Friday, April 26, 2013

Dragon's Maze EDH Set Review, Part 4: Legends and Stuff

Here we are come to the finale. We've got 10 new Legends to review, and I'll give a quick shout out to the Cluestones (the set's only Artifacts), and Maze's End (The only land in the set [that isn't a reprint]).

We'll start with the Legendary folks. And since, there are 10 of them, and everyone loves a Top 10 List, we'll do these in order from worst to best, counting down to the best.

The Legends

# 10 - Emmara Tandris
This one is a no-brainer. Virtually the entire internet rose up at once to declare this card The Worst Card Ever Printed. Okay, hyperbole aside, this card is clearly the biggest disappointment in the whole batch. There are plenty of better options for a General of a token deck, and regardless of her P/T stats, the effect she provides is not something you'd ever want to pay more than 2 or 3 mana for. If she was a 2/3 for 3 with this ability, she MIGHT be niche-playable. As printed, she's absolutely atrocious.

#9 - Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker
I really wanted to like this guy, but the more I think about him, the more convinced I am that this guy will simply never be able to reliably connect with opponents often enough for his Mind Funeral ability to be worth it. With better stats, or better evasion, he'd be pretty cool, but by the time you can attack with this guy, he's going to be swinging into 4/4 or 5/5 flyers every time.

# 8 - Vorel of the Hull Clade
A lot of people will be drawn to this guy for his Johnny sensibilities. He's a clear build-around-me General, but I just don't think he's powerful enough or efficient enough to really be all that good. While you're durdling around, doubling this and that, your opponents will just be played Dragons and Angels and killing your face.

# 7 - Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch
Exava is the first card on the list that I actually like, but she still ranks this low simply for being in what I feel is a weak color pair, coupling with the fact that while she's strong on her own, she doesn't actually do anything to shore up her colors' weaknesses. At least Lyzolda drew cards in a roundabout way. If you want to build a balls-to-the-wall aggro deck in these colors, Exava is clearly the right manly-armed woman for the job. I just don't think the deck itself will be very good.

# 6 - Lavinia of the Tenth
If Lavinia's rules text said "mana cost 5 or less" she'd rank much, much higher. That said, I'm actually thankful she doesn't say that. She's still pretty solid, but I think if your going to play a deck that seeks to utilize her effectively, you're probably better of just building Grand Arbiter.dec and playing her as one of the 99, along side some blink effects. She's good, but there are other ways to do what she does, and what she does isn't really fun, so she loses a few ranks for that.

# 5 - Varolz, the Scar-Striped
Varolz is actually pretty cool, but I strongly believe that the best EDH use for him is as a "liuetenant" in a Skullbriar deck, rather than as the General of his own deck. That said, he does seem like a capable leader. He just has some really strong competition in these colors. Plus, Scavenge is actually sorta bad in EDH, because exiling your own creatures in prime reanimation colors is kinda weak.

#4 - Tajic, Blade of the Legion
Like Varolz, Tajic is, in a vacuum, better than his ranking might indicate, but when compared to other available Legends in his colors, he loses some luster. That said, one should never underestimate the appeal or power of an Indestructible General for only 4 mana. Personally I think Gisela and Aurelia are just plain better, by miles, but if you are looking for something that costs less than a million mana, Tajic might be your guy.

#3 - Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts
I'm honestly suprised to find Teysa ranking this high on the list, as she's one of the most disappointing cards in the set for me. That said, I have come to apprecaite her eccelctic mish-mash of abilities a little more, now that the initial shock of disappointment has worn off. Mostly, I am just annoyed at the 7-mana price tag. Even if her assortment of abilities are worth it, 7 mana is a tall order for W/B decks.

She's playable, but I'll be sticking with Vish Kal for the foreseeable future.

#2 - Ruric Thar, the Unbowed
Ruric is one of two truly powerful and compelling Legends in the set, and he almost made #1, but lost a single rank due mainly to my personal biases. Unlike my #1 pick, this guy is actually a terrible fit for my existing R/G deck, due to not having Trample, and making all my ramp and utility spells hurt me. Ruric really needs to be in a deck that is at least nearly all-creatures, if not entirely spell-free. He's powerful enough to be worth building around, though, and will likely be very difiicult for some players to deal with. The best thing about him is how he punishes non-interactive combo decks.

#1 - Melek, Izzet Paragon
I've already said I was biased, but this guy is just too awesome, and too perfect not to be my pick for #1. Regular readers will know that I went through quite a long ordeal to assemble a U/R deck. I wanted an deck with an Instants and Sorceries Matter theme, and eventually built a Nin deck that balances this theme with some Nin-teractive stuff like Stuffy Doll and Repurcussion. It works okay, but the tension between the two themes has dilluted the effectiveness of the deck somewhat. Well, imagine my delight when Melek was spoiled: He is literally THE perfect general for the deck, and allows me to drop the awkwardly shoehorned-in Nin stuff, in favor or more synergystic Instants and Sorceries.

The Cluestones

I'll be blunt - I'm not a fan of this cycle. The signets and keyrunes are generally much better. The green members of this cycle are downright undesireable due to green having tons of vastly better ramp options and some not-too-shabby card draw options. The Blue ones lose appeal mainly due to the sac-to-daw option being less desirable. So the Boros, Rakdos and Orzhov ones are the only three that I think are even worth considering. Even in those colors, though, I'd have to be really desperate for a man rock to run these. Even in a two-color deck, I'd rather have Coalition Relic.

Maze's End

This might have been a really janky, niche alt-win card for 5-color decks, if Prime Time wasn't banned, but even then it wouldn't have been great. Without Prime Time's help this thing doesn't have a prayer.

Now watch someone use Amulet of Vigor, Azusa, Uncharted Realms and Crucible of Worlds to prove me wrong.

Wait, now I'm thinking that might actually work...

No, still terrible.

Well, this concludes our EDH set review for Dragon's Maze. Drop me a line in the comments if you disagree or have some use for a card I overlooked.


Retail Therapy

Sorry to interrupt our normally scheduled programing in the middle of an EDH set review, but I have to take a moment to savor this sublime act of aggressive retail therapy.

First a bit of background - and sorry if this sounds like "poor me" white people problems, but my financial situation has been a bit of a nightmare the last few years. First, I had a significant chuck of my Magic collection grow legs and walk off on me, including basically every Foil I owned, every ABUR dual, and probably 75% of my various Ravnica, Shadowmoor, etc dual lands. Oh, and about 10 to 12 Onslaught fetches, including two Foil fetch lands. At the time, it was probably about $5,000 worth of cards. Today those same cards are easily worth twice that. For reference, I had a foil Bribery that was worth about $10 to $15 at that time, but goes for $60 or more now. That's just one example of how the rapid appreciation of Magic cards has made that loss hurt more and more over time, rather than less.

But the single most significant and painful part of losing all those cards was the nice collection of Revised duals I was assembling. I was well over halfway to having a full set of 40 revised duals. Actually a few of them were Unlimited, but whatever. At the time I lost those cards, you could get a Revised Underground Sea for $40. Today they're $150 to $200 a pop.

In the 4 years since that horrible incident, my wife and I bought our first house, and subsequently lost it to foreclosure. We ended up in an apartment, but after a year we couldn't even afford that, and were forced to move in with her parents until we can rebuild our finances and our life. Oh and we've been plagued with near-constant car trouble with both of our cars.

All of that makes this next bit seem ridiculously and utterly reckless, foolish and irresponsible. But, despite the fact that those adjectives are probably fairly accurate, I have just purchased the following set of cards on Ebay:

Yep. That's a full set of 40 Revised dual lands. It has been a dream of mine to own a set like this for almost 10 years. I spent 6 years slowing inching my way toward that goal one land at a time, only to have my progress stripped away and reset back to square zero. It was a huge downer, and for years since I all but resigned myself to never owning another ABUR dual land again.

Recently though, things have begun to change. Good things have started to happen, and even though my wife and I are still deep in a hole, financially, we've been able to start climbing back out of that hole, rather than digging in deeper. Then, a few weeks back, I stumbled on a great deal for a Revised Plateau and Scrubland, picking up both lands for less than the price of just a Scrubland anywhere online. It was the first time in years I felt like reaquiring even a FEW of the original dual lands was within my grasp. It felt good.

Our most recent windfall was learning that we have dodged being on the hook to pay the IRS back an $8,000 tax credit by 18 days. If our mortgage company had processed their foreclosure papers just a little bit faster, we'd have been out that eight grand, but by some miracle, they didn't get it done until 18 days after the cutoff point. On top of that, we also learned that instead of owing a shit ton of money, we were actually getting a sizeable chunck of money back. I won't say how much, but I will tell you that even after the above purchase we still have quite a bit left over. Enough to put a small dent in our debt situation.

I'll be the first to admit, though, that buying Magic cards was a pretty stupid use of that money. We could have done a lot of good, responsible, adult things with that money.

But here's the thing I've learned from both losing that load of Magic cards 4 years ago and both buying and then losing a home. I'm not a responsible, adult person. I am a 32 year old man-child, and I'm perfectly okay with that. Being a homeowner was one of the most miserable and depressing experiences of my life and I cannot being to stress how much relief and happiness I felt the day I learned that the foreclosure was done, and the house was officially not my problem any more.

To sum it up, owning a house did not make me happy. Being it debt doesn't make me happy, but neither does paying off credit card bills. Working my life away to make money, only to have 100% of that money go to bills and car repairs and boring stuff like that doesn't make me happy.

Magic makes me happy.

And since I've spent the last 3 years being miserable, broke, and constantly sacrificing happiness for the sake of being a grown-up adult, with the good luck and windfalls that life has finally sent my way the last few months, well... I feel like life owes me a bit of room to indulge my man-child nature once again. I seriously doubt I will EVER have an opportunity again in this lifetime to just buy 40 Revised Duals all at once. This was literally a once-in-a-lifetime chance, and I took it. And I'm extremely happy that I did.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Dragon's Maze EDH Set Review, Part 3: Enemy Color Guilds

We've got another long one today, with another 5 guilds. This time, we're looking at the enemy color pairs, such as Orzhov and the like. With over 30 cards to discuss, I'll just skip to the review, cool?


Divinity of Pride and Serra Ascendant were made before EDH hit a critical mass of popularity and WotC started printed cards aimed squarely at our format. This, apparently, is what DoP looks like with an EDH-minded "fix" in place to account for the 40 life start we get. In some ways, I appreciate they've given us a bit more of a hoop to jump through to power this guy up, but at the same time, it makes me feel like DoP is just "better", despite the fact that this guy has two great protection colors.

Either way, he's definitely going to see some play.
Bad. Ass.

Zombify target Enchantment? Target Planeswalker? Sure, we'll take that! This will likely be a staple of the format for years to come.
I like that they don't get the card back if they kill this guy. That's what makes stuff like Tidehollow Sculler pratically useless in the format. I'm still not sure this is worth playing in EDH, though. I can definitely see it in Karador or something similarly able to recur it ad nauseum, but beyond that it seems too weak.

Usually I'd rather just have Sadistic Hypnotist and some tokens.
Nope. If this guy didn't cost 5, he might be semi-playable in WB Tokens, but you're better off jamming Cathar's Crusade.
Ugh. I hate this card with a passion, but it's so rediculously on-them for my Vish Kal deck that I know it's going to end up in that deck. But do we really need another way to make Cabal Coffers the most-abused Land in EDH?

Quick mathematical comparison to Exsanguinate:Debt is worse than Exsanguinate at 5 mana, the lowest CMC you can cast it for (and not have it do nothing), but it achieves parity with Exsanquinate at X=2, which gives you a 4-point life drain for 6 mana with either spell. Debt becomes more cost efficient than Exsanguinate at the 7 mana CMC, or X=3. Once you have 10 mana, Debt is worth a 12 point life drain, compared to Exsanguinate's 8 point drain.
Uh, do I want to pay 6 mana for a Zealous Persecution, or two mana? Derp. That this card exists is almost insulting.


Our planeswalker for the set is the long-awaited and much-anticipated Ral Zarek. I have to think there were a lot of EDH players crestfallen the day he was spoiled. He's a good planeswalker, no doubt about it, but he's not very EDH-friendly. His +1 is terrible in a non-duel environment, and the Lightning Bolts he slings aren't nearly as reliable in EDH as they are in 60-card formats. Worst of all, his Ultimate is down right anathema to a large portion of the format's fan's as being a Turn Hog is one of the most antisocial things one can do.

Expeect to see him paired with Doubling Season for maximum funwreckery.
Ha ha, cute. If this made 5/5 Dragons instead of 4/4's I'd be happy to give this a shot, but it's just shy of being playable in my book.  That said, if there are any U/R decks out there just wishing they could play Overrun, here's your chance.
I'd love this as a 5 mana Instant, but that's probably unrealistic. As printed, I think this is worthy of niche play at most, but not much more than that.
LOL, no thanks. It's a cute design, and very flavorful, but power-level-wise, this is pretty abyssmal.


5 mana to kill virtually any creature than can be targetted? Even Ulamog or Darksteel Collosus? In some color schemes this would be laughably bad, but in U/R, 5 mana for a Murder that can murder even Indestructable guys is actually a deal well worth taking.


Seems like an auto-include in Karador and Mimeoplasm for sure, as well as any other deck in these colors that seeks to exploit the graveyard as a resource.
If you've never played with Pernicious Deed, grab one of these, and you'll start to understand why Deed is so good. That said, I do like Deed better, because of the "rattlesnake" effect it has - the ability to just sit on the board and look menacing, quietly urging your opponents to attack each other instead of you. This doesn't have that effect. But it does have the (also highly desirable) effect of just flat out murdering every stinking thing on the battlefield.

VERY playable.
Turrible. Even decks that actively want to self-mill have dozens of more efficient options.
As much as I like a good Deathtouch blocker, this isn't all that compelling. Like, at all.
Well, it is strictly better than Recollect, if you're in the colors, but I haven't even seen Recollect played in a few years. I don't think this is "better" enough.

If "Down" cost BB, it'd be pretty good, but 7 mana is just too much to ask to get both of these effects. Not worth it.


What is there to say? If you're playing R/W aggro, and fear Wrath effects, then you'll absolutely want this card in your deck. Now, I do prefer Boros Charm, because it is A) an Instant, so they won't see it coming and play around it, B) a great Sunforger target, and C) protection for all your permanents, not just creatures.

That said, this is still a boon to Boros aggro decks and will definitely get plenty of play.

Bad Master Warcraft effect on an overpriced stick? Nope.
Seems great in a Gisela burn deck, but not very good outside that niche archetype.
This is so much worse than Lightning Helix it isn't even funny. Yet, if you ask me which of the two I'd rather have as part of my Sunforger package, I'd pick this one all day long.

Need a foil of this, by the way. Beautiful.
Blech! Give me Glory of Warfare or Cathar's Crusade any day. This is jank.
Surprisingly good (if a bit boring) utility spell. Hull Breach as an Instant for 1WR  is pretty fantastic, actually. Also, yet again, Sunfoger-able. This is probably the most playable of the uncommon split cards in the set, even if it isn't the most exciting.


A Clone with built-in Followed Footsteps is absolutely playble. Don't expect the 6 mana price tag to be much of a deterrent. This would be playable at 7 mana; at 6 it's great. I can't wait to jam this into everything I can.
As much as I dislike countermagic, this is certainly an impressive and exciting specimen. As a Mana Drain for the budget/casual player, this is definitely going to be a format staple, but the multi-color CI means (thankfully) it won't be jammed into every Blue deck in the format.
Neat, I guess. Most decks would probably rather pay 1 extra for Costal Piracy, as it does the same thing, but without the extra hoops to jump through. But I'm sure there are Edric and Experiment Kraj decks out there that'll make use of this.
Meh. Reprint this with Trample later, and we'll talk.
Seems  overcosted and bad at first, but as a Simic-ified variant of Faith's Fetters that can dodge removal (for an admittedly steep cost), it might get a bit of play here and there. U/G does actually have more removal options than you'd think, though, if you look hard enough.
U/G has about a million ways to pump guys or draw cards better than this. Maybe not on the same card, mind you, but the sheer wonky-ness and inefficiency of this card makes it look like utter garbage to me.

Okay, so we're down to the wire. We just have the 10 Guild Champions to look at, then a quick look at the Artifacts and Lands, and we're done!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Dragon's Maze EDH Set Review, Part 2: Ally Color Guilds

Okay, we've got 5 guilds to cover in this segment, so it's going to be a lengthy post. After much deliberation (about 10 minutes worth), I decided to just "rip the bandage off" as it were, and wrap this up in three more posts. This one concerns the 5 "freindly colored" guilds, you know, White/Blue, Blue/Black, etc. The next part will be enemy colored guilds, like the Orzhov and whatnot. The final post will cover the Guild Champions - the 10-card cycle of Legends for each guild, and the sets very minor Artifact and Land offerings.

So, since we've got a lot of ground to cover, I'll forego further preamble and begin.


..."naming Sphinx's Revelation."

This is virtually a vanilla 2/4 in EDH, which of course makes it terrible in our format of choice. Trade these to Standard players.
Not a bad counterspell for EDH, especially against Maelstrom Wanderer. GAAIV players will like it.
Seems good in Limited but pretty bad in EDH.
This has some interesting multiplayer applications, because it bounces any creature that deals any kind of damage, to any recipient. If you can maneuver your opponents into a massive red zone brawl against each other, you can really blow them out with this.

That said, 99% of the time I'd rather just have Aetherize, Evacuation, or even just a Wrath of God.
Yay, another boring Hexproof guy. Friggin' sweet art, though! Gorgeous!
Way to weak for EDH.


In EDH, this is basically the most expensive Mind Twist ever. You're better off just running that, or one it's many variants that are all more mana efficient than this.
Now this is going to see some play. Pretty much every deck in the format has to build in ways to draw extra cards, or risk falling behind after a sweeper or two. A great way to capitalize on opponents' Phyrexian Arenas, Rhystic Studies, or Consecrated Sphinxes.

Just be warned, though: An opposing Consecrated Sphinx can force you to deck yourself and kill you on the spot, if you don't have mana open and some Instant-speed removal handy. Be very careful with this guy, if you think a Sphinx might appear!
More junk.
Playable, but there are better removal options in U/B.
Better than the W/U one, but still not very good. Again, U/B has tons of good removal options.


Complete and utter troll card. If you play this, you are a troll. Period.
Now, this on the other hand, is a legitamate griefer card. I don't like it, and I'm going to hate playing against it, but I have to admit it's a solidly on-point addition to any Griefer deck in these colors.
This is a griefer card too, but I'm not sure it's quite good enough to make the cut in most decks.
If this could hit a player, it'd be great, but as-is, it's just terrible. I keep hoping to see some cute trick with it, involving Stuffy Doll or Boros Reckoner to turn a Wrath into a one-shot kill, but that's probably too cute to be feasible.
Fairly playable in greifer/punisher decks. Also pretty playable in ANY deck that just wants to punish a notorius Consecrated Sphinx abuser.


While I might wish that this had Trample, Double Strike is a fine ability and I'll happily play this in my Stonebrow deck.

As a Mythic, I don't really see why the grow ability needs the sorcery speed restriction. I don't think it would have been overpowered without it.

Either way, it's solidly playable.
I've tried playing with Heartbeat of Spring/Mana Flare enough to know that this is a trap card. Being a creature instead of an Enchantment actually makes it even worse. You'll play this, hoping it tables, but inevitably one player will just make a ton of mana, play a bunch of bombs, and then end his turn by killing this guy, meaning you spent 5 mana, a card and a turn fueling someone else's huge turn.

That said, it's a lock for group hug decks in these colors.
I can't tell if this is a terrible Overrun or a mediocre Overrun... what I can tell you is, I'd rather be playing Overwhelming Stampede.
I would rather play Flametongue Kavu and/or Spitebellows over this, even without the "at random" rider. With the rider, it's nerfed so far into unplayability, it's almost sad.
This is a really random and janky reprint. I can appreciate it's synergy with Bloodrush, on paper at least, but it's still janky.
Not the most compelling or powerful of cards, but don't underestimate Double Strike.
I normally hate mana dorks in EDH, because they just add more value to your opponents' sweepers by also adding some mana denail to their spells. They're the epitome of "high risk/low reward" in EDH.

I'm not sure the added-value damage this guy does is quite enough to upgrade the "reward" status enough to balance out the risk, but I like it on paper enough to try this guy in my Stonebrow deck. He should easily do 6 or more cumulative damage before eating a Damnation.


This is one of the high-value cards of the set, second only to Ral Zarek at the moment. Whether the hype will live on or die down is anyone's guess, but for now this is my EDH assessment: We'd all love to have one in our Rhys or Ghave decks, but badly enough to pay 20 bucks? I'm leaning towards "not so much". If it drops to a more reasonable $10 or so, then picking one up for a dedicated token deck is more doable.
As exciting and powerful as this card looks to be in 60-card formats, I can't see it being all that compelling in EDH. a 5/5 Trampler isn't the most useless thing in the format, but it still has a decent chance of just sitting around doing nothing. It's a very awesome card, just not for our format of choice.
Oh look, almost Armadillo Cloak. The significant difference between this and the orginal Cloak (aside from AC's way more awesome flavor text) is that you could always put Dillo on an opponent's guy to effectively neuter it as an attacker. You can't do this with Unflinching Courage.

Still, this is a neat sort-of reprint, because it basically allows us to play TWO Armadillo Cloaks in our Enchantress decks!
Now, this is a token-maker I can appreciate. It's 10 power for 4 mana, spread across 4 creatures, which makes it hard to answer 1-for-1. Also, it looks like it'd play well with Rhys and Trostani, and it's BFFs with Deadeye Navigator or Conjurer's Closet.
Weaksauce, even in a token deck.

Well, that wraps up our look at the 5 allied-color guilds. Next, we soldier on with the enemy-color guilds.