It's that time of the year again! Summer is winding down, and a crisp fall breeze inhabits the air. Seasons change, winter looms, and we all know what that means…
It's fantasy football season!
The Long Island Octopuses
20 Team .5 PPR League
QB - Carson Palmer
RB - DeMarco Murray
WR - Jordy Nelson
WR - Kendall Wright
TE - Vernon Davis
RB (Flex) - Chris Ivory
RB - Danny Woodhead
RB -Shonn Greene
WR - Rod Streater
QB - Teddy Bridgewater
WR - Josh Gordon (#freejoshgordon)
Last year I took The Octopuses all the way to the finals of my league, losing by a scant .12 points, and this year I've joined a much bigger twenty-team league filled to the brim with Magic players. The entry fee? One GP foil promo Griselbrand.
Week one saw me take down bow-tie master and PT Gatecrash ninth place finisher Roberto Gonzales in convincing fashion, as I was the only team out of twenty to break the triple digits in scoring.
I also made a very low risk/high reward pickup in WR Josh Gordon, who was the #1 WR in all of fantasy last year. He is currently suspended for marijuana usage, but with pending changes in the NFL's drug policies there is a chance his suspension will be shortened or even reversed.
I would highly recommend checking your waiver wire and…
Oh, what's that Cedric? You hired me to write about Magic not Fantasy Football? Hmmm…
Okay, I guess we can do that too!
Last week we examined a card I'm very excited about: Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker. This week we are going to continue our frank evaluation of many cards in the new set. No hype, just honest and to the point analysis. I'm going to focus on the more standalone cards this week, and do the cycles (the charms, the Khans, etc.) next week. I'm also gonna rate each card from 0 (completely unplayable) to 10 (Tarmogoyf), because arbitrary ratings are fun! Let's go!
Utter End is utterly expensive. Four mana one-for-one removal spells almost never see play unless they have an extremely specific purpose in relation to the format. Even three mana removal spells often need to be looked at with a bit of scrutiny, as if you load your deck up with too many of these expensive removal spells you often will never have the time to play them. Four mana is also a price point where you can start casting some really powerful cards like planeswalkers and game breaking creatures and wasting your entire turn just to cast a removal spell will never put you ahead in tempo or on the board. Yes it is an instant, and yes it is very versatile, but these issues don't outweigh the cost. Besides, we already have a very versatile removal spell in black at three mana.
Utter End's biggest downfall is how Hero's Downfall is just better in most scenarios. Unless we see some majorly powerful artifacts and enchantments come out in the remainder of the spoiler, Utter End is going to be killing a creature or a planeswalker upwards of 90% of the time; Hero's Downfall has already been doing this for us for a while now in the exact same color. Three mana is so much less than four, and a lot of decks don't even run the full playset of Hero's Downfall because it's too expensive. It's pretty clear what the end is for Utter End.
If this card sees any play it will likely be like Vindicate in Legacy- a versatile but expensive one-of to give decks a multifaceted out.
Utter End: 3.6
While our last card was an utter disappointment, this card is awesome! Rattleclaw Mystic is definitely going to be a staple going forward, and while it does bump heads with Sylvan Caryatid a bit, it has a number of advantages.
Rattleclaw Mystic can attack, and anyone who's drawn a Sylvan Caryatid on turn 11 of a game knows how much that can matter. Rattleclaw Mystic isn't exactly a beast on offense, but a two power two-drop is pretty standard, and she can definitely get her hands dirty when she is not helping to fix or accelerate your mana.
While Rattleclaw Mystic's base stats are almost enough to make her playable, what really makes her interesting is her morph ability. The most obvious result of unmorphing Rattleclaw Mystic is that you get an immediate boost of two mana- you net one from the unmorphing and one more when you tap her. This means even without any other help Rattleclaw Mystic lets you cast a six-drop on turn 4 while also going to great lengths to fix your Temur mana. It's also very nice that you can cast her without green mana at all. This can either help you from being manascrewed, or it means you could even play her in a Jeskai deck if you really wanted to, and she would still provide the same boost from morphing.
The biggest impact of Rattleclaw Mystic in the context of the set, however, is how she can disguise your other morphs.
While morph has been a really fun Limited mechanic, in Constructed it's essentially just been another way to play or discount your creature. With so few playable morphs, you almost always knew what your opponent's morph was. With four Rattleclaw Mystic in your deck alongside a good morph or two, now your opponent actually has to guess what that turn 6 morph might actually be. While we are still waiting to see the rest of the set and all the morphs it has to offer, Rattleclaw Mystic already has a friend, which we will see in our next card.
Rattleclaw Mystic: 8.6
Sagu Mauler is my pick for sleeper card of the set, and Rattleclaw Mystic is a big reason why. First off, this guy is huge. A 6/6 hexproof creature with evasion is a freaking house, and any deck without mass removal or some very large blockers is going to have a very difficult time containing this beast.
What makes him so threatening though is that you don't know he is coming. If Blue and Green can get another playable morph to go alongside Rattleclaw Mystic, it is going to be very difficult to just try and kill every morph your Temur or Sultai opponent plays over the course of a game. If you kill it, that morph might be a redundant midgame Rattleclaw Mystic; if you don't it might be smashing you in the face for six next turn. This is going to create a really fun subgame, much like in Limited, where you can take some very creative bluffing lines to help protect your valuable morphs and trick your opponents.
Aside from Rattleclaw Mystic doing a great job masquerading as Sagu Mauler in the late game, Rattleclaw Mystic also can make it so you don't even need to play that game at all. Rattleclaw Mystic can unmorph and cast Sagu Mauler straight up on turn 4 all by herself, and even earlier with some more help.
I'm saying it right now: Sagu Mauler is the real deal, and six months from now we are going to be talking about how annoying hexproof is after getting our faces smashed in for six while we look on helplessly game after game.
Sagu Mauler: 7.6
Mindswipe sucks. This card is a classic example of a card looking pretty cool because it does two pretty awesome things. Everyone loves counterspells, and burn spells are pretty sweet too! Now we can do both at the same time!
The problem is, everyone loves good counterspells and good burn spells, and Mindswipe is nothing close to either. As a counterspell, Mindswipe is horribly inefficient. For the same cost as a minimum power Mindswipe we can cast Dissolve, a hard counterspell that will 100% counter their spell with the upside of scrying as well.
If we want to use Mindswipe as a burn spell finisher, why wouldn't we just use an actual burn spell with no timing restrictions? We're going to feel pretty dumb when our opponent is at three life and attacking us with creatures, and they refuse to play a spell into our Mindswipe and just kill us instead while we stare helplessly at our hand and wish our Mindswipe was a lowly common Lightning Strike.
If you are looking for a reasonable X-spell burn spell finisher, check out our next card instead.
Crater's Claws is more like it. This is a burn spell that knows what it is: a big burn spell and nothing more. This is also one of the more interesting X-burn spells released in a while, as I don't think we've ever seen an X-burn spell capable of doing more damage than the mana you put into it.
So the big question becomes, how often will we have ferocious? That is a difficult question to answer without seeing the rest of the set, but just looking at decks like Jund Monsters in current Standard makes me fairly optimistic about the prospect of it. The best part is that Crater's Claws is a very reasonable card even if ferocious is not active, which is extremely important.
This is definitely not a card that you just jam four of into your deck, but in the right decks I can definitely see this being a solid removal spell/finisher hybrid.
Crater's Claws: 7.7
Speaking of big X-spell finishers, I don't think we've ever seen a bigger one than Empty the Pits. Wow is that expensive. It is an instant though, and it does kill very quickly, which sorta makes it the bastard step-child of Decree of Justice- less versatile in the early game but more powerful in the late game.
I couldn't really imagine a deck wanting more than one of these, which of course limits its playability quite a bit, but it would be a reasonable finisher. The problem with this and with other delve cards is that while delve offers them a very nice power boost and cost reduction, delve has some major diminishing returns. Every delve spell you play makes all subsequent delve spells afterwards much worse, which means it's a mechanic that is hard to build around. Delve is most certainly not just 'affinity for cards in your graveyard,' and this is a major thing to be kept in mind when building your deck with delve cards.
It wouldn't surprise me to see Empty the Pits as a one-of finisher, but I'm definitely not very high on it at all when there are so many other powerful and more versatile finishers in the format.
Empty the Pits: 3.1
Speaking of delve cards, this one is much more like it. Murderous Cut is a great removal spell with zero restrictions, which is a very big deal.
Like we said about Empty the Pits, delve certainly has diminishing returns, and while it might be likely that playing a full set of these might not be ideal, any deck that can run it effectively is going to want at least a few. Any card that can kill any creature without restriction for one or two mana is fantastic in my book, and this is going to be a major staple for its entire time in standard.
This is also an excellent Legacy card as well, as there have been times in the past where the similar Ghastly Demise has seen play; Murderous Cut is quite a bit better, and Legacy decks are very good at filling up their graveyards very quickly. While again we won't likely see decks sporting the full playset, Murderous Cut is going to be a welcome addition to almost any removal suite.
I'm very excited for this one in all formats.
Murderous Cut: 9.1
Creature - Human Warrior
Bloodsoaked Hero can't block.
Raid - 1B: Return Bloodsoaked Hero from your graveyard to the battlefield. Activate this ability only if you attacked with a creature this turn.
Raid is looking like a pretty awesome mechanic, and there have been some sweet raid cards spoiled like the brand new Bloodsoaked Champion.
Raid is very much the fixed bloodthirst, as while bloodthirst was essentially useless when you were behind because you could never get any damage through, raid at least gives you the option to suicide an attacker to get the effect. What better way for a suicide attacker than one that can come right back? The best part is he can even trigger himself! If you play this turn 1, attack with it turn two, and they block with something and kill it, you can pay two mana right then and there and get him right back.
This guy is the real deal, and you can do a lot of really awesome things with him and sacrifice effects as well. You can attack with a Butcher of the Horde, sacrifice Bloadsoaked Champion to him to give him lifelink, bring him back in the middle of combat, and then sacrifice him to something else! This guy is a pretty impressive hybrid of Reassembling Skeleton and Gravecrawler and is at a very high power level for a recursive one-drop.
Not every deck is going to want him, but for those that do this guy is going to be extremely important.
Bloodsoaked Champion: 8.2
Our last card for the day is another powerful raid card: War-Name Aspirant.
This girl is pretty awesome for a red two-drop, as anytime you can get a three-power creature for two mana in red with an upside instead of a drawback, it is a very good day. Triggering raid in an aggressive red deck is almost elementary, meaning War-Name Aspirant is going to spend most of it's time as a 3/2. Even in the worst case scenario though, starting off as a 2/1 really isn't all that bad either.
War-Name Aspirant also does a great job at getting around all manners of tokens and mana dorks and can amazingly attack through an Elspeth, Sun's Champion +1. This pseudo-evasion means you can ignore the little guys and burn the big guys to get through, which makes this a fantastic two-drop. Expect to see a lot of this lady in decks that want her in the future.
War-Name Aspirant: 8.1
So many new cards, so little time. This set has quite a number of very interesting things going on, and I can't wait for new Standard to come. What cards are exciting you guys the most?