Friday, September 28, 2012


Hmm, weird snafu here earlier, when Blogger somehow double-posted the Selesnya portion of my Ravnica set review. Can't quite figure that one out. Oh well... I finally noticed, and deleted the errant post.

In the meantime, I'm gearing up for a midnight Return to Ravnica prerelease event in about 3 hours (from the time I'm posting this). I signed up a week ago, so my memory is a bit fuzzy, but I'm pretty sure I'm playing Izzet tonight, and Azorius tomorrow. That might be backwards, but either way, those are the two guilds I'm playing.

Yeah, they just happen to be the two guilds with Blue in them... I'm not usually That Guy, but I picked Izzet because they looked the most fun to play, and Azorius because they just look like the best-suited to winning me lots of packs. 

Rakdos was out because B/R is an archetype that has not usually been good to me, except in the RoE release draft, where both flights I first-picked a Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief, got passed a shitload of burn, some black removal, and just went B/R uber-control. My deck BOTH TIMES was nothing but removal and bombs.

Rakdos allegedly supports a more control-oriented build, but from pouring over the spoilers, I think trying to force control when the guild really wants to be suicide Aggo will lead to a weaker deck. The actual Aggro deck might be amazingly powerful for all I know, but as a player, it just doesn't fit my playstyle at all. I think I could build the deck perfectly, and still lose do to misplaying it. So I just want to avoid that.

Selesnya has some huge potential, and is the guild I'm most worried about losing too (one of the reasons I chose Azorius!), but it also feels like a glass cannon to me. It probably has the most powerful game plan, if left totally unmolested, but disrupting their Populate shenanigans seems really easy to do if you have any removal at all.

I could be wrong, and like I said, it's the Guild I feel most likely to just stomp a path through me, but it also felt like the guild most likely to randomly screw me over with wonky draws - drawing all Proliferate spells with no token-makers, etc... I much prefer losing to my opponent's deck than to my own.

Golgari make a strong case as well, and I was honestly a little surprised I didn't wind up in Golgari for one of the flights. Frankly, the main reason I didn't chose them was that my friend Chad has already signed on to the Swarm, so I wanted to do something different.

Anyway, that was my rationale going into this thing. We'll see how my theorycrafted evaluation of the set shakes up once I actually play the damn cards. All I know is, most folks playing Izzet will be praying for a Niv-Mizzet Dracogenius in their guild pack, but while that wouldn't make me sad to open, I personally think a Mizzium Mortars or Cyclonic Rift will be way more swingy and win more games, so I'll be happy with either or both of those.

As for the Azorius pack, I'm actually hoping for Isperia - she looks insane in a duel, where your opponent really can't help but attack you. Supreme Verdict would, of course be welcome as well.

Outside of Limited bombs, goodies I'd love to open include Vraska, any amazing foils (duh), and about fifteen copies of Chromatic Lantern.

Okay, pointless post is over. Next update will be a report of how the prerelease actually went, instead of this magical Christmasland wishlist garbage.

Return to Ravnica EDH Set Review, Part 5: Selesnya

No sense burying the lead here. I think Populate is a cool, well-designed mechanic, but likely to be awkward-to-terrible in EDH. Token decks tend to focus on amassing hoards of 1/1s or other small tokens, overwhelming defenses with quantity rather than quality. Thus, Populate will likely have negligable impact in those sorts of decks, where adding one more 1/1 to your teeming mass of saprolings will hardly matter at all.

Using Populate to make copies of bigger, better tokens has some potential. In particular, copying token-copies of "real" creatures. For example, I like how Populate interacts with Mimic Vat or Cackling Counterpart - where you're getting not a generic 0/1 Goat or something, but rather an extra Shriekmaw, or Eternal Witness, or a Duplicant, or a Bogardan Hellkite, etc. The problem here is, I don't think there are enough good ways to make tokens that are valuable enough to be worth Populating.

I hope someone proves me wrong, because I am a Selesnya fan at heart, but I just don't see it.

Rant aside, let's get on to the cards.

Tokens and life-gain. Welcome to Noob-town.

I kid, I kid. This is a pretty cool design, but I don't see Trostani making an very good general. I'm definitely not as down on lifegain in EDH as many people are - I think it can be very relevant.

If I were going to build around Trostani, I'd probably focus more on the lifegain than the Populate, for better or worse.

Here's one Populate card I expect to see get a fair amount of play. Mostly, though, that's because this isn't just some existing card with Populate tacked on - the only other card in the game that offers blanket Indestucability is Dauntless Escort. This card is even better, as your opponents won't see it coming.

At three mana this is a steal. I'll play this in decks that have zero chance of using the Populate portion. Hell, I'd play this in some decks if it cost FOUR mana, and just lost the Populate. Spending three mana to ensure your guys are the only survivors of a Wrath is awesome.



I usually find "Fog" effects to be terribly uneffective in EDH, and this looks to be on par with most of them - bad. That said, my Edric deck makes use of some of the better "fog with upside" cards, like Constant Mists... I just don't think Populate is enough of an upside to compensate for the inherent weakness of the card itself.

Goodness, that's a LOT of power and toughness and Trample for six freaking mana. The fact that I can't play this in Stonebrow causes me such angst and sadness, you will never know it's like.

As is, I really wanna do something with this, plus Restoration Angel, Vesner the Sojurnor, Cackling Counterpart, and Rite of Replication. Start stocking up on those Wurm tokens now.

In case it's not clear, this is very, VERY playable. Doesn't even have to be a token deck. Pretty much any deck in the right colors could feasibly play this.

Is Watchwolf a good EDH card? Nope.

Every Rhys deck ever, no-brainer. Great for Ghave, too, if you want to go "more aggro, less Grave Pact" with your build (certainly a valid move!). My current crop of token decks (Rith and Ghave) would both rather have either Mirari's Wake or Cathars' Crusade than this 90% of the time, but if you really want to push for speed and lethality, I'd certianly suggest trying this on for size.

Yeah, remember how I said I was more open to lifegain in EDH than most? Well, I still think cards that do NOTHING but gain life are shit in EDH, unless they're Becaon of Immortality, or in a few decks, Congregate.

Meh. If discard is a very real component of your metagame, you could get mileage out of this, but for most groups, this is essentially a vanilla 4/4 for 3, which is just a bit too vanilla to make the cut in most groups. For low-powered, aggro-friendly metas, then he might be okay.

Boring. Good or bad, it doesn't really matter. It's just too boring to play in EDH.

Probably first-pickable in draft though. HUGE bomb.

This charm is actually pretty sexy. The exile mode is probably the most useful, but the lifelink mode can just turn a game completely around for you, while the 2/2 token is defiintely the least sexy, though at instant-speed it can also save your bacon once in a blue moon. 

Very playable.

The main problem with this card is, Rhys the Redeemed exists (and completely trumps it in almost every way). It's also just really expensive to use, and likely way to slow for EDH. While you're making a single 3/3 every turn, your opponents will be dropping 6/6 Flyers and kicking you in the junk.

Needs more Trample. Or any Trample at all.

Eh, whatever. Token decks have access to a vast array of finishers like this one, most of which are better.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Return to Ravnica EDH Set Review, Part 4: Golgari

The Golgari Swarm is upon us...

Jarad has the most potential, in my opinion, for widespread and varied use in the format. He's a very powerful and versatile win-condition, and can make a very deadly build-around-me general, or serve as a solid role-player in other decks. He seems perfectly at home in Savra, Kresh or Karador builds (though his mana cost is a bit restrictive in a three-color deck - you better have awesome color-fixing!).

As a general I can see him ultimately becoming boring, as his implied strategy is rather linear, while his ability to simply kill an entire table of opponents in one big turn will make him feel like a combo deck, even if you never actually "combo off" - He really resembles Exsanguinate more than anything, I think.

That said, as a win-con in the 99, I think he's less likely to warp the deck around him in a linear fashion.

As the poster-card for the Scavenge mechanic, this is pretty impresive - a 5/5 for 4 mana with no downside and a significant upside. However, it's still a bit too vanilla for use in EDH unless your runnign a General or overall deck that really, really cares a lot about +1/+1 counters. I think he'd be serviceable in Animar for example, but not so much Ghave, where there are far more efficient ways to exploit counters in that deck.

Most of the time he'll just be an irrelevant creature, or an overcosted pump spell.
How playable is a strictly-better Prized Unicorn? Not very, it seems. Built-in Lure could be a relevant ability in EDH, but on a 4-mana 2/2, it's not gonna cut the mustard.

I'd cringe havin to play this even in Limited. 3/3 Flyers are prized in draft, but I have a hard time getting excited over a 6-mana creature that isn't a bomb. At least the Scavenge cost on this is much more reasonable than some we've seen.

Definitely not EDH material.

My advise: Trade these to Standard players for lots and lots of EDH playables. Because that CMC restriction severely hampers it's EDH playability. Sure it can destry Swords of Stuff and Junk or Serra Ascendants, but so does Putrefy, which isn't worth $25.00 and is much more versatile.

See also: Beast Within, Bramblecrush, etc...

Forget Scavenge dudes. THIS is the guy you want helping out your Ghave deck. Powers the hell out of Gavony Township, Avenger of Zendikar, and even Mikaeus the Lunarch. But you already knew that.

Oh he also looks like solid gold in Skullbriar.

I honestly can't think of any other relevant applications beyond those two super-obvious ones. Any ideas?

I might play this guy in a aggresive Skullbriar deck with lots of removal and Swords. Mostly, though, he's just sorta "meh".

Probably the weakest of the Cycle in RtR, for EDH play. None of the modes really sell the card, with on the Enchantment destruction being likely to be reliably consistent, but there are better Disenchants out there.

Very lackluster effect, unless of course you're going all-in on the Graveyard shenanigans. The fact that this might force you to accidentaly mill your own Living Death or whatever kinda sucks. Either way, there are likely combo-y Graveyard abuse decks that could play this, I suppose.

I see this as a sort-of hybrid of Buried Alive and Gifts Ungiven. If that statement doesn't give you pause, it should: Gifts is banned in EDH, while Buried Alive is also pretty damned good, at least when you're trying to exploit it.
This probably has some broken applications, but it is still pretty fair, if you aren't pushing it as hard as you can. Getting any relevant creature to your hand, Genesis in the 'yard seems like a strong-but-not-dickish play.

I also like getting Necrotic Ooze (hand) and anything with a saucy activated ability (graveyard). One imagines the terror this could cause if Griselbrand were still legal.

Very playable, probably fair, but possibly abusable as all hell.

It may be just me, but I think this is far superior to the original Golgari Guildmage. It's still not universally playable in every deck with access to it - but where it does fit, it should do good work.My Savra deck, for instance, wanted both more sac outlets and more token-producers. Well, this does both.

Amazing card is amazing. Not sure how playable it'll be in EDH, though. I'd give it a try in an aggressive Skullbriar deck, but this strikes me as strictly 60-card material.

That is has Trample is bonkers, though, and is the one thing that might push this into niche playability even in EDH.

 Removal that is:
A) six mana
B) conditional
C) not an Instant
...better be a mass removal spell, or it's not even close to getting played. Shame, though, cause that art is ballin'. Might just pick up a foil just to have.

Do you need a stricly-worse Regrowth? You do? Well, here you go. At least the art is strictly better. Better art + available in Foil means a great deal to some folk.

Anyway, you don't need me to tell you that even a one-shot Regrowth is playable. If your in the colors and you want this effect, the Exile clause really should NOT be a dealbreaker.

I will definitely be playing this is Savra. He's cheap utility and a value-generator. The only bad thing is, his best ability - "Each opponent loses 2 life" - is fueld by Instants and Sorceries, whereas Savra is extremely focused on creatures, so I'm not sure I'll have enough fodder to really make him shine. The early ramp spells, though, will be great to pitch to this guy.

DERP: I missed one important detail - this guy doesn't need to feed out of your own graveyard: he can target any graveyard, so he also doubles as slow-but-valueable graveyard hate. That makes him WAY more playable.

Likely to be a popular Standard card, if Golgari do present a viable deck... but virtually useless in EDH, beyond pitching him to Survival, then making a guy +1/+1 bigger... yeah, that's not gonna cut it either.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Return to Ravnica EDH Set Review, Part 3: Rakdos

Let it be known that I am very much NOT a Rakdos player, by default. I've played, at some point, virtually every color combination and archetype under the sun, but when I do occasionally drift into B/R it's rarely the type of deck Rakdos as a Guild promotes. I'm just being upfront about my bias before going into this review, just so you know...

I can't deny that this is a better design than the original version, which basically sucked balls until Kaalia was printed, then went from being unplayably bad to antisocial dick move in 0.6 seconds.

That said, this feels like a bad Animar rip-off, and while it's a cool build-around-me sort of ability, Animar has taught us that A) making creatures cheaper leads to linear, repetative and combo-ish deckbuilding, and B) dropping Eldrazi for free, or close to it, is Not Fun.

If someone finds something else to do with this, great, but I don't see it.

Deathtouch is such a quirky juxtapostion with Unleash that it's hard to tell if this card's design is brilliant or horrible.

Either way, tiny Deathtouch guys only get played in EDH as rattlesnakes/blockers, so Unleash is virtually useless on this guy. Furthermore, Vampire Nighthawk exists, which makes this guy virtually unplayable by comparison.

This is one of the few cards that would get me excited to play Rakdos in Limited. It's a great threat for it's cost and rarity. That said, I'd be even happier to have this guy as a finisher in a solid Izzet build. Cross-Guild drafting is a key to success in Ravnica limited.

Anyway, this is mediocre-to-awful in EDH. Not even a Stonebrown Trample-themed deck would want to run this, but it could serve as filler in that deck if your card pool was shallow.
This is also terrific in Limited, but it's a Rare, so that's almost always true. Rares tend to be either unplayable or huge bombs in Limited, with very little middle ground.

But this is supposed to be an EDH set review (can you tell I'm jonesing for some Limited action?). Unlike the Uncommon above, I might play this creature in a Stonebrow deck, except my six-mana slot is already pretty full and this isn't really better than what I'm currently running.

 Let's face it - if you're playing this in EDH, it's because this is a two-headed nightmare horse called "Carnival Hellsteed". Regardless of actual power-level concerns, I could never criticize such reasoning.

Playability-wise, it's yet another card that might be playable, if only the six-drop slot wasn't so damn crowded with amazing, fantastic creatures that stuff like this that is more in the realm of "acceptable" or "decent". Will likely never see "real" play, but you get mad cool points for running anyway.

Holy greifer, Batman. The mother of all Group Slug cards has arrived. As much as I might not be a greifer OR a Rakdoss fan at heart, this card is so deliciously evil that I want to rebuild my Kaervek deck just to include this.

Even if you don't see too many planeswalkers in your group (they're exceptionally popular in mine), I can't imagine having a second Terminate would be unwanted. I'd basically play this anywhere I could.

That said, it's in colors that are already good at dealing with things like Creatures and Planeswalkers, so if this winds up being an expensive chase card, I'm 99% sure you can live without it.

It's a card that, if you have it, you should basically be happy to run it, but if you don't have it, you won't miss it too badly.

Meh. If this were a zombie, it might play a little better in a Sedris deck with Mikaeus, but even then it'd be incredibly janky. As is, it seems like a mostly dead card in the format.

Predicted breakdown of usage:

1. Destroy artifact = 1%
2. Kill whoever just cast Storm Herd = 4%
3. Nuke a graveyard from orbit = 95%

Graveyard hate is essential enough that this will get played for that reason alone.

Lifelink just looks so damn weird on a B/R guy.

Overcosted Limited fodder. Avoid in EDH. Need lifegain? Play Kokusho.

Everything from the creature type line on down looks great. It'd be a fantastic early-game drop for B/R. But at six mana, this is horribly unplayable. I guess if your strategy involves intentionally making worse plays than everyone else at the table, then give this a go.

Very powerful, very playable. My only issue is the politics of it. As EDH is, by default, a multiplayer format, I strongly dislike cards like this, where you basically have to pick one opponent to screw way harder than the others. Occassionally, one player will be so far in the lead that this is a fair-ish play, but usually casting a spell like this simply ruins the game for one player and makes you the villain that everyone else comes after.

If you can get away with being this cutthroat, then by all means, play this and enjoy. I'll save it for 1v1 play, though.

Not nearly as awful as the original Rakdos Guildmage, but I still wouldn't even come close to playing this in EDH. Ever.

This thing reads like a Greatest Hits of B/R discard. It evokes Unnerve, Blightning and Hymn to Tourach all at once, without ever really being any of those. Five mana is a bit steep, yes, I can't argue that point. But I've found Unnerve to be perfectly acceptable at four mana, so let's see what the extra R in the cost gets you:

2 damage to each opponent? In a 40-life format this is marginal at best, probably downright insignificant.

The discard is random? Okay, yeah, THIS is the part worth paying a mana more to get. I would absolutely, unquestionably, play Unnerve for 5 if it said "random" on it.

Be warned, though, casting this is likely to make you very unpopular.

These Lobotomy/Cranial Extraction variants are basically unplayable in EDH. I see no real reason why this might be an exception to the rule.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Return to Ravnica EDH Set Review, Part 2: Izzet

Izzet time for puns yet?


The Firemind Dracogenius has no time for such foolishness.

Some folks are let down that the new Niv-Mizzet is such an obvious throw-back to the original; his abilities are merely flip-flopped, in a sense.

What those folks fail to realize is that the original Niv-Mizzet basically NEVER attacked. At 4/4, he often wasn't big enough to attack safely, and furthermore, he has that sweet, sweet Tap ability, so even if you could attack, usually you'd rather just draw a card.

This incarnation fixes that problem. He's bigger, making him more combat-worthy, and his ability is no longer a Tap ability so you need not choose between attacking and drawing a card. You can do both. In fact, this version strongly encourages attacking!

The only downside is that at least the original design was a little more "build around me". Had that cool interaction with Wheel of Fortune effects.

Sleep, but at Instant speed? Sure. There aren't a lot of applications for this in EDH, simply because most decks with Blue in them aren't likely to care much about this effect, but I've had a deck or two that caused me to wish Sleep was an Instant... I can see this getting niche play.

Now is also a good time to bring up the interaction between Overload and Horobi, Death's Wail. Horobi + Blustersquall = Destroy every creature you don't control for 3U. Just throwin' that out there...
Absurd. Nevermind the awkwardness of leaving 7 open at the end of your turn - yeah, that's definitely a drawback to consider when playing this. You really have to put a little thought into when and where to use this. But, casting this at the EOT of the person right before your turn, and well... you should probably be winning in short order.

This should easily approach Rite of Replication, Bribery and Consecrated Sphinx levels of ubiquity.

I kill a lot of relevant things with FTK, so 4 damage is definitely viable removal in EDH. 4 to everything will often leave some survivors though. This is a far cry from Wrath of God, but on the other hand, it will not harm your own guys. Seems like a solid roleplayer, especially for decks just plain desperate for some big removal spells.
Like a bad, uncommon Bonfire of the Damned. Seems fine in R/G Ramp decks were Overloading this for 6 or more is reasonably feasible. Then again the non-Flyer clause does exclude a hell of a lot of relevant threats. That may be more of a dealbreaker than the mana cost.
Meh. There are much better options out there. Shattering Pulse comes to mind.

EDIT: By now, it's pretty much tradition that I go full retard on one card from a set review. This time I completely blanked on how Overload worked... I was thinking the Overloaded version was a 5-mana Shatterstorm, which would be pretty "meh". But obviously, as this will never touch YOUR artifacts, it is sooooo much better than that. In artifact-heavy metas, this should rate pretty highly.

Holy shit.

Let's get this straight right now. You can't just throw this into any old deck with the right colors. You really need to be pushing the Instant and Sorcery count way up, and minimize the number of permanents this could whiff on.

It's easier to build a deck with all permanents than one with none, so this requires a lot more finesse than Genesis Wave.

But, if you build around this, and manage to cast it for a high enough X value, it WILL win games. It is exceptionally powerful, of that there can be no doubt. Will doubtless inspire more than a few deck ideas.

Four mana countermagic better be pretty damned awesome to see play in EDH. This is no Mystic Snake or Cryptic Command, but I think it stands a reasonable chance of being playable. Countering a giant threat is always good. Adding some damage in for extra value is just gravy.
Huh, weird. A big, EDH-looking spell, but it tutors up a bunch of little spells. They have to be Instants, that cost 1, 2 and 3 respectively. I personally can't think of any deck I've ever seen that would want to tap 7 for this effect.

I still want a foil copy though... DAT ART!

Remember that theoretical "Instants and Sorceries matter" deck that will inevitably designed to break Epic Experiment? It'll definitely be running this guy. Yeah, he's a little creature, and thus not likely to stick around long, but he does a great job of speeding up your game plan while he does stick.

Very playable, but not very reliable. I think that perfectly captures the Izzet flavor.
I find myself significantly less thrilled about this guy than most. Oh, sure, there are clearly decks out there where he'll shine, but very few lists I see run enough Sorceries for this guy to really, truly make an impact. That said, in a R/W/U deck, this guy makes the threat of Instant-speed Wrath of God very, very real.
Seems a bit weak for EDH. It's one of the sexiest charms in 60-card Magic, in my opinion, but for EDH purposes it's one of the worst.

This guy is a bomb. He might not look like much, but he provides very cheap, repeatable card draw, or cheap, repeatable removal. Anything that lets you draw two cards for U is worth a look. Hate all you want, but I'll be over here playing the shit out of this guy.

Man. That's some sweet Guildmage action there. Desolate Lighthouse is already proving to be an exceptionally good late-game utility land. The first ability is basically Lighthouse for one less mana. Then there's that copy ability. As of right now, I firmly believe that this guy is the 2nd best Guildmage, right behind Azorius (the hybrid one, not the New Prahv version in this set).

Seriously, this guy is the shit.
Cool card, but not EDH material, unless you have some weird U/R Tokens build.
Man, I really like this card a lot, but if you're in Blue you already have access to flat out better card draw. If stuff being in your graveyard matters, though, then this gets drastically more appealing. Niche playable - small niche, but very sexy within that niche.
Uncounterable counterspell. Yawn. Better than Suffocating Blast, though.
For an uncommon, this seems extremely good. Screws over token decks like a boss. Beyond that limited application, though, it's usefulness in EDH depends almost entirely on whether or not she has a Basilisk Collar equipped.

Definitely not meant for EDH play. Terrible, even.

Same as above. Really cool, weird card. Tons of build-around potential, But likely to be horrible in EDH.