Declaration in Stone is Revolutionary

Declaration in Stone
Declaration in Stone

Oh no! Patrick accuses Mike of keeping the true secrets of Declaration in Stone from him [last week]. How was Patrick to know that you could target token creatures???

It turns out Declaration in Stone is nuanced and has a lot of things going on for it. If you target a token — especially if there are lots of tokens of a similar type (say Goblin tokens) — Declaration in Stone is the best. You get to “Maelstrom Pulse” all those tokens and the opponent doesn’t get to draw any cards / investigate no matter how many tokens you smacked down.

Of course it is great against big tokens too!

Some kind of Marit Lage? Whatever 20/20… Declaration in Stone has you covered (and your opponent is still not going to be able to investigate).

But here’s the thing:

It’s not like the normal state of Declaration in Stone against a regular creature [card] is going to be the opponent drawing three or something…

… But that is actually awesome!

If the opponent is drawing lots of cards from a single Declaration in Stone that means that you got “a bunch of zero mana Forks” on your already awesome card that you wanted to play. That means that you are doing it.

And so begins quite a unique episode of Top Level Podcast.

Patrick and Mike go over several cards from the upcoming set Shadows Over Innistrad, from blue bounce spells to weird red Reverberate re-dos, to a variety of red aggro cards. But our hosts also go over some evergreen deck design philosophy. What were the secret best cards of Patrick’s Pro Tour Journey Into Nyx winning deck? What kinds of cards is Mike enthusiastic about? And finally — finally — Patrick cracks the code of a Mike Flores A+

Plus, it turns out that Mike doesn’t know what a werewolf is :/

All this, and an oddly musical opening sequence in “Declaration in Stone is Revolutionary”:

Direct Download

Arlinn Kord Play Patterns

Let me tell you… Arlinn Kord really wants to go first.

… But first: Sorin, Grim Nemesis!

Sorin, Grim Nemesis

Sorin, Grim Nemesis has a lot of stuff going on. Yes, he costs six mana but his payoff is tremendous. Michael especially sees Sorin as an inheritor to Elspeth, Sun’s Champion as the top of the midrange control curve. Let’s check out Sorin’s abilities:

[+1] Reveal the top card of your library and put that card into your hand. Each opponent loses life qual to its converted mana cost.

This [+1] ability is just pure card advantage! At a minimum, Sorin draws you cards without actually “drawing” a card (a subtle advantage much of the time). That is a great ability! But wait! There’s more! At the same time, Sorin puts the opponent on a clock. Much of the time it won’t matter what Sorin is revealing (card advantage being card advantage) but sometimes Sorin will just win the game outright. What if the opponent is at five or six, and you just reveal another Sorin?

… To say nothing of possible combo applications a la Draco-Explosion.

[-X] Sorin, Grim Nemesis deals X damage to target creature or planeswalker and you gain X life.

The absolute worst case Sorin acts as a six-point Drain life for only six total mana! His worst case is better than a number of cards people have just played in other contexts.

[-9] Put a number of 1/1 black Vampire Knight creature tokens with lifelink onto the battlefield equal to the highest life total among all players.

When you’re behind, Sorin actually gives you exactly as much power as you need to win the game! When you’re ahead he gives you a buffer. In either case the fact that the tokens have lifelink which can keep you healthy from a wide variety of positions.

Sorin has a lot going on… But still at least 40% less than this Planeswalker:

Arlinn Kord
Front side: Arlinn Kord

Arlinn, Embraced by the Moon
Back side: Arlinn, Embraced by the Moon

First thing’s first: Arlinn Kord is going to be an absolute monster in Standard. This Planeswalker costs [only] four mana but packs five abilities (if across two different sides of the card).

Seeing that Arlinn Kord will almost certainly be a popular card, initiative when playing Arlinn Kord is going to be a major issue when the opponent also has Arlinn Kord.

Imagine your opponent plays Arlinn Kord turn four and makes a Wolf token (thereby flipping into Arlinn, Embraced by the Moon). You have your own Arlinn Kord in grip… What do you do?

Anything but play the Arlinn Kord!

If you play your Arlinn Kord you can either put her to four loyalty or make a Wolf. If you put her to four loyalty, the opponent (who controls Arlinn, Embraced by the Moon) will just [-1] your Arlinn and swing with the Wolf. Dead Arlinn Kord.

If you make a Wolf your Arlinn Kord (now Arlinn, Embraced by the Moon) will still have three loyalty. The opponent will just [-3] to kill your Arlinn, Embraced by the Moon and probably leave back the Wolf to block yours.Dead Arlin, again.

… None of which bothers to consider if the opponent has something better than to just line you up on freebies.

Lots going on with Arlinn Kord; more going on in “Arlinn Kord Play Patterns”. Give a listen to check them out now:

Direct Download

Nahiri, the Harbinger Bonus Episode!

Nahiri, the Harbinger

“Nahiri, the Harbinger is not obviously super powerful.”

“I think Nahiri, the Harbinger is obviously super powerful.”

Well then.

What’s going on with this new Shadows Over Innistrad Planeswalker?

[+2]: You may discard a card. If you do, draw a card.

Nahiri’s [+2] is great because it helps her reach her [-8] so quickly. Note: You don’t even have to discard a card! You can “just” give Nahiri two additional loyalty if you want to.

That said, Nahiri is actively great with cards like Fiery Temper. Nahiri is “actively great” with Madness!

Patrick notes that if you want to play a gigantic (if hard-to-cast) monster for Nahiri’s [-8] ability you might accidentally draw it. Luckily Nahiri’s [+2] ability lets you discard the aforementioned uncastable monster, cashing it in for an action card.

[-2]: Exile target enchantment, tapped artifact, or tapped creature.

Nahiri’s middle ability is actually her bread and butter. The obvious thing here is that Nahiri can act basically as two Utter Ends for the cost of one. Nahiri gives players the ability to deal with enchantments and artifacts without having to dedicate specific slots.

Of course, you can just play Nahiri, use her [-2] the first time, and be left with a powerful Planeswalker!

[-8]: Search your library for an artifact or creature card, put it onto the battlefield, then shuffle your library. It gains haste. Return it to your hand at the beginning of the next end step.

Nahiri’s “ultimate” is not the kind of ability that automatically wins the game. However there is a lot of play here. Nahiri can level up very quickly due to her [+2] ability. This can let you cash in your four mana planeswalker for a much more powerful finisher… While saving mana.

Nahiri’s most obvious playmate at this point might be Dragonlord Atarka. She drops Atarka the first time (letting you get that trigger), lets you slam in for 8 (i.e. “infinity” on its side) and then even bounces Atarka back to your hand so you can re-play it for additional 187 action!

Powerful, certainly… But obviously super powerful, or not obviously super powerful?

Check out where Patrick and Michael land on this Planeswalker (and several new Shadows Over Innistrad cards) on “Nahiri, the Harbinger Bonus Episode!”

Direct Download

Epiphany at the Drownyard

“It isn’t the way you draw seven cards most of the time, but for six mana, Epiphany at the Drownyard draws the same number of cards as Sphinx’s Revelation.”

Epiphany at the Drownyard
Epiphany at the Drownyard is our exclusive Shadows Over Innistrad preview card!

Epiphany at the Drownyard is a powerful and flexible new way to draw cards come Shadows Over Innistrad. It has great flexibility because you can burn it for two (or even just one) mana… Or tap tons of lands into it for a tremendous long game impact.

… But how much mana should you pour into your Epiphany at the Drownyard?

  • x=0 : You’re not going to be doing this very often, but when x=0 Epiphany at the Drownyard costs exactly U. This off-label tactic might be exactly how you use your last mana to flip over your Thing in the Ice on the cheap. This is not “card disadvantage” when Awoken Horror sends a ton of token creatures home, and the tactical advantage might be worth more than a card anyway, depending on board position.
  • x=1 : You’re basically cycling the card for two mana. When x=1 you can put one card into each of the two piles; so you’re basically trading Epiphany at the Drownyard for one of the next two cards in your deck (it replaces itself) but you are also putting two cards into the graveyard, which can be helpful with Jace, delve cards, etc.
  • x=2 : When x=2 you are flipping over three total cards. All other things being held equal you will put one card in one pile and two cards in the other. Most of the time you will be getting the same number of cards as when x=1, but you will have more control. For example, say there is a card you really want… If you put it against two cards the opponent will have to evaluate whether one good card is worth two other cards.
  • x=3 : When x=3 Epiphany at the Drownyard costs the same as Inpsiration, Fact or Fiction, and of course Steam Augury. It is very comparable to Steam Augury at this point… You will end up with two cards for four mana in most cases; the difference here is that you will be putting only two additional cards into the graveyard instead of three.
  • x=4 : This iteration of Epiphany at the Drownyard will be a relatively weak step up from when x=3. You will probably only get two cards (still); and Epiphany at the Drownyard will be exactly a Steam Augury but for one more mana.
  • x=5 : As Patrick said, at six mana you will get the same number of cards as when the mighty Sphinx’s Revelation cost six. That’s kind of a big deal! At any point after this Epiphany at the Drownyard will look increasingly potent.

Remember: You can always do weird things like putting all the cards in one pile. The opponent will have to choose between giving you a ton of cards in hand… Or a ton of cards in graveyard (which might be what you want).

Epiphany at the Drownyard is actually a pretty cool Dragon tutor. Try putting Dragonloard Silumgar in one pile and Haven of the Spirit Dragon in the other. End result: You get your Dragonlord 😉

Lots and lots more from Michael and Patrick on this new card (and other topics) in “Epiphany at the Drownyard”!

Direct Download

Want to hear more from Top Level Podcast?

Patrick’s Magic: The Gathering Books

Michael’s Magic: The Gathering Books

Archangel Avacyn and Thing in the Ice

To begin with, let us all bend the knee to friend of the ‘cast Christine Sprankle as a blood soaked Archangel Avacyn:

Well, at least Patrick is bending the knee 🙂


Serious Business!

Here are some sweet Transform cards from Shadows Over Innistrad:

Archangel Avacyn // Avacyn, the Purifier

Archangel Avacyn

In its natural form, Archangel Avacyn is like a Serra Angel with upside.

In addition to its natural state as a 4/4 vigilant flyer for five mana, this hot new card has flash. That means that if you are a Draw-Go style Control player, you will not be required to risk mana on your own turn to play your endgame threat. You can sit back with permission mana open and wait and see.

But wait, there’s more!

Any flash creature has the ability to Simian Grunts the opponent during combat. We have talked for several weeks now how 2/3 and 3/3 creatures are collectively the dominant tempo-oriented force in Standard… Archangel Avacyn dropping by during combat is great for eating those kinds of creatures. Except…

She and all your other creatures become indestructible, too! Now you can talk about fighting 4/4 creatures successfully, too.

How about the Christine Sprankle flip-side?

Avacyn, the Purifier

Remember what we said just a paragraph or so ago about 2/3 and 3/3 creatures? Sorry Reflector Mage! Avacyn, the Purifier is going to be an amazing, possibly format-warping, new card!

At the very least, think about ticking up your Gideon to five loyalty against five open mana. Otherwise, Avacyn might just purify him.

Thing in the Ice // Awoken Horror

Thing in the Ice

Mike’s favorite card (so far) from Shadows Over Innistrad is Thing in the Ice. A 0/4 creature for two mana is eminently serviceable for self-defense… And this one becomes, in Patrick’s parlance “a blue Tarmogoyf”:

Awoken Horror

As if a Tarmogoyf can reasonably expect to be 7/8 like Awoken Horror.

These sweet flip cards are joined by red and Rakdos beatdown; and the return of the Madness mechanic in “Archangel Avacyn and Thing in the Ice”:

Direct Download