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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The Rise of Gruul Aggro

It’s not just that Gruul Aggro won Grand Prix Kyoto last week… There have been several different types of Gruul decks popping up (and performing) in Standard.

Tell me about Gruul Guildgate in Gruul Aggro?

Gruul Guildgate

Gruul Guildgate is not usually the kind of thing you want to see in an aggressive deck. It comes into play tapped, so can be curve-contrary… Best on turn one, Gruul Guildgate is a non-bo with the aggressive one drops we often see in Red Decks.

That said, Gruul Guildgate is an important source of green for the red-heavy version. It’s not so much that you need green for creatures; Unclaimed Territory set to “Warrior” can cast all of Goblin Chainwhirler (red), Growth-Chamber Guardian, or Kraul Harpooner.

Part of what makes Gruul is the availability of wild cards like Cindervines for the sideboard; and you need good old fashioned green mana for that. Sorry, Wilderness Reclamation.

Rhythm of the Wild in Gruul Aggro

Rhythm of the Wild

Another way to run Gruul is a Riot-themed version with Rhythm of the Wild or Domri, Chaos Bringer. Yoshihiko Tokuyama finished third in Kyoto with a Dinosaur deck that started many of its monsters sideways.

Domri, Chaos Bringer is great as a one-of. It not only adds a dimension to a creature deck, it gives the Gruul Dinosaurs resilience against sweepers. Plus, the fact that both your bodies on Regisaur Alpha can come down swinging is a meaningful dimension. Multiple sources of Riot (say both Domri and Rhythm of the Wild) are not really diminishing returns. Why not choose the +1/+1 and haste?

Not for nothing: But Kraul Harpooner is already one of the strongest two drops in Standard. The fact that some kind of a haste engine can level this card up so much — especially against control — broadens the impact of that already-awesome card.

Cheating with Status // Statue

Most Gruul builds can’t cast Statue at all.

But Status?

Try adding that card to a Goblin Chainwhirler or Skarrgan Hellkite. You can give your creature deathtouch to splatter two (or all) of the opponent’s creatures in one sweet sweep.

See what happens when you give me deathtouch.

You won’t believe what Mike’s favorite deck of the week was.

We’ll give you a hint: It was a Rhythm of the Wild deck. And not a Gruul Aggro. Really!

Find out more:

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Serra the Benevolent from Modern Horizons (and even more Modern)


Serra the Benevolent is an exciting Planeswalker from the upcoming Modern Horizons set.

Serra the Benevolent

Mana Cost: 2WW
Types: Legendary Planeswalker – Serra
Card Text:

  • [+2]: Creatures you control with flying get +1/+1 until end of turn.
  • [-3]: Create a 4/4 white Angel creature token with flying and vigilence.
  • [-6]: You get an emblem with “If you control a creature, damage that would reduce your life total to less than 1 reduces it to 1 instead.

Loyalty: 4
Expansion: Modern Horizons
Rarity: Mythic Rare

Patrick sees some immediate applications of Serra here… Spirits can cash in on her [+2] ability, and having any sort of creatures is great with the [-6].

An even better home might be a flying Tokens deck with Spectral Procession, Bitterblossom, or Lingering Souls. A deck that goes super wide with efficient flyers can really benefit from Serra’s [+2]!

The “fail state” of [-3] is really where Serra shines. Her worst implementation is to just make a Serra Angel for only four mana (instead of five). Plus you generally get to keep your Planeswalker in play, and might be attacking with a vigilant five the next turn.

Serra’s “Worship” [-6] is extraordinarily powerful. First off, people play with actual Worship in Modern sometimes. Being an emblem, hers is a “Worship” that can’t be removed by Cindervines! Try interacting with that!

The Best of the Rest

The Top Level Podcast boys spend only a short amount of time on Serra up there. Most of this monster Modern podcast is spent across the many events from last weekend: Classic, Open, and even Grand Prix!

Highlights:

  • Prismatic Omen – Mike likes this throwback for Valakut decks; Patrick loves the first one, whether or not a deck plays two or more. Prismatic Omen gives a Valakut deck a completely different chip-shot game plan so it doesn’t have to go all-in.
  • Tireless Tracker – Love it and love it (ditto). In Golgari, the presence of this three drop makes up for some of the missing red card advantage; meaningfully difficult (though clearly not impossible) to Fatal Push.
  • Bloodbraid Elf – Speaking of red cards… Is this one worth it going Golgari to Jund? Mike suggests spitting something very different out with it, though:
  • Anafenza, the Foremost! Awesome addition for Humans; may have wider applications in other archetypes. Incredibly high floor, but far from unbeatable (so not a great sideboard card). Just a great card.
  • Tempest Djinn… Would be bizarre playing next to Timely Reinforcements. Mike thinks this might be the Djinn’s moment, though; due to an all-time low in Grim Lavamancers.

… And a ton more!

Give it a listen:

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Much Modern

All About Amulet of Vigor in Modern

Amulet of Vigor

Amulet Titan is among the filthiest decks there is!

It has a lot of bad cards, a high failure rate, is mostly just air… But when it works, it WORKS.

This deck can start with an Amulet of Vigor to get incredible value from the “Karoo” cycle from the original Ravnica Block. Just imagine the fun of playing a Primeval Titan (ahead of curve, of course) and searching up a Slayers’ Stronghold and Boros Garrison.

The Garrison will enter the battlefield untapped, so you can immediately make RW to activate the Stronghold. Now your Primeval Titan can attack, searching up two more lands, for greater and greater nonsense.

Karoos usually slow players down. They bounce a land when entering the battlefield, after all; but in a deck with Amulet of Vigor, they can actually net mana before bouncing themselves; or make a mess with Tolaria West. Ever think about searching up Tolaria West and a Simic Growth Chamber with your Primeval Titan, tapping them both for mana, bouncing the Tolaria West… And then searching up a Pact of Negation to protect your incoming 6/6?

Nonsense!

The Most Miserable Card in Modern Is…

Possessed Portal!

Normally a Whir Prison deck will deck you with Ipnu Rivulet, recycled with its Crucible of Worlds… Or maybe get you over and over, two at a time, with Pyrite Spellbomb and Academy Ruins.

But mostly? It beats you by submission. By cruel and unrelenting horrible-ness.

Possessed Portal is even more cruel and more horrible than usual:

Step One: From Now On, Nobody Draws Cards

You feels me? 🙁

And it’s not like anyone pays eight for this thing. Not with Whir of Invention in their decks.

My Gosh is Modern Hostile to Burn Right Now

Mike’s beloved Red Deck is really, really badly positioned just this second. Not only is Dredge back in flavor — what with its innumerable free Lightning Helixes that cost neither a card nor mana — but other matchups can be equally challenging.

And by “equally” we mean…

Oh my God is that Mono-White Martyr of Sands?

More Modern:

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Izzet Phoenix in Modern… And Legacy?

Arclight Phoenix
Izzet Phoenix won a[nother] Modern Grand Prix, in Los Angeles


Izzet Phoenix in Modern

We saw Arclight Phoenix jump back into Top 8 action just last week… Standard’s Mythic Championship Cleveland was the stage. The player in question, none other than the legendary Luis Scott-Vargas.

But it’s not clear that Arclight Phoenix even belongs in the best Standard U/R deck! The same is not true of Izzet Phoenix in Modern. If anything, this is considered the strongest current deck in Modern… And it’s not hard to see why.

Izzet Phoenix has some stoopid stupid draws.

Here’s one:

  • Mountain, Fathless Looting; discard two copies of Arclight Phoenix.
  • Gut Shot you. Gut Shot you again!
  • That’s eight! Your go.
  • Is that the most common first turn? Obviously not. But it’s certainly an available one. Izzet Phoenix has a ton of perfectly fine regular draws that are super aggressive while remaining card advantageous.

    Cantrips, Cantrips, Everywhere

    Mike and Patrick discuss the various cheap card drawing spells in Modern.

    Most important might be Faithless Looting. Mike doesn’t think this one is long for the format. It’s certainly been a problem child in a variety of decks before!

    Patrick thinks that Manamorphose might be the most broken of the cheap card drawers; but Mike draws a distinction at the one-versus-two-casting cost line.

    This dovetails into Patrick wondering how Grixis players pick which cantips they play in Modern, and how many!

    Why isn’t Arclight Phoenix a Bigger Deal in Legacy?

    A different Izzet deck won last weekend’s Legacy Open — a Delver of Secrets deck!

    Izzet is a great strategy in Legacy, due to the strength of cards like Brainstorm, Ponder, Preordain… and now Light Up the Stage! Light Up the Stage is very Treasure Cruise-ish, and easily catalyzed by Pteramander or Delver of Secrets on turn one.

    But look at those cantrips: They’re great, but they don’t put creatures into the graveyard! There are no Faithless Lootings or Thought Scours in the Legacy builds. Therefore getting the Phoenix into the graveyard (where it can work its proper mischief) is a little more challenging than in Modern.

    But!

    There are some emerging Grixis deck lists that are looking to solve the Arclight Phoenix problem. And because it’s Legacy… The solution is pretty a good one.

    Learn how they’re doing it in this week’s podcast:

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    Top Decks from Mythic Championship Cleveland

    Cleveland Rocked: Mono-Blue Took Down Mythic Championship

    It’s hard to argue that Mono-Blue Tempo wasn’t the top deck of the inaugural Mythic Championship. Autumn Burchett defeated all other mages with their nineteen land-one-Heral version… But there remains a lot of wiggle room in the archetype, even with the dust settled. Consider:

    • How many lands is right? 19 Islands? 20? … And should any of them match with any others?
    • How many copies of Entrancing Melody? Main deck or sideboard?
    • Ditto on Exclusion Mage. Or Jace, Cunning Castaway?

    One thing’s for sure: Mike thinks Experimental Frenzy and friends is the right way to go in Standard moving forward… But his beloved Goblin Chainwhirler and friends did not back up its reputation against Mono-Blue in this Top 8 specifically. Patrick disagrees greatly, despite our duo’s mutual appreciation of the all-new Cindervines.

    Arclight Phoenix Returned to the Top Tables at Mythic Championship Cleveland

    “Greek Mythological Figure” Luis Scott-Vargas also returned to Top 8 play (since, you know, his last appearance at the last Pro Tour) as the Arclight Phoenix pilot.

    Why might you play Arclight Phoenix instead of Drakes?

    Why might you play the card basic Mountain at all?

    Are there any Ravnica Allegiance cards to play in this deck?

    These questions and more are answered!

    The Best of the Rest

    Mythic Championship Cleveland gave us some spicy options outside of the Top 8… And some all-new decks that you may not have seen before.

    • Into Control? Sure there was Esper in the Top 8, but that’s not the only Thought Erasure deck in the format. Check out Seth Manfield’s Dimir Surveil build… With zero main-deck copies of Sinister Sabotage!
    • Straight Beatdown more your game? There were multiple takes on Mardu with Judith, the Scourge Diva. Whether you’re into Mavren Fen and the Vampire squad or hastily dominating the Red Zone with Heroic Reinforcements, Standard has some corners still worth exploring.
    • Or our favorite… Hall of Famer Raph Levy was into Merfolk Trickster… Just not as into Merfolk Trickster as all those Planeswalkers in the Top 8. Raph only played two in his Simic Merfolk deck. Bask in the aura (and recoil from the fishy odor) of thirty marauding Merfolk! Theme is broken here only for four copies of Kraul Harpooner in the sideboard. Truly a spicy brew that both our hosts would gladly sleeve up.

    All this and more:

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    Kraul Harpooner – Evolutions and Synergies


    Kraul Harpooner is one of the most underrated cards in Standard

    Kraul Harpooner – Current Implementations

    The Insect Warrior from Guilds of Ravnica has done most of its damage recently coming out of the sideboard. This past weekend at Grand Prix Memphis, it was featured in the sideboards of both Top 8 Sultai decks, as well as the aggressive Gruul deck.

    Standard deck designers have been including it… Just not as the centerpiece.

    Kraul Harpooner in Main-Deck Sultai

    Patrick had the pretty novel idea of playing Kraul Harpooner in his main deck at the Mythic Championships. There are many benefits, including just mugging the dominant Mono-Blue deck on turn two.

    Can you imagine an opponent passing with a Siren Stormtamer in play on turn one? Maybe a Healer’s Hawk? Because the 3/2 Harpooner can take one of those creatures out while both generating card advantage and establishing a threat on the board, the positional advantage generated on turn two can be absolutely devastating. Talk about getting a free win!

    But the advantage of adding this guy to the main it isn’t just the ability to catch Mono-Blue or White Weenie unaware. Relative to the stock Sultai list, Harpooners are taking up creature removal slots (while remaining creature removal-ish). So you also get a turn two threat that you can use to attack against Esper or Wilderness Reclamation! The fact that Kraul Harpooner is a guy you can cast early instead of a Cast Down that you will never cast might make all the difference in a race.

    This attitude towards initiative versus instant speed removal goes beyond just the 3/2 body. Patrick chose also to sideboard Thrashing Brontodon at Cleveland instead of Crushing Canopy. The Brontodon is a potential attacker (or blocker for Mono-Red)… At the point that you can or should cast Crushing Canopy, the dino might have put you 6-9 points ahead already… While still being capable of Reclamation removal

    Kraul Harpooner and Friends

    We spend this podcast talking about all the relevant decks of Standard, including the resurgent “one true color” according to Mike. In the green-splashing Red Deck, there is a novel synergy between Goblin Chainwhirler and the Harpooner. Both are Warriors.

    Therefore you can open up on Mountain; play Unclaimed Territory on turn two (naming Warrior) to hit the Harpooner; then play a second Mountain for Goblin Chainwhirler on three without missing a beat!

    The Gruul midrange deck is chock full of other Goblins, so this might be a slightly unusual use of Unclaimed Territory, but it’s important to note… Especially as Growth-Chamber Guardian is not just a Crab, not just an Elf… But a Warrior as well!

    Check out all the new deck talk here:

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    Play More Thief of Sanity

    Thief of Sanity
    Play more Thief of Sanity? Try playing four Thief of Sanity already!

    Thief of Sanity in Jeskai?

    Since Thief of Sanity is a Dimir (ergo black-blue) and Jeskai is a white-blue-red color combination… So you can’t actually play the Thief in Jeskai.

    Mike briefly argues that it’s not necessarily the case that Esper is the superior control deck to Jeskai in Standard (regardless of what the Top 8s say). Patrick argues that the ability to play Thief of Sanity after sideboarding pushes black over the red three-color control version.

    This three drop Specter is of course an awesome tool in Esper decks after sideboarding, offering a combination of persistent card advantage and ongoing disruption against any of the Wilderness Reclamation type powerhouse decks.

    How About Thief of Sanity in Sultai?

    This card can be played in the main deck or the sideboard. While we are not sure which is best… We do know that we would lean on playing more copies.

    Argument For Main Deck: Llanowar Elves on turn one can potentially allow you to play your Specter on turn two!

    Argument Against Main Deck: It’s awful against decks like Mono-Red and you might just lose if you draw two copies.

    That said, this creature is much like the full promise of the Mono-Blue Aggro deck — currently the most successful deck in Standard — all bundled into one card. This is essentially one of Mono-Blue’s 1/1 evasion creatures that starts with Curious Obsession already in play.

    It can keep you when you’re already winning. It can steal from decks that require particular spells to function. And especially coming out of the sideboard, it can help control decks put their victims on a clock.

    Find out more places we think players should play more copies (and all the other current Standard trends) here:

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    So Much Ravnica Allegiance Standard

    Pteramander Adapts to Allegiance Standard

    Pteramander

    Alexander Hayne, the great Canadian Pro Tour Champion, put out a new Mono-Blue deck featuring Pteramander this week. Packing only 19 Islands, Hayne’s deck relies on a ton of super cheap threats, including 11 one casting cost evasion creatures.

    Alongside Pteramander, Mist-Cloaked Herald and Siren Stormtamber make for many creatures to catalyze Chart a Course or Curious Obsession on turn two.

    Overall, this strategy can keep the opponent on their toes; it’s got just enough permission to hold a lead — not indefinitely, but maybe long enough to get Tempest Djinn across the Red Zone once or twice…

    Light Up the Stage Brings Back Experimental Frenzy

    Light Up the Stage

    After an off week, Mono-Red players suddenly remembered they are allowed to run Experimental Frenzy!

    Part of the Red Deck’s bounce back came from the power of Light Up the Stage. This Ravnica Allegiance sorcery found homes immediately, but often at the cost of the more expensive Frenzy. Why? Light Up the Stage kind of does the same thing as Experimental Frenzy (draws cards). Turns out it doesn’t have to be either / or.

    Casting Light Up the Stage with Experimental Frenzy in play gives you the option of casting an instant on top of your library before Light Up the Stage resolves.

    This creates a bit of a tension in Mono-Red Land. Do you maximize your instants? That would mean playing Wizard’s Lightning… Possibly over Skewer the Critics. But is Skewer — Light Up the Stage’s Spectacle buddy — just too good not to play?

    How about Fanatical Firebrand? Many mages have cited the little Pirate as the weakest card in Mono-Red. Maybe… But it’s also the best setup man for Spectacles in the deck. There is no easy cut for the format’s Red Deck.

    Allegiance Standard Gives Hostage Taker a New Mission

    Hostage Taker

    Hostage Taker seems amazing in the format right now!”
    -Patrick

    Why?

    Two words: Hydroid Krasis.

    Yeah? Not only can you follow up by casting their Hydroid Krasis for a bunch if your Hostage Taker lives, even if it doesn’t, the opponent will get back a 0/0 Krasis.

    Not bad.

    Tons more Standard in this week’s podcast!

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