Taking a Look at the Full Zendikar Rising Spoiler

Is Maddening Cacophony from Zendikar Rising even good? How about great?

Maddening Cacophony

Maddening Cacophony is definitely not Mike’s favorite blue card from Zendikar Rising.

But is it good? Great? Archetype defining even?

Things to note:

  • Maddening Cacophony doesn’t target. Good in group games, sure; but it can also anchor a Mill deck against an opponent with Leyline of Sanctity on the battlefield.
  • Eight cards for two mana isn’t that bad.
  • You can Mill out an opponent using only Maddening Cacophonies. The card rounds up; so it can take out the last card.

While Mike isn’t excited by this one, Patrick points out that there might be a critical mass of Mill in Modern that is too fast for interaction. This card can be helpful, with or without being kicked.

How interested are you in Ondu Inversion from Zendikar Rising?

Front side
Back side

On the one hand… Mike doesn’t want to play either side.

On the other hand… He could see this being a four-of in Standard.

Macro / interesting discussion: Will modal double-faced cards change how mana bases have been built for the past twenty-plus years?

Is Nighthawk Scavenger the best card in Zendikar Rising?

Nighthawk Scavenger

Nighthawk Scavenger is only smaller than Vampire Nighthawk if they have nothing in their graveyard at all.

Sometimes people put cards in their graveyards for you (e.g. Fabled Passage).

But if you actually try? A little hand destruction and creature removal? Nighthawk Scavenger can easily jump to 3-5 power… The true, evasive, racing love child of Vampire Nighthawk and Tarmogoyf.

Prediction: This will get played even in Legacy! Standard and Pioneer for sure.

Zagras, Thief of Heartbeats is just Questing Beast

Zagras, Thief of Heartbeats

I mean… Look at it!

Listen to our first drive bty the full Zendikar spoiler now!

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Zendikar Rising Exclusive Preview – Murasa Brute!

Thanks to Wizards for letting us preview
Murasa Brute!

Murasa Brute – More Than Meets the Immediate Eye

Is Murasa Brute “just” a 3/3 vanilla for three mana? With no rules text?

Patrick argues that that doesn’t just cover what’s really going on with this card… There is actually some hidden rules text!

First off, Murasa Brute is a little bit better than onetime tournament Role Player Gnarled Mass (a card Mike was once famous for advocating). But unlike Gnarled Mass at 1GG… Murasa Brute is a little less restrictive to cast.

But besides that, it’s also a Troll Warrior.

With Zendikar Rising, being a Warrior can help you out in building your Party. So you might just have a little more incentive to consider a creature like this one.

Now that said…

Tajuru Paragon can Help You Fill Your Party

Tajuru Paragon is also a Warrior
(as well as a Cleric, Rogue, Wizard… and Elf)

Tajuru Paragon is a three power creature for only two mana. A 3/2 for two (with a lot of potential types), this card has a heck of a fail state.

It can help get your beat on early… While filling any slot in your Party. In addition, a late game Paragon can dig up other Clerics, Rogues, Warriors… Or Wizards.

What about nabbing a Fae of Wishes or Gadwick, the Wizened?

Snowballing card advantage is quite a possibility!

Maybe he’s friends with Red Decks; enabling Wizard’s Lightning or buddying up with a Rogue like Robber of the Rich.

A Rollicking Discussion of Legion Angel

… And all our initial thoughts on Zendikar Rising

Check it all out now:

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Sneaking in Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow

Have You Met Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow yet?

Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow
from Commander 2018

If you’re saying to yourself anything from…

“Wait a minute… Wasn’t Shadowmage Infiltrator already a tournament quality card?”

to:

“I really hope I flip over Force of Will… More than usual, I mean.”

to:

“Baleful Strix is getting in unblocked for Ninjutsu most of the time, am I right?”

… You may have just read Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow.

This card is just one of the many “fan fictional” Commander tools that have muscled their way, all linking arms, into this sweet Legacy deck:

Have you read Retrofitter Foundry?

Retrofitter Foundry
also from Commander 2018

Pretty nice Kjeldoran Outpost, right?

You’re probably making 1/1 Servos most of the time; but don’t be surprised if you cash in an Ornithopter for a 4/4 — on turn one — some of the time. Ornithopter costs 0, the Foundry costs 1, the activation costs no mana to tap, etc. etc.

Speaking of Ornithopter…

Can you imagine playing that turn one, alongside Changeling Outcast maybe?

Changeling Countcast
from Modern Horizons

As a Changeling, Changeling Outcast is also a Ninja.

That means that if you play it and Ornithopter on turn one, you can swing with both on turn two, pick up the Ornithopter only, and hit with both the Outcast — again, a Ninja — and the Ninja you just played.

Which might be Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow; and might be Ingenious Infiltrator… Either way, you’re drawing two and smashing face.

So Many Sweet Decks…

  • A 5-0 Niv-Mizzet deck that sometimes just whiffs
  • Removal for days!
  • The return of Pteramander to Standard
  • … And new life breathed into a twenty-year-old two-card combo, at eighty cards!

Oh Yeah, Field of the Dead got banned again.

Hour of Promise
But at least we have Hour of Promise in Historic

Field of the Dead was probably too good anyway. The card has insane rate and represents inevitability against most midrange and control decks.

Hour of Promise might have just accelerated a ban in Historic. Either way, it happed this week.

More, much more in this week’s podcast!

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Shark Typhoon in StoneBlade (and much more Modern)

Shark Typhoon is everything to everyone (well, lots of decks)

Shark Typhoon in Modern StoneBlade

Check out Kogamo’s build of StoneBlade; a recent 5-0 deck list:

“The kind of deck Kenji would play,” according to Patrick (and, let’s be honest, Kenji himself), this deck combines the original core strategy of Azorius StoneBlade with recent standout Shark Typhoon.

If you think back to the original Caw-Blade days, that deck ran four copies of Stoneforge Mystic and four copies of Squadron Hawk… And kind of called it a day on creatures. Shark Typhoon isn’t quite Squadron Hawk — meaning it can’t un-mulligan you early — but the Typhoon does a great impression of “flying threat + card advantage” … and can be much bigger than 1/1.

Michael thinks this deck could do with a certain better-than-all Planeswalker (and would probably add a little more Mystic Sanctuary action)… But all agree this is an interesting direction to take a long-standing archetype.

A Surprising Amount of Time Spent on Red Decks

We spent an unusual amount of time on Red Decks (and in fact various black discard and Death’s Shadow builds) this episode. Some assorted thoughts from the podcast:

  • Mike disapproves of splashing for Wild Nacatl. That just turns on their removal, according to the Red Deck aficionado.
  • Instead of Skullcrack, try Bonecrusher Giant. Bonecrusher Giant can do the same kind of work against Kor Firewalker, but leaves a 4/3 body that can matter. Anyway, Mike hates Skullcrack.
  • Think carefully about Shard Volley versus Lava Dart. For the same mana — and additional Mountain sacrifice — Shard Volley does one more point of damage, but can be very awkward to cast. Lava Dart does two instead of three, but is great at turning on Skewer the Critics, pumping Prowess creatures, and sandbagging resources for long-term play. Unlike Shard Volley, it is never really “awkward” to cast.

So Many More Modern Decks!

  • Do black discard decks want to kill opponents with creatures or The Rack?
  • What colors should you supplement your Death’s Shadow strategy? Who might you want to Unearth?
  • How do “Utopia Sprawl” people do it?
  • New(er) set evolutions in Transmogrify and Elementals deck lists! Spoiler: “Voice of Resurgence is a surprisingly powerful Elemental”
  • … and (believe it or not), much more!

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Let’s Talk About Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath

Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath is dominating new Standard

The Best Card in… the Best Deck?

Last week, Michael and Patrick made their predictions on what might be the best deck once the bans of Wilderness Reclamation and Teferi, Time Raveler settled.

Would it be Temur Adventures?

Mono-Black Beatdown?

It turns out “the best deck” wasn’t just neither of those… It wasn’t particularly close.

Sultai Ramp (really a big Sultai Midrange deck) took five — count ’em five — of the Top 8 slots in last weekend’s huge 1,000+ player Red Bull tournament. In fact, it took all four slots in the Top 4; and obviously with all those accolades, the title.

One of the biggest reasons?

Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath might be the best card [left] in Standard, and Sultai probably breaks that card the most. Not only can it go straight to five for Nissa, Who Shakes the World, Sultai has a powerful end game table-snapper in Casualties of War.

Extinction Event

Extinction Event is one of the cards that makes the Sultai archetype. Unlike some other black-splashed sweepers, Extinction Event 1) costs only a single black mana, and 2) can deal with creatures larger than two toughness or three casting cost.

Subtly, because it is an “exile” rather than “destroy” effect, this sweeper can sweep away an opposing Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath… Permanently.

Finally, Sultai is one of the best possible choices in a world where Mono-Green is a top deck. With Casualties of War capable of destroying a big creature, a Vivien or Nissa, and The Great Henge all in one big move… The deck is also super capable of defending itself early with Aether Gust, Noxious Grasp, or any number of less fancy answers.

Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath in Temur Elementals

While Uro might have been at its best last weekend in Sultai, the powerful threat / card drawing spell / accelerator / life gain engine [all-in-one], that wasn’t its only successful home.

Look for a new Temur deck topping up on Genesis Wave and Terror of the Peaks to challenge for Standard’s top spot.

You Know What’s Weird About Uro?

… That there are so many Simic decks that don’t play it!

Temur Adventures with one Cultivate?

Simic Aggro with Wolfwillow Haven instead?

Flash decks that… sideboard the mighty Titan?

Michael Flores and Pro Tour Champion Patrick Chapin puzzle through the emerging Standard (including all these weird omissions) in this week’s episode!

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Teferi, Time Raveler BANNED

Teferi, Time Raveler headlines a TON of surprise bans this week!

Teferi, Time Raveler Headlines an Unexpected — but not unwelcome — Series of Bans

There were kind of A LOT of cards banned — or banned and suspended — this week.

In Standard alone…

  • Growth Spiral (probably the best card in Standard) was banned.
  • Wilderness Reclamation was FINALLY banned. This was a card that has been flirting with a ban since its first Pro Tour
  • In a surprising move, Cauldron Familiar [a bookkeeping challenge] was banned as well!

But Teferi, Time Raveler found himself banned not only in Standard and Brawl… But suspended in Historic as well!

So… Cauldron Familiar… Really?

This one was less about format balance and more about player experience in a digital-first world.

Most Importantly: What’s Up Next?

What are the best cards [left] in Standard?

What are the top decks that players should consider with so many of the pillars of the format knocked on their sides?

One easy way to find out:

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Let’s Talk About the Players Tour Finals

Talk of the Players Tour Finals: Growth Spiral

Growth Spiral
Is Growth Spiral the most dominant card in Standard?

The “bad” news (if you’re a fan of metagame diversity)… Growth Spiral represented about 70% of the Players Tour Finals.

The “good” news then? It only represented 50% of the Top 8!

While Growth Spiral appeared in a variety of decks in the Swiss, including Bant Control and others; in the Top 8, it showed up in essentially two [related] archetypes:

  1. Temur Reclamation – A Wilderness Reclamation deck that starts on the aforementioned Growth Spiral and utilizes its mana engine to make a large Expansion // Explosion or Shark Typhoon. Power, speed, and card advantage… Plus a variety of generally good cards and room for tons of main deck interaction.
  2. Four-color Reclamation – A variation on the above, but adding white for particularly Teferi, Time Raveler. The while splash ups land counts to as high as 30/60 including Raugrin Triome. Those Plains give Four-color Reclamation some improved tools, for example Dovin’s Veto over Negate. Solar Blaze over Storm’s Wrath helps this deck keep its Teferi in play while defending itself.

These two decks made up about half the Players Tour Finals field, but still won over 50% of their matches, collectively.

A Hall of Fame Performance for Azorius

Yorion, Sky Nomad defines Standard U/W

Raphael Levy was one of only three Azorius competitors in the Players Tour Finals. His 80-card deck played one Yorion, Sky Nomad in the sideboard as its Companion… and two in the main deck!

A study in synergy, this deck packs a ton of enchantments that Yorion can blink — like Omen of the Sea, Omen of the Sun, or The Birth of Meletis… And crossed over with Archon of Sun’s Grace for even more flying creatures; even more enchantment synergy.

Most creature decks did not perform well at the Players Tour Finals; and they really would not want to contend with this deck’s Shatter the Sky.

Two Creature Decks That Did Perform…

… Are Mono-Black Aggro and Mardu Winota.

Only one copy of either archetype was played in the tournament; both won 77% of their matches. Both made Top 8.

Mono-Black Aggro today is extremely biased. Playing cards like Hunted Nightmare, it assumes that there won’t be many opposing creatures to interact with on the ground.

Hunted Nightmare usually has a pretty big disadvantage. Usually.

A 4/5 creature for only three mana, Hunted Nightmare is a very efficient beatdown creature if no one is getting deathtouch. Regardless, it’s got great stats-to-casting cost numbers; and is hard to block.

Mono Black is biased beyond even this card… With both main deck Duress and Kitesail Freebooter, it can be flat-out bad against opposing creature dense decks.

Example: Michael Jacobs’s Mardu Winota deck plays almost all creatures and only 4 Raise the Alarm for non-creature spells!

Among this deck’s hits are Basri’s Lieutenant, Lazotep Reaver, and Woe Strider… The coolest Woe Striders in history mind you. That 0/1 Goat is there to rumble in The Red Zone.

But which deck did we really dislike?

Pretty easy way to find out 🙂

Check out “Let’s Talk About the Players Tour Finals” here and now!

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A HISTORIC Episode of Top Level Podcast

Historic is basically all the cards that are legal on Magic: The Gathering Arena.

We’re gaga for this “whole new format”!

Historic is not just brand-new, it’s gotten an even fresher coat of paint due to the recent release of Jumpstart.

Let’s dig in to some of the cool new decks.

Fire Prophecy in Naya Tinker Tokens

Craterhoof Behemoth is the only green card — and the only creature — in “Naya” Tinker Tokens

One of Historic’s distinct decks is “Naya” Tinker Tokens. It’s really a Boros deck with a pair of Craterhoof Behemoths. Craterhoof Behemoth is not only the only green card in the seventy-five… It’s also the only creature!

The deck has plenty of token producers… Legion’s Landing from Ixalan gets the party started, but there is no shortage of great token producers in red or white.

Theoretically you go wide with any number of Vampires, Dinosaurs, Goblins, or Human Soldiers. Then bam! Turn four you can hit one with a Transmogrify (or turn five sub in Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast) and you’ve got that Craterhoof Behemoth.

At 5GGG this isn’t the kind of card you can really cast with red or white mana, so cheating the Beast into play is the only way to go.

So what’s up with Fire Prophecy?

Fire Prophecy serves two important functions in Historic Naya

Fire Prophecy serves two functions in this deck. If you draw your Craterhoof Behemoth, it can conveniently get it out of your hand and beck into your library where you can safely “Tinker” it up. In addition, it does exactly three damage, which is important against this deck’s greatest enemy.

Phyrexian Tower in Rakdos Sacrifice

Phyrexian Tower

Rakdos Sacrifice isn’t just one of the best decks in Standard… It’s arguably the best deck in Historic, too!

The deck has all the same incentives as the Standard version — Witch’s Oven plus Cauldron Familiar in particular — but gets a huge upgrade in the mana department. In addition to Dragonskull Summit to fix your colors, this deck exploits the Urza’s Saga classic Phyrexian Tower as an extra sacrifice outlet… And one that doesn’t cost you a spell slot.

What are you setting up with these sources of “sacrifice” text?

Mayhem Devil is one of the key payoffs to Rakdos Sacrifice

If Rakdos Sacrifice has Mayhem Devil on the battlefield — as long as they have any source of “sacrifice” — this deck can keep Naya Tinker Tokens pinned. Mayhem Devil can kill a token in response to targeting it with Transmogrify or Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast, preventing Craterhoof Behemoth from making its mischief.

… Not to mention the fact that a persistent source of dealing one damage is just fantastic against 1/1 token creatures, anyway.

Go Go Goblins!

Another deck that might just be the best in the format is Goblins. Both Mono-Red Goblins and Rakdos splashing for Call of the Death-Dweller pack a ton of power and synergy in a tight offensive package.

In a deck of [almost] all Goblins, Muxus, Goblin Grandee is a one-card army.

Yes, they go directly onto the battlefield. What the!?!

And Lots More Historic Decks and Discussion!

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Arcum’s Astrolabe is Banned in Modern!

Arcum’s Astrolabe is [FINALLY] Banned in Modern

Bans, Bans All Around…

This week the ban hammer flew wide! Modern, Pauper, and something called Historic all lost Staple cards. Arcum’s Astrolabe is probably the highest profile (but Patrick points out that little one mana artifact will continue to light it up in Legacy).

Modern players, though will surely enjoy the opportunity to play regular old basic lands without feeling silly or inadequate.

Also un-Banned!

Oath of Nissa
Oath of Nissa returns to Pioneer

In Pioneer, Oath of Nissa — a card somewhat philosophically aligned with Arcum’s Astrolabe, actually — is un-banned!

When Oath of Nissa left Pioneer, it was during a time where one more green pip could have felt format-prohibitive. Given the power upgrades to other colors, the Powers That Be in Renton, WA decided to give green a little more consistency.

Patrick and Michael note that, though a very good card, Oath of Nissa is not particularly more powerful than one mana competitors like Traverse the Ulvenwald or Attune with Aether.

Mike’s New Favorite Thing

So apparently they play black in their Historic Red Decks.

Who knew?

Patrick.

Not only that, but Patrick told Mike. And while he started off incredulous, when he found out that the reason is that you can Call of the Death-Dweller up a Goblin Chainwhirler… Like it says, we’ve discovered Mike’s new favorite thing.

Giving the 3/3 first striker menace is bad enough; but they’re not going to have any creatures to block with anyway on account of having already given it deathtouch. Truly this is the world’s cheapest Plague Wind.

It’s a rare tour of formats various. What’s next for Modern, Pioneer, or Historic given the many bans (and one un-ban)? Find out right now!

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Everything Old is New Again in Standard!

New stuff is still new, but we’ll get to that in a second.

Peer into the Abyss:
New, weird, and extremely powerful

Nissa, Who Shakes the World in Mono-Green

Mike is a huge fan of EDEL’s recent innovations in Mono-Green.

At the top end we see The Great Henge AND Nissa, Who Shakes the World!

The Great Henge is an awesome three-four combination with Lovestruck Beast; while — essentially to the surprise of no one — Nissa, Who Shakes the World provides an entirely new dimension to Mono-Green play.

It’s all about hiding behind your creatures until you get to Nissa’s ultimate… Then if you can lose after drawing twenty or so extra cards… Okay, you’re probably not going to lose very many of those games.

Rotting Regisaur in Mono-Black

Aggressive decks are doing well in Standard right now. Not just Mono-Green… But Mono-Black has stormed back with a Vengeance.

One of the main reasons is the return of Rotting Regisaur. Once again the biggest bad in the format, Rotting Regisaur provides a semi-combination with a new card from Core Set 2021:

Rotting Regisaur can discard Demonic Embrace with little penalty

Before you successfully Hellbent yourself, your Rotting Regisaur will often do a little damage to your cards in hand. If you have to discard an action spell… It might as well be Demonic Embrace!

Not only can you cast Demonic Embrace from your graveyard later in the game, but it can also set up a ten-point smash with the Rotting Regisaur that put it there in the first place.

Speaking of older cards, Blacklance Paragon is quietly one of the most effective cards in this archetype… Despite its being a Knights-poor deck

Everything New… Is Also Still New

So up top we teased out the new card Peer into the Abyss.

… But how do you even cast that?

May we suggest a…

Titans’ Nest

Mono-Green blah blah. Mono-Black blah blah. Updates to Rakdos oh sure.

But Peer into the Abyss plus Titan’s Nest in a Yorion, Sky Nomad deck?

In the podcast, friends! Find out more now:

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