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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Patrick’s Sweet Mono-Blue Snow Deck!

Here’s a Build of Mono-Blue Snow:

4 Ascendant Spirit
4 Frost Augur
3 Icebreaker Kraken
4 Brazen Borrower
4 Cosima, God of the Voyage

3 Opt
2 Disdainful Stroke
2 Essence Scatter
1 Into the Roil
1 Neutralize
3 Saw it Coming
4 Behold the Multiverse
4 Shark Typhoon

17 Snow-covered Island
4 Faceless Haven

sb:
2 Brinebarrow Intruder
2 Threnody Singer
3 Mystical Dispute
3 Negate
2 Disdainful Stroke
1 Essence Scatter
2 Jace, Mirror Mage

There is a lot going on here! What kind of opponents does this deck murder? Where does it struggle?All in good time… But what kind of deck is Mono-Blue Snow?

Snow as a Delver Deck

Ascendant Spirit
Ascendant Spirit
aka “The Good One”

Ascendant Spirit is a great way to start the game for a Mono-Blue deck. This deck plays eight one mana creatures, which makes it a little challenging to categorize… But the presence of this one means that it can play a potentially aggressive game.

Using your one mana on turn one to get a body on the battlefield just allows for a wildly different kind of game than one where you have to invest the mana later.

Mono-Blue Snow as Jushi Blue

Frost Augur
Frost Augur

Supplementing Ascendant Spirit at the one is Frost Augur. Mono-Blue Snow utilizes this creature like an cheaper Jushi Apprentice. Yes, it has one less toughness. Yes, it’s card draw is a lot less consistent than just always drawing a card.

But it’s half the mana to get on the battlefield, and two-thirds less to operate! Regardless, a 1/2 for one mana is a nice body for slowing down opposing offense.

Icebreaker Kraken
“Tap out” for Icebreaker Kraken!

At the high end of the curve is Icebreaker Kraken. “High end” being a little misleading given that you will often spend very little mana for this alleged twelve drop.

But imagine you have six lands in play… That’s six remaining, for an 8/8! MichaelJ used to take control of the battlefield by making a 5/5 for six. The 2021 version of Keiga, the Tide Star is actually 60% bigger. And by Keiga, we mean Yosei.

Check out the chatter on this exciting new deck, including detailed matchups and brewing new tools here:

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Egon, God of Death in Historic

So What Makes Egon, God of Death so Good in Historic StOmPy?

Egon, God of Death
Egon, God of Death
  • Starting on Llanowar Elves, Historic StOmPy is already optimized to hit three drops, so Egon, God of Death is 100% on-plan
  • In fact, already welcoming Rotting Regisaur, StOmPy has an established black splash
  • Between its size and deathtouch, Egon is a great mid-combat Collected Company hit
  • Egon makes The Great Henge cheaper (of course)… But after, The Great Henge can keep Egon going. This is kind of weird since The Great Henge loves hand and Egon devours graveyard, but maybe you’ll be playing so many cards that the opponent will have to react or die anyway
  • Its a nice new addition to a Pelt Collector’s evolution… Think Steel-Leaf Champion; Egon, God of Death; Rotting Regisaur for 5-6-7
  • Finally, Egon is a table-snapping combo with Rhonas, the Indomitable. Or, “they always take seven”. Trample + deathtouch and all that.

Throne of Death (the opposite number to Egon, God of Death) is Part of the Range, too…

Egon, God of Death // Throne of Death
Throne of Death

Typically, the mill doesn’t matter.

But!

Sometimes you’ll hit your own Resilient Khenra.

Throne of Death is an excellent tool for grinding an opponent with a lot of one-for-one removal. Essentially, they kill your creatures; you draw a ton of extra cards… They run out waaaaay before you do.

And the rest of the emerging Historic Decks

We start on StOmPy… But hit a ton of other archetypes this week. So many burning questions will be answered, like:

  • Is Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose in Historic Angels just a meme deck?
  • Why does Mike hate about Historic Jund?
  • Is the heretofore-unmentioned Captain Sisay deck just sweet, or possibly good?
  • What makes Dreadhorde Arcanist the deck of the week?
  • Which version of Bant Collected Company is more exciting? Angels or Party?
  • Can there be even more in-depth discussions of even more decks? Spoiler: Yes.

Check out the latest episode now!

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Pick a Side on Reidane, God of the Worthy

Were you perhaps asking after Valkmira, Protector’s Shield?

The flip side on Reidane, God of the Worthy

Actually… No.

To be fair, we are in fact talking about a modal double-faced card. But I wasn’t in fact talking about the Legendary Artifact mode on Reidane, God of the Worthy. Certainly there are applications (and things can go comically wrong for certain opponents going wide)… But I was really just thinking about the range of damage that the front-side can do.

Reidane, God of the Worthy is great going multiple directions

Reidane, God of the Worthy

So this creature is a 2/3 flyer for three mana… with vigilance to boot!

That’s… Not bad. It’s got a little less deathtouch and lifelink than a onetime best 2/3 flyer for three mana ever; but vigilance can give you a nice measure of offense-defense.

But what’s so devastating about this card?

Snow lands your opponents control enter the battlefield tapped.

What an awesome way to race! Both your fellow mono-white aggro decks and the current incarnation of the Red Deck play 20+ snow lands. How else are they going to turn on Faceless Haven? Power up Frost Bite?

Noncreature spells your opponents cast with converted mana cost 4 or greater cost 2 more to cast.

While Michael’s perspective on this card is — perhaps predictably — as a Red Deck foil, Patrick thinks this card is mostly there to keep opponents off of being able to cast Emergent Ultimatum and other Ramp-driven nonsense.

In fact, it’s good in both cases!

How do you fight Reidane, God of the Worthy?

Not well, in all likelihood.

If you go low, trying to handle it one-on-one, you run the risk of a Selfless Savior or Alseid of Life’s Bounty keeping it around.

How about sweeping up all the white creatures at once? What? With your four-or-more-mana Wrath of God effect?

It’s tough.

Also Featuring…

  • That awesome Emergent Ultimatum list!
  • Sweet Standard singletons
  • The return of Improbable Alliance to Boros Cycling
  • And more!

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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Uro is About to Be Banned (again)

Check out this sweet variant
Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath

Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath is on “the” chopping block

… It’s just a question of how many chopping blocks Uro lands on.

Check out the above screen cap. On the one hand, last week’s cool Secret Lair announcement showed us some cool stuff…

But on the other hand we just found out that we’d soon see Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath banned again. See ya, Uro in Pioneer. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, Uro in Historic. Never again! (probably) Uro in Modern.

… The only real question is about Uro in Legacy for what it’s worth, Patrick is against seeing Uro banned in Legacy. (There are just too many silly things to do in that format to take banning Uro there seriously).

More Modern Tibalt Trickery

So we know we talked about Valki, God of Lies a ton last week…

But Tibalt, Cosmic Deceiver has totally taken over Modern!

Previously we were seeing call-it-Jund decks with Demonic Dread and Violent Outburst flipping over the powerful flip card… Now Azorius has gotten in on the game.

These decks play a ton of free interaction like Force of Negation, Mystical Dispute, and Commandeer to cover their tracks… But despite practically costing 0-1 mana, all those cards technically cost more than two.

They all play beautifully behind…

Teferi, Time Raveler

Teferi is so good at covering big spells it almost doesn’t need to do anything else.

But don’t worry, it does. Teferi can bounce an Ethersworn Canonist or even an opposing Tibalt, Cosmic Deceiver. When the latter comes back as Valki, God of Lies, it might not even be big enough to take down Teferi cleanly.

What’s Gotta Change?

The “Azorius” Cascade decks in Modern are so flexible they get to sideboard cards like Firespout and Timely Reinforcements. I mean, they cost three mana and can interact with Red Decks that might otherwise have percentage thanks to cards like Eidolon of the Great Revel.

What’s worse?

A ton of them are playing Kor Firewalker in the sideboard!

You know, the old “seven cost Planeswalker or 2/2 creature” dilemma. It’ll be interesting to see.

Plus!

  • Hate Bears
  • Other novel ways to flip Valki, God of Lies
  • How Deflecting Palm was good last week (and kind of bad this week)
  • Why even though it looks like it’s all about Tibalt’s Trickery and Tibalt, Cosmic Deceiver… But they really should still ban Uro in Modern

What are you waiting for?

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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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