Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Planechase II Deck Review: Savage Auras

This is the first deck I’m going to review, because I think it will be the easiest one to dissect and analyze. It has a fairly linear, straightforward strategy, which involves playing guys, buffing them with Auras, and swinging with them. Not overly complicated, is it?

So, first off, let’s take a look at the decklist as it appears, straight out of the box.

2x Armored Griffin
2x Aura Gnarlid
1x Auramancer
1x Auratouched Mage
1x Bramble Elemental
1x Celestial Ancient
1x Dowsing Shaman
2x Dreampod Shaman
1x Elderwood Scion
1x Kor Spiritdancer
1x Krond the Dawn-Clad
1x Lumberknot
1x Silhana Ledgewalker
1x Thran Golem

2x Boar Umbra
1x Cage of Hands
2x Felidar Umbra
1x Fractured Powerstone
1x Ghostly Prison
1x Hyena Umbra
1x Indrik Umbra
1x Mammoth Umbra
1x Pollenbright Wings
1x Predatory Urge
1x Quiet Disrepair
1x Rancor
1x Sigil of the Empty Throne
1x Snake Umbra
1x Spirit Mantle
1x Three Dreams

9x Forest
8x Plains
2x Graypelt Refuge
1x Krosan Verge
2x Selesnya Sanctuary
1x Terramorphic Expanse
1x Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree

Planar Deck
Astral Arena
Edge of Malacol
Grove of the Dreampods
Onakke Catacombs
Talon Gates
Chaotic Aether*
Planewide Disaster*

(* = Phenomenon card)

With that out of the way, let’s zero in on the brand new cards first, then go over a few key reprints.
The newly printed cards in this deck are:
Dreampod Druid
Elderwood Scion
Krond the Dawn-Clad
Felidar Umbra
Indrik Umbra

And, of course, Fractured Powerstone, which is in every deck.

All five new cards are relatively playable. Krond should be mildly popular in EDH, while the two uncommons are pretty playable in 60-card formats. I plan to use all three in my Jenara Aura deck, but they feel pretty narrow, inhibiting their usefulness outside of dedicated Enchantress decks.

Interesting or exciting reprints in this deck include:
Ghostly Prison
Krosan Verge

Rancor and Ghostly Prison are older cards that are a bit hard for new players to find and are usually worth 3 to 4 bucks online. Krosan Verge is just a terrific budget-friendly mana fixer that every casual player should have in his or her arsenal. It’s a bit slow, but in EDH and 60-card Planechase multiplayer matches tend to be slow enough that the Verge is worth it.

The core concept of the deck should be pretty obvious. You play some creatures, then turn them into sizeable threats by Enchanting them with various Auras. Hopefully, you’ll draw a Kor Spiritdancer early so that you can keep your hand full of cards, which is going to be important for this deck to be able to consistently apply pressure.

There seems to be a very minor token-making subtheme, which is likely more for defensive purposes than anything. Cards like Dreampod Druid, Bramble Elemental and Pollenbright Wings make 1/1 tokens which are most often going to be your main defensive line, while your Arua-laden Creatures like Elderwood Scion and such will be on the attack.

In case you need defense against Flying creatures, there is Sigil of the Empty Throne, which can easily lead to a major offensive force if it manages to stay on the battlefield long enough.

As with all WotC-made “preconstructed” decks, there is plenty of room for improvement here. Instead of just regurgitating a list that caters to my own tastes and preferences (and budget!), I’ll start by identifying what I feel are the strongest cards, and the weakest links, to give you a more adaptable idea for where to push the deck.

The MVP’s of the deck look to be:
Aura Gnarlid
Dreampod Druid
Elderwood Scion
Kor Spiritdancer
Krond the Dawnclad
Silhana Ledgewalker
Indrik Umbra
Felidar Umbra
Spirit Mantle
Sigil of the Empty Throne

The weaker cards include:
Armored Griffin
Dowsing Shaman
Celestial Ancient
Quiet Disrepair
Mammoth Umbra
Pollenbright Wings
Predatory Urge

Thran Golem and Three Dreams are nice cards, and they are definitely on-theme and appropriate for casual play, but I think they both cost too much for what they do. Three Dreams in particular is a little to slow. I’d rather just have an additional “Enchantress” to draw more cards, rather than a costly tutor.

I’d start cutting the more costly cards like Pollenbright Wings and Thran Golem for more cheap stuff like Silhana Ledgewalker and Rancor. Small, evasive creatures are great here, because you can make ‘em big pretty easily.

Creatures with Hexproof are also great. I love Troll Ascetic in an Aura deck, as he is hard to deal with for opponents without mass removal.

Another notable exclusion her is Auratog. Auratog is great with Auras like Rancor that come back to your hand. You can repeatedly sac Rancor to Auratog to pump him to a huge size, then with your last Green mana, put the Rancor on the ‘Tog to give him Trample.

I mentioned previously that I’d like to see more Enchantress cards. Kor Spiritdancer is great, so I’d like to add 1x or 2x more of her, plus a couple of Mesa Enchantresses. With one or two Enchantresses on the field, you should easily be able to keep 6 or 7 cards in your hand at all times, and by keeping an extra copy of an Enchantress in hand as well, you can very easily come back from a Wrath of God, a big weakness of this deck.

Quiet Disrepair is an understandable choice, as it’s an Aura that acts like a Disenchant… it’s a bit slow and awkward, though. I’d much rather just have a Seal of Cleansing or Seal of Primordium. They won’t trigger the Kor Spritdancer, but they will still trigger Mesa Enchantress, Sigil of the Empty Throne, and Celestial Ancient (if you keep him). More importantly, they let you deal with the problem immediately if it’s an urgent need, or wait until it becomes an issue if you prefer.

Another great idea for this deck is Qasali Pridemage. He’s a creature and an answer all rolled into one. If your opponents aren’t packing too many worrisome Artifacts or Enchantments, he’s not a blank as he can still attack and block and even wear an Aura or two. Plus this already seems like a deck that really wants to just have one big attacker, which the Pridemage’s Exalted ability plays right into.

Two of the most powerful G/W Auras in the game are noticeably absent from this list. I’m talking about Armadillo Cloak and Shield of the Oversoul. Armadillo Cloak can slot right into the deck without fuss, but Shield of the Oversoul is best when attached to a G/W creature, of which there are only a few in this stock list. If you want to add the Shield, I’d recommend adding some cheap G/W dudes like Watchwolf, Kitchen Finks, or the fantastic-with-a-bunch-of-tokens Knotvine Paladin. If you keep, or even bolster, the token-making subtheme, the Knotvine Paladin is a definite 3x or 4x include.

This goes for any of the four decks, but if you’re building this strictly for Planechase use, I’d try to max out the number of Fractured Powerstones you can play. You see, having only one copy doesn’t actually matter in the strictest sense. You could be tapping it for 1 colorless and using that colorless to roll the planar die, or you could just tap it to roll the planar die – the point is, it doesn’t actually save you any mana at all, unless you have 2 or more copies on the table. That’s when it starts to become a bargain. So you’re better off either maxing it out at 4x copies, or removing it altogether.

Spirit Mantle is pretty fantastic, and I think it deserves to be a 2x.

Almost all of the Umbras are playable, only Mammoth Umbra seems to be overcosted for its effect. That said, if you manage to work in 3x or 4x Shield of the Oversoul and some more G/W guys, I think the Umbras lose a lot of their value, and I’d just replace them with Rancors and Armadillo Cloaks.

Cage of Hands is one of the few ways to deal with Creatures, and I’d definitely add more answers. I think a 2 or 3 Journey to Nowhere and a Faith’s Fetters would go a long way to making the deck more multiplayer-viable. Fetters has the bonus utility of being able to shut down Planeswalkers, Equipment, and a host of other potential problems.

Here’s a quick and dirty revised decklist, just to use as a starting point:

2x Qasali Pridemage
2x Aura Gnarlid
1x Auratog
2x Dreampod Druid
1x Elderwood Scion
2x Kor Spiritdancer
2x Mesa Enchantress
1x Krond the Dawn-Clad
1x Silhana Ledgewalker
2x Watchwolf
2x Knotvine Paladin

2x Rancor
2x Armadillo Cloak
2x Shield of the Oversoul
1x Spirit Mantle
2x Journey to Nowhere
1x Cage of Hands
1x Faith’s Fetters
1x Sigil of the Empty Throne
1x Indrik Umbra
2x Felidar Umbra
4x Fractured Powerstone

9x Forest
8x Plains
1x Krosan Verge
2x Selesnya Sanctuary
1x Terramorphic Expanse

This list is still far from “tuned”, and represents an attempt to incorporate all of the ideas I presented above. I would strongly suggest picking which ideas you like best and really focusing on those. Choose the cards that you like best, and try to make them 3x and 4x inclusions. You’ll lose some diversity, but you’ll gain power, consistency, and reliability.

I dropped the land count by 1, because I feel that the increased card-draw this list presents will more than make up for the shortage, plus I cut many of the high-end spells and creatures to significantly lower the mana-curve and speed up the deck quite a bit. The land I cut was Vitu-Ghazi, because I feel it’s too slow and expensive for this deck, and my changes should speed it up enough that Vitu-Ghazi would likely never be relevant. If you find games are going long, it can easily come back in.

Now, let’s look at the accompanying Planar deck again, and see if we can make some adjustments there.

Astral Arena
Edge of Malacol
Grove of the Dreampods
Onakke Catacombs
Talon Gates
Chaotic Aether*
Planewide Disaster*

Starting with the Phenomena, neither inclusion really makes sense to me. Planewide Disaster is exactly the kind of effect we don’t want to see! Not only will it kill our men, it’ll likely result in severe card disadvantage if those creatures have auras piled on them. Chaotic Aether is awesome, but seems better suited to the Chaos Reigns deck, which is all about the LOLRANDOM effects of Planechase.
I think I’d trade Chaotic Aether out for Mutual Epiphany. We can’t always rely on our Enchantresses for card-draw. This will help us refill our tanks after a Wrath, and allow us to be more aggressive with our hand early-game. Dump your hand and get as much early damage in as possible!
I’d also swap Planewide Disaster for Morphic Tide. This deck has a token subtheme, giving us opportunity to get the most mileage out of the Tide’s effect. Even more importantly, if we cut Three Dreams (and I recommend doing so), we have a deck that is literally 100% permanents! Meaning, Morphic Tide will always hit and never miss. It’s conveniently worded so that it puts creatures into play first, then Enchantments, so we don’t have to worry about our aura’s having legal targets.

Moving on to the planes, Akoum is obviously a great choice, and we’ll happily keep it. I’d also pull Gavony from the Ninja deck, as Vigilance will be highly useful here, I think. It could come in for Edge of Malacol or Talon Gates. Both have effects that can slow us down, which we don’t really want to do. I’d go with this configuration:

Astral Arena
Grove of the Dreampods
Onakke Catacomb
Talon Gates
Morphic Tide*
Mutual Epiphany*

I decided to keep Talon Gates because the average CMC is pretty low. There are plenty of 2 and 3 mana spells, so our Suspended stuff should hit relatively quicker than our opponents’.

If we want to bring in some of the original 40 Planes, I’d start with these:

The Maelstrom
Raven’s Run
The Great Forest

One decklist down, three to go…


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Final Destination: Planechase 2 Wrap-Up

This is the endgame for our Planechase II Spoiler/Review series. We've got 20 new Planes to cover, which is a lot! Let's get to it.

The first Planechase set didn't have any planes that were this narrow or specific. I feel like it is a mistake to make Planes that are this narrow. That said, I just happen to have a very Aura/Enchantment focused deck, and I have just recently included Alchemists Refuge so that I could cast Auras at Instant speed. So this is an effect that those types of decks certainly want. I just don't like that it's only worth visiting if you're playing the right kind of deck.

I normally don't like Planes that slow combat down or artificially drag the game out. This one is nice, though, because it sill allows for some combat, but if you land here at the right time it can be a nice way to slow down that one player who got the really fast, aggressive start and is threatening to end the game early.
The Chaos effect is not going to get much mileage in most EDH games, but it's a great ability for 60-card games.

I'm not sure what the hell is going on in this art, but I definitely dig the abilities. Haste + Double Strike can really speed up combat. Unfortunately this will sometimes create horribly lopsided games, when one player gets off to a much faster start than the rest of the table, and this Plane will only serve to make their advantage all the more overwhelming. Assuming everyone is developing more or less equally, though, this Plane should be a blast.

This is a very unusual plane, and I really feel that this one needs to be experience in a live game to fully understand it's impact. It can slow down the game while it's active, but once you hit Chaos or Planeswalk away, your army should untap considerably larger and more threatening than before. Cool, but weird, and very hard to judge based solely on theorycraft.

I usually dislike the "choose a player at random", but here it's not so bad. It will actually help you remain politically neutral as you can't control the outcome. That you can potentially hit yourself with it is a bummer though. I have a feeling my playgroup will not like playing with this Plane, but we'll give it a try before we axe it from the deck.

This plane may look underwhelming at first glance, but giving your entire army Vigilance and possibly Indestructible will incentivize players to attack. It's subtle, for sure, but I think this plane could easily have a major impact on a game.

This is a highly unusual plane. It looks potentially game-warping, but it could also wind up not mattering, or even stalling creature combat completely. That said, anytime you 'walk to this plane, anyone playing an Edric deck is probably going to get the evil eye. No one wants to lose their Akroma to a Invisible Stalker. On the other hand, you don't want to trade away your evasive guys, because that just gives your opponent the means to get their stolen guys back!

This boasts possibly the most gorgeous art in the set. Kessig is a little like Akoum in that it's pretty narrow and specific. Then again, if no one is playing Werewolves at all, it still has a significant impact on the game. Rolling Chaos should be pretty cool though.

Hmm... this is interesting. It could potentially yield a vast amount of Red mana, depending on how long it takes someone to Planeswalk away. Explosive but unreliable is pretty much the default setting of Planechse, so this fits right in. The cool part is that you don't need to be playing Red to profit. In EDH terms, if your general doesn't have Red in his color identity, this will give you colorless mana to play with, but you can always just use that mana to roll the planar die if you don't have spells to cast with that mana.

Another build-up Plane that produces a larger effect the longer you stay here. I'm afraid of some of these types of effects because they can cause players to stop rolling because they don't want to hit Planeswalk. Since this one doesn't hit players, that is possibly less likely to come about. This is a neat design on paper, but I'm not convinced it'll translate to a fun experience in actual games.

Kind like Lethe Lake, but with a more appealing bonus. Plus the Chaos ability is very compelling to most EDH players. Eternal Witness is one of the most-played (overplayed?) cards in the format, so this should sit well with most EDH players. On the other hand, many casual players are not particularly happy with any form of "self-mill" as they dislike seeing their best spells in their Graveyard. I, for one, like this Plane, though.

This one is fairly unusual, and will be difficult to judge how much it actually impacts a game. Just by looking at it, it seems to be a pretty subtle effect, at least until someone rolls Chaos... but it certainly will change how most decks approach attacking and blocking. I'm eager to see how this one plays out.

While I usually would prefer to be on Murasa for ramping purposes, this Plane adequately meets our ramping needs, I think. A great plane for aggro decks that come out swinging early. My Gisela and Edric decks in particular will love this.

Meh. There was a time when Living Death was among my all-time favorite cards, especially in EDH. However, I'm not such a big fan as I once was, typically because late-game Living Deaths often result in 45-minutes of mind-bending rules knots involving a dozen or more simultaneous ETBF triggers. Still, this design is perfectly in flavor for Orzhova, and has cool built-in synergy with it's Chaos effect. The only issue is that it's very much a do-nothing plane if you 'walk to it early in the game.

Much like the Azorious Guild's leader, Grand Arbiter Augustin IV, this plane is designed to impede progress and slow down gameplay. Not usually a barrel of fun, for most players, which is why GAAIV is on most players' shitlist, and widely considered a "douche bag" general. Prahv isn't so bad, because it slows down everyone equally, but it's still not very fun-looking to me. It fits the Azorius theme well enough, but I'm not eager to play with this one.

I get why this static effect had to be nerfed - it was an instant-win with Triskelion, for starters. But hosing the interaction with Double Strike was an unfortunate casualty in their attempt to un-break this Plane. I'd rather have the full interaction available and risk someone randomly having Triskelion handy, but alas it was not meant to be. This could still be a fairly potent Plane for an aggro deck to land on.

Who doesn't love copying their spells? No one! This plane is absurdly powerful, but yet nicely balanced by the fact that it can potentially help anyone at any time. I love everything about this plane. It is one of my favorites in the set. I can't wait to cast something and then Twincast it. Oh boy!

While I'd rather have ramp than "just" color-fixing, this is pretty much the mother of all mana-fixers. Absolutely a boon to decks of three to five colors. I also like that the Chaos ability puts the non-Land cards on bottom instead of into the Graveyard, which is more typical of these sorts of effects. Very good design, but not particularly exciting. I do appreciate that it will help players who don't have uber-expensive mana bases more than those who do.

LOL! This is up there with the Mage-Rings for having a huge, swingy effect. This is all but guaranteed to have a huge impact on any game, but it's clearly best when there are a bunch of multicolored decks at the table with some color overlap between them. I really want to play a deck with Exploration, Oracle of Mul Daya, and Azusa so I can just rip lands right off the top of my opponents' decks! This plane seems equally likely to produce nerd rages and auto-scoops, as well as causing the whole table to erupt in fits of laughter.

Well, Kaalia decks will have a great time here! Actually quite a few decks will benefit from this plane, as Flying creatures are pretty common overall. Still this is gonna just wreck my Gisela deck most of the time. I was never a big fan of The Hippodrome from Planechase I, and this is similar. I'm not overly thrilled, but it could wind up being cool. I might have to put Levitation into a couple decks. Okay, maybe not.

Well that concludes our look at all the new cards and planes in the Planechase II set. Later this week, I'll start reviewing the actual decklists and maybe give each one a customization and upgrade.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Roll Chaos - More Planechase Spoilers

The entire Planechase II set has now been officially spoiled, so I am going to wrap up these spoiler/review posts for the new cards and planes in the next post or two. Then, I'm going to dig into the actual decklists and see what PC2 has to offer besides a bunch of new EDH cards.

First up, let's get the remaining few new "regular" cards out of the way.

Well, he's no Siege-Gang Commander, but for an uncommon, he does a pretty good impression. Plus, he's four power for 4 mana in red, which is very efficient for a Red creature. Not likely to be an EDH staple anytime soon, but reasonable for a Goblin tribal deck or a token deck.

Skullclamp, meet Brindle Shoat.
Like the goblin above, this guy is probably too overpowered to print in a normal Magic set, yet still weighs in as underpowered for EDH purposes. Still, he makes perfect sense in the deck he's in - he's a creature you absolutely don't mind Devouring.

Nice. Not a bad deal at all. A 2/2 for two, that a simple Rancor or something turns into a Force of Nature. Very cool. Not overly powerful, but certainly playable in the right deck. The only issue is that token decks want him the most, but those rarely run Auras. I could easily put him in my Jenara deck, which is loaded with Auras, but then the tokens are kinda irrelevant. 

Bam! This packs a nice punch. Of course, as a six-mana Aura, it damn well better pack a punch. No one is going to want to tap six and risk a two-for-one against them if the risk involved didn't also pay out a nice reward. I think this compares favorably to it's closest peer: Pollenbright Wings. That one was a card I always appreciated for its effect, but never felt like the risk/reward ratio was entirely worth it. I plan to give this one a shot, at least, before I dismiss it, but usually Aura's that cost more than three need to either be a Control Magic variant or Eldrazi Conscription. We'll see.

Sweet. A perfect blend between Threaten and Blatant Thievery. It's going to be tricky to play, because to get the most bang for your buck, you really need to time this so that all three (or however many) opponents have a creature worth stealing, and that none of them have sac outlets open (such as Greater Good or High Market). Still, that this has the potential to be an almost-Insurrection for five mana makes it highly appealing. Very cool design.

Meh. Not very interesting, for EDH at least. It's cool, but just too small of an effect to really matter most of the time. I could see it in a very limited number of decks, but it's just not very good.

I can't tell if this guy is really good or really bad. Guess it all depends on what you intend to do with him. Putting him in a Momir Vig deck seems good. I could see him in an Edric deck too. Meh.

Well that's it for the normal-size cards. Tomorrow we'll pick up with the remaining Planar cards to review, then delve into the decklists.


Friday, May 25, 2012

Hey, I'm Walkin' Over Here!

So I was sick yesterday, and not only did I miss a day of work, I also missed a day of spoilers. That means we have a lot of ground to cover today, so let's get right to it.

Wow, okay. that's impressive. Whatever plane you land on after this encounter is gonna get wacky. Chaotic Aether into Meditation Pool is really gonna shatter players' sanity. I really like this Phenomenon. It's not based on any existing card, and has an effect that is unique to the Planechase format, but generic enough that it doesn't matter what you are playing, beyond that you're playing Planechase. Very cool.

This is obviously a nod to Warp World, which is an effect that WotC seems to think most multiplayer fans enjoy. The fact is I think the majority of us that play multiplayer don't really like these "LOL RANDOM!" effects much. Then again, why are we playing Planechase if we don't like random, zany effects? Eh, either way this looks like it'll be fun, even if it is a bit too unpredictable and random for my tastes.

Well, I do love card draw. This is gonna suck if you hit it super-early, and just have to discard 3 or 4 cards bceause of it. Unless, of course, you're playing Mimeoplasm or something like that. Anyway, I like it.

Yes! This is a prefect example of balancing the need for really cool, bizarre effects and boring but useful effects. While something like Chaotic Aether is going to get more excitement and interest for it's unique and awesome effect, something like Planewide Disaster is going to fly quietly under the radar, but it's presence in the set is very important. Planechase is a format that is driven by creating imbalance, but occasionally it needs effects like this one and Sanctum of Serra to restore balance. I like this better than Sanctum of Serra, partly because it just destroys creatures, and partly because it's not a plane. It was always boring being stuck on Serra's Sanctum for several turn cycles, because you pretty much stopped casting permanents until someone Planeswalked. This just happens, then it's over. Very cool.

This looks very interesting and has potential to be very powerful. Of course the randomness of it all makes it difficult to really tap into that potential. This could wind up being a do-nothing plane a lot of the time, but hopefully it won't, because it looks pretty fun on paper.

This is very similar to Planechase I's "The Maelstrom" planar card. This one only works for creatures, which is worse, but it also digs until it hits a valid card type, unlike The Maelstrom, which could whiff if you hit an Instant or Sorcery. Creepy art. I like it.

7/7 Eldrazi tokens! Well, this is a suprise. I like how rolling chaos while you're on this plane doesn't really do much besides give you a 7/7 wall. But once someone planeswalks, oh boy! Seems pretty cool, but I'm not sure my group is really going to want to play with this particular plane. I could take it or leave it.

Welcome to Ghave's favorite plane! Animar is probably pretty happy to see Jund as well. Devour 5 is just nuts. At that level of Devour, you don't even really need to be playing tokens. Just have a couple of utility guys like a Wood Elves or something and - Viola! Lunch is served. Also seems great with Champion of Lambholt or Mindless Automaton. Pretty much anything that cares how many +1/+1 counters it has, and uses those counters for something besides just being big.

An unpredictable, random Oblivion Stone - not what I'd have expected for Norn's Dominion, but it's pretty cool. It still suffers the same issue Sanctum of Serra did, in that once you walk TO the plane, you really don't want to cast any more permanents, so you either just cast Instants and Sorceries or roll the Planar Die a bunch trying to 'walk out of there. This definitely rewards you for rolling the die, though, because every Chaos trigger saves a non-land permanent from destruction once you finally do planeswalk.

 Not a big fan of this one, so far, but I'm probably just biased against it because I've seen to many Jhoira of the Ghitu shenanigans where a player suspends a bunch of huge stuff then blows up the world with Jokulhaups or something. I'm also not sure a "fixed" Dream Halls is really what the format needs or wants. But on the other hand, it will be kind of cool to just suspend most of my hand to this, then cast a Wheel of Fortune or Time Spiral or something. Even better if I can then planeswalk the hell out of here before anyone else gets a chanse to Suspend some things.

Sweet. Not bad for 6 mana. I like it a lot. I'll have to try and squeeze this into my Rith the Awakener token deck - it's a perfect fit! I also like how it's a "proper" spider in that it has the customary traits of large toughness and Reach, but it's power is still high enough to make it a viable attacker, not just a blocker.

 I have a feeling this is a card we're seeing here because it'd be too risky to print in a set that would be standard legal. Then again, it's pretty mana-intensive so it would likely have been fine. Either way, a CMC 6 Cascade guy that bounces himself is absolutely gauranteed to see play in EDH. Pretty much every Animar, Intet and Maelstrom Wanderer deck out there will want to run this guy - especially Animar.

Very interesting design work. It's a simple buff - almost underpowered, even. But add in the fact that you can move it around at instant speed and the Totem effect helps guard against "destroy"-based removal, the versatility and subtle trickiness of the card makes it far more powerful than it would seem at first glance. Almost definitely going into my Jenara deck.

Needs Haste badly. Other than that, it's pretty cool. Definitely better than the similar Voracious Dragon. Still not likely to see major, widespread play in EDH - most decks that might consider this will likely run Inferno Titan instead. That said, I plan on giving it a try in my Rith token deck. Who knows, it may surprise us and be really good.

Hell yes! Another Clone variant that is just plain better than the original Clone. This guy can't beat Phyrexian Metamorph for sheer power and versatility but in the right decks, he's gonna be a superstar. I have a strong feeling that this guy is going to be the most sought-after of the new cards, for EDH players at least.

Well, I think that finally has us caught up. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Gentlemen! Behold! MORE SPOILERS!

We've got a lot of new ground to cover, so save your questions until the end, please. Let's get it!

Love it. This is a winner in my book. Why? Well, because Vampire Nighthawk has turned out to be a surprisingly good early-game blocker in EDH. Sure he's a lousy topdeck late game, but if you drop the Nighthawk on turn three, you'll almost always divert multiple attackers elsewhere, saving you from a lot of early damage.

Acidic Slime, too, has proven to be a reliable blocker, for the same reason: Deathtouch. However, in EDH a ground-based Deathtoucher is far less valuable than a Flying Deathtoucher.

What makes Baleful Strix so appealing is that he has the potential to come down a full turn earlier than the Nighthawk, while being less of a dud in the late game thanks to the cantrip effect. If you desperately need something more potent and are disappointed to draw this guy? Just cast him and try again!

Hate the art, though. I usually like Nils Hamm's macabre impressionistic style, but here it's a dud. Oh well, I'll still happily play this guy in any number of decks that have slow early games and need a bit of cheap defense.

Neat card. A mono-blue Angel is odd enough to have appeal based on the uniqueness of it. The fact that it's an Illusion as well also makes it an interesting possibility for Lord of the Unreal aggro decks. Seems lackluster for multiplayer formats, though, but perhaps I'm still thinking too specifically of EDH multiplayer. I'll defer to other opinions on this one, but I don't expect I'll ever make use of her.

LOL, Demon Ninja. Kudos to the artist, because the art sells the concept far better than it sounded on paper. This guy is obviously going straight into my Wrexial deck, and will probably find a home in Damia if I ever get around to rebuilding her deck. Mostly, though, I am unimpressed by his clunkiness and unwieldy Ninjutsu cost. Not that it's not warranted by the effect, mind you. It's just not super exciting.

Cool. We had a plane card in Planechase I that did very close to the same thing, but this is still a pretty cool one-shot effect that can really jump start a game. It's likely to give one player the shaft more often than not, as that one player will be low on cards, or just not have anything great to drop. I'll feel sorry for the player who drops a Basic Land off of this, while everyone else is dropping six-cost fatties or better. Unlike Time Distortion, though, this is much more fun-looking and the risk of maybe screwing one player over is not enough to make me not want to play this in my Planar Deck. Also it could just as easily result in all four players dropping a land, so it can be fair... unlike Time Distortion.

Sweet. I love any Plane that can potentially draw me a bunch of cards. I definitely will enjoy playing this Plane. Gain some life, and maybe draw some cards too? Sure, I'll take that any day. I don't have much else to say - it's a winner.

Ha ha ha! Oh wow. That's awesome. All I can say is, imagine you are on this Plane, and you attack one player with a Hydra Omnivore. 

I like how some plane cards have the sexier ability as their static effect, and a minor ability as the Chaos effect, while others reverse that setup. It seems like the natural, intuitive way to design these would be to give all of them a Chaos ability that is sexier and more powerful than the static effect, but I think it's a stroke of brilliance by the designers that they thought outside the box enough to realize that sometimes you want to go the other way around and have really jaw-dropping static effects and relatively minor Chaos abilities.

Anyway, the static effect on this one is just a wonderful example of Multiplayer-specific design done right - it encourages attacking and proactive game play in a HUGE way, which is good, because Multiplayer games can and do turn into long, grindy, affairs if the players are too afraid to get into the red zone and mix it up.

Fuck yeah, Scry! I am a big fan of the Scry mechanic, as indicated by the fact that I play Foresee in just about every deck I've ever built. Scry 4 during your upkeep, for free, is a POWERFUL effect, and one I'm absolutely in love with. The chaos ability is also pretty damn sexy, and I love how it synergizes nicely with the static effect.

That's another great thing about the design of these planes - again, the intuitive thing to do would be to have the Static effect and Chaos abilities always be synergistic in some fashion. Yet R&D wisely took the unexpected but delightful route of having some planes behave that way, while others have almost no inherent synergy between their two effects at all.

Again, it's an example of outside the box thinking, and by challenging what we'd expect by doing something contrary to expectations, they've made the Plane cards a little less redundant and monotonous, and a little more random and chaotic feeling, which is a great thing for such a random, chaotic format!

This is the promo Plane. Pretty cool stuff. At first, I was underwhelmed, but then I realized the draw triggers off rolling the Planar Die, regardless of the outcome, which is awesome. Because that way, even if you roll a blank, you still got something out of the attempt. That really sounds fun and cool, so I appreciate this plane's design a lot more now that I actually understand what it does. Plus, it draws card, and that's always a winner in my book. The ability to stack the Planar Deck is also pretty cool. "Eon Fog? Skip that shit!"

This might actually be even more broken with a Ghave deck than the Doubling Season plane! Holy shit.

Okay, so I don't want to seem ungrateful or hypocritical, as I've repeatedly stated on this blog and in person that drawing cards is literally my favorite thing to do in Magic. But does every plane in Planechase II have something to do with drawing cards?

Clearly, I'm exaggerating, but it really does seem like about half the planes so far have the words "draw a card" somewhere amongst their text. I'm okay with this, but I am hoping to see a little more variety. Foothills are a great start, but we could really use a couple of Planes that help us ramp like Murasa did in Planechase 1. And some other random, wacky effects too.

Well, that's it for today. What? That wasn't enough? Too bad! Go do something productive.