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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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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