by Phoenix Desertsong, Old School Duelist
Nissa, Vastwood Seer saw a lot of Standard play during her heyday. As a double-sided creature, it seemed very unlikely that we'd see her reprinted any time soon. Of course, From the Vault: Transform did offer a reprinted version of several Transform cards, including the Seer. So, that reprint may have limited the rise in her price, but it hasn't stopped it.
The Vastwood Seer Found Homes in Pioneer Decks
Since leaving Standard, the Vastwood Seer has seen only a little bit of competitive play in Modern as a part of the occasional Kiki Chord deck. But, with the rise of the Pioneer format, Nissa, Vastwood Seer has found a home in updated Bant Collected Company decks and a version of "The Rock" Green/Black "good stuff" deck built around the card Seasons Past. While little more than a Borderland Ranger on her front side, her back-side, Nissa, Sage Animist, is a fairly good planeswalker.
Nissa, Vastwood Seer does not transform into a planeswalker until you control at least seven lands in play. But Nissa, Sage Animist is worth the wait. Her first ability allows you to draw a card, and if it’s a land card, put it directly into play. That’s already pretty good. She can also create a 4/4 legendary token. But her ultimate is extremely good, which can untap 6 target lands, and turn them into 6/6 Elemental creatures permanently. While all of these abilities were good in Standard, there are far more opportunities for her to transform in EDH.
Nissa, Vastwood Seer is Gaining Value
Back in Mid-August 2017, Nissa, Vastwood Seer sold for around $6-7. Even her foil is only fetching about $18. While a multiplier of 3 is fine for a foil, one that is ubiquitous in Commander as Nissa, Vastwood Seer is likely to be much higher than that. Not to mention, this is a double sided mythic rare card. You would think her foil price would have a multiplier closer to 4, such as with Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. However, with her inclusion in competitive Pioneer decks, Nissa's price has risen to over $10, although due to the presence of the FTV foil, her Origins foils aren't even double the nonfoil price. That's great news for players who love to foil out their decks.
As a card that once peaked at $32, there’s plenty of room for Nissa, Vastwood Seer to grow. While it’s doubtful that she’ll hit $30 again without being in a Top 8 appearance in Pioneer. But, her foil price could easily reach that again. That would mean her non-foil version would probably follow suit in price to about $10-12. It’s hard not to see yourself doubling your money on Nissa, Vastwood Seer in a few years.
Nissa, Vastwood Seer is Just a Role Player in Commander / EDH
While not a big deal in multiplayer as a Commander (only about 230 decks on EDHREC), Nissa, Vastwood Seer does see play in over 5700 decks as a member of the other 99. While Borderland Ranger is a good card in that format, her planeswalker side is even more valuable in that format than in Standard. She’s also a very good Commander in 1v1, although that format doesn’t drive prices in the way that multiplayer does, at least not currently.
If you're looking to play Nissa, Vastwood Seer, now is as good a time as any to pick up copies. It is fairly easy to predict that her price will rise considerably as time goes on. It is fairly easy to say that Nissa, Vastwood Seer is a solid buy. As the Pioneer format grows, it's likely Nissa, Vastwood Seer will find other homes, as well.
DISCLAIMER: The writer currently owns no copies of this card for any purposes.
by Phoenix Desertsong, Old School Duelist
Every so often, we come across cards that seem to only see play at the fringes of competitive play, but seem to have far greater potential on paper. One card from Hour of Devastation that has shown clear signs of being such a card is Wildfire Eternal. It has been one of those cards that still show movement on various popular card selling platforms that don't show up often in competitive play. Cards like these that we come to term “casual hits,”
So, for a card that’s seen little Standard play outside of an occasional Red/Green Energy deck, what’s so special about Wildfire Eternal? First of all, Wildfire Eternal has a very interesting conglomeration of creature types: Zombie Jackal Cleric. There aren’t a lot of Red Zombies running around, so he has that going for him. Second of all, he has the Afflict mechanic. This allows him to pair well with a Legendary Creature from Hour of Devastation, Neheb, the Eternal.
Wildfire Eternal's Afflict 4 means that if he is blocked, that defending player loses 4 life. That’s pretty powerful. The fact that Wildfire Eternal only has 1 power isn’t really that big of a deal, since he has 4 power. He also has a very powerful second effect.
While it’s hardly a unique ability, being able to cast an instant or sorcery card for free from your hand is very powerful. This can happen whenever Wildfire Eternal attacks and isn’t blocked. There are plenty of good cards that you can threaten using this ability. It makes an opponent have to decide between losing 4 life and potentially having you cast a powerful card. All this for 4 mana is not a bad deal at all.
This is a far more powerful creature than the last one that had a similar ability, Oracle of Bones. That Minotaur had this ability when it entered the battlefield if its Tribute wasn’t paid. What’s a Tribute, you ask? In this case, it meant that the Tribute ability didn’t activate if an opponent decided to let the Oracle gain two +1/+1 counters.
The Oracle was a fragile 3/1 without the Tribute, so making it into a 5/3 was a fair trade-off most of the time. While the Oracle of Bones did see some play in Standard, it didn’t really make many waves as it was a vanilla 5/3 most of the time - although it did have haste.
While Wildfire Eternal doesn’t have haste, you can potentially get a lot of value from his attacks. But his lack of being able to immediately attack is probably why he saw little Standard play. This by no means makes him a bad card overall.
Was There a Deck in Standard for Wildfire Eternal?
There was a deck for Wildfire Eternal in Standard, however. It’s a variation on some of the Approach of the Second Sun combo decks which enjoyed some success. Here’s one variation of it on Deckstats called Second Eternal Sun:
3 Aether Hub
1 Blighted Cataract
4 Spirebluff Canal
4 Approach of the Second Sun
2 Essence Scatter
3 Glimmer of Genius
2 Harnessed Lightning
3 Hieroglyphic Illumination
2 Reason // Believe
3 Saheeli Rai
4 Slip Through Space
4 Wildfire Eternal
2 Commit // Memory
1 Essence Scatter
3 Fevered Visions
2 Hour of Devastation
2 Sphinx of the Final Word
2 Sweltering Suns
3 The Locust God
This is a pretty cool deck that Wildfire Eternal plays a big role in. Approach of the Second Sun is a pretty cool win condition if you can happen to cast two copies in the same turn. Wildfire Eternal allows you to potentially cast at least one copy for free. Slip Through Space, in particular, is a cute way to get him through without being blocked. Saheeli Rai is a great way to copy your Eternal and give that token haste so that you can get instant value from him. Reason / Believe is a great way to dig through your deck in its first half, and Believe can help you cheat a Wildfire Eternal into play.
Is this Wildfire Eternal & Approach of the Second Sun combo deck any good? It has the pieces to be good, certainly. We’ll see how it actually performs in the long run.
Wildfire Eternal in EDH
Of course, if Wildfire Eternal is not going to see much play in Standard or Modern, why not EDH? After all, casting an instant or sorcery for free in EDH is a big deal. Unsurprisingly, he’s been included in a few Neheb, the Eternal decks so far. But he hasn’t been an auto-include in any EDH deck yet. Still, there are some very powerful cards that he can allow you to cast for free.
In the early going, Wildfire Eternal saw play in some Nicol Bolas and Nekusar, the Mindrazer decks in order to cheat in some very useful spells. He'd later find a home in Neheb, the Eternal EDH decks, as well as Jodah, Archmage Eternal and Jeleva, Nephalia's Scourge decks.
In Nicol Bolas, casting Dark Intimations, a five-mana spell with three colors in its casting cost, for free, is very strong. Slave of Bolas is a fun card to cheat in, as well - stealing a creature, giving it haste, then sacrificing it. Dropping Cruel Ultimatum, a seven-mana spell with lots of color requirements, is even better. While nowhere as exciting in Nekusar, dropping a Past in Flames or Reforge the Soul for free is certainly useful.
While you won’t see him in a competitive Modern deck any time soon, and probably much in Standard, either, Wildfire Eternal is a useful card nonetheless. Its foil price is around $3, which is not a high number for a useful rare. It could rise over time if it finds more permanent homes, but clearly it already has some demand.
Whenever you have a free card attached to another card, it’s going to see play somewhere. If it’s a casual hit, you should be sure to hold onto it. Wildfire Eternal is definitely a keeper.
by Phoenix Desertsong, Old School Duelist
The Commander 2017 pre-constructed decks for Magic the Gathering introduced a number of strong cards for the Commander format. One of these is a one-mana Equipment called Bloodforged Battle-Axe. It's like an improved version of Bonesplitter, except that this axe can actually copy itself!
At only 1 mana to cast and 2 mana to equip, Bloodforged Battle-Axe gives the equipped creature +2/+0. Also, whenever that creature deals combat damage to a player, you create a token that's a copy of Bloodforged Battle-Axe! That's a pretty awesome way to stack up Equipment in a hurry!
This Battle-Axe offers a very minor initial investment that can copy itself many, many times over. Also, the tokens then can copy themselves. So, if a creature has multiple Bloodforged Battle-Axes equipped, it can create a whole token of Battle-Axe tokens in a hurry.
Another great thing about the way Bloodforged Battle-Axe is worded, a creature with double strike that successfully deals damage to a player can cause this Equipment to be copied twice! On the second trigger, you can end up with three total Axe tokens, because the first token will copy itself, as well! If you have something like Parallel Lives or Doubling Season in play, it becomes all the more ridiculous.
Plus, there's another Equipment in Commander 2017 called Hammer of Nazahn. This legendary artifact allows you to immediately attach an Equipment that comes into play to a creature. That means all of those tokens can be equipped right away for free! It also doesn't hurt to play something like Puresteel Paladin to make equip costs cost zero mana instead, allowing you to use these tokens quickly.
Imagine a deck that plays Hellkite Tyrant having a card like this. With the Tyrant's instant win condition of having 20 artifacts in play, you may be able to automatically win a lot of games just having a bunch of copies of this Axe in play! Interestingly, as of late 2019, we still haven't seen this really happen.
There are many advantages to having a card like this, especially in decks that care about how many artifacts you have in play. There will be plenty of Commander decks that will find a slot for this one-mana artifact, even some that may not be 100 percent Equipment based. Any deck that benefits by having a lot of artifacts in play can find a home for this unique Equipment.
Unsurprisingly, the Commander who uses Bloodforged Battle-Axe the most is the very Legendary creature that you would most expect: Nazahn, Revered Bladesmith. Not only can the Cat Artificer fetch the Hammer of Nazahn and put it straight into play, but it can get other Equipments to your hand. The Battle-Axe also sees a lot of play in Akiri, Line-Slinger decks - who loves the additional artifacts that the Battle-Axe creates, and other Equipment-happy Commanders such as Balan, Wandering Knight, Syr Gwyn, Hero of Ashvale, Valduk, Keeper of Flame, Sram, Senior Artificer, Kemba, Kha Regent, and more.
How would you use Bloodforged Battle-Axe?
Saheeli Rai & Felidar Guardian Infinite Combo (Copy Cat Combo) - Magic the Gathering (MTG) Design Blunders
by Phoenix Desertsong, Magical Gatherer
On April 27, 2017, Felidar Guardian was Emergency Banned in Standard effective 4/28/17. This was because the Saheeli Rai & Felidar Guardian Infinite combo - also known as the Copy Cat combo - was overrunning Standard. I saw this coming, as did many other people. Of course, you can still try Copy Cat Combo in Modern, if you'd like. But for reasons I'll outline below, the combo isn't nearly as potent in older formats as it proved to be in Standard.
On the initial spoiling of the combo, my reasoning was that it would become a bit too powerful for Standard. Initially, I received some backlash for this opinion. I expected more support. Of course, there would be an eventual realization that Felidar Guardian was ruining the format. As it turned out, myself and others who thought it would be a disaster were completely correct. While it was nice to be vindicated, it was a bit depressing that Wizards so clearly overlooked a design blunder.
The Origins of the Saheeli Rai & Felidar Guardian Combo
Saheeli Rai was way too cheap at $5 for the longest time. The planeswalker was already part of a couple of infinite combos in Modern with Liquimetal Coating and Altar of the Brood or Disciple of the Vault. But, a competitive list never came out of it. Still, sooner or later, players knew that a card would be released that would make the 3-mana planeswalker part of something broken, right?
So, this happened!
REALLY, WIZARDS!? You just brought back Splinter Twin combo... in STANDARD!
But, is it, really?
Splinter Twin & Deceiver Exarch proved to be such a ridiculously powerful combination in Standard that me and a good many other players left competitive Magic for awhile because of it. Two card combos are absurd when they are so easy to perform on turn four on a consistent basis.
The combo was quite simple. You'd play Deceiver Exarch at the end of an opponent's turn since it had flash. Then the next turn, while an opponent is tapped out, you drop the 4-mana Enchantment Splinter Twin. This enchantment allows you to tap a creature to make a copy. However, because you're copying Deceiver Exarch, which has the ability to tap or untap a permanent, each of the copies can untap the original Exarch. This means you can tap and untap the Exarch an infinite number of times to make as many copies as you'd like. You just make enough copies to deal lethal damage to your opponent, and you can attack with them immediately since those copies have haste.
Sure, there are ways to disrupt the combo. But even against smart sideboarding, the combo proved consistent enough to spawn its own archetype. The only reason it stopped in Standard was that Rise of the Eldrazi, and thus Splinter Twin, left Standard at rotation in October.
Many players, myself included, refused to play Modern competitively as long as the combo was the heart of a powerful deck archetype there, too. Modern also had Pestermite, which is a similar card to Deceiver Exarch. This gives you two creatures that could create the combo. Wizards finally banned Splinter Twin after deciding it was finally time for that combo not to be a deck anymore. While Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker still does the same thing as Twin, it's harder to cast. Kiki-Jiki can still work as a win condition, but it's not the main condition of any deck anymore.
So, is the Saheeli Rai & Felidar Guardian combo just as good as Splinter Twin, or is it even worse?
Ordinarily, Felidar Guardian is just a good card on its own. But alongside Saheeli Rai, you can create infinite madness. You use Saheeli's -2 ability to make a token of the Felidar Guardian. That token uses its ability to "blink" Saheeli Rai. This means she comes back with full loyalty counters on her. Then you get to use the -2 ability again to continue the process. You rinse and repeat until you have enough Guardians to swing in for lethal damage. Yes, those tokens have haste.
What makes this combo better in some ways is that even if it’s disrupted, either Saheeli Rai or Felidar Guardian can find other targets to make good on their abilities. The Guardian can blink any permanent you control. This means even lands! You can blink a tapped land and tap it again for extra mana! Yes, using the Exarch's flash ability to enter on an opponent's end step can be better. A lot of times you'd tap down an opponent's land to make responding to your combo with counter magic more difficult.
In Modern, you can play Exarch in this deck, too! In fact, you can build a really, really good Jeskai Control deck with these two cards! Saheeli Rai can even Scry 1 for you and deal 1 damage to each opponent! Then you get to play all the counter magic and burn spells your typical Jeskai deck would already play! Saheeli can also copy other creatures and artifacts you control. So you can still get value from either half of the combo even if the other half becomes somehow unavailable.
Fortunately, as good as the interaction between these cards are, it's not quite as dominant as the combination of Splinter Twin & Deceiver Exarch became. There are instant speed ways to deal with the Guardian, like Fatal Push with Revolt active. There was Declaration in Stone in Standard, and Fatal Push, as well. But the Declaration was Sorcery speed, so it was often too late of an answer. It’s also possible to burn away Saheeli before the Guardian can copy her. This is actually fairly easy to do since she brings herself down to a single loyalty. So, it’s a bit easier to disrupt than Deceiver Exarch and its 4 toughness was during its Standard days.
In Modern, you can stop the combo from resolving with Abrupt Decay targeting Saheeli Rai, particularly if you use it in response to the planeswalker’s ability. Even though the -2 ability would take priority, by the time the copy of the Guardian resolves, there will be no Saheeli Rai to blink. Saheeli Rai can be dealt with quite quickly with Lightning Bolt, as well. Path to Exile and Dismember will do the trick, too, just as they always did for dealing with Deceiver Exarch. So, this combo is also a bit easier to stop in Modern than Twin was.
Still, this combo was still a strong one to build around in Standard. Many players are shocked that no one at Wizards R&D caught this very obvious combination. Some people called for an emergency ban of Felidar Guardian. One Twitter user also demanded an apology from Wizards for their oversight. It seemed that Wizards committed an extremely obvious design blunder. Aether Revolt was already considered an overpowered set as it is, so creating a new infinite condition seems just absurd.
Is the Saheeli Rai & Felidar Guardian Combo Really Broken?
As good as this combo is on paper, many people thought it was more of a "fixed" Splinter Twin combo, if anything. The argument was that there wasn't a lot of card selection spells in Standard right then. This meant that consistent Turn 4 wins are a lot less likely than they were years back. However, while the Saheeli Rai/Felidar Guardian deck wasn't quite as consistent as Splinter Twin combo decks were, it proved to be an effective win condition.
Did one or both cards actually need to be banned? There was the sentiment that it would likely take the printing of other cards to bring this deck to a dangerously over-powered level. However, with Wizards now making banned and restricted list announcements more often, players decided that if it did become too busted, it would be dealt with.
In the early going of Aether Revolt being legal in Standard, Saheeli Rai & Felidar Guardian combo decks performed quite well. Jeskai Saheeli was the most successful build at the outset. A Jeskai Saheeli deck placed 7th at SCG Columbus. There were also four-color Saheeli decks performing well, known as 4-Color Copy Cat Combo. Even in Modern, Copy Cat Combo saw early success, at least on Magic Online.
In paper Magic, the deck quickly won at least one major Standard event. Dylan Donegan of MTG Card Market took down SCG Richmond with his Jeskai Saheeli deck! So while the archetype hadn't broken the format just yet, it quickly became clear that the combo was definitely a good one to build around. As a deck that could win, players battled to find the best version of this deck!
By late April 2017, so many Copy Cat combo decks had won an unbelievable number of events. It finally became clear to Wizards that the Copy Cat combo had actually become almost just as bad as Splinter Twin had been. It was announced that Felidar Guardian would be emergency banned in Standard as of 4/28/2017, as to not ruin a brand new Standard format featuring the widely praised Amonkhet set.
Was the Copy Cat combo a design blunder on the part of Wizards? Clearly, this particular interaction was overlooked. It was definitely a strong enough combo to be at the core of a Standard deck from the get-go. Fortunately, Wizards recognized that Copy Cat combo was becoming oppressive in the format, before it became the Splinter Twin combo in Standard all over again.
Of course, another deck would take Copy Cat Combo's place in needing the banhammer. But that was for a much different reason, and that's a whole different story altogether.
But, Copy Cat Combo is still a deck in Modern. Decent Modern builds of Copy Cat Combo saw some competitive play. in the wake of the Standard banning. One of these builds was a deck called Saheeli Evolution. It's more of a creature toolbox deck that runs the Copy Cat Combo plus the Kiki-Jiki and Restoration Angel infinite combo. While they are potent win conditions, Modern wouldn't be overrun by them.
In 2019, Saheeli Rai and Felidar Guardian gained some valuable new allies. The upgraded Four Color Copycats deck benefited from the release of several cards from Modern Horizons. They included the snow artifact Arcum's Astrolabe - a card powerful enough at common that it was banned in Pauper - which not only draws a card when it enters, but even helps mana fix for the deck. It gained further card draw from the snow creature Ice-Fang Coatl, which has flash and flying, along with conditional deathtouch if you control three or more snow permanents. Since the deck plays snow-covered lands in order to play Arcum's Astrolabe, that's easy to do.
Four Color Copycats also benefits from the addition of two new planeswalkers. One is Wrenn and Six, the value engine that has benefited many top decks in Modern by both retrieving land cards from the graveyard and being a "Gut Shot on a stick." The other key addition is a single copy of Throne of Eldraine all-star Oko, Thief of Crowns for his Beast Within-like ability and the ability to swap an artifact or creature for an opponent's creature with mana cost 3 or less. Basically, the deck gained a nice value engine, which makes it much easier to pull off the Saheeli Rai and Felidar Guardian combo in short order.
Copy Cat Combo BANNED Early in the Pioneer Format!
Now, with the Pioneer Format being announced, Copycat Combo was not only a playable deck in the non-rotating format that begins with Return to Ravnica. In fact, it was so playable that people are already expecting either Saheeli Rai or Felidar Guardian would get banned in the early days of the format. That would indeed be the case, as before competitive play began, Felidar Guardian was banned in Pioneer (along with Leyline of Abundance and Oath of Nissa). Clearly, based on the deck's dominance in Standard and the unofficial Frontier format (which began with Magic 2015 core set), Wizards decided to nip the problem in the bud before the deck overran the new format.
So, if you want to play Copy Cat Combo, which is actually a pretty fun deck when it's not owning the format, it's still alive and well in Modern. How much longer it will stay alive there, though, remains to be seen.
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