by ElspethFTW. Old School Duelist
Despise was consistently played for a long time in Standard when it was first released in New Phyrexia. Naturally, I had assumed that fans of Mono-Black Control and Waste Not Discard decks would rejoice when it was reprinted in Khans of Tarkir. It seemed that being able to be play Thoughtseize alongside it in Standard was going to be loads of fun - at least for those playing it. Despise is quite splash-able, being the one drop Black card that it is. Its effect makes your opponent reveal his or her hand, and you get to discard a creature or planeswalker from their hand.
In a Standard format like the one that the Khans of Tarkir block created, one with a decent amount of very good planeswalkers, it surprised me to only see Despise get some Khans block play, and really very little play in Standard.
The designation of planeswalker is, of course, quite interesting. At the time it was first released, it was quite relevant with Koth of the Hammer, Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas and Venser, the Sojourner running rampant. Now there are plenty more planeswalkers to deal with in Standard, such as two incarnations of Ajani, Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver, Elspeth, Sun's Champion, Kiora, the Crashing Wave, Sorin, Solemn Visitor and many more. Despise can obviously deal with planeswalkers. It's outclassed in Modern by a bevy of other discard spells, but in Standard it seems it should see plenty of play that it hasn't. It seems that Thoughtseize is getting the job done on its own.
Still, dig up all of the old New Phyrexia copies and Friday Night Magic promos. Despise is still back. When Thoughtseize leaves Standard after Theros block rotates from the format, it may once again see play with lots of strong planeswalkers still sticking around.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Ghostway is an interesting Magic card from Guildpact. It's a rare that probably not many people know exist, but it's been far from being a bulk rare for quite some time. Its price has been steadily climbing from about $1.50 USD in 2010 - with a spike to about $6 around the release of Born of the Gods for some reason – back down to around $3 and back up to around $5 in late 2014. Another spike in early 2015 to over $10 a copy with the emergence of a rogue Modern archetype called Eternal Ghostway.
So what is Eternal Ghostway? It has to do with using cards with powerful enter the battlefield effects, such as Eternal Witness, with the "blinking" power of Ghostway. For 2W, Ghostway is an instant spell that allows you to remove all creatures you control from the game and return them back to the battlefield at the end of the turn. This can be helpful for dodging removal, of course, but it also allows you to recycle enter the battlefield effects, as well as some other things that you will see when we take a look at a couple of Eternal Ghostway lists.
Here's one such list from late January 2015 that went 3-1 in a Modern Daily.
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Elvish Visionary
4 Eternal Witness
4 Restoration Angel
4 Wall of Omens
3 Kitchen Finks
1 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
1 Loxodon Hierarch
1 Magus of the Disk
Non-Creature Spells (10)
4 Path to Exile
3 Chord of Calling
4 Temple Garden
4 Windswept Heath
4 Wooded Foothills
3 Tectonic Edge
2 Stomping Ground
3 Fulminator Mage
2 Engineered Explosives
1 Aven Mindcensor
1 Eidolon of Rhetoric
1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
1 Loaming Shaman
1 Nature's Claim
1 Qasali Pridemage
1 Scavenging Ooze
Let's start with the creatures, as this is a very creature-heavy deck. As this is a 3-color deck, the Birds of Paradise help you to mana-fix for the colors that you will need. Elvish Visionary is a cute little common card that draws you a card when it enters play, an effect that can be abused with Ghostway, hence the inclusion of 4 copies in the deck. This card advantage can come in handy. Wall of Omens is a very defensive card (0/4 defender) that likewise allows you to draw a card when it enters play.
Eternal Witness is one of the decks "bread and butter" cards, as when it enters play it allows you to get any card back from your graveyard to your hand. Many times that will most likely be Ghostway. Kitchen Finks has a couple of cool interactions in this deck. Not only does it gain you 2 life when it enters play, but it also has Persist on it. This means when the Finks "dies" it comes back with a -1/-1 counter on it, while also again netting you 2 life. But when it's removed from play by the effect of Ghostway, that counter is removed when it comes back at the end of the turn, giving it yet another chance to Persist. This allows you to be aggressive with attacking or blocking with them.
A full playset of Restoration Angel compliments the Ghostways. The difference with the Angel is that the "blinking" effect is instantaneously, meaning you don't have to wait until the end of the turn for the creature you target to return. The only thing you can't target are other Angels. It's also included in here with its crazy interaction with Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker.
While Restoration Angel cannot target another Angel, Kiki-Jiki has the ability to copy another creature by tapping itself, and since he has haste, he can do this immediately. The token he creates by copying Restoration Angel can then target Kiki-Jiki, essentially "resetting" him. You can then make as many Restoration Angels as you please, and they all have Haste. Being 3/4 flyers, you don't need many to put away a game. It's basically the primary win condition of this deck.
The rest of the creatures are one-ofs: Loxodon Hierarch, Magus of the Disk, and Reveillark. The Hierarch is a 4-drop (2WG) that gains you 4 life when he enters. That's fairly substantial. However, he also can be sacrificed for WG to regenerate each other creature you control, helping you to survive boardwipes. This comes in handy when you consider the Magus of the Disk. The Magus costs 2WW to cast and is a 2/4 that comes into play tapped. Essentially, this is the creature version of Nevinyrral's Disk. His tap ability costs only a single colorless mana and destroys all artifacts, creatures, and enchantments. This is why Hierarch's regeneration ability is so helpful, allowing all of your creatures to survive.
The last creature in the deck is Reveillark. With all of the creatures that have power 2 or less in this deck, it's very helpful. Even Kiki-Jiki can be resurected with Reveillark's ability. Only Restoration Angel , Kitchen Finks, and Loxodon Hierarch can't be brought back. Even the Magus of the Disk can be retrieved into play with this ability.
There are only a few non-creature spells in the deck. First, you have 4 Path to Exile to deal with problem creatures by simply removing them from play. The basic land you give your opponent most of the time is well worth it. You then have 3 copies of Ghostway and 3 copies of Chord of Calling. The Chord helps you seek out important pieces, and oftentimes you'll probably be waiting to hit 8 mana to summon your Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker. It's a powerful card, and with Birthing Pod no more in Modern, it has found its new home.
Like many Modern decks, the mana base isn't cheap. However, the only fetchlands in the deck were reprinted in Khans of Tarkir: Windswept Heath and Wooded Foothills. This is a mostly white and green deck, with the Red only for Kiki-Jiki and the sideboarded Fulminator Mages. You have 4 Temple Garden and 2 Stomping Ground for "shock" lands. For basic land you have 3 Forest, 2 Plains, and 1 Mountain. There are also 3 copies of Tectonic Edge in the deck to help keep your opponents off of the colors that they need to hurt you.
The 3 Fulminator Mages exist in the sideboard in case you need more non-basic land destruction in certain matchups. They're very expensive cards, and while Eternal Ghostway isn't exactly a "budget" deck, these make up a huge chunk of its cost. You can live without them, but if you have them, definitely run them. They do a lot of damage when combined with Ghostway, Restoration Angel, and Reveillark (they have 2 power).
Engineered Explosives has become very popular removal in Modern, as it has been in Legacy for quite some time. It can deal with destroying a lot at once, and your own creatures can be protected by Ghostway, so this card can be extremely one-sided.
Firespout is a nice quick way to deal with aggressive decks. Since you have some expendable creatures and others that you can easily reuse, this again can become very one-sided.
Aven Mindcensor is a fun play to hose opponent's when they are searching their deck using fetch lands. It's also fun to stop an opposing Chord of Calling or any other tutor effect. While your opponent could find a valid target within the top four cards of their deck, it's mighty unlikely.
Eidolon of Rhetoric is included to stop combo decks such as Pyromancer Ascension and other Storm variants. This deck rarely has to cast more than one spell in a turn to win anyhow.
Linvala, Keeper of Silence shuts down activated abilities, but only for your opponents. This makes it so that your own tap abilities and any other abilities that require a cost work, but not for your opponents. (Enter the battlefield abilities are triggered abilities and not affected by Linvala.)
Loaming Shaman is an interesting inclusion. It sees a lot of play in Commander to reshuffle your own cards back into the deck. While you can use it for this purpose, it especially screws up graveyard strategies by putting cards that opponents want in the graveyard back into their decks. That's really why it's in the board.
Nature's Claim costs only a single Green mana to cast and it can hit either artifacts or enchantments. While its not fun to give your opponent 4 life, if you win through the infinite combo with Kiki-Jiki and Restoration Angel, that 4 life is meaningless.
Qasali Pridemage is just an awesome card. Not only does he serve as artifact and enchantment removal, but the Exalted mechanic can be relevant at times. But he's in the deck for the removal.
Scavenging Ooze exists in the board to hose decks that rely on their graveyards. There are a few of those running around Modern, so it's handy to have.
Spellskite is fun for a lot of reasons, messing up targeting for your opponent's. It's the number one way to deal with Splinter Twin or opposing Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breakers. But it also protects your important creatures from Path to Exile, as well as other things that target.
While the primary goal of Eternal Ghostway is to outlast your opponent to win through the Kiki-Jiki/Restoration Angel combo, it's not the only way to win. There's enough lifegain in the deck to keep you alive long enough to actually win through combat. The card advantage offered by the Elvish Visionaries and Wall of Omens can't be understated either. It's a simple, yet fun strategy, and while it's not exactly budget (roughly $500 USD in February 2015) it has a lot of cards that you'd already have if you've been playing Modern.
There is another way to approach building this deck. Here's a list from mid-February 2015 called WRG, but it is in fact another build of Eternal Ghostway.
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Elvish Visionary
4 Eternal Witness
4 Wall of Omens
3 Restoration Angel
2 Wall of Roots
1 Huntmaster of the Fells
1 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
1 Kitchen Finks
1 Reclamation Sage
Non-Creature Spells (13)
4 Path to Exile
3 Chord of Calling
3 Lightning Bolt
4 Temple Garden
4 Windswept Heath
4 Wooded Foothills
3 Stomping Ground
1 Rootbound Crag
1 Sacred Foundry
2 Ancient Grudge
2 Blood Moon
2 Fulminator Mage
2 Melira, Sylvok Outcast
1 Harmonic Sliver
1 Qasali Pridemage
1 Sigarda, Host of Herons
1 Thrun, the Last Troll
Let's start with the creature differences. There are no more Loxodon Hierarch, Magus of the Disk, or Reveillark. There is also one fewer Restoration Angel and two fewer Kitchen Finks. The deck adds 2 copies of Wall of Roots, one Huntmaster of the Fells, and a Reclamation Sage. The Walls are interesting, in that they give you a bit of mana ramp at the cost of having -1/-1 counters put on them. They were featured in some Pod decks, and now they find a home here. Ghostway combos well with these as it does with the Finks, letting you reuse them.
The Huntmaster is an interesting card here, and its a bit more consistent than the Magus would be – the Magus is a bit too situational. The pure power of the Huntmaster is impressive: gaining you 2 life and a 2/2 token on one side and dealing 2 damage to an opponent and 2 damage to an opponent's creature on the other side.. The Reclamation Sage from Magic 2015 gives you main board artifact and enchantment removal which can easily be reused in this deck.
While I like Reveillark in this deck, I can see why you might want to cut the Loxodon Hierarch and Magus of the Disk. The latter two really exist for one another and can be a bit redundant or too situational.
In cutting the two creatures, there are 3 copies of Lightning Bolt added here. I like these in the deck, as they provide for a bit of extra removal as well as potential burn straight to a player in the late game. Bolt is just simply never a bad card to have. The third copy of Bolt is in place of the 23rd land from the other deck. This list eschews the Tectonic Edges for a Rootbound Crag, Sacred Foundry, and an additional copy of Stomping Ground, while cutting a Plains.
I think this mainboard is a bit better, if not considerably more red-heavy. I could get into the sideboard choices, too – some of which I'm personally not crazy about – but I think that the sideboards should be formed from personal preference and the state of your local meta-game.
Eternal Ghostway hasn't been winning big time on Magic Online, but if you're looking to find a Modern deck to build from the scraps of Birthing Pod, this would be it. If you're just getting into the format, or are just looking for a new deck to play, I highly recommend trying out this archetype. It may need a bit more tweaking to be a big winner, but I like how it's evolving, and it's a solid list for those that like something a bit different.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Deathpact Angel is an interesting Angel aligned with the Orzhov guild. She costs 3WBB (3 colorless, one white, 2 black) to cast. She’s a 5/5 flyer that when she dies you get a 1/1 white and black Cleric creature token onto the field. That token has its own ability to tap and sacrifice itself to return a card named Deathpact Angel from your graveyard to the battlefield; this ability has the same cost as Deathpact Angel originally costs to cast (3WBB).
Besides the fact that she's an awesome looking Angel for collection purposes, Deathpact Angel isn't the most impressive card. For 6 mana, only getting a 1/1 token when she dies with an ability to essentially to recast Deathpact Angel from the graveyard doesn’t feel like a mythic rare, honestly. While you’re not technically recasting her, it essentially costs you the same. She was honestly a very good Limited card during the Return to Ravnica block.
She's also not bad in Commander, especially if you pop her into play off with Kaalia of the Vast's effect to put an Angel, Demon, or Dragon into play when attacking. Some Commander players have played her alongside Teysa, Orzhov Scion for some synergy with her effect, since both the Angel and her token are both white and black.
Her artwork is pretty awesome, but I wouldn’t play her perhaps ever outside of a Kaalia or Teysa deck. She's a bulk mythic rare at this point, seemingly only printed at that rarity to not become overpowered in the Limited environment.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Recently, we introduced the concept of Pendulum Summoning new to the Super Starter Deck: Space Time Showdown, as well as reviewed the deck itself. Today, we’ll take a look at the Power-Up Packs that come with the deck.
Read on here for the Pendulum Summoning and Pendulum Monsters review.
Read on here for the rest of the Space Time Showdown Deck review.
There are 15 cards in the set, and you receive two packs with the Super Starter deck of 5 cards each. There are only two rarities in this pack: Ultra Rare and Commons.
One of these ultra rares is a card called Odd-Eyes Dragon. He looks a bit freaky, but it is an interesting card. He’s a Level 7 Dragon Effect Monster with 2500 ATK and 2000 DEF. If he destroys an opponent’s monster by battle and sends it to the Graveyard, you inflict damage to your opponent equal to half the original ATK of that monster in the Graveyard. If this effect sounds familiar, it’s because it’s precisely the same effect as Elemental Hero Flame Wingman. It’s also the original form of the cover card from Duelist Alliance, Odd-Eyes Pendulum Dragon, which has the same Monster Effect.
The other ultra rare in the pack is Dark Hole. Not much needs to be said about this card. It destroys all monsters on the field. It’s one of the best staples in the entire game, and having yet another ultra rare printing is pretty useful for players who love to foil out their decks.
The other common cards are as follows:
Kuraz the Light Monarch
D.D. Warrior Lady
Injection Fairy Lily
The A. Forces
Reinforcement of the Army
Swords of Revealing Light
Call of the Haunted
The majority of these cards have all been printed at common rarity before. Mirror Force, Call of the Haunted, and Reinforcement of the Army are staples that we’re happy to see again. Magic Cylinder is also a highly useful card, along with Divine Wrath, a card that may begin to see more play again with the rise of so many powerful effect monsters.
Of these 13 common cards, only 2 had never before been printed at the lowest rarity: Des Volstgalph and Kuraz the Light Monarch. Des Volstgalph‘s claim to fame was that he was once a Shonen Jump Championship Series Prize Card, and later reprinted in two different Gold Series. Kuraz is probably the most interesting card here, only before printed as a Light of Destruction special edition card and a Duelist League participation promo.
Kuraz the Light Monarch‘s effect becomes all that much more important with two new card zones to worry about. When he is either Normal or Special Summoned, you can target up to 2 cards on the field and destroy them. If you do, each player can draw 1 card for each of the cards they controlled that was destroyed by this effect. It can’t attack during the turn it’s Normal Summoned or Special Summoned due to the power of this effect. Also, keep in mind that Kuraz is an excellent card to summon using the new Pendulum Summoning process, being a level 6 Monster that doesn’t require a Tribute Summon to activate his effect like most Monarchs. I’d like to see how this guy is used in the near future.
Overall, these are decent cards to immediately power up the Space Time Showdown deck. Having an inexpensive Ultra Rare Dark Hole is always fun, too. All in all, this is a pretty strong Starter Deck, especially for the price. You wouldn’t buy it for the Power-Up packs themselves, but they are certainly a nice bonus.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
The Yu-Gi-Oh Super Starter Deck, Space-Time Showdown introduced a new type of Summon into the game of Yu-Gi-Oh called Pendulum Summoning. Previously, we have broken down Pendulum Summoning and the two Pendulum Monsters included in the deck. Now let’s take a look at the rest of the deck and how it works along with the Pendulum Summoning mechanic.
First, we’ll look at the monsters, starting with Wattaildragon.
Wattaildragon is a level 6 Light-attribute Dragon monster with 2500 ATK and 1000 DEF. He’s very similar to the classic Summoned Skull except as a Light Dragon.
Luster Dragon is a classic level 4 Dragon-type monster of the Wind Attribute. It has 1900 ATK and 1600 DEF. Despite not having an effect, it’s a solid monster to Normal Summon and can hold its own against plenty of monsters out there.
Hunter Dragon is a level 3 Dragon type Monster with the Dark Attribute. It has 1700 ATK but only 100 DEF. It’s a very aggressive monster, especially at only level 3.
At one time, Millenium Shield was a highly sought after collector’s card, as it was only available as a McDonald’s promo. It’s since been put into a Gold Series as a common, and is now in this Starter Deck. It’s a 3000 DEF monster with 0 ATK and is a Level 5 monster, meaning that ordinarily it would need to be Tribute Summoned. 3000 DEF is still very hard to get past, however, so it can still stone-wall opponent’s attacks.
Dark Blade was once one of the most feared Level 4 creatures in the game. He’s a Dark-Attribute Warrior monster with 1800 ATK and 1500 DEF. He still packs quite a bunch for a Normal Monster.
Warrior Dai Grepher is most famous for his fusion with Spirit Ryu to make Ryu Senshi. Here, though, he’s just a Level 4 Warrior with the Earth-type Attribute, along with 1700 ATK and 1600 DEF, middling stats at best.
Konami must be very fond of Chamberlain of the Six Samurai, as this is the fifth time he’s been printed. He was printed in Gladiator’s Assault for the first time, again in the Legendary Collection 2 Mega Pack, again in the Samurai Warlords Structure Deck, and even in the first of the Super Starter Decks. That’s an awful lot of mileage for a Level 3 Warrior monster with 200 ATK and 2000 DEF. That defense shouldn’t be overlooked, of course, but the fondness Konami seems to have for this guy is astounding.
The fondness for printing Mystical Elf, on the other hand, makes a bit more sense, since she was one of Yugi Moto’s original monsters. The fact that she is a Spellcaster is also quite relevant.
So you might be wondering why there are so many Normal Monsters in here. Take note of their types: Dragon, Warrior, and Spellcaster. There is a good reason why they are in here.
We’ve gone over Stargazer Magician and Timegazer Magician already in our Pendulum Summoning article. When we take a look at the next few cards, you’ll see why Pendulum Summoning might become a big deal. We’ll start with the Empowered monsters, of which there are 5, one of each Attribute, except Dark.
Aether, the Empowering Dragon is the first card we’ve seen so far that actually has a special effect when it is Pendulum Summoned. It’s a Level 6 Dragon type monster with 2300 ATK and 1600 DEF and the Light attribute. When it’s Pendulum Summoned, you can target 1 card on the field and return it to its owner’s hand. You can only activate the effect of an Aether, the Empowering Dragon once per turn, which makes sense. But if it’s not Pendulum Summoned, it’s basically just a vanilla monster.
Ventrda, the Empowered Warrior is a particularly good card, in that it has 2000 ATK and can attack directly. It’s a Level 5 monster, however, so typically he would require a Tribute Summon. This is the beauty of Pendulum Summoning, however. Plus, not only can it attack your opponent directly, but if it is sent from the field to the Graveyard, you can target 1 Dragon, Warrior, or Spellcaster Type Normal Monster in your Graveyard and add it to your hand. There’s one reason to have all of those Normal monsters!
Arnis, the Empowered Warrior is another cool Effect monster. When it’s destroyed by battle with an opponent’s attacking monster and sent to the graveyard, you can Special Summon 1 Spellcaster-Type monster with 1500 or less ATK from your Deck in Attack Position. It’s a bit specific, but as Arnis doesn’t have to be in attack position for that effect to resolve, it’s a useful ability.
Terratiger, the Empowered Warrior, when he’s Normal Summoned, allows you to Special Summon 1 Level 4 or lower Normal Monster from your hand in Defense Position. Who doesn’t like free summons, especially for Xyz summoning?
We finish off the Empowered monster cards with Hydrotortoise, who is actually a Flip Effect monster! His flip effect allows you to destroy 1 Spell/Trap Card your opponent controls. This is relevant because it can target cards in Pendulum Zones. Spell/Trap Card destruction is always useful, and even better when attached to a monster.
The final five monsters in the deck are called Summoners, one for each Attribute much like the Empowered cards, with Dark still being an exception.
The Golden Dragon Summoner is a Spellcaster with 1000 ATK and 1000 DEF. While it doesn’t have very impressive stats, it does have an interesting effect. You can tribute one of your monsters, then target another monster on the field and return it to the hand. You can only use the effect of a “Golden Dragon Summoner” once per turn. This effect could be fairly helpful, especially when facing Synchro and Xyz Summoned monsters and forcing them to be un-summoned can set your opponent back considerably, even at the cost of one of your own monsters. It would seem you could tribute this card for its own effect, as well.
The Blue Dragon Summoner is yet another card in this deck that cares about having Normal Monsters in the deck. If he’s sent from the field to Graveyard in any way, you can add 1 Dragon, Warrior, or Spellcaster-type Normal Monster from your Deck to your hand.
Red Sparrow Summoner is the Spellcaster version of Arnis, the Empowered Warrior. In this case, she seeks out Warriors from the deck with 1500 or less ATK, whereas Arnis instead seeks out Spellcasters. It’s an interesting synergy.
The White Tiger Summoner is very similar to Terratiger, the Empowered Warrior except that it’s a level 3 monster with more defensive stats (1000 ATK/1700 DEF). However, in addition to allowing you to Special Summon a level 4 or lower Normal Monster from your hand, this Summoner gives all monsters you control an additional 100 ATK and DEF.
The final Summoner is another flip effect monster, and this one destroys creatures your opponent controls. Green Turtle Summoner is basically a better version of the classic Man-Eater Bug and Old Vindictive Magician, as it has more defense than either of them at 1500 DEF. This is a great card, although not quite as good as Snowman Eater. It does have the advantage of being a Spellcaster, however.
That’s it for the monsters. Now onto the Spell Cards.
Sorcerous Spell Wall is an interesting field spell card. On your turn, all monsters you control gain 300 ATK only during your turn and only 300 DEF during your opponent’s turn. While the defensive side of the card may not be as relevant, gaining 300 ATK during your turn is a pretty strong effect.
The last new card in the deck, Supply Squad, is a cool Continuous Spell Card. Once per turn, if a monster or monsters you control are destroyed by battle or a card effect, you can draw a card. Card draw is always good, especially when it comes from something that often happens in a game.
To round out the spell cards we have: Lightning Vortex, Mystical Space Typhoon, Ego Boost, Axe of Despair, Lucky Iron Axe, Monster Reincarnation, Dark Factory of Mass Production, and Poison of the Old Man. You can click on each card’s name to find out more about it on Yu-Gi-Oh Wikia.
For the Trap Cards: Trap Hole, Sakuretsu Armor, Raigeki Break, Dust Tornado, Shadow Spell, A Hero Emerges, Soul Resurrection, Jar of Greed, Magic Jammer, and Seven Tools of the Bandit. Again, click the card name’s for more info.
Overall, the reprints I’m most excited to see among the Spell/Trap cards are Mystical Space Typhoon (which you can never have enough of), Monster Reincarnation (which is a good card for many decks) and Seven Tools of the Bandit, which is a Trap card that has really been coming back into style with the banning of Heavy Storm.
Taking a look at the deck as a whole, it introduces a bunch of new cards into the game, especially with the Summoner and Empowered monsters, plus obviously the two Pendulum monsters and the two Spell cards. The deck has some interesting synergies within it, and while the deck is not itself highly competitive, it’s a great starting place for players new to the game or returning after a long while to discover that there’s this Pendulum Summoning thing going on (like myself!)
But wait, the deck list might be finished, but there’s more! The reason they call this a Super Starter Deck is that it comes with two packs of five cards, as well! What’s in this pack? We'll review what you can get from those packs soon!
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
The Space-Time Showdown Super Starter Deck introduced a new type of Summon into the game of Yu-Gi-Oh. Before we had Normal Summons, Special Summons, and Fusion Summons. Then we had Contact Fusion Summons. Next we had Synchro Summons. After that, we had Xyz Summons. Now we have Pendulum Summons, and oh boy, are they complex!
This starter deck comes with two monsters of a brand new type known as Pendulum Monsters. You play them in your deck like regular monsters, and can summon them like any other normal Effect Monster. However, in addition to the traditional monster zones, two new “pendulum” zones have been created between the extra deck and field card zone on the left and between the deck and graveyard over on the right. In these zones, they are treated as Spells and not Monsters, and have a different effect while in those zones.
There are a few other things you should know about Pendulum Monsters. First of all, when they are sent from the field from the graveyard, by combat or a card effect, even if they are face-down, they are sent to the Extra Deck face-up. Yes, the Extra Deck. It will make more sense later.
However, if they are sent from the hand, Main Deck, or Extra Deck, or have their summon or effects as a Spell Card negated they go to the graveyard like normal. Also, placing monsters in Pendulum Zones is not considered a Normal or Special Summon. You cannot discard a Pendulum monster already in a Pendulum Zone in order to play another one (like you would a Field spell card) but you can play them as often as you like as long as you have open Pendulum Zones in which to play them.
So why the heck are there are a blue zone and a red zone? As soon as you see the first of the two new Pendulum Summon cards, you’ll see why.
The cover card of the Space Time Showdown deck is Timegazer Magician. It’s a Level 3 monster with 1200 ATK and 600 DEF. You’ll then notice that the card has two jewels: a blue side and a red side. You can choose to summon it as a regular monster, in which case, it will get its monster effect. But if you summon it into one of the two Pendulum zones you put it into, it instead becomes a spell card with a different effect. The color of the Zone decides which number is considered in what is called its “Pendulum Scale.” We’ll cover this later, but for purposes of at least the early Pendulum Monsters, these numbers are currently identical.
The Pendulum ability on this card is rather wordy. Let’s break it down.
“You must control no monsters to activate this card. If a Pendulum Monster you control attacks or is attacked, your opponent cannot activate Trap Cards until the end of the Damage Step. Unless you have a “Magician” card or “Odd-Eyes” card in your other Pendulum Zone, this card’s Pendulum Scale becomes 4.”
The first part of that effect is pretty self-explanatory. It means that this card essentially becomes a continuous spell card with an ability that can only be activated when you control no monsters – that is, no monsters except for a Pendulum Monster in the opposite zone.
The effect is fairly basic: whenever a Pendulum Monster you control attacks or is attacked, your opponent can’t activate any of his/her Trap Cards until the end of the Damage Step. That seems pretty helpful, especially if you control no monsters.
So this last part probably has a lot of people confused, because it certainly blew my mind. Unless you control a Pendulum monster with “Magician” or “Odd-Eyes” in its name in the opposite Pendulum Zone, this card’s Pendulum Scale becomes 4? What the heck does that mean? Well, you see the numbers under the blue and red symbols? That is the card’s Pendulum Scale.
We’ll get to exactly what that means in a minute. But let’s look at its Monster effect:
“Each turn, the first card(s) in your Pendulum Zone that would be destroyed by an opponent’s card effect are not destroyed.”
That’s a pretty handy ability. It can protect your other Pendulum cards, as they now become like Spell cards that can be removed by Dust Tornado, Mystical Space Typhoon, and the like.
Let’s take a look at the other Pendulum Summon card in the deck.
Stargazer Magician is the other Pendulum Summon monster in the deck. It has a Pendulum Scale of only 1. That’s interesting. It’s also a level 5 monster, which means to Normal Summon it, you must Tribute one of your monsters, just as you would any other regular Level 5 monster. Again, you can play it as a regular monster or in a Pendulum zone. As this one has 2400 DEF, though, you may want to keep it in Defense Mode.
Let’s take a look at his Pendulum Zone spell effect:
“If a Pendulum Monster you control attacks or is attacked, your opponent cannot activate Spell Cards until the end of the Damage Step. Unless you have a “Magician” card or “Odd-Eyes” card in your other Pendulum Zone, this card’s Pendulum Scale becomes 4.”
Wait, that looks awfully familiar. It is almost identical to the other Magician except for the fact that it stops Spell cards from being activated – which most likely would be Quick-Play spells such as the Forbidden Cycle (Chalice, Dress, Lance, etc.)
So what is its Monster effect then, since we mostly likely have to Tribute Summon for it?
“Once per turn, when exactly 1 other Pendulum Monster you control (and no other cards) is returned to your hand by an opponent’s card effect (except during the Damage Step): You can Special Summon 1 monster from your hand with the same name as that returned to the hand.”
Notice that it says Special Summon and not Pendulum Summon. That’s still a pretty cool effect, though, if not a little niche.
Now that we’ve seen what these guys do, what do they do together?
Let’s say we get both of these out on the board at the same time in opposite Pendulum Zones. One has a scale of 8, but it becomes 4 unless the other card in the Pendulum Zone has “Magician” or “Odd-Eyes” in its name. Fortunately for the other Magician in the deck, there is also another Magician. This means that you have a 1 on one side and an 8 on the other. So what the heck does that mean?
Having both of your Pendulum Zones occupied allows what is called Pendulum Summoning. At the beginning of each card you may Pendulum Summon as many creatures as you like from your hand that are between the levels of the two Scales on the cards occupying the Pendulum Zones. This means you can summon any monster between levels 2-7 directly to the field. This sounds pretty nuts, doesn’t it? Well, believe me, it’s a lot easier said that done!
Also, there’s another very interesting thing about Pendulum Monsters that must be mentioned here. When they are destroyed, they sometimes end up in the Extra Deck face-up. The only way to get them back from there is to summon them with a Pendulum Summon again later. Don’t worry about the number of cards in your Extra Deck – as they don’t count towards your 15 card limit.
The Yu-Gi-Oh Wikia has a good breakdown of the mechanics of Pendulum Monsters, as well as a summary of the mechanics of Pendulum Summons.
These two cards are pretty fascinating and add quite a complex new mechanic to the game of Yu-Gi-Oh. In the near future, we’ll take a look at the rest of the Super Starter Deck and see how its two Pendulum Monsters help the deck.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Today we’ll take a look a card specifically printed for Commander, Surveyor’s Scope. The Commander 2013 decks introduced several cards that are really only playable in a multi-player Commander setting, and the Scope is certainly one of those cards. For two mana, you get to play an artifact that can tap as soon as it’s played. You exile it and search your library for up to X basic land cards, where X is the number of players who control at least two more lands than you. You get to put those lands directly onto the battlefield.
For decks that don’t have other ways to ramp up their mana, such as Cultivate or Kodama’s Reach or creatures that can grab lands like Yavimaya Elder or Sakura-Tribe Elder, it’s not a terrible option. But it’s a bit too situational, in my opinion, to be reliable mana ramp. If you have two or three players at your table with two more lands than you – for example, in cases where you’re really getting mana screwed – then it’s a very good card. Having to exile it kind of stinks, but it’s understandable considering the very good value you can get out of this card.
Getting one basic land out of this honestly is perfectly fine. Two mana to put a basic land directly onto the field untapped is pretty solid. It’s worth playing, but to get full value out of it in multi-player, you have to time it just right. Even to ramp up with one untapped land to catch up to an opponent is easily worth the two mana to cast the Scope. It’s a pretty solid Commander card, if not the most consistent. Keeping up with land drops is even more important in Commander than other formats.
However, Surveyor’s Scope could now find a more consistent home, thanks to Kurkesh, Onakke Ancient.
Kurkesh has a nifty ability to copy the ability of an artifact, as long as it’s not a mana ability, for only a single Red mana. That means that you can get two activations out of Surveyor’s Scope before it needs to exile itself. This is great, because getting two lands instead of one, or four instead of two, or even six instead of three makes the Scope that much more valuable. Obviously, there are far nuttier things to do with Kurkesh, but this is a nice interaction that makes the Scope far more playable in artifact based decks. Strionic Resonator from Magic 2014 also allows for this, but Kurkesh does it better and more cheaply.
Surveyor’s Scope is a decent card for an artifact deck, especially one that can make use of copying its ability. Obviously, it would be pretty ridiculous if it didn’t have to exile itself, so it’s not a card that can be “broken” so to speak. But, it can definitely provide great value, especially with its effect duplicated, so if you have a way to make its ability resolve twice at once, go ahead and give it a run!
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Abzan is perhaps my favorite clan in Khans of Tarkir, but when it comes to making an Intro Pack for new players to discover this White/Black/Green strategy for themselves, did Wizards succeed? Let's find out.
ABZAN SIEGE DECK LIST
1 Scoured Barrens
2 Sandsteppe Citadel
1 Jungle Hollow
1 Blossoming Sands
1 Mer-ek Nightblade
1 Carnivorous Moss-beast
1 Ivorytusk Fortress
1 Armament Corps
2 Longshot Squad
2 Disowned Ancestor
3 Ainok Bond-kin
1 Sungrace Pegasus
2 Child Of Night
2 Abzan Falconer
2 Tuskguard Captain
1 Abzan Battle Priest
1 High Sentinels Of Arashin
1 Razorfoot Griffin
2 Salt Road Patrol
Other spells (11)
1 Incremental Growth
1 Flesh To Dust
1 Hunt The Weak
1 Dragonscale Boon
1 Abzan Charm
2 Kill Shot
2 Abzan Banner
1 Eternal Thirst
1 Suspension Field
Improving the Deck:
Obviously, the Carnivorous Moss-Beast is the first thing to go. Mer-ek Nightblade and Longshot Squad are outclassed by what the Abzan Falconer and Tuskguard Captains provide at lower mana costs. Flying and Trample are always more relevant than Deathtouch and Reach. Salt Road Patrols should go for more copies of Abzan Battle Priest. You definitely want more copies of High Sentinels of Arashin, too.
I think Outlast, even though it's a bit of a slow mechanic that can only be activated at sorcery speed, can work okay in Limited. It's much harder for it to work well in Constructed, as if you go to activate one of your Outlast abilities, they'll probably kill your creature before it has a chance to do much damage. Unchecked, though, Outlast creatures that give your creatures with +1/+1 counters extra abilities can win you the game, especially as they have a Prophet of Kruphix-lite to assist them.
You would definitely want to run at least a couple of copies of Abzan Ascendancy in the deck, which puts a +1/+1 counter on each creature you control when it enters the battlefield. Plus, when any of your nontoken creatures die, you get a 1/1 flying Spirit token. If there's anyway to make this deck better, it's that.
As far as improving the deck beyond those basic improvements that I previously mentioned, there are a couple ways to go. You can go with the general Abzan theme of the deck and acquire a couple of copies of Anafenza, the Foremost and Siege Rhino to beef up the deck. Obviously acquiring Abzan Ascendancies and a couple more Abzan Charms help your cause, as well. Beyond that, it's finding the mana fixing, with additional copies of the tap-lands and perhaps a few Windswept Heath for more mana base consistency.
If you want to start from complete scratch, and don't want to invest in the mana base, I think you're best off looking to Theros block's Heroic creatures that gain +1/+1 counters from their Heroic triggers. Cards like Lagonna Band Trailblazer, Hero of Iroas, and Fabled Hero coupled with High Sentinels of Arashin and perhaps a couple of Abzan Falconers, you're looking at a pretty solid mono-white deck. Is it top-tier? No, but that's one way you could go for not a ton of money.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
The Blue/Red/White Intro Pack for Khans of Tarkir is Jeskai Monks. Is it one of the better of the five Intro Packs for the set? Let's take a look at the list and find out.
JESKAI MONKS DECK LIST
2 Mystic Monastery
1 Swiftwater Cliffs
1 Tranquil Cove
1 Wind-scarred Crag
1 Monastery Swiftspear
2 Jeskai Elder
1 Leaping Master
1 Jeskai Student
2 Seeker Of The Way
2 Jeskai Windscout
2 Bloodfire Expert
1 Bloodfire Mentor
1 Alabaster Kirin
1 Highspire Mantis
1 Whirlwind Adept
1 Tireless Missionaries
1 Serra Angel
1 Sage Of The Inward Eye
1 Warden Of The Eye
1 Riverwheel Aerialists
Other spells (14)
1 Void Snare
1 Oppressive Rays
1 Lightning Strike
2 Jeskai Banner
1 Crippling Chill
1 Solemn Offering
1 Jeskai Charm
1 Weave Fate
1 Smite The Monstrous
1 Lava Axe
1 Flying Crane Technique
Improving the Deck:
What this deck is missing is the best offensive creature that Jeskai has: Mantis Rider. Four copies of that is paramount to making this strategy work, a 3/3 with flying, vigilance, and haste is awesome. There are some good creatures here. Monastery Swiftspear is probably the very best card printed with Prowess, and she's become a Standard and Modern staple. You want four copies of her. Seeker of the Way is also solid, gaining Lifelink along with the +1/+1 from his ability, making him at least a 3/3 with Lifelink with only a single Prowess trigger - on a 1W 2/2 that's very good. I'd max out his copies.
Highspire Mantis while a 4-drop that's not the greatest creature in the world is a 3/3 with Flying and Trample. It's okay, and a couple more copies will help the decks cause. Riverwheel Aerialists is too high on the curve to be relevant most of the time in Constructed, Tireless Missionaries is a poor inclusion, and the Jeskai Windscouts are outclassed by Mantis Rider. I'd keep Serra Angel in just because she is a classic card that isn't hurting anyone, at least until you find a more powerful creature to replace her - there aren't many in this set.
Bloodfire Expert, Bloodfire Mentor, and Alabaster Kirin all have their places in Limited, but they're awfully weak for Constructed. They can easily go to make the room that you'll need. Leaping Master does nothing for me and Jeskai Elder would be far better if you just drew a card without the discard attached. Jeskai Student is okay, but you're better off with 4 Monastery Swiftspears than a 1W 1/3, even with Prowess.
The other spells in the deck aren't bad. Obviously you want 4 copies of Lightning Strike, so the 2 Banners (mediocre as they are even in Limited) can go as well as something like Crippling Chill. The Chill is good in Limited but the 3 guaranteed damage is better. I don't like Winterflame much and would prefer more Jeskai Charms instead - it's far superior. Divination and Weave Fate are card draw - the latter being at instant speed, but Jeskai Ascendancy is better at helping you draw while ditching cards you don't need, while also improving upon the Prowess Mechanic. Flying Crane Technique is an awesome bomb I'd leave in just because people may not expect it. Lava Axe is a bit unnecessary if you max out on Jeskai Charms, 4 direct damage for 3 mana is a lot better than 5 for 5 mana.
I'd probably max out the Void Snares for tempo and perhaps acquire a couple of Mindswipes for a permission spell that also burns the opponent. These changes make this more of a traditional UWR deck without losing the aggressive spirit of Jeskai.
If you're really willing to spend on this deck, check out Monastery Mentor and Soulfire Grand Master. The Master makes 1/1 tokens every time you cast a non creature spell and himself has prowess. Soulfire Grand Master gives your instant and sorcery spells lifelink, meaning your burn spells also gain you life. The Grand Master can also help you reuse spells for 4 mana (2 U/R U/R).
Jeskai decks have become quite popular and there have been quite a few winning lists to check out. Namely, there are the more creature based Jeskai Wins and the more token-based Jeskai Tokens. This Intro Pack is a nice way to be introduced to the Jeskai mechanics, even if it's not the best overall value of the five Khans intro packs.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Spirit Bonds is an Enchantment card from the Magic 2015 Core Set. It was designed by Justin Gary, former Pro Tour player and winner of Pro Tour Houston in 2002. It's an interesting card that can create a bunch of flying Spirit tokens. Whenever a non-token creature enters the field under your control, you can pay one White mana, allowing you to put a 1/1 White Spirit creature token with flying into play. It's similar to Militia's Pride from Lorwyn, which let you put in 1/1 Kithkin Soldiers tapped and attacking whenever you attacked with a non-token creature for the same cost of a single White mana per creature.
For an Enchantment that only costs 1W to cast, that's already pretty good. However, it also has a second ability. For 1W, you can sacrifice a Spirit and a target non-Spirit creature gains indestructible until end of turn. Being able to save some of your best creatures from board-wipes at the cost of Spirits that would be lost anyway is very helpful.
Overall, Spirit Bonds is a very solid rare Enchantment that is very playable in a wide variety of Commander decks. Aggressive mono-White Commanders such as Jazal Goldmane, Radiant, Archangel and Lin Sivvi, Defiant Hero have made decent use of this card. Other Commanders that have used Spirit Bonds include Alesha, Who Smiles at Death, Brago, King Eternal, and Teysa, Orzhov Scion, among others.
Spirit Bonds hasn't really seen much Constructed play, however. There was a Magic Online Standard deck in November 2014 that did run two copies, a WBR aggro brew that you can find here. There have also been some rogue budget Blue/White Heroic and White Weenie builds that have also run two copies. During its time in Standard, it was a good card that just never found itself in a strong enough deck to be worth much. If you're building a Commander deck with one of the aforementioned Commanders, however, it's a card to keep in mind.
by ElspethFTW, Gaming Successfully Staff
People are saying that the Mardu and Temur Clan Intro Packs are the best. It's hard not to agree with them. The Mardu Raiders deck is easily the best of the five Intro Packs, and this is probably the 2nd best. Let's take a look.
First we have the promo card, Avalanche Tusker. It's 2GUR for a 6/4. Whenever it attacks, target creature defending player controls blocks it this combat if able. Forcing blocks is pretty fun, and with 6 power, it's going to kill a lot. Of course, your opponent can choose additional creatures to block it. But more often than not, you'll go for that 2-for-1 trade.
Onto the rest of the list:
TEMUR AVALANCHE DECK LIST
2 Frontier Bivouac
1 Rugged Highlands
1 Swiftwater Cliffs
1 Thornwood Falls
2 Elvish Mystic
2 Heir Of The Wilds
2 Runeclaw Bear
1 Icefeather Aven
2 Alpine Grizzly
2 Summit Prowler
1 Pine Walker
1 Thundering Giant
1 Avalanche Tusker
1 Bear’s Companion
2 Glacial Stalker
1 Tusked Colossodon
2 Snowhorn Rider
2 Woolly Loxodon
Other spells (13)
1 Stubborn Denial
2 Savage Punch
1 Titanic Growth
1 Force Away
1 Lightning Strike
2 Temur Banner
1 Roar Of Challenge
1 Dragon Grip
1 Temur Charm
1 Icy Blast
The creature line-up isn't bad for an Intro Pack. Two copies of Elvish Mystic are definitely a good inclusion, and Heir of the Wilds is a perfectly playable creature. Runeclaw Bear is awfully vanilla, but the 4/2 2G Alpine Grizzly are relevant for their ability to allow you to use the Ferocious abilities of the cards in this deck. Icefeather Aven is a Morph creature with a decent, if a bit underwhelming Unsummon ability. Bear's Companion is a nice card that brings a 4/4 bear along with his own 2/2 body for 5 mana. The rest of the creature line-up is mostly big dumb beaters with power 4 or more and a bunch of Morph creatures that become big dumb beaters with power 4 or more.
The meat of this deck is in the non-creature spells. Stubborn Denial is a playable permission spell that becomes a pure Negate if you control a creature with power 4 or greater (very likely in this build). Savage Punch is a perfectly good card but it would be a lot better at Instant speed - although the Ferocious ability that grants +2/+2 until end of turn to that creature is probably the reason for the downgrade. Titanic Growth is the more powerful but more expensive Giant Growth that no one ever plays outside of Limited. Force Away is an Unsummon that lets you "loot" if you can activate its Ferocious ability - draw a card, then discard a card, for 1U that is playable. Lightning Strike is self-explanatory - 3 damage to a target creature or player for 1R.
Roar of Challenge is interesting, for 2G it forces all of an opponent's creatures to block a target creatures that turn if able. With Ferocious, that creature gains indestructible. It works very well with some of the big bodies in this deck. Dragon Grip is a playable enchantment for 2R that gives a creature +2/+0 and First Strike. You can play it at instant speed if you can activate Ferocious. Windstorm is highly situational, as it only deals with flyers, but this deck does have trouble defending against flying creatures.
Then there's Temur Charm:
This has three extremely good modes: give a target creature you control +1/+1 until end of turn and make it fight a creature you don't control, counter target spell unless its controller pays 3 (Mana Leak), or creatures with power 3 or less can't block this turn. Those are all very solid modes that a deck like this will use, especially the last one, denying your opponent from chump-blocking.
The second rare in this set is also the last card we'll be looking at:
With its Ferocious ability, Icy Blast is actually a really nasty card. On its own it just taps down X creatures for X and a Blue. But with Ferocious, those creatures don't untap for an entire turn. This card is usually going to allow you enough time for you to get two swings in unchecked. It may turn out to be a bit mana-intensive at times, but I may have underrated this card in my initial review of it. At the very least, it's good in this Intro Pack, and it's going to see Commander play, where mana is rarely limited.
While the creature line-up is pretty uninspiring on the surface, I see this having some fun games when pitted against the other Intro Packs from this set. Obviously, the easiest way to improve this deck is to invest in several copies of Savage Knuckleblade.
Not only is he a 4/4 for 3 mana, but Savage Knuckleblade can become a 6/6 until end of turn, evade removal by returning to the hand, or gain haste. It's perhaps the best card to activate Ferocious that there is, besides Surrak Dragonclaw, the Temur Khan himself, who is a 6/6 for 5 (2GUR). You'd also want to ditch the two Temur Banners for two more Temur Charms. You also will really want a couple more Elvish Mystics and some Rattleclaw Mystics for mana fixing.
There are a few ways that Temur decks might end up going. I will definitely say, if you're feeling Temur, then it's hard not to recommend this intro pack, especially as you get the 2 complimentary boosters, as well.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Many are calling Mardu the most powerful of the Clans from Tarkir, and the Mardu Intro Pack the best of the five. I would have to agree with both of these notions - and this is the one of the five decks that I would definitely consider a buy, mostly because it has a lot of cards that you would actually play with in Constructed, including Crackling Doom - one of the two rares in the deck. It's hard to say if Ankle Shanker will ever see much Constructed play, but it's quite good.
A 2/2 for 2RWB doesn't look so hot, but it has Haste plus a pretty sweet ability: Whenever Ankle Shanker attacks, creatures you control gain first strike and deathtouch until end of turn. Because of this combination of abilities, your creatures will automatically destroy whatever they touch, unless the defending creatures have first strike (or double strike) themselves. He's a very aggressive card that will make blocking a nightmare for your opponent - they'll lose whatever they block with 9 times out of 10. Solid card.
Now onto the rest of the list:
MARDU RAIDERS DECK LIST:
1 Bloodfell Caves
2 Nomad Outpost
1 Scoured Barrens
1 Wind-scarred Crag
1 Firehoof Cavalry
1 Mardu Hateblade
2 Borderland Marauder
1 Valley Dasher
2 War-Name Aspirant
1 Gurmag Swiftwing
2 Mardu Skullhunter
2 Goblin Roughrider
2 Mardu Hordechief
1 Carrion Crow
1 Necrogen Scudder
2 Mardu Warshrieker
1 Timely Hordemate
1 Ankle Shanker
1 Mardu Roughrider
Other spells (14)
1 Crippling Blight
1 Lightning Strike
1 Raise The Alarm
1 Mardu Banner
2 Trumpet Blast
1 Hordeling Outburst
1 Mardu Charm
1 Bring Low
1 Smite The Monstrous
1 Crackling Doom
1 Arrow Storm
1 Flesh To Dust
1 Heat Ray
You have your usual mana fixing, and a strong host of creature spells to cast. Carrion Crow is an obvious cut right away, as is Necrogen Scudder - a 3/3 flyer that makes you lose 3 life upon entering. Beyond that, all of the creatures with the Raid ability on them are all very solid. Two copies of Mardu Warshrieker for mana fixing is also very solid. War-Name Aspirant is better than the Valley Dasher and Firehoof Cavalry, so you'll want to max out on her by removing those two. Mardu Hateblade is a solid enough one-drop that can gain deathtouch for B. You'd definitely replace the Crow and Scudder with two more Skullhunter or Hordechief, depending on whether you want to force discards or make some tokens. Goblin Roughrider is a bit too vanilla, too, and you can replace them with two copies of either of the two just mentioned.
Besides the Banner, a cycle which I automatically cut, the non-creature spells are actually quite solid. Heat Ray doesn't do much for me, and Flesh to Dust is a 3BB kill spell. Arrow Storm is a worse version of Stoke the Flames. Bring Low is over-costed removal as well. But everything else in here is solid enough. Right off the bat I'd cut the Heat Ray, Bring Low and Flesh to Dust for 3 more Lightning Strikes. Smite the Monstrous is a good card, but a bit too specific for me. Crippling Blight is OK removal, but I'd find something better for that spot. I do like the inclusion of Raise the Alarm, but I don't know how you'd make more room for additional copies - Trumpet Blast is a nice combat trick but I suppose those could go for them.
Hordeling Outburst makes 3 1/1 Goblins for 1RR. It's a solid enough card that I like a lot as a one-of here. This deck might be better served having a fourth Raise the Alarm in its place, however.
Also, you want to make room for a couple more Mardu Charms:
It's not the best of the Charms, but it has three useful modes: deals 4 damage to target creature, makes 2 1/1 white Warrior creature tokens with first strike, or make your opponent discard a noncreature, nonland card from his/her hand. It's basically Flame Slash (an older card that dealt 4 damage to a target creature), Raise the Alarm that makes Warriors plus first strike, and Duress (which does the same thing as that third mode).
With those changes mentioned above, you have yourself a fun little aggro deck. You definitely want to improve the mana fixing to avoid color-screw - always a fun thing to happen when you're playing three colors. Mardu doesn't really have that one 3-drop card that the other 4 clans do to instantly improve your creature base, but then again, you have Goblin Rabblemaster already in Standard to fill that void, with Foundry Street Denizen to help support it. This is a great shell for a RWB aggro deck, and as far as Intro Packs go, this is one of the best built ones in awhile.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
At first, Sultai was among the most disappointing of the Khans of Tarkir clans. However, the clan does have some good cards to show for it, and has proven to be far more competitive than many players thought at first. Many players weren't sure that Delve wasn't a good enough mechanic to build an entire strategy around. Especially after the release of Fate Reforged, Sultai decks (which can actually mean any deck using a combination of black, blue, and green cards) have become extremely competitive.
The question with this particular Intro Pack is how well it will perform with Rakshasa Vizier, the cover card of the deck, as your ace creature. Truthfully, he Vizier can become a huge house, as for every card you exile with Delve, you put that many +1/+1 counters on Rakshasa Vizier. Give the Vizier any sort of evasion and you have a win condition.
So how easy is it to do that in this Intro Pack?
SULTAI SCHEMERS INTRO PACK DECK LIST:
1 Dismal Backwater
1 Jungle Hollow
2 Opulent Palace
1 Thornwood Falls
1 Typhoid Rats
1 Black Cat
1 Walking Corpse
2 Satyr Wayfinder
1 Wall of Mulch
1 Research Assistant
2 Necromancer’s Assistant
1 Rotfeaster Maggot
1 Rakshasa Vizier
1 Sultai Soothsayer
2 Sultai Scavenger
2 Hooting Mandrills
2 Shambling Attendants
1 Necropolis Fiend
Other spells (14)
1 Debilitating Injury
2 Taigam’s Scheming
1 Sultai Banner
1 Rakshasa’s Secret
1 Scout the Borders
1 Sultai Charm
1 Bitter Revelation
1 Murderous Cut
1 Become Immense
1 Set Adrift
1 Treasure Cruise
1 Dead Drop
Let’s take a look at the other rare in the deck, Necropolis Fiend:
I've never really been a fan of this card. Not that the concept of it wasn’t good, but 9 mana for a 4/5 flyer that then relies on the graveyard for its effect is not really that good. It is playable in Limited, perhaps, and I could be underestimating it as a bomb (hence why it begins at 9 mana as a Delve creature). But in Constructed? Not when you have so many other cards drawing from the graveyard – a very Limited resource. Some people have played it in Sultai Control, but I haven't seen it in too many lists.
The creature line-up overall is pretty bad. The Satyr Wayfinders are fine for putting cards in the graveyard. Necromancer’s Assistant assists in putting more cards in there when it enters the battlefield. Hooting Mandrills is one of the Delve creatures well worth being Delved. 5G for a 4/4 with Trample and Delve – that’s plenty solid. Sultai Soothsayer is basically Satyr Wayfinder, except you can choose any card from among the four. Sultai Scavenger is a 3/3 flyer for 5B and Delve – fine for Limited, a bit weak for Constructed.
For the non-creature spells, Taigam’s Scheming is useful card filtering. Scout the Borders is yet another mill card, but you can choose a creature or land from among five cards instead of four. Bitter Relevation gives you two cards from the four, but you also lose 2 life. Murderous Cut is an extremely playable Delve card – unconditional removal for 4B sounds pricey, but it has Delve on it. Become Immense is a really good combat trick for the late game – 5G for +6/+6 with Delve is actually really good. Treasure Cruise in the late game is very strong – drawing you three cards – even if 7U looks ridiculous. There's a reason it was banned in Modern. The other non-creature spells, outside of the Sultai Charm are meh at best.
All of the Charms in Khans of Tarkir are good. Sultai Charm may not be the best of the five, but it’s really strong with all of its three modes being very relevant: destroy target mono-colored creature, destroy target artifact or enchantment, or draw two cards, then discard a card. You want more of these.
Sadly, this Intro Pack doesn't give you much to build on as far as improvements are concerned. The Vizier is nice, but unless you can make him go unblocked (which this deck has no way of doing as constructed) it’s just a big silly beater. Sure you could give it Aqueous Form, but would you include that just for Vizier?
If you want to play Sultai, it's best to seek out some BUG Walkers or Sultai Control deck lists. Both of these lists tend to run the powerful planeswalkers Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver and Kiora, the Crashing Waves. You'll also want to invest in a playset of Dig Through Time. But there’s really no way to improve this deck without starting from complete scratch outside of the Charms, Murderous Cuts, and Treasure Cruises. Sidisi Whip, which is built around Sidisi, Brood Tyrant and Whip of Erebos, is a very competitive Sultai deck, as well.
Outside of simply using this deck to test out how much you like the Delve mechanic in practice, I'd personally skip buying this Intro Pack. It doesn't really provide much overall value, and if you want the Vizier that bad, you can probably buy it or trade for it on the cheap. As an introduction to the game, it's okay, but I like to see Intro Packs as toolboxes for building better decks. Sultai Schemers doesn't really do that.
by ElspethFTW, Gaming Successfully Staff
The original Sorin Markov is a nice card. His +2 ability is certainly useful, as it deals 2 damage to a target creature or player and gain 2 life. You tend to lose a lot of life in black decks, especially with Vampires, so it’s a welcome gain of 2 life with perhaps a little removal added in there. If you happen to have an opponent at 1 or 2 life just barely hanging on, which can certainly happen, it’s also quite useful.
The one thing that makes Sorin really good for Vampires, and really why he was created in the first place I think, is the -3 ability: Target opponent’s life total becomes 10. This is important since key vampire cards have abilities that activate at 10 life, like Bloodghast’s Haste, or deactivate as with Vampire Lacerator which makes you lose 1 life each upkeep unless your opponent is at 10 or less life. But Sorin rarely saw Constructed play back when he was in Standard. These two abilities always seemed enough of a reason to me to run a copy or two.
His -7 or so-called ultimate ability is sort of nice, too. You get to take over your opponent’s next turn, obviously to set him up for an easy picking on your next turn.
The one major issue with Sorin Markov is actually quite obvious. He’s a 6 drop. The 3 required black really isn’t a problem, but in a deck that was once extremely competitive like R/B Vampires, Sorin was just going to muck up your hand and took up slots better used for removal. He’s a nice card, but he ended up being relegated to Vampire deck builds that could occasionally win FNM’s and other local tourneys, not top 8 at Opens or a Grand Prix.
Today, though, he’s still a 15+ dollar card, even with his Magic 2012 reprint, a widely distributed Core Set. The main reason he remains so valuable is how nasty his -3 ability is in Commander. Taking a player from potentially 40 life (or even more) down to 10 can put said player in kill range. Since Sorin begins with 4 loyalty, it’s not impossible that Sorin can do this a couple of times in a Commander game while he’s on the board. With mono-black Devotion now a thing since the release of Theros, Sorin's 3 black mana symbols make him very useful for fueling Devotion effects. It took awhile for Sorin to find a home, but he’s going to be a valuable card for a very long time.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Back in the Zendikar block, Wizards of the Coast introduced a new creature archetype into the game: Allies. They seemed like a cool idea, creatures that on their own weren't incredibly powerful, but with each Ally that entered, they would grow more and more powerful. The problem was that the deck never built up to anything big enough.
As I was perusing MTG Goldfish today, I noticed a recent online price spike in Adaptive Automaton. I thought that perhaps this was due to the influx of new EDH players on Magic Online and so people were picking them up for Tribal decks. Apparently, some other people saw this list and decided to pick up their play sets.
For those of you that don't know, Adaptive Automaton enters the battlefield as whatever creature type you choose, including Ally. It gives all other creatures of that chosen type +1/+1. Basically, he's a splash-able lord for any archetype. He certainly gave Allies something they were missing. Also, Champion of the Parish works very well in this deck as this particular build focuses on only the Human allies.
There's also another card that apparently no one ever thought to pair with the deck before, a little Modern staple called Aether Vial!
Let's take a look at the deck-list.
4 Kazandu Blademaster
4 Akoum Battlesinger
4 Bojuka Brigand
4 Champion of the Parish
4 Kabira Evangel
4 Oran-Rief Survivalist
4 Hada Freeblade
3 Adaptive Automaton
1 Jwari Shapeshifter
1 Phantasmal Image
4 Aether Vial
4 Path to Exile
4 Ancient Ziggurat
4 Gemstone Mine
3 Caves of Koilos
3 City of Brass
2 Battlefield Forge
2 Razorverge Thicket
4 Ancient Grudge
4 Kor Firewalker
1 Talus Paladin
We'll start with the one-drops: Champion of the Parish and Hada Freeblade. The Champion is self-explanatory, as each time you play any of your Humans (which all of your Allies are) it will gain a +1/+1 counter. Hada Freeblade is a one-drop 0/1 that has a similar effect to the Champion, in that it gets a +1/+1 counter each time an Ally enters your side of the field.
Next we have the two-drops: Kazandu Blademaster, Akoum Battlesinger, Bojuka Brigand, and Oran-Rief Survivalist. The Kazandu, Bojuka, and Oran-Rief fellows all have the same effect as Hada Freeblade. The Blademaster is a WW 1/1 with first strike and vigilance. The Brigand is a 1/1 that can't block. The Survivalist is just a 1/1. The Battlesinger is a bit different: it's a 1/1 with haste that when it or another Ally enters your side of the field, you may have all Allies you control gain +1/+0 until end of turn. It's a solid repeatable effect, and having haste can be significant. We also have Jwari Shapeshifter, which is a Clone for any Ally you control, and Phantasmal Image, that can copy anything.
The three drops are Adaptive Automaton, which we've already talked about in the introduction, and Kabira Evangel. Anyone who drafted Zendikar remembers the Evangel. Basically, whenever Evangel or another Ally enters the battlefield, you can give creatures you control protection from a color until end of turn. Obviously, that isn't too bad an ability, as it's basically a better version of Brave the Elements on a 2/3 for 2W. The best part of this is that this ability can stack multiple times in a turn, so you can give your creatures protection from several colors depending on how many creatures you play in a turn.
The deck has a decent swarm element already with its creatures alone, but how do you speed it up even further? Aether Vial! Basically, by having one or more Vials, you can play your Allies all very quickly, often times never having to actually use mana to cast them! It takes a lot of pressure off of what you will see is a quite an interesting mana-base. Since the allies in this deck are in all five colors, the Vials basically guarantee you'll be able to play a lot of creatures in a turn. This works very well already with Merfolk, so why not Human Allies?
Besides the Vials, the only other non-creature spell in the deck is a full play-set of Path to Exile. Obviously, this deck is a bunch of small creatures, so you need the removal. Pretty self-explanatory.
The Mana Base
Because this is a five-color deck, even though the mana curve is extremely low (topping out at 3!) you're going to occasionally have some color-fixing issues. The Vials make up for some of this, obviously, but for consistency reasons, there are a wide variety of color-fixers in this deck.
The first is 4 Ancient Ziggurat. This is a pretty solid card, since all but 8 cards in your deck are non-creatures or non-lands, so it's always going to give you a color you need for any given creature. Also, the only card with a double mana symbol in its cost is Kazandu Blademaster, so for the most part, a Ziggurat is going to give you what you need.
Next is Gemstone Mine, which is a card many people never even realized was legal in Modern (it's a Timeshifted card in Time Spiral!) One of the quirks of Modern is that you can use Timeshifted cards, so this is yet another way to fix for mana early in the game. The only problem is that Gemstone Mine only has three uses before you have to sacrifice it. But, it does come in untapped, so it has instant usability.
Next are the "pain lands," lands that give you a certain color of mana but will cost you 1 life each time you tap them for colored mana. The basic pain lands are Caves of Koilos (white/black) and Battlefield Forge (red/white). These lands also tap for colorless mana that does not cost you 1 life. You also have 3 City of Brass to fix for any color at the cost of 1 life.
Lastly, there are two Razorverge Thickets to fix for green and white, and a single copy of Plains.
The sideboard offers some important utiltiy cards for which you can swap out some of the weaker allies like Bojuka Brigand and Oran-Rief Survivalist if need be. You have 4 Ancient Grudge for artifact destruction (with a nifty flashback ability). There are 4 Duress for hand control. Against red decks, you have 4 Kor Firewalkers to put in (which could take the place of Blademasters if need be, as they are also WW).
There are also single copies of Dismember, Pyroclasm, and Talus Paladin. The Paladin is the only 4 drop in the whole 75. It allows your Allies to gain lifelink until end of turn, while also being able to put a +1/+1 counter on the Paladin. Like most Ally effects, it triggers whenever he or another Ally enters, so it's a nifty ability if you truly need the lifelink.
Strategy and Thoughts on the Deck The deck is very simple: play a bunch of Allies very quickly, and swing in for lethal before your opponent can stabilize. Besides the Aether Vials, it's actually quite a budget deck. Champion of the Parish (come October rotation) will drop further in value, but from decks like this, it's clear that the Champion still has Modern viability.
I hate to say that I don't know who built this deck, as I can't find the actual deck that topped a Daily Event back on August 13th. Here is the decklist I found categorized under the Human Allies archetype. While I'm not sure this is a Top 8 sort of deck archetype, it's a great entry deck into Modern. In any case, having a play-set of Aether Vial will benefit you down the road. It did have the ability to go 3-1 a MTGO daily event, and I can see this perhaps having a good day here and there at some smaller Modern tournaments. There's very little risk involved, honestly, in building this deck.
If you build this deck and find it works incredibly well, or not so well, let me know. I'd love to pilot this deck myself!
Let's hope this sort of innovation continues as the Modern format grows!
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
After taking a look at the Jace side of the Duel Decks, some may decide that the deck is already worth buying. That is easily the case. With Remand being a Modern blue staple and Jace, Architect of Thought still has some value due to play-ability in Modern and Commander, this product is already worth the $20 MSRP.
But wait a minute, guys. There’s a whole other deck here. It's hard not to like Vraska the Unseen. She may not be the greatest card in competitive play, but she has seen some Standard play before and she’s very good in Commander. Let’s see what her Golgari friends have brought to the party.
1 Golgari Guildgate
1 Rogue’s Passage
2 Tainted Wood
1 Acidic Slime
1 Corpse Traders
1 Death-Hood Cobra
1 Drooling Groodion
1 Festerhide Boar
2 Gatecreeper Vine
1 Highway Robber
1 Mold Shambler
1 Ohran Viper
1 Oran-Rief Recluse
1 Pulse Tracker
1 Putrid Leech
1 Reaper of the Wilds
1 River Boa
1 Sadistic Augermage
1 Shadow Alley Denizen
1 Slate Street Ruffian
1 Stonefare Crocodile
1 Tavern Swindler
1 Vinelasher Kudzu
1 Wight of Precinct Six
1 Consume Strength
1 Grisly Spectacle
1 Hypnotic Cloud
1 Last Kiss
1 Marsh Casualties
1 Night’s Whisper
1 Stab Wound
2 Tragic Slip
1 Treasured Find
1 Underworld Connections
1 Vraska the Unseen
In the mana base, there are two copies of Tainted Wood, which is a great little dual land as long as you control a Swamp. These types of land tend to be included in duel decks, and they’re actually quite handy. This Tainted cycle was printed in Torment, however, which is why you’ll never seen them in Modern.
The rares in this deck are actually quite decent. Four of them are creatures. Ohran Viper is the “money” card here, being worth a few dollars. Originally from Coldsnap, it only really sees play in Cube anymore, but it was a really good card in Standard at one point. You can see why. Whenever it deals combat damage to a creature, destroy that creature at end of combat. It’s sort of like deathtouch, but not quite. Also, whenever it deals combat damage to a player, you may draw a card. Having both of these abilities on one card is pretty cool. Really good creature that just doesn’t have a home in competitive formats now-a-days. Some Commander decks still use it, though.
Reaper of the Wilds is a strong creature from Theros. There were people extremely excited about this card when it was first spoiled. It’s a 4/5 Gorgon for 2BG, which is already pretty good, and you can scry 1 every time a creature dies. That’s a really nice effect, as setting up your draws is always important, especially in colors that don’t get to scry often. But the fun doesn’t end there. She also has the ability for a single Black mana to gain deathtouch until end of turn. If that wasn’t enough, she can also become Hexproof for 1G. She can be tough to remove and gain deathtouch and let you scry. And she’s a 4/5 for 4 mana. Unfortunately for speculators, she’s in a duel deck, but I like her chances of being a really strong card down the road.
Spawnwrithe is an old Commander favorite, and actually was pretty decent at one point in Standard (at the same time as Ohran Viper, in fact.) The fact that he doubles himself when he deals combat damage to a player, and makes doubles that can then double themselves, makes him pretty vicious. He’s not worth much at all anymore, but in the days of Shadowmoor, he was a really scary little card if you couldn’t deal with him quickly enough!
The last rare creature is Vinecreeper Kudzu. It doesn’t look incredible at first, but it essentially has a landfall ability that gives it a +1/+1 counter whenever a land enters the battlefield. It also has incredibly amusing flavor text. If you can fetch up lands quickly and/or keep hitting your land-drops, this Plant can really grow to hate your opponents and swing it for some massive damage.
The other honorable mentions for creatures in the deck include Nekrataal, the 2/1 first strike Human Assassin for 2BB that destroys a non-artifact, non-black creature when it enters the battlefield. He’s a Cube card, and was good in Constructed for a long time. Putrid Leech gets awesome new art, and it was a force in Jund at one point. Having a creature that can become a 4/4 at the cost of 2 life is actually pretty worth it if you can attack in freely with it (or just to win a combat). Besides that, there are a bunch of okay commons and uncommons that work well enoguh with the deck. Sadistic Augermage is the only one I don’t particularly like, as why would you want to put a card back on top of your deck when it dies? It does make opponents do this, as well, but I don’t see the advantage.
There aren’t a ton of non-creature spells in the deck, but most of them are pretty good. I especially like Consume Strength and Marsh Casualties, both of which are solid cards. Night’s Whisper is okay, as are most of the removal spells, but Hypnotic Cloud doesn’t do much for me as a discard spell. Two copies of Tragic Slip are excellent. However, easily the best rare in this entire deck outside of the planeswalker is Underworld Connections. Card draw at the cost of a single life point is always okay, and it’s proven itself in Mono-Black Devotion in Theros Standard. It’s a bit too slow for Modern, so its Eternal value lies in Commander, but it’s still a solid card.
Vraska, the Unseen
I’ve always liked Vraska the Unseen, but as a 5-drop planeswalker with dual colors in her casting cost, she hasn’t really found a competitive home. She has seen play in some black/green decks, and she can destroy a non-land permanent as soon as she enters. Her +1 is interesting, in that she can protect herself by taking any creature that attacks her to the grave, but most of the time it’s the -3 to destroy a permanent that she’ll be used for.
Her ultimate is definitely not to be overlooked, however. She starts with 5 loyalty, and the ultimate costs 7. She makes three 1/1 black Assassin creature tokens that have “Whenever this creature deals combat damage to a player, that player loses the game.” Obviously, I love this effect because those creatures literally say, if you’re playing one-on-one, “whenever this creature deals combat damage to a player, you Win Target Game.” This effect has definitely gone off in Commander on many occasions (especially with Doubling Season about) and can kill an entire table in one shot if they can be made un-blockable. However, most of the time, you’ll be lucky to destroy a permanent, tick her up one, and destroy a second permanent before she goes away. A two-for-one for 5 mana is certainly okay.
While the Jace deck definitely has more money value, the Vraska deck is aggressive and has, in my opinion, a lot better creature base. It has solid removal, and while Jace’s deck has the ability to slow you down, Vraska can kill an opposing Jace (or any planeswalker or problematic creature) with her ability and the deck has enough of a removal package to deal with most of the threats Jace’s deck has.
I realize that these Duel Decks are purposely designed to face one another one-on-one. But I think the Vraska deck is better in the short game. If it goes to a long game, I see the Jace deck winning (especially with four Remand and Lord of the Unreals). But the Vraska deck could be easily upgraded, as well, with four copies of Putrid Leech, four Ohran Vipers, and four Spawnwrithe, taking out some of the filler creatures. With a few more tweaks to an already solid removal base, this is a real deck. It’s not anything incredibly competitive, but it’s a fun starter deck.
Overall, between this and the Jace deck, I think that the Vraska deck would be more fun for me to play than the Jace deck. I’d love to see how these decks actually interact, however. If you’re reading this after they’ve been released, let me know what your experiences are with the decks. In any case, definitely pick these decks up. The Remand and planeswalkers alone are worth the money.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Today, we're taking a look at the Jace vs Vraska Duel Decks, starting with the Jace deck. We'll take a look not only from a value perspective, but as playable decks in and of themselves. As you’ll see, Jace’s deck, besides having the always very valuable copy of Remand, is an Illusion-based deck.
1 Dread Statuary
2 Halimar Depths
1 Aeon Chronicler
1 Æther Adept
1 Æther Figment
1 Body Double
1 Crosstown Courier
1 Dream Stalker
1 Errant Ephemeron
1 Jace’s Mindseeker
1 Jace’s Phantasm
2 Krovikan Mist
1 Leyline Phantom
1 Merfolk Wayfinder
1 Phantasmal Bear
1 Phantasmal Dragon
1 Riftwing Cloudskate
1 Sea Gate Oracle
1 Stealer of Secrets
1 Control Magic
1 Future Sight
1 Into the Roil
1 Jace’s Ingenuity
1 Memory Lapse
1 Ray of Command
1 Summoner’s Bane
2 Thought Scour
1 Jace, Architect of Thought
Mana Base Review
Starting with the lands, Dread Statuary isn’t too exciting, but being able to animate a land and make it a 4/2 creature until end of turn is definitely a useful ability. Halimar Depths, of which there are two copies in the deck, are extremely useful, as when they enter the battlefield, even though they’re tapped, let you look at the top three cards of your deck. You can then put them back on top in any order, helping you to set up your draws. There are then 21 Islands, which makes sense for a mono-Blue deck.
The creature line-up is also fairly interesting. We start off with a reprint from Planar Chaos, Aeon Chronicler, a Commander favorite. You can suspend him for a whole bunch of turns and draw a card on each turn that you remove a time counter from him. When he does hit the board, his power and toughness are equal to the number of cards that are in your hand. The most useful aspect about him, honestly, is just the fact that he can draw you a decent number of cards. Still, he’s a nice reprint.
Creature Card Review
Aether Adept is a super useful creature that allows you to bounce a creature back to its owner’s hand and has been a favorite of control players for a long time. Aether Figment is a 1/1 unblockable for 1U that can be kicked for 3 colorless mana. If it’s kicked it gets 3 +1/+1 counters, which is kind of cool. He’s also an Illusion which fits with the theme of the deck.Archaeomancer gets back your instants and sorceries, which is always cool.
Body Double is a super good card that lets you copy creatures from your graveyard, or any one else’s for that matter, and is one of the best rares in this product. Chronomaton is a relatively harmless looking artifact that can tap itself to get bigger out of nowhere. Crosstown Courier mills cards from the top of your opponent’s deck when it connects with their life total directly. Dream Stalker is a 1/5 Illusion that costs only 1U but requires you to return a permanent you control to its owner’s hand. This isn’t too bad in this deck, since there are plenty of enter the battlefield effects you don’t mind reusing. A 1/5 wall is also never too bad.
Errant Ephemeron is an Illusion that looks pretty terrible as a 4/4 flyer for 6U. However, he can be suspended for 4 turns for only 1U. Also, the great thing about Suspend is that when he comes back, he can attack without summoning sickness. A 4/4 flyer that enters the field with Haste for 1U is kind of good. Jace’s Mindseeker is a pretty underwhelming rare, but fits the theme of this deck quite well. Its ability is certainly interesting, making an opponent mill the top five cards and allowing you to play an instant or sorcery from among those cards for free. It’s also a 4/4 flyer for 4UU and it’s an Illusion.
Jace’s Phantasm is a very interesting card that hasn’t really ever been quite as good as one might think when looking at it. It’s a 1/1 flyer for a single blue mana, but once an opponent has 10 or more cards in his/her graveyard, it gains +4/+4. It’s also an Illusion, and the chances of it being that big in this deck are pretty good. Two copies of Krovikan Mist are right at home in the deck, as they cost only 1U to cast and their power and toughness are equal to the number of Illusions you control. They can be surprisingly cost-effective.
Leyline Phantom is a 5/5 illusion that costs 4U to cast and it has to return to your hand when it deals combat damage. It’s not a bad blocker, I suppose, but quite underwhelming. Merfolk Wayfinder helps you dig for Islands, and being a 1/2 flyer isn’t bad. Phantasmal Bear and Phantasmal Dragon are a lot of fun, as you get a 2/2 for U and a 5/5 for 2UU, respectively. Unfortunately, they die as soon as they are targeted by anything.
Riftwing Cloudskate is a very interesting card, and at one point, was a major card in some Pro-Tour decks. It’s a bit expensive to cast (3UU) and it’s only a 2/2 flyer but it’s an Illusion that bounces any target permanent to its owner’s hand. There’s tons of ways to abuse this card, just not in this particular deck. Sea Gate Oracle is a cool little card that essentially gives you a free draw at the cost of putting another card to the bottom of your deck. Also, Stealer of Secrets draws you a card whenever it deals combat damage to a player.
As far as the creatures are concerned, I’m surprised that the deck is missing Lord of the Unreal, which gives all Illusions +1/+1 and Hexproof. That card makes this deck really good for a casual duel deck like this. Stealer of Secrets is pretty weak, and Leyline Phantom does nothing for me. Wayfinder is a bit too random and Crosstown Courier honestly isn’t useful enough to be in here. I’d cut all four of those for copies of Lord of the Unreal. If you were to cut a lot of the non-Illusion creatures for more Bears and Dragons, this deck actually is sort of dangerous.
Non-Creature Spells Review
Agoraphobia and Claustrophobia are both decent cards to shut down opponent’s creatures, and the former can be returned to your hand if you’d like. Control Magic is super powerful. Stealing an opponent’s creature is pretty good. Future Sight is great for letting you know what you’ll draw next while also essentially giving you an extra card in hand. Griptide is slightly expensive, but effective removal that can set an opponent back an entire turn at times. Into the Roil is a super useful bounce spell that when kicked also draws you a card. Jace’s Ingenuity draws you 3 cards for 5 mana, which is okay. Memory Lapse is an old-school counter-spell that instead of sending that countered spell to the graveyard puts it back on top of your opponent’s deck, which like Griptide, can set an opponent back a turn.
Prohibit is kind of a funky counter-spell that only counters spells with a converted mana cost of 2 or less, unless its kicked. If it’s kicked, it counters spells of CMC 4 or lower. A 4 mana counter-spell isn’t all that wonderful, though. Ray of Command is a cute little Act of Treason-like spell, except when you return the creature at the end of turn, it becomes tapped. Remand is just really good, because not only does it force a spell back to your opponent’s hand, it also draws you a card.
Spelltwine is really good if there is a really good instant or sorcery in each of your graveyards, but more often that not it’s pretty underwhelming.Summoner’s Bane is an expensive counter-creature spell, but it gives you a 2/2 illusion (unfortunately without flying). Rounding out the non-creature spells, there are two copies of Thought Scour, which mill a target player’s deck by two cards and let you draw a card, pretty solid for one mana.
The non-creature spells are pretty solid for a Duel Deck. Prohibit and Spelltwine are the only two I don’t especially like, and Summoner’s Bane is underwhelming but flavorful. They’re all too situational. I’d replace all those three with Remands. There’s a reason it sees so much play in Modern!
How About Jace, Architect of Thought?
Then we have Mr. Jace, Architect of Thought – who’s definitely proven his worth in Constructed. His +1 really slows down Aggro decks, as all creatures that opponent’s control until your next turn lose -1/-0 when they attack. His -2 is his bread and butter, however. Your opponent reveals the top three cards of his/her deck and you choose to put them into two piles. It’s sort of like Fact or Fiction, except that the cards in the pile that the player doesn’t choose go to the bottom of the deck, not the graveyard. It’s always a free draw at the very least, and usually Jace will get at least two activations of this ability off.
His -8 is not so relevant outside of Commander play (in which it’s insane, by the way) but being able to take a card from each player’s deck (including your own) and play them for free is pretty good. In Commander, that is a busted effect, and I’ve seen it personally win games. Overall, he’s a really good card and definitely is one that so many people are happy to see have a reprint. I’m not a huge fan of the new art, a sentiment shared by many other players, but it’s Jace AoT, no matter what.
Overall, this is a really good Duel Deck with great flavor. It has some odd choices for card slots, as many of these decks do. Simply value-wise, it’s a super good deck that sells the product all by itself. However, don’t count the Vraska deck out, because it has some pretty solid cards, too!
Read the Vraska deck review here.
by Phoenix Desertsong
For those that played Magic: the Gathering during Innistrad Standard, you may remember a certain common Transform card known as Delver of Secrets. It was a pretty nifty card. So nifty, in fact, that the Delver tempo deck dominated Standard for some time. In fact, Delver is such a good card that Delver-based decks are actually a major archetype in Legacy, also running Green in order to play the mighty Tarmogoyf. Well, it was only a matter of time before Delver made its way into Modern, and even without Ponder and Preordain, the deck has some life.
Today, we're taking a look at a U/R Delver list that went 4-0 in a Modern daily on MTGO. Best of all, this is a fairly budget deck (around $250 in early 2015, but about $350 in mid 2019) and contains zero fetch-lands.
Here’s the list that MTGO user Darkrouge piloted to a perfect record and some M15 packs:
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Young Pyromancer
3 Snapcaster Mage
2 Grim Lavamancer
4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Serum Visions
4 Mana Leak
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Vapor Snag
3 Spell Snare
2 Spell Pierce
2 Izzet Charm
4 Steam Vents
3 Sulfur Falls
1 Temple of Epiphany
(NOTE: Because Gitaxian Probe was banned after this list was played, we will replace the 4 copies of Probe for four copies of Opt.)
Young Pyromancer is a really awesome card. Its combination with Delver it actually has made some serious noise in Legacy before. While the non-creature spells in Modern aren’t nearly of the same power level as in Legacy (you still have Ponder and Preordain legal in that format) there’s a pretty good package here. Making a 1/1 Elemental creature token every time you can an instant or sorcery is extremely cool in this burn/tempo build. You’re slowing down your opponent’s early plays enough to make those 1/1’s potentially become lethal threats after only a handful of turns.
Next, we have a fairly staple Modern card in Snapcaster Mage. Obviously, he was a major part of the Innistrad Standard Delver deck, and he continues to do a lot of work here, helping you flashback your previously used spells in order to gain even more tokens and more tempo advantage. He’s definitely the priciest card in the deck, but well worth the investment. Getting those second uses out of your spells is important in keeping the game's tempo in your favor.
We round out the creature line-up with a card quite familiar to burn decks in Grim Lavamancer. His appearance in a more tempo-based list is interesting, but his ability does help you to deal with smaller problem creatures while saving your counter-magic and Lightning Bolts for greater threats. Having to exile two cards from your graveyard doesn’t seem to have great synergy with Snapcaster Mage, so you’ll have to decide when it’s worth it to use the Lavamancer’s effect. It also does have the option of hitting players, so it can be a way to deal the final 2 damage that you need.
Onto the non-creature spells, this deck used to run a full play-set of Gitaxian Probe. The cool thing about the Probe is that it has a Phyrexian mana cost, meaning you can pay 2 life rather than pay a single Blue mana to cast it. It draws you a card, plus shows you your opponent’s hand. The 2 life for a card draw and a Peek at your opponent’s hand are often worth it turn one.
But, since Gitaxian Probe was banned in the Modern format, we will substitute those four copies for Opt, a card that was introduced to Modern in the Ixalan set. While it doesn't provide the Peek that Probe gives you, it does allow you to Scry 1 before you draw your card. It's a solid draw spell, although you can't play it for 2 life.
We next have a play-set of Serum Visions. Since Ponder, Preordain, and Probe are banned in Modern, due to their power level in decks like Storm and – you guessed it – Delver, Serum Visions is now the premier draw card of Modern. It’s pretty much backwards Preordain. Instead of Scrying for 2, then drawing a card, you draw a card, then Scry 2. But because the card filtering comes after the draw, it’s a bit less powerful. Still, it’s a very good card that predates Preordain, which was printed in the Magic 2011 core set.
Then we have 4 copies of Mana Leak, the classic permission spell that costs 1U and counters a target spell unless its controller pays 2 colorless mana. Plus, we have 4 copies of Lightning Bolt, the classic hit a creature or player for 3 damage.
After that we get into the meat of this deck, which is the tempo package. There are three copies of Vapor Snag, which is basically Unsummon except that the creature’s controller also loses 1 life. Forcing a player to tap out to play a creature then force it back to the hand can ruin many a player’s turn, so the loss of life on top of that is fairly relevant.
There are three copies of Spell Snare, as well. It’s a highly specific counter-spell, in that it costs a single Blue mana but only counters spells with a converted mana cost of 2. That doesn’t sound all that great, but consider how many spells are played in competitive Magic that have a CMC of 2:Snapcaster Mage and Tarmogoyf are great examples. You can stop opponents from playing a great many of their early game plays. More often than not, it’s not a dead card.
For problematic non-creature spells, you have 2 copies of Spell Pierce. It’s basically Mana Leak in that it’s a permission spell that counters a spell unless its controller pays 2 extra colorless mana, but it doesn’t work against creature spells. It’s great for stopping removal and opposing counter-spells, as well as planeswalkers.
Izzet Charm is a versatile little card with three “Modes:” Counter target noncreature spell unless its controller pays 2 colorless mana; deal 2 damage to target creature; or draw two cards, then discard two cards. It’s basically a Spell Pierce, a Shock, and a Faithless Looting all on one card, except you get to choose which one it is. There are two of these in the deck.
Electrolyze is a fun little burn card. It deals 2 damage divided between one or two target creatures or players of your choice. That seems pricey for 3 mana (1RU) but you also draw a card off of it. It’s a can-trip Shock with some options.
Lastly, there’s a single Dispel in the main-board, which costs a single Blue mana to play and counters a target Instant spell. Typically you’ll use it to stop a Lightning Bolt, other removal, or a counter-spell.
For the mana base, you have 10 basic lands, 5 Islands and 5 Mountains. You then have 4 Steam Vents and 3 Sulfur Falls, plus 1 Temple of Epiphany. Honestly, this doesn’t seem to be the best choice for a mana base, as there are no copies of Shivan Reef, a very common land to play in U/R decks. It may be better to remove the one scry land and the 3 Sulfur Falls with the Reefs, which do ping you for 1 when you tap them for colored mana, but makes your mana-fixing a bit more consistent. However, the pilot of this deck seemed to have no problem with consistency, so it would take some actual play-testing with the deck myself to see how well the mana-base functions as it is.
Onto the sideboard:
2 Anger of the Gods
1 Spell Snare
1 Spell Pierce
1 Magma Spray
The three copies of Combust exist purely to destroy white or blue creatures. For only 1R, it deals 5 damage to a target white or blue creature and can’t be countered. It’s the perfect answer to cards such as Restoration Angel,Archangel of Thune, or Loxodon Smiter. Basically, anything that can’t be answered with a Lightning Bolt that’s white or blue can be taken out with this card.
Smash to Smithereens might be better than Smelt overall, as Smash deals 3 damage to an artifact’s controller upon destroying it, but Smelt gets the job done for only a single Red mana. Like Smash, Smelt is also at instant speed, but doesn’t add the Lava Spike effect on top of that. Being only one mana is relevant, too, as it’s easier to Flashback and simply easier to cast.
Anger of the Gods helps deal with aggressive decks, and while you may exile your own creatures in the process (including even a transformed Delver), most of the creatures you would have on board are probably 1/1 elemental tokens anyway. It’s sort of a card that you sit on until your opponent extends too far with their board-state and you hope they don’t see it coming..
Two copies of Dispel exist in the sideboard to deal with control match-ups. The extra Spell Snare can come in handy against certain decks, and the extra Spell Pierce exists for the same reason as Dispel. The Counterflux is in the board for Storm match-ups, as countering all spells on the stack when your opponent is trying to reach a certain Storm count is devastating. The lone Magma Spray is an interesting choice against aggro decks, as well. Plus you have another copy of Electrolyze to add to your creature removal package.
This list looks pretty solid. While there are some changes I may make to it, it’s mostly in the mana base, which could potentially work just as it is. It’s a fairly simple deck to play as long as you know what to counter and what not to. The deck won’t burn people to death but as your opponent will likely never have enough creatures to block your Elemental tokens from Pyromancer, you should have a good time getting through for a bit of damage every turn. If you like tempo decks, like myself, this is definitely a list worth taking a spin. It does require a bit of an upfront investment, but Snapcasters, Steam Vents, and Serum Visions, the most expensive cards in the deck, aren’t going anywhere, so they’re all solid cards to have. Also, if you want to play blue/red but don’t want to play Storm, this is a pretty good alternative.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Manamorphose was originally printed at the common rarity back in Shadowmoor. It was reprinted in Modern Masters as an uncommon, due to the power that this card has in Limited formats. Having the ability to be played with either red or green mana made it quite versatile, and the fact that it replaced itself by adding any two colors of mana to your mana pool is made even better by the fact that it draws you a card.
A can-trip that replaces itself is very valuable. Running four copies in a deck essentially means that you are running 56 cards in a 60-card deck, or 36 in a 40-card Limited deck. Having a card replace itself with something you possibly need AND having the ability to fix for mana is especially awesome.
The true power of this card has always lay in the fact that it can help you color-fix in three, four, or five-color decks. Say you were short a black source, or a white source, or any source at all Manamorphose would fix that for you and replace itself. There is nothing worse than being color-screwed and nothing worse than a bad top-deck in a situation where you need action.
Manamorphose is almost never a bad top-deck as long as you have something to immediately play after casting it. Multiple copies of Manamorphose are never dead, either, as they can play into each other. Also, something that is sometimes overlooked is that Manamorphose is playable at instant speed, allowing you to keep open mana to bluff opponents.
Manamorphose in Modern
In 2015, Modern was still a relatively young format. At that point, Manamorphose was typically only played in Storm decks and Pyromancer Ascension decks. Both of these decks often utilize Goblin Electromancer, which makes Manamorphose only cost a single colored mana. This allows you to more easily play multiple spells and build up mana to be able to ”go off” and cast a whole bunch of spells in a row. That makes your Storm cards like Grapeshot and Empty the Warrens potentially lethal. For that reason alone, Manamorphose remained very valuable.
Some Modern players tried playing Manamorphose in traditional Burn decks. While it does essentially draw you a card for free, most Burn players found that they were better off just playing another Burn spell. Manamorphose isn't something you want to top deck into, just to draw into a Mountain. There were some versions that played Goblin Electromancer and Electrolyze that enjoyed some success here and there, but not consistently.
Manamorphose in Pauper
Manamorphose is also very good in Pauper Storm decks for a similar reason. As it was originally printed as a common, its reprinting as an uncommon doesn’t affect its Pauper status. But while Manamorphose is certainly useful in Pauper, it hasn't become a competitive staple in the all-common format.
Manamorphose in Izzet Blitz?
Izzet Blitz is one of the best decks in the Pauper format. It's built around casting a lot of cheap instants and sorceries to power up the creatures Nivix Cyclops and Kiln Fiend. Manamorphose seems like an obvious fit in that deck. But, as players tweaked Izzet Blitz into the top deck it is now, Manamorphose found itself on the outside looking in. It hasn't really found another competitive home in Pauper.
For years, Manamorphose was a somewhat under-utilized card in both the Modern and Pauper formats. It was expected to become more popular as both formats grew and matured. Manamorphose would eventually find more than a few homes, thanks to the release of one of the most powerful sets in the Magic the Gathering history.
Why is Manamorphose So Expensive in 2018?
The price of Manamorpose exploded in 2018 with the release of Guilds of Ravnica. That's because that set released many Modern-playable cards that produced decks that called for a reliable instant speed ramp spell. Not only does Manamorphose help you color fix, but it also draws you a card. This proved invaluable in the decks we're about to look at here.
Because Manamorphose was suddenly in massive demand, its price skyrocketed past $15, with Modern Masters uncommons shooting past $20! What made it suddenly so popular? It helped fuel three brand new competitive Modern decks: Runaway Red, Izzet Phoenix, and Hollow Phoenix, as well as revitalizing Jeskai Ascendancy Combo. With its rediscovery, some players even improved on their builds of the already solid Mardu Pyromancer deck with copies of Manamorphose to help color-fix for black and white!
Manamorphose in an Aggro Deck?
The three new Modern decks spawned by Guilds of Ravnica all share one card in common: Arclight Phoenix. Think of it as a Chandra's Phoenix on steroids. Chandra's Phoenix was a popular card in Standard for years because not only did it have flying and haste for just three mana, but any time you cast a red instant or sorcery spell that dealt damage to an opponent, you could return it from the graveyard to your hand.
But, Arclight Phoenix is far superior to that Standard favorite creature. It's a four-mana mythic rare that can return from the graveyard to the battlefield at the beginning of combat if you've cast at least three instants or sorceries in a turn. What makes this Phoenix particularly ridiculous is that you can easily just discard it with something like Faithless Looting or Tormenting Voice and get it back the same turn for free! A free 3/2 with flying and haste is pretty ridiculous.
Runaway Red runs not only 4 copies of Arclight Phoenix and 4 copies of Manamorphose, but also 4 copies of a creature called Runaway Steam-Kin, hence the deck's name. The namesake creature is a 2 mana 1/1 with a couple of neat effects. Whenever you cast a Red spell, it the Steam-Kin has fewer than three +1/+1 counters on it, you put a +1/+1 counter on it. If that wasn't good enough, you can remove three +1/+1 counters to add three Red mana to your mana pool.
Manamorphose in an Izzet Burn Deck?
While Metamorphose has never found a permanent home in most Burn decks, there is one that it does work into. Izzet Phoenix is actually a pretty cool Red/Blue Burn deck that not only features Arclight Phoenix, but also the powerful Thing in the Ice.
The Thing is a 0/4 Defender for two mana, but once it loses all 4 of its ice counters, it transforms into a 7/8 that returns all non-Horror creatures on the field to their owner's hands. It's important to note that the Thing costs only two mana to cast, meaning it can be cast directly off of a Manamorphose. So, Izzet Phoenix is sort of a combination between an aggro deck and burn deck, and Manamorphose is a key part of the deck's ability to remain consistent.
Hollow One Meets Manamorphose & Arclight Phoenix
Hollow Phoenix takes an already solid deck with Hollow One and adds four copies of Arclight Phoenix to provide an additional threat that you're happy to discard. Four copies of Manamorphose give you enough spells to cast in a turn to bring back the Phoenix. It also helps set up Bedlam Reveler, which is a key creature in pretty much every Modern Phoenix deck.
Manamorphose in Traverse Shadow
One popular variant of the competitive Death's Shadow decks has occasionally used Manamorphose. Traverse Shadow is a deck that uses Traverse the Ulvenward as a sort of tutor for the Shadow. While Manamorphose isn't played in most builds of Traverse Shadow, Andrew Baeckstrom did enjoy success with his 8-2 Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan Traverse Shadow deck, running three copies of Manamorphose.
Manamorphose does help with fixing the mana in the deck, as it's a red/green/black (Jund) deck. So, Andrew's choice to run three copies makes sense. However, Manamorphose isn't absolutely necessary for the deck to win and is more of a personal choice.
Cards Like Manamorphose
With the exploding price of Manamorphose, players have been looking for Manamorphose alternatives. Unfortunately outside of mana rituals like Desperate Ritual, Pyretic Ritual, and Seething Song (which is banned in Modern), there isn't anything quite like it. Drawing a card essentially for free is a pretty big deal, especially one that can help you color fix outside of Red mana.
Why Isn't Manamorphose in Every Deck?
Manamorphose does two pretty awesome things. It essentially replaces itself in both mana cost and a card draw. So, why not play it in every deck that plays red mana, green mana, or both in Modern, Pauper, and where ever else it's legal?
The answer is both simple and not simple. In many respects, Manamorphose is a "do-nothing" card. Really, it doesn't do much other than replace itself on its own. However, what makes it valuable in decks like Storm and the Phoenix decks is that it actually sets up other plays.
In Runaway Red, for example, Manamorphose not only sets up the ability to replay the Arclight Phoenix, but it also plays directly into the deck's two mana spells like Runaway Steam-Kin and Tormenting Voice. In Izzet Phoenix, it does much the same thing for Thing in the Ice. In Hollow Phoenix, it can even help cast the colorless Hollow One. Not to mention, Manamorphose can fuel Bedlam Reveler, a key creature in several Modern decks, and Enigma Drake, which sees some play in the Modern version of Izzet Blitz: Izzet Fiend.
In any case, Manamorphose is an extremely valuable card in decks that it can directly set up bigger plays. While it would seem like Manamorphose essentially turns any 60-card deck into a 56-card deck, it's not that simple. While what it does is pretty unique, Manamorphose needs the right card to set up in order to be worth playing four copies of it. Fortunately, Arclight Phoenix gave Manamorphose new life by being an important free spell to make the Phoenix decks more consistent.
How would you play Manamorphose?
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Originally printed in Mercadian Masques, Vine Trellis is a 0/4 Defender that costs 1 colorless and a Green mana (1G) to cast. It's more than just a simple wall, however, as it can tap for a Green mana. While it cannot attack, the fact that it can tap for mana has allowed it to see play in some Commander decks, including alongside Doran, the Siege Tower, a Legendary Creature who can make walls become dangerous attackers. Being a common, Vine Trellis is also very useful in Pauper Commander as both a defensive asset and a way to generate easy mana.
Vine Trellis was also printed in Eighth Edition and also was featured in the Garruk vs Liliana Duel Deck. All three versions feature awesome art by Tony DiTerlizzi, who has illustrated many Magic the Gathering cards including the Commander 2011 printing of Brainstorm and one of the best ever arts of Giant Growth during Eighth Edition. It's a solid good-looking little common to keep around, for sure.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Mindstab Thrull was originally printed as a common in Fallen Empires. It was later printed in Fifth Edition, also as a common, with notable Mark Tedin art (pictured above). It is not a bad card, a 2/2 for 1BB that has an ability. If Mindstab Thrull attacks and is not blocked, you can sacrifice the Thrull to force your opponent to discard three cards. That's a pretty good trade in my opinion.
Alongside a creature like Hypnotic Specter and cards like Hymn to Tourach, this creature could serve as a useful compliment. It's nothing that would see much Constructed play any more, but it's a fun little card that back in the day was pretty solid.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Hordeling Outburst is an excellent choice for a Friday Night promotional card, especially considering the amount of Standard play it has been getting. Decks such as RW Aggro and Jeskai Tokens have been using it in four-of's. Jeskai decks, especially, can take full advantage of the fact that it's a non-creature spell with their Prowess mechanic. Mardu (red/white/black) decks have also been known to use this card, although not to the same extent. Three mana for 3 1/1 Goblins is pretty sweet and perfect for aggressive strategies.
Since this is a card that is often seen been played in four copies in many decks, this should be a highly sought after promotional card come March. It was one of my favorite cards when it was spoiled in Khans of Tarkir, and with all the great aggressive creatures released in Fate Reforged, this card has become much more valuable.
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