Witherbloom Command is Overrated for Standard

Witherbloom Command Indeed Looks Exciting for Bigger Formats

Witherbloom Command from Strixhaven
  • Witherbloom Command
  • BG
  • Sorcery
  • Choose two —
    • Target player mills three cards, then you return a land card from your graveyard to your hand.
    • Destroy target noncreature, nonland permanent with mana value 2 or less.
    • Target creature gets -3/-1 until end of turn.
    • Target opponent loses 2 life and you gain 2 life

The first ability in particular is very nice for formats with either Wasteland or Flooded Strand. The ability to re-buy a land from your graveyard is a proxy for “draw a card” (and even better if you are about to miss a land drop).

The fact that it mills three cards first can not only load you up if you haven’t used a fetchland yet; but can power up a Life from the Loam. And, again, Wasteland.

But what is Witherbloom Command going to do for you in Standard?

Even in against Mono-Red, Witherbloom Command is a not-great Vicious Hunger. It’s often worse than cards players already choose not to run.

Further, Standard has fewer specialized lands and non-creature permanents to make this card’s other abilities good. Not terrible perse… But already overrated.

… In fact? Can it in fact be overrated for Legacy?

Oh, and we go deep on the other four Strixhaven Commands as well!

  • If Lorehold Command is good, Strixhaven Standard is going to be a great format! At the least, it looks better than Jace’s Ingenuity — and at least on five mana — it is far, far, better than a Sphinx’s Revelation
  • Prismari Command looks to be a Staple “in the formats you can cast it” … Certainly it will see play in Modern, comparable to an Electrolyze that compacts your deck building costs.
  • Quandrix Command is going to be good… But only in very specific decks. If you’re not in it for +1/+1 counters, you’re not going to be into it. But if you are? It’s an instant speed Man-o’-War!
  • Silverquill Command is consistent if nothing else. Lots of Ojutai’s Command to this one; and that’s a good thing.

Get introduced to Strixhaven here:

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Tibalt, Cosmic Imposter… We Hardly Knew Ya

Tibalt, Cosmic Imposter
was not actually banned

Wow There Were a Lot of Bans This Week!

The February 15 B&R Announcement was more like a bag of hammers rather than the usual single swing of the old ban hammer. While Standard was untouched, sweeping changes to Historic, Pioneer, Modern, Legacy, and even Vintage will transform each of those landscapes.

We’ve already talked about Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath being banned. That move is going to open up a lot of strategies that weren’t previous viable (or at least attractive). But it was only the beginning…

Pioneer is Losing Multiple Staples and One of Its Pillars

On the one hand, both Balustrade Spy and Undercity Informer were banned. Goodbye Oops, All Spells!

But in the same stroke, Wilderness Reclamation and Teferi, Time Raveler were also banned in Pioneer!

Modern is Completely Transformed

  • Field of the Dead! Gone! Goodbye Primeval Titan backup plan.
  • Mystic Sanctuary! Gone! Sayonara attrition re-buy strategy.
  • Simian Spirit Guide! Finally! He was always hanging out in sketchy neighborhoods, don’t you think?
  • Tibalt’s Trickery… We hardly knew ya. Patrick makes the cogent argument that the alternative would have been banning twenty other cards… But not guaranteeing that the Trickery wouldn’t still ruin the format.

You might have noticed that Valki, God of Lies – slash – Tibalt, Cosmic Imposter is not on the list. No. It was not banned.

But was it effectively banned?

So What Happened with Tibalt, Cosmic Imposter?

A slight change to the Cascade rules means that when your Ardent Plea turns over Valki, God of Lies you have to play it as Valki, God of Lies. That is, you can’t get the five mana boost for free and on the spot.

Valki is not banned. Theoretically Tibalt, Cosmic Imposter isn’t either… But it’s a heck of a lot more difficult to get into play.

The great part about this rules change?

It’s kind of how the rules should work, don’t you think?

More here:

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Goldspan Dragon is Showing Up Everywhere

Kaldheim Has Had Immediate Impact on Almost Every Format

Valki, God of Lies theoretically costs two

Because Valki THEORETICALLY costs only two mana, it has become a favorite target of Violent Outburst and Demonic Dread in Modern.

Of course we know that those decks aren’t in it for the relatively unassuming Valki, God of Lies. Because, of course, there is a seven mana Tibalt, Cosmic Imposter on the other side!

In case you ever wanted to save five mana…

Modern is going to need a re-alignment because of Kaldheim… And soon. The new set has had profound deck building impacts on Standard as well (but hopefully in some less degenerate ways).

Showdown of the Skalds is Powerful and Skill-Testing

This will have wide adoption in Standard

In many ways, Showdown of the Skalds is like a better Escape to the Wilds.

While it does not allow you to play extra lands, Showdown of the Skalds costs less mana. This card kind of draws four cards… But it’s so much more. It can reward you for your deck building (playing a lot of cheap creatures lets you play more cards off the top before they disappear forever)… But it also rewards careful play. Having something already down, but also saving a high number of cheap follow-up plays is going to pay off the careful Skald.

Goldspan Dragon is Contributing to Every Color

According to Patrick, the three best cards for Standard from Kaldheim are:

  • Binding of the Old Gods,
  • Showdown, of the Skalds, and
  • Goldspan Dragon (of course)
Goldspan Dragon

This card does everything!

  • In Izzet (and to a lesser extent, Boros) Goldspan Dragon is sets up the mana to defend itself — even when you’re theoretically tapping out
  • In Temur, it teams up with Cultivate and Beanstalk Giant to start the party early… And then follow up with Genesis Ultimatum!
  • In Mono-Red, Goldspan Dragon teams up with Magda… It’s conveniently a Dragon, gives you something to do with your Treasure; and even makes additional Treasure (presumably to find additional copies of Goldspan Dragon)

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I’ve Become a Runeforge Champion Guy

Let’s look at Runeforged Champion from Kaldheim:

Get ready to build your own Vampire Nighthawk

Runeforge Champion is 2/3 for 2W. Now 2/3 for three mana is not breaking any long-standing records on rate. Black Knight and Siege Rhino are both safe on that front.

So obviously we have seen some amazing 2/3 creatures for three mana in the past… But they usually had a nice stack of abilities. Vampire Nighthawk, for instance had all of flying, deathtouch, and lifelink for its three mana.

Now Runeforge Champion isn’t a vanilla 2/3 for three mana or anything. Its ability to get a Rune from either your deck or graveyard makes this card positively viable.

Mike’s favorite Rune is the white one… But the others have some nice benefits; primarily red and black.

Rune of Sustenance seems to have the widest applications among Runes

Rune of Sustenance

This is a great card to find with your Runeforge Champion. In fact, unlike many of the other Runes, it is one that you might just want to play in the abstract.

Applications-wise, we envision Rune of Sustenance being a sideboard card to help you win attrition battles… Or low-count (probably one-of) in the main deck of a Runeforge Champion deck.

Rune of Speed is Very Serviceable on the Merits

Rune of Speed

The red representative of the Runes cycle has the benefit of being red. After all, Runeforge Champion — as a Dwarf Warrior — is probably Boros-aligned to start.

Like all the Runes, Rune of Speed draws a card when it comes into play. But +1/+0 is a great pairing to haste; and conveniently colored.

The other side of Vampire Nighthawk?

It’s easy to see how good Rune of Sustenance can be… Even in decks that don’t play Runeforge Champion. Lifelink is good for grinding, right?

What about Rune of Mortality, though?

One application is to upgrade small creatures to punch above weight against high quality creatures.

… But come on!

The real use case is in a deck with some kind of pingers. Runeforge Champion can turn whatever Izzet Staticaster is legal into quite the assassin with a singleton Rune of Mortality.

Mondo Combo!

But Wait! There’s More!

  • More Tibalt’s Trickery applications (and format-breaking nonsense)
  • A Vampire Dragon that might be Top 5 in the set
  • The Stoneforge Mystic that is also a Seething Song
  • The problem with having “no economical Stone Rains” in Standard

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Kaldheim Serra Angel Variants

A Quick Peek at the Original Serra Angel:

The original 4/4 flying, vigilance, Angel

Serra was a classic include back in the days of The Deck, and made two different Top 8 decks way back at Pro Tour 1.

Kaldheim seems to be going crazy with the Serra Angel variants. It’s got land-Serra, enchantment-Serra, Saga-Serra, and Sorcery-Serra! With so many variants, it’s kind of excusable that we don’t have, you know, creature-Serra Angel (at least not yet).

So… Who’s in for a 4/4 flying vigilance?

Great Hall of Starnheim is the Serra You Play Out of Your Resource Row

Pro: It’s a land

Con: It enters the battlefield tapped. While it only taps for B, it requires WW to power up. More than that, it requires having a creature already to make a 4/4 flying vigilance Angel.

Still… It can make a Serra Angel without consuming a “spell” slot. Look for this card to sacrifice Omen of the Sun tokens, support at least some B/W Angels decks, or slide right into a heretofore unseen Mardu sacrifice deck. Claim the Firstborn + Great Hall of Starnheim is awfully spicy, no?

Starnheim Unleashed is a weirdly discounted Broodmate Dragon-Serra Angel

So many options with Starnheim Unleashed

Some options:

  • Foretell for two mana on turn two; X=1 on turn three… This will give you exactly one Serra Angel for the cost of a Serra Angel; but you get to pay for it in installments.
  • Hard-cast: Essentially a one mana discount on the classic
  • Broodmate Dragon! If you Foretell on a previous turn (doesn’t have to be turn two), you can tap five mana to get a one mana discount (and double vigilance upgrade). Technically 7 > 6, but again, the installment plan on mana provides an effective discount
  • Tap LOTS of mana. Get lots of Angels.

Firja’s Retribution is “Only for Angels Decks”

Firja’s Retribution

Like Starnheim Unleashed, Firja’s Retribution gives you a let up on the classic cost.

Adding a quasi-Vindicate ability to a creature that already has vigilance is a great combo for Chapter Two.

Chapter Three is kind of exciting with one 4/4… But super devastating only if you have more than one.

The question here is how Angels will coexist with the other decks in the metagame. If Standard is just about StOmPy decks… Clearly Angels is going to have the tools to slow down their offense and chip shot / trade through the mid-game. But if opponents are going over the top with mana Ramp into Ugin, the Spirit Dragon… Playing out a ton of 4/4s is just going to give them more materiel to blow up with a cheap minus.

The synergies and rates are solid in the abstract. But we anticipate Angels will still have to invest in disruption or additional card advantage to compete in a wider field.

Plus! How to Play Foretell

… It ain’t the same as morph and megamorph

Check out our new episode here:

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Let’s Take a Ride on The Omenkeel!

Have You Seen The Omenkeel from Kaldheim?

The Omenkeel

The Omenkeel is a 3/3 vehicle for two mana… It’s got more than a little Smuggler’s Copter to it.

In Standard, this card seems like it could slot into a Dimir Rogues deck. And that Crew 1 — one — is an attractive pair with almost any creatures. Okay, okay… Maybe not Ruin Crab. But most.

It might work in larger formats; but there is a heck of a blue one drop in Kaldheim for potential Standard play, as well.

Buuuuut… The Omenkeel isn’t even the front side of this card!

Cosima, God of the Voyage is The Omenkeel’s Other Side

Say hello to Cosima, God of the Voyage

Cosima, God of the Voyage is a complicated card with eight lines of rules text before you consider it’s a modal double-faced card that also gives you the option of The Omenkeel.

First and foremost… There is no shortage of 2/2 creatures for three mana that people are willing to play, so long as they get even a little bit of card advantage. Borderland Ranger, Trinket Mage, Treasure Mage and more all fall into this category. Cosima is a comparatively gigantic 2/4.

This card allows you to set up a slow grind. Provided you can exile it the first time, Cosima can accumulate a ton of potential extra cards (and size), assuming the opponent doesn’t just kill you.

The two sides of the card potentially work nicely together. You can exile Cosima, but run a conveniently-not-redundant The Omenkeel to ensure a steady stream of lands. An exiled Cosima in fact works wonderfully with other modal double-faced cards. It’s lands Lands LANDS that lead to inevitability here.

Plus…

  • The fair — and unfair — implementations of Tibalt’s Trickery
  • One of the sickest blue one drops ever. Ever!
  • A new engine that is a little bit Sensei’s Divining Top, a little bit Neoform… And a little bit Survival of the Fittest.

Check out “Let’s Take a Ride on The Omenkeel!” right now!

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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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Is Omnath, Locus of Creation Next on the Chopping Block?

Omnath, Locus of Creation

Let’s Look Closely at Omnath, Locus of Creation

This is a card that is outstanding on rate.

The card is efficient on its face… It’s a 4/4 cantrip for four mana before you start considering landfall abilities.

If you think about just the first landfall ability (gaining four life), it’s already better than a Siege Rhino.

It’s really, really good… But is it going to meet the Standard executioner so soon?

Uro, or Omnath, or Uro AND Omnath?

Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath is likely to be banned soon.

Reason: It has just been so warping in Standard (and other formats) essentially from the moment it appeared.

… But with Omnath join Uro?

We think so.

Among other reasons, banning Uro does very little to curb the dominance Omnath has already shown in Standard. Few decks play a full load of Cultivates and Beanstalk Giants. If all you did was cut Uro, making room for other three mana ramp cards might arguably make them more consistent at producing Omnath!

Uro might get an extra land into play, but it’s not great at fixing colors.

The Kitchen Sink

While Omnath is dominating a lot of Magic: The Gathering conversations right now, we did have a little time to go over how badly Mike missed on Sea Gate Restoration, some Pioneer talk, the newest Craterhoof Behemoth implementation, and even the hot new Modern tech!

It’s like Death’s Shadow 5-8

Check it out here!

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