive Preview: Zhur-Taa Goblin

Zhur-Taa Goblin
Zhur-Taa Goblin is kind of a Rip-Clan Crasher // Watchwolf split card.

Zhur-Taa Goblin is strictly superior to Rip-Clan Crasher

Rip-Clan Crasher
Rip-Clan Crasher

Rip-Clan Crasher was never a super successful Constructed card. It was fringe in Alara Block Constructed. Playable, sure; but fringe. However Rip-Clan Crasher shared not only a Block, but a color combination, with Bloodbraid Elf.

While few players would choose Rip-Clan Crasher, when you play Zhur-Taa Goblin… You kind of get the option for a Rip-Clan Crasher for free. Need a hasty creature to deal the last two points of damage? Smell the stink of a Lava Coil on your opponent and want to get some damage in before that sorcery blazes up your cardboard? Staring down a Teferi, Hero of Dominaria that’s about to hit his limit break? Zhur-Taa Goblin in Rip-Clan Crasher mode will serve you well in its smaller, faster, form. On the other hand…

It’s ALSO generally better than Watchwolf

Watchwolf
Watchwolf

Watchwolf was a tournament Staple in its [original Ravnica: City of Guilds] era.

Likely, Watchwolf would be good enough to play today, as well!

The “big” version of Zhur-Taa Goblin isn’t a direct translation to Watchwolf (Selesnya mana versus Gruul, straight 3/3 versus 2/2 with a +1/+1 counter)… But it’s not only close, the comparisons tend to favor the Gruul version. For one thing, red tends to get smaller creatures than white, or at least have to work a little harder for them. Consider Watchwolf’s Gruul contemporary, Scab-Clan Mauler:

Scab-Clan Mauler
Scab-Clan Mauler

The Gruul Staple had to bruise the opponent some for its 3/3, instead of living the Hill Giant life on easy mode like Watchwolf. That Zhur-Taa Goblin has a 3/3 mode “for free” is a huge plus for the card. But it’s not just a 3/3… It’s a 2/2 with a +1/+1 counter. That’s generally better than a straight 3/3 due to additional synergies. We haven’t seen all the available cards from Ravnica Allegiance, but it’s not out of the question that some +1/+1 synergy along the lines of Hardened Scales might not, um, tip the scales in favor of this card.

We guess the 3/3 mode will be more popular, but there are many cases where you’ll want to sneak in damage quickly, finish off a Planeswalker, or avoid sorcery speed removal. The hasty mode is great for all that.

As such, we expect Zhur-Taa Goblin to be playable in Standard, and have some ideas for Goblin deck mana bases, and brew up some potential homes for hasty Rioters. Check all that out in this bonus episode!

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Dovin, Grand Arbiter Headlines More Ravnica Allegiance

Dovin, Grand Arbiter
Dovin, Grand Arbiter

[+1]: Until end of turn, whenever a creature you control deals combat damage to a player, put a loyalty counter on Dovin, Grand Arbiter.

Imagine you open on any one mana creature; or even a creature token of some sort… Let’s say Legion’s Landing.

And then, imagine we make two guys on turn two… In other formats there are more attractive white options; but because we’re just pretending right now, let’s say you get two bodies online with Goblin Instigator

Now on turn three, you play Dovin and go [+1]. Dovin’s base loyalty is three. When you plus, it goes to four. Now you attack with all three guys. For one thing, yes, your Legion’s Landing will flip. But what about your Planeswalker?

That’s right friend: 4 becomes 7, and out of nowhere, Dovin is already ready for Ultimate!

[-1]: Create a 1/1 colorless Thopter artifact creature token with flying. You gain 1 life.

While less synergistic than abilities one and three, this might be Dovin’s most important.

You get a body. That means that if you didn’t have another one already, this will give you a catalyst for that lethal [+1]. It’s also a blocker. One measure of a Planeswalker is just how well it defends itself. Well, now this one can defend itself for at least a turn or so.

The Thopters are artifacts, and therefore friendly with Karn. Likely there is a proactive control deck for Standard that will want both these Planeswalkers.

On the simpler side, you can lead up with an AJani’s Pridemate. Now the [-1] will add two power, not one. One 1/1 flyer and one +1/+1 counter.

[-7]: Look at the top ten cards of your library. Put three of them into your hand and the rest on the bottom of your library in a random order.

Okay, back to seven. How easy was that?

The cool thing about this card is not just that it’s so easy to get to seven, but that seven doesn’t come only once. Imagine we had a more realistic mana situation and ran an Ajani’s Pridemate on turn two. You wouldn’t be able to go Ultimate on turn three. That’s okay, though. Going to 6 loyalty isn’t the worst; it implies you’ll go over seven next turn. That means getting to use this Ultimate more than once.

Dovin’s [-7] seems great but isn’t really the kind of Ultimate that wins the game immediately. Good thing it lines up for multiple uses!

Dovin might be first this week, but he’s not alone! Check out this week’s podcast to hear about more Planeswalkers, more gold cards, and more quick plays, generally; all from Ravnica Allegiance.

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The Most Exciting Spoilers from Ravnica Allegiance

Apologies for being up a little later than usual this week; we hope you love our further discussion of Ravnica Allegiance.

Patrick’s Pick from Ravnica Allegiance So Far: Bedevil

Bedevil

Both Top Level Podcasts hosts think this is going to be a great card for Standard. It’s essentially a more flexible Hero’s Downfall… Same total casting cost, but you do have to replace one generic mana with a red pip. On the other hand, there is little spicier than getting an opponent that just tapped out for The Immortal Sun with a card you just happened to have in your main deck.

Bedevil will probably also be good in Modern! Hero’s Downfall is played in Modern and this one is a substantial upgrade, so long as you can cast it. Dreadbore always did what you wanted, but was slow. Bedevil, even for another mana, is better friends with Snapcaster Mage. It’s also just another nice option to help you bust out of a Lantern lock.

Two thumbs up.

Michael’s Pick from Ravnica Allegiance So Far: Absorb

Absorb

Patrick starts off a little incredulous. How much better is Absorb than Sinister Sabotage? There is also a little tension between the W in Absorb and the aggressive requirements to play Niv-Mizzet.

Mike retorts that people are already bending over backwards to gain three life. Absorb doesn’t cost them a deck building slot, and doesn’t cost any more mana. While it might not be the most appropriate for the 4x Niv-Mizzet decks, Absorb seems like it would get along well in the Chemister’s Insight ones.

Plus… The part of Mike that likes to cast Rekindling Phoenix and Goblin Chainwhirler is absolutely terrified of this reprint!

More from Ravnica Allegiance:

  • Emergency Powers – Mike loves the Addendum mechanic, but neither of our hosts is necessarily a buyer of Emergency Powers. Mike recounts historical implementations of “we both draw seven” cards… Which have been mostly full of cheap cards. When will you get paid off? Patrick counters, though: River’s Rebuke.
  • Sphinx’s Insight – Again, neither host likes this card more than Chemister’s Insight. No one is interested in the prospect of casting “Inspiratin” main phase; and if you’re casting this during the opponent’s end step, it is way — way — worse than Chemister’s Insight.
  • Gruul Spellbreaker – Not that much worse than a Woolly Thoctar when it’s big… Lots of a Boggart Ram-Gang. Mike has been in for both at various times of his deck design career.

    Gruul Spellbreaker

    Not for nothing – This card turns the eff off of Settle the Wreckage.

  • Light Up the Stage – This card is substantially better than we — at least Mike — originally thought. Shout out to J Mazz on Twitter for setting him straight!

    Since Light Up the Stage is live until the end of your next turn, the downside is not so bad. It’s really only when you play your third land, tap out, and exile two lands that this is substantially worse than a “red Divination” … Obviously much better in almost every other circumstance. Mike now toying with it for Modern…

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