Valki, God of Lies (and tons more Kaldheim)

Meet Valki, God of Lies

Valki, God of Lies

A little smaller on the back-side than a Tidehollow Sculler. With disruption a little less disruptive. Or, as Mike points out, a little bigger than a Mesmeric Fiend. If terrible, terrible, types.

But that’s not all!

Valki might only hit creatures, but gets better the better the opponent’s creatures.

Still not all!

Valki, God of Lies can come down, trigger his 187, and die in response. (For instance you can sacrifice Valki to the Pyre of Heroes before actually looking at the opponent’s hand.) Valki will die, giving the creature back. But because you have not taken it yet, there is nothing to give back. Ergo, when the trigger does fully resolve, it will be permanent.

And of course there is the option of just stealing a big Baneslayer Angel… Which will allow you to make Valki, God of Lies into the Baneslayer Angel. The aforementioned Baneslayer Angel will not have the text referencing the return of the Baneslayer Angel; so if and when it dies, they opponent will be returned zip, nada, nothing.

Great card on the front side? Good at least? Did we mention Valki, God of Lies is a Modal Double-Faced card?

… Who is also Tibalt, Cosmic Imposter

The artist formerly known as
“Valki, God of Lies”

Notably, using the [+2] only twice will put you in a position to [-8].

And in this case? [-8] is akin to drawing like twenty cards.

Valki’s fail state is “2/1 for two mana” which isn’t good enough in the abstract… But can still put the opponent on a clock. That, combined with all the rest of Valki’s options — including the option to play him as a big seven — makes this one of the most exciting potential options in Kaldheim.

We’re buyers.

Kaldheim Continues to Heat Up

  • Hakka, Whispering Raven – Does an awful lot. The fact that it can bounce back to hand (to be played as a Maro-like God afterward) is cool… But potentially restrictive. Patrick points out that it’s a Hammerhead Shark (which was a killer)
  • Behold the Multiverse – Is great! Seems better than Glimmer of Genius (which was heavily played, even in non-energy decks)
  • Glimpse the Cosmos – Is a worse Shimmer of Possibilities… But has a great synergy with Giants. Mike points out he won a PPTQ with Bonecrusher Giant and original Shimmer of Possibilities without the possibility of a one mana buyback.
  • Niko Aris – Is in just for the Nekrataal-ness. Seems cool with Elspeth Conquers Death… And is clearly a great option for grinding card advantage OR tap-out decks.
  • Old -Growth Troll – Almost has to be seen to be believed! Short list for the best card in the set, for sure.
  • Absorb Identity – Might not be that great. But when it does win? It’ll be very satisfying!

But nothing from Kaldheim is even the coolest thing to talk about this week:

Don’t Miss Patrick’s Swimsuit Calendar!

Mike guest stars along with a number of Magic: The Gathering’s biggest superstars.

All proceeds to to The Trevor Project.

Check it out now on etsy.

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It’s Kaldheim Spoiler Season!

It’s Kaldheim Spoiler Season!

This set seems to be exploring creature types in multiple dimensions. Last week we talked about a card where race (i.e. Dwarves) mattered. Increasingly we see cards where class (like Berserker or Cleric) might, too.

Are you in it for Humans? Elves? Dwarf Berserkers? Angel Berzerkers? (For the record we delve all the way to Demon Berzerkers in the first few minutes.)

Do You Like Angels? How About Them Angels?

Angels seem like a pretty mechanically pushed creature type in Kaldheim. With a limited number of cards revealed we aren’t 100% sure how the Angels deck will manifest, but we can see an initial direction:

Youthful Valkyrie

Mike is never going to let anyone forget that 1/3 for two mana can make for a competitive body if you know who you’re up against. But even if it’s not a squad of Jackal Pups you’re up against, Youthful Valkyrie seems like an awesome way to spend your second turn if you are playing an Angels-themed deck!

What about following up with Renegade Reaper?

Renegade Reaper

This card doesn’t seem like the best on rate… But 1/3 for two mana followed by 2/3 on three mana with multiple triggers actually makes for a cohesive theme. Angels can certainly be set up for blocking, life gain, and generally forcing a StOmPy or Red Deck in Standard to play into strategic blocks.

Can we do better than Renegade Reaper on three? Probably. But the message is clear: Angels Matter.

This is especially true with payoffs like Rampage of the Valkyries making “fair” Magic play impossible.

Kaldheim Spoiler Season Goes Big with Giants

Got five mana? A Red Deck could do worse than…

Surtland Flinger

Surtland Flinger is a 4/6 for five mana with a — pardon the adjective — giant text box. Mike points out that medium and big Red Decks over the years have been happy with 4/4 Dragons at five; Surtland Flinger can be in the range even without the appropriate fuel.

Patrick brings it back to reality, pointing out that there have been some truly awesome Giants to Fling the last couple of years:

Kroxa — conveniently still legal to play in Standard — probably did a bunch of damage already, so if Surtland Flinger is reading off that text box, it might very well be game!

Giants have a variety of interesting if not spectacular new tools… Like Fire Giant’s Fury! Imagine connecting with a Beanstalk Giant. It’s not just about the card advantage… Trample is a powerful upgrade to the X/X cantrip.

All That And…

The Big, Bad, Wolf. (is it good?)

Find out here!

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It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Kaldheim

Kaldhem spoilers have started to hit the Internet.

What we’ve seen so far is all over the place. Following are some of our favorites from the first few looks at Kaldheim…

Magda, Brazen Outlaw

Magda, Brazen Outlaw

Kaldheim is giving us A LOT of options with just this two drop.

Not for nothing, but in Historic, first turn Toolcraft Exemplar into second turn Magda, Brazen Outlaw is pretty awesome. Magda gives Toolcraft Exemplar the artifact it needs to get bigger, not to mention giving it +1/+0 to begin with.

You can play a narrow number of “otherwise un-cast-able” artifacts in your deck just to get with Magda’s five Treasures ability.

Pyre of Heroes

Pyre of Heroes

Patrick — once a notable deck designer of Birthing Pod decks — thinks this card might not be as dangerous as it seems on its face.

Being a “Tribal” sort of card, Pyre of Heroes from Kaldheim will unlikely be abused with something like a Deceiver Exarch.

Counterpoint: The return of the Changeling mechanic might make designs less stringent than we’re currently imagining. For instance, if you just play the card Realmwalker (which is every creature type), you can ramp any two into it… And then ramp Realmwalker into any four.

Being every creature type, Realmwalker can add some variability to Pyre of Heroes

So, silly for sake of illutration, you might go Magda (Dwarf) into Realmwalker (Shapeshifter) into Wicked Wolf (Wolf).

Toski, Bearer of Secrets

Hilarious

Sooooo much going on with this card.

Given it can’t be countered and it’s indestructible… Toski is theoretically a Jayemdae Tome on legs.

Opponents without specialized removal are (again theoretically) going to fall behind.

It’s also very powerful in combination with certain strategies. For example: Tokens. Most removal is already not good against Tokens; and sweepers don’t kill Toski. Hilarious!

The problem is that it is very easy to beat Toski with value. For instance, almost any 2/2 completely shuts it down. Heck, a 0/2 largely does. Still? It will see play and bedevil opponents for the next two years.

And lots more Kaldheim!

  • The Phyrexian Praetor
  • A heck of a Gnarled Mass
  • Which Saga is best (Spoiler: They’re both quite good)
  • … and more!

Check it out now:

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The Rest of the Historic Decks

These Historic Decks Make Mike’s Favorite Kind of Format

Historic right now is “Mike’s favorite kind of format.”

That is, a format with a generally agreed-upon and relatively dominant best strategy… But still some room. The best of the Historic decks give you something to aim at.

The dominant Historic decks of course revolve around:

Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath

And to a lesser extent…

Yasharn, Implacable Earth

In the past, we might talk about Rock-Paper-Scissors.

When Rock is dominant… Can you be Paper that sideboards into Scissors?

What about Paper that wins the Paper mirror?

How might you prepare for the current Historic, knowing what we know?

Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath (again)

Cynically, both Mike and Patrick would err on the side of making the best Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath deck.

Uro is card advantage, beatdown resistance, and a way to win all at once!

It makes grinding difficult; and has inherent resilience against both permission and removal. Fair decks? No thanks! (probably)

Here’s something they respect, though:

Commit // Memory

Commit can interact with cards like Uro without actually putting them into the graveyard (where they can set up card advantage). But more than that, the Memory back-side can actually zero out the opponent’s graveyard, blunting future Escape shenanigans.

Don’t forget the sweet interaction with Torrential Gearhulk!

Don’t Sleep on…

  • Simic (or Sultai) Paradox Engine – Super high ceiling on this archetype, which has a Kethis, the Hidden Hand feel. None other than GOAT Kai Budde is an advocate!
  • Forsaken Monument – A powerhouse colorless deck with a Mirari’s Wake feel. Like many, it may just be better with Uro, though.
  • Gruul Aggro – Or “Main Phase Collected Company dot dec” according to Patrick. Probably the sweetest deck outside of the Uro archetypes, it can lean on Klothys, God of Destiny or the awesome power of Embercleave.
  • Golgari StOmPy – Great internal plans and synergies; though it might just not be the right time.
  • Dimir Control – Another Hall of Famer favorite! For those who want to re-run Commit // Memory at instant speed. With Narset, Parter of Veils in play, natch.

Check out “The Rest of the Historic Decks” now!

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What’s So Exciting About Yasharn, Implacable Earth?

Yasharn, Implacable Earch

Yasharn, Implacable Earth: Not Just for Standard Any More

The last time we saw Yasharn, it was a novel 4/4 for four mana… A little bit of card advantage, but a lot of resistance specifically for the toys surroundings Doom Foretold.

We liked it back when we first saw it in Standard… But it turns out this Legendary Elemental Boar might have more value in Historic!

Let’s Break Down Yasharn’s Rate of Return

  • Yasharn, Implacable earth is a 4/4 creature for four mana – “I’m listening.” Noting to write home about, though.
  • Search your library for a basic Forest and a basic Plains… Mages various have been paying four mana for two cards since Inspiration. In Standard, Hieroglyphic Illumination, Glimmer of Genius, and countless other variations have all been Staple. At sorcery speed (and only ever getting two basics) Yasharn is in a weaker pure card drawer than any and all of those cards. Counterpoint: This ability is attached to what’s already a 4/4 for four mana.
  • And then there’s that last line. How do you evaluate the rate of return on that sacrifice hating ability? It’s a bonus against some of the cards in a Doom Foretold deck in Standard… But what if people aren’t trying to get you by sacrificing permanents?

Yasharn, Implacable Earth in Context

Mike seems kind of fixated on getting down a body to block. And we suppose you could do worse than four toughness to defend yourself. But as potentially effective against creatures Yasharn is… It seems like the card in Historic has a more specific enemy:

We like Yasharn great; and the versions with extra copies of Yasharn in the sideboard even better.

The white splash for the Historic Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath decks seems justified, if only for a single spell; this one is so good.

Plus!

  • Tons of Standard
  • Azorius in Historic
  • The uncommon artifact that made Autumn’s Goblins deck so advantageously exciting.

Listen now!

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More Innovations in Modern Decks

This week Top Level Podcast returns to examine the weird and even “disrespectful” world of Modern decks. The newest sets have helped breathe life into older cards, and have even given way to a new engine or three!

Goblin Charbelcher is Our Modern Deck of the Week

“It’s like the ‘Oops, No Lands’ deck… that doesn’t lose to graveyard hate.”

So let’s talk about Goblin Charbelcher.

Back in the day, Pro Tour Champions like Gabriel Nassif had to take the time to cast Mana Severence before tapping a Goblin Charbelcher.

These days, thanks to Modal Double-Faced cards, you don’t have to play any “lands”-lands at all! So… Goblin Charbelcher will never naturally hit a land.

Interesting technology: Blood Moon!

Blood Moon is relevant in general due to the popularity of Tron decks. But! It also subtly fixes your own mana. Don’t forget, this deck has cards like Irencrag Feat with RRRR in the casting cost. Blood Moon actually helps make that cast-able.

Goblin Charbelcher is only the first place we’ll see Recross the Paths

Recross the Paths

In a deck with no actual lands, Recross the Paths lets you stack your Modern deck!

You can do all different kinds of things with this old-card-given-new-life, like…

  • You can give yourself several copies of Pact of Negation in a row, which will help you to resolve your Charbelcher
  • What about every copy of Manamorphose? They are remarkably “free” after your first two mana investment, and can help you make lots of Goblins with your sideboarded Empty the Warrens
  • Reforge the Soul seems like an awesome Miracle to topdeck! This is especially synergistic given you can be down a card (or more) from just playing Recross the Paths

Even More Modern Decks…

  • 80 cards in the Modern deck? Winota, Joiner of Forces is just showing off now.
  • Making your Death’s Shadow difficult to block
  • Boros or Mono-White Colossus Hammer?

Find out about “More Innovation in Modern Decks” now!

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Feasting Troll King Snacks on Standard

Feasting Troll King is Finally a Winning Strategy in Standard!

Feasting Troll King

“Three eggs is not much of a feast.”

… But it’s very topical!

We hope you feasted this week 😉

Feasting Troll King is at the top end of a Mono-Green deck that has many of the same trappings we’ve seen already… Lovestruck Beast… The Great Henge… But it rules the mid-game with Trail of Crumbs and the Food tokens from Gilded Goose.

Along for the ride will be several other Food cards, like Witch’s Oven, Trail of Crumbs, and Wicked Wolf.

Green Deck Battle! Mono-Green or Gruul Aggro?

After a little thought, Mike switched his allegiance from Mono-Green to Gruul heads up. Why?

  1. The mana is just too good. A nice array of Modal Double-Faced lands give Gruul great flexibility over Mono-Green, with relatively low deck building costs.
  2. Gruul has most of the good tools from Mono-Green. Down to The Great Henge.
  3. But really? It’s Embercleave! The creature selection in Gruul shows a powerful upgrade over the 1/1 creatures of Mono-Red.

So Many Copies of Mazemind Tome

Mazemind Tome

It’s everywhere!

(or at least lots of places)

  • Blink it with Yorion!
  • Smooth out your mana early
  • Grab a few life points
  • Play two, side in the other two
  • Bring it in with some Duress to handle Control decks. Actually… It’s a little more nuanced than that.

… All this and lots more!

Listen now to hear us pick apart Abzan Midrange and heap praise on the new dominant player in the metagame: Dimir Control

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What You Need to Know About the 2019 MOCS Decks

The 2019 MOCS Decks played cards from… Core Set 2021

Conclave Mentor from Core Set 2021

Conclave Mentor is a newer card that helped revitalize some already powerful decks and combos for the 2019 MOCS decks.

Champion Michael Jacob played a variety of +1/+1 counter-based cards, including Scavenging Ooze; Walking Ballista; and centerpiece combo pieces Spike Feeder; and Heliod, Sun-Crowned.

While “fair” compared to an infinite combo, we thought it would be fun to point the card out, for all the reasons.

The MOCS Decks showcased both Modern and Pioneer

… And showed off awesome innovation in both formats!

In Modern, “Oops All Spells” seems faster than ever. Cutting down to 60 cards (from 77 or even 80), the Modern version is a singleminded killer.

Tuning elements include adding Shatterskull Smashing for even more early untapped land, and as many as three copies of Leyline of Sanctity… Main deck!

In Pioneer, Michael Jacob combined fair and unfair elements to produce a beautifully tuned champion. Big elements included Oath of Nissa and Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx for setup and engine… But sometimes topped up on a “mere” Elder Gargaroth. From the same set, Llanowar Visionary makes a surprise — but highly appropriate — appearance.

“I like how it can down-shift.”

-Mike

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Are Modern Decks Completely Busted?

So is This What U/R Modern Decks Looks Like These Days?

Okay let’s look at the creature base of a blue-red deck.

  • One copy of Brazen Borrower? Okay, that makes sense.
  • The Maximum Number of Snapcaster Mages? Of course! Also these guys make sense together; seeing as they all have Flash.
  • Oh, and ALL FOUR COPIES of Emrakul the Aeons Torn!
Emrakul, the Aeons Torn

Wow so that’s kind of ridiculous.

Michael likes to think about this deck as a blue-red Flash deck. Bounce your thing. Get in for two or three. Hassle with some card advantage. You know, how you do with a Flash deck.

But then!

The opponent taps their mana main phase to handle your hasslers.

So it’s Boom! Head Shot!

Through the Breach

Through the Breach into Emrakul, the Aeons Torn get’s em. Good.

I mean, what is a blue deck going to do if you just cast Through the Breach? They kind of have to counter it, right? Whether or not you actually have the Emrakul.

One of the cool, synergistic, bits about this deck is that you can buy a lost Through the Breach back with Snapcaster Mage.

Patrick describes this blue-red as “a Splinter Twin deck” which of course warms Mike’s heart. But it’s not a Splinter Twin deck that actually wins the game. Unless the opponent does a lot to themselves with shock lands you still have to lace together the last four or five with Lightning Bolt and Snapcaster Mage, but that’s not so big a deal after Annihilator 6 has had its way with the opponent’s battlefield.

So What in Zendikar Rising is Making Affinity’s Modern Deck?

Surprisingly, it’s not one, but two different Modal Double-Faced lands that make the deck:

Kazuul’s Fury // Kazuul’s Cliffs makes red… But this Affinity is all over all the Fling combos. Either side is okay.

The real gold comes from Timbercrown Pathway // Cragcrown Pathway. Affinity really wants to play Hardened Scales to take advantage of all those +1/+1 counters. When you already want green mana on turn one, some of these Modal Double-Faced cards start making more sense.

The big incentive to red as a splash color? Alpine Moon in the sideboard.

Balustrade Spy Innovates Modern Decks

So we recently talked about Balustrade Spy and Undercity Informer “Oops, All Spells” decks in Pioneer.

They’re powerful, but mostly cute at 77 cards, in Pioneer.

The Modern version is a beautifully tuned killer. It could be a problem, in fact.

But one thing’s for sure, Balustrade Spy and Undercity Informer are gorgeously tuned in Modern.

  • In addition to consistently flipping over all your copies of Creeping Chill, this deck will put four Vengevines into your graveyard.
  • A combination of Sword of the Meek and Narcomoeba will set up your Salvage Titan… Putting those Vengevines onto the battlefield.
  • You’ve already brained the opponent with four copies of free Lightning Helix. Now sixteen hasty Elementals are going to come a coming!

To top it off, if you accidentally draw one of the cards you would rather have in your graveyard… It even plays one copy of Phantasmagorian to “fix” your “hand” … Err… Whatever the opposite of your hand is.

But that’s not all!

In case you were planning to beat it with dedicated graveyard hate, it sideboards into Goblin Charbelcher.

And So Many More Awesome Modern Decks…

  • The Tron deck that Patrick calls “a thing of beauty”
  • The Death and Taxes deck that Mike — somehow — calls the deck of the week
  • “You can fit a lot of themes when you’re 80 cards…”
  • And… The “secret weapon” for the format!

Find out if Modern is, in fact, completely busted right now:

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Aetherworks Marvel is the Biggest Game in Kaladesh Remastered

Remember Aetherworks Marvel?

Aetherworks Marvel…
coming to a Historic near you!

Aetherworks Marvel is going to shake up Historic.

But it’s important to realize that this card’s mischief is highly contingent on what Energy cards get printed alongside it.

But don’t worry about that! Staples like Woodweaver’s Puzzleknot and Aether Hub are going to be ready to power up that Energy.

So What are You Going to Do with Your Aetherworks Marvel?

The “traditional” approach is to get powerful permanents onto the battlefield. Some examples include Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger or Ugin, the Spirit Dragon.

Ugin, in particular, seems like a great hit [for four mana]. In particular, you can use Ugin’s “minus” ability and leave your Marvel!

But the “new” approach might be even more exciting. Modal Double-Faced lands are amazing includes. Almost any of them can potentially be useful (because they allow you to play untapped mana while reducing the number of potential “misses” with your Aetherworks Marvel)… But the blue and green versions are simply awesome.

Your’re playing Rogue Refiner anyway, aren’t you?

Remember: Turntimber Symbiosis is taking the place of a Forest

Turntimber Symbiosis is a card that might come up if you didn’t hit Ulamog in your top six cards. Now you have another seven to find the powerful Eldrazi. And even if you miss the giant monster, an extra big Rogue Refiner (that powers your Energy and provides card advantage) isn’t the worst.

… But Turntimber Symbiosis is nowehere near as exciting as:

Hit this with Marvel? How can you lose?

It’s crazy how little Mike liked Sea Gate Restoration out of the gate, relative to how pervasive the card has already proven, especially in combo decks. This is card that is essentially taking the place of an Island. It’s going to be awfully hard to lose if you resolve this with a turn four Aetherworks Marvel.

“Emeria’s Call is clearly not very good. Doesn’t matter.”

-Mike

The Best of the Rest…

… Awaits:

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