by Phoenix Desertsong, Old School Duelist
Helm of the Gods is an equipment from the Magic Origins set that costs only 1 mana to cast with an equip cost of only 1 mana. The Helm gives its equipped creature +1/+1 for each enchantment you control. In decks that live and die with Enchantments, this artifact is definitely worth considering.
Does it work in competitive Constructed play? Green/Black Constellation decks during the Journey into Nyx Standard era could use it. Heroic decks could use it, too, especially those that used a lot of Auras - which are also Enchantments. But, the Helm never really fit into any of those lists.
Also, the Standard decks in Standard which could have used the Helm best when it was released lost all of the Theros cards a few months later in October 2015. However, with the release of Dragons of Tarkir, SaffronOlive of MTGGoldfish came up with a Standard "Bogles" deck featuring Conifer Strider and Sagu Mauler. It used the full four copies of Helm of the Gods and was a fairly fun deck. But, it wasn't a big winner or anything.
Bogles decks in Modern could use it. But, again, it doesn't fit in what is already a deck vulnerable to dead draws. Modern Prison decks could find a slot or two and stick it on one of the few creatures in the deck. But, that is hardly a top tier deck, and it's more like cute tech than a true upgrade.
Helm of the Gods in Commander / EDH
In 60-card Constructed decks, there isn't much room to give. In Commander, though, Helm of the Gods can fit into a variety of decks because you have 99 slots to consider. Also, Commander decks have plenty of ways to tutor for it. Trinket Mage can grab it, being a one mana artifact. Being an equipment, Quest for the Holy Relic, Steelshaper’s Gift, Stoneforge Mystic, and Stonehewer Giant can also seek it out. You could get it with the creature Relic Seeker from Magic Origins, too.
The Helm is a card that gets better as you go through the game. You just play it as soon as you need it. It could be a game-ender, and even a +2/+2 boost is worth the investment. Unlike an Aura, an Equipment is usually going to stick on the board when the equipped creature is gone.
Immediately what comes to mind are Commander decks with a heavy Enchantment theme. This includes Tuvasa the Sunlit, Daxos the Returned, and the hated Zur the Enchanter. It also includes Voltron Aura-loving commanders like Bruna, Light of Alabaster, Krond the Dawn-Clad, and Uril the Miststalker. With such a minimal commitment of mana, the Helm could deal those last few points of Commander damage you need for the win. It can go on any creature, though. Any Commander deck that loves enchantments can use the Helm.
Helm of the Gods will never be a money card, but bigger and better enchantments are printed all of the time in Magic the Gathering. If an Enchantment-happy deck is going to be in play for you, the Helm at least needs to be in your deck-building toolbox.
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 ElspethFTW, Gaming Successfully Staff
The Magic Origins “flip walker” experiment has proven to be a success. Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, in particular, succeeded the expectations of many. Nissa, Vastwood Seer saw plenty of Standard play. Liliana, Heretical Healer became a decent mid-range card and extremely popular among the casual crowd. Kytheon would work his way into Standard competitively. Even Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh burned some folks in Standard. In Commander, they've all proved worthy of attention.
Previously, we took a look at the Commander 2014 planeswalkers specifically designed to be your Commander. We found them to overall be better than your average legendary creatures, which is to be expected. These flip walkers blend the two card types in some interesting ways. You have to build around them to ignite their spark, then compliment their ascended abilities, as well.
How has the EDH / Commander community risen to the challenge? Which Origins planeswalker is best in the format? Let's find out.
Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy / Jace, Telepath Unbound
Commander of 300+ decks (EDHREC)
In the 99: Seen in about 5000 decks. Top Commanders include Tasigur, the Golden Fang, Azami, Lady of Scrolls, Atraxa, Praetor's Voice, Mizzix of the Izmagnus, and Teferi, Temporal Archmage
It may seem strange to say, but Vryn’s Prodigy made Jace tribal a thing. That was the approach to building his deck, at first. It really does seem to make sense to jam any card with his name on it or any card having to do with him in a deck and run with it.
In Commander, the "looter" (draw a card, discard a card) ability on a 0/2 simply isn't that exciting. Even when you do flip him, the flashback ability is not what you'll be trying to do. You'll be looking to tick him up to his ultimate and work to mill everyone to death. There are a lot better ways to do it in Commander. You could obviously use his flashback ability on extra turn spells to help you “get there.” The trick is getting more than one activation out of him and there are plenty of other ways in blue to recycle spells.
Being such a hot card in tournament play, though, probably kept most Commander players from acquiring him at first. This Jace could prove useful in more than a few decks that actually like the looting such as Sultai (green/black/blue) and are happy to get the flashback for some big spells.
Some blue/black and Sultai decks also don't mind getting the emblem to get some fuel for reanimator spells. Simply put, I’m not sold on him as a Commander, but he's shown up in the 99 of more than a few strong commanders.
Grade: B (he's not bad in multiplayer, but much stronger in 1v1), In the 99: B (definitely a useful complementary piece on both sides)
Kytheon, Hero of Akros / Gideon, Battle-Forged
Commander of 180+ decks
In the 99: Seen in 1500+ decks. Top Commanders include Odric, Lunarch Marshal, Alesha, Who Smiles at Death, Iroas, God of Victory, Captain Sisay, and Tajic, Blade of the Legion.
Kytheon is an interesting case where as a Gideon planeswalker he's a bit awkward. He's extremely easy to flip in Commander, but not remaining a creature makes it difficult for him to keep bashing in for considerable damage. Oddly enough, however, Gideon Battle Forged as a creature can still deal Commander damage when he becomes a creature with his ability. This is both good and bad. It means he's a huge target at the table, but he can also dodge a lot of creature removal.
Being so unique, I'm not surprised he hasn't been tried more as a Commander. The original Gideon Jura may be better overall in some ways, but the ability to be the first one drop planeswalker in Magic history makes Kytheon highly playable in any mono-white or Boros (red/white) aggro strategy.
Grade: B (Commander), B+ (In the 99). He’s a one-drop planeswalker for crying out loud!
Liliana, Heretical Healer / Liliana, Defiant Necromancer
Commander in 500+ decks
In the 99: Seen in 5000+ decks. Key contributor in Meren of Clan Nel Toth and Alesha, Who Smiles at Death. Notable appearances in Gisa and Geralf Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim, Sidisi, Brood Tyrant, Grimgrin, Corpse-Born and Karador, Ghost Chieftain
Liliana’s popularity shouldn't be too much of a surprise as her flip side embodies Liliana’s two favorite things, discarding and reanimating. The optimal Liliana brew probably hasn't been found yet, but stocking up on value creatures and ways for you to benefit from opponent's discards is a nice place to start. Mono black is so flooded with strong Commander options that it's no surprise that major innovations taking place around the Heretical Healer haven't yet taken place.
That being said she's easy enough to get online in Commander, so you can get some solid value from her. Just being able to build a Commander deck around one of the most popular planeswalkers of all time is pretty sweet. After her rotation from Standard, she has found consistent homes in the 99 of Commanders who most value her contributions.
Grade: B (Commander), B+ (In the 99). Mono black is flooded with Commander options, but she should prove to be a good one long term.
Nissa, Vastwood Seer / Nissa, Sage Animist
Commander of 350+ decks
In the 99: Seen in 6000+ decks. Key contributor in Omnath, Locus of Rage. Honorable mentions in The Gitrog Monster, Meren of Clan Nel Toth, Atraxa, Praetor's Voice, Karametra God of Harvests, Azusa, Lost but Seeking, Titania, Captain Sisay, Omnath, Locus of Mana, and others.
Landfall is a pretty big deal when it comes to Nissa. A slightly worse Borderland Ranger doesn't seem worthy of Commander status. But a free Forest never hurt anyone. However, when you hit your seventh land her flip side is enough to get her going. She's already done a good deal of work in competitive Abzan.
Sort of like her C14 counterpart Freyalise, she can do a lot for a variety of decks. Her plus ability gives you real card advantage and the ultimate can help to set up a pretty good endgame. She affects the board more than Freyalise so I see her having staying power as a Commander.
As a contributor in the 99, she's found her way in a wide variety of decks, especially ones that can take advantage of her as a Planeswalker with use of Doubling Season.
Grade: B+ (Commander, although she's even better in 1v1), B (In the 99). You just have to hold her back until you’re ready to flip her.
Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh / Chandra, Roaring Flame
Commander of 300+ decks
In the 99: Seen 900+ times. Honorable mention in Rakdos, Lord of Riots
Did you see this coming? It turns out Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh is the real deal in Commander. It's a shame that her planeswalker side doesn't deal Commander damage, but with the amount of burn you can realistically throw around that doesn't matter. The emblem wins games. It's actually quite easy to build around her.
As one of the 99, she is pretty much only useful if you need to ping things, making her really good friends with Rakdos, Lord of Riots. This gal is so good in multiplayer that it's a bit scary. She would be far from the first card to be better with more players, but she's as good as she is as a commander due to how her effects play up.
Grade: A (Commander), C (In the 99). Build a deck around pumping your burn spells, copying them, and flipping Chandra and you have a chance at burning everyone at the table.
In the early going, Chandra was the best commander of the Magic Origins bunch. But has time has passed, Liliana has become the most popular, which isn't very surprising considering how easy she is to flip in Commander. In the 99, Nissa, Vastwood Seer has become very popular as a worse Borderland Ranger who can turn into a decent Planeswalker. Jace, Vryn's Prodigy has shown up all over the format as the member of the 99. Interestingly, Kytheon hasn't been adopted by as many Commander players as you'd think and is rather under-appreciated in the format.
Which is your favorite flip-walker? Who do you think is the best in the Commander format long-term?
by 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 ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Here on General Insanity, we take a look at Legendary Creatures that typically are not chosen to be the field general of their own Commander decks. While many of the creatures we feature on this series will be good as one of the 99, we’ll see just how well they can hold up under the pressure of being Commander-in-Chief of their own arsenals.
Today, we begin our look at the Legendaries of Magic Origins. First off, there’s Hixus, Prison Warden, who has a nifty Flash effect that’s strong in Limited, useful as a supplementary piece in Commander, but not really considered as a field general. With his flavor of prison warden and strong typing as a Human Soldier, though, why not?
Hixus costs 3WW to cast for a 4/4 body that can be played at Instant speed. When he enters, if a creature has dealt damage to you that turn, Hixus removes it from play as long as he remains on the battlefield. If that creature is a token, it’s gone forever. Being a prison warden, it would seem relevant to have as many prison-type effects as you can alongside him, as well as other effects that punish anyone from trying to attack you.
But as a look at the fine websites EDHREC and MetaMox will show you, Hixus really only serves as a complementary piece. Well, it’s time for Hixus to shed that “unplayably bad” label and shine as his designers intended him to.
Where do we start then? There are two directions we could go. In either case, we want to draw on the power of the Soldier tribe. With their connection in the storyline, it makes sense in any case to include a particular soldier that is probably not a candidate for General Insanity: Kytheon, Hero of Akros.
Kytheon and Planeswalker Friends
The one-drop flip-walker is pretty awesome. While he hasn’t made his mark quite yet on the Standard environment, he’s already a force in Commander, as Soldiers are an extremely popular and well-supported tribe. As a one-drop creature he’s a 2/1 that can become indestructible for 2W. And if he attacks along with two or more creatures, he flips into Gideon, Battle-Forged, perhaps one of the best planeswalkers of the set. He has two plus-loyalty abilities and for no loyalty he can be a 4/4 creature that can’t be dealt damage. No matter which road we go down, he has to be in here.
While you’re at it, you may want to consider the other two incarnations of Gideon as a planeswalker, Gideon Jura and Gideon, Champion of Justice. While the latter has seen little Constructed play, he’s a Commander all-star and he can restart a game all by himself. But both work in this deck, as long as you don’t have more than one incarnation of Gideon in play at a time, of course.
While this is a bit of a flavor fail alongside Heliod, who will also be in the deck, Elspeth, Sun’s Champion belongs in here, too. (Heliod killed her in the Theros storyline - sad face.) Despite her popularity in Standard, her Duel Deck reprint has severely depressed her market value, and she’s not really playable in other Eternal formats, except in Commander where she does a lot of work. Spitting out 3 1/1 Soldier tokens fits the theme perfectly, too, and being able to take out big creature bombs, and give you a sweet emblem to finish off infidels seems good. Just don’t let Heliod near her.
Elspeth Tirel is a less budget option that can also make soldiers, but also gain you a ton of life, and potentially boardwipe if you have too. The original Knight-Errant can do the job, too.
Building the Prison
The most obvious thing that we can do with Hixus is to build a prison deck with an army of Soldiers to back him up. Two cards from Magic Origins complement this strategy quite well: Archangel of Tithes and Vryn Wingmare. The Archangel taxes opponents for attacking you and the Wingmare makes it more difficult for noncreature spells to be cast. While this tax affects you, as well, being a mono-colored deck with strong devotion to White will help you overcome this issue, especially with how many ways there are to grab Plains out of your deck.
Continuing the prison theme is Windborn Muse. While an older card, it’s not difficult to find at all and is the creature version of one of the Enchantments we’ll be including in the deck, Ghostly Prison. Being a flyer that can hold the air is a cool bonus.
Along with the obvious inclusion of Ghostly Prison, we have cards like Spear of Heliod, which not only gives our guys an anthem effect (a +1/+1 boost) but also has the added ability to destroy a creature that’s dealt damage to us, a perfect complement to Hixus’ effect. While we’re at it, why not include Heliod, God of the Sun himself? He gives all our dudes vigilance and can spit out 1/1 Enchantment Cleric tokens whenever we have excess mana.
An even better version of Ghostly Prison is Norn’s Annex. While a bit more costly to play, and being an artifact instead of an enchantment, your opponents either have to pay W or 2 life to attack for each creature. For opponents not playing white, they may simply never attack you. You can even play it for 3 mana by paying 4 life. or 3W and 2 life. The earlier you turn this on, the harder it will be to stop you.
Sphere of Safety is a “jankier” Ghostly Prison, but it gets better when you control more Enchantments. It can end up taxing your opponents a lot to attack, and there are enough Enchantments here that having this alongside your other prison effects basically shuts your opponents out from attacking.
Banisher Priest and Fiend Hunter deal with problem creatures. Banishing Light and Oblivion Ring deal with other problem non-land permanents.
Knight Captain of Eos brings a couple 1/1 Soldiers with him, but you play him for his ability to sacrifice a Soldier and prevent all combat damage for a turn. With all the Soldiers that will be running amok in this deck, it’s definitely a deterrent.
Kytheon’s Irregulars will not be in here so much for the Renown as he is for the WW ability to tap down a target creature. He’s also a Soldier. Problem creatures can be pacified with this ability. Loxodon Gatekeeper makes all of your opponents’ artifacts, creatures and lands come into play tapped, severely slowing them down.
Blazing Archon is pricey at 9 mana, but creatures simply can’t attack you. Don’t you just love “just no” cards?
Ensnaring Bridge is a great way to stop creatures from attacking you, but as a highly playable card in Modern and Legacy, it’s not really cheap. It’s worth considering if you have the money to add it.
In a Flash!
Since our Commander has flash, why not include some sweet cards with flash? Dictate of Heliod is a Flash Anthem, while at 5 mana, gives all our guys +2/+2. It’s a bulk rare, so no budgetary concerns there! (Rhyme not intentional…)
Angel of the Dire Hour is a lot like Hixus, Prison Warden in that she can exile creatures. However, in her case, you cast her at instant speed while your opponent is attacking, and those creatures get exiled forever. 7 mana is steep for a 5/4 flyer, but she’s such a blow-out that who really cares?
Celestial Crusader is another Anthem effect that can come into play with Flash. Even better, the Crusader has Split Second, so it can’t be countered and no other effects can be stacked upon his casting. Being a 2/2 flyer isn’t too shabby either.
Cho-Manno’s Blessing is a Flash Enchantment you may not see all that often. It costs double-White and it gives the enchanted creature protection from the color of your choice. You could cast this on Hixus to protect him, but there will be other ways of protecting him - you are probably better off casting the blessing on something like the Archangel of Tithes, Windborn Muse, or another important utility creature.
Masako the Humorless is one of my favorite cards to include in any mono-White deck simply because having your tapped creatures be able to block is really awkward. Plus, she can be Flashed in, which can make some combats extremely awkward.
Aven Mindcensor is really, really good at disrupting an opponent’s ability to search out stuff. But he’s a bit on the pricey side ($10 a copy). Still, if you have one, he’s a fine inclusion. Containment Priest is a $7 card, but you may have one if you bought the white Commander 2014 deck. She definitely fits into the deck by stopping an opponent from bringing in a creature without casting it. Hallowed Moonlight does the same thing as the Priest and is a can-trip - drawing you a card.
White has plenty of board-wipes, but one that you should definitely consider is Divine Reckoning. Each player chooses one creature he or she controls and destroys the rest. The best part about this card is that it has flashback, meaning you can get two activations out of it. Usually you’ll save Hixus, but there are times you’ll save others, too.
Rout and Fated Retribution essentially serve the same purpose. Rout gains Flash if you pay 2 colorless more to cast it and Fated Retribution is already an Instant - that also kills all planeswalkers, so be aware when you cast Retribution. You probably can go with one or the other.
Good ole Day of Judgment or Wrath of God will do the trick, too. End Hostilities is a way to take down equipped creatures, as well. The most fun boardwipe you could include, though, is Martial Coup, which can make a whole bunch of Soldier tokens and blow up everyone else. Properly timed, you could take over the game with this. Hour of Reckoning destroys all creatures except tokens, so that could be pretty one-sided, too.
Build Your Army
White has lots of Anthem effects, so let’s add classics like Honor of the Pure and Glorious Anthem. While we’re at it, we’ll add Marshal’s Anthem, which can also bring creatures back from our yard for a kicker cost.
Now that we have all these Anthem effects, we need a way to make our army of little soldiers grow quickly and efficiently. Valor in Akros makes sure that we get +1/+1 boosts each time a creature comes into play under our control. One activation from Elspeth, Sun’s Champion promises a +3/+3 boost. And it only gets better with a card like Cathars’ Crusade, which gives each of your creatures a +1/+1 counter for each creature that enters.
Precinct Captain is an early-drop that can make a 1/1 creature token each time it connects. Having first strike helps his cause. Plus, he’s a Soldier, fitting in with the theme. Field Marshal pumps all your Soldiers by +1/+1 and gives them first strike.
Militia’s Pride works well since we’re running a ton of creatures, and getting a 1/1 token for each attacking creature for only one White mana can do a lot of work. The incremental gains from this card if it’s cast early in the game do some serious work. Mobilization is a classic Soldiers card. Not only do your Soldiers get vigilance, but you get to pop out 1/1 soldier tokens for 2W as many times as you’d like.
Hero of Bladehold is herself a Knight, but she brings 2 1/1 soldiers into play attacking when she attacks. She also has Battle Cry, boosting all of your attacking creatures +1/+0 until end of turn. She was great in Standard, playable in Modern, and definitely good here. Soltari Champion also has a Battle Cry of sorts, has Shadow (meaning it will pretty much always go unblocked) and gives your creatures +1/+1 until end of turn when he does attack.
Coat of Arms is the classic way to boost your creatures. It does help your opponents, too, though. However, since your deck is mostly Soldiers, you should hold the advantage. Obelisk of Urd is a bit better in that only you get the boost, and it’s always +2/+2 for the chosen creature type. Neither are really budget cards, but they’re both worth playing in any aggressive tribal deck.
Gideon’s Phalanx makes 4 2/2 Knight creature tokens. Yes, they are Knights, but they are instant speed creatures that trigger a lot of other cards in the deck. It’s hard to say how often you will have Spell Mastery in this deck to make all of your creatures indestructible until end of turn, but 7 mana for the summoning effect alone in Commander is fine.
Conqueror’s Pledge makes 6 1/1 Kor Soldier tokens, and if you “kick” it, you get 12 instead. It’s quite a mana investment, but it’s likely you’re playing this in the endgame, anyway. Similarly, Deploy to the Front essentially doubles your creature count for 5WW, giving you a Soldier for every creature you control.
Nomad’s Assembly is a lot like Deploy to the Front, except that it has Rebound, meaning you essentially get to cast it twice for 4WW, but paying for it only once.
One of the best Soldiers you could include is Brimaz, King of Oreskos. Making a token each time he attacks or blocks triggers so many effects, it’s ridiculous. He’s not quite budget, but he’s relatively affordable and fits into a wide variety of Commander builds - and can prove to be a decent Commander himself!
Helm of the Gods from Magic Origins is relevant in this deck, as there are going to be enough enchantments in play to make it worth playing.
Mantle of Leadership is probably one of the best Enchantments in the deck, and not only can it be played at Instant speed, but it can also finish off a game if you play it just right. With the amount of creatures you will be able to bring into play at once, that +2/+2 boost for each creature adds up quickly.
Triclopean Sight doesn’t look incredible, but it can be Flashed in, untap the creature you’re enchanting and give it +1/+1 and vigilance. Another combat trick that stays on the creature is pretty darn good.
Armored Ascension is nuts considering how many Plains we’re running and can go on any creature to simply put an opponent away. It doesn’t have Flash on its own, but that’s okay.
While this deck can win purely on punching through repeatedly with all of its pumped-up Soldiers, there are a couple ways to simply win. One of those is one of my all-time favorite creatures in Odric, Master Tactician. If he attacks along with three other creatures, you get to choose how creatures block, or not block. You can either go completely unblockable or force disadvantageous blocks.
True Conviction gives your creatures double strike and lifelink. If that’s not hard to come back from, I don’t know what is.
The other obvious finisher is the ultimate ability of Gideon, Champion of Justice, who blows up everything except himself and then just punches in repeatedly while your opponents attempt to rebuild.
Otherwise, your main win condition is to just get as many Soldiers as you can into play and turn thing sideways. The Prison effects just make it hard for anyone to stop you from fortifying your position and amassing an army that no one can deal with.
So, how do we pay for all this? Prisons are expensive. Being a mono-colored deck, though, it’s easy enough for Caged Sun to double all our mana, and give our creatures a boost. Emeria, the Sky Ruin will help us get creatures back from the yard once we hit 7 Plains. Kjeldoran Outpost costs us a Plains when it enters, but can spit out 1/1 Soldier tokens. Mistveil Plains counts as a Plains, but also allows us to recycle cards from our yard back to the bottom of the library.
Knight of the White Orchid will put a Plains right into play when he enters, and gives us 2 devotion to White, also serving as a creature that can do work for us on the board. Kor Cartographer similarly gets us a Plains, but into play tapped. Tithe goes and gets us a Plains to our hand, but sometimes can even get us two.
A less budget option to use is Doubling Cube, but that’s good in any Commander deck and that doubled mana will keep us ahead of many of our opponents. Thawing Glaciers will help us fetch extra Plains. Also, with so many white mana symbols in the deck, the devotion will fuel Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx to crazy lengths.
You can also use the fetch-lands Arid Mesa, Marsh Flats, and Windswept Heath to fetch Plains more quickly, if you happen to have them.
Here’s a basic list to start from, with the more expensive upgrades not included.
Hixus, Prison Warden
1x Angel of Jubilation
1x Angel of the Dire Hour
1x Archangel of Tithes
1x Banisher Priest
1x Benalish Commander
1x Blazing Archon
1x Celestial Crusader
1x Daru Warchief
1x Fiend Hunter
1x Goldnight Commander
1x Heliod, God of the Sun
1x Hero of Bladehold
1x Knight-Captain of Eos
1x Knight of the White Orchid
1x Kor Cartographer
1x Kytheon, Hero of Akros Flip
1x Kytheon's Irregulars
1x Loxodon Gatekeeper
1x Mangara of Corondor
1x Masako the Humorless
1x Odric, Master Tactician
1x Precinct Captain
1x Soltari Champion
1x Suture Priest
1x Veteran Armorer
1x Veteran Swordsmith
1x Vryn Wingmare
1x Windborn Muse
1x Armored Ascension
1x Banishing Light
1x Cathars' Crusade
1x Cho-Manno's Blessing
1x Dictate of Heliod
1x Ghostly Prison
1x Glorious Anthem
1x Honor of the Pure
1x Journey to Nowhere
1x Mantle of Leadership
1x Marshal's Anthem
1x Militia's Pride
1x Oblivion Ring
1x Sphere of Safety
1x Triclopean Sight
1x True Conviction
1x Valor in Akros
1x Fated Retribution
1x Gideon's Phalanx
1x Hallowed Moonlight
1x Return to Dust
1x Swords to Plowshares
1x White Sun's Zenith
1x Conqueror's Pledge
1x Day of Judgment
1x Divine Reckoning
1x Hour of Reckoning
1x Martial Coup
1x Nomads' Assembly
1x Caged Sun
1x Coat of Arms
1x Doubling Cube
1x Helm of the Gods
1x Leonin Sun Standard
1x Norn's Annex
1x Obelisk of Urd
1x Swiftfoot Boots
1x Emeria, The Sky Ruin
1x Evolving Wilds
1x Forbidding Watchtower
1x Mistveil Plains
1x Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
1x Terramorphic Expanse
1x Thawing Glaciers
1x Elspeth, Sun's Champion
1x Gideon, Champion of Justice
While Hixus, Prison Warden could be replaced as Commander by a few other Legendaries, such as Odric, Master Tactician or even Kytheon, Hixus definitely works as another deterrent for opponents to attack. He may not be the prototypical build around Commander but the deck can win with him as well as without him. I’d say this build is a bit better one-on-one than in multiplayer, but it can do the job because of all the prison effects.
What do you think of using Hixus, Prison Warden as your commander? Any suggestions for Legendary Creatures you'd like to see at the helm that you've never seen before as a general?
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Magic Origins has done quite a bit to shake up the Standard metagame. However, when it comes to the eternal Modern format, the metagame doesn’t seem to have shifted all that much. However, there are some interesting things to note.
Death and Taxes
One recent build of Death and Taxes on Magic Online played a full playset of Vryn Wingmare and a singleton Archangel of Tithes. The Wingmare is a card I’ve seen as having potential in that kind of deck, and apparently, it worked in this build as it went 4-0 in a Modern Daily. The Archangel is a good card, too, and fits perfectly into this archetype. This particular deck also played a singleton copy of Hallowed Moonlight in the sideboard - probably for the Splinter Twin or Living End matchups.
There was one other Death and Taxes build that played 2 copies of the Wingmare and an Archangel of Tithes in the sideboard. It went 3-1 in a daily. So while the Wingmare and Archangel haven’t gained widespread acceptance yet in the format, there’s a good chance that they work their way in.
Dwynen’s Elite didn’t have a strong showing at Pro Tour Magic Origins, but at least one copy has been showing up in Modern Elf builds. This 4-0 Elves list has a full play-set jammed into Modern Elf decks. It also features 3 copies of Sylvan Messenger. The Messenger has long been good in Legacy, but now that it’s been printed in a Modern set (it was in Apocalypse and only reprinted in the modern border in the Elves vs Goblins Duel Deck), it may soon make an impact on the Modern format, too. The card advantage given by the Messenger seems worth it.
It has been widely thought that the new Origins Merfolk Harbinger of the Tides would see some decent Modern play. Most seem to still prefer Tidebinder Mage, which taps down only red and green permanents. It would seem that the creature bounce, especially off of an Aether Vial, would be powerful in that format. This 3-1 Modern Daily List did run 3 copies, and this 3-1 Merfolk list ran a full play-set.
The interesting mythic Day’s Undoing showed up in this 4-color list in Modern. However, the mythic also showed up in Legacy Affinity. It’s quite possible that the card sees play in Modern Affinity, as well, once the proper balance is found.
Goblin Piledriver hasn’t seen quite a lot of Modern play just yet, but this 3-1 Modern Daily White/Red Aggro list did run a full playset. It has seen renewed Legacy play, even though it was long already legal there.
While Magic Origins hasn’t had quite the impact that the Khans of Tarkir block has had on Modern, there are signs that there are some cards that will be seeing plenty of play in the format in the long-term.
The Pyromancer's Goggles are Chandra Nalaar's signature card in the Magic Origins set, and it's a Legendary artifact that could do some pretty nasty things. If Luis Scott Vargas (LSV) likes this card, then it definitely deserves attention. There are plenty of ways you could go with this card when it was in Standard. It has applications in Modern, EDH, and kitchen tables everywhere, too.
While it costs 5 mana, that's not too much for the Blue/Red counter-burn decks that wanted to play it in Standard to manage. Plus, it can tap for red mana as soon as you play it. So, Pyromancer's Goggles essentially only costs 4.
With cards like Magmatic Insight, Fiery Impulse, and Exquisite Firecraft in Magic Origins, there were plenty of options for spells to copy with Goggles during its time in Standard. Craters' Claws was another good card to copy - since its X cost is also being copied, allowing you to double down on damage. Pyromancer's Goggles made cards that were only OK before and turned them into powerhouses.
The draw cards Magmatic Insight from Magic Origins and Tormenting Voice from Dragons of Tarkir both have the requirement to discard a card (specifically a land card in the case of Magmatic Insight). However, by copying them, you're only discarding one card to draw four in return. This is because you only cast the card once, so you only discard once since the cost is actually only paid once.
Keranos, Lord of Storms was a great card to play alongside the Goggles in Standard. Keranos gives you card advantage and the potential to deal 3 damage on every one of your turns. The under-appreciated counter-burn spell Mindswipe was good to play in this sort of deck, too - plus the always useful Dissolve. With extremely efficient burn spell Stoke the Flames still in Standard at the time, this sort of deck could do some real damage.
Another card that could combo well with this card is one that LSV suggested in his preview of this card, Invoke the Firemind, which is in Modern. Essentially, you could choose to burn your opponent and draw cards, burn your opponent twice, or draw cards twice. That's hot stuff and well worth the original 5 mana investment in this card. Plus in Modern, you have Lightning Bolt, Lava Spike, and other powerful burn spells to copy. Aurelia's Fury, Lightning Helix, Boros Charm, and Atarka's Command work, as well, as they have red in their mana costs.
You could even copy an Epic Experiment and play a whole bunch of spells for basically free. That sort of combo deck has been done befor. Having the Goggles only makes it more consistent. Unfortunately, with all of the potential good combinations with Pyromancer's Goggles in Modern, being a 5-mana artifact in such a fast-moving format means that a Goggles-driven Modern deck hasn't emerged on the competitive scene as of 2019.
However, Pyromancer's Goggles has found quite a few homes in EDH. Commanders that play the Goggles include Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh, Neheb, the Eternal, Firesong and Sunspeaker, and Wort, the Raidmother, all decks that use substantial numbers of red instant spells. Pyromancer's Goggles has also been tried in some builds of Zada, Hedron Grinder, as it provides some redunancy for copying your instant spells, but it hasn't become a staple of the deck.
One Commander that hasn't really used Pyromancer's Goggles is Feather, the Redeemed. But, that's partly because Feather is Red & White and the Goggles don't help non-Red spells. Were you to build a pre-dominantly Red themed version of the deck, however, Pyromancer's Goggles is worth considering.
The other good thing about Pyromancer's Goggles is that the Core Set 2020 brought with it a mini-Chandra theme. That's good because these include THREE Chandra planeswalkers, Chandra's Regulator (which copies Chandra planeswalker abilities and also has a draw engine built into it), and Repeated Reverberation (which copies an instant, sorcery, or loyalty ability TWICE). So, if you're wanting to build a Red Spellslinger deck thanks to this card, you will want Pyromancer's Goggles.
There are a bunch of things you can do with Pyromancer's Goggles, and you really only need 1 or 2 copies in a deck, since it's Legendary anyway. The pieces are definitely there for it to be even more popular in EDH than it already is, although it's proven too slow for Modern so far. Of course, Pyromancer's Goggles has plenty of casual appeal, as well, and it's well-deserved.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Terra Stomper was one of the 15 cards exclusively printed for the Magic 2015 30-card sample decks. Along with the other 14 cards, it was included in the Magic 2015 Deck Builder's Toolkit, as well. They couldn't be pulled from packs of Magic 2015. These cards included reprints of classic Magic cards such as Serra Angel, Mahamoti Djinn, Nightmare, Sengir Vampire, and Shivan Dragon.
With Magic Origins, Wizards has done the same thing with these sample decks, except there are now 16 cards, and it's not clear if they're also included in the Magic Origins Deck Builder's Toolkit this time around.
The 16 cards are as follows:
The rares are all the same this time around, with a few different commons and uncommons mixed in. Former versions of these cards printed in previous sets are now legal in Standard, despite the fact that this particular printing is so limited.
Terra Stomper is particularly interesting because the last time it was printed in one of these sample decks, they were selling for several dollars, despite the Zendikar printing still selling for about a dollar. It was believed that with Stomper's 3 Green mana symbols that it may see some play in Mono-Green Devotion or R/G Devotion. When that didn't happen, the Magic 2015 versions dropped to basically match the Zendikar version.
The Stomper is a good card though. For 3GGG, Terra Stomper is an 8/8 with Trample that can't be countered. It's similar to Gaea's Revenge from Magic Origins, except that it doesn't have Haste or the protection from nongreen sources. But the trample in many ways makes it better since it can't simply be chump-blocked. With Gaea's Revenge seeing sideboard play already in Standard, it's not out of the realm of possibility that could be a could play in the sideboard against control decks.
Don't worry about trying to acquire these Magic Origins copies, though, as the Zendikar edition or the Magic 2015 printing will do you just fine. If you want to play any of the above cards, you're best off just finding an older, cheaper printing for now.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
For fans of mill decks in Magic the Gathering, it's hard to not like Sphinx's Tutelage. While it isn't quite as nuts as Grindstone, the card that made mill decks a strong strategy in Legacy in the first place, it does have its similarities.
The major difference between Sphinx's Tutelage and Grindstone is that with the stone, it didn't care if they were non-land cards, only if they shared a color. What makes Grindstone so powerful in Legacy is its combination with a card from Shadowmoor called Painter's Servant.
Painter's Servant is a two-drop artifact creature that makes you choose a color when it comes into play. Any cards that aren't in play, spells, and permanents all become that color in addition to their other colors. When it comes to Grindstone, barring a shuffle effect from a card like Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, it would put all of your opponent's library into the graveyard.
Sphinx's Tutelage. has a bit of a drawback in that it will stop at lands. But it's still pretty powerful, and it activates each time that you draw a card. Two cards doesn't sound like much, but it adds up, especially if you're playing a dedicated mill deck that plays cards like Visions of Beyond (which will often draw you 3 cards and mill your opponent a minimum of 6 cards). The ability for 5U to draw a card and discard a card is probably rarely going to be used. But it is there if you need it
As Painter's Servant is legal in Modern, it may be an interesting idea to build a Servant/Tutelage combo around what is already an effective Esper Mill shell in Modern. Esper Mill has won a number of Modern Daily events on Magic Online. This Esper Mill list went 4-0. It's just a matter of figuring out what comes out for the Servants and Tutelages.
The main issue with this combo, while it's pretty sweet and can mill a whole bunch of cards, you can end up with dead copies of Painter's Servant in your hand. The good news is having multiple copies of Sphinx's Tutelage in play is absolutely fine, as it just offers you additional triggers. Therefore, the Servant should only be in there as a back-up plan. Unlike in Legacy, the combo is not necessarily game-winning, but it doesn't need to be.
What would probably happen is that you would cut the 3 Crypt Incursion and 2 Lingering Souls from the winning Esper Mill list mentioned earlier and replace them with 3 Sphinx's Tutelage and 2 Painter's Servant.
The list would look something like this:
4 Hedron Crab
4 Jace's Phantasm
2 Painter's Servant
NON-CREATURE SPELLS (28)
4 Glimpse the Unthinkable
4 Archive Trap
4 Path to Exile
4 Visions of Beyond
4 Mesmeric Orb
3 Mind Funeral
3 Sphinx's Tutelage
2 Trapmaker's Snare
4 Polluted Delta
3 Flooded Strand
3 Shelldock Isle
2 Marsh Flats
2 Watery Grave
1 Darkslick Shores
1 Godless Shrine
1 Hallowed Fountain
4 Leyline of Sanctity
3 Ensnaring Bridge
3 Leave No Trace
3 Ravenous Trap
While Esper Mill isn't a particularly cheap deck, it's become a consistent performer in the Modern format. Glimpse the Unthinkable is the most expensive card in the deck, and can be replaced with Mind Sculpt. The latter card mills 7 whereas the former mills 10, but it will save you quite a few bucks.
The rest of the cards, outside of the mana fixing, pretty much need to be there for the deck to work. It's not a given that the Servant/Tutelage combo actually makes the deck better. Crypt Incursion was the most removable card in the deck, and that card can gain you life that you could need later
Mesmeric Orb is probably the other card that could be dropped in favor of the combo, as it mills you as well as your opponent, but it quickens the clock and should usually hurt your opponent far more than it ever hurts you. Lingering Souls is a tough drop, as it can be cast from the graveyard. But if Sphinx's Tutelage and Painter's Servant works as well together as they seem to on paper, you won't need the extra creatures, as the Servant gives you a 1/3 blocker as it is.
Does a Modern Esper Mill deck armed with this combo seem like something you would like to try?
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
The Magic Origins Intro Pack, Demonic Deals, has an interesting mix of cards. But when considering which Intro Pack you're going to want to build around, is this black/red deck one to consider? Let's take a look
3 Nantuko Husk
3 Undead Servant
2 Malakir Cullblade
2 Shambling Ghoul
2 Returned Centaur
2 Enthralling Victor
2 Blazing Hellhound
1 Kothophed, Soul Hoarder
1 Fleshbag Marauder
Non-Creature Spells (15)
3 Act of Treason
2 Fiery Impulse
2 Cruel Revival
1 Reave Soul
1 Necromantic Summons
1 Chandra's Ignition
1 Chandra's Fury
1 Unholy Hunger
1 Ravaging Blaze
1 Weight of the Underworld
1 Evolving Wilds
High mana costs are the first thing that stands out in this deck. It has very few early plays. So does this more deliberately paced deck make up for its somewhat steep mana curve?
Kothophed, Soul Hoarder is the cover card of this deck. A 6/6 flying Demon, Kothophed has an interesting ability: each time one of your opponent's permanents is sent from the battlefield to the graveyard, you draw a card and lose 1 life. This can make for some painful card draw. While paying life for cards in Black is common to see, this effect is a bit unique. On paper this guy looks pretty good, but he's quite high up on the mana curve.
The other rare in the deck is Chandra's Ignition. This Sorcery spell with a 3RR casting cost allows you to target one of your creatures and have it deal damage equal to its power to each other creature and each opponent. There are creatures in this deck that can make this effectively a boardwipe that also burns your opponent.
The first creature we'll look at is a reprint of a much older card, Nantuko Husk. He allows you to sacrifice a creature to gain +2/+2 until end of turn. This ability can be used as many times as you want. He is a 3-drop, but if you sacrifice enough creatures to the Husk, it can deal a ton of damage in a hurry.
Undead Servant has an effect that gives you a 2/2 Zombie creature token for each card named Undead Servant you have in your graveyard. For a 3/2 Zombie that costs 3B, that's not a bad effect, as long as you have one Servant in the graveyard already. He doesn't do anything if you don't already have one in there.
Malakir Cullblade is a two-drop 1/1 that gains a +1/+1 counter each time one of your opponent's creatures dies. It's not bad.
Shambling Ghoul is a 2/3 for 1B, but it has to enter the battlefield tapped. Returned Centaur costs 3B to cast and is a 2/4 that puts the top four cards of a target player's deck into the graveyard.
Enthralling Victor costs 3R for a 3/2 Human Warrior. He can grab a target creature your opponent controls with power 2 or less.
You get to untap that creature and it gains haste until end of turn. Ideally you would steal a creature, then sacrifice it to Nantuko Husk or the next card we'll talk about, Blazing Hellhound.
Blazing Hellhound costs 2BR to cast and has the ability to sacrifice a creature, plus the cost of one colorless mana, to deal 1 damage to target creature or player. Fleshbag Marauder is a reprint of an older card that has seen plenty of play in the past. When it enters the battlefield, you and each other player sacrifice a creature; the Marauder can choose itself.
Cobblebrute is a vanilla 5/2 creature for 3R. It does make for a good target for Chandra's Ignition, but not much else. The last creature is Revenant, which is a flyer whose power and toughness is equal to the number of creature cards in your graveyard. He costs 4B to cast, so most likely you'll be casting this much later in the game when you have plenty of creature cards in the graveyard already.
The non-creature spells are a mix of decent and not-so-decent.
Three copies of Act of Treason help the sacrifice theme of this deck. For 2R, you gain control of a target creature, untap it and it gains haste until end of turn. Like with the effect of Enthralling Victor, the main idea is to attack with it, then sacrifice it to your Nantuko Husk or Blazing Hellhound.
Fiery Impulse is a one-mana Red Instant spell that deals 2 damage to a target creature. However, it also has Spell Mastery, meaning if you have 2 or more instant and/or sorcery cards in your graveyard, you deal 3 damage to that creature instead. It's a fairly decent card.
Cruel Revival is a reprint of a card from Onslaught. It costs 4B and destroys a target non-Zombie creature, then you get to return a Zombie creature card from your graveyard to your hand. It's somewhat overcosted removal, even with getting the creature back to your hand.
Reave Soul is a Sorcery-speed spell for 1B that destroys a target creature with power 3 or less. This isn't bad, but it is a bit limiting.
Nightsnare is a bit like Duress and Mind Rot in one card. It costs 3B to play and gives you a choice. Your opponent reveals his or her hand, and you either discard a nonland card of your choice from it, or choose to have that player discard two cards. It's probably best used when your opponent only has two cards in hand. The choice is nice, but as a discard spell, it is a bit inefficient.
Necromantic Summons is a reanimation spell costing 4B. You get to return a creature card from any graveyard to the battlefield under your control. If you achieve Spell Mastery (2 or more Instants/Sorceries in your graveyard) it comes into play with 2 +1/+1 counters on it. That's a decent card.
Chandra's Fury is an instant speed burn spell that's seen Limited play in the past, as this is a reprint. For 4R, it deals 4 damage to target player and 1 damage to each creature that player controls. It's a bit narrow, but hoses players who have armies of 1/1 creatures. It's a lot better in Limited.
Unholy Hunger is another inefficiently costed removal spell. For 3BB, you destroy a target creature. With Spell Mastery, you also get to gain 2 life. Not all too exciting. Ravaging Blaze is interesting mostly for its Spell Mastery ability. It costs XRR, and it deals X damage to a target creature. That's pretty limited, but if you have Spell Mastery, it deals that much damage to that creature's controller, as well.
Weight of the Underworld is an Enchantment that Wizards loves to put in these intro packs. It costs 3B to cast and gives the Enchanted creature -3/-2. You'd likely be better off with a more efficient removal spell.
Improving the Deck
The primary focus of this deck is to keep stealing your opponent's creatures and sacrificing them. Meanwhile your creatures hold down the field until your Cullblades get big enough to deal lots of damage, or Kothophed, Soul Hoarder hits the board. You have to ramp up to enough mana to make spells like Chandra's Ignition and Ravaging Blaze to deliver the crippling blow.
The problem with the deck as-is that it has badly overcosted removal and the creature line-up is uninspiring. It's trying to be a Zombie deck, but it's not all that good. This deck would need a ton of work to be close to competitive even in a casual environment.
The first card you would consider to improve the non-creature spell side of things is Kolaghan's Command, a card from Dragons of Tarkir that has had an explosion of play in both Standard and Modern. It has 4 modes, of which you can choose two as you cast it.
Those options make it a good choice to replace some of the less inspiring cards in the deck. Ultimate Price is a better removal spell than Cruel Revival, certainly. There are also plenty of Red spells that do a better job than those in this deck.
Here's a possible list with improvements:
Creature-wise more copies of Fleshbag Marauder and one more Nantuko Husk would be something to consider. If you want to focus on Zombies, Risen Executioner is definitely a creature to consider.
A copy or two of the Delve creature Gurmag Angler would work as well; just be careful what you exile to reduce its casting cost if you're planning to care about what's in your graveyard. Sidisi, Undead Vizier is also a card you may want in order to use her Exploit ability to sacrifice a creature to get any card you want from your deck to your hand.
4 Nantuko Husk
4 Undead Servant
3 Malakir Cullblade
3 Fleshbag Marauder
2 Risen Executioner
1 Kothophed, Soul Hoarder
1 Sidisi, Undead Vizier
2 Gurmag Angler
Non-Creature Spells (16)
4 Act of Treason
2 Fiery Impulse
2 Ultimate Price
4 Kolaghan's Command
1 Necromantic Summons
1 Chandra's Ignition
2 Ravaging Blaze
4 Bloodfell Caves
4 Bloodstained Mire
The red creatures are all removed since they don't really help the deck all that much, especially the Victors that were too narrow and the Hellhound for being inefficient for Constructed purposes. Revenant isn't the best win condition, so it goes as well. This means there can be much less red mana in the deck, splashing the Red for Kolaghan's Command, Chandra's Ignition and Ravaging Blaze. Bloodfell Caves and Bloodstained Mire provide the mana fixing. If you don't want to spend more on the Mires, you can add Mountains back in their place.
The better plan, however, is probably just to morph this deck into a Mardu Aggro or Mardu Dragons deck with cards like Kolaghan, the Storm's Fury. But with so many cards in those decks leaving Standard with the October 2015 rotation, it's probably best to take a wait and see approach before investing too much in improving this deck.
The best thing to do is to scrap the Zombie theme entirely and focus on aggressive creatures such as Monastery Swiftspear and Thunderbreak Regent in Red and moving into White with creatures like Soulfire Grand Master and Seeker of the Way, splashing Black just for Crackling Doom and Mardu Charm - possibly the Delve removal spell Murderous Cut, as well. Kolaghan, the Storm's Fury will probably replace Goblin Rabblemaster to some degree in these types of decks. Outpost Siege is an Enchantment you'll want to look into building around, as well.
All that being said, there really isn't anything here you'd want to build around if you're looking to use it as a shell for a Friday Night Magic or otherwise Standard-legal deck, unless you really just want to play Zombies with the sacrifice theme.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
The Magic Origins Intro Pack Take to the Sky has you really do just what it says. It's made up of a combination of Flash and Flying creatures with some interesting Auras searchable using the 2 copies of Totem-Guide Hartebeest in the deck. It features two rares, Alhammarrett, High Arbiter and Soulblade Djinn. While the Arbiter is underwhelming, the Djinn may be better than some people think.
Let's take a look at this evasive deck:
3 Faerie Miscreant
2 Sigiled Starfish
2 Yoked Ox
2 Nivix Barrier
2 Tower Geist
2 Charging Griffin
2 Thunderclap Wyvern
2 Totem-Guide Hartebeest
1 Alhammarret, High Arbiter
1 Soulblade Djinn
1 Aven Battle Priest
Non-Creature Spells (13)
2 Healing Hands
2 Suppression Bonds
1 Turn to Frog
1 Celestial Flare
1 Stratus Walk
1 Murder Investigation
1 Evolving Wilds
Alhammarrett, High Arbiter is the featured card in the deck. But for a 5/5 flyer that costs 5UU to cast, all he does is reveal your opponents' hands and you get to choose one and your opponents can't cast spells with that name. It's basically a way over-costed Meddling Mage. But the Mage was only two mana., and yeah, it required guessing which card to pick, but it was a powerful card when it was legal in Standard.
Soulblade Djinn, on the other hand, is a bit more interesting. He has a sort of "super" Prowess ability, giving all of your creatures, including himself +1/+1 each time you cast a non-creature spell. While a 4/3 flyer for 3UU isn't fantastic, the effect makes the Djinn worth playing.
Onto the other creatures.
Faerie Miscreant is pretty interesting as a one-drop. It's a 1/1 flyer, and if you control another Faerie Miscreant when you cast it, you get to draw a card. Sigiled "Scryfish" Starfish lets you tap to Scry 1, which is useful for setting up draws. Yoked Ox is a 0/4 for one White. Besides the Miscreants, this creature lineup isn't off to an exciting start.
Nivix Barrier is a 0/4 for 3U with Flash. When it enters the battlefield, a target attacking creature gets -4/-0 until end of turn. That doesn't seem worth 3U for a combat trick. Watercourser is a 2/3 flyer for 2U that has the ability to get +1/-1 for a single Blue mana. Therefore it could be a 4/1 each turn for two Blue mana. It makes it awfully fragile but it's an ability that can be played before damage calculation in combat.
Tower Geist provides a bit of card draw for 3U. It's a 2/2 flyer that lets you look at the top two cards of your deck when it enters play. You put one card in your hand and the other card in the graveyard. Charging Griffin is a 2/2 flyer for 3W that gains +1/+1 whenever it attacks. Neither of these cards are too strong.
Thunderclap Wyvern may be the best creature in the deck besides Soulblade Djinn. It's a 2/3 flyer with Flash and Flying for 2WU. It also gives your other flying creatures +1/+1. It can be used as a combat trick or played on your opponent's turn for maximum effect.
Totem-Guide Hartebeest is good at what it does. It's a 2/5 for 4W that lets you get any Aura card from your deck, reveal it, and put it into your hand. The choices that it has in this particular build aren't the most wonderful, but it's fine for tutoring up a card that you may really need at some point.
Lastly, there's Aven Battle Priest, which costs 5W for a 3/3 flyer. When it enters the battlefield, you gain 3 life. Meh.
The overall theme in this deck should be obvious - these creatures for the most part are simply not very efficient. The Miscreants, Wyverns, and the Djinn are the only creatures that would be worth building around here. The Enchantment sub-theme, as you'll see, isn't all that wonderful given the cards you're offered.
The non-creature spells are for the most part very defensive. Healing Hands is a Sorcery that costs 2W and gains a target player 4 life. It does also draw you a card. Hydrolash for 2U gives all attacking creatures -2/-0 until end of turn and also draws you a card. I definitely like Hydrolash more than Healing Hands, as who wants to cast that at Sorcery speed unless you're in desparation mode? Hydrolash is at least a decent combat trick.
Claustrophobia is the first Enchantment we'll look at, and it's fine. For 1UU, you tap the enchanted creature and it doesn't untap during its controller untap step. This is a card that's actually seen some Constructed action in the past, specifically in Mono-Blue Devotion due to its 2 Blue mana symbols. If there's any card in here to stay, it's this one.
Suppression Bonds is an overpriced Pacifism, except that it can hit and nonland permanent. It costs 3W to cast and the enchanted permanent can't attack, block, or use its activated abilities. This is one of those cards that's fine in Limited, but when you're building a 60-card deck, you want more value for your mana.
Negate counters a target noncreature spell. It's pretty basic. Turn to Frog is a cute combat trick that's been a Limited All-Star in its previous printings. It's a great way to deal with a problematic creature. Perhaps it's not Constructed playable, but it's a fun card that does its job well.
Celestial Flare is a defensive card that's seen play in the past. It costs WW and forces a player to sacrifice an attacking or blocking creature. The fact that this card can be used on offense or defense makes it fairly valuable.
We now get to the main Enchantments in the deck that you'll want to seek out with Totem-Guide Hartebeest: Stratus Walk and Murder Investigation. The first one gives the Enchanted creature flying and draws you a card when it enters. But that creature can no longer block any creatures except those with flying. While that's not a serious problem, what in this deck would you enchant with it? The Hartebeest?
The other Enchantment, Murder Investigation, is much more interesting. It's a reprint from Gatecrash. You Enchant a creature you control, and when it dies you get X 1/1 soldier creature tokens where X is that creature's power. On the High Arbiter or Soulblade Djinn, that's going to make you a fair number of tokens, especially if their power is being boosted in any way.
Improving the Deck
This one is a tough one to figure when it comes to beefing it up. So many creatures in the deck are vastly underpowered when it comes to their contemporaries. In Limited this deck might stand up, but as is, it's just not going to cut it against any sort of optimized Constructed deck.
Basically you would cut the entire deck outside of a few of the better creatures. The Enchantment sub-theme may still be worth it, but you don't really need to invest in Hartebeest to make that plan work. But is there a decent "Take to the Sky" themed deck using only cards from Khans of Tarkir forward?
Be prepared, it won't be cheap:
4 Faerie Miscreant
4 Stratus Dancer
3 Silumgar Sorcerer
4 Thunderclap Wyvern
2 Archangel of Tithes
2 Dragonlord Ojutai
2 Icefall Regent
2 Soulblade Djinn
Non-Creature Spells (13)
4 Mastery of the Unseen
1 Sigil of the Empty Throne
4 Flooded Strand
4 Tranquil Cove
Bear in mind this is not an optimized list, but it basically follows the mana curve of the previous deck, although the mana symbol requirements in this build are more intensive. That's why 4 copies of the white/blue fetchland are included, as well as 4 of the white/blue tapland Tranquil Cove. The Cove will gain you 1 life upon playing it, which should make up for the slower pace of this deck.
Faerie Miscreant remains in the deck as the potential card draw is too good to ignore, and we want to have an early drop in the game. Stratus Dancer is brought in to basically serve as a flying body with Negate attached to its Megamorph side. Silumgar Sorcerer fits into the original theme of the deck, but it can Exploit itself or another creature to stop a creature spell from being cast. Already these flyers all do something pretty good.
Thunderclap Wyvern is maxed out since EVERY creature in this deck flies, so why not? Archangel of Tithes is a hot card from Magic Origins, and while its triple White mana cost may be tricky, the fact that it can so badly mess up your opponents ability to both attack and block, it's worth including.
I shouldn't have to say why Dragonlord Ojutai is good, being one of the best control finishers in the game. It also gives you the card filtering that Tower Geist gave you, but on a bigger body and you don't discard the other cards. It's also a pain to remove. Also, Icefall Regent acts as a third and fourth Claustrophia on a body that's tricky to remove, as well. Soulblade Djinn gets another copy.
The non-creature spells is where this deck gets interesting. We have 4 copies of Mastery of the Unseen. These make more sense when combined with the Enchantments Cloudform and Lightform.
All of these cards deal with the Manifest mechanic, which takes the top card of your deck and turns them into 2/2 creatures. Cloudform gives those manifested creatures flying and hexproof, while Lightform gives them flying and lifelink. Mastery of the Unseen allows you to Manifest the top card of your deck for 3W, but more importantly, when you get to flip your Stratus Dancers or Manifested creatures, you gain a whole ton of life.
Sigil of the Empty Throne is in here as a one-of to be a late-game win condition, making a 4/4 angel every time that you play an Enchantment, of which there are plenty in this deck. It's possible that it could get manifested and never be anything but a 2/2 creature, but that's OK. The two copies of Claustrophobia remain. But more often that not, you'll manifest a creature that you can flip over later.
How this deck would actually work would require some serious testing, but it keeps the spirit of the original intro pack entirely. How would you go about improving the Take to the Sky intro pack?
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
The Magic Origins Intro Packs are less about getting "bang for your buck" than introducing the concepts present in the set and giving new and/or returning players a place to start going about brewing a new deck. In the case of Brave the Battle, the Green/White Intro Pack, your "money" cards here are Outland Colossus and Hixus, Prison Warden. This deck, similar to the Armed half of the Magic Origins Clash Pack, focuses on the Renown mechanic, albeit not at all to the same effect.
Let's take a look:
3 Cleric of the Forward Order
2 Anointer of Champions
2 Knight of the Pilgrim's Road
2 Topan Freeblade
2 Stalwart Aven
2 Valeron Wardens
2 Citadel Castellan
2 Sentinel of the Eternal Watch
1 Hixus, Prison Warden
1 Heavy Infantry
1 Patron of the Valiant
1 Outland Colossus
1 Vastwood Gorger
Non-Creature Spells (13)
2 Wild Instincts
2 Enshrouding Mist
2 Mighty Leap
2 Grasp of the Hieromancer
2 Knightly Valor
1 Titanic Growth
1 Vine Snare
1 Valor in Akros
1 Evolving Wilds
As always, we'll take a look at the rares first. Hixus, Prison Warden is an interesting card that can deal with problematic creatures at instant speed. But leaving up 5 mana to cast him is rarely going to be part of the plan unless you are getting severely beat down. He's fine in a Limited environment and has some casual and Commander appeal, but in a Constructed deck you're going to want to spend your mana much more efficiently.
Outland Colossus, on the other hand, is a big huge Renown creature that can become a 12/12 fairly easily. He also can't be blocked by more than one creature. The primary issue here is that he can be chump-blocked all day. Obviously, though, if this guy gets a clear path through, he's going to pretty much end the game.
Cleric of the Forward Order is the first non-rare creature we'll take a look at and it's an interesting one. When it enters the battlefield, you gain 2 life for each creature you control named Cleric of the Forward Order. The good thing about this is that you gain 2 life no matter one, potentially being able to gain up to 6 at one time with this deck. For a "bear" - that is a creature that costs 2 mana and has 2 power and toughness - this is okay.
Anointer of Champions is a cute little card in that she can tap to give a target attacking creature a +1/+1 boost until end of turn. It can let you win battles that you wouldn't otherwise win and can make combats a bit trickier. Typically I'm not a huge fan of visible combat tricks, but it can make your opponent overthink how to block or not.
Knight of the Pilgrim's Road is a fairly vanilla 3/2 for 2W, but it does have Renown. That means as soon as he can connect with a player with combat damage, he gets a +1/+1 counter. a 4/3 for 2W is pretty solid, but you have to get through.
Topan Freeblade is a 2/2 with Vigilance and Renown for 1W, making him a bit more efficient than the Knight. Stalwart Aven is only a 1/3 for 2W but he flies and has vigilance, so the chances of this becoming a 2/4 flyer is pretty good.
Valeron Wardens has great synergy with other Renown creatures because not only do they have Renown, but it has Renown 2, gaining 2 +1/+1 counters instead of one. That means being a 1/3 for 2G isn't so bad, because the Wardens become a 3/5. Plus, the Warden allows you to draw a card each time one of your creatures becomes Renowned. This includes the Wardens. Getting a 1/3 through, however, can be a challenge.
Citadel Castellan is one of the better Renown creatures. While I'd recommend cutting it in the Clash Pack deck, in a dedicated Renown strategy, you can't really beat this. Already a 2/3 with Vigilance for 1GW, the Castellan has Renown 2 as well. A 4/5 for only three mana that also has Vigilance is pure value.
Sentinel of the Eternal Watch is a good way to make sure some of your Renown creatures get through. It has vigilance and at the beginning of each of your opponent's combats, you get to tap a target creature that player controls. This is all well and good but this is a 4/6 for 5W. It's not going to hit the board until late, so it's hard to say just how effective this would be.
Heavy Infantry is similar to the Sentinel in that it can tap down a target creature, but only when it enters the battlefield. It's a otherwise a vanilla 3/4 for 4W. So creatures that tap others down are clearly not very mana-efficient in this deck.
Patron of the Valiant is a particularly interesting card, however. When it enters the battlefield, you get to put a +1/+1 counter on each creature you control that already has a +1/+1 counter on it. It's also a 4/4 flyer for 3WW, which are solid stats. It's probably the best non-rare card in the deck, and is a good friend of Renown creatures. Vastwood Gorger is a big fatty, a 5/6 for 5G, which though it has worthwhile stats in a Limited environment, should be replaced by a second copy of the Patron.
Non-Creature Spell Lineup
Wild Instincts is a bit of an overcosted "fight" card. It costs 3G and gives a target creature +2/+2 until end of turn and causes it to fight a target creature an opponent controls. It's similar to a card called Hunt the Weak from Fate Reforged. That card has the same casting cost, but gives the creature a +1/+1 counter instead of the temporary +2/+2 boost. The best card for this slot, however, would be Dromoka's Command, which can do the same thing as Hunt the Weak for only two mana, and give you other choices, as well.
Enshrouding Mist is awesome for Renown decks. Not only is it a one-mana combat trick that gives a target creature +1/+1 and prevents any damage done to it, if that creature is Renowned, you get to untap it. Mighty Leap is a Limited favorite that gives a target creature +2/=2 and flying until end of turn for 1W.
Grasp of the Hieromancer is an Aura new to Magic Origins. It costs 1W and gives the Enchanted creature +1/+1. But it does something even better for the case of Renown: whenever that creature attacks, you get to tap down a target creature an opponent controls. Knightly Valor is another new Aura, but it costs 4W, creates a 2/2 Knight token with Vigilance and gives the Enchanted creature +2/+2 and Vigilance. While that does a lot, playing an Aura for 4W is rarely a good plan outside of Limited.
Titanic Growth is a poor man's Giant Growth because Wizards doesn't want to print cards that give a guaranteed +3/+3 for a single Green mana anymore. Vine Snare is a conditional "Fog" card that costs 2G and prevents any damage dealt by creatures with power 4 or less. That can be an absolute blowout if you already control creatures that can then block and kill the attacking creatures without a second thought.
Besides the Grasp of the Hieromancer, the other interesting Enchantment in the deck is Valor in Akros. It costs 3W to cast, but whenever you play a creature, all creatures you control get +1/+1 until end of turn. This includes tokens. It's sort of a poor man's Cathars' Crusade, which would put +1/+1 counters on your creatures rather than just the temporary boost. Alas, that card is from Avacyn Restored and long out of Standard. But this is still a good Enchantment nonetheless, especially if you can play multiple creatures in a turn.
Improving the Deck
Lots of tweaks are to be made here.
3 Consuls' Lieutenant
3 Anointer of Champions
4 Topan Freeblade
4 Valeron Wardens
3 Citadel Castellan
3 Patron of the Valiant
2 Outland Colossus
Non-Creature Spells (14)
4 Dromoka's Command
4 Grasp of the Hieromancer
3 Enshrouding Mist
1 Titanic Growth
1 Vine Snare
1 Valor in Akros
4 Blossoming Sands
The first thing to do is include one of the best Renown creatures in the set with Consuls' Lieutenant. They will replace Cleric of the Forward Order. He's a 2/1 with first strike for two White mana and has Renown 1. Once he's Renowned, every time he attacks, all other creatures you control gain +1/+1 until end of turn. Three copies should be good as he's a double-white creature.
We'll add another Anointer of Champions, but we could also replace all three of them with the 2/1 Dragon Hunter from Khans of Tarkir. But the ability to help us win some extra combats seems to make the Anointers okay to include here.
Topan Freeblade is maxed out in favor of Knight of the Pilgrim's Road. Valeron Wardens are also maxed out to take advantage of the card draw and Renown 2. Another copy of Citadel Castellan is added, as well. Gone are the Stalwart Aven and Heavy Infantry. Two copies of Patron of the Valiant replace the Sentinel of the Eternal Watch. One more Outland Colossus replaces the Vastwood Gorger. Hixus, Prison Warden also comes out for not having real synergy with the deck.
The most expensive new inclusion to the deck is 4 copies of Dromoka's Command. Not only can it do the same thing as Hunt the Weak, but gives you two other options, as well. While Dromoka's Command doesn't activate Renown, it can put a +1/+1 counter on a creature that otherwise might not and has great synergy with Patron of the Valiant. Grasp of the Hieromancer is maxed out because of the ability to tap down opponent's creatures. A third Enshrouding Mist replaces the 25th land in the deck, as we'll be adding a full playset of the Green/White tapland from Khans of Tarkir to make better mana fixing. One copy each of Titanic Growth, Vine Snare, and Valor in Akros remain for now.
These are obviously only suggestions to make the deck function better as is. You could easily include creatures with the Bolster mechanic, such as Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit and Dragonscale General to improve upon the +1/+1 counter theme in the deck. You could put in Dromoka, the Eternal and her Bolster 2 ability in, as well.
There are many ways that this deck could be improved upon. What direction do you believe you would take in upgrading the Brave the Battle Intro Pack?
The Magic Origins Intro Packs are not the strongest ever we've seen. The Elf-heavy Hunting Pack intro pack, though, is one of the better value decks we've seen in a long time. The artifact-based Assemble Victory Intro Pack offers value in a different way, giving you a fascinating assortment of cards that actually work pretty well together.
Assemble Victory is led by Chandra's parents, Pia and Kiran Nalaar, an okay card in their own right. Like every Intro Pack there are some head-scratcher card choices, but it highlights some of the more interesting commons and uncommons in the set.
Let's take a look at the deck list;
1 Pia and Kiran Nalaar
2 Bonded Construct
1 Runed Servitor
1 Subterranean Scout
1 Bellows Lizard
1 Maritime Guard
2 Chief of the Foundry
2 Ghirapur Gearcrafter
1 Thopter Engineer
2 Guardian Automaton
2 Aspiring Aeronaut
1 Separatist Voidmage
1 Whirler Rogue
2 Reclusive Artificer
2 Volcanic Rambler
1 Mage-Ring Responder
1 Prism Ring
2 Alchemist's Vial
3 Infectious Bloodlust
2 Ghirapur Aether Grid
2 Artificer's Epiphany
1 Evolving Wilds
The rares in the deck are Pia and Kiran and Mage-Ring Responder. As you'll see with this deck, Thopters are definitely a theme in Magic Origins. Getting three creatures for 2RR is pretty good, actually, but the 2R ability is a bit overcosted to be used on a consistent basis.
Mage-Ring Responder needs to have a way to be untapped outside of its own ability to be much good. The players most excited about it are artifact players in Commander. That's fine, but while the Responder has nice raw power, it doesn't need to be in a Constructed deck.
The best creature in the deck is actually Chief of the Foundry. It was about time that artifact creatures had a Lord. Yeah, Steel Overseer is better because he taps and gives all your artifact creatures +1/+1 counters. But this guy is pure value.
It gets even better with Bonded Construct, a 2/1 for one mana. Unfortunately, it's unable to attack alone.. But with a Chief of the Foundry on board, that's a bunch of 2/3's that can attack together.
Unfortunately, the other artifact creatures in the deck aren't super exciting. Guardian Automaton is a 3/3 for 4 that gives you 3 life when it dies. That's fine, just not super inspiring. Runed Servitor is a reprint from Rise of the Eldrazi, and when it dies, every player draws a card. The last one is Ramroller, a 2/3 for 3 that has to attack every turn if able - but it gains +2/+0 with another artifact on board.
But there are decent other creatures in the deck. Ghirapur Gearcrafter is a 2/1 for 2R, which doesn't sound great, but he comes with a 1/1 flying Thopter. Aespiring Aeronaut is a 1/2 flyer for 3U that also comes with a Thopter. Whirler Rogue is also pretty good, a 2UU with a 2/2 body that gives you 2 1/1 Thopters. It has another ability that allows you to tap two untapped artifacts you control and a target creature you control can't be blocked until end of turn. The best of these that come with a Thopter is the Thopter Engineer, which is a 1/3 for 2R but also gives all of your artifact creatures Haste.
Reclusive Artifcer is one of the most fascinating creatures in the deck. She's only a 2/3 for 2UR, but she has Haste and when she enters the battlefield, you may have her deal damage to a target creature equal to the number of artifacts you control. This can make for some pretty good removal
One of the other decent creatures in the deck is the Goblin Subterranean Scout. He's a 2/1 for 1R and when he enters the battlefield, target creature with power 2 or less can't be blocked that turn. That doesn't sound too exciting but there is a trick to it. With a creature like Goblin Piledriver or Goblin Rabblemaster that gains power when it attacks, you can use the scout's ability pre-combat and deal a whole ton of unblocked damage.. Talk about Goblins running you over.
Then, of course, you have some strange choices like Bellows Lizard and Maritime Guard, which make no sense at all in the deck. Volcanic Rambler is an odd choice, although a 6/4 for 5R isn't bad at common, and the ability to ping a player for 1 damage for 2R is... okay. But what's it doing in an artifact deck? Separatist Voidmage is also an odd inclusion in this deck. It's a 2/2 for 3U that returns a creature to its owner's hand, which is fine, but just really odd here.
The deck contains two very interesting Enchantments, which are interesting for very different reasons. Infectious Bloodlust is an Aura for 1R that gives a creature +2/+1, haste, and has to attack each turn if able. What's most interesting about it is that when the enchanted creature dies, you get to search your deck for another copy of Infectious Bloodlust and add it to your hand. While I don't see much synergy with this deck, it's an interesting Enchantment for sure.
Ghirapur Aether Grid makes a lot of sense in this deck. By tapping two untapped artifact you control, the Grid deals 1 damage to target creature or player. With the number of Thopters that this deck can create, that's a lot of potential damage that can be dealt.
Artificer's Epiphany draws you 2 cards at instant speed for 2U, which is pretty good - although it has a drawback that if you control no artifacts, you must discard a card. But I rarely see that being a problem. Alchemist's Vial is a useful artifact that costs two mana to cast and draws you a card, which is pretty good. It can be sacrificed for 1 mana to prevent a target creature from attacking or blocking. It's an okay ability, but the card draw is the best thing about it.
Prism Ring is an artifact that lets you choose a color and gain life every time a spell of the chosen color is cast by you. It's not as good as the other lifegain artifacts from past Core Sets, because it doesn't count spells cast by opponents. It's pretty mediocre.. Meteorite is cute, as we saw in Magic 2015, but it's not meant for this deck. It's not worth it as a mana rock that has a Shock ability, not for 5 mana.
Disperse is a useful card that returns a nonland permanent to its owner's hand. But one copy doesn't really do anything for anyone.
So how about improving the deck?
In the short term, adding Ensoul Artifact and Shrapnel Blast would make the most sense for improving this deck. But they are in Magic 2015, and won't remain in Standard that much longer. That being said, if you don't care about playing in Standard Constructed tournaments, these cards are really good. Ensoul Artifact makes all those Thopters you'll make huge threats and Shrapnel Blast can sacrifice a Thopter or any of your other artifacts to deal 5 damage to a target creature or player.
So let's max out on the Thopter creation and include some other useful stuff.
2 Pia and Kiran Nalaar
4 Bonded Construct
4 Chief of the Foundry
4 Ghirapur Gearcrafter
4 Thopter Engineer
2 Whirler Rogue
4 Ensoul Artifact
3 Shrapnel Blast
2 Artificer's Epiphany
2 Ghirapur Aether Grid
1 Thopter Spy Network
4 Swiftwater Cliffs
While it will be rotating out of Standard alongside Ensoul Artifact and Shrapnel Blast, Ornithopter is the best card ever for this deck. Not only is it a Thopter and a great target for Ensoul Artifact, but it costs 0 mana and has synergy with everything in the deck.
Another copy of Pia and Kiran is added for consistency. The Bonded Constructs, Chief of the Foundries, Gearcrafters, and Engineers are all maxed out as they're the best cards in the deck. Another Whirler Rogue is added, as well.
For the non-creature spells, everything by the Artifcer's Epiphanies and Aether Grids are dropped. 4 Ensoul Artifact and 3 Shrapnel Blast are added. Also, one copy of Thopter Spy Network from Magic Origins is added.
The Spy Network is going to give you a lot more Thopters, as long as you control an artifact. Also, whenever one or more artifact creatures you control deal combat damage to a player, you draw a card. It's a card that's already drawn tons of interest from Commander players. Will it work in Constructed? We'll see just how valuable it is.
How will the deck fare after it loses Ornithopter, Ensoul Artifact, and Shrapnel Blast after rotation? That's hard to say.. There's Renowned Weaponsmith in Fate Reforged that can help with casting the artifact creatures, and will take the place of Ornithopter. The deck would focus more around Ghirapur Aether Grid and run more straight burn spells like Exquisite Firecraft and the like.
When Battle for Zendikar rolls around, we'll see what artifact support emerges. Until then, this deck is a decent place to start for anyone looking to play red/blue artifacts.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
The Magic Origins set was very good to the Elves tribe, and Wizards of the Coast did Elf fans a favor by including some of these great Elf cards in a single Intro Pack. Hunting Pack, the green/black intro pack for Magic Origins, was one of the best Intro Pack printed in a long time. It features two strong rare cards: Dwynen, Gilf-Leaf Daen and Managorger Hydra, as well as strong Elf creatures such as Shaman of the Pack and Dwynen's Elite.
Let's take a look at the deck list
3 Timberpack Wolf
2 Dwynen's Elite
2 Elvish Visionary
2 Thornbow Archer
2 Leaf Gilder
2 Yeva's Forcemage
2 Deadbridge Shaman
2 Eyeblight Assassin
2 Shaman of the Pack
2 Sylvan Messenger
1 Dwynen, Gilf-Leaf Daen
1 Hitchclaw Recluse
1 Managorger Hydra
1 Skysnare Spider
2 Eyeblight Massacre
2 Joraga Invocation
2 Might of the Masses
2 Weight of the Underworld
1 Macabre Waltz
1 Consecrated by Blood
1 Evolving Wilds
Thornbow Archer is a one-drop Black Elf from Magic Origins that shouldn't be overlooked. Not only is she a 1/2, but whenever she attacks, each opponent who doesn't control an Elf loses 1 life. Obviously, she's pretty bad in a mirror match, but the life loss, while seemingly minor, adds up. If you can add a couple more copies to the deck, these suddenly become a lot more effective.
Leaf Gilder is no Elvish Mystic. The Gilder gives you a Green mana like the Mystic, sure, but costs you one more to cast.
Yeva's Forcemage is a reprint that has been good in Limited in the past, but +2/+2 until end of turn, while cool, isn't strong in a Constructed deck. 2G for 2/2 in Elves isn't quite enough.
Deadbridge Shaman and Eyeblight Assassin are two new Magic Origins Elves that won't win any awards, but do a good job for what they do.. Deadbridge Shaman is a 3/1 for 2B that forces an opponent to discard a card when it dies. The Assassin is a 2/2 for 2B that gives a target creature an opponent control -1/-1 until end of turn. Both of these are commons and are fine additions to Limited decks, but are a bit underwhelming for Constructed.
Dwynen, Gilf-Leaf Daen is a strong Elf Lord and she's easily the best card in the "Hunting Pack deck. But with all the creatures you'll be casting, Managorger Hydra, while not an Elf, is going to get very big and be very hard to deal with.
But the real prizes here are two copies each of Dwynen's Elite and Shaman of the Pack,. The Elite give you two bodies for the price of one, and the Shaman can cripple an opponent as soon as it hits the battlefield.
The three Timberpack Wolves seem a bit random, but they do become bigger with each copy you play. Still, they're an odd choice for an Elf deck. Elvish Visionary is a simple 1/1 for 1G that draws you a card, but it's good enough that it's been played competitively.
Sylvan Messenger has been reprinted a few times, but not in a Standard-legal set since way back with her debut in Apocalypse.. The Messenger is good as ever, though. A 2/2 with Trample for 3G looks a bit strange, but her effect is why you play her.
When the Messenger enters the battlefield, you reveal the top four cards of your deck. You get to put all Elf cards revealed that way into your hand and the rest on the bottom of your deck in any order. In a dedicated Elf deck, this is an awesome effect. Who doesn't want to potentially pick up 4 cards for 4 mana?
The last two creatures in the deck are a bit oddly chosen. They're both spiders? Hitchclaw Recluse is a 1/4 with Reach for 2G and Skysnare Spider is a 6/6 with Vigilance and Reach for 4GG. They don't fit in with the deck at all, although the Skysnare is definitely a force to be reckoned with.
Understandably, you can't have an intro pack with a full play-set (four copies) of any one card, so that's why there are some strange creature choices in here.. But conspicuously absent from the deck is Gnarlroot Trapper, a one-drop Elf with two tap abilities. One is to tap or green mana, although you have to pay 1 life and only use that mana to cast an Elf creature spell. The second is to give an attacking Elf you control deathtouch until end of turn. Investing in these would be a good place to start improving this deck.
Onto the non-creature spells, the list has two copies of an interesting sort of board-wipe in Eyeblight Massacre. If you play nothing but Elves, giving all other creatures -2/-2 is going to devastate a lot of players. While 2BB is a lot to pay for only -2/-2, it skips over your Elves. In Constructed it's probably more of a sideboard card that one to be main-boarded. It's still a cool card.
Joraga Invocation can be a finisher if played at the right time, giving all your creatures +3/+3 until end of turn. One thing I don't care for is that your creatures then have to be blocked if able. While this can be a rout for your opponent, it's not like your creatures gain trample or anything, and 4GG is a steep price to pay for a card that's not Overrun.
Might of the Masses is a card I can get behind. For a single Green mana, this Instant gives a target creature +1/+1 for each creature you control. This can be even better than the classic Giant Growth if you get enough creatures on board. That's not hard to do with Elves. This card has been a Pauper favorite since its original release in Rise of the Eldrazi. But in this Standard environment, it may actually see some play.
Weight of the Underworld is an Enchantment that costs 3B to cast and gives a target creature -3/-2. That's a bit highly costed to serve as Constructed removal. Macabre Waltz allows you to get two creature cards back from your graveyard, but you have to discard a card, too. Nightsnare is an unusual discard card, which allows you to choose a nonland card from your opponents hand and discard it - the unusual part is that you can choose to have your opponent discard two cards of your own choice instead. It's like a Mind Rot with choices. I'm not really a fan of any of these cards, although Nightsnare is cool in Limited.
We finish with a cute Enchantment, Consecrated by Blood. It costs 2BB to cast and gives the Enchantment creature +2/+2 and flying. It also gives it the ability to sacrifice two creatures in order to regenerate it. It's no Gift of Orzhova and while I like it in Limited, what's it doing in an Elf deck?
With all my issues with some of the card choices in the deck, Intro Packs are meant to contain a wide variety of cards. But from a value standpoint, you're getting a lot of bang for your buck with the two rares and decent uncommons like the Shaman of the Packs, Sylvan Messenger,s and Dwynen's Elites. If we were to make some quick fixes to the deck, this is what it might look like::
4 Gnarlroot Trapper
4 Dwynen's Elite
4 Elvish Visionary
4 Thornbow Archer
4 Shaman of the Pack
4 Sylvan Messenger
2 Dwynen, Gilf-Leaf Daen
2 Managorger Hydra
2 Eyeblight Massacre
2 Joraga Invocation
4 Might of the Masses
4 Jungle Hollow (G/B Tap Land)
These changes focus completely on the Elves themselves, lowering the mana curve considerably. The expensive removal is out for additional copies of Might of the Masses and maxing out the creature line-up. The inexpensive mana base fix is to include the Green/Black tapland Jungle Hollow. Eyeblight Massacre and Joraga Invocation stay since they still work for the deck even if they may not be cards typically seen in high-level play. These additions would likely cost you no more than $10-15 USD.
Alternatively, if you want to spend more money, the 2 Eyeblight Masacre and 2 Joraga Invocation could be replaced with 4 Collected Company. Since much of your deck is now creatures with mana costs of 3 or less (including the Hydras) you have the potential of dropping two creatures directly into play more often than not. Those are some fairly expensive additions, however. You can also swap out the Hydras for two copies of Gilt-Leaf Winnower.
The "Hunting Pack" Intro Pack proved to be a great way for newer players to experience Green/Black Elves. Even now, it's still a strong Intro Pack.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
The Magic Origins Clash Pack is chock full of some crazy value. Right away one of the decks have Modern all-stars like Collected Company and the fetch-land Windswept Heath, immediately recouping the product's $30 MSRP. Not only that, but the deck contains six premium alternate art foils: Honored Hierarch, Seeker of the Way, Valorous Stance, Siege Rhino, Dromoka, the Eternal, and Sandsteppe Citadel. The Rhino is particular is a sweet card to have.
As far as the decks, Armed is a Green/White deck and Dangerous is a Green/White/Black deck. Armed has the majority of the dollar value, but Dangerous has plenty of useful cards such as Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit and Avatar of the Resolute.
Let's take a look first at Armed:
2 Topan Freeblade
2 Undercity Troll
2 Valeron Wardens
2 Citadel Castellan
2 War Oracle
1 Honored Hierarch
1 Dragon Hunter
1 Anointer of Champions
1 Seeker of the Way
1 Dromoka Warrior
1 Consul's Lieutenant
1 Dragon Bell Monk
1 Outland Colossus
1 Kytheon's Irregulars
2 Epic Confrontation
2 Enshrouding Mist
2 Mighty Leap
2 Titanic Growth
1 Feat of Resistance
1 Pressure Point
1 Valorous Stance
1 Dromoka's Command
1 Collected Company
2 Blossoming Sands
2 Evolving Wilds
1 Windswept Heath
At release, this deck is worth some good money. It's chock full of great cards. Not only does it have Collected Company, perhaps the best card in Dragons of Tarkir, and Windswept Heath, but it also has the strong instant Dromoka's Command, and plenty of useful creatures. This deck is based around combat tricks complimenting a solid creature base, many of which have the Renown mechanic.
The creatures with Renown include Topan Freeblade, Undercity Troll, Valeron Wardens, Citadel Castellan, War Oracle, Honored Hierarch, Consul's Lieutenant, Outland Colossus, and Kytheon's Irregulars. Renown activates when a creature deals combat damage to a player, giving that creature a +1/+1 counter and some have effects that only activate with Renown. Some creatures in the deck, including the Wardens and Citadel Castellans have Renown 2, meaning that they get 2 +1/+1 counters instead of one.
Valeron Wardens lets you draw a card whenever one of your creatures becomes renowned, and is a good draw engine in this particular deck build. Honored Hierarch is a poor man's Birds of Paradise. If it can get through for combat damage, it becomes an effective mana producer with vigilance. When he's renowned, Consul's Lieutenant has an ability when he attacks to give all other attacking creatures +1/+1.
Outland Colossus is probably the best of all of the Renown creatures. Not only is he already a 6/6 for 5 total mana (3GG), but he has Renown 6, meaning he becomes a 12/12 after dealing combat damage to a player just once. Plus, he can't be blocked by more than one creature, so an opponent can't team up a bunch of creatures to try to take it down. He'll have to be chump-blocked, all day.
The last of the Renown creatures, Kytheon's Irregulars, is a 4/3 for 2WW that has Renown 1, and the ability to tap a target creature for 2 white mana. It's not a super exciting creature, but the ability to tap down blockers can make Renown a much deadlier mechanic.
Onto the non-Renown creatures in the deck...
Dragon Hunter is a 2/1 one-drop Warrior that has the distinction of being able to block Dragons without dying. Anointer of Champions is a 1/1 one-drop that can tap to give a target attacking creature +1/+1 until end of turn. This can allow your creatures to win in combats that they may otherwise not. Seeker of the Way is a good 2/2 Prowess creature that gains lifelink whenever you cast a non creature spell. It's a creature that's already seen a fair amount of Standard play. Dromoka Warrior is a 2 drop vanilla creature, but it's a 3/1. Lastly, Dragon Bell Monk is a 2/2 with Vigilance and Prowess for 3 mana.
Now to the non-creature spells....
There are a good number of non-creature spells in this deck Epic Confrontation is the first of these. This two-mana Green instant gives a target creature +1/+2 until end of turn and causes that creature to “fight” a creature you don't control. For a creature to “fight” means that it deals damage equal to its power to another creature who then deals damage to it equal to its own power. Since there are so many Renown creatures in the deck, it's likely that your creature will win the fight almost every time – especially after the boost that Epic Confrontation alone gives it.
Enshrouding Mist is an instant from Magic Origins that costs only a single White mana to cast. It gives a target creature +1/+1 and prevents any damage from being dealt to it that turn, a nifty combat trick. If that wasn't enough, it also has a bonus if the targeted creature is Renowned; you get to untap it. Mighty Leap is an instant for 1W that we've seen before: it gives a target creature +2/+2 and flying until end of turn. It's an old limited favorite that you typically don't see in Constructed. Titanic Growth gives a target creature +4/+4 for 1G. It's never had the popularity of its predecessor, Giant Growth, which gives a creature +3/+3 for only one Green mana. Again, it's a card mostly seen in Limited and never really used for Constructed purposes.
Pacifism is a classic Limited card that essentially removes a creature from ever being able to engage in combat again. It prevents the enchanted creature from attacking or blocking, although it can still use its activated abilities. Feat of Resistance gives a target creature a +1/+1 counter for 1W, and gives that creature protection from the color of your choice until end of turn.
Pressure Point taps a target creature and draws you a card for 1W. It's not a super incredible card, although it does replace itself. Valorous Stance is an excellent card that has seen considerable Standard play. For 1W it gives you two choices: give a target creature indestructible until end of turn, or destroy a target creature with power 4 or greater. It's one of the best non-creature spells in the deck.
The last two non-creature spells are easily the money cards here. Dromoka's Command gives you four options, from which you may choose two.
Collected Company is the real winner of this deck. Not only has it made noise in Standard, but it has single-handedly made Elves a force in Modern. For 3G, you get to look at the top 6 cards of your deck and choose 2 among them with converted mana cost 3 or less among them. You get to put those directly into play, while the other cards go to the bottom. With 19 creatures in Armed, you're extremely likely to hit 2 creatures each time that you cast it.
There's a good beginning to an aggressive Green/White deck here. As these Clash Packs are being designed, if you're looking to improve the deck, the other deck, Dangerous, has plenty to offer.
But before we think of cannibalizing it, let's take a look at what Dangerous has to offer on its own merits.
2 Ainok Bond-Kin
2 Disowned Ancestor
2 Abzan Falconer
1 Dromoka, the Eternal
1 Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit
1 Avatar of the Resolute
1 Tuskguard Captain
1 Abzan Battle Priest
1 Mer-Ek Nightblade
1 Longshot Squad
1 Siege Rhino
1 Elite Scaleguard
2 Cached Defenses
2 Map the Wastes
2 Incremental Growth
2 Ultimate Price
2 Dromoka's Gift
1 Scale Blessing
1 Suspension Field
1 Debilitating Injury
1 Ancestral Vengeance
1 Abzan Ascendancy
1 Citadel Siege
2 Blossoming Sands
2 Jungle Hollow
2 Scoured Barrens
1 Sandsteppe Citadel
While this deck isn't “money” in the way that Armed is, it has plenty of interesting creatures such as Siege Rhino, Anafenza, and Avatar of the Resolute. Otherwise the deck is all about taking advantage of the interactions between the slow Outlast mechanic and the more Constructed relevant bolster. One cool thing about Outlast is that its creatures have benefits from +1/+1 counters no matter how they were placed. With Renown, a creature actually has to be Renowned, not simply have a +1/+1 counter.
The idea here is deciding which route you want to take: the Magic Origins Renowned direction or the Tarkir Outlast/Bolster strategy. Interestingly enough, Outlast was the primary mechanic of the Abzan clan, but competitive Abzan decks haven't used Outlast at all. They live mostly on the old “Junk” strategy of playing the best Green, White, and Black cards, led by All-Star Siege Rhino. A 4/5 trampler for 4 mana that can make an instant life-point swing of 6? Who doesn't want that?
That being said, while a bit of a slower deck, this deck has the same ability as Armed to put up a great deal of +1/+1 counters on its creatures in a hurry. It actually matches up extremely well with Armed. It also doesn't care where those counters come from, whereas the Renowned mechanic featured in Armed actually does.
IMPROVING ARMED AND DANGEROUS
Since beginning their Clash Pack products, Wizards of the Coast has actually suggested lists to combine both included decks into a more powerful build. This is their take on Armed and Dangerous.
What they suggest is a pretty solid blend, honestly, working with only the cards that you're given. The Evolving Wilds should be replaced with Windswept Heath to speed up the mana base a bit. The life-gaining tap lands are actually decent. The “pain-lands” Caves of Koilos (white/black) and Llanowar Wastes (green/black) are likely the best long-term options for mana fixing. The Theros scry lands may be best, but are only playable until the Standard rotation.
Maxing out your copies of Siege Rhino is also important. Not only are they not all that expensive, but the Rhino is quickly becoming one of the strongest creatures in the game, and will continue to have play-ability for years in Modern. Adding perhaps a second Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit or a copy or two of her relative, Anafenza the Foremost increases the overall firepower of the deck. Avatar of the Resolute is a strong two-drop that can do a lot more damage. More copies of Dromoka's Command and Collected Company are a solid idea, too.
What can go? Cached Defenses and Incremental Growth, while they fit with the theme, are a bit slow for Constructed. You'll want to replace them with creatures. Pacifism can stand to be replaced by better removal, such as more copies of Valorous Stance or Ultimate Price. Suspension Field is fine but may be best off as a sideboard option. Abzan Ascendancy is a cool card, but you need a lot of creatures on board already to maximize its value, so it's not consistent enough to depend on in competitive Constructed play. Citadel Siege is interesting, but a bit too slow.
Renown overall is a bit of a slow mechanic. Maxing out Seeker of the Way is a good idea and the only really strong Renown creatures are Honored Hierarch (for the potential mana dorkiness) and Consul's Lieutenant (potential damage boost). Citadel Castellan has Vigilance and Renown 2, but the other creatures we'll add simply make more value. The others are fine in Limited, but are pretty vanilla if they can't get through for direct damage. Outland Colossus is a big beater, but it's just going to be chump-blocked all day. Kytheon's Irregulars just isn't all that exciting.
An updated list would look something like this
3 Honored Hierarch
3 Dragon Hunter
3 Consul's Lieutenant
4 Avatar of the Resolute
2 Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit
1 Anafenza, the Foremost
3 Seeker of the Way
3 Siege Rhino
1 Dromoka, the Eternal
2 Feat of Resistance
2 Valorous Stance
2 Ultimate Price
3 Dromoka's Command
3 Collected Company
4 Windswept Heath
4 Llanowar Wastes
4 Caves of Koilos
The Armed and Dangerous Clash Pack for Magic Origins is an extremely strong product for both current and future value, as well as play-ability. It's a solid place to start for someone looking to break into the Standard format or just a place to get some strong playable cards. Plus, you get some alternate foil versions that can have future financial value, especially Siege Rhino, Honored Hierarch, Valorous Stance, and Seeker of the Way. It's definitely a must-buy.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Herald of the Pantheon is a strong creature for several reasons. Not only does she make Enchantment spells cost 1 colorless mana less, but she also gains you 1 life each time you cast an enchantment spell. As players have seen with Courser of Kruphix, gaining life can provide amazing tempo. With Eidolon of Blossoms being another strong Enchantment creatures that also draws you a card for each Enchantment you play, the Herald makes what was an okay archetype in Constellation even better.
The Herald creates a brand new level of tempo for Enchantment based decks. Black/Green Constellation has been a decently competitive deck on Magic Online. during Theros block. Making what are already fairly costed cards even cheaper, plus the bonus lifegain, makes the deck more formidable. Granted, this upgraded Constellation deck is not going to have a long Standard lifespan. But depending on what Enchantments are printed in upcoming sets, the Herald could be an important part of some sort of deck.
A 2/2 for 2 is a bit fragile for Modern, where Lightning Bolt can easily pick it off. But in Commander, where there are plenty of Aura and Enchantment based decks, the Herald should have plenty of fans. Some Modern Enchantress brews may pop up with the Herald now in existence, but its fragility could make that archetype difficult. In any case, this creature provides plenty of value.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
Sword of the Animist is a strong Equipment card from Magic Origins. It's a better version of the equipment Explorer's Scope from Zendikar and the aura One With Nature from Scourge. Both of those cards allow you to get a land card into play tapped. But the Sword takes both of their effects and mixes them together in a more beneficial way, while also providing a +1/+1 boost to the equipped creature.
The Scope activated on attack, but it only let you look at the top card of your deck for a land card - although it could be any kind of land. One With Nature only activated whenever the equipped creature deals combat damage; however, you would be able to get any basic land card from your deck into play tapped.
This a very versatile equipment for Limited,, often giving you at least one or two free lands Who doesn't want to search land out of their deck and put them right into play? That's good in any draft or sealed deck. Plus, you get the power and toughness boost. Overall, this is a very good equipment that will definitely see some play. It probably won't see much competitive Constructed play at all, but any Commander deck that likes Equipment will definitely give this a go.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
As a Legendary Creature, Hixus, Prison Warden doesn't seem all that exciting. But the raw power of his ability necessitates the Legendary status. The Human Soldier Hixus is essentially a more powerful Banisher Priest. However, you have to let combat damage come through before you can "flash" him into play to activate his ability. The upside is that you may exile as many creatures that deal combat damage to you. He's also a 4/4 that can be played at instant speed. That is never a bad thing.
In a Limited environment (draft/sealed deck), Hixus, Prison Warden is actually a pretty powerful creature. There are plenty of situations where you'll be wide open for attack, let a couple of opposing creatures attack, taking damage from one or a few. You could then block and destroy one, while exiling the others. Situationally speaking, this is something that can simply happen in Limited, where an opponent may have the beatdown on you early. Hixus is one way to potentially turn the game around on turn 5. Playing a 4/4 on an opponent's turn and being able to swing in during the next combat is good. From a Limited perspective, this is a rare that looks solid enough to draft.
I think it's fair to say that Hixus doesn't look like the strongest Constructed card. Against token-based strategies, Hixus is great in that if he exiles attacking tokens, then you'll never see them again. The fact that you have to take damage first sounds like a major drawback, but considering that there are simply times where you will have nothing on board protecting you, Hixus is better than you may at first realize.
The worst drawback is, of course, having to keep open 5 mana on your opponent's turn. Sure, you may have removal in hand to play anyway, so if you have nothing else, Hixus is hardly the worst thing to have in hand. At best, Hixus is probably a sideboard card in Constructed against weenie aggro or Red Deck Wins creature-heavy strategies. Being a 4/4 also means most burn spells won't kill him (Stoke the Flames shouldn't stick around much longer in Standard anyhow, barring a reprint.)
Is Hixus, Prison Warden Commander / EDH playable?
Soldiers are a strong archetype in Commander, so Hixus, Prison Warden should find a place as one of the ninety-nine in Soldier-heavy builds. His effect isn't really Commander material, but he can serve as a complementary piece. One cool combo that he can pull off is with Commander 2014 exclusive, Containment Priest. The Priest's ability causes any creature that would enter the battlefield without being cast to be exiled instead of hitting the battlefield. If you have a Soldier based strategy that isn't too token-based, this is a decent combo to have in your deck. Containment Priest is already a fairly popular card to shut down many opposing strategies, and since you can afford to take some major hits in Commander, Hixus can potentially be a game-changer if deployed correctly.
Hixus may actually be a better play in one-on-one Commander games (also known as Duel Commander) than in multiplayer Commander due to the nature of his effect. There's no worse feeling to an opponent thinking that he or she has you on the next turn, only to watch their entire army vanish before their eyes. Even if the effect is only temporary, it may buy you the time you need to swing the momentum.
Want to try Hixus, Prison Warden as your Commander in EDH? Check out our article, "General Insanity: Hixus Prison Warden EDH / Commander Deck Tech."
Hixus is perfectly fine as a core-set rare. Being the last Core Set for the foreseeable future, Magic Origins is going to have some interesting cards like this that may not appear too powerful on the surface. While down the road Hixus will probably maintain bulk-rare status for eternity, like many Legendary Creatures with useful and somewhat unique effects, it doesn't mean he won't find a home in the right Commander lists.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
"Waste follows want."
Avaricious Dragon is no Stormbreath Dragon. As a mythic rare Dragon, he seems rather lacking, as his card advantage is instantly negated by the requirement of having to discard your entire hand at end of turn. Outside of being useful in top-deck wars for Red Deck Wins, the Avaricious Dragon definitely can end up wasting far more than it wants.
From a flavor perspective, this guy makes plenty of sense. He's not a bad core set Dragon. A 4/4 flyer for 2RR (2 colorless, 2 Red) is perfectly reasonable, but having no haste and a card advantage mechanism that will only be worth it in pure top-deck mode isn't worth a mythic status. It's one of those somewhat too good to be rares that plague the mythic rare slots of many sets.
Now in a Dragon-centered metagame, it's not so terrible. There is Dragon Tempest, the Enchantment that would not only give it Haste, but also deal 1 damage upon its entrance. Thunderbreak Regent will help it from being instantly removed with its punishment for removal spells being played against any of your Dragons. I just don't see Red Deck Wins wanting to play this over the Regent or something like Ashcloud Phoenix.
It's probably playable, but it's not hard to understand why players are so disenchanted by it. There are already so many powerful dragons that have been printed in recent sets, so I get why Wizards R&D decided to tone down the power level a bit for the Magic Origins mythic rare dragon. It still may be better than people think.
by ElspethFTW, Old School Duelist
The first ever double-sided card featuring both a creature and a planeswalker was revealed at PAX East on March 6th, 2015. It's Liliana, Heretical Healer / Liliana, Defiant Necromancer from the Magic Origins set. At first, it seems disadvantageous to attach a planeswalker to a creature card that needs a particular clause to be satisfied to transform. But, this particular card seems very playable.
Liliana, Heretical Healer is a Legendary Creature costing 1BB (1 colorless, 2 Black) to cast. She has a 2/3 body with Lifelink. To transform, she requires that a nontoken creature you control dies. You then exile her from the board and return her as her flip side, Liliana, Defiant Necromancer. In addition, you also get a 2/2 black Zombie creature token on the field. This is a nice bonus, considering that you get a blocker to protect her as a planeswalker.
According to the lore of Magic the Gathering, for someone to become a planeswalker, their "spark" must be ignited by an ordeal. This is at the core of what the Magic Origins set is about. From Liliana's Origins backstory, that Zombie is supposed to be her brother who she attempted to save from death. The shock from turning him undead rather than saving him is what caused her spark to ignite. It's sad, but flavorful, and actually useful.
Liliana, Defiant Necromancer is a planeswalker with 3 abilities, starting with 3 loyalty counters. This seems to be a pretty low number due to the fact that most normal burn spells can immediately deal with her in Constructed. Because of this, you're pretty much always going to want to use her first +2 ability: each player discards a card. This is a pretty standard Liliana effect, and the same as the +1 ability on Liliana of the Veil.
Her -X ability is probably the one you would want to use the most: return target nonlegendary creature card with converted mana cost X from your graveyard to the battlefield. The inclusion of nonlegendary must be to protect against bringing back future Legendary creatures like herself that can transform into Planeswalkers. In any case, it's a useful ability.
Liliana's ultimate ability for the cost of 8 loyalty is a pretty awesome emblem: whenever a creature dies, return it to the battlefield under your control at the beginning of the next end step. That's a very scary thought. The question of course remains how often she will actually reach 8 loyalty and you'll be able to untap with her to use her ability.
The obvious downsides to the set-up of Legendary Creatures that become planeswalkers are that the creature side can die to standard creature removal very easily and that there's a necessary transform clause to become the Planeswalker. In Liliana's case, however, it's very easy to fulfill that clause, especially if you have a sacrifice ability already in play. That may not be as easy to do in most Constructed formats, but it is very easy to do in Commander. This incarnation of Liliana could serve as quite a useful mono-Black Commander and is being heralded as a great one for the Tiny Leaders variant of Commander (50 card decks with no cards with a converted mana cost of greater than 3.)
These Origins planeswalkers are definitely one of the more awesome things that Wizards has done in Magic. How they made their backstories work mechanically is pretty awesome. Taking iconic planeswalkers and allowing you to use them as Commanders is even more awesome. While that wasn't the primary motivation behind printing them, it's going to make them highly sought after. This is a very playable card in both Standard (while it's legal) and in Modern. It will definitely be sought after by casual players for many years to come. This Liliana planeswalker from Origins is just a sweet, valuable card.
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