Story of a Price Spike - Allosaurus Rider and the First Turn Kill Modern Combo Deck
Allosaurus Rider was the victim of one of the strangest buyouts seen in Magic the Gathering for some time. Pretty much every copy of the Elf Warrior, including the Coldsnap Prerelease and Duel Deck: Elves vs Goblins printings, disappeared from the internet. While this is a card that’s been popular among casual players for years, it seems extremely odd for a 7-mana Elf to suddenly be bought out. How could this possibly happen?
Allosaurus Rider isn’t a bad card. Yes, it costs 7 mana to cast. But, it can have pretty high power and toughness, due to the fact they are based on how many lands you control. That’s OK. But you can also put the Rider into play by exiling 2 cards from your hand instead of paying its mana cost. That’s all well and good. It’s pretty awesome in a casual game, right?
Well, not only would it be bought out once, but in fact, it would become bought out a second time, as well. The reasoning behind the second price spike would be clearer than the first. We will first look at the reasons for why Allosaurus Rider became a $15 card suddenly overnight the first time.
Eldritch Moon and Allosaurus Rider
Eldritch Moon spoilers held a couple of answers to the first price spike. The first is a mythic rare from the set with a mechanic new to the set.
Decimator of the Provinces (10)
Creature - Boar
When you cast Decimator of Provinces, creatures you control get +2/+2 and gain trample until end of turn.
Basically, this was a “fixed” Craterhoof Behemoth. In some ways, though, this card is better. It’s all about Emerge. What Emerge essentially does is let you sacrifice a creature and reduce the Decimator’s casting cost by the converted mana cost of the sacrificed creature.
By “casting” Allosaurus Rider with removing two 2 Green cards from your hand, you then only have to pay 3 Green Mana to Emerge a Decimator of Provinces. That’s pretty nasty.
But there was an even better one, and it's yet another Eldritch Moon card.
There’s an awesome Modern combo with Eldritch Evolution. Essentially, you to play a land on turn one and cast a Birds of Paradise or another one-drop mana dork. You can then easily cast an Allosaurus Rider as long as you have two other Green cards to exile. Then on the next turn, you play another land, cast Eldritch Evolution, sacrificing Allosaurus Rider.
Because you can search out a creature with converted mana cost X or less, you can get any creature of converted mana cost 9 or less and put it straight onto the battlefield. And in Modern, what better choice is there to get than…
That’s right. A turn two Griselbrand.
Now how consistent is this combo? I have no clue. But that is, well, pretty good. Obviously, there are other things you can do with Eldritch Evolution. Still, you can't imagine too many people beating a turn 2 Griselbrand.
If an entire deck around this strategy emerged and became relevant, it would be pretty awesome. Grishoalbrand, a Modern deck built around Goryo’s Vengeance, Nourishing Shoal, and the Through the Breach, has been a fairly consistent winner in Modern. But Eldritch Evolution gives a whole new engine to build around. Allosaurus Rider seems like a silly target, and you probably won’t always have a copy in hand at the beginning of the game, or by turn two. As with any combo deck, there’s going to be variance. But this is the beginning of what could be a new archetype.
Of course, Allosaurus Rider didn't remain a $15 card. Decimator of the Provinces ended up being a pretty fringe card, sadly. Other Emerge cards did fare better, though. On the other hand, Eldritch Evolution has proven to be pretty useful in Modern. But despite the obvious combo with Allosaurus Rider and Eldritch Evolution, the seven-mana Elf just proved to be too inconsistent to be worth running in the deck. After a reprinting in the Duel Decks Anthology and falling from grace as soon as people realized he just didn't belong in Modern competition, Allosaurus Rider fell back to being a $2 casual card once again. However, things would not stay that way.
Allosaurus Rider and Neoform
The second price spike of Allosaurus Rider came much later in May 2019. This time, the spike went as high as $20! While it would settle fairly quickly, to a TCGPlayer market price around $7, the card that caused the Allosaurus Rider to become a buyout target was much, much better. A sorcery spell called Neoform from War of the Spark would prove so good that it spawned an entire competitive Modern deck called Neobrand!
Neoform is a two-mana sorcery (1 Blue, 1 Green) that has an additional cost of sacrificing a creature. But, when you sacrifice that creature, you search your library for a creature with a converted mana cost of one higher than the creature you sacrificed. This means if you put an Allosaurus Rider into play, then cast this on it, you can go search your library for Griselbrand. It’s actually just like Eldritch Evolution, but a bit more restrictive in what it can search. The trade-off is that creature gets an additional +1/+1 counter placed onto it when it hits the battlefield.
What makes Neoform better than Eldritch Evolution is actually two-fold. First, Eldritch Evolution is three mana and Neoform is only two. So, Neoform can be played much easier and more quickly. Also, the +1/+1 counter is actually quite relevant when it comes to Griselbrand. Because Griselbrand has the Pay 7 life ability to draw seven cards, you can actually swing for 8 damage with lifelink, gaining back that 7 life plus one. The actual key to winning with this deck is to keep your life total up with Samut’s Sprint and Nourishing Shoal to keep up your life total. This way you can draw out your deck, which is why Laboratory Maniac is in the deck. But, you can also starting beating down with Griselbrand as early as turn one, which is what makes this deck so scary. It also helps that the deck plays a copy of Lightning Storm, which can finish off your opponent. Technically, the deck can win on turn one, which is what makes it so scary.
The Neobrand deck can be surprisingly consistent thanks to a few tricky mana producers. The deck plays 4 Chancellor of the Tangle in the deck to try to consistently start your first turn with at least one green mana in your mana pool. It also has 4 Simian Spirit Guide to get you free red mana. Manamorphose helps you mana fix - and draw a card - and one Wild Cantor gives you a way to get that one color of mana you need in a pinch.
The Neobrand deck is actually good enough that it became a 5-0 deck on Magic Online and even made second place at a Star City Games Modern Invitational Qualifier. Will this combo deck last in the Modern format? It’s hard to say if one or more pieces - such as Simian Spirit Guide - will eventually be banned, but as of this writing, Neobrand a viable combo deck in Modern. Allosaurus Rider is a key part of the deck’s combo, too, so it will maintain some value as long as the deck is viable.
What we can learn from price spikes like this is that you just never know when a card will be printed that will make some obscure card sell out across the internet. Basically, if a card has any way that it can be abused, like with the alternate casting cost of Allosaurus Rider, it will eventually get its day in the sun. Sometimes, the spike is short lived, but other times, there is a viable interaction that permanently lifts the card’s value. In the case of Allosaurus Rider, Neoform suddenly made the card Modern-relevant, and for that, this Elf Warrior will not be soon forgotten.
by RGFoxx, Gaming Successfully Contributor
Watching the MTGPrice Arbitration Tool that's available for free isn't exactly a foolproof way to make money. But what it does show you is cards that certain vendors are willing to pay above the going rate to obtain. Since about April, I’ve been closely watching Mizzix's Mastery. Many vendors have been selling copies for $2.49. At one point, StrikeZone Online was buying them for over $3. MTGPrice even had the fair trade value of this card pushing $4. So it seemed that TCGPlayer and some other venues are underestimating this card's value. Since then, the fair value has come down to under $3, and some copies are even available for $2.
The supply on this card isn't exactly huge. This seems like a card that could easily be $5, especially since there has been a Mizzix’s Mastery Combo deck in Legacy that saw some limited Top 8 success. Today, the buylists are paying anywhere from $0.50 - $1.50 for it. I would definitely watch this card carefully, though. Shadows Over Innistrad introduced many interesting spells that could do well in Spellslinger decks in EDH. Granted, this won't do much good for Madness spells, since they get exiled. But Mizzix of the Izmagnus is a good Commander, so I expect this card has more incoming demand than vendors expect. I could be wrong, but picking these up at $2 or less still doesn't seem like a bad plan.
Unless the Legacy combo deck takes hold in the format, most people won’t really want 4 copies of this card. So it won't spike like some other cards have in the near future. It will take time, especially with most of the demand coming from EDH. I just don't see many of these entering the market at the current buy list rates, though. Also, Star City Games still lists them at $4.99 a piece. So there is real potential for this card to be $5 sooner or later throughout the Magic market.
Twisted Image has been floating around Modern for quite some time. It’s been in the sideboards of Infect to deal with opposing Spellskites (making them 4/0’s and instantly killing them by having 0 toughness) or Noble Hierarchs (which become 1/0 and also die). It was also a way to deal with Deceiver Exarch in Splinter Twin combo decks - making them 4/1 and leaving them susceptible to Lightning Bolt and other removal. With Splinter Twin no longer in the format, though, Twisted Image is actually seeing more play. Several Top 8 Infect lists have run 1 to 2 copies in the mainboard. Why is this exactly?
One point of interest in Twisted Image is that not only does it switch the power and toughness of a creature, but it also draws you a card. For one mana, that’s a pretty good deal. Even if you’re casting it just to draw the extra card, it’s worth it. In infect, it also puts another card in the graveyard to help you delve for Become Immense or draw you yet another pump spell. Also, with the Enchantment Wild Defiance on the board, you turn Twisted Image into yet another pump spell. Wild Defiance gives any creature targeted by an instant or sorcery spell +3/+3 until end of turn.
Another interaction that’s come into play since the release of Oath of the Gatewatch is Twisted Image’s interaction with Stormchaser Mage. The Prowess creature begins life as a 1 / 3. Not only does Twisted Image activate Prowess and draw you a card, but essentially gives your Stormchaser Mage +2/-2. Whether Prowess aggro decks, either red/blue (Izzet) or red/blue/green (Temur) actually become a strong force in the format will go a long way in determining the future value of this instant.
With Slip Through Space already breaking into the Modern Infect deck as a one-mana cantrip that makes a creature unblockable, it remains to be seen if the one or two copies of Twisted Image in the mainboard is worth it.
by RGFoxx, Gaming Successfully
Back in the day, there was a sorcery called Assassinate. It cost 2B and destroyed a target tapped creature. It was pretty much a black removal staple in Black during drafts whenever it was in the set. Well, Swift Reckoning from Magic Origins is a better version of this card in White. It costs only 1W to cast for the same effect. Plus, it has Spell Mastery, meaning that if you have two or more instants or sorceries in your graveyard, it gets an additional effect. In this case, it gains flash, so you can cast it at instant speed.
What makes Swift Reckoning interesting is that there are buylists that buy it for as much as a couple cents (0.02 USD). Why the interest? You don’t really see it in competitive play at all. But casual players are happy to include this in their decks to deal with big attacking creatures. This has the ability to actually kill them as soon as they tap to attack, before they even deal combat damage. It’s actually a pretty good card. It’s situational, but it’s good. So if you come across copies of this card in your collection, keep in mind that it’s more than just a bulk uncommon.
by Richard Rowell, Gaming Successfully Staff
Some time ago, I wrote a bit about Petrified Field, a utility land from Odyssey. While it's hardly a staple in any deck, Petrified Field has seen play in Legacy and Vintage. It also sees a fair amount of play in Commander, as well. Land-based decks such as Titania, Protector of Argoth, in particular, really like to have it. What makes it good is that you can sacrifice it and return a land card from your graveyard to your hand. There are plenty of lands such as Wasteland that you'd like to reuse. It also provides colorless mana, which is more relevant than ever with the pure colorless mana requirements of cards from Oath of the Gatewatch.
Being an older card, there aren't many copies of Petrified Field still in circulation. Back in October 2015, I picked this card as a long-term investment, especially the extremely rare foils. It was only $4 a copy at the time. My target price was $8-10. As of March 2, 2016, the price jumped from $5 and hit $12. I expected foil copies to hit $20, and they are now over an average of $35. This wasn’t really a buyout. It was more of a price correction for a fairly under-appreciated card.
This is definitely a card that could be reprinted at some point, as it's not on the Reserved List. So keep that in mind when deciding what to do with any copies you may already have in your possession. Now that the price has settled around $10, however, you’re safe to pick any copies that you’d like.
Magic the Gathering (MTG) - Hanweir Battlements and Hanweir Garrison - Eldritch Moon Card Review
Early on in the Eldritch Moon spoiler season, curious Magic players were treated to a powerful Legendary Creature that appeared to be the back side of a flip card. As it turns out, Hanweir, the Writhing Township is much more than any flip card. It’s actually a combination of two other cards, Hanweir Battlements and Hanweir Garrison, one a land and the other a creature. Let’s see if these other two cards stack up to being worthy of using the new Meld mechanic to create this monstrosity.
Obviously, The Writhing Township is a lot to be excited about. A 7/4 with trample and haste, after all, is nothing to sneeze at. But it gets better. Whenever, The Writhing Township attacks, it brings along two 3/2 Eldrazi Horror tokens onto the battlefield tapped and attacking. It’s like a super Hero of Bladehold, and that card was a monster in its Standard days - and even still sees play in Modern. There is precedent for this type of card to be good.
Hanweir Battlements is a decent utility land. It produces colorless mana and also for the price of one Red mana can tap to give a target creature haste. That alone is pretty good. Hanweir Garrison is actually similar to the Writhing Township in that it makes tokens when it attacks, except they are 1/1 human tokens. As a 2 / 3 for only three mana, though, the Garrison is definitely playable.
How do we meld them into a Writhing Township? There’s a 5 mana ability on Hanweir Battlements that you can activate if you control a copy of Hanweir Garrison. You then exile both cards and put the Writhing Township into play.
Both cards are playable on their own, which is definitely a plus. Hanweir, the Writhing Township looks to be an absolute game-ending bomb. This is definitely a Meld card to be excited about. The fact that both pieces of it could work in an aggro deck meant we would see this combo in Standard play.
Eldrazi Aggro and some builds of Red Deck Wins played a full playset of Hanweir Garrison and one or two copies of Hanweir Battlements. These were winning decks, too, so the combo was strong as expected. Since their rotation from Standard, both cards have consistently shown up in Zurgo Bellstriker Commander decks, especially in 1-vs-1 Commander.
Both the Battlements and Garrison show up all across the Commander format separately, as well, but often still in the same decks. While not quite staples, they are widely played and still hold some value because of it. It's cool to see cards that make such a powerful combination be so useful on their own. This was a great design job by Wizards.
Blessed Alliance is a perfect example of a card with the Escalate mechanic which was new and unique to the Eldritch Moon set, the second of two sets in the Shadows Over Innistrad block. Right away, players saw this card as a strictly better version of Celestial Flare with its ability to force an opponent to sacrifice an attacking creature. Celestial Flare is a card that already saw play in Standard sideboards at the time, and that card costs double White (WW) instead of 1W.
But, Blessed Alliance can do a lot more than that, and is far more than a Celestial Flare with upside. It can also gain a player 4 life or untap up to two target creatures. Best of all, with Escalate, you can pay an additional 2 mana to get each additional effect. For just 5W, you can get all three effects out of one card. As we’ve seen in many past Standard environments, gaining 4 life can actually be pretty relevant, and untapping creatures can be a great combat trick.
Blessed Alliance was especially good in Shadows Over Innistrad/Eldritch Moon Limited, as there were some huge creatures in both Shadows and Eldritch Moon that often were attacking alone. In Standard, the obvious use for Blessed Alliance right away was as a counter to Eldrazi strategies. It would punish players attacking with their big Eldrazi Titans like Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. But it was a card that could do a lot more than that. The versatility of a card with three abilities was well known with cards like Dromoka’s Command in recent sets. Blessed Alliance looked to be a winner straight away.
As a card that saw a good amount of Standard play, and has even worked its way into Modern and Legacy, just how good is Blessed Alliance?
How Does Blessed Alliance Work?
Escalate is an interesting ability that allows you to activate additional modes of a card for a relatively small cost. Just choosing a single ability on Blessed Alliance for two mana is good enough, but being able to choose two for 3W or three for 5W makes this card good at all stages of the game.
Blessed Alliance and other cards with Escalate always have the same converted mana cost (CMC), no matter if you choose to pay for other options. Also, cards that would cast cards without paying their mana costs still require you to pay additional costs for Escalate. For example, if you can cast Blessed Alliance without paying the 1W, you still have to pay 2 more colorless mana for each ability you want to activate. However, if you have a way to reduce a card’s casting costs, those reductions can include paying for Escalate costs. So if you had a way to reduce the casting cost by 5 colorless mana, you’d only pay W and get all three abilities.
Really, though, most of the time you’re playing Blessed Alliance to force your opponent to sacrifice a creature. The cool thing is that if your opponent is attacking with multiple creatures, you can actually wait until after damage with the end of combat step to actually cast Blessed Alliance. Say your opponent is attacking with a 5/5 and a 3/3, but you only have a 4/4 able to block. You can block and destroy the attacking 3/3, let the 5/5 do the damage, but after damage, cast Blessed Alliance at the end of the combat step and take care of the 5/5. While this hurts, you get to remove both attacking creatures. Likely, you’re also paying an extra 2 mana to gain 4 life, taking a lot of the sting out of the hit you did take.
Unfortunately, you can’t choose to untap creatures, then force your opponent to sacrifice after damage is dealt, because all of the Escalate abilities must resolve at the same time. Still, cast correctly, Blessed Alliance can often swing a game in your favor.
Why is Blessed Alliance Good?
There are a lot of cool tricks you can do with Blessed Alliance. As a card that can play multiple roles in any given game, even if your opponent may be expecting you to cast Blessed Alliance, they won’t know when or how you may decide to use it. It can be a combat trick, a way to destroy an attacking creature, a bit of incidental lifegain, or some combination of the three. Let’s see some ways that Blessed Alliance can be good.
Blessed Alliance in Standard
During its time in Standard, Blessed Alliance first saw a lot of competitive play in Orzhov Control, a deck that featured the powerful Brisela combo of Bruna, the Fading Light and Gisela, the Broken Blade. Ironically, Blessed Alliance wasn’t very good in the mirror match between Orzhov Control decks, because the 9/10 Brisela would prevent you from casting spells with a converted mana cost of 3 or less. But, the Orzhov Control deck played other strong creatures, and Blessed Alliance was a lot better than the Celestial Flare control decks used to play, often in the sideboard.
Blessed Alliance was a decent card against the swarming Collected Company decks that dominated Standard for awhile. Not only could it take care of an attacking creature, but you could simultaneously untap your own creatures to allow them to block and even gain an additional 4 life, which could buy you a turn.
Later, with the release of Kaladesh, Blessed Alliance would become a staple in various other Control decks, especially U/W Control and Jeskai Control. Torrential Gearhulk was really popular in these decks, and it was pretty good with Blessed Alliance. While Gearhulk’s ability couldn’t pay the Escalate costs for free, you could still choose to pay the additional 2 mana for each ability if you wanted to. Getting an additional use out of Blessed Alliance was pretty sweet, even if you were just to gain 4 life or untap up to two creatures. But, since Torrential Gearhulk has flash, you could even Blessed Alliance for the Celestial Flare effect, too.
Blessed Alliance saw play all the way until the end of its Standard playability is Approach of the Second Sun combo decks. Being a slower deck that required you to cast two copies of Approach of the Second Sun in a turn to win the game, Blessed Alliance bought you valuable time.
Blessed Alliance VS Emrakul
There are two versions of Emrakul that we could be talking about here. One is the original Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, and the other is Emrakul, the Promised End, which was so strong in Standard that it was actually banned in the format! Of course, Blessed Alliance saw the most play against Emrakul, the Promised End.
Despite Emrakul, the Promised End having protection from instants, Blessed Alliance gets around this by not targeting a creature to sacrifice, but instead the player. So, even though your opponent still gets the cast trigger of the Promised End to take your next turn, if they attack into a Blessed Alliance, they’re still losing their 13/13 flying trampler, and that’s a major hit.
Likewise, Emrakul, the Aeons Torn can be sacrificed using Blessed Alliance, although your opponent is likely still taking an extra turn (if it was cast) and you’re still going to be hit with the Annihilator trigger on attack (forcing you to sacrifice 6 permanents). So, while Blessed Alliance certainly isn’t going to turn things around, it will deal with the offending 15/15, even if Emrakul then returns to the deck after being sacrificed.
While it’s not the perfect answer to either incarnation of Emrakul, Blessed Alliance will prevent you from taking a whole ton of damage to the face.
Blessed Alliance in Modern
Blessed Alliance has become a handy main deck instant in a variety of Modern decks such as Boros Nahiri, U/W Control, R/W Prison, and Esper Midrange. It’s usually seen at one or two copies per deck. Like with Torrential Gearhulk in Modern, Blessed Alliance is pretty good in decks with Snapcaster Mage. Although Snapcaster can’t cast Blessed Alliance for free, you can still pay the Escalate costs for additional effects, even when using flashback. Also, since Snapcaster has flash, you can reuse Blessed Alliance at instant speed.
Decks that continue to use Blessed Alliance in the sideboard include Green/White Collected Company, Bant Knightfall, Blue/White Control, Bant Eldrazi, Blue/White Spirits, and more.
Blessed Alliance VS Death’s Shadow
One deck that people like to play Blessed Alliance against is Death’s Shadow. Since the “gain 4 life” option can target any player, you can actually give your opponent 4 life. The reason this is relevant is that the deck’s namesake creature Death’s Shadow becomes more powerful the lower its controller’s life total is. It’s a 13/13 for one mana, but it gets -X/-X where X is its controller’s life total. So, if you can increase your opponent’s life total enough to make its power and toughness 0/0 or less, you can essentially destroy it.
However, if you choose the option to force your opponent to sacrifice a creature while your opponent controls two or more creatures, your opponent still can choose the Shadow as the creature to sacrifice (even as a 0/0 or less) as it still exists as a legal target as Blessed Alliance resolves. Of course, you could also use the lifegain option to make it small enough for you to kill with burn, or make it small enough where one of your creatures can block and destroy it; the untap option of Blessed Alliance comes into play here.
So, yes, Blessed Alliance is a useful card against Death’s Shadow..
Blessed Alliance VS Hexproof
Blessed Alliance is actually very good against Hexproof. In Modern, there are a couple of decks that play hexproof creatures. Spirits have Geist of Saint Traft and there’s Bogles with Slippery Bogle and Gladecover Scout.
While Geist of Saint Traft brings a 4/4 Angel with him when he attacks, Blessed Alliance can still work. You have to cast Blessed Alliance in response to the token trigger, which forces the attacking player to sacrifice the Geist before they can create the Angel. The same is true for creatures like Brimaz, King of Oreskos and Hero of Bladehold that bring tokens with them. It’s a timing thing. In the case of Slippery Bogle or Gladecover Scout, though, as long as they’re attacking alone, Blessed Alliance deals with them instantly.
Blessed Alliance vs Infect
Like with Bogles decks that rely on pumping up a single creature in order to do a bunch of damage, Infect does something similar. As their creatures can often gain hexproof through the use of cards like Vines of Vastwood, Blessed Alliance is a very useful way to cost your opponent a bunch of resources if your opponent attacks with a lone creature. While the lifegain option won’t ever be that relevant against infect decks, you may find yourself in situations where you’ll be using the untap creature option, too. But if the Infect player attacks after using a few pump spells with only one creature on their board, you can really blow them out with casting a Blessed Alliance.
Blessed Alliance vs Timely Reinforcements
When building a sideboard for Modern, some players wonder if Timely Reinforcements is a better card to sideboard than Blessed Alliance. Honestly, both cards are worth sideboarding as they play somewhat different roles. Timely Reinforcements can gain you six life, create three 1/1 tokens, or both. That’s a lot of value for 3 mana. But, Timely Reinforcements is a slower card at Sorcery speed. Still, it creates card advantage. Blessed Alliance is more of a combat trick that can create card advantage.
Both are solid sideboard cards, but Blessed Alliance is better against decks that often have creatures attacking alone. Timely Reinforcements is better against decks that like to swarm the board. They actually work well together in the same deck, so it really just comes down to the specific matchup.
Blessed Alliance and Isochron Scepter
Any time there’s a useful one-mana or two-mana instant printed, players will ask if it’s good with Isochron Scepter. The Scepter has the ability to imprint an instant with converted mana cost 2 or less onto it. You do this by removing the card from the game. Then, by paying 2 colorless mana and tapping the Scepter, you may copy the imprinted instant card and play the copy without paying its mana cost.
The cool thing about cards with Escalate is that you can still pay the additional costs even when the card is being copied like with Isochron Scepter. You don’t have to pay the 1W in this case, either. So, yes, Blessed Alliance and other cards with Escalate - like the extremely powerful Collective Brutality - do work well with the Scepter.
In fact, here’s a Boros Isochron Scepter deck that includes four copies of Blessed Alliance in the sideboard.
Blessed Alliance in Legacy
While it hasn’t become a staple in Legacy, Blessed Alliance has made some appearances in top Legacy decks such as Esper Mentor, U/W and U/W/R Stoneblade, Maverick, Deadguy Ale, and Eldrazi and Taxes. These decks would often play two copies in the main deck. It hasn’t seen much play in the format since 2017, though.
Blessed Alliance in Cube
Building and drafting cubes has become one of the most fun ways to play Magic. As a card that can serve a variety of roles in a draft deck, Blessed Alliance is a good card to put into a Cube. While it isn’t quite as strong in Limited as it is against particular archetypes in Constructed, it’s still a card that people will draft. It’s good against holding out against burn and aggro strategies, as it can essentially negate almost any burn card thrown at your face and buy you a turn or two against creature-heavy decks.
Blessed Alliance may not have become the Eternal staple that its Black cousin in Collective Brutality has become, but it’s a useful card that’s definitely playable in Modern and even Legacy. It even sees play in the occasional 1v1 Commander deck. While Blessed Alliance is basically a dollar uncommon, foil copies of Blessed Alliance command north of $8 a piece, as it’s a card that will probably see Modern play forever.
Gisela, the Broken Blade & Bruna, the Fading Light from Eldritch Moon - Magic the Gathering (MTG) Card Reviews
Gisela and Bruna are two of the trio of Legendary “Powerpuff Girls” first featured in Avacyn Restored. Both have become very popular in Commander, and Gisela saw Standard play at one time. We’ve already seen the third Legendary Angel of the trio Sigarda in Shadows Over Innistrad. Now, these two are mono-White creatures that do something that we'd never seen before in Magic. If Gisela and Bruna are on the battlefield at the same time, they get to “meld” into a new creature called Brisela. I am definitely not making this up.
Let’s look at them individually first.
Gisela, the Broken Blade is a 4 mana 4/3 Legendary Creature with flying, first strike, and lifelink. That’s pretty good on its own. But at the beginning of your end step, if you both own and control her and Bruna, the Fading Light, you get to exile them both and meld them into Brisela. But, more on that in a minute.
Bruna, the Fading Light costs 7 mana to cast, but she’s a 5/7 with flying and vigilance, and has a really powerful ability. When Bruna enters the battlefield, you get to return a target Angel or Human creature from the graveyard to the battlefield. That is just as good as it sounds. This means you can bring Gisela, the Broken Blade back to the battlefield from the graveyard very easily. So, now, we get to see what these two get to meld into.
These two Angel Horrors, clearly quite corrupted by Emrakul’s influence, become an Eldrazi Angel called Brisela, Voice of Nightmares. She’s a 9/10 with flying, first strike, vigilance, and lifelink. But she’s more than just a big beater. Brisela also has the ability to prevent your opponents from casting any spells that cost 3 mana or less. This includes most removal spells and completely shuts down many strategies.
Obviously, on paper, this trio looks extremely good. Gisela, the Broken Blade is probably good enough on her own to see play. Bruna, the Fading Light is well worth the 7 mana, too. The melding concept is quite fascinating. So, just how often would these two actually become Brisela?
Brisela, Voice of Nightmares in Orzhov Control
As it turned out, not only were Gisela and Bruna fairly playable in a mid-range White/Black Control deck, but being able to become Brisela were pretty much worth playing both of them. Gisela was fairly easy to remove with her 3 toughness, but because you could just cast Bruna to bring her back, that wasn't really an issue.
The deck archetype, often called Orzhov Control, but perhaps more appropriately called B/W Angel Control, saw lots of success playing two copies of Gisela and one to two copies of Bruna. It also played two copies of Archangel Avacyn and the very powerful planeswalkers Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Liliana, the Last Hope. While the deck certainly didn't need to meld a Brisela to win, it certainly didn't hurt when it happened. The deck also played Thalia's Lancers, which made it easy to search out whatever Legendary Creature you wanted.
Later, some Mono-White Eldrazi decks ran one copy each of Bruna and Gisela. There would also be Boros Angels and Bant Angels decks that would incorporate some Humans in the mix and actually run 3 or even 4 copies of each Bruna and Gisela.
Gisela, the Broken Blade would see play on her own in winning Azorius Aggro decks. And in some very competitive White Weenie lists, you'd sometimes find a copy of each Bruna and Gisela. Melding into Brisela gave typically small creature decks an explosive win condition. Throughout their time in Standard, Gisela and Bruna would pop up in one-ofs in other aggro decks, too, just because Brisela was just so difficult to answer.
After rotating from Standard, neither Gisela nor Bruna has seen any competitive play. However, their presence in EDH is another story!
Bruna, the Fading Light in EDH / Commander
As a Commander, Bruna is really nothing special. But in the 99 of other commanders, that's a different story. She's become a staple of Kaalia the Vast decks that focus on Angels. Really, she's good in any deck where you want to reanimate any Human or Angel for 7 mana. Plus, she's a 5/7 flyer with vigilance, so she's a pretty formidable body on the battlefield, too!
Gisela, the Broken Blade in EDH / Commander
Like Bruna, Gisela is an auto-include in many Angel Tribal decks, especially Kaalia of the Vast. According to EDHrec, Gisela sees play alongside Bruna in over 85 percent of possible decks. Their meld combo is just that good, even in Commander!
Value-wise, Bruna and Gisela are quite different in terms of price. Bruna, the Fading Light is a dollar rare with foils in the $5 range. However, Gisela is north of $6 with foils surpassing $15. This wide disparity in value stems from the fact that players bought far more copies of Gisela who saw more competitive play in Aggro decks than Bruna. Gisela was also a $10 card for a long time. So, while they almost exclusively see play together now, there are just many more copies of Bruna still available on the market.
Bruna, the Fading Light and Gisela, the Broken Blade are definitely cards you want to have around if you plan on playing any Angel tribal decks. They may not be seeing competitive play outside Commander anymore, but they had a good Standard run and their meld into Brisela is still a frightening thing to stare down whenever it hits the table.
Battle for Zendikar is a set chock full of aggressive creatures, most of them Eldrazi. While quite a few have gone on to competitive success, one that hasn’t quite found his place is a 5/3 for 4 mana, Dust Stalker. On the surface, he looks like a powerful creature. He does have the drawback of needing to return to his owner’s hand if you control no other colorless creatures. However, he has haste, and in a deck full of Eldrazi, his drawback is rarely an issue. Overall, he’s a pretty efficient creature.
However, as we are taking a look at Dust Stalker on Anatomy of a Bulk Rare, we have to see where he’s gone wrong. The obvious thing about the Stalker is that he doesn’t have Trample or any other secondary keyword other than Devoid (which just makes him colorless). By no means does this mean he’s bad. But for 4 mana, especially in Standard, you need to get more value out of him, especially in an aggressive deck. Even after Magic Origins and Dragons of Tarkir rotated from the Standard environment, he never really caught on. However, some budget-conscious tournament players have played Dust Stalker with varied success. But there aren’t enough people willing to commit to keeping around four copies for his price to rise much about $0.50 at retail.
In fact, so few people want to own Dust Stalker that many vendor buylists exclude him completely. This doesn’t mean you can’t sneak him into a buylist order to a vendor as an unlisted bulk rare. But major vendors really don’t need him. So what is there to make of him? Is he worth keeping around? Actually, yes. Over time, more casual players looking to build an aggressive red and black Eldrazi deck will latch onto this guy. So he does have a future. But I'd never expect him to be worth much.
As we have said before in this series, not all bulk rares are created equal. While this isn’t of the competitive ilk of Fathom Feeder, it’s definitely no Serpentine Spike. Battle for Zendikar, like many sets, is actually full of rares just like Dust Stalker, cards that over time people will find uses for and suddenly they won’t be bulk any more. I will take Fathom Feeder over Dust Stalker any day, but the Stalker is just one of those creatures that newer players will see, love, and just need to have. There’s nothing wrong with that, and while he may never get you more than 10 cents from a vendor buylist, he’s fine to hold onto.
On Anatomy of a Bulk Rare, we take a look at rare Magic the Gathering cards that will usually only net you a dime ($0.10) if you try to sell them to a store. Today, we take a look at an Eldrazi creature that started out hot, but quickly fell from grace. This little guy is called Fathom Feeder, and vendors have so many copies of this guy that if you don’t include him as a bulk rare to a major vendor like Star City Games, you could get as little as 2 cents a copy!
But wait, you ask, aren’t bulk rares worth a minimum of ten cents a piece? In most cases, yes, this is true. Most stores pay a minimum of 10 cents for each unlisted bulk rare. Some pay 10 cents for store credit, but only 8 cents for cash. Others even pay 12 cents cash. So, yes, on average a bulk rare is an easy dime. However, in some cases, like with Fathom Feeder, the overall supply becomes so great that many Magic card sellers simply don’t want to even pay a full dime a copy. With how popular Battle for Zendikar turned out to be, it’s not surprising there’s a glut of these guys.
There is hope for our two-mana friend, however. Fathom Feeder has actually seen play! For the most part, he sees play in Grixis Control. His main purpose in the deck is to serve as a 1/1 with deathtouch. The Ingest ability which activates whenever he connects with a player is a nice bonus, making that player exile the top card of his or her library. The ability for 3UB to draw a card and also exile the top card of each opponent’s library is also pretty sweet. This is a good creature. The trouble is, where does he fit in a competitive Eldrazi deck?
The trouble for Fathom Feeder is that there just isn’t a regular home for him in competitive play. He’s also not really popular among casual players in the way that many Eldrazi cards are. He’s very similar to Sire of Stagnation, which, while being a strong creature with valuable abilities, simply doesn’t have enough demand to be worth much more than bulk. Even at retail you have been able to buy copies of Fathom Feeder for a quarter ($0.25 USD) each. Paying a single dollar for 4 copies of Fathom Feeder seems a bit too good, doesn’t it?
Fathom Feeder is not what we would call a “true” bulk rare. Not only does he look playable, but he has actually been a part of some competitive Standard decks. He sees play in Commander, too, as part of several different strategies, including mill. Being two colors does limit him a bit, but it’s strange that Fathom Feeder isn’t still worth at least $1.
If you are looking to pick up any bulk rare, Fathom Feeder fits the mold of a card that can make you money someday if you hold onto them long enough. If you get them for 10 cents a piece, which is totally possible if you tack them on an order with TCGPlayer or a similar retailer, you actually can lose almost exactly zero money. It’s not unrealistic for this to be worth at least $1 again, and could get you between 25 to 50 cents a piece on a vendor’s buylist some day. As bulk rares go, Fathom Feeder is a good one. Worst case scenario, you can probably trade it away as a throw-in.
Anatomy of a Bulk Rare - Serpentine Spike from Battle for Zendikar (Magic the Gathering)
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
There are a couple of things that are always true when it comes to selling Magic the Gathering cards. Commons and uncommons will almost always get you between $3 - $5 per thousand and bulk rares will almost always get you at least 10 cents a piece. This means that bulk rares are probably the easiest guaranteed money in Magic. Of course, not all bulk rares are created equal.
On Anatomy of a Bulk Rare, we take a look at a wide variety of cards worth a minimum of 10 cents on the ordinary buylist.
Today, we look at Serpentine Spike from Battle for Zendikar. This is what we would call a “true” bulk rare. That means this card will never see any meaningful Constructed play. This 7 mana Sorcery is actually pretty good in Limited. The fact that it can often kill 3 creatures at once makes it a good card from a card advantage standpoint. It deserves to be a rare from that perspective. The trouble is that it requires three different targets to be effective, even if you have to choose your own creatures. The good news is that you can just choose 1 or 2 creatures, but you have to choose which ones to deal 2 damage, 3 damage, and 4 damage to in succession.
This is what you call a “high-variance” card. There will be times where this card will turn the game in your favor on its own. As a rare that was included in one of the Battle for Zendikar Intro Packs, some newer players probably became a bit frustrated with it due to how awkward this card can be.
The good news about Serpentine Spike is that you can always include it as a bulk rare when you’re selling cards to a store. Is it useful to you otherwise? As far as teaching new players about complicated cards, it can serve as a good teaching tool. If you’re drafting Battle for Zendikar for fun, it’s also good. But if you’re actually building a deck that doesn’t involve a limited card pool, you can happily let it go for a dime.
by Richard Rowell, Gaming Successfully Staff
Eldritch Moon is already looking pretty good as a follow-up to the extremely popular Shadows Over Innistrad. We already have a couple of strong Legendary Creatures, both of which should see plenty of play. The third card is quite interesting and could prove to be useful in Standard. Let's take a look.
Of course, we have to start with Emrakul. She's back in a big way. While this is no Emrakul, the Aeons Torn in terms of overall power level, this is quite a powerful Eldrazi. The most interesting part about Emrakul, the Promised End is that she costs 1 less to cast for each card type among cards in your graveyard.
Potentially, she could cost as little as 5 mana if you have all 8 card types in the graveyard (Artifact, Creature, Enchantment, Instant, Land, Planeswalker, Sorcery, and Tribal. However, Tribal was only a thing in Lorwyn, Morningtide, and Rise of the Eldrazi, plus one Tribal card for Rebels in Future Sight. So she will only cost as little as 6 in Standard. However, in Modern, since All is Dust is playable, you could potentially have all eight. Also, like the infamous Tarmogoyf, she counts card types, so if a card has multiple card types, she counts each of them.
So, a 13/13 with flying, trample, and protection from instants seems like quite a bargain, especially since you'll pretty much never cast her for the full 13 colorless mana. But the Promised End does something particularly spectacular. When you cast her, you gain control of target opponent during that player's next turn. Essentially, you get a Mindslaver effect. In Modern, that is one of Tron's main win conditions. This effect is great, and is similar to the original Emrakul's ability to take an extra turn. But there is a drawback. Your opponent, if that opponent survives that is, gets to take an extra turn, too. Then again, it's pretty hard to deal with a 13/13 flyer.
The cast trigger makes Emrakul, the Promised End a creature that you really have to think about when you cast her. In many situations, you'll be able to just end the game. You just need to be sure that giving that player that extra turn won't cost you. Still, there's a lot to love about this new Emrakul and she'll definitely see play in Standard, if not Modern, and elsewhere. I'm curious to see how she fares in Commander, as the original Emrakul is banned. I could see her doing damage pretty much anywhere that she goes. Also, consider that if she comes to play but isn't cast, you don't have to worry about her ability. There's a lot to think about when brewing with the Promised End.
Kitchen table and Commander players alike have been clamoring for a Werewolf Legendary Creature for some time. Ulrich of the Krallenhorde not only fits that bill, but is a pretty strong creature with two powerful flip abilities. Whenever Ulrich enters the battlefield or transforms into Ulrich of the Krallenhorde, target creature gets +4/+4 until end of turn. So it's actually possible to make Ulrich an 8/8 at times.
If that ability wasn't already good, Ulrich, Uncontested Alpha gets to fight a target non-Werewolf creature you don't control every time he transforms. Being a 6/6, this is going to take out just about anything. There's a lot of value here. On top of that, even though Ulrich is legendary, you can technically have one Ulrich of the Krallenhorde and one Ulrich, Uncontested Alpha on the board at once, as long as they don't ever "see" each other when they are flipped to the same side. As good as Ulrich looks, in regular Constructed play, being a 5-mana Legendary Creature is going to mean you can't play the full 4 copies. In Commander, Ulrich should be extremely powerful. Finally, Werewolf Tribal has a strong leader.
While definitely not as exciting as the other two cards, Coax from the Blind Eternities could actually prove to be pretty good. Not only can this Sorcery get an Eldrazi card from your sideboard into your hand (much like Glittering Wish and the other Wishes from Judgment), but it can even get an Eldrazi out of exile.
One of the best ways to deal with Eldrazi in Standard is Stasis Snare, which can exile the creature at instant speed. But with Coax from the Blind Eternities, you can simply get that Eldrazi back to your hand. This feels good. It could either see a good amount of play, or none at all. Tutoring up an Eldrazi, or any Tribal Eldrazi card for that matter, seems well worth 3 mana. Many Eldrazi decks already play blue mana so it doesn't seem like much of a stretch to include this. Whether it ends up in the mainboard of some Top 8 deck or simply as a sideboard option will determine its eventual value.
So far, Eldritch Moon is off to a strong start. Obviously, the best cards are usually going to be spoiled first. But as Shadows Over Innistrad was already a big hit, and blocks only have two sets now instead of three, there should be a lot of value packed into this concluding sequel to the new Innistrad block.
Is Fiery Gambit the Best Magic the Gathering Burn Spell Ever? You'll Have to Flip to Find Out!
Flipping coins isn’t something you ordinarily do in Magic: the Gathering. The most famous, and expensive, card that involves a coin flip is Mana Crypt. But there’s another card that packs a lot of punch if you happen to call three coin flips in a row. It’s called Fiery Gambit, and it’s a rare from Mirrodin. After being worth a dollar for years, players are finally beginning to buy this card out due to the fact that there’s a fun little combo deck you can build with it.
The main card you play alongside Fiery Gambit is another Mirrodin rare, Krark’s Thumb. This Legendary artifact allows you to flip two coins every time that you would flip one and ignore one of them. This is pretty handy, obviously, when dealing with any sort of coin flip card. In the case of Fiery Gambit, it has three different effects based on how many coin flips you call correctly.
For one flip, you deal 3 damage to a target creature. For two flips, you deal 6 damage to each opponent and deal 3 damage to a target creature. But for three flips, you get to untap all your lands and draw 9 cards, plus the other two effects. For only 3 mana, that’s an amazing deal, if you happen to get 3 flips called correctly. But if you decide to flip and fail, you get absolutely no effect out of it. It’s quite a gamble, but it can be well worth it. Seriously, drawing nine cards in a burn deck and essentially getting a second turn is about the greatest effect you could ever get for 3 mana. And you still get to deal an additional 9 damage!
Heck, if you just call two flips correctly, you’re already dealing with one of the best burn spells in all of Magic. It’s the randomness of this card that makes it so fun. If you happen to run four copies of this card in a deck, along with Krark’s Thumb, and some other burn spells, you could actually have a really fun combo deck that could win every once in awhile. There is this Fiery Gambit Wins decklist on Tappedout.net, but it’s hardly the best list you could run. It has the right idea, though. But we'd play a deck more like this:
Fiery Gambit Wins?
4x Battlefield Forge
4x Clifftop Retreat
4x Stuffy Doll
4x Boros Reckoner
4x Lightning Bolt
4x Boros Charm
2x Blasphemous Act
4x Fiery Gambit
4x Lava Spike
2x Mana Clash
4x Rift Bolt
4x Krark's Thumb
The list on Tappedout only ran 18 lands, so that count really needed to be bumped up. White mana is added to be able to include Boros Charm as a direct burn spell. A big creature addition in Boros Reckoner can also be cast with either red or white mana. The creature line-up was a bit strange, and Stuffy Doll was a much better inclusion than Creepy Doll.
Stuffy Doll and Boros Reckoner do very similar things in this deck. Both can be targeted with damage and throw it right back at an opponent. Stuffy Doll has the advantage of being indestructible and Reckoner also makes a good defensive and offensive threat. It also doesn’t hurt that Stuffy Doll can also tap to deal 1 damage to itself, and therefore, to your opponent. Guttersnipe was a cute inclusion in the original list, but it wasn’t going to be a consistent enough threat to be worth running
Also, having both of these creatures in the deck allows replacing two copies of the inconsistent, but cute, flip-happy Mana Clash with two copies of Blasphemous Act. Not only is Act a solid board-wipe that has been played alongside Boros Reckoner in competitive play, but it also works really well with Stuffy Doll. Mana Clash still remains in the deck simply because we have the benefit of Krark’s Thumb being able to help us decide when we want to end the Mana Clash damage. It can do a ton of damage for only a single Red mana. You just have to be careful how and when you use it.
The overall burn package has been improved, too. Not only do we have Boros Charm that can serve multiple roles in this deck, but now we also have Rift Bolt that can hit either creatures or players and a full playset of Lava Spike for direct damage. The 4 Krark’s Thumbs remain just for the benefit of Fiery Gambit and the 2 copies of Mana Clash. The cool thing is that you may only ever need to get one flip for Fiery Gambit to be effective because now you can just throw that 3 damage to a creature at your Doll or Reckoner and redirect it to your opponent’s face.
Is this a competitive deck? I highly doubt it. It’s pretty slow and the earliest that you’ll get a creature online is turn 3. It is a Modern-legal deck, and if you were to open it up to Legacy, you could even replace the Rift Bolts with Chain Lightnings. You probably wouldn’t play this deck at a competitive tournament. But at the kitchen table and in other casual environments, this deck can be a fun way to win a game of Magic. Perhaps it won’t match up well with top burn decks piloted by Pro Tour players, but you can build this deck without breaking the bank. Most of the deck are cards that you would play in a top-tier Modern burn deck anyway. So, why not have a little fun and give this Fiery Gambit Wins strategy a try?
If you have any suggestions on how to improve this deck, or have another crazy strategy you'd like us to look at, leave a comment below.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Crumbling Vestige is the foil promo card for Friday Night Magic events in August 2016. While it hasn't seen much competitive play, it has become a part of the Five-Color Bogles deck in Pauper. As a common non-basic land, this is actually quite good. While it only taps for colorless mana and enters the battlefield tapped, it makes up for the drawback by giving you one mana of any color to your mana pool as it enters. This is very useful color fixing, especially in Pauper.
While not a huge competitive player, Crumbling Vestige is a good card. It is a wanted card in foil already and this is some very nice artwork. This was a good choice as a promo, even if it's not close to being one of the more valuable FNM promos that has been released recently. July's FNM promo, Spatial Contortion, is a card that sees a good amount of play in multiple formats, including Vintage! People were fine with getting Goblin Warchief in May, despite being its second time as an FNM promo, as it's a solid Goblin. Sylvan Scrying in June was also fine as a perfectly useful card in several different Modern decks. Crumbling Vestige falls short of the choices from the past few months, but it's still a good card to have - just nothing to get excited about.
Blinking things is pretty good in Magic the Gathering. Back in their heyday, Momentary Blink decks were very powerful. When the planeswalker Venser, the Sojourner was kicking around Standard, Blue/White control was definitely a real deck.
Venser had a blink ability that helped abuse many enter the battlefield effects. After a few turns, he was able to use his ultimate loyalty ability very easily. That ultimate ability gave you an emblem which allowed you to exile a permanent whenever you cast a spell. That's pretty nasty, and so powerful that Venser, the Sojourner still occasionally sees play in Modern!
Skybind is an Enchantment that lets you blink a non-Enchantment card you control every time you play it or another Enchantment while it’s on the battlefield. This allows you to get some extra value out of enter the battlefield effects, and most especially, other cards with the Constellation ability. While it's not going to help you build up to an ability like Venser's, there's still quite a bit of value to be generated here.
However, 5 mana is a high casting cost in Constructed for a card that doesn't have much of an immediate effect on the battlefield - besides blinking one thing when it enters. Still, what’s interesting about this is that it’s a Constellation ability. Consider that those Enchantments can be tokens entering the battlefield that are considered Enchantments (a la Heliod, God of the Sun tokens). There are also tons of very playable Enchantment creatures and Auras. So with the right type of support, Skybind can offer you a lot of value. It can blink a lot of stuff.
Ideally, most of the time, you’d be using this to “blink” your tapped lands. This will make them come back untapped for your opponent’s turn. That’s not a bad idea in a control shell. But is it worth the five mana investment to throw down for an effect that doesn’t necessarily win you any games?
There was a time in Standard where people tried to make Skybind work, especially when Khans of Tarkir was first released. In particular, Ashen Rider, Siege Rhino and Wingmate Roc were perfect targets with powerful enter the battlefield abilities. The Rhino would be able to gain you 3 life while draining your opponent for 3 pretty much on every turn. The Roc would bring along a 3 / 4 flying Bird friend as long as you attacked during that turn. The Rider was a greater finisher, which can exile a permanent every time it enters the battlefield or dies. But that sort of deck was a bit too slow to gain any competitive momentum.
Where this card can shine is in Commander. In the Elder Dragon Highlander (EDH) format, blink effects are much more powerful than in anywhere else in MTG. Being able to reuse powerful enter the battlefield effects is why Conjurer’s Closet is so popular in the format. The Closet only lets you blink creatures, though. Skybind doesn’t let you blink your Enchantment Creatures, but it does let you do other things, such as blink other important creatures and artifacts. Also, blinking lands isn’t a terrible thing to do, either, especially after they’re already tapped.
For Skybind to be worth a slot in the deck, though, you have to have a pretty substantial number of Enchantments for its Constellation effect to trigger. One Commander that it works quite well with would be the aforementioned Heliod, God of the Sun. He can trigger Constellation abilities every time he creates one of his Cleric tokens that’s also an Enchantment. His deck also has a number of creatures that you can take advantage of their enter the battlefield abilities. These include Angel of Serenity, Archon of Justice, Auramancer, Fiend Hunter, Heliod’s Pilgrim, Knight of the White Orchid, Kor Cartographer, and more.
The other Commander who can utilize Skybind, and to even greater effect, is Daxos the Returned. Since he is both White and Black, there are even more powerful Enchantments to go around. Daxos plays many of the same creatures as Heliod, including the God of the Sun himself. But Daxos has a few additional targets, commonly playing such creatures as Ashen Rider, Monk Idealist, Oreskos Explorer, Solemn Simulacrum, and best of all, Sun Titan.
Other Commanders that can make some use out of Skybind include Brago, King Eternal, Bruna, Light of Alabaster, and Roon of the Hidden Realm. Brago and Roon utilize “blink” effects on a regular basis and are among the top Commanders in MTG. It doesn’t have the greatest synergy with Bruna, but some players opt to include it in their builds.
Skybind never turned any heads in Constructed. It's far from being one of the best enchantments in MTG, for sure. But in the few Commander decks that can best utilize it, the Constellation ability can provide a good deal of value for the investment.
Brave the Sands is an Enchantment from Khans of Tarkir that offers your creatures a couple of quite useful abilities. The first ability is Vigilance, meaning your creatures don't tap when they attack. The second ability gives your creatures the option of blocking an additional creature. Together, this makes for a potentially very useful combination that can benefit a number of commander decks.
Making an Ever-Vigilant Dragonlord
The Commander most directly affected by Brave the Sands is Dragonlord Ojutai. Since the mighty blue and white Dragon only has hexproof when untapped, making her vigilant means that your opponent's spells and abilities will never be able to target her. Being a 5/4 also means being able to block an additional creature is also relevant.
On the flipside, Ojutai often brings with her Heliod, God of the Sun and Angelic Field Marshal. Both of these creatures offer your creatures Vigilance, as well. However, the Field Marshal only gives Vigilance when your commander is on the board. Still, the presence of these two seems to make the 2 mana enchantment somewhat redundant. However, Commander is a format in which redundancy is perfectly okay.
The Lands That Never Tap, Except for Mana
Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper is a fascinating commander who can turn all of your lands into creatures. One of his best friends is the Halimar Tidecaller, who gives all your land creatures flying. Brave the Sands helps by giving your land creatures, and anyone else under your control, the freedom not to tap. The greatest downside to turning lands into creatures is limiting how much mana you have left to tap. But what has made Celestial Colonnade so powerful as a creature land is having both flying and Vigilance. Turning so many of your lands info mini colonnades is quite a bit of fun.
Even better, Noyan Dar makes use of the 3 mana enchantment Terra Eternal which makes all lands indestructible. Having your land creatures each able to block an additional creature in combat makes the deck a lot more resilient. Brave the sands fits extremely well into this particular archetype. Lands not having to tap is a big deal, and well worth the initial 2 mana investment.
The Commander Who Became an Enchantment
Rune-Tail, Kitsune Ascendant is from a short line of legendary creatures that actually can turn into legendary enchantments when certain conditions are met. In commander, you begin the game with 40 life. Rune-Tail flips at 30 life. So as soon as you cast him, Rune-Tail becomes an enchantment called Rune-Tail’s Essence that prevents all damage that would be taken by your creatures.
The big combo with Rune-Tail is to play cards like Palisade Giant. This behemoth makes all damage you would take redirect to him. As long as he remains in play, you can't take any damage. The deck revolves around a number of creatures such as Angelic Skirmisher and Guardian of the Gateless that on their own can accomplish much of what brave the sands does on their own.
However, Brave the Sands is only two mana, and Vigilance has a lot of value. Being able to block additional creatures is nothing to scoff at either - although guardian of the gateless can block as many creatures as she wishes to begin with. It's a bit redundant here, but being a defensive style deck, it's a useful piece should you choose to include it.
What About Aggro?
Odric, Master Tactician has plenty of friends that can offer him and his troops Vigilance. But it's extremely hard to pass up a two mana enchantment like brave the sands that can help make opponent counterattacks particularly difficult. Including the enchantment is a tactical decision, and while not heavily favored by Odric players, it's a useful card to consider.
Does Brave the Sands Counteract Menace?
Before we wrap up with considering the long term value of brave the sands, there's a common question we should try to resolve. The way it's worded, people wonder if Brave the Sands allows your creatures to block creatures with menace.
For those unfamiliar with the term, menace simply means a creature that can only be blocked by two or more creatures. Unfortunately, this cannot be counteracted by the additional blocker allowed by Brave the Sands. You'll still need at least two creatures to block a creature with menace.
The upside is that those creatures can then still block additional creatures, even others with menace. For example, two creatures with menace would ordinarily need a total of four separate blockers to stop them. With brave the sands, you really only need two. Therefore, Brave the Sands does help against creatures with menace, even if indirectly just sort of evening things out.
Long Term Value
Being an uncommon from one of the more widely opened sets, there's plenty of copies of Brave the Sands out there. While it has been seen as a sideboard card in some Modern brews of Bogles, it's really a Commander-only playable. Copies will be trickling off of the market one by one rather than two, three, or four copies at a time. The foil would probably be the best place to put your money, as many Commander players prefer to park foil copies of cards that they intend to keep in decks for the long term.
Brave the Sands is definitely a useful enchantment that has a casting cost that belies just how much value it can produce in the right deck. Whether it ends up being a mainstay in some Modern sideboard or just a decent toolbox card in commander, it's one to hold onto.
Phytotitan is an interesting Plant Elemental creature from the Magic 2015 Core Set. This card was also printed as one of the release promos for the set. It’s a 7/2 for 4 colorless and 2 Green mana. A 6-drop 7/2 doesn’t sound all that impressive until you read its ability. Whenever Phytotitan dies, you return it to the battlefield tapped under its owner’s control at the beginning of his or her next upkeep.
Talk about a stubborn weed that simply won’t stop growing! In many cases, Phytotitan will come back and be relatively useless for a turn. This is because upkeep comes after the untap step in a turn. That is, unless you find a way to untap it and give it Haste, of course. But being able to have a 7/2 creature that can survive board-wipes and perform on both offense and defense is extremely strong in Limited. Also, in Magic 2015 draft and sealed deck, Life’s Legacy and Phytotitan were quite valuable together. Life’s Legacy sacrificed Phytotitan and drew you 7 cards.
Understandably, Phytotitan never saw Standard play outside of some rogue decks. Being a 6-drop that is essentially useless for a turn when it returns is most likely going to be too slow for any competitive format. Some rogue Commander decks found a use for it, however. Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord decks occasionally saw use for its 7-power. His ability allows you to sacrifice Phytotitan to deal damage equal to its power to each opponent. It never became a staple in that deck, however. In some rare cases, Kresh, the Bloodbraided, Shattergang Brothers, and Xenagos, God of Revels decks used Phytotitan as a budget option.
Another cool interaction with Phytotitan is with the once very popular The Mimeoplasm. His clone ability would allow you to copy one creature while inheriting the power of another creature in the form of +1/+1 counters. Because of Phytotitan's ability to return to the battlefield, the Mimeoplasm would actually come back, although not as a Phytotitan. The Mimeoplasm would then need to choose two new creatures in order to not just hit the board as a 0/0 Ooze and die, but it's a nice little interaction that worked in some Mimeoplasm decks.
But, it wasn’t until the release of Omnath, Locus of Rage in Battle of Zendikar that Phytotitan found a real home. Being an Elemental, he fits perfectly into the Tribal theme of the deck. Bringing him back tapped is perfectly fine. His main purpose in the deck is to activate Enchantments like Elemental Bond (draws you a card) and Warstorm Surge (deals 7 damage to a target creature or player). Life’s Legacy, the card that it worked with so well in Magic 2015 Limited, is sometimes played in these Omnath decks, too.
Phytotitan is an example of how many of Magic 2015’s rares destined to be bulk are still flavorful enough to become good cards in casual formats and in Commander.
Keep up with the latest Magic the Gathering and other gaming articles by subscribing below:
Lyn Lomasi is founder and owner of the Brand Shamans Content Community. Services include ordained soul therapy and healing ministry, business success coaching, business success services, handcrafted healing jewelry, ethereal and anointing oils, altar and spiritual supplies and services, handcrafted healing beauty products, and more!
Lyn is your brand healing, soul healing, marketing & content superhero to the rescue! While rescuing civilians from boring business practices and energy vampires, this awesomely crazy family conquers evil and creates change.
They live among tigers, dragons, mermaids, unicorns, and other fantastic energies, teaching others to claim their own power and do the same.
By supporting us, you support a dedicated parent, healer, and minority small business that donates to several causes. Profits from our all-inclusive store, Intent-sive Nature support these causes and our beautiful family!
HIRE OR SHOP WITH LYN | CONTACT LYN