by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
If you’ve been playing Magic: the Gathering since around the Theros set, you may remember a card called Spellheart Chimera. So, Enigma Drake from Amonkhet (and Magic 2019) may look very familiar. Both creatures fly and their power is equal to the number of instant and sorcery cards in your graveyard. Whereas the Chimera has 3 toughness and trample, the Drake has 4 toughness, but no trample. Which one is better?
Spellheart Chimera decks weren’t exactly top-tier winning lists back in the day, but they were fairly competitive. They would win a local tournament here and there. They also performed decently on Magic Online. Being a three-mana creature, the Chimera could come down rather quickly and start swinging for some real damage. The trample was particularly effective. But, a simple Lightning Strike would bring it down. So, you had to time playing the Chimera correctly.
While the Drake has no trample, it has an extra point of toughness. This puts it out of range of a lot of burn spells and even some other removal. But, really, it’s the same card as the Chimera, especially when you consider there’s a creature in the same set that has great synergy with it: Cryptic Serpent.
This uncommon is actually seeing Legacy play, specifically in Delver of Secrets decks that play a ton of spells already! And it’s for good reason. Even though the Serpent costs 5UU to cast, his cost decreases for each instant or sorcery in your graveyard. It’s actually fairly easy (especially in Legacy) to get a 6/5 for 2 mana. While he doesn’t have trample, and is a fairly vanilla creature otherwise, that’s a lot of power for a tiny mana investment!
With Spellheart Chimera, you didn’t have another creature in Standard that could pair so well with him. But many solid spells entered Standard such as Magma Spray, Fiery Temper, and Lightning Axe. Not only can these spells do some quick damage, but also fill your graveyard. Fiery Temper is particularly good for Lightning Axe, since when you discard it, you can just cast it for its Madness cost.
Sweltering Suns is a version of Anger of the Gods that you can also cycle for a card, so it’s rarely a dead draw. (Note having 4 toughness saves the Drake from Sweltering Suns!) Standard would also have Anticipate to help filter through our deck to get the right cards, plus Cathartic Reunion and Take Inventory to draw cards and fill our graveyard, too. Censor is a great permission spell that can also cycle for a card, too!
Another creature that works well in an Enigma Drake deck is Bedlam Reveler from Eldritch Moon. He's seen play in Standard, Modern and Legacy. Like the Cryptic Serpent, he also gets cheaper to cast for each instant and sorcery in the graveyard. Then, not only does he have prowess, but when he comes into play, he makes you discard your hand and draw three cards. While this sounds like a drawback, in this deck, it’s certainly not!
Here’s what an Amonkhet Standard Enigma Drake Deck would look like. Here's a U/R Drake list on MTG Salvation. I’d have built it about the same way.
4 Enigma Drake
3 Bedlam Reveler
3 Cryptic Serpent
3 Cathartic Reunion
4 Fiery Temper
4 Lightning Axe
2 Magma Spray
3 Sweltering Suns
4 Take Inventory
4 Aether Hub
4 Spirebluff Canal
4 Wandering Fumarole
Of course, most of this list wasn't Standard legal for long. But, looking at this list, I saw this being easily adapted for Modern. It would probably look something like this:
4 Delver of Secrets
3 Enigma Drake
2 Bedlam Reveler
2 Cryptic Serpent
4 Serum Visions
3 Cathartic Reunion
3 Fiery Temper
3 Lightning Axe
2 Sweltering Suns
3 Lightning Bolt
4 Spirebluff Canal
4 Wandering Fumarole
4 Steam Vents
4 Scalding Tarn
In this case, we turn it into more of a Delver-type deck, since you really want to have that creature down on Turn One. Also, unlike Spellheart Chimera, Enigma Drake is out of Lightning Bolt range. It’s also out of Anger of the Gods range, which is a common card for Modern. Likewise, Bedlam Reveler has 4 toughness to begin with, and the Serpent has 5. But while this deck wants all of these guys, we run fewer copies since we’re trying to get in early damage with the Delvers. Also, the Modern deck can run better draw power in Serum Visions and Opt.
But fortunately for Enigma Drake, he'd get yet another shot in Standard, making another new friend in an old Goblin favorite.
Enigma Drake in Magic 2019 Standard
Still, could an Enigma Drake deck be competitive in Standard? Despite getting some more tools in Hour of Destruction, it didn't really happen during Amonkhet block. It didn't really do much during Ixalan block or Dominaria, either. But, it was reprinted in Magic 2019 and gained a valuable ally in Guttersnipe!
Finding out that Enigma Drake was in M19, I decided to look and see if someone actually built a deck with these two. In fact, I found a U/R Spells list on Tappedout that fit the bill perfectly!
4x Enigma Drake
3x Hieroglyphic Illumination
3x Lightning Strike
4x Magma Spray
3x Supreme Will
4x Spirebluff Canal
4x Sulfur Falls
2x Search for Azcanta
2x The Mirari Conjecture
2x Primal Amulet
This deck would lose a ton to the October 2018 Standard rotation, but it gave a much different approach to the deck. It has Cycling elements that replaced the Madness elements of the Shadows Over Innistrad/Eldritch Moon sets. Guttersnipe gives the deck an extra burn component, which is really helpful.
This deck also has a powerful endgame with The Mirari Conjecture to copy a big Banefire and Primal Amulet to speed up your spellslinging and give you another way to copy spells. It's a pretty sweet build.
But alas, it would lose so much so soon...
Enigma Drake and Kiln Fiend in Modern
I always felt strongly that there would be a space for the Drake in Modern. In fact, a Modern deck with Enigma Drake would become competitive. But it took a rather different approach.
In Modern, Enigma Drake made a couple of new friends: Kiln Fiend and Thing in the Ice. It resembles a Kiln Fiend / Nivix Cyclops deck in Pauper, one of the better decks in that format. Here's a list that has gone 5-0 in matches in several competitive Modern leagues on Magic Online.
4 Kiln Fiend
4 Thing in the Ice
1 Young Pyromancer
3 Enigma Drake
2 Dive Down
1 Gut Shot
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Mutagenic Growth
4 Serum Visions
4 Sleight of Hand
1 Vapor Snag
1 Disrupting Shoal
4 Temur Battle Rage
1 Blood Moon
2 Flooded Strand
2 Polluted Delta
4 Scalding Tarn
4 Spirebluff Canal
2 Steam Vents
2 Ceremonious Rejection
2 Flame Slash
1 Young Pyromancer
2 Blood Moon
1 Enigma Drake
1 Jace, Architect of Thought
To save a little money, the 4 Sleight of Hand could be replaced with 4 Opt, which wasn't in Modern yet.
Basically, Enigma Drake becomes a back-up plan to Kiln Fiend. It also is out of reach of Lightning Bolt, which the Fiend isn't. Whereas Kiln Fiend requires you to cast a lot of spells to do a bunch of damage in one turn, the Drake turns your spent spells into power. So it's a really nice synergy you can't do in Pauper, since Enigma Drake is an uncommon.
Yes, Enigma Drake is a competitive Modern card. I still like my sort of midrange brew that I had early on, but this Kiln Fiend deck is really sweet.
What do you all think? How would you build an Enigma Drake deck?
Magic the Gathering - Garza Zol, Plague Queen: The Perfect Commander to Lead Grixis Vampires in EDH
by Phoenix Desertsong, Old School Duelist
Looking for a Commander to lead a Tribal Vampire EDH deck so you can jam in all your new Vampires from Shadows Over Innistrad? Wondering how to slip in the notoriously blue flip-side of Elusive Tormentor: Insidious Mist? Garza Zol, Plague Queen just may be the gal to be your Vampire Commander.
From way back in Coldsnap, Garza Zol is not the most popular Vampire Commander out there. But because of the three colors in her mana cost, she allows you to splash Blue. This allows you to play the often overlooked but color intensive Blood Tyrant, plus another semi-popular blue/black Vampire Commander Szadek, Lord Of Secrets. Meanwhile, you can jam other Blue staples such as Counterspell, Cyclonic Rift, Hinder, Rhystic Study and more.
What’s cool about Garza Zol is while she’s expensive to cast, she can get bigger fairly easily and also draw you cards. You can just play all of the best Vampires available. In particular, Shadows over Innistrad provides some of the best ones ever printed for use in a Tribal deck. Falkenrath Gorger gives all of the Vampires in your hand Madness, allowing you to play them as you discard them from your hand! Olivia, Mobilized for War allows you to discard a card to give another creature a +1/+1 counter and haste. It even makes it a Vampire! Asylum Visitor and Indulgent Aristocrat are playable, too.
Here’s a sample decklist for a powerful Garza Zol, Plague Queen EDH Vampire deck!
Garza Zol, Plague Queen
Guul Draz Assassin
Gatekeeper of Malakir
Olivia, Mobilized for War
Mirri the Cursed
Anowon, the Ruin Sage
Bloodlord of Vaasgoth
Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief
Fiend of the Shadows
Butcher of Malakir
Kalitas, Bloodchief of Ghet
Szadek, Lord of Secrets
Non-Creature Spells (23)
Blade of the Bloodchief
Feast of Blood
Go for the Throat
Urge to Feed
Obelisk of Grixis
Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker
Jwar Isle Refuge
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet is another powerful Vampire that you can consider. But due to his strength in competitive play, his price has been as high as $30 - although it's settled to closer to $7.
Drana, Liberator of Malakir is another Vampire you could consider not listed above, and she’s reasonably priced around $5.
For non-creature spells, if you don’t have the $25 to shell out for a Demonic Tutor, then Dark Petition will usually work just as well in its place for less than a quarter of the price. Otherwise, the deck is fairly affordable and great for anyone who wants to take Tribal Vampires for a spin with the best cards available.
Oblivion Sower is one of a number of good, cheap Magic the Gathering cards from the Battle for Zendikar set.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Oblivion Sower is a pretty good Eldrazi. At one time, the 6-mana creature was well over $8 a copy. Nowadays, you can find copies of Oblivion Sower for just over $1. He's been long forgotten in Standard, and related to the sideboard of Modern Eldrazi Tron decks.
But in Legacy, he's been seen as a four-of in a tournament winning Eldrazi deck. He also sees a good amount of play in Commander. EDHREC has Oblivion Sower listed in 5000 decks. Still, with a Duel Deck foil printing, there are a lot of copies out there in the wild.
Legacy demand alone won't drive this card in the way that the format used to, but it's so widely usable in Commander that copies will always be selling. But, if a Modern deck happens to win a major event with multiple copies in the 75, it's likely this card could end up spiking in price.
If a price spike doesn't happen ever again for Oblivion Sower, it's hard to see this card ever being worth less than $1. So if you need your copies, now is as good a time as any to pick up Oblivion Sower.
by Phoenix Desertsong, Old School Duelist
Is Sea Gate Wreckage a Currently Undervalued Competitive Staple in Modern and EDH / Commander?
Sea Gate Wreckage from Oath of the Gatewatch is a colorless land with an ability that quickly proved itself useful in Standard. Eldrazi decks in Standard would play a copy (or even two) of Sea Gate Wreckage on occasion. As it was only a one-of in most decks, there wasn’t massive demand for this card. Would Sea Gate Wreckage find play in other formats, such as Modern and EDH?
Sea Gate Wreckage in Modern Affinity
Some Affinity and many Eldrazi decks in Modern (especially Eldrazi Tron) have included a single copy of Sea Gate Wreckage. Those decks have plenty of sources of pure colorless mana to activate the 2C “draw a card” ability.
Because you have to have an empty hand to use Sea Gate Wreckage’s ability, it doesn’t seem so good. But Affinity, in particular, likes to play out its hand quickly. Eldrazi decks like to cast as much as they can quickly as possible, as well. It’s possible that Wreckage remains a staple one-of in these decks going forward. Having more than one copy can become inconvenient, as it can be a do-nothing card in some games. But pretty much any deck that has the ability to produce considerable amounts of colorless mana can use it. The value of drawing a card with an empty hand is pretty high.
Sea Gate Wreckage in EDH
In EDH / Commander, most decks don’t like to operate with an empty hand. Still, many decks have taken a look at Sea Gate Wreckage. In particular, Kozilek, the Great Distortion is the Commander that plays Wreckage with the most regularity. Other colorless Commanders like Karn, Silver Golem have also tried this card. There’s so much colorless mana flying around EDH that Sea Gate Wreckage will eventually find itself fitting into a lot more decks.
This card has shown up in many Top 8 lists already in both Standard and Modern. There’s a strong possibility that Sea Gate Wreckage will actually become a staple in the long-run. Top-deck wars are a real thing. 3 mana for an effect that could be the difference between playing something and nothing in a turn is well worth it.
Sea Gate Wreckage has never had a high price, especially in nonfoil. It has long been found in bulk rare bins. Still, Sea Gate Wreckage in foil have reached $4 before. This is definitely a card to keep around in your collection. It has an effect that's definitely useful and been proven to be effective at a high level.
Dragons of Legend 2 has lots of cool Yu-Gi-Oh cards, including the awesome Toon Kingdom, a much better version of the classic Toon World. With many players wanting to build Toon Kingdom decks, there are plenty of options to choose from when constructing your deck. Comic Hand, Mimicat, and Toon Briefcase are all cards that many Toon decks play, but there are others to consider, as well. Here are 3 Toon cards not to overlook from Dragons of Legend 2 when building your own Toon deck. While I’m not sure I’d put them in my main 40 cards, they are still worth considering.
A couple of these cards requires that you have Toon World (or Toon Kingdom, which counts as Toon World) in play when you play them. One only requires that you have a Toon monster in play (which often means you’ll have Toon World or Toon Kingdom in play anyway). Each has an effect that is definitely useful.
If you control “Toon World”: Target 1 face-up monster your opponent controls; inflict damage to your opponent equal to the ATK of that face-up monster. You can only activate 1 “Shadow Toon” per turn.
Shadow Toon is a very powerful spell card! With some of the more powerful Xyz and Synchro monsters out there, this spell could finish off an opponent in one shot! While not good in every match-up, this is a nice card to have in your sideboard. Having three of these in your deck may be all you need to finish off certain decks.
Also, there is a Shadow Toon FTK (First Turn Kill) strategy using Ancient Gear Toon monsters. It involves Malefic Cyber End Dragon, Vengeful Servant, and Shien's Spy. Here's how it works:
If you control “Toon World”: Target 1 face-up monster your opponent controls; Special Summon 1 Toon monster from your hand or deck, whose Level is less or equal to the Level/Rank of that monster, ignoring its Summoning conditions.
There are quite a few awesome things about Toon Mask. Not only do you get to Special Summon a monster, but you can get that monster from either your hand or Deck! Also, that creature’s summoning conditions are completely ignored. But the best thing about this card is that it considers either Rank or Level. So you can target your opponent’s Xyz monster as well. It’s a pretty sweet way to pull out one of your best Toon monsters in response to one of your opponent’s big threats. In some Toon deck builds, this might even be worthy of the main deck! However, it is a bit situational, as it does depend on the Ranks and Levels of creatures that your opponents play.
Target 1 Toon monster you control; it can make a second attack during each Battle Phase this turn.
With Toon monsters in particular, an extra attack with Toon Rollback is a big deal. This is because pretty much any Toon monster out there can attack your opponent directly if they control no Toons and you have Toon World in play. Getting an extra attack out of your Red-Eyes Toon Dragon or Toon Dark Magician is particularly devastating. Is this card good enough to be playing in your main deck? Maybe.
All three of these cards are definitely worth considering as you’re tweaking a Toon deck. While they may not see play out of the main deck, they are definitely worth considering for the side-board if you’re playing at a tournament. If you’re going all out with a Toon deck and not playing staples such as Pot of Duality, Dimensional Prison, etc. then these cards are definitely worth trying out.
What do you think of these three Toon cards? Are there other Toon cards that you think are worth playing?
by R.A. Rowell; Co-Owner of Intent-sive Nature & the Brand Shamans network
Originally from the days of Alara Reborn, Filigree Angel has found herself so useful in Commander that she's been reprinted in Commander decks on two separate occasions. When Filigree Angel enters the battlefield, you gain 3 life for each artifact you control, which includes itself. A 4/4 flyer that gains you, at the very least, 3 life for 8 mana doesn’t sound incredibly cost-effective.
But in Commander, 5WWU isn’t that restrictive of a casting cost. It's especially worth casting by turn 8, as well, since the life-gain that one would get from Filigree’s effect by that point will be substantial. With artifact cards like Sol Ring, Swiftfoot Boots, Lightning Greaves, Darksteel Ingot, and Sensei’s Divining Top a part of many Commander decks, you’re talking about double-digit life gains whenever this card hits the board.
Also, while a 4/4 flyer doesn’t seem impressive on the surface, there are so many pumps for artifact creatures that exist in Commander that this Angel probably will be a good deal beefier when it hits the board. Add to that we have yet another Angel for Angel lovers, and one that’s light on the wallet (they sell for only about 50 cents USD a copy.) Filigree Angel was also reprinted in one of the Commander 2013 and one of the Commander 2016 decks.
While hardly one of the best artifact creatures around, Filigree Angel has its uses, especially in an artifact deck that cares about life-gain. There are quite a few Commander decks out there that revolve around artifacts. What better way to keep yourself in the game than double-digit life gain? In particular, the popular Breya, Etherium Shaper plays Filigree Angel a lot. But if you play any artifact Commander deck in White & Blue, you should definitely consider slotting this artifact angel in somewhere.
by Phoenix Desertsong
The Sliver creatures printed in the Magic 2014 Core Set were a fairly impressive bunch. While Slivers never became a Tier One deck in Standard, they were a deck to beat for a time at Friday Night Magic events at local game stores. With Cavern of Souls around for another three months after the release of M14, and Mutavault being reprinted, too, there was a pretty solid Sliver tribal deck being played at the time.
There was a very important difference between these Slivers and those from the past. Unlike older Sliver cards, which affected all Sliver cards on the battlefield - possibly including even your opponent’s - these new cards affect only your Sliver cards. This means that in Sliver mirrors, if you can get the more powerful effects on the board before your opponent can, you likely have the game won. Having double striking Slivers is certainly one way to do that.
Would Bonescythe Sliver be a part of that competitive Sliver puzzle? It was certainly possible. Having a casting cost of 3W seemed fair, especially with Manaweft Sliver from the same set giving all of your Slivers the ability to produce any color of mana. Double strike is quite relevant, as well. With how quickly Slivers can mass an attack, this could help you stage a finishing blow.
When I first took a look at this card in July of 2013, I thought that people would find a way to stick at least one copy of this card in a Sliver deck. It seemed clear to me that White wasn’t going to be a big color for Slivers, although Sentinel Sliver and Hive Stirrings were definitely playable cards. So there seemed to be room for this card to work out. Double Strike seemed too good to ignore.
Unfortunately, outside of casual Sliver decks and Commander players running the several very good Sliver Legendary Creatures, Bonescythe Sliver never saw much play. Even when the Magic 2015 Slivers made the archetype even better in Standard, Bonescythe was basically forgotten. It just didn't seem worth the deck slot for a deck that could win even without the double strike.
While it proved to not be an optimal play in competitive 60-card Magic, Bonescythe Sliver has become a staple in Sliver Commander decks everywhere. This Sliver’s value has only increased with the Modern Horizons printings of The First Sliver and Morophon the Boundless as additional Sliver Commanders. It's also often played as a four-of at the kitchen table, so this card definitely will retain value as long as it’s not reprinted. There’s also a foil Duels of the Planeswalkers promo that’s even more valuable.
YuGiOh Blackwing Deck 2019 Profile
At one time, Blackwings were one of the more powerful deck archetypes in Yu-Gi-Oh. But since mid-2014, a Blackwing deck has only had a strong showing at a major tournament a few times. In late 2018, however, that would finally change.
With the release of Assault Blackwing - Raikiri the Rain Shower in 2015, and later Chidori the Rain Sprinkling, the deck gained two new boss monsters in the form of a powerful Level 7 Synchro monster. Also, several very good Blackwing monsters were printed between 2015 and 2019, including Blackwing Full Armor Master, giving the deck new tools with which to be more consistent.
Now armed with a top 3 Blackwing deck list from November 2018 we can bring you a 2019 Blackwing Deck Profile! The additions to the Blackwing family from Legendary Duelists: White Dragon Abyss definitely make their presence felt!
Let's check out that November 2018 Blackwing deck list and see the strategies and must have cards for a Blackwing deck in 2019.
Main Deck (40 Cards)
3x Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring
3x Blackwing - Auster the South Wind
1x Blackwing - Blizzard the Far North
3x Blackwing - Bora the Spear
1x Blackwing - Gale the Whirlwind
3x Blackwing - Harmattan the Dust
1x Blackwing - Kris the Crack of Dawn
1x Blackwing - Oroshi the Squall
3x Blackwing - Simoon the Poison Wind
3x Blackwing - Steam the Cloak
3x Radian, the Multidimensional Kaiju
1x The Phantom Knights of Silent Boots
3x Allure of Darkness
3x Black Whirlwind
2x Called by the Grave
1x Monster Reborn
3x Pot of Desires
2x Phantom Knights' Fog Blade
The best Blackwing decks from the past couple of big tournaments used strategies nerfed by recent Forbidden and Limited list updates. But, with the release of White Dragon Abyss, the deck gained not only a new boss Synchro Monster in Full Armor Master, but also Blackwing - Simoon the Poison Wind and Blackwing - Auster the South Wind.
Simoon the Poison Wind is a Level 6 Blackwing, but if you control no monsters and he's in your hand, he can do something cool. You can banish 1 other "Blackwing" in your hand and put a "Black Whirlwind" from your Deck face-up in your Spell & Trap Zone. Then, you can either send Simoon to the graveyard or Normal Summon it without tributing. However, that Black Whirlwind must be sent to the Graveyard at the end of the turn and you take 1000 damage. This is worth playing, though, because you can get any Blackwing with less than 1600 ATK from your deck when he's summoned. He's a pretty cool new engine for the deck.
Auster the South Wind is a level 4 Blackwing tuner with only 1300 ATK and 0 DEF, but his effects are really good. He can't be special summoned, but when he's normal summoned, you can target one of your banished level 4 or lower Blackwing monsters and Special Summon it. That's prety powerful and has great synergy with Simoon and even Allure of Darkness! Also, when Auster is in the grave, you can banish him to get one of a couple effects. The first doesn't matter in our case, as it deals with Black-Winged Dragon. The second effect, though, places 1 Wedge counter on each of your opponent's monsters that doesn't have one. This is very relevant, thanks to Blackwing Full Armor Master, which we'll get to later.
Many older Blackwing monsters that were once staples in the deck such as Shura the Blue Flame and Zephyros the Elite are no longer seeing play in this deck. But, one Blackwing from Breakers of Shadow from early 2016 still is, Harmattan the Dust. This level 2 Blackwing monster isn't a tuner, but he can be special summoned from your hand if you control a Blackwing other than Harmattan. You can only special summon one Harmattan per turn this way. But, the cool thing about Harmattan is that when he's normal or special summoned, you can target one other Blackwing monster you control and add its level to Harmattan's. This allows for some pretty cool Synchro shenanigans.
Kris the Crack of Dawn is a level 4 Blackwing with 1900 ATK that has the ability to be special summoned if you control another Blackwing monster other than another Kris. It also has the distinguishing ability to be unable to be destroyed by spell or trap cards once per turn. I play the full three copies because he's so easily Special Summoned and he's a nice beatstick.
There's also one Oroshi the Squall, a level one Tuner from Dragons of Legend. Not only can you special summon him if you have another Blackwing on the field, but if you use him in a Synchro Summon, you can change the battle position of one monster on the field. Not bad!
One copy of Blizzard the Far North helps you to set up Synchro Summons - a third copy always ends up usually being extraneous and a second is just too slow in today's game.
There's one copy of Gale the Whirlwind, of course. This guy was once limited to a single copy because of how he once overran the Yu-Gi-Oh metagame. You really only need one in today's game with all of the other Blackwing tuners you have access to.
Bora the Spear is simple, and is easily Special Summoned as soon as you control another Blackwing. He also inflicts piercing battle damage on creatures in defense mode, something that makes a lot of difference with Kalut’s ability. He's been a mainstay of the deck from the very beginning.
Lastly for the Blackwings, there are three copies of Steam the Cloak, a pretty useful Synchro Monster that leaves behind a level 1 Tuner token when he leaves the battlefield.
Steam the Cloak also has another neat ability that you can use once per duel:
"If this card is in your Graveyard: You can Tribute 1 monster, Special Summon this card from the Graveyard. You can only use this effect of "Blackwing - Steam the Cloak" once per Duel. If this card Summoned this way is used as a Synchro Material Monster, all other Synchro Material Monsters must be "Blackwing" monsters."
There are plenty of Blackwing Synchro monsters in our extra deck, so running two is worth it. Also, if you don't use that ability, you can use Steam to make any Synchro monster you want, as well as the token. This is just a good Blackwing monster.
In addition to the Blackwings, there are three copies of Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring, just because it's one of the best cards in the 2019 meta! What it does is pretty awesome!
"When a card or effect is activated that includes any of these effects (Quick Effect): You can discard this card; negate that effect.
● Add a card from the Deck to the hand.
● Special Summon from the Deck.
● Send a card from the Deck to the GY.
You can only use this effect of "Ash Blossom & Joyous Spring" once per turn."
There are also three copies of Radian, the Multidimension Kaiju. Radian has popped up in past Blackwing decks. What does he do?
You can Special Summon this card (from your hand) to your opponent's side of the field in Attack Position, by Tributing 1 monster they control. If your opponent controls a "Kaiju" monster, you can Special Summon this card (from your hand) in Attack Position. You can only control 1 "Kaiju" monster. Once per turn: You can remove 2 Kaiju Counters from anywhere on the field; Special Summon 1 "Radian Token" (Fiend-Type/DARK/Level 7/ATK 2800/DEF 0), but it cannot be used as a Synchro Material.
That's a lot of text! Basically, though, you can deal with a problem opponent's monster. Sure, you give your opponent a 2800 ATK monster, but then you can summon your own Kaiju if your opponent already has one. It's cute tech, really. The Kaiju counter ability we don't have to think about here.
The last monster in the deck is a single copy of The Phantom Knights of Silent Boots. He basically exists as a way to get a copy of the Phantom Knights' Fog Blade from your Deck to your Hand. Also, we run a copy of the Link Monster Phantom Knight of Rusty Bardiche in the Extra deck, so Special Summoning him is actually possible.
Onto the Spell and Trap cards!
What has made Blackwings such a consistent deck in the past is the existence of the continuous Spell Card, Black Whirlwind. This card was so powerful that it was restricted to one copy in decks for a very long time.
But, Black Whirlwind has been at 3 copies for quite some time now. However, as Blackwings have had trouble keeping up with newer archetypes, it seemed fair to unlimit this key card to give Blackwings a fighting chance. It’s definitely done just that!
Getting to tutor up any Blackwing with less ATK points than the one you just normal summoned is excellent. Having two or three on board at the same time is absolutely ridiculous - which is why it was limited in the first place. But even though once again we have the full three copies at our disposal, they're really back with Rai-Oh.
Allure of Darkness is a useful draw card, but it requires you to banish a DARK monster from your hand in exchange for two cards. Still, since you can play three copies, it’s well worth trading a monster for 2 more cards. Ordinarily I'd run three, but it was limited to 2 back in the day, and with a bunch of Light monsters in the deck, two copies is enough.
The spell card lineup is rounded out by a copy of Monster Reborn, two copies of format staple Called by the Grave, and three copies of Pot of Desires.
The only two trap cards in the deck are two copies of Phantom Knights' Fog Blade. Here's what it does:
Activate this card by targeting 1 Effect Monster on the field; negate that face-up monster's effects, that face-up monster cannot attack, also monsters cannot target that face-up monster for attacks. When that monster leaves the field, destroy this card. You can banish this card from your GY, then target 1 "The Phantom Knights" monster in your GY; Special Summon it, but banish it when it leaves the field. You can only use this effect of "Phantom Knights' Fog Blade" once per turn.
Extra Deck (15 Cards)
1x Assault Blackwing - Raikiri the Rain Shower
1x Assault Blackwing - Sohaya the Rain Storm
1x Black Rose Dragon
1x Black Rose Moonlight Dragon
1x Blackwing - Nothung the Starlight
2x Blackwing Full Armor Master
2x Blackwing Tamer - Obsidian Hawk Joe
1x Borrelsword Dragon
1x Knightmare Unicorn
1x The Phantom Knights of Rusty Bardiche
2x Wee Witch's Apprentice
Blackwing Full Armor Master is a very powerful new level 10 Synchro Blackwing. He's really not that hard to summon in this deck, either. He has 3000 ATK and DEF and can't be affected by other cards' effects. Each time an opponent's monster activates an effect, you put a Wedge counter on it. Then, once per turn, you can target 1 monster your opponent controls with a Wedge Counter and take control of it. Then, once per turn, during your end phase, you can destroy all monsters on the field that have a Wedge Counter. Talk about a big finisher, something Blackwings never really had.
What's great about Full Armor Master is you can steal one of your opponent's monsters, and use it to attack or create a Synchro or Link Summon. Then, you nuke your opponent's monster zones at the end of the turn. That's just mean. Plus, not many things can beat him, either.
Raikiri the Rain Shower is definitely a strong Blackwing monster and one of the more powerful Blackwing Synchro monsters ever created. It can wipe out your opponent's side of the field in a hurry. Once per turn, Raikiri lets you destroy up to as many cards as you control other Blackwing monsters. Being able to become a Tuner is pretty much gravy.
Taking the spot that Armed Wing once occupied in the Extra Deck, Nothung the Starlight from Premium Gold: Return of the Bling actually does some pretty cool things. Not only does he deal 800 damage to your opponent upon being summoned, but he also causes one of your opponent’s monsters to lose 800 ATK and DEF! Also, when he’s face-up on the field, you get to Normal Summon an additional Blackwing monster each turn! This is another huge addition for Blackwings since 2015, and not sure how other players have overlooked him!
While not technically a Blackwing (he’s a Warrior), Blackwing Tamer - Obsidian Hawk Joe, also from Return of the Bling, is definitely a nice addition to the Blackwing Extra Deck. Interestingly enough, you still need a Blackwing tuner to summon him. Here’s what he does:
You can target 1 Level 5 or higher Winged Beast-Type monster in your Graveyard; Special Summon it. During either player's turn, when your opponent activates a card or effect that targets only this card, or when your opponent targets this card for an attack: You can target 1 other "Blackwing" monster you control that would be an appropriate target; that card/effect/attack now targets the new target. You can only use each effect of "Blackwing Tamer - Obsidian Hawk Joe" once per turn.
That’s a lot of text. Basically, once per turn, you can just get back one of your Winged Beast-type Synchro monsters into play (there aren’t any other Level 5 or higher Winged Beasts in this deck). If that wasn’t good enough, once per turn, you get to change an opponent’s attack target to another Blackwing you control. Wow.
Are Blackwings Still a Top 8 Deck?
While Blackwings didn’t Top 8 any major tournaments in 2016, they did make an appearance in 2017 and early 2018. There was also that top 3 finish in November 2018, and they have the tools to at least be competitive once again in 2019 and beyond.
Being my favorite archetype from my old playing days, it would be fun to see a Blackwing deck list like this make some waves going forward. Blackwings keep getting more support over the years, too. Does this mean Blackwings will be a Top 8 threat going forward? It's possible!
Blackwings may not be the fun "troll" deck that Toon Kingdom allows you to build, but Blackwings have the ability to pull out some very quick wins. It seems that Blackwings may once again have a chance to pull out more upset tournament victories in the future, especially on the local game store level!
Here are some other Yu-Gi-Oh trading card game articles you may enjoy:
- Is a Toon Deck Now Competitive with Toon Kingdom?
- Can a Gladiator Beast Deck Still Be Competitive in 2019?
- GOAT FORMAT! - Intro to the Format and Original Aggro Control Deck
- Fire Princess Burn - Old School Yu-Gi-Oh! Deck Profile!
- The Legendary Fisherman - Old School Yu-Gi-Oh Deck Profile
Magic the Gathering - Planeswalkers as Commanders: Magic Origins "Flip Walkers" in EDH
by ElspethFTW, Gaming Successfully Staff
The Magic Origins “flip walker” experiment has proven to be a success. Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, in particular, succeeded the expectations of many. Nissa, Vastwood Seer saw plenty of Standard play. Liliana, Heretical Healer became a decent mid-range card and extremely popular among the casual crowd. Kytheon would work his way into Standard competitively. Even Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh burned some folks in Standard. In Commander, they've all proved worthy of attention.
Previously, we took a look at the Commander 2014 planeswalkers specifically designed to be your Commander. We found them to overall be better than your average legendary creatures, which is to be expected. These flip walkers blend the two card types in some interesting ways. You have to build around them to ignite their spark, then compliment their ascended abilities, as well.
How has the EDH / Commander community risen to the challenge? Which Origins planeswalker is best in the format? Let's find out.
Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy / Jace, Telepath Unbound
Commander of 300+ decks (EDHREC)
In the 99: Seen in about 5000 decks. Top Commanders include Tasigur, the Golden Fang, Azami, Lady of Scrolls, Atraxa, Praetor's Voice, Mizzix of the Izmagnus, and Teferi, Temporal Archmage
It may seem strange to say, but Vryn’s Prodigy made Jace tribal a thing. That was the approach to building his deck, at first. It really does seem to make sense to jam any card with his name on it or any card having to do with him in a deck and run with it.
In Commander, the "looter" (draw a card, discard a card) ability on a 0/2 simply isn't that exciting. Even when you do flip him, the flashback ability is not what you'll be trying to do. You'll be looking to tick him up to his ultimate and work to mill everyone to death. There are a lot better ways to do it in Commander. You could obviously use his flashback ability on extra turn spells to help you “get there.” The trick is getting more than one activation out of him and there are plenty of other ways in blue to recycle spells.
Being such a hot card in tournament play, though, probably kept most Commander players from acquiring him at first. This Jace could prove useful in more than a few decks that actually like the looting such as Sultai (green/black/blue) and are happy to get the flashback for some big spells.
Some blue/black and Sultai decks also don't mind getting the emblem to get some fuel for reanimator spells. Simply put, I’m not sold on him as a Commander, but he's shown up in the 99 of more than a few strong commanders.
Grade: B (he's not bad in multiplayer, but much stronger in 1v1), In the 99: B (definitely a useful complementary piece on both sides)
Kytheon, Hero of Akros / Gideon, Battle-Forged
Commander of 180+ decks
In the 99: Seen in 1500+ decks. Top Commanders include Odric, Lunarch Marshal, Alesha, Who Smiles at Death, Iroas, God of Victory, Captain Sisay, and Tajic, Blade of the Legion.
Kytheon is an interesting case where as a Gideon planeswalker he's a bit awkward. He's extremely easy to flip in Commander, but not remaining a creature makes it difficult for him to keep bashing in for considerable damage. Oddly enough, however, Gideon Battle Forged as a creature can still deal Commander damage when he becomes a creature with his ability. This is both good and bad. It means he's a huge target at the table, but he can also dodge a lot of creature removal.
Being so unique, I'm not surprised he hasn't been tried more as a Commander. The original Gideon Jura may be better overall in some ways, but the ability to be the first one drop planeswalker in Magic history makes Kytheon highly playable in any mono-white or Boros (red/white) aggro strategy.
Grade: B (Commander), B+ (In the 99). He’s a one-drop planeswalker for crying out loud!
Liliana, Heretical Healer / Liliana, Defiant Necromancer
Commander in 500+ decks
In the 99: Seen in 5000+ decks. Key contributor in Meren of Clan Nel Toth and Alesha, Who Smiles at Death. Notable appearances in Gisa and Geralf Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim, Sidisi, Brood Tyrant, Grimgrin, Corpse-Born and Karador, Ghost Chieftain
Liliana’s popularity shouldn't be too much of a surprise as her flip side embodies Liliana’s two favorite things, discarding and reanimating. The optimal Liliana brew probably hasn't been found yet, but stocking up on value creatures and ways for you to benefit from opponent's discards is a nice place to start. Mono black is so flooded with strong Commander options that it's no surprise that major innovations taking place around the Heretical Healer haven't yet taken place.
That being said she's easy enough to get online in Commander, so you can get some solid value from her. Just being able to build a Commander deck around one of the most popular planeswalkers of all time is pretty sweet. After her rotation from Standard, she has found consistent homes in the 99 of Commanders who most value her contributions.
Grade: B (Commander), B+ (In the 99). Mono black is flooded with Commander options, but she should prove to be a good one long term.
Nissa, Vastwood Seer / Nissa, Sage Animist
Commander of 350+ decks
In the 99: Seen in 6000+ decks. Key contributor in Omnath, Locus of Rage. Honorable mentions in The Gitrog Monster, Meren of Clan Nel Toth, Atraxa, Praetor's Voice, Karametra God of Harvests, Azusa, Lost but Seeking, Titania, Captain Sisay, Omnath, Locus of Mana, and others.
Landfall is a pretty big deal when it comes to Nissa. A slightly worse Borderland Ranger doesn't seem worthy of Commander status. But a free Forest never hurt anyone. However, when you hit your seventh land her flip side is enough to get her going. She's already done a good deal of work in competitive Abzan.
Sort of like her C14 counterpart Freyalise, she can do a lot for a variety of decks. Her plus ability gives you real card advantage and the ultimate can help to set up a pretty good endgame. She affects the board more than Freyalise so I see her having staying power as a Commander.
As a contributor in the 99, she's found her way in a wide variety of decks, especially ones that can take advantage of her as a Planeswalker with use of Doubling Season.
Grade: B+ (Commander, although she's even better in 1v1), B (In the 99). You just have to hold her back until you’re ready to flip her.
Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh / Chandra, Roaring Flame
Commander of 300+ decks
In the 99: Seen 900+ times. Honorable mention in Rakdos, Lord of Riots
Did you see this coming? It turns out Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh is the real deal in Commander. It's a shame that her planeswalker side doesn't deal Commander damage, but with the amount of burn you can realistically throw around that doesn't matter. The emblem wins games. It's actually quite easy to build around her.
As one of the 99, she is pretty much only useful if you need to ping things, making her really good friends with Rakdos, Lord of Riots. This gal is so good in multiplayer that it's a bit scary. She would be far from the first card to be better with more players, but she's as good as she is as a commander due to how her effects play up.
Grade: A (Commander), C (In the 99). Build a deck around pumping your burn spells, copying them, and flipping Chandra and you have a chance at burning everyone at the table.
In the early going, Chandra was the best commander of the Magic Origins bunch. But has time has passed, Liliana has become the most popular, which isn't very surprising considering how easy she is to flip in Commander. In the 99, Nissa, Vastwood Seer has become very popular as a worse Borderland Ranger who can turn into a decent Planeswalker. Jace, Vryn's Prodigy has shown up all over the format as the member of the 99. Interestingly, Kytheon hasn't been adopted by as many Commander players as you'd think and is rather under-appreciated in the format.
Which is your favorite flip-walker? Who do you think is the best in the Commander format long-term?
by Phoenix Desertsong
Deflecting Palm is an instant from Khans of Tarkir with an effect in the vein of Reverse Damage and Divine Deflection. But Reverse Damage gained you life instead of dealing damage, and Divine Deflection required a mana investment of X - making it very inconsistent and usually rather inefficient as a sideboard card.
With all of the damage that some decks can dole out, Deflecting Palm can serve as a valuable secret weapon. As good as this card can be, though, it never took off in Standard as a regular sideboard card. While it seems like it would be good against the monster that Atarka Red became in Standard, it was considered too narrow to keep in the board.
Despite missing its chance to make an impact in Standard, Deflecting Palm is definitely useful enough to hold onto. In fact, Deflecting Palm is a one or two-of in most Modern Naya Burn and Boros Burn sideboards. It’s good in a lot of match-ups, and even in those that it ordinarily isn’t, two or three points of damage swung the other way can mean the difference between a loss and a out-of-nowhere victory.
Why is Deflecting Palm Good in Modern?
One of the main reasons Deflecting Palm is a one-of in many Modern sideboards is that it helps Burn decks find the last few points of damage that can sometimes be elusive. What matchups is it best against?
The coolest thing about Deflecting Palm is that it does not actually target a source of damage. This means it can get around hexproof, such as creatures targeted by Vines of Vastwood. It also means that a deck like Bogles which lives on hexproof creatures such as Gladecover Scout and Slippery Bogle isn’t protected from Deflecting Palm. So this is a perfect counter to a pumped up Bogle, too. It also can’t be stopped by the popular Spellskite, since Deflecting Palm never targets.
Is Deflecting Palm Good Against Infect?
Another matchup that comes to mind is Infect. Even though the damage is no longer infect damage once Deflecting Palm redirects it, all you have to do is wait until your opponent uses a great many pump spells on one creature in a bid for the win. It’s usually going to be in the neighborhood of 10 damage you’re throwing back at your opponent’s face. If you’re playing a Burn deck, that’s usually going to be enough to win the game outright. Infect likes to win quick. Even if Deflecting Palm doesn’t win the game right there and then, it’s made the Infect player expend enough resources that they may not be able to reload before the rest of your burn spells finish them off.
Deflecting Palm and Emrakul & Other Eldrazi Titans
Another great use for Deflecting Palm is against the massive Eldrazi. Even Emrakul, the Aeons Torn can’t stop 15 damage from being redirected to its controller’s face, even with protection from colored spells. You’re only choosing a source of damage - not actually targeting the creature. If you play Deflecting Palm in response to Emrakul’s annihilator trigger, it’s usually good game for you - as 15 damage is a lot for any opponent to take. Against a Kozilek or Ulamog, it’s pretty much a win for you, too.
Because it doesn’t target, any protection that a creature might have from colored spells doesn’t matter. This includes popular creatures like Etched Champion in Affinity. It’s also to good to have in the deck in case you’re going up against a huge Arcbound Ravager, so playing against Affinity is a good time to bring it in.
Is Deflecting Palm Good Against Lifelink?
Yes, Deflecting Palm nerfs opposing creatures with lifelink. Because the damage becomes prevented first, the lifelink no longer applies when the damage is then re-dealt by the effect of the Palm. It’s really good in the corner cases where you may be staring down a Serra Ascendant or massive Bogle with Daybreak Coronet attached. Also, if you have a Soulfire Grand Master in play, you benefit from getting the lifelink from any damage it causes.
What’s Deflecting Palm NOT So Good Against?
People will ask if Deflecting Palm is good against cards like Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle or Grapeshot on a regular basis. The way that Deflecting Palm is worded, it only affects the next time a source of your choice would deal damage. Because Valakut has so many triggers and Grapeshot has Storm (meaning you actually copy the spell) you only get to stop one instance of damage.
Can Deflecting Palm Be Good Against Scapeshift Decks?
Deflecting Palm can be good against Scapeshift if your opponent doesn’t have enough triggers to win the game if you can prevent 3 of the damage. Similarly against Grapeshot and Storm decks, you can stop 1 of the damage. Sometimes your opponent will have just enough for exact damage, and you can delay their win by a turn. It's probably not a great card to sideboard in against Scapeshift, though.
Is Deflecting Palm Good Against Ad Nauseum Decks?
Another common question is if Deflecting Palm is good against Lightning Storm, a win condition of the Ad Nauseam Combo deck. In a vacuum, yes, Deflecting Palm would throw the Lightning Storm right back at your opponent. But Angel’s Grace can put that down in a hurry. Still, the alternate way to go below 0 life, Phyrexian Unlife, would likely turn a lot of that damage into infect. So it’s not the worst card to have in reserve against that deck, especially if you’re sure Lightning Storm is their win condition.
Deflecting Palm and Double Strike
Another thing that Deflecting Palm isn’t so good against is double strike - something that Boros Charm gives creatures all the time in Modern. It only stops one half of the damage, whether it’s the first strike or regular damage. Speaking of Boros Charm, Deflecting Palm is pretty good against that card’s 4 damage to the face mode - but you need to watch for Skullcrack, which is an extremely popular card in Modern, especially in Burn mirror matches.
Future Value of Deflecting Palm
With the bannings of Splinter Twin and Summer Bloom in Modern, two of the decks that Deflecting Palm wasn’t too good against are no longer in play. Deflecting Palm was useless against the essentially infinite number of Deceiver Exarch tokens with haste that Splinter Twin could make. Amulet Bloom decks had Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion to give Primeval Titan double strike, and Pact of Negation usually stopped it in its tracks. The decks that have replaced Bloom are either Scapeshift or Red/Green decks that use Kessig Wolf Run’s pump ability to win the game with the Titan. Deflecting Palm has no problem throwing Wolf Run’s damage back.
Even before the bannings and major metagame shifts, Deflecting Palm had a 5x foil multiplier when it comes to price - with non-foils at about 50 cents vs $2.50 for foils. Modern sideboard cards have a funny way of driving up foil prices. Naya Burn and similar decks are so popular that even one or two foil copies coming off the market still goes a long way in price growth. By late 2017, non-foil Deflecting Palm would pass $1.50 and foils pushed $5.
While I wouldn't recommend hoarding every Deflecting Palm you can find, keeping a few in your collection is a good move. While it’s not good against every deck, if you’re already throwing a lot of burn spells around, you never know when you might need those last few points of damage to win the game.
Read more Magic the Gathering Modern articles here.
by Phoenix Desertsong
Are your Magic: the Gathering cards worth money? Here's how to tell if a Magic card is worth money and how to value your MTG collection.
What Are My Magic Cards Worth?
It is a question that anyone who has ever owned any sizable collection of Magic the Gathering cards has asked: are my Magic cards worth money? There are many people who bring their old shoeboxes of Magic cards into a hobby store and find out that their collection is little more than bulk rares and long forgotten cards that no one wants any more. Of course, sometimes gold is found in these often long-neglected collections. So, a store owner can buy a box of bulk for about $10-20 USD and later find a $50 or even $100 card through later perusal.
The trick is to always know what your cards are worth. But who wants to spend their time on sites like TCGPlayer and Star City Games simply price checking every rare card that he or she has? Really, no one, but a lot of people resort to it.
The purpose of this article is to let you know how to value your collection properly, and not simply in terms of straight dollar value, but to inform you what cards will hold their value, or lose their value long-term. As with any collection, present vs. future value is the foundation of any great investment, and this information is what this article aims to provide.
How Do I Value My Magic Card Collection?
One fantastic resource that I have found for valuing a collection is a website called MTGPrice. What this website allows you to do is look up the current “fair trade value” of any particular card. It factors in a variety of major online retailer prices, along with EBay and Amazon to formulate a sort of median price at which you can feel comfortable selling or trading a card.
MTGPrice has a few even more powerful features at its disposal. By connecting a Google account, you can log into the website and actually create a complete list of your collection. This list is very easily sortable, and is constantly updated with current card values, as well as letting you know whether a card’s price has risen or fallen in the past day or in the past week.
The database isn’t perfect and glitches can happen with its pricing algorithms. These minor things aside, the site gives you a very good idea of what each of your cards is worth, with a total collection value. With this site, you can always know what a certain card of yours is worth in an instant!
The other neat aspect of MTGPrice is that you can find out what the site calls the “instant cash value of your collection.” What this actually means is that the site will display cards in your collection on the current buylists of major online retailers. What you may discover is that some buy list prices are actually higher than the median value of certain cards, because of the demand for them. This is incredibly useful information, because this means that the card’s price may actually rise in value!
What’s also useful is that MTGPrice won’t list a card twice on this buy-list page. This means that it chooses the highest buy-list price for each individual card for you, which saves you a lot of time having to check around. Knowing what immediate cash value your cards can have is a really good indication of how “fluid” or movable your cards really are.
As with anything, the laws of supply and demand are extremely important with valuing Magic cards. If retailers, especially major ones, are constantly running out of stock on certain cards, it means that people really want those cards. Cards with high buy-list prices are those that you should look to hold onto and keep in either your personal collection or trade binder. You could also, of course, actually sell them to that vendor, but do keep in mind that the shipping costs of sending the cards out sometimes isn’t worth the return.
Remember, a card is only worth what someone will offer for it, and you can sometimes get a higher value on a card just because it’s really popular at that time. By having all of this information at your disposal, you can easily decide what cards are truly bulk that you should off-load or simply keep around, and what is trade-able and sell-able.
I've Heard There is a Magic the Gathering Card Stock Market? What is That?
Another website I highly recommend is MTGStocks, which is sort of like a Magic the Gathering stock market. Like on MTGPrice, you can make a free account, add cards in your collection into its inventory tool and track its value. The cool thing about MTGStocks is that it actually allows you to put it how much you actually paid for a card and how much you have profited or lost from it.
While it doesn’t offer all the same tools as MTGPrice, MTGStocks does allow you to track cards not only by TCGPlayer Mid prices, but Market Price, as well. This allows you to see not only the trend of what cards are being listed at, but can allow you to see how the card is actually moving. Sellers can list a card for whatever price they wish, but knowing the actual prices cards move for is very important. The Market Price is believed to be an average of recent sales, although the exact algorithm isn't public.
A card with a Market Price of at least 85 percent of TCGPlayer Mid price tends to be a card with a very healthy market. If the Market Price is higher than the mid price, typically that card is about to see a significant price gain. So, MTGStocks is a great website that has a great tool to show you what card prices are trending up and down, as well as a Wall Street-style ticker.
How Fluid Are Magic the Gathering Cards as Assets?
Because Magic the Gathering cards are always in demand by a large audience of players and collects, Magic cards are among the most fluid assets in all collectibles. This means that most every card in the game has a cash value, even if it is mere pennies. The most important thing to understand with Magic cards is understanding how many formats in which a certain card is most useful. The formats to consider are Legacy, Modern, Standard, and Casual.
Legacy and Modern are known as Eternal formats. With Legacy, any cards are playable in a deck, except for those on the Legacy Ban List. Modern allows any cards that have been printed in any “modern” set, that is, since 8th Edition, as well as any cards that have been re-printed in older sets with modern borders in newer sets (even the old-bordered versions.) Modern also as its own banned list.
The major difference between these Eternal formats and Standard is that with Standard, there is a rotating card-pool. Standard is made up of the three most recent “blocks” of two sets (for example, as of October 2018, the Standard legal sets were Ixalan, Rivals of Ixalan, Dominaria, Core Set 2019, and Guilds of Ravnica). Also, any older printings of cards that have been reprinted in any of the current Standard sets may also be played (including old-bordered and promotional versions.)
Because Standard is the most widely supported and played competitive format, the cards that are currently widely played in the top decks of the format tend to fluctuate widely in price. Depending on the current meta-game (meaning what people are playing most often and how that affects every other card that’s played), some cards can be $20 one day, and $5 the next. It all depends on how in favor a card is with the more competitive players. Of course, when a card leaves the Standard card-pool, its value almost always immediately plummets.
Often played Standard cards are usually the most fluid card you can have during the Standard season in which they are playable. Usually, the best thing to do with these cards if you’re not currently playing with them is to either cash in on them at the peak of their popularity, or “trade up” in Eternal staples.
Eternal staples are cards that are played in a wide variety of decks in Legacy and Modern. Because it’s a non-rotating format, the meta-game relatively stays much more consistent with only the release of new cards or the emergence of a new deck archetype really making much of a difference.
One of the best examples of an Eternal staple is Liliana of the Veil, who was a very good planeswalker in Standard, but even better in formats like Modern and Legacy, where the creatures that Liliana will often force opponents to sacrifice will be a lot stronger (Tarmogoyf, for example.) Speaking of Tarmogoyf, it was at one time a nearly $200 card). It’s definitely of the greatest eternal staples that there are, essentially seeing play in any deck that runs Green in those formats.
Commander (EDH) & the Casual Magic Addiction Drives Magic Card Prices
The last format we will discuss, and the format that is driving many card prices, is a little Casual format called Commander, better known as EDH.
Commander is the 100-card singleton format that has taken the world by storm. All you need is some Legendary Creature and 99 other cards that share colors with the casting cost (and any other mana symbols that appear on) that Legendary Creature, and you have an EDH, or Commander, deck of your own.
Commander itself, therefore, is an Eternal format that has a ban list, but because you can only run one copy of each card (excluding basic lands), the power level of certain cards changes dramatically. Because Commander games allow for more mana to be played and the games are far-more drawn out, cards with high casting costs that would never see play in a competitive Constructed deck often find themselves being a crucial win condition in many Commander decks.
A great example of a card like this would be Rise of the Dark Realms, a mythic rare from Magic 2014. For the longest time it was $2-3. In EDH, it’s an absolute bomb. Being able to bring creatures back from ALL graveyards can essentially win you the game. So, over time, it grew in price to almost $10, just from EDH play!
This means that mythic rares that may not be incredibly valuable, even ones that sell for about $1-3 USD, are still movable on the basis that someone may need a copy for their Commander deck, or know someone who needs one. So any bulk rare or mythic rare that you get may actually be wanted by someone for that very reason. But these kind of cards aren’t the only ones that you’re looking for: there are some cards that are very valuable, $10 or more, simply because they’ve become Commander staples!
One of the most important parts of Commander is top-deck manipulation. This is why cards like Sensei’s Divining Top (which was so good in Legacy that it was banned), Sylvan Library, and Scroll Rack are so expensive. Sylvan Library is the cheapest because it’s been reprinted in a core set. Sensei’s Divining Top has had three set printings and a From the Vault Reprint, but even the fair supply is low when compared to the high demand. The same is true for Scroll Rack, which has one regular printing, plus a very low supply reprint in Commanders' Arsenal. There are also some cards like Baneslayer Angel that used to be among the best cards in Standard, but today are only really played in EDH, which is why they are still about $10.
I could go into much further detail about the financial aspects of Commander, and I will at some point in the future. But for now, I’ll finish this article with what is likely the most important thing to invest in when it comes to Magic cards… FOILS!
The Allure of Foil Magic Cards as a Volatile, But Potentially Lucrative Collectible
Yes, there are many Magic players that could care less about foils. But it is true that many players like them, and to be fair, the set foils are quite a bit rarer than regular cards. I say set foils, because believe it or not, some promo foils and collectible foils are actually fairly worthless due to a massive print run. But for the most part, there are a lot of set foils worth many times the price of a regular version of that same card.
Why exactly is this? First of all, foils do not come in every pack of Magic, except in rare instances like the Masters sets (Modern Masters, Eternal Masters, etc) in which every pack does in fact include a foil. Every set since Urza’s Destiny has had the chance of a premium foil in a pack. However, since any card in a given set has a foil counterpart, many foils that are pulled are either basic lands (which aren’t worthless, but not much outside of Zendikar, Battle for Zendikar, or Unhinged full art versions) or cards that no one will ever want to play, outside of perhaps Limited.
Enter Commander. With many people wanting to “pimp” out their decks with foils, the demand on foil versions of even common and uncommon cards has risen greatly over the past couple of years. While cards that see a lot of competitive play obviously have high foil values, cards popular in Commander (especially Legendary Creatures, since many of them are viable Commanders) can be incredibly expensive.
Set foils are among the rarest cards in Magic, which is why mythic rare cards like Jace, The Mind Sculptor (whose Worldwake foil printing was worth $800 at one time) and Liliana of the Veil ($60 non-foil vs $180 foil) see such ridiculous price differences between their premium versions. Even a more casually-oriented card like Rise of the Dark Realms has a foil version that sells for about $20! Mythic rare foils are usually pretty solid investments, simply because even the cheaper non-foil mythics have decently valuable foil versions.
Of course, Standard staples tend to have pretty high foil values, as well. But like their non-foil counterparts, their value is incredibly variable, and foil prices fluctuate even more wildly. What drives up a foil price is usually the majority of players’ unwillingness to part with a certain card, especially if that card will be playable in Modern or Legacy, as well (Liliana of the Veil is a perfect example).
As a general rule, foils of cards that see considerable play in any format are valuable. However, many widely played commons and uncommons can be purchased from online retailers for very near the price of a regular version, so be aware. (Again, MTG Price or MTG Goldfish is a great way to check on the differences since it indexes both.)
Should I Buy, Sell, or Trade My Magic Cards?
Now that you have this information about your collection, you may wonder what’s the best time to buy, sell, or trade Magic cards. The first thing to keep in mind is the Standard rotation.
Every October, there is a standard rotation that occurs, meaning that the oldest two sets in Standard are no longer playable in Standard with the release of the first set in the new block. (For example, in October 2017, cards from Battle for Zendikar, Oath of the Gatewatch, Shadows Over Innistrad, and Eldritch Moon are no longer playable.) Just months before, many prices of Standard cards will have dropped, but many will still retain some value if they are still seeing competitive play (especially when there are Standard Pro Tour Qualifiers going on.)
It is important to unload any cards in the Standard sets that you aren't using that will be rotating out of Standard in October during the summer before. This is because after rotation, those cards’ prices drop precipitously as everyone is simultaneously unloading them.
Even cards that will see Modern and Legacy play, as well as Commander play, will drop in value, as well. This is because many Standard players will not play Modern, and look to move their extra copies for the newer cards or for cash. For Commander and Eternal players, after rotation is the best time to buy cards that have just left Standard. This is because the supply will be there, since most Modern players that want them already have them. Therefore, most demand won’t be there until the next Modern Pro Tour Qualifier (PTQ) season.
Trading Up for Better Magic Cards
Anytime is always a good time to trade, however, as long as you are trading up. This means trading a bunch of Eternal staples for highly popular Standard cards that you can immediately move for either other Standard cards or more valuable Modern/Legacy/Commander staples. Watching the top deck lists and monitoring price gains and losses on MTGPrice or MTG Goldfish is a great way to know what cards are seeing more play.
MTG Goldfish is a particularly interesting website because of the fact that it’s primarily a website that tracks the card prices on Magic Online (MTGO or MODO). However, it also tracks paper card prices. The most useful aspect of this website, however, besides showing the ridiculous disparity in prices of paper vs online Magic, is that Goldfish tracks the top decks in every format in Magic Online (Standard, Modern, Legacy, etc.) and will let you know if particular cards are seeing a lot of play in top decks.
You’re probably asking why it matters if a card is played a lot of online. Well, since many competitive players play-test on Magic Online, and some of the best players in the world now actually began on MTGO, the lists Online are going to be very, very similar to those used in Paper Magic. If something does well online, it very likely will be played in paper at one point or another.
Knowing what cards are being played in winning decks lets you know what people will be looking for, and what buy lists will be pricing more highly. You want to adjust your trade binder accordingly. Sometimes, this information will give you a jump on acquiring cards at a low price before they suddenly become chase cards and you can turn an easy profit.
The bottom line is that you don’t want to sit on cards with a limited shelf-life. Yes, a lot of Standard cards will still be played in Commander. But remember, since you only need one copy, there will be play-sets galore being shipped off to buy-lists, traded in at local game stores, and filling bulk binders everywhere.
Many cards once they leave Standard fall from grace extremely quickly, so if you’re looking to buy or trade for Standard cards to play in Commander, you’re better off waiting for the rotation if at all possible. Any time is fine to pick up good Eternal cards. Again, you can use MTG Goldfish’s Metagame and Format Staples sections to see what cards are most popular in each format and what are always good trade targets.
The Ever-Changing Landscape of Magic the Gathering Finance
The prices of Magic cards are always changing due to the rising popularity of the game and the easy access to cards due to online availability. Using tools like MTGPrice, MTGStocks, and MTG Goldfish, as well as checking TCGPlayer market prices can give you a good idea at all times when to pick up certain cards at their lowest price or drop them before their value plummets.
Of course, Magic is not all about making money; it should be about having fun. But to maximize your fun, it’s important to use a little bit of economics in your card-buying routines, because you may find your collection grow a lot more quickly and your budget less strained if you keep yourself informed.
All photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. under Creative Commons license v2.0.
Magic the Gathering Amonkhet Standard Deck - Four Color (4C) Approach of the Second Sun (AKA New Perspectives Combo) Deck Tech
by Phoenix Desertsong
As a Magic: the Gathering player who loves instant win conditions built into cards, it shouldn’t be surprising that I’m a big fan of Approach of the Second Sun. It’s a deceptively simple win condition that this Amonkhet sorcery offers, too.
It costs 7 mana to cast (6W) and gains you 7 life. That doesn’t sound worth it, except if you haven’t cast a copy of Approach of the Second Sun during that game, you get to shuffle your deck and place it 7 cards from the top. If you already cast Approach of the Second Sun, however, you simply win the game.
Yes, it sounds simple enough. But 7 mana is a lot to pay for a card that really just gains you 7 life the first time you cast it. Fortunately, the Amonkhet set offers not only ways to ramp your mana, but also draw a whole bunch of cards thanks to the Cycling mechanic. There’s a neat little trick to make a whole bunch of mana in this deck, which will hopefully get you enough mana to cast Approach of the Second Sun twice in a single turn! Part of it has to do with a 6-mana Enchantment called New Perspectives, which is why some people have come to call this build New Perspectives Combo.
While there have been many builds of Approach of the Second Suns built in the early going, the most consistent and successful so far is this 4-color Approach of the Second Suns deck piloted by ksk0601 in a Magic Online Competitive Standard League to a 5-0 finish!
4 Vizier of Tumbling Sands
4 Shefet Monitor
1 Sphinx of the Final Word
4 Traverse the Ulvenwald
4 Haze of Pollen
4 Shadow of the Grave
4 Renewed Faith
1 Approach of the Second Sun
4 Weirding Wood
4 Cast Out
4 New Perspectives
1 Fetid Pools
2 Fortified Village
4 Irrigated Farmland
4 Scattered Groves
4 Sheltered Thicket
4 Drake Haven
2 Kefnet the Mindful
4 Angel of Sanctions
Essentially, this deck focuses on Cycling a bunch of cards, gaining life, and preventing combat damage long enough to cast your win condition card twice. Let’s break it down, starting with the creatures.
Vizier of Tumbling Sands is a great little creature who can untap permanents (such as your lands) and be cycled himself to draw you a card, and untap a permanent. Shefet Monitor is a 6 mana creature, but he can be cycled for 3G to not only draw you a card, but put a basic land card from your deck into play. It’s especially important that this card doesn’t come into play tapped, so you can tap it for mana right away.
Sphinx of the Final Word plays several roles in this deck. First of all, he can’t be countered, and gives you a 5/5 flying presence. He is also hexproof, so he’s extremely difficult for opponents to remove. But the best thing about the Sphinx is that he makes instant and sorcery spells you cast unable to be countered. With only a single copy of Approach of the Second Sun in the deck, you have to ensure that it doesn’t go to the graveyard.
Non-Creature Spell Lineup
Traverse the Ulvenwald has been proven to be a good Magic card, and it’s particularly strong in this deck. For only a single mana, you can get a basic land card into your hand. However, once you have 4 card types in your graveyard, you can add a creature card to your hand instead. It’s a cheap little tutor that can do a lot of work for you.
Haze of Pollen is essentially a “fog” effect, meaning that it prevents all combat damage in a given turn. It costs only 1G to cast and you have the option to cycle it for 3 mana. This flexibility will come in handy as the game progresses.
Shadow of the Grave is one of my favorite cards in this deck. It costs 1B to cast, and is in fact the only Black card in the deck. It’s well worth running, though. What this little instant does is allow to you get back every card that you cycled or discarded that turn. This is pretty nuts, and actually combos well with an Enchantment that we’ll get to shortly.
Renewed Faith is a 1W instant that gains you 6 life. But you can also cycle it for the same amount and instead have the option to gain 2 life. It’s a very solid card when you consider how valuable gaining life in this sort of deck really is.
There’s only a single copy of Approach of the Second Sun in the deck. This seems incredibly risky, but fortunately, this one copy should usually be all you need.
Moving onto the Enchantments, we have 4 copies of Weirding Wood from Shadows Over Innistrad. Not only does this card enchant a land and allow it to produce two mana of any one color, but it also makes a Clue token, which you can trade in for a card later. This card is a great combo with Vizier of Tumbling Sands to ramp your mana.
Cast Out is a 4 mana enchantment with Flash. It can remove any nonland permanent your opponent controls. This is not the cheapest removal around, but it’s a catch-all that is very useful in a deck like this where you’re working towards a very specific goal. It also has a very cheap cycling cost of a single White mana, so it’s pretty much always going to net you card advantage.
New Perspectives is an Enchantment that costs a whopping 6 mana (5U) but actually does quite a but in this deck. When it comes into play, you draw three cards. That’s already pretty solid. But it’s the second thing that it does which makes it good for this deck. When it’s in play, and you have seven or more cards in hand, you can pay 0 for all cycling costs.
While having 7 cards is a lot, with all of the card draw in the deck, and Shadow of the Grave getting you back a lot of cards, this is an attainable goal. In fact, getting this enchantment out is what really allows you to get enough mana to win the game in one turn. If you can keep cycling enough cards to draw into your Approach of the Second Sun twice, you have a strong chance of winning.
Unsurprisingly, the mana base is full of rare cycle lands from Amonkhet. There’s one copy of the Blue/Black Fetid Pools, 4 copies of the White/Blue Irrigated Farmland, 4 copies of the Green /White Scattered Groves, and 4 copies of the Red/Green Sheltered Thicket. The last one is particularly strange, considering that there are absolutely no Red mana costs in the deck. But they are mainly in here for the cycling ability.
There are also 2 copies of Fortified Village, which will often come into play untapped since there are so many Plains and Forests in the deck (the cycle lands have basic land types.) For basic lands, there are 5 Forest, 1 Plains and 1 Island. It’s a solid mana base.
This deck is setup to draw a lot of cards, stop combat damage, and gain life, all to get to cast one card twice to win the game. The deck can’t really win otherwise. However, in cases where you run into an extremely aggressive deck or a control deck that won’t let you resolve Approach of the Second Sun, there are ways in the sideboard to win anyway.
Two copies of Dispel and three copies of Negate help in the counter wars that could occur as you try to resolve Approach of the Second Sun. Negate is also useful in stopping planeswalkers dead in their tracks.
Drake Haven is a particularly cool card. This 3 mana Enchantment allows you to pay 1 colorless mana to make a 2/2 flying Drake token whenever you cycle or discard a card. This means that the cycling engine of the deck can stay intact, even in aggressive matchups. These can replace the slow 6-mana New Perspectives in those types of match-ups.
Kefnet the Mindful is one of the Amonkhet Gods, and the one that is hardest to get online. But as long as you have at least seven cards in hand (not hard to do in this deck), you get a 5/5 indestructible flyer. His draw a card ability can be useful, too, even if you do have to return a land you control to your hand.
Another great weapon to have against more aggressive decks is the 4 copies of Angel of Sanctions. It does something that the Enchantment Cast Out does - remove a nonland permanent your opponent controls from play - except on a 3 / 4 flyer. Angel of Sanctions also has Embalm, so even after it dies, you can end up making a token of it that does the same thing. It’s a good replacement for those Enchantments when you need to remove opponent’s threat while also giving you a way to do damage in the air.
Thoughts on the Deck
This is a pretty cool deck that takes full advantage of the cycling mechanic cards in Amonkhet. It basically stops your opponent from winning just long enough for you to say “I win” by playing a 7 mana card twice. What I really like about this particular build is the sideboard, which allows you to adjust the deck based on the match-up. Having only a single copy of your main win condition is risky, but with the number of cards you can draw, it shouldn’t be hard to get it into your hand during the course of a game.
There are other ways to build an Approach of the Second Sun deck, of course, but the New Perspectives Combo build seems to be the most consistent way for it to work. After all, this deck did go undefeated in matches in a competitive Magic Online tournament.
Not only that, but Saffron Olive of MTGGoldfish went ahead and played a version of New Perspectives Combo in his Against the Odds video series. While the end result hardly surprises me (he went 5-0 in on-video matches), it proved that this is a deck that actually works! Notably, his sideboard contains 3 copies of Radiant Flames instead of 3 of the 4 Angel of Sanctions, and I think this might be a good choice, especially in a deck that can produce 4 colors of mana!
How would you build an Approach of the Second Sun deck? Is this a deck you’d like to play, especially now that it’s been proven to actually work?
Could Magic the Gathering Online's New 1v1 Commander Tournament Scene Change EDH Forever?
by ElspethFTW, Gaming Successfully Staff
1v1 Commander has been a real format in Magic: the Gathering for some time. Unofficially, 1v1 Commander has been regulated by the Duel Commander rules committee. Recently, noticing just how popular the format is on Magic Online, Wizards of the Coast decided to add tournament support for 1v1 Commander! Hurray! Right? Well, there are some interesting things that they did in order to do so.
Somewhat strangely, Wizards decided to adopt their own banlist that is completely different from the one that the “regular” Duel Commander committee uses. You can see the massive difference in what Wizards of the Coast is banning in the format VS what the duel Commander Committee decided to ban effective on May 10th here. While having two wildly different banlists for official online play and paper play is obviously going to be confusing for long-time players familiar with the “French banlist,” Wizards does have data to back up their decision making process.
However, Wizards did spark outrage by announcing that players of multiplayer Commander, as of May 10th, would have to abide by the one-on-one banlist. Being completely unbalanced for a multiplayer format, it makes sense that this seemed to spell laziness on the part of Wizards. Did they simply think that the well-established multiplayer community (who have been going with the MTGcommander.net banlist for ages) would just go along with this?
Fortunately, thanks to the outspoken Magic community, Wizards announced that they will return to two separate banlists for one-on-one and multiplayer Commander by July 5th. However, this means that people who enjoy multiplayer Commander on Magic Online, which is quite a few, are going to have to experience a very different Commander format than the one that they’re used to. I won’t go into a card by card breakdown of the different banlists here, but what I can say right away is that it’s going to force some creative card choice changes and create a very different metagame than the one that most Commander players are used to.
However, in spite of this obvious miscalculation to force the same banlist on everyone, Wizards may have actually done something very good for Commander. With EDH actually becoming a competitive format on Magic Online, even if it’s just one-on-one, this means that Wizards is hopefully going to be treating the format with more care. Wizards keeps printing some extremely powerful cards that warp the format. This is especially in one-on-one, as we’ve seen by some of the decisions made by the Duel Commander rules committee, which isn’t affiliated with Wizards.
Now, of course, multiplayer Commander is going to remain the “casual” format that it has always been. It’s not making Wizards money (directly) like the 1v1 Commander tournament support will. And, of course, 1v1 Commander plays very differently than multiplayer in some ways. The politics are definitely one of the selling points of multiplayer Commander. Also, there are many cards in Magic that go from being mediocre in one-on-one Magic to incredible once you have four or more players at the table.
I think by monetizing the one-on-one Commander format, which is already a fiercely competitive format, especially in Europe, it will probably make Wizards think more about the format when designing cards specifically made for the format. Also, by making players on Magic Online wait for their original multiplayer banlist to be reinstated, it’s going to make people experiment. These new forced limitations will probably lead to new interactions between cards being discovered. It could actually be a good thing for the format as far as deckbuilding is concerned, especially when forced to live without staples such as Sol Ring.
What concerns me, though, is while I’m happy to see Commander become a real competitive format supported by Wizards, it could also mean that people are going to buy out cards that are currently affordable to online players. Many players who play Commander on Magic Online play there because it is far cheaper to build decks on there, at fractions of the cost when compared to purchasing the cards individually in paper. As of early May 2017, you can build fairly competitive Commander decks on Magic Online for as little as $20.
While most competitive 1-on-1 decks are built somewhat differently than multiplayer ones, especially due to the different banlists, there are a lot of cards that don’t see play in other competitive Magic formats that do see play in all forms of Commander. This could price a lot of the Commander community out of bothering to play on Magic Online. Also, this could be a bad thing for the community as MTGO is the only place that many Commander players can reliably get a game going on a regular basis. It’s also where a lot of Commander players playtest their decks before purchasing cards in paper (of course, Wizards doesn’t care about that!)
So, while I love that the 1v1 Commander format will now be supported by Wizards of the Coast, it’s obviously been done because they see it as a new way to make money. As for the financial impact on Magic Online, you’ll want to watch the cards banned by Wizards for the Commander format, as well as those that are no longer banned in the online 1v1 Commander format. (Prophet of Kruphix is a big one!)
I really appreciate that Wizards actually took the time to explain their reasoning behind each of the bannings. I doubly appreciate that multiplayer Commander will return to normal after the release of Hour of Devastation on Magic Online. It’s very good to know that they continue to listen when they make strange decisions, and will look to find an amicable solution that everyone can live with.
But wait, if you’re a Commander player who doesn’t play on Magic Online, how will this affect you? Simply put, if 1v1 Commander becomes a fruitful enough format online, it’s extremely likely that Wizards will be supporting it in paper Magic, as well. This will affect the availability (or unavailability) of the same cards. It will be interesting to see how the unofficial and official banlists will be reconciled over time. Even if you don’t care about Magic Online, what will happen in Commander in MTGO will no doubt have an effect on off-line Commander, as well.
It's very confusing that for a bit there will be a paper multiplayer banlist, a paper 1v1 banlist, and an online 1v1 & multiplayer banlist. What Wizards was trying to do was unify the lists to make one banlist for all of them. They were probably hoping that through testing it would inform the official multiplayer Commander banlist, as well. The best solution, of course, is for everyone to use the same banlist for 1v1 and multiplayer, most likely. However, since multiplayer and 1v1 play differently, we'll see if this can actually ever happen.
What is your take on Wizards supporting competitive 1v1 Commander? Do you think it’s good or bad for the format? What do you think will happen in regards to multiplayer Commander due to having to be forced to use a different list for two months?
Whatever happens, 1v1 Commander will definitely be a format I watch closely now. Let’s hope Wizards makes this a fun format for everyone!
Liliana's Mastery VS From Under the Floorboards - Magic the Gathering (MTG) Amonkhet Card Reviews
by Phoenix Desertsong
Liliana's Mastery is a neat little Enchantment from Magic: the Gathering's Expansion set. It costs 5 mana to cast (3BB) and gives all of your Zombies +1/+1. The Enchantment also brings two 2/2 Zombie creature tokens into play. This means that these tokens are nominally 3/3 creatures with Liliana's Mastery in play. With how successfully Mono-Black Zombies played in Amonkhet Standard right from the get-go, it's not surprising that Liliana's Mastery has been seen as a two-of in some lists.
With the mass of new Zombie cards featured in Amonkhet, many players are seeking out any other cards that might synergize well with the powerful new Zombies. One card that has come to mind is a Zombie-themed sorcery card from Shadows Over Innistrad, From Under the Floorboards.
With the same mana cost as Liliana's Mastery, it would seem that this sorcery and the Enchantment would be competing for the same space in the deck. So does this Zombie token creator with Madness seem worthy of Standard play?
From a raw power standpoint, these two cards are extremely similar. From Under the Floorboards puts three 2/2 Zombie tokens into play. This is the same 6 power that Liliana's Mastery offers, but spread among three creatures instead of two. However, those tokens come into play tapped, which is a drawback. To make up for that drawback, you get to gain 3 life. For 5 mana, that's a good amount of value.
What really stands out about this card is its Madness cost. It has an X cost in it, meaning that if you discard this card, you can choose how much mana to pump into it. Heck, it's probably worth it to pay 1BB for the token and 1 life, especially since it can be played at Instant speed when Madness is being used.
Here's the thing, though. Cards that cost 5 mana or more that don't have an immediate impact on the board tend not to do well in Standard. Granted, this card does have a nice interaction with Wayward Wanderer, which would usually gain you 3 life and make your opponent lose 3 life. But with Liliana's Mastery, you're getting an immediate power boost for your other existing Zombies, plus two 3/3 bodies that can block right away. Then, you can get an immediate 4 point life swing from the Wanderer (or more if you have multiple Wanderers on board). The immediate effect on the board is more obvious.
Both of these cards are good, but I see why competitive players have shunned From Under the Floorboards. With another Zombie lord, Lord of the Accursed, also in Amonkhet, the boost from Liliana's Mastery is likely enough for the Zombie player to make a lethal push. The Mastery definitely wins here, although I really like From Under the Floorboards in a White/Black Zombie deck that favors tokens and Anointed Procession, which doubles said tokens.
Which do you prefer: From Under the Floorboards, Liliana's Mastery, or would you just play both?
Magic the Gathering - Amonkhet Planeswalker Deck Review - Gideon, Martial Paragon and Friends
by R.A. Rowell; Co-Owner of Intent-sive Nature & the Brand Shamans network
With Gideon of the Trials making waves in Modern, it might be easy to forget that there is another incarnation of Gideon on the plane of Amonkhet. Featured in one of the two Amonkhet Planeswalker decks, Gideon, Martial Paragon is a powered down, but still very interesting Gideon planeswalker.
First, we’ll take a look at Gideon, Martial Paragon himself as a planeswalker, as well as the three other exclusive cards in the deck. All are Standard-legal as long as Amonkhet is in Standard. Will Gideon and his friends from his aggressive red/white entourage match up to Liliana, Death Wielder and her crew?
Gideon, Martial Paragon costs 5 mana (4W) to cast and comes into play with 5 loyalty counters, which is a decent number for any planeswalker. His first ability adds 2 loyalty counters and untaps all your creatures. It also gives them +1/+1 until end of turn. This ability seems a bit strange at first. But there is a reason that this Gideon’s ability is good in this deck as we’ll see soon.
His 0 ability is familiar to those who have played with other Gideon planeswalkers. He becomes an indestructible 5/5 Human Soldier who can take no damage that turn. Do remember that he doesn’t gain haste, so you can’t attack with him the turn that you first cast Gideon.
Gideon’s “ultimate” ability costs 10 loyalty counters, but it’s not hard to see it ending the game. Creatures you control gain +2/+2 until end of turn and you tap all creatures your opponent controls. That’s pretty good! All in all, this is a decent planeswalker. He doesn’t hold a candle to Gideon of the Trials, but he’s not meant to. This Gideon planeswalker is borderline Standard playable already. But at 5 mana, he doesn't quite do enough to see play in typical competitive decks.
So, do you need a way to seek out your Gideon planeswalker? Well, with each of these Planeswalker decks, you get two copies of a card that not only can grab your deck’s planeswalker from your deck or graveyard, but that does something else as well.
Gideon’s Resolve is a 5 mana Enchantment that gives all creatures you control +1/+1. While this seems like a rather expensive “anthem” effect, because you get to search out Gideon, too, it’s actually well worth the mana investment.
Companion of the Trials is a nifty creature, exclusive to this Gideon deck. It’s a 2/2 flyer for 3 mana that has an ability that’s only available when you control a Gideon planeswalker. That ability costs 1W and untaps a creature you control. It’s not a tap ability, so you can use it as many times as you have mana. This untapping ability is going to be very relevant in this Gideon deck.
Graceful Cat may not look exciting, but this common kitty can do a lot of work. As a 2/2 for 2W, he gains +1/+1 whenever he attacks. While this is decidedly average, having four copies of him in this deck makes him a solid role player.
These three exclusive cards all serve a purpose in this Gideon deck. The theme of this deck focuses around a mechanic where needing to untap your creatures actually matters.
Now, let’s look at the whole deck list and get a feel for what we’re getting here:
1 Gideon, Martial Paragon
1 Glory-Bound Initiate
3 Gust Walker
1 Nef-Crop Entangler
1 Pathmaker Initiate
2 Honored Crop-Captain
3 Companion of the Trials
1 Devoted Crop-Mate
4 Graceful Cat
3 Ahn-Crop Crasher
2 Sparring Mummy
1 Tah-Crop Elite
2 Hyena Pack
1 Impeccable Timing
2 Cartouche of Zeal
1 Hazoret's Favor
3 Trial of Zeal
2 Gideon's Resolve
4 Stone Quarry
Glory-Bound Initiate is a great example of what Gideon, Martial Paragon’s deck is all about. This Amonkhet rare features the Exert mechanic. What Exert does is allow you to activate an additional ability when the creature attacks, at the cost of not being able to untap for an additional turn. While the Exert ability is usually worth it normally, a deck that has consistent ways to untap its creatures essentially pays next to nothing for using Exert abilities.
The Initiate is a particularly good creature with Exert. He’s a 3/1 for 2 mana, which is okay on its own. But with Exert, he gets +1/+3 and lifelink until end of turn. That means he’s a 4/4 with lifelink for only 1W! If you’re able to untap him with the ability of Companion of the Trials or Gideon himself on the very next turn, you can Exert all over again for next to nothing! If you’re looking to upgrade this deck, getting 3 more copies of this guy to round out a playset would be a great step!
Gust Walker is a fine common creature that’s a 2/2 for 1W, but he too has Exert! His ability gives him +1/+1 and flying! That’s pretty powerful, and he is definitely a must-run in this deck.
Nef-Crop Entangler is another 2 mana creature with Exert. This one isn’t quite as exciting, but he gains +1/+2 and trample with his Exert ability. While you wouldn’t think Trample on a 3/3 would be a big deal, it is when it’s used in the early course of a game!
Pathmaker Initiate is a cute card that can tap to make a creature with power 2 or less unblockable until end of turn. Honestly, this is a decent little creature if you’re playing in an Amonkhet Limited event, but I feel like he could be replaced with another Nef-Crop Entangler or another aggressive creature quite easily.
Honored Crop-Captain is one of my favorite creatures in the deck. She’s an aggressive 3/2 for 2 mana (one White, one Red) that gives other attacking creatures you control +1/+0 when she attacks. She gets the job done.
Devoted Crop Mate is a 3 mana creature that’s not only a useful 3/2 but has a really sweet Exert ability. When you Exert him, he can return a creature with converted mana cost 2 or less from the graveyard to the battlefield! That’s any of the creatures we mentioned up until this point! Talk about value!
Ahn-Crop Crasher is a playable Minotaur that’s a 3/2 with haste. He too has an Exert ability, which makes it so a target creature can’t block for the rest of that turn. On a creature with Haste, that’s plenty good. This is a good creature.
Sparring Mummy is a cute White Zombie. He costs 4 mana to cast and allows you to untap a creature when he enters play. This obviously works extremely well with the Exert mechanic, which is why he’s in here. If I were building a Constructed deck, though, this probably isn’t a creature I’d be playing, however.
As 4 mana creatures in this deck go, however, I do quite like Tah-Crop Elite. This bird is only a 2/2 flyer, but his Exert ability gives creatures you control (himself included) +1/+1 until end of turn. He’s fine as a one-of in my opinion.
Hyena Pack is the vanilla creature of the deck. With two copies of this 3 / 4 mana do-nothing creature, here is where you can upgrade your creature base. I’d probably throw in another Ahn-Crop Crasher and one of the aggressive two-mana creatures instead. But for an introductory deck, out of the box these are acceptable.
The Exert creatures are all pretty solid. So how does the rest of the deck shape up in assisting these Exert creatures to cheat once in awhile?
The instants in this deck aren’t too exciting. Impeccable Timing is a useful Magic card which deals 3 damage to a target attacking or blocking creature for 2 mana. Two copies of Electrify are about the only other removal in this deck. While 4 mana to deal 4 damage to a creature isn’t horrible, it’s no Flame Slash.
The Enchantments in the deck are decent, though. Cartouche of Zeal is a nice one-drop Aura that not only gives the target creature +1/+1 and haste, but when it comes into play, you can stop a target creature from being able to block that turn. Talk about value for a one-drop Aura!
It gets even better with Trial of Zeal. This Trial costs 3 to cast and deals 3 damage to a target creature or player. But when a Cartouche comes into play, you can return the Trial to your hand. It’s a nice combo of cards.
The last card we’ll talk about is Hazoret’s Favor. It’s one of the rare cards in the deck. It costs 2R to cast. At the beginning of each of your combats, you may have a creature you control +2/+0 and haste until end of turn. Although, if you do, you have to sacrifice it at the end of the turn. Still, it can be well worth the extra damage to sacrifice one of your creatures.
Thoughts on the Gideon Deck
While there's a lot to like in the Liliana, Death Wielder deck, the Exert-themed Gideon deck is pretty cool. The only concern that I have with it is that you will be wide open to counter attacks on many occasions. However, with some upgrades, this is a deck that can win some games quite handily. This deck does a great job with showcasing the Exert mechanic. If you add in Gideon of the Trials, this can be a really fun aggro deck.
If this looks like a deck you'd like to build from, the Gideon, Martial Paragon planeswalker deck is available on Amazon and TCGPlayer. Like any planeswalker deck, it even comes with two Amonkhet booster packs to help your deck and your collection.
Magic the Gathering - Amonkhet Planeswalker Deck Review - Liliana, Death Wielder & Friends
by Phoenix Desertsong
It’s no secret that Wizards of the Coast’s decision to replace the often-maligned Intro Packs with Planeswalker Decks has been a success. While the exclusive planeswalkers featured with the decks are certainly underpowered compared to their expansion set counterparts, they are certainly interesting and still sought after by many players. Amonkhet’s two Planeswalker decks feature Liliana, Death Wielder and Gideon, Martial Paragon. While you won’t see this Liliana and Gideon tearing it up at top tournament tables, they have their own merits to be appreciated.
Today, we’ll take a look at Liliana, Death Wielder and the black & green deck that she has to support her, including 4 cards exclusive to this deck. This Liliana and the other four cards are Standard-legal for as long as Amonkhet is in the format, so it’s worth taking a look at them all to see if they are actually playable.
Liliana, Death Wielder costs a whopping 7 mana to cast. Compared to Liliana, Death’s Majesty from the main Amonkhet set, this is quite an investment. However, Death Wielder’s abilities themselves are actually pretty good. She starts with 5 loyalty counters, which is a fairly high number, but keep in mind that she costs 5BB to cast.
Her +2 allows you to put a -1/-1 counter on up to one target creature. This doesn’t seem all that exciting until you read her second ability. Her -3 is to destroy a target creature with a -1/-1 counter on it. With the many -1/-1 counter interactions that can be seen in the Amonkhet set, these are very relevant abilities. Her “ultimate” ability costs a whopping 10 loyalty, but it allows you to return all creatures from your graveyard to the battlefield.
Honestly, for a Planeswalker deck exclusive, this gal is pretty good. She gets better, though, when you consider another one of the exclusive cards in this deck, Liliana’s Influence.
Each Planeswalker deck comes with two copies of a card that synergizes with the deck’s planeswalker. It not only allows you to search out the very planeswalker that the deck is based around, but also comes with a useful effect to help set up that planeswalker. While Liliana’s Influence costs a whopping 6 mana to cast, it does a lot.
Not only do you get to seek out your library or graveyard for a copy of Liliana, Death’s Wielder, but also the ability to put a -1/-1 counter on each creature you don’t control. This works very well with Liliana’s first two abilities, allowing you to easily do away with a 2 toughness creature once she comes into play with her +2 ability, or destroy a bigger creature with her -3 ability.
Desiccated Naga and Tattered Mummy aren’t super exciting, but are solid role player type creatures. The Naga has an ability for 3B to “drain” your opponent for two life, gaining you two life and making your opponent lose two. While you can only activate this ability when you have a Liliana planeswalker in play, that’s a fairly good ability. Tattered Mummy makes each opponent lose 2 life when it dies, a very solid ability on a common creature. There are 4 in the deck, too.
The other exclusive card is Foul Orchard, which is a land that comes into play tapped and allows you to tap for either black or green mana. It’s hardly exciting, but with 4 copies in the deck, you get some instant mana fixing.
As a whole, the deck has some really other interesting cards. Here’s the list:
1 Liliana, Death Wielder
1 Festering Mummy
2 Dune Beetle
4 Tattered Mummy
1 Channeler Initiate
2 Baleful Ammit
3 Desiccated Naga
1 Crocodile of the Crossing
2 Giant Spider
2 Decimator Beetle
2 Liliana's Influence
2 Splendid Agony
1 Edifice of Authority
1 Luxa River Shrine
1 Oracle's Vault
2 Trial of Ambition
2 Cartouche of Ambition
2 Cartouche of Strength
1 Gift of Paradise
4 Foul Orchard
1 Grasping Dunes
Before I get into the creature line-up, I really need to touch on Grasping Dunes. It’s a colorless land that not only can tap for a colorless mana, but also has an additional ability. For just one mana and a tap, you can put a -1/-1 counter on a target creature. You can only play this ability at sorcery speed, but that’s some pretty effective removal early in the game.
Festering Mummy is a cool little one-drop creature that allows you to put a -1/-1 counter on a creature when he dies. It’s a may ability, which is neat. There is only one copy of this guy in the deck, which is a shame.
Dune Beetle is a 1 / 4 vanilla creature for 1B. You’re not going to see this guy played in Standard, really, but is decent value for 2 mana in an introductory-type deck.
Channeler Initiate is one of the two other rares in the deck. He’s a 3 / 4 for only two mana, which is great. But when he enters the battlefield, you must be 3 -1/-1 counters on a target creature you control. Usually this is going to be himself, but that’s okay. He has an ability to tap and remove a -1/-1 counter from himself to add one mana of any color to your mana pool. He’s a pretty neat creature, actually.
Baleful Ammit is yet another creature with above average stats, a 4 / 3 with Lifelink for only 3 mana. But you have to put a -1/-1 counter on a creature you control when he comes into play. Of course you can just put it on himself. Still, this is a decent creature, especially when you pair it with something like Channeler Initiate.
Gravedigger is an older Magic card that’s been reprinted in Amonkhet. He has a simple ability, return a target creature card from your graveyard to your hand. There are plenty of creatures you’d like to get back in this deck, so it makes sense to include two copies of the Gravedigger.
Crocodile of the Crossing is a lot like Baleful Ammit in that he’s an above average creature that comes along with a -1/-1 counter you have to stick on someone you control. But the difference here is that he comes with haste. A 5 / 4 with Haste for 4 mana is nothing to sneeze at!
Giant Spider is yet another old Magic card reprinted for Amonkhet. This one is one of the first Magic cards ever printed! Being a 2/4 with Reach for 4 mana isn’t great by today’s Magic standards. But in this deck, to be able to block flyers is enough reason for this classic Spider to hang out in this list.
The last creature in the deck is two copies of Decimator Beetle. Like many of the creatures in this deck, you have to stick a -1/-1 counter somewhere when he enters. However, when he attacks, he can actually move a -1/-1 counter from a creature you control onto a creature that the defending player controls. This stag beetle is actually pretty cool!
There are only two instants in the deck, two copies of Splendid Agony. For 3 mana, this card allows you to distribute two -1/-1 counters among one or two target creatures. This is a pretty flexible card, particularly good in this deck. The only two sorceries in the deck are the two copies of the aforementioned Liliana’s Influence.
The artifacts in the deck are all pretty interesting, featuring the “brick counter” mechanic new to Amonkhet. These cards all feature a first ability that costs a mana to do some minor thing and puts a brick counter on the card.
The first is Edifice of Authority. It costs 3 colorless mana to cast. The first ability stops a creature from being able to attack that turn, which is helpful. But once you get 3 brick counters on the Edifice, you get to stop that creature from attacking, blocking, or activating its activated abilities. It’s a rather defensive card, but cleverly designed and useful in this deck.
The second brick counter card is Luxa River Shrine. Paying 1 mana to gain 1 life seems underwhelming, but it’s worth doing to get to 3 brick counters. Once you do, you get to tap for a free 2 life every turn, which is great for tempo.
The last of the three artifacts in the deck is also the other rare in the deck, Oracle’s Vault. Gaming Successfully has reviewed the Vault before, and found it to be an extremely useful card. Its first ability is decent, if not exciting, allowing you to exile the top card of your deck and play it that turn if able. But once you get to 3 counters, you get to use the second ability to play that exiled card for free! That could even be Liliana herself!
The Enchantments in the deck are very solid, too. It features two Trials and four Cartouches. One of the cooler interactions in Amonkhet, the Trials are enchantments that do something and stay in play until you play a Cartouche, when you can then return them to your hand. In this deck, we have two copies of Trial of Ambition. This 2-mana Enchantment forces your opponent to sacrifice a creature. It then just sits in play until you get to play a Cartouche.
The Cartouches are Aura Enchantments which are pretty cool. There are two copies of each Cartouche of Ambition and Cartouche of Strength. The Cartouche of Ambition gives you a chance to put a -1/-1 counter on a target creature, as well as giving one of your own creatures +1/+1 and lifelink. The Cartouche of Strength allows the enchanted creature to fight an opponent’s creature and gives it +1/+1 and trample. Being able to reuse the Trial of Ambition multiple times in a game is a powerful play.
The last non-creature spell in the deck is Gift of Paradise. It costs 2G to cast and enchants a land. When it enters play, you gain 3 life, plus that land can now produce 2 mana of any one color you choose.
Thoughts on the Deck
Overall, for an introductory deck, the Liliana, Death Wielder Planeswalker Deck has lots of great synergies in it. It plays well with the -1/-1 counter theme of the set, while giving you ways to accelerate your mana production to get to your Liliana. Also, the creatures are overall aggressive, and there are ways to gain life back in the deck. So while your big pieces in the deck are higher-costed, the deck has ways to keep you in the game while you prepare Liliana, Death Wielder to hit the board.
While I don’t ever seeing this deck actually profiting you in regards to what the cards in it are worth, this is a nice start to a black/green deck that’s certainly playable at your kitchen table. Compared to the Gideon, Martial Paragon deck, this deck is the one I would choose between the two Amonkhet Planeswalker decks.
See how we improved the Liliana, Death Wielder Planeswalker Deck with cards from Hour of Devastation!
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