Tag Archives: magic

Magic 2015: Practice Sealed #3

Fresh from a fat pack, here’s another sample sealed pool to dissect:

White
Triplicate Spirits
Paragon of New Dawns
Raise the Alarm x4
Mass Calcify

Razorfoot Griffin
Sungrace Pegasus
Kinsbaile Skirmisher
Oppressive Rays

Soulmender
Meditation Puzzle

The first pack was extremely good to White, featuring a Triplicate Spirits, Raise the Alarm, AND Paragon of New Dawns. It was even topped off with a Planeswalker, though sadly not Ajani (*tiny violin*). There’s enough random creatures here to fill out a curve, and Mass Calcify allows all the tokens to win on an empty board. White seems quite powerful, and we’re likely looking for a colour to pair with it.

Blue
Illusory Angel
Military Intelligence

Divination x3
Aeronaut Tinkerer x2
Frost Lynx
Peel from Reality

Coral Barrier
Statue of Denial x3
Glacial Crasher x2
Ensoul Artifact
Diffusion Sliver
Fugitive Wizard

Blue’s first offering is a Military Intelligence, which plays well with the token swarm strategy White is presenting. An Illusory Angel is also a solid (haha) battlefield presence, and there’s no shortage of card draw with triple Divination. Unfortunately, the is a lot of cards in the filler category for blue, giving it about 9 solid playables. Blue is still an option, but we can probably do better.

Black
Liliana Vess
Indulgent Tormenter
Necrogen Scudder
Ulcerate x2

Covenant of Blood
Paragon of Open Graves
Carrion Crow
Child of Night
Zof Shade

Endless Obedience
Witch’s Familiar
Necrobite
Necromancer’s Assistant
Festergloom

Black brings more bombs, including the Planeswalker I alluded to, alongside some premium removal spells. Covenant is extremely castable alongside the White tokens. Blacks curve is decent enough to support the bombs. This is a likely pairing for the white deck.

Red
Lightning Strike
Kird Chieftain

Generator Servant x4
Krenko’s Enforcer
Forge Devil
Hammerhand x2
Crowd’s Favor

Circle of Flame
Act on Impulse
Clear a Path

A great creature and a premium removal spell headline Reds offerings. The 4 Generator servants raise an eyebrow, but outside of that, Red doesn’t have much more depth. At best, I can see splashing the Lightning Strike, and possibly the Chieftain in a Green build.

Green
Siege Wurm

Feral Incarnation
Restock
Runeclaw Bear

Carnivorous Moss-Beast
Gather Courage x2
Ranger’s Guile x2
Satyr Wayfinder
Titanic Growth
Vineweft x2

Outside of the Siege Wurm, Green is looking completely unplayable, with too many clunky or utility spells “below the line”.

Artifact
(none)

Brawler’s Plate
Tyrant’s Machine x3

Avarice Amulet
Ornithopter

Land
Evolving Wilds
Llanowar Wastes
Darksteel Citadel x2
Sliver Hive

Not much to see here, either. Brawler’s Plate is decent, if there is space available. 2 Darksteel Citadels is worth noting, with the Ensoul Artifact in Blue. The Evolving Wilds is likely getting a Mountain to let any random deck cast that Lightning Strike. Llanowar Wastes is doing nothing, as Green is not playable.

Let’s start with the obvious:

White/Black Alarms
Sungrace Pegasus
Kinsbaile Skirmisher
Child of Night
Necrogen Scudder
Witch’s Familiar
Carrion Crow
Razorfoot Griffin
Paragon of New Dawns
Paragon of Open Graves
Zof Shade
Indulgent Tormenter

Ulcerate x2
Raise the Alarm x4
Lightning Strike
Necrobite
Liliana Vess
Triplicate Spirits
Mass Calcify
Covenant of Blood

Relevant Sideboard
Oppressive Rays
Endless Obedience
Festergloom
Necromancer’s Assistant

Soulmender
Meditation Puzzle

Sometimes pools just build themselves, and this looks like one of them. The rares have neatly aligned in these colours, and there is plenty of solid card surrounding them with a coherent gameplan. This deck has been crushing the other sealed decks in our practice sessions. It’s almost like a draft deck.

I am a greedy man, so rather then play Oppressive Rays, I’m splashing for the Lightning Strike with Evolving Wilds, because 2 Ulcerates is simply not enough. I’m normally not fond of Necrobite, but there are enough random tokens available that we don’t care if that trick get’s trumped. The deck has several decent fliers, and Liliana is well protected behind a wall of tokens.

While this deck is clearly very powerful, the point of these sealed exercises is to explore the format, and learn by trying new things. In this case, I can’t help but notice the 2 Darksteel Citadels in conjunction with Ensoul Artifact. Is a 5/5 Indestructible Land Creature a viable build-around plan for winning the game? Better we learn here then in an actual tournament. Blue has a lot of potential here anyway, so let’s see what that deck looks like:

Citadel Beatdown
Ornithopter
Child of Night
Illusory Angel
Aeronaut Tinkerer x2
Frost Lynx
Necrogen Scudder
Witch’s Familiar
Carrion Crow
Paragon of Open Graves
Zof Shade
Indulgent Tormenter

Ulcerate x2
Tyrant’s Machine
Military Intelligence
Peel from Reality
Ensoul Artifact
Divination x3
Liliana Vess
Covenant of Blood
Darksteel Citadel x2

Relevant Sideboard
Coral Barrier
Necromancer’s Assistant
Festergloom
Necrobite
Endless Obedience
Statue of Denial x3
Glacial Crasher x2

Diffusion Sliver
Fugitive Wizard

The most glaring issue with this deck is the low number of two drops, which in turn makes Illusory Angel slightly worse. This is why the Tyrant’s Machine is in the main deck over the Necrobite, as well as upping our Artifact count so the Tinkerers have Flying more consistently. It’s possible the deck even wants a second, though that might be too deep.

Ornithopter, while generally being a lowly unplayable, does a surprising amount of work in this deck. From allowing a turn 3 Illusory Angel, triggering Military Intelligence, removing the Peel from Reality drawback, and even being an emergency Ensoul target. It’s important to note the times where it’s correct to play cards like this (although it still might not be). While I haven’t yet tested this deck yet, I’ll be sure to sleeve it up and give it a shot.

This pool wasn’t as complex as the previous one, but it was still a good exercise. Being able to recognize your powerful cards is well and good, but ensuring they combine to make a solid game plan is what helps you reach the next level.

See you for the next Sealed Pool.

Until then,

Random

Magic 2015: Practice Sealed #2

As part of my GP Sydney preparation, I have bought a booster box of Magic 2015 that will be used to provide practice sealed pools, in order to practice our deckbuilding skills and enhance our knowledge of the format. This is the first of six pools from that booster box.

For a recap of the overall “sort process” I use for Sealed pools, see the first paragraph of Sealed Pool #1. Let’s get straight to it:

White
Resolute Archangel
Spectra Ward
Boonweaver Giant

Razorfoot Griffin
Midnight Guard
Sungrace Pegasus x3
Kinsbaile Skirmisher

Wall of Essence
Sanctified Charge x2
Selfless Cathar
Tireless Missionaries
Congregate
First Response

White has some immediate bombs available in the Archangel and Spectra Ward. Boonweaver Giant is not normally in the “bomb” category, but Spectra Ward pushes him up there, as a 6/6 protection from all colours is nigh unkillable. Unfortunately, White doesn’t seem to have a lot of depth outside of these cards, with a few middling 2-drop creatures and some utility spells being the bulk of the available cards. In this pool, White is at best a support colour to a deeper colour, and it could be correct to just ignore the White entirely.

Blue
Jorubi Murk Lurker x2
Illusory Angel

Welkin Tern
Aeronaut Tinkerer
Peel from Reality x3
Quickling

Void Snare
Chronostutter x3
Fugitive Wizard
Hydrosurge

Blue’s best offerings are the pair of Murk Lurkers, which forces us to pair with Black if we play the colour. While the rest of the creatures are perfectly acceptable in their own right, the awkward combination of spells is not particularly helpful, particularly the triplicates. Blue is likely not going to be played in this pool.

Black
Soul of Innistrad
Flesh to Dust

Accursed Spirit x2
Typhoid Rats x2
Crippling Blight
Blood Host

Necrobite x2
Witch’s Familiar
Unmake the Graves
Mind Rot x2
Eternal Thirst
Wall of Limbs

Headlined by a Soul and a premium removal spell, Black makes a strong case to be one of the colours to play in this pool. The rest of the cards are quite playable, with the Spirits being an evasive source of damage while the Rats gum up the ground. While the overall number of decent playables is slightly short, the is enough here that Black is worthy of consideration.

Red
Cone of Flame
Paragon of Fierce Defiance x2

Inferno Fist
Borderland Marauder
Krenko’s Enforcer
Generator Servant x2
Rummaging Goblin

Crowd’s Favor x2
Foundry Street Denizen
Miner’s Bane
Wall of Fire
Clear a Path

Cone of Flame is an extremely potent card in Limited, often removing several creatures from the board at once, or even just killing your opponent. A pair of Paragons is an excellent selling point for Red as well, and we have a number of small creatures available for them to pump up. A pair of Generator servants can be used to accelerate to some bombs in other colours, like the Soul or the Boonweaver Giant. Red is a strong contender for a playable colour.

Green
Kalonian Twingrove
Genesis Hydra
Paragon of Eternal Wilds x2
Elvish Mystic

Netcaster Spider
Charging Rhino
Shaman of Spring x2
Living Totem

Satyr Wayfinder
Carnivorous Moss-Beast
Plummet x2
Back to Nature

Green also features bombs in Kalonian Twingrove and Genesis Hydra. Another pair of Paragons also shows up in Green, and although there are less creatures available in this colour to pump, the trample-granting ability will be put to good use here. There are a number of solid creatures to fill out a curve, as well. It’s worth noting here that Green has absolutely no removal, and will be reliant on other colours to provide that protection.

Artifacts
(No bombs)

Hot Soup
Tyrant’s Machine
Will-Forged Golem x2

Staff of the Wild Magus
Staff of the Sun Magus

Lands
Yavimaya Coast

Hot Soup, and Tyrant’s Machine to a lesser extent, are reasonable includes if we need a 22nd-23rd card. The other cards areunfortunately unplayable, including the Yavimaya Coast as the Blue pool was too weak.

This is an extremely difficult pool to build from, as while there are a number of good cards available, they are fairly evenly spread across all the colours (The exact split is 16/15/16/15/15 from White to Green, a surprisingly even distribution). This is true to the extent that I still haven’t figured out the “right” build for this pool. While Blue was eliminated in our initial review of the cards, that still leaves six different possible colour pairings. While unconventional, as you certainly won’t have time to do this at a real event, I’m going to cover all the available options and evaluate them individually.

Red had the most cohesive plan when we looked at it, and Black had a reasonable game plan as well.  This pairing seems like a good place to start:

Red/Black
Typhoid Rats x2
Borderland Marauder
Generator Servant x2
Krenko’s Enforcer
Rummaging Goblin
Witch’s Familiar
Accursed Spirit x2
Paragon of Fierce Defiance x2
Blood Host
Soul of Innistrad
Miner’s Bane

Hot Soup
Crippling Blight
Crowd’s Favor x2
Inferno Fist
Necrobite
Flesh to Dust
Cone of Flame

Relevant Sideboard
Unmake the Graves
Mind Rot x2
Eternal Thirst
Wall of Limbs
Necrobite
Foundry Street Denizen
Tyrant’s Machine

Wall of Fire
Clear a Path

This deck looks very reasonable on the surface. You have an early game plan of beat down with aggressive dudes, which the Pargaons will pump. In the late game, a Soul of Innistrad can provide a large advantage. Miner’s Bane is there as an awkward second “finisher” due to the lack of options in these colours. There is a decent amount of removal available as well.

The second Crowd’s Favor was the 23rd card added, and it’s not entirely clear whether that’s correct, or if it should be the Tyrant’s Machine instead. Favor and Necrobite are definitely the two cards I would flag to take out when sideboarding, as they get worse once your opponent knows about them, and Necrobite in particular is awfully clunky.

Unfortunately, this deck does appear to have a weakness to fliers, having exactly zero flying creatures anywhere in the list. The decks solution to this to attempt to outrace any flying beats with the dual Paragon plan, with removal available in emergencies, but it’s still worth noting. A potential solution for this is to pair Red with White instead, as White has a few options available to control the skies:

Red/White
Selfless Cathar
Borderland Marauder
Generator Servant x2
Sungrace Pegasus x3
Kinsbaile Skirmisher
Krenko’s Enforcer
Rummaging Goblin
Midnight Guard
Razorfoot Griffin
Paragon of Fierce Defiance x2
Resolute Archangel
Boonweaver Giant

Hot Soup
Crowd’s Favor x2
Inferno Fist
Cone of Flame
Spectra Ward
Sanctified Charge

Relevant Sideboard
Sanctified Charge
Tireless Missionaries
Foundry Street Denizen
Miner’s Bane

Wall of Essence
Wall of Fire
Congregate
First Response
Clear a Path

This list has a very similar plan A of playing the early beatdown game. While the Pegasi don’t look too impressive, they can help push through damage while helping you stay ahead in a race with lifelink. Inferno Fist on a Pegasus is quite good also. With a primary plan of swarming with a bunch of creatures, Sanctified Charge promises to be quite powerful here, and it’s not clear that we don’t want the second copy. Charging with two Pegasi out is another excellent way to pad your life total.

This version is able to drop the Miner’s Bane, as Whites finisher options are just so much better. While seven mana looks a bit awkward in this weenie-oriented deck, Generator Servant helps provide that little push required to get them out in time. Selfless Cathar barely makes the cut as another way to make combat awkward for the opponent.

Red/Green
I’m going to cheat here and not provide the decklist, as I don’t think a Red/Green combination is particularly viable. The curve is a little clunky, and light on early plays. There is also a significant glut at the 4-drop slot, between 2 Red Paragons, 2 Green Paragons, and 2 Shaman of Spring. The Green bombs don’t seem better then the White options, and, outside of playing maindeck Plummets, Green’s natural weakness to flying compounds the flying issue rather then aids it.

With all the red options exhausted, the other option is to use Black as the main colour:

Black/White
Typhoid Rats x2
Wall of Essence
Sungrace Pegasus x3
Kinsbaile Skirmisher
Witch’s Familiar
Wall of Limbs
Midnight Guard
Accursed Spirit x2
Razorfoot Griffin
Blood Host
Soul of Innistrad
Resolute Archangel
Boonweaver Giant

Crippling Blight
Hot Soup
Tyrant’s Machine
Necrobite
Flesh to Dust
Spectra Ward

Relevant Sideboard
Unmake the Graves
Necrobite
Sanctified Charge x2
Selfless Cathar
Tireless Missionaries
Mind Rot x2
Eternal Thirst
Congregate
First Response

Amusingly enough, this deck looks like it could do a decent job of pulling off the Wall of Limbs kill, with all the incidental sources of lifegain in the deck (3 Pegasus, Blood Host, Wall of Essence, and even the Archangel, with more available in the board). Without the aggression of Red to fuel us, we’re more all-in on our bombs, with some small evasive hits getting in while the ground is clogged up with Walls and Rats.

It’s not clear this deck doesn’t want a Sanctified Charge, as it could be a nice way to get some surprise kills (Who doesn’t like killing creatures with Wall of Essence?). The Hot Soup also looks more out of place in this deck, as we’ve moved away from the aggressive swarming strategy into a more stalling long game play that the Tyrant’s Machine favors.

Ultimately, however, I’m not convinced this deck is better then either the Red/Black or Red/White variations. That said, I will sleeve it up and run it through some practice matches to confirm.

Black/Green
Black/Green is bad for most of the same reasons Red/Green was, and actually looks even worse. Your two-drop slot basically doesn’t exist, which in my experiences is unacceptable in this format, and there’s still a huge glut of 4-drops and expensive creatures. I don’t like it at all.

Green/White
For completeness, here’s the summary of Green/White as well. This option looks surprisingly better then the other pairings for Green, as White does a good job of filling the two-drop slot by itself. The bomb density is at it’s highest in this deck, with the colours each contributing two rares. However, the overall removal density is weakened as a result due to removing Black and Red, and this deck is again more all-in on it’s bombs as a result. It likely isn’t terrible, but I again don’t think it’s better then Red/Black or Red/White.

Conclusions
Of the decks examined in this article, I think the “best” option is either Red/Black or Red/White, with the edge slightly given to White, as it has both more bombs available, and can be more explosive thanks to Sanctified Charge. The limited interactions with fliers is another strike against the Red/Black build.

An honorable mention is given to the Black/White deck, as it’s worth experimenting to see if a deck with that kind of game plan can succeed in the format.

I hope everyone enjoyed looking at this Sealed pool. This is the kind I would consider to be the most educational, as there’s no clear “best deck”, and we have to weigh the pros and cons of a variety of configurations.

Stay tuned for more M15 Limited breakdowns.

Until then,

Random.

Magic 2015: Practice Sealed #1

Yesterday, I attended a Launch Day Sealed Event for Magic 2015. This was a small 8 player event at a local game store. As part of my GP Sydney preparation, here is a break down the deckbuilding portion, as well as my thoughts on the format.

First I should explain my sort process for the deckbuilding. It’s something I picked up from (I think) an article on wizards.com, and is used as a very rough guide to what colours are and aren’t playable. It consists of a grid, where the columns are each of the colours, and rows by the following criteria:
– The top row is your bombs and high-impact cards in that colour. My guideline for this row is “cards that pull you toward playing that colour”. Examples include Stoke the Flames for Red, and Devouring Light for White.
– The middle row is “solid” cards. These are the cards that, while not actively pulling you toward the colour, you are more then happy to include if you’re playing that colour. Examples are Charging Rhino in Green, and Divination in Blue.
– The bottom row is “filler” cards. These are either utility sideboard cards, or cards that you’re not necessarily excited to run, but will if you need to fill out your deck. Examples are Witch’s Familiar in Black, and Naturalize in Green.
– During this process, I also typically include an “unplayables” pile, where all the Mediation Puzzles and Profane Mementos end up.

I’ll do my best to present the pool in this fashion as I go through the list.

White
Constricting Sliver
Seraph of the Masses x2

Geist of the Moors
Paragon of New Dawns
Razorfoot Griffin
Ajani’s Pridemate x2
Midnight Guard x2
Oreskos Swiftclaw
Ephemeral Shields

Soulmender
Selfless Cathar
Battle Mastery
Sanctified Charge
Meditation Puzzle

White has an excellent removal option in Constricting Sliver, and some nice finishers with the Seraphs. The Seraphs are complimented by an abundance of small white creatures to Convoke them out, including a pair of Midnight Guards which remain on defense after casting the Angel. They also have the important number of 3 toughness. Finally, we have an excellent evasive creature in Geist of the Moors, and a white Paragon to boost the team. White looks reasonably deep and a solid option to consider for the deck.

Blue
Encrust
Kapsho Kitefins

Research Assistant x2
Coral Barrier
Void Snare x2

Statute of Denial
Chronostutter x2
Mind Sculpt x2
Invisibility
Fugitive Wizard x2
Hydrosurge

Blue starts out nicely, with a premium removal spell in Encrust and a reasonable finisher in Kapsho Kitefins. However, it quickly falls off after that, which a bunch of middling do-nothing spells that don’t really help win the game. Awkwardly, Encrust and Kitefins both have double blue in their mana costs, making splashing for these cards unlikely as well (and Kitefins likely gets pushed out as a finisher by the other colours anyway). Blue can likely be safely dismissed as an option.

Black
Ob Nixilis, Unshackled
Stab Wound
Covenant of Blood

Shadowcloak Vampire
Crippling Blight
Zof Shade x2
Black Cat x2

Witch’s Familiar
Feast on the Fallen
Necrobite
Stain the Mind

Black has some real nice headliners in Ob Nixilis and Stab Wound. A flying trampling creature is excellent as a finisher, and Stab Wound is removal that can also act as a finisher. Black doesn’t have a lot else going on, though. Shadowcloak Vampire is a solid creature, but Zof Shade demands we be reasonably heavy black with mana to leave open. Ultimately, black doesn’t seem deep enough to support a whole deck, but it might be worth seeing if we can splash for some of the better cards.

Red
Stoke the Flames
Heat Ray

Inferno Fist x2
Borderland Marauder
Altac Bloodseeker x2
Krenko’s Enforcer
Torch Fiend x2
Crowd’s Favor
Thundering Giant
Blastfire Bolt x2

Goblin Roughrider
Miner’s Bane
Lava Axe
Shrapnel Blast
Circle of Flame
Crucible of Fire

Red immediately presents two very appealing removal options with Stoke the Flames and Heat Ray. It’s “solid” category is also reasonably deep, with a multitude of two drops available. Borderland Marauder is excellent for pushing through damage, Torch Fiends help deal with random Juggernauts and other artifact threats, and Altac Bloodseeker can get some nice blowouts with removal mid-combat. Krenko’s Enforcer is an excellent way to push through the last few points with intimidate, and a pair of Inferno Fists provides more quasi-removal for the deck. Red is currently the most likely candidate for this deck.

Green
Siege Wurm x2
Phytotitan

Living Totem
Venom Sliver
Undergrowth Scavenger

Naturalize
Titanic Growth
Plummet
Hunter’s Ambush

Green starts off alright, with a pair of Siege Wurms and a Phytotitan promising to be reasonable finishers. Like Blue, however, things quickly trail off, with a bunch of utility spells being the bulk of the green cards, and the remaining creatures not really being high-impact enough. There isn’t enough depth here to supprt a deck, so Green is also dismissed as an option.

Artifacts
Scuttling Doom Engine

Shield of the Avatar
Will-Forged Golem

Tyrant’s Machine
Profane Memento

Lands
Shivan Reef
Evolving Wilds x2

Scuttling Doom Engine is a real boon here, providing a colourless bomb that can be played in any deck. The Golem is nice to have available if a bigger creature is needed, and the Evolving Wilds make any potential splash much easier.

As red and white were clearly the deepest options available in this pool, it makes sense to start with a red/white deck:

Ajani’s Pridemate x2
Oreskos Swiftclaw
Borderland Marauder
Altac Bloodseeker x2
Torch Fiend
Geist of the Moors
Midnight Guard x2
Krenko’s Enforcer
Goblin Roughrider
Paragon of New Dawns
Razorfoot Griffin
Thundering Giant
Constricting Sliver
Scuttling Doom Engine
Seraph of the Masses x2
Crowd’s Favor
Inferno Fist x2
Stoke the Flames
Heat Ray
Blastfire Bolt

Sideboard
Ephemeral Shields
Selfless Cathar
Sanctified Charge
Torch Fiend
Blastfire Bolt

This maindeck has 25 cards, so some trimming is required. In addition, the pair of Evolving Wilds makes splashing black for the Stab Wound relatively easy, so I’d like to try that.

I believe I slightly misbuilt my deck in round one, as I trimmed the Torch Fiend and one Bloodseeker, and substituted Stab wound for the Blastfire Bolt, running a manabase of 7 Plains, 7 Mountain, 1 Swamp, and 2 Evolving Wilds. After losing the first round to a bit of ill fortune (Never drew a land across both games after keeping 3 landers), I elected to lower the curve of the deck by replacing the two drops, and instead trimming the Thundering Giant and the second Seraph.

This version of the deck functioned much better, leaving me with a 2-1 record, although being in the lower bracket meant I faced opponents who had also likely misbuilt their decks. Still, the game plan of early beatdowns followed by evasion and burn is still a solid one and provided I had a reasonable curve the deck performed quite excellently.

Stoke the Flames was a real standout card, as Convoke enabled me to stay in the game in round 1 where I was missing land drops. Altac Bloodseeker also reasonably impressed, as people generally tended to not want to get blown out by blocking him, so he got through for a reasonable amount of damage. Heat Ray functioned quite well as an enabler for the Bloodseeker, as did Inferno Fist (The on-board “don’t block this guy” is rather nice).

Seraph, on the other hand, rather underperformed. I probably didn’t have the right deck for it, seeing as I had no Raise the Alarms or Triplicate Spirits, but most of the time it was “only” a 3/3 or 4/4 flier, but I had to give up blocking for the turn to play it without Midnight Guards. Doom Engine is a complete and total bomb, however, and the blocking clause is relevant against a high number of creatures in the format. If you get in enough early damage, they get to this lose/lose point of “can’t block it, can’t kill it” thanks to the 6 damage ability as well.

Overall I was quite happy with my deck for this event. I look forward to sharing a bunch more sealed events, including the upcoming Magic Online M15 launch. I hope people find this to be informative.

Until then,

Random

Magic 2015 Limited Review: The Rest

The final installment of our Magic 2015 set review. Here are the cards, so let’s get started…

Garruk, Apex Predator: A whopping seven mana Planeswalker, but it should be very difficult to lose once he shows up to the battlefield. Pumping out deathtouch creatures is no joke, and the ability to kill something while gaining a little life buffer is a nice upside. As long as your gameplan can support this Garruk, he will do good work.

Sliver Hivelord: It’s likely not worth warping your mana base to this extent for a 5/5 Indestructible. It’s certainly possible, depending on how many Evolving Wilds you manage to pick up (or Chord of Calling if you’re really lucky). The payoff is a lot bigger then Chromanticore in Born of the Gods, but I’d still give it a miss.

Avarice Amulet: Obviously a high risk card. Vigilance and a power pump encourages attacking while leaving trade opportunities open. It therefore makes sense to put this on an evasive creature (such as Krenko’s Enforcer), but those are the creatures that are naturally already priority targets for removal. I’d probably try this once, in order to see how it plays, but my instinct is that it isn’t worth the risk of donating it to your opponent, even if you can get it back.

Brawler’s Plate: The numbers on this card are somewhat prohibitive, but the effect is well worth it. I’d definitely run one of these if I see one floating around.

Bronze Sable: All decks need two drops, and Bronze Sable has the secret special power of being able to block Intimidate creatures. Incidentally, both of the intimidate creatures in this format have 2 toughness. What a crazy coincidence. Grab some if you need them, but as usual, don’t go overboard.

The Chain Veil: Sweet card, but unfortunately casting it in Limited is voluntarily handicapping yourself.

Gargoyle Sentinel: Another solid three that can protect you against aggressive starts and go on the beatdown when nothing else is happening. The clunkiest part of this card is requiring the activation to block fliers, but that can be easily worked around.

Grindclock: A win condition for those who want to draft the super grindy mono-Walls deck. While slow, if you can survive to get it going, it’s certainly viable.

Haunted Plate Mail: If you’re low on creatures, this is a fine option, and it’s not like you need to be a creature-light deck, as you can just attach this to something else later. Remember that if need be the ability can be activated in an opponents turn.

Hot Soup: Most of the damage-based removal in this set is likely to kill any equipped creatures anyway (Lightning Strike, Stoke the Flames, Blastfire Bolt). This being the case, the rate on this card seems fine, if not fantastic. Of course, making sure you’re ahead when you use this is important, as blocking with the soup is obviously bad.

Juggernaut: An excellent colourless threat that will punch through a great many defenses. The Wall text is also surprisingly relevant in this format.

Meteorite: If you need the fixing, one that has the potential to remove a creature is certainly not a bad choice. I likely wouldn’t play this in straight two colours, however.

Obelisk of Urd: Can be easily Convoked out, and is clearly worth it if you have a high number of similar creatures. I can easily see Goblin being named with this quite regularly.

Ornithopter: Ornithopter is the poster child for “Not worth a card”. That being said, Wizards seems to have tried their hardest to make him good in this format. He helps enable Convoke, there are a decent number of artifact synergies in the format, and he even helps fringe things like Illusory Angel. While I suspect he’ll just fall short of greatness, I’m interested in trying to find if Ornithopter has a home.
(Also, nut draw for the format: Turn 1 6x Ornithopter, Convoke Obelisk of Urd naming Thopter. Pass turn)

Perilous Vault: Exile all the things is certainly a powerful effect. this card will really come down to skillful management. How much can the opponent commit to the board to force you to Vault? How much can you “give up” to pressure the opponent into playing more cards? A real skill tester for sure.

Phyrexian Revoker: A strictly better Bronze Sable, though that isn’t really saying much. There isn’t a shortage of things to name, from the common Amphin Pathmage to a bomb like a Planeswalker or Soul. Worth running.

Profane Memento: Not worth running. Not even in the dedicated Ajani’s Pridemate/Wall of Limbs deck.

Rogue’s Gloves: An excellent rate. Playing this on an evasive creature should pull you very far ahead. Pick highly.

Sacred Armory: An interesting way to mess with combat math. I’m not sure it’s worth the time it takes to set up, but it could be really powerful. Try it out.

Scuttling Doom Engine: Colourless bomb. Will kill your opponent dead very quickly, and if the opponent does deal with it (in a non-Encrust way) it leaves a present for them. There is no excuse not to pick this.

Shield of the Avatar: Could be extremely potent in certain builds, alongside Raise the Alarm and ilk, by basically making a creature unkillable by damage. It’s worth noting that this scales with multiple blockers, as each creature is considered a separate source.

Soul of New Phyrexia: Another colourless bomb. This activated ability is much less impactful the any of the other Souls, but a 6/6 trampler is still very worthwhile.

Staff of the [X] Magus: Please don’t run these in any Limited decks. Ever. The small amount of life you will gain from these cards are not worth the deck slots they take up.

Tormod’s Crypt: There isn’t a super high amount of graveyard shenanigans in Limited, certainly not enough to bring this in. This is a reprint for Constructed only.

Tyrant’s Machine: If you’re truly desperate for removal, Tyrant’s Machine is acceptable, if not exciting. Bonus points for the combo with Kurkesh.

Will-Forged Golem: An acceptable inclusion in any Limited deck. The 4/4 body is great, he has the advantages of being colourless, and he can even be Convoked out earlier if need be.

Dual Lands: Run them if you’re both colours. Be careful about your life total, and don’t go picking these over a better card for your deck.

Darksteel Citadel: The ability to activate cards like Aeronaut Tinker and Scrapyard Mongrel with your land slot is appealing. However, producing only colourless is a very real cost. You don’t want to see this card in a two land opening hand in a two colour deck. Try it out, but don’t prioritize it highly.

Evolving Wilds: Mana fixing is always good. Take these if you can, but as usual an excellent threat or answer should take priority.

Radiant Fountain: See Darksteel Citadel, although the payoff for the opportunity cost here is significantly lower. If you feel you can afford to run this, go ahead.

Sliver Hive: Once you have two Constricting Slivers, I would start genuinely thinking of running this land. Venom Sliver is acceptable also. Keep in mind this is far more likely to fail then do something awesome though.

Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth: If you’re playing Black, turning all your non-Swamps into dual lands is generally worth it. While it does affect your opponents lands, this doesn’t usually come up much, and indeed I find most people forget that your Urborg applies to their lands.

And we’re finished! This core set looks like a total blast, and I’m looking forward to drafting it upon release. I’ll be doing some more hands-on writeups when I finally get to play, of both Sealed and Draft variety. See you then!

Random.

Magic 2015 Limited Review: Green

Here are the Green cards, so let’s get straight to it…

Ancient Silverback: An excellent top end for Green decks. The body is bigger then almost everything in the format, and it even has a cheap regeneration ability if things go wrong. Keep in mind that Flesh to Dust, likely the most catch-all removal in the format, does have a no regeneration clause.

Back to Nature: Not going to do anything in this format, but it will make the cards from Theros block quite sad indeed.

Carnivorous Moss-Beast: A six mana 4/5 isn’t the worst deal you could make. The ability to add counts to itself, while hugely expensive, is still just upside. I wouldn’t be upset if I had to run this, but Green does have better options at the six mana slot.

Charging Rhino: This looks to be a staple in Green decks of the format. Bigger then all the X/3’s running around, yet can’t be double blocked by them, so he will be hard to beat in combat. It’ll be hard to go wrong with two of these available in your deck, though more may be pushing it.

Chord of Calling: While posed to impact Constructed in a big way, Chord will be less powerful in Limited. Decks just have fewer bombs, and those bombs will typically be expensive. Chord seems best to me when you can pull tricks with it being an instant, such as fetching a Paragon mid-combat, or retrieving a Reclamation Sage.

Elvish Mystic: Premium common for Green, just like the one-drop mana elf always is. Jumping the curve and getting to your big monsters faster is all Green ever wants to do. Beware the Forge Devil.

Feral Incarnation: Ugh. I’m not really sure what to think of this one. It’s super expensive, but it has Convoke…? And is three 3/3 beasts good enough? My gut leans toward no, but it’s probably something that requires actual testing.

Gather Courage: This is sweet for all the same reasons that Crowd’s Favor is sweet. Free spells are awesome and difficult to play around. The fact that this is an uncommon – when most simple pump spells are just common – should tell you how powerful Wizards thought this was in Limited.

Genesis Hydra: I feel the ideal number you want to cast this for is X=4. This gives you a 4/4 Hydra with a reasonable chance of bringing something decent along with it. I can see X=5 if you have Rhinos, though. As long as you hit, this Hydra should be great.

Hornet Nest: This stalls the ground good and proper until your opponent finds a way to deal with it. I like that this triggers on any damage, not combat damage, so even Lightning Strike leaves you with three hornets. An excellent way to buy time while you get to five and six drops.

Hornet Queen: Also known as the Queen of stabilizing the board. Giving five flying deathtouch bodies is an excellent deal and well worth the steep mana cost. Outside of niche answers like Festergloom, Hornet Queen will do a good job keeping you alive and killing your opponent.

Hunt the Weak: Hunt is sorcery speed, four mana, and conditional upon your creature staying alive until it resolves. Nevertheless, it’s the best option Green has for removal, so just be careful when casting it, and don’t allow your opponent to Turn to Frog your creature or something.

Hunter’s Ambush: An interesting twist on the staple Fog effect. I’m not sure this is worth mainboarding, though I’m optimistic, as a one sided Fog as the potential to be quite the blowout. It’s still likely better to start this in the side though.

Invasive Species: Three mana 3/3 is excellent, and you shouldn’t need me to tell you that. The “drawback” is somewhat prohibitive, but can be turned into an upside with cards like Frost Lynx. Really, the drawback just stops you running multiples of this, which isn’t the worst.

Kalonian Twingrove: Getting two 4/4 for six mana is totally respectable (and even 3/3’s aren’t that bad. On top of that, the Twingroves grow bigger as you play more Forests. An easy first pick.

Life’s Legacy: I’m struggling to envision scenarios where you’ll have a creature with high power that you want to sacrifice instead of just attacking. Being a sorcery really limits it in this regard, as responding to removal would have made this super powerful. It’s probably still fine as is, as having options is always good.

Living Totem: Kind of a filler four-drop that can come out slightly earlier. The counter is probably a big deal actually, given that we’ve identified 3 toughness as the most common amount, so bumping a creature to be higher then that is huge.

Naturalize: You’re always happy to have one of these in the sideboard.

Netcaster Spider: Looks like a crucially important common for Green. Green is somewhat weak to fliers by nature, and this guy provides a reasonable body on the ground for his cost while ensuring that he will wreck any flier that dares to come near him. I’d go as far as to say grab as many of these as you can.

Nissa, Worldwaker: Possibly the most powerful Planeswalker for Limited. 4/4 tramplers both protect her and threaten to end the game very quickly. On top of that, she ramps you to absurdly high amounts. Generating an army out of an otherwise non-threatening resource is more then enough to make her extremely powerful.

Nissa’s Expedition: If you’re really in the market to be casting Siege Wurms and Feral Incarnations, this will be a big help in getting you there.

Overwhelm: The presence of Convoke on this card confuses me. “We can tap our creatures to give them +3/+3! Yay!” Hard casting this seems more likely, and will likely wipe the opponents board if they don’t want to die. So it’s a question of how reliably you can hit seven-ish mana.

Paragon of Eternal Wilds: Extremely solid, like the rest of this cycle. I think Green cares slightly more about the activated ability, as trample wherever you want it when you need it is enough to make blocking extremely difficult.

Phytotitan: Glacially slow, but unless your opponent finds a way to exile it, it will kill your opponent given enough time, provided you don’t die in the meantime. First strike and token generation are this plants’ worst enemies.

Plummet: The always solid card that can sometimes be maindecked if you really need a flying answer. I don’t believe that M15 is a maindeck format, though I could be wrong.

Ranger’s Guile: The Green response to removal. Having one is great, the second is okay, and the rest are significantly worse.

Reclamation Sage: The ability to have a Naturalize effect at a low opportunity cost makes the Sage extremely good. While the body won’t match up in fights too well, the Sage shouldn’t be underestimated.

Restock: A more expensive Divination that guarantees you draw awesome stuff. I’m uncertain if Green wants a grindy resources card like this, but even so, it’s still pretty effective.

Roaring Primadox: Primadox is likely a lot worse then he was in M13, where he paired up with Elvish Visionary to make a formidable engine. Shaman of Spring is significantly worse, but there are still good effects available, like Frost Lynx. Still an extremely solid card.

Runeclaw Bear: You need random two drops to fill your curve. the bears are here for you.

Satyr Wayfinder: While there seems to be fewer graveyard shenanigans going on in this set to enable, the Satyr could still help power up a Undergrowth Scavenger or something. Hitting your land drops is always good, too.

Shaman of Spring: I’m unconvinced a four mana 2/2 is going to cut it in this format, even with the card draw. While there is some syngery with the Primadoxs and Quicklings in the format, tying up you mana each turn for a card doesn’t seem particularly effective.

Siege Wurm: The lynchpin for the Convoke decks in the format, Siege Wurm towers over everything else in the format, and has trample to boot. Likely a major player in the format.

Soul of Zendikar: The “worst Soul” for Limited, he’s a still a giant 6/6 that spews out more beats if left unchecked. Reach unfortunately slows him down a bit, as without evasion he will get blocked often. Still, an unquestionable bomb like the rest of his cycle.

Sunblade Elf: If Green/White aggressive decks exist in this format, then Sunblade is obviously a big part of those. Personally I think the aggro decks are more at home in Red/White, but there’s enough in Green/White for a “bigger” version to work out. Also, Green/White seems like the home of the Convoke decks, so a one drop + global pump effect both seem like things that deck wants.

Titanic Growth: Standard Limited pump trick. Easy to play around at two mana. Be careful about removal, etc.

Undergrowth Scavenger: Possibly being slightly underrated at the moment. This guy could easily be a 6/6 if early trades have happen in combat (all graveyards). My pick for the sleeper common of the set.

Venom Sliver: The Sliver that likely stands out the most by itself. While no Typhoid Rats, a two mana 1/1 deathtouch will still kill things just as effectively. Granting it to your other Slivers is a reasonable upside, if you have any.

Verdant Haven: Another tool for the big Green ramp decks of the format.

Vineweft: A very narrow effect, with the ability to return from the graveyard. I’m not sure how good this will be, but I’ve already pointed out the value in getting over the 3 toughness mark in this review, so it might be quite good. We’ll have to see.

Wall of Mulch: This Wall seems sweet. It holds off all the early attacks, then when a creature big enough to kill it comes along, you get a free fog and a card. Seems awesome. Another means to buy time while ramping up to the big creatures.

Yisan, the Wanderer Bard: Yisan seems like a hell of a card once he gets going. Tutoring directly into play is exceptionally powerful, and I suspect Yisan will be quite the removal magnet as a result. Always pick this if you can.

And Green is complete! Green is, no surprise, all about the giant creatures in this core set. Green tricks are somewhat limited, between Titanic Groth, Gather Courage, and Hunt the Weak, so it definitely needs another colour to perform most optimally. All of the other colours have something great to offer Green, and they all seem to have interesting plays and archetypes available to them.

Join me next time when we conclude this review with the rest of the Magic 2015 cards.

Until then,

Random

Magic 2015 Limited Review: Red

Time for some Red cards:

Act on Impulse: An interesting one. While the mana cost is three, you likely want to be casting this at around six mana, assuming you hit a land and two spells on average. The exception being a very hyperaggressive red deck, which might be able to support casting it at five. One to test and look out for.

Aggressive Mining: I feel I’m going to draft this at least once just to see how it plays out. Topdecking this with eight lands in play doesn’t seem like the worst thing. That being said, red as a colour doesn’t seem like it want to even reach eight lands in play in this format (spoiler alert), so that might limit it’s viability.

Altac Bloodseeker: This card seems to want to be paired with Lightning Strike all the time, as I’m otherwise skeptical the ability will be relevant in combat (if the creatures die in combat, it’s too late for the ability to matter). That being said, with the Strike it seems like a brutal card, and there’s something to be said for the ability to just bluff your opponent for free damage.

Belligerent Sliver: Like the other Slivers, somewhat less impactful without his brethren surrounding him. That being said, a 2/2 with some limited evasion isn’t a terrible fail state (see Pyreheart Wolf). If you need a three-drop, you could do worse.

Blastfire Bolt: This will kill basically any creature in the format, and is an instant. Just keep in mind it is significantly expensive, and will likely be easily telegraphed as a result.

Borderland Marauder: Just in case this card didn’t make it quite obvious, red just wants to attack people to death in this format. To provide a comparison for how good this guy is, compare it to Gore-House Chainwalker. That card was also a 3/2 “attacking only” creature, and it saw Constructed play. This card is arguably better then Chainwalker, as you get the full damage output, and can still block if need be. This guy is quite powerful!

Brood Keeper: A nice little build-around Uncommon. Red has a number of cheap auras to use as dragon fodder, such as Inferno Fist and Hammerhand, and the tokens it creates are legitimate threats by themselves. As long as you play smartly with this and don’t get blown out by removal, this card will do a lot of good work.

Burning Anger: An amazing finisher card. Usual caveats about auras apply, but if you stick this, you will easily control the board and just finish your opponent.

Chandra, Pyromaster: There are a large number of X/1’s in the format, so the +1 ability is quite strong. She also digs for extra cards. Chandra, like most Planeswalkers, is quite playable in this Limited environment.

Circle of Flame: Despite what I said about X/1’s above, this likely isn’t worth a card by itself, especially as it relies on your opponent walking into your on-board “trick”. As much as I want to live the dream with Circle of Flame and Polymorphist’s Jest, it isn’t likely to happen. 🙂

Clear a Path: A sideboard card for when you face the “Wall of Mulch” deck.

Cone of Flame: One of the strongest uncommons in the set. It shouldn’t be hard to find board states where you get 2-for-1’s or even 3-for-1’s with this card. An extremely strong incentive to be red in both Draft and Sealed.

Crowd’s Favor: My early opinion is that this is one of the best tricks in the format. “Free” spells are immensely difficult to play around, and this one has some serious blowout potential. Remember you can tap your creature after blocks to pay for this.

Crucible of Fire: Unplayable in this format, unfortunately.

Forge Devil: Bane of X/1’s everywhere, Forge Devil looks to be a powerhouse in this format, slaying creatures like Geist of the Moors, Child of Night, and the dreaded Bronze Sable. Forge Devil’s trigger is mandatory, however, so don’t go playing it onto an empty board.

Foundry Street Denizen: The red aggro curve looks real good between this, the Marauder, and Krenko’s Enforcer. Someone somewhere will have the nut Denizen deck, which on the surface seems capable of some very explosive draws.

Frenzied Goblin: Another excellent one-drop for the aggro decks. The ability looks minor, but is quite powerful, requiring at least two creatures in play to deal with the Goblin in combat, and that’s before any other tricks the red player has. Hammerhand also further allows you to stifle blocks. This is an uncommon for a good reason.

Generator Servant: This guy has received a lot of hype during the preview season, and with good reason. Jumping the mana curve is extremely powerful, and granting those spells haste is just awesome. There are a number of excellent five-drops that cause real headaches when they come out virtually two turns early (turn 4 with haste as opposed to turn 5 without).

Goblin Kaboomist: The mines seems real powerful, making any attacks by small ground creatures a waste of time. While the Kaboomist can potentially remove himself, even getting just one mine will make future attacks difficult. In addition, the red paragon can increase his toughness and put him out of range of his own suicide ability. This one looks strong.

Goblin Rabblemaster: I’m going to cheat here and draw on my experiences from the prerelease, because this guy exceeded expectations there. While generating tokens for no additional investment is obviously good, I thought the tokens would just suicide and not real make much of an impact. With the right curve of creatures, though, the Goblins can create a ton of damage, and when the Rabblemaster himself comes it, it usually causes some awkward blocks. In addition, the tokens can be excellent enablers for Convoke, which is also good because it stops a potentially bad attack. Rabblemaster is extremely good in Limited.

Goblin Roughrider: Another Goblin for Rabblemaster, and a perfectly acceptable three-drop. Once again, 3 power is where we want to be with all the 3 toughness creatures in the format.

Hammerhand: A deceptively powerful card for the red aggressive decks. +1/+1 and the blocking clause is very good in the decks that just want to attack you to death. It even grants haste, which is something I missed in my first impressions of the card. Look out for the turn five Brood Keeper that’s a 3/4 haste and also brings a dragon. I guarantee it will happen.

Heat Ray: A slightly clunky removal spell, that is made up for by its versatility. My opinion is it will be a 3 damage spell most of the time, but being a  4 or 5 if you need it to be is solid.

Hoarding Dragon: A five mana 4/4 flier is always excellent in Limited, and this dragon is no exception. I wouldn’t be too concerned about having an artifact for the ability, but it’s a reasonable upside. One interaction worth noting is that the second ability is a “dies” trigger, so if the dragon is bounced or exiled, you unfortunately won’t get your artifact. =(

Inferno Fist: I’m actually pretty high on this aura, mainly because it neatly dodges the common problem of getting 2-for-1’d. The ability to cash it in for 2 damage is completely reasonable, and if the red deck doesn’t need the ability, it’s quite happy to just hit you harder in the meantime.

Kird Chieftain: A 4/4 body is basically king in this format, and the activated ability just pushes it over the top. I’d avoid playing this unless it has 4 toughness, as it will otherwise die to things like Lightning Strike or Ulcerate. However, a fully powered Chieftain will dominate any board he is on. A very high pick.

Krenko’s Enforcer: A nice way for the aggressive red decks to have a bit of reach. This guy and Accursed Spirit significantly raise the value of Bronze Sable, so keep that in mind while drafting.

Kurkesh, Onakke Ancient: Basically a 4/3 vanilla in this format, unless you’re really trying to abuse Tyrant’s Machine. Still, a 4/3 body is not at all bad.

Lava Axe: I don’t think you need me to tell you if your deck wants a Lava Axe. I’ll just leave my oft-repeated “diminishing returns” phrase here and leave it be.

Lightning Strike: Possibly the best common in the set, even better then it was in Theros, which is saying something. Take these very highly, as they kill everything in the early game at a very low cost. This is even more true as other decks are quite likely to try and splash this effect.

Might Makes Right: This is an expensive, six mana enchantment that requires you to already have the biggest creature on the board before it does anything. While I’m skeptical these conditions will ever be met, it does seem fairly unbeatable if you get it going. Firebreathing creatures seem like they could help in this regard. I’m staying away for now, however.

Miner’s Bane: A poor man’s finisher if you have nothing better available. 3 toughness is really not great on a creature this expensive, as it trades down with something as small as an Oreskos Swiftclaw. Still, it can hit for a significant chunk with that trample ability. It may have a niche in the format.

Paragon of Fierce Defiance: I’m going to guess that Red cares more about the anthem ability, but honestly both abilities seem excellent for the deck. A nice top-end for the agrro curve.

Rummaging Goblin: Possibly the best looter in the set, as the four mana activation on Research Assistant is unfortunately somewhat clunky. This goblin doesn’t seem to fit in an aggressive deck, however, so I’m wondering if he has a home.

Scrapyard Mongrel: The red counterpart to Aeronaut Tinkerer that rewards you for playing artifacts. Mongrel seems exceptional if you have an artifact, and even something as simple as Darksteel Citadel can enable him for very little opportunity cost. The fail state of a four mana 3/3 (A “Hill Giant”) is acceptable in the meantime as well.

Shrapnel Blast: You will need a critical mass of artifacts before playing Shrapnel Blast is worth it. If you get to that point, however, it will be nearly impossible to play around, if opponents see it coming at all.

Siege Dragon: Seven mana 5/5 flier is acceptable as a baseline. The fact that he repeatedly scorches small creatures when he attacks is a not irrelevant upside. Probably worth the pick, but he likely doesn’t belong in the same deck as Foundry Street Denizen.

Soul of Shandalar: My pick for the most broken Soul in Limited. If you untap with this, it will completely dominate the board and finish your opponent in short order. Very few creatures in the format can survive the activated ability, and those that do are likely succumbing to a 6/6 first striker anyway.

Stoke the Flames: A card I’m reasonably excited about. 4 damage to a creature is already very good in a format where 3 toughness is the most common number. Add in the fact that it hits players AND can be Convoked for cheaper (or even free!) and we have a clear winner. A very high-pick uncommon and another excellent Red incentive.

Thundering Giant: 4 power worth of haste is a fine deal at five mana, and your opponents are unlikely to see it coming the first time. 3 toughness is somewhat of a drawback, but he’ll over-perform more often then not.

Torch Fiend: See Child of Night. A passable Limited body that gives you artifact hate at next to no opportunity cost. A fine man (devil).

Wall of Fire: If a Red control deck exists, this is likely a big part of it. 5 toughness is once again a huge deal in this format. This could easily make attacks somewhat awkward with the firebreathing.

In conclusion:
– Red is skewed towards being aggressive: Mentioned often in this review, but cards like Foundry Street Denizen and Borderland Marauder reward you for hitting your opponent hard and often.
The Red burn spells are excellent: Lightning Strike and Stoke the Flames are both premium removal spells that command a high pick. I can easily see fights over Red in drafts because of these cards, and Strike can be easily splashed if you take it early but it doesn’t pan out. – There are some powerful uncommons: Cards like Brood Keeper and Kird Ape are powerful cards that promote a different kind of red deck from the 1-2-3 aggro curve. This is good for the depth of the format.

While this review has fallen a little bit behind, we’re almost done now with only two entries left for M15. Join me next time for the Green cards, which are all about playing giant creatures.

Until then,

Random.

Magic 2015 Limited Review: Black

Continuing Onward

Accursed Spirit: Blacktusk Boar has always been a fine Magic card, and this is the Blacker version. 3 power evasion is noting to scoff at, and Black should be easily capable of removing any potential blockers. He was good in M13, he’ll likely remain so here.

Black Cat: An acceptable choice if you need a two drop. The discard isn’t normally relevant, though some players will warp their attacks around not discarding cards they want to keep.

Blood Host: The sacrifice cost is steep, but he will grow out of reach quickly, and the fact he gains you life while doing so is a nice little bonus. If you can keep him adequately protected, he’s a good finisher.

Carrion Crow: Wind Drake has always been a Limited all-star, and I see no reason why the crow will be any different. The drawback si so minor as to almost be irrelevant, though there will be times when it will bite you.

Caustic Tar: An ideal finisher for any control decks. This will end the game swiftly, and is difficult to interact with. The first one will be super good, though I’m unsure about the second.

Child of Night: Classic Limited Staple. 2 power for two mana with an upside easily crosses the line.

Covenant of Blood: While it’s an expensive sorcery, Convoke helps it a bit, and the ability to go straight to the opponent’s life total is not to be underestimated. While a hardcore control deck likely isn’t relying on this card as a finisher, I can see other strategies that won’t mind a copy of this.

Crippling Blight: A card that tends to play better then it reads. It was good in M13 Limited and likely will continue to be so here. There are enough X/1 targets around that this outright kills, and the “can’t block” clause is often quite relevant. Again, you don’t want too many of these, but the first one or two will pull their weight.

Cruel Sadist: I keep looking at this card and thinking how expensive the removal ability is. I have to remind myself that this is a one-drop that scales into the late game, and that’s basically good enough by itself. If this card is crashing in as a 3/3 or 4/4, that’s more then acceptable.

Endless Obedience: Reanimating some nice bomb seems all well and good, but there doesn’t seem to be a huge section of high-impact creatures outside of rares. I’d likely start this in the sideboard and bring it in if I see something awesome, but that could also be a stretch. Maybe Green/Black as an archetype could make this work with Saytr Wayfinder and Necromancer’s Assistant, but putting this in your graveyard would kind of suck.

Eternal Thirst: This is extremely cheap, and the effect it provides significantly powerful. However, your opponents creatures dying isn’t going to happen very reliably, so you likely won’t get more then two counters out of this realistically. While it needs to start on something already big (Charging Rhino, anyone?), the payoff is definitely there.

Feast on the Fallen: “If you’re winning, creatures you control get bigger so you can keep winning”?. Like First Response, this doesn’t do much by itself, and if you have an evasive source of damage, you’ll likely win without this cards help. I’m giving it a miss until someone proves me wrong.

Festergloom: This will likely be sideboard tech against the token strategies White has available. If it wasn’t a Sorcery, the asymmetric nature could make it a nice trick, but alas. =(

Flesh to Dust: Kill something, no questions asked. Unconditional removal is great, and this will be a high pickup in draft and even better in Sealed. Be careful of running into tricks like Peel from Reality or Ephemeral Shields, however.

Gravedigger: I am so unbelievably sad to see this bumped up to uncommon. While it’s an inbuilt two for one, Gravedigger himself wasn’t really causing any problems, in my mind. Nonetheless, still a good pickup if he has appropriate targets.

In Garruk’s Wake: Once again, nine mana is ridiculously expensive. Once again, you are probably a favourite to win the game if this resolves, however. If this format allows us to cast nine mana spells without dying, this could be a perfectly reasonable bomb.

Indulgent Tormentor: Yes, this card gives your opponents a choice. However, none of them are particularly desirable for you opponent. My admittedly few experiences with the card tend to suggest that the card draw ends up as the default anyway. If the demon is hitting the opponent, they can’t very well pay more life, and if they need creatures to block with, they aren’t sacrificing them either. Obviously much worse if you’re not putting the pressure on, but totally capable of closing games by himself.

Leeching Sliver: See Diffusion Sliver. Barring the nut Sliver deck (very unlikely in this format), it’s a two mana 1/1. Though if you have three of these with Indestructible, style points for you.

Liliana Vess: She takes cards from your opponents, and gets your best ones. She also has a reachable ultimate. She doesn’t break the mold of ‘walkers being good in Limited (Hi Tibalt).

Mind Rot: Sometimes, your 23rd card will be Mind Rot. This is acceptable. Just remember to side it out against aggressive strategies, where they likely don’t have a hand by the time you cast this, and are happy it wasn’t a blocker instead.

Necrobite: Mediocre trick is mediocre. While it shone in the bestow-heavy world of Theros, now that our creatures are some mixture of 2 and 3 power and toughness, it’s a lot less appealing. Run it if you need it.

Necrogen Scudder: This is a candidate for uncommon bomb. The life loss is likely irrelevant unless you opponent plans on burning three bounce spells on it, and this has the size to trump most of the common fliers (compare to Nimbus of the Isles). A high priority pick in the colour.

Necromancer’s Assistant: 3 power is the biggest thing this guy has going for him. As discussed above, I don’t think graveyard shenanigans has enough support to be viable, but we’ll see how it plays out.

Necromancer’s Stockpile: The Magic 2015 Zombies. While that doesn’t seem like many, I wouldn’t be surprised if this could be a thing, given the recursion available to Black. Take it if you want to try it out, but value the zombies highly. Remember that any random creature card will draw a card anyway.

Nightfire Giant: My early pick for my favourite uncommon in the set. Five mana 5/4 is a great rate, and the ability to shoot of damage at anything is extremely powerful. A very high pick. Also, it was quite awkward when I realized that, without a Mountain, this guy is literally Zombie Goliath.

Ob Nixilis, Unshackled: Ignore the search ability for the purposes of Limited. Flying, trample, and gets bigger when stuff dies are the important parts here. An easy first pick bomb.

Paragon of Open Graves: Possibly the most powerful Paragon, and all on the back of the activated ability. Ensuring all your creatures trade for theirs, regardless of size, will greatly favour you in the long run. Remember that, like all Paragons, he cannot target himself, so no blocking then activating.

Rotfeaster Maggot: 5 toughness in this core set environment looks nigh unbeatable. He even stops the mighty Charging Rhino! He even brings along a little bit of life as an upside. Don’t let the otherwise vanilla-ness of the card fool you: this one is probably deceptively good.

Shadowcloak Vampire: Another candidate for a strong finisher in Black, which is surprising at common. Obviously, managing your life total will be important here, but if there’s no risk of trading, you don’t need to activate.

Sign in Blood: Two cards in the early game is very much worth this cost, unless you’re facing an extremely hyper aggressive deck. Diminishing returns apply to this card as well, so once you have the second, I wouldn’t prioritize these too highly.

Soul of Innistrad: About as unbeatable as all the other Souls. Getting the three best threats already dealt with is a significant upside, even if it dies.

Stab Wound: Anyone who ever played Return to Ravnica Limited can tell you how obnoxious this card is. This is completely capable of killing opponents by itself. There’s also no shortage of 2/3 bodies around to put this on. Another easy first pick.

Stain the Mind: Completely unplayable in Limited. Next.

Typhoid Rats: The rats have basically always been good. They create awkward attacks where your opponent can’t send in with their best creature, but still need to pressure you somehow. Or it will eat some piece of removal like Crippling Blight, which you’re still fine with. Unlike most one drops, it’s even relevant when you draw it late. Solid card.

Ulcerate: Premium removal, but not without cost. Any Black deck that gets its hands on a copy will obviously run it without hesitation, but mind that life. You don’t want too many of this, Necrogen Scudder, and Sign in Blood in your deck, for example.

Unmake the Graves: This being an instant kicks it up a serious notch then where it would be as a sorcery. I don’t hate having a copy of this somewhere in your 40, and it will likely catch opponents off-guard.

Wall of Limbs: This is horribly slow, and you’ll need a lifelinker to make it reliably big. Still, it’s an early game blocker that can double as a finisher, and there’s something to be said for that.

Waste Not: There is not enough discard in Limited to make this card viable. Pass it on.

Witch’s Familiar: As discussed on Aeronaut Tinkerer, a 2/3 body for three mana is a perfectly acceptable Limited body. Just take care it doesn’t get stabbed.

Xathrid Slyblade: An extremely powerful uncommon. While the mana investment is significant, this will lay waste to every creature foolish enough to attack until an opponent has some instant-speed removal. Even then, it can be protected with cards like Negate or Ephemeral Shields. Players simply can’t afford to attack into this without an answer available. This could easily be a first-pick uncommon.

Zof Shade: As far as mana sinks go, one can do a lot worse then Zof Shade. A single activation pushes it to a 4/4, which will generally be more then enough.

More notes!
– Cheap removal is Sorcery speed. (With the exception of Ulcerate.)
– Black seems to rely on graveyard recursion to get an advantage in the late game.
– Most of Black’s early creatures are not geared toward being aggressive.

And that’s all for Black! This is the halfway mark, with Red, Green and the Rest to follow shortly. Stay tuned for the rest of this series!

Until then,

Random.