Meet Blossoming Defense, Cross-Format All-Star

Blossoming Defense
Blossoming Defense – It isn’t just for Standard Smuggler’s Copter defense

Two sweet topics this week!

Topic Number One: Schools of Magic, 2016

Patreon supporter Sean O’Brien suggested we revisit the seminal Schools of Magic and talk about how some of Rob Hahn’s “Schools” figure into “modern” Magic: The Gathering.

I mean, everyone knows the Weissman School… But have you heard of Kim, Chang, or (topically here), O’Brien? Many of these Schools are alive and well twenty years after the publication of Schools of Magic, and their ideas of card advantage, blanking the opponent’s win conditions, or overloading a single type of resource remain key ideas still.

Thanks to Sean for such a great topic springboard (and, you know, his seminal contribution to Magic theory).

Further Reading: The Schools of Magic

Topic Number Two: (more) Kaladesh in Modern

I know, I know… We just did a “Kaladesh in Modern” episode two weeks ago… But that was before there were even any Modern tournaments with Kaladesh legal yet!

  • Per our predictions, Madcap Experiment into Platinum Emperion has already made Top 8 of an SCG Classic (albeit in the sideboard) of Wesley See’s U/R Storm deck.
  • Multiple Modern decks have already adopted Kaladesh “fast lands” … Both Grixis and Naya Boros Burn decks have improved their mana bases this way. Arya Roohi played only one Inspiring Vantage but Patrick thinks four might be the right number… And Mike not only likes four, but is seriously considering cutting green for it!
  • The most significant contribution to Modern (to date, at least) has got to be Blossoming Defense from Kaladesh. Basically all the U/G Infect decks are running some number of Blossoming Defense, but our hat tip has to go to Brad Carpenter, for winning it all! Great job Brad.

Check it all out as we “Meet Blossoming Defense, Cross-Format All-Star”

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Madcap Experiment: Too Good in Modern?

Madcap Experiment
Madcap Experiment is “Treasure Cruise” good. -Patrick

Kaladesh looks like it’s going to be great for Modern. There will be fair, regular, good cards like Smuggler’s Copter and there will be new enablers like Cathartic Reunion. But nothing is exciting the boys at Top Level Podcast like Madcap Experiment.

Madcap Experiment is like a Tinker for one more mana… But that does not require you to sacrifice an artifact.

The problem, of course, is that when you turn over all of those cards… Ouch! You don’t want to turn over too many, or you’re going to get dead… Unless the artifact you reveal is Platinum Emperion.

When Platinum Emperion is on the battlefield, your life total can’t move… Including as a penalty by Madcap Experiment! This is a one-card combo that both protects your life total and gives you a powerful way to win the game. Consider…

  • This is “just” an 8/8 creature for four mana. Madcap Experiment into Platinum Emperion is the best Hunted Wumpus ever! Instead of a 6/6 creature with a drawback, it’s +2/+2 bigger and has a bonus!
  • Madcap Experiment only has a single R in the top-right corner. This card is not only eminently splashable but it is an easy sideboard transformation. You can devote as few as six slots (four copies of Madcap Experiment and two copies of Platinum Emperion) and end up with a very serviceable pivot.
  • It’s really tough to make progress against this combo. Dismember just doesn’t do enough. Decks like Affinity will have trouble in Game One.
  • This isn’t a “combo” that wins the game immediately, it is simple to assemble, super cheap, and gives you a lightning quick way to kill the opponent.

Too good?

While Madcap Experiment takes center stage in this podcast, Michael J. Flores and Pro Tour Champion Patrick Chapin go over 1:51 this week, hitting all manner of Modern cards (not the least of which is another infinite combo kill you can pull off on the third turn, plus an avenue to infinite mana!)

Find out more here:

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Toolcraft Exemplar is a Cross-Format All-Star

Toolcraft Exemplar
Kaladesh is going to make Magic fast again…
And Toolcraft Exemplar will be one of the best, and fastest (and not just in Standard).

Will Dead Weight be better than Ruinous Path?

If Patrick’s vision for the Kaladesh-upcoming Standard comes true, it will be!

Toolcraft Exemplar is an obvious addition to a potential White Weenie deck, for instance. If all you do is play Thraben Inspector Toolcraft Exemplar will be a one drop 3/2 on offense. Given the low threshold necessary to get the bonus, Toolcraft Exemplar might be better than Wild Nacatl! Wild Nacatl is a Pro Tour winner and currently tearing up Modern, remember.

Now adding Toolcraft Exemplar to White Weenie is obvious because of the Clue token synergy… But what about Smuggler’s Copter?

Smuggler's Copter
Smuggler’s Copter… Better than all?

Patrick has Smuggler’s Copter as his current top card for Kaladesh; it is an obvious addition to fast beatdown decks like White Weenie… And quite obviously gives you an artifact for your Toolcraft Exemplar.

The learning curve on some of the new Kaladesh cards will be steep!

Smuggler’s Copter is a fast, flying, threat… That is also a Merfolk Looter. This isn’t an ability to be dismissed given the prevalence of the Madness mechanic in the previous block.

But as for having more than one (sorry more than two) artifacts in play… the Exemplar will prove problematic. The first strike isn’t going to matter in a lot of games, until it does. This Dwarf Artificer is going to mess some folks up when they block lazily.

These are two great cards, that will serve great beatdowns (and soon).

More preliminary Kaladesh discussion here:

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Voltaic Brawler and Building Energy Aggro

Voltaic Brawler
Voltaic Brawler will be the centerpiece of a new G/R Energy Aggro deck.

Voltaic Brawler is an outstanding card. Even if Energy Aggro isn’t a thing — just a Gruul aggro deck of some sort — it will likely see play. There will likely be decks where Voltaic Brawler is the only Energy card.

Voltaic Brawler is great when it is working right, due to the nature of the Energy mechanic. For example, you can lead on a second turn Longtusk Cub follow up with Voltaic Brawler, and either put (or threaten to put) counters on the Longtusk Cub to force it through a 2/2 blocker. It can stack with other Energy cards like Lathnu Hellion, or even take advantage of turn one via Attune with Aether.

But that’s not all!

Voltaic Brawler has a sweet fail state (or two, depending on how you look at it)…
You can get in for four, get in for four again, and be left with a card that is on the order of Lambholt Pacifist (which just won both the Pro Tour and World Championship).

“It’s better than Putrid Leech.”

Patrick outlines how Harnessed Lightning will play like Valorous Stance, and Mike points out how seamlessly accurate it will be relative to historical burn cards.

Top Level Podcast also goes over Energy Ramp, B/G Energy Midrange, and intersections between the energy mechanic, and even Emrakul!

All this and more in this week’s podcast!

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Combustible Gearhulk is Our Exclusive Kaladesh Preview

Combustible Gearhulk
Combustible Gearhulk completes the Kaladesh Gearhulk Cycle

Okay, quick list:

  • Combustible Gearhlulk is a 6/6 creature for six mana… But has a “Browbeat” type ability attached
  • Will opponents consistently let you draw three cards? I mean if you can get that, you have accomplished much, because a 6/6 first striking Ancestral Recall for six mana is spectacular.
  • We think opponents might give you three cards more often than you might initially think. Many opponents will live in fear of the idea that there are three Combustible Gearhulks waiting on top of your library.

Context and Synergies:

  • If you can stack the top of your library, this card gets better and better; imagine a format where Congregation at Dawn is legal: You can put Combustible Gearhulk on top of your deck with, say, Emrakul and Ulamog… Congregation at Dawn itself becomes a conditional Draco-Explosion!
  • Combustible Gearhulk is best buddies with Saheeli Rai: Not only is Combustible Gearhulk a great card to nab with Saheeli’s Ultimate, a post-Gearhulk Saheeli makes for a great use of her middle ability.
  • When you’re not actively trying, Combustible Gearhulk is still pretty good; however, remember that even Ramp decks with high casting costs need both cheap Ramp cards and [zero mana] lands to get their big spells out. Will you do ten sometimes? Yes. And you’ll do less than that, often, too.
  • As long as we care about what the top of our libraries cost, Sorin, Grim Nemesis can provide a useful redundancy.

And for kicks, Patrick and Michael talk the other four Gearhulks (and more!) in “Combustible Gearhulk is Our Exclusive Kaladesh Preview”

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The Planeswalkers of Kaladesh

The new set Kaladesh is bringing in some awesome new Planeswalkers.

Isn’t that right Director of Magic R&D Aaron Forsythe?

Well… No.

Those were quite the Nissa and quite the Chandra we were looking for, Aaron. Luckily Kaladesh has got some other options.

Let’s check out the new Planeswalker Nissa, Vital Force:

Nissa, Vital Force

[+1]: Untap target land you control. Until your next turn, it becomes a 5/5 Elemental creature with haste. It’s still a land.

This first ability has amazing implications.

First of all, Nissa, Vital Force is more than 80% of a Reality Smasher. Five mana; five power of haste. Sign me up?

You aren’t forced to attack with the animated Elemental land, of course. You can leave up a 5/5 to block; or if you untap a red land, use it to remove one of the opponent’s threats. In either case, you can protect this Planeswalker.

Nissa, Vital Force’s [+1] is a useful ramp ability (she takes you from five to seven)… But really this is about going straight to six loyalty to get her emblem.

[-3]: Return target permanent card from your graveyard to your hand.

Niss’a [-3] is great; in fact, Patirck points out that there is some Den Protector going on here. But the [+1] straight to [-6] is such a powerful incentive, look for this ability to be used less commonly than it might have been in other contexts.

[-6]: You get an emblem with “Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, you may draw a card.”

This is a shockingly potent Ultimate given how easy it is to set up.

Consensus: This Planeswalker will be both a Staple and a Flagship.

Saheeli Rai

Saheeli has the worst fatal flaw of Planeswalkers (can’t defend herself), but as a three mana one, has something special going on.

Chandra, Torch of Defiance

The comparisons to Jace, the Mind Sculptor are probably by design.

With the least of her abilities, Chandra produces mana more efficiently than Hedron Archive.

More about all the Kaladesh Planesalkers in “The Planeswalkers of Kaladesh”:

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