Portable Hole, Prosperous Innkeeper & Modern Horizons II!

Prosperous Innkeeper, Power Word Kill, the villainous Tiamat… There are so many new — even newer — cards for Standard, the format is about to burst! But first? What’s on the horizon for Modern?

UU: Counter Target Spell

Remember way back when, when we did an episode about how Silumgar’s Scorn was a messed up Magic card?

I mean, on the back of that card — which was pretty restrictive on deck building cost (i.e. you had to have a Dragon in your hand or a Dragon on the battlefield to fully turn it on) Mike qualified for the Pro Tour after a ten-year hiatus!

But with Modern Horizons II… They’re just letting us have the original.

Don’t go too gaga on that spoiled image from our good friends in Renton, WA. Just because it says “Standard” under one version doesn’t mean that Counterspell will be Standard-legal. That’s just in reference to the art-type, not format legality.

Modern Horizons II *AND* Dungeons & Dragons?

We’re barely two weeks into the all-new Strixhaven Standard, and there are spoilers from not one — but two — new tournament legal sets! Modern will certainly get a facelift from Modern Horizons II… Counterspell alone is going to boost traditional Control decks; but also the reprinting of enemy fetchlands. This will be a great opportunity to pick up the Zenikar classics:

  • Arid Mesa
  • Marsh Flats
  • Misty Rainforest
  • Scalding Tarn
  • Verdant Catacombs

Wait a second… Did you say “Dungetons & Dragons”?

Yeah! What do you think about this one?

Portable Hole from Dungeons & Dragons

Portable Hole
Portable Hole
  • Portable Hole
  • W
  • Artifact
  • When Portable Hole enters the battlefield, exile target nonland permanent an opponent controls with mana value 2 or less until Portable Hole leaves the battlefield.

So is Portable Hole the white Fatal Push?

On the one hand, this card is sorcery speed instead of an instant. It can’t punch up and take out more expensive creatures [given the right circumstances]. Still, Portable Hole seems pretty exciting!

Not only is it a fast and great removal card (you can take out a first turn mana creature or a Death’s Shadow)… It can also deal with cheaper non-creature threats. For example: Mazemind Tome or upcoming equipment Vorpal Sword.

How about this one?

Just How Great is Prosperous Innkeeper?

Prosperous Innkeeper
Prosperous Innkeeper
  • Prosperous Innkeeper
  • 1G
  • Creature – Halfling Citizen
  • When Prosperous Innkeeper enters the battlefield, create a Treasure token. (It’s an artifact with T:, Sacrifice this artifact: Add one mana off any color.”)
    Whenever another creature enters the battlefield under your control, you gain 1 life.
  • 1/1

Our hosts agree… This one is awesome!

First off, it’s got a lot of Wily Goblin to it. In fact, Prosperous Innkeeper is easier to cast (1G rather than RR). That said, Halfling Citizen is a lot worse than Goblin Pirate… But regardless, Wily Goblin has been popular in multiple sets.

But it’s got even more text than Treasure-making! Prosperous Innkeeper is a slightly easier to land Wily Goblin but has a lot of Soul Warden to it as well.

We are confident this one will see play in multiple archetypes.

Seems like the new set fun this summer is just beginning. Check out now:

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Gnarled Professor, learns, Lessons, and more Strixhaven

Gnarled Professor from Strixhaven

Gnarled Professor
Gnarled Professor

There was a time when Gnarled Professor would have been about the best creature there was.

A 5/4 for 2GG mana is not too far off of the legendary Erhnam Djinn (4/5 for 3G)… And old Ernie had a disadvantage while Gnarled Professor has two clear advantages. It starts off with trample and you essentially draw a card via learn.

More than that, “learn” is like drawing drawing with selection; it’s Demonic Tutor-ish.

Gnarled Professor is near the top of the efficiency list for learns and Lessons. For the most part, the learn cards are a little inefficient and the Lessons are a little overcosted. The trade-off being that you got card advantage along the way. How about another?

Let’s go on a Field Trip!

Field Trip
Field Trip

Field Trip is pretty similar to some other cards that people play in Standard. The main difference on the front side is that Field Trip can only get a basic Forest; whereas Cultivate or Fertile Footsteps can get any sort of a basic land.

So the color restriction is a definite disadvantage on the front end. On the first card, this is a little weaker than the market at 2G. The real question is how you value the learn ability.

Would you rather have the option of buying a Beanstalk Giant from exile? How about a second basic land [that may or may not be a basic Forest]? How might you rate those against the front-side learn on Field Trip?

The answer, of course, depends on how much space you set aside for Lessons. None of the Lessons is particularly efficient, but you can stockpile removal, dig for basics, or draw cards… Essentially on-demand; and generally care of card advantage. Both Gnarled Professor and Field Trip here grant a Lesson on top of doing something you might want to do for a reasonable amount of mana.

Lessons from Strixhaven (that might not be Lessons)

  • A modal double-faced Gnarled Mass
  • The return of a beloved Planeswalker card as… kind of one Planeswalker card
  • Michael loving one kind of 40/40 (and Patrick trying to get him to like another flavor)
  • “More” Lots more!

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Expressive Iteration Will be Good in VINTAGE

Expressive Iteration
Expressive Iteration

Expressive Iteration Will be Good in Vintage…

… And great in Standard. It’ll be all over Historic, Modern, Legacy…

So what’s so exciting about this card?

Here’s the secret: Don’t play it on turn two (in non-Vintage). If you play it on turn three, you can exile a land card (and play it that turn). Sure, there will be times that you have to Iterate Expressively on turn two… Just know that that won’t be the norm.

In Vintage the rules will be a little bit different. Not only can you play this with a Mox Sapphire or Mox Ruby (without first making your second land drop) you can also just exile stow a zero casting cost artifact.

In a sense Expressive Iteration is just better than drawing two cards. You get to “draw” the best two of the next three. (As long as you know the play pattern). But now you do!

More Strixhaven Hits and (near?) Misses

Mike absolutely loves Body of Research! Not only is this a 40/40 (or so) for six mana, it can be part of a killer two-card combination. Deceiver Exarch + Splinter Twin required seven mana; but could be awkward to set up due to timing. Body of Research + Fling is only one more mana and still a reliable kill.

… Did we mention it’s also a 40/40 (or so) for six mana?

Body of Research
Body of Research

What’s up with Shadrix Silverquill?

Shadrix Silverquill
Shadrix Silverquill

There is a LOT going on with this Elder Dragon. It’s essentially a four power flyer on offense… Maybe more with its self-buffing ability.

Our hosts are only medium on it. Lots of hoops to jump into before it even gets interesting… Do they have any creatures? How many? Can we kill 2/1 creatures without using a card?

But the bigger issue is that — between white and black — Standard has plenty of competition at the “four power flyer” category… Especially after all those Angels in Kaldheim.

Whether you want to murder the opponent’s creatures or fight fair, “Expressive Iteration Will be Good in VINTAGE” has got some great Strixhaven takes for you. Listen up now!

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Going Deep into the Strixhaven Previews

Some Assorted Strixhaven Previews…

Lorehold Excavation
Lorehold Excavation is probably MIke’s favorite of the Strixhaven Previews so far

Will it be good?

Deeply, deeply, mediocre?

Great against control? Or embarrassing against control in a world word where it coexists with Yorion, Sky Nomad?

There is no way to know just yet… But our hosts, at least for now, have not reached consensus.

Let’s look at some big “Boros” cards from Lorehold

Velomachus Lorehold
Velomachus Lorehold

Imagine a deck that hunkers down with big Planeswalkers or seeks to control the midgame.

Might the red-white Elder Dragon Velomachus Lorehold be productive as the biggest of the big?

“What did you think you were going to get for seven mana?”
-Mike

Probably if you’re going to dig seven deep, there is going to be something waiting there you might want to cast. That “something” might be regular cards; or, in one host’s opinion… If you’re playing Velomachus Lorehold, you’re probably playing weird cards to exploit its presence.

Radiant Scrollweilder
Radiant Scrollweilder

Notably, neither Lightning Helix nor Warleader’s Helix actually has lifelink. So, if you’re going to stretch far enough into the instants of red-white’s past, there is some extra synergistic spice waiting for you!

This is a card that, if it’s going to be good, it’s going to be really good because of that lifelink ability. Think a Pyroclasm of sorts. Your Radiant Scrollweilder will live; the more guys they have, the more lifelink is going to make it look good. But even non-creature heavy decks are going to have to respect its ability to procure extra cards, even when you can’t pick and choose.

Valentin, Dean of the Vein from the Strixhaven Previews

Valentin, Dean of the Vein
Valentin, Dean of the Vein

This card is spectacular… Especially for one mana.

On its face, Valentin, Dean of the Vein is comparable to Healer’s Hawk. Sure, menace is a little worse than flying… But it also doesn’t have to share Standard with Goblin Chainwhirler.

Valentin can be sweet on one; and if they don’t kill it, it’s probably going to get some immediate money. Unlike Healer’s Hawk, it’s in black, meaning you can clear a path more efficiently and can set up the pest-making triggered ability. That really pushes Valentin over the gop!

Plus, if you have access to green, you can “kick” it for four mana. At which point you know you already have multiple sources of life gain in your deck.

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Village Rites is Our Official Strixhaven Preview

Look What’s Back… It’s Village Rites!

Village Rites
Village Rites

Our good friends at Wizards entrusted us with this exciting news: Village Rites is sweeter than ever in its Strixhaven form!

Village Rites was already a popular card in the Rakdos and Jund Sacrifice decks of Standard and Historic. The card continues to give you opportunities for card advantage, and sacrifice synergies! All for one measly mana.

And… That’s some fun art.

Professor Onyx from Strixhaven

Professor Onyx
Liliana Vess… now cosplaying as Professor Onyx

Our heroes are torn on their assessment of Professor Onyx.

  • Michael: Unbridled enthusiasm. He imagines this card as kind of a one-card High Tide deck. He imagines untapping with this powerful permanent in play, and passively killing the opponent while doing what a control deck might want to do anyway. Like drawing cards or killing creatures.
  • Patrick: The rate on this Strixhaven Planeswalker is just too bad. Six mana is a ton… And this incarnation of Liliana is no Dreadhorde General. Who do you want it against? Fast Red Aggro? Mono-Blue? How about Elspeth Conquers Death? Exactly.

Kasmina, Enigma Sage from Strixhaven

The other recently-revealed Planeswalker from Strixhaven ends up well worth the discussion. This one has a lot that it might be able to contribute to… But most importantly via that passive ability.

Each other planeswalker you control has the loyalty abilities of Kasmina, Enigma Sage.

Kasmina can grant Ultimates to Planeswalkers with no natural payoffs… And can turn high loyalty Planeswalkers directly into huge creatures.

How about that fail state?

Imagine you just played this card for three; and immediately made a 1/1.

“I won a PTQ with the card Wood Elves in my deck.” -Mike

What’s better as a remainder? A Kasmina with one loyalty, or a basic Forest. Exactly.

Give it a listen now!

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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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