Spoiler season is underway, and so far I like the looks of Magic Origins. I'll obviously give you a full brew review once the set is fully spoiled, however at this point I've been asked often enough about two particular cards and their Eternal applications that I've decided to go ahead and single them out already:
Timetwister and Demonic Tutor in fixed forms – I see why people would be tempted by these and I think both are excellent examples that illustrate what I'm looking for in cards to decide if they might be worth Eternal play. So let's delve right into my thoughts on both!
So this card is basically Timetwister, only it's always the last thing you'll do on your turn. So how good is that? Well, Timetwister is a beloved card because it can be awesome fun, but like other Draw-7s it needs rather specific conditions to be good. You either need to be able to empty your hand faster than your opponent can in order to actually generate card advantage (they might help with discard) by refilling both of your hands back up to parity, or you have to somehow render your opponent's new cards useless after resolving it - killing them is one way to do so, by the way - or you can find some other way to make the Draw-7 one-sided.
The first approach is actually reasonably simple to set up. Take Burn or any other deck that is extremely heavy on the low-drop end of things – Affinity seems like a great candidate, too – then splash Timetwister and there you go. There's a slight problem with actual aggressive decks: as your turn ends while Day's Undoing is resolving, you won't get to attack with your freshly-drawn creature threats until two turns after casting your twist-effect, which seems very slow for competitive Magic. I guess if anything will take advantage of R&D's latest effort at printing a fixed Timetwister in such a traditional way, it'll be either in Burn or in non-combo decks that sport a lot of artifact acceleration of some kind or another.
By the way, I really don't like how careful they were to make this impossible to abuse in and of itself. They could at least have allowed the Quicken combo to actually work – yes, paying 2UU for Time Walk, Counterspell and Timetwister is quite strong but at the same time it's not necessarily totally game-breaking and still a two-card combo. I'd rather have things done one step less safely, as it makes for a much more interesting game in the long run. As mentioned when Treasure Cruise had to get the axe, I'd rather have new cards end up needing a ban from time to time than just get bland safe sameness. Disclaimer: If they're reprinting Quicken for Standard, I assume it makes a lot of sense to avoid that interaction there.
The other traditional way to take advantage of Timetwister isn't to frontload the card advantage but to afterwards use your new hand to deal with theis. The whole “end the turn” clause obviously makes that difficult (the traditional way to go about things was to Mind Twist them after your Draw-7 resolved) but there might be some kind of Stax build closer to what people have been doing in Vintage in the past that can lock the game up with its hand first then cast Timetwister to refuel on lock pieces. A deck like that might even be a good candidate to run the Mox Opals I mentioned before to help accelerate things out. I'm a little doubtful MUD or Stax couldn't splash for something better than Timetwister, but it might be a direction worth exploring.
Finally, the last thing Draw-7s have traditionally been used for is as a defensive tool against discard in combo decks. Once again, the passing-the-turn thing makes this not very feasible as you're reloading their hand with discard which they will now get to use before your next turn. Not impressive.
That leaves us with one main other way to abuse Day's Undoing: setting up some cute combo with it R&D hasn't seen fit to get rid of. I can see two main ways to do that: permanents that actually make the card one-sided. Chains of Mephistopheles will leave players mostly without any hand at all, and Notion Thief is a four-into-three combo that Mind Twists the opponent while allowing you to draw up to fourteen cards (though you only get to keep your best seven). That sounds like a position most decks should be able to win from.
Another way to look at Day's Undoing is as a cheap tool to end your turn early that can work like Sundial of the Infinite or as a complement to power up the weird red Time Walk effects such as Final Fortune and its Portal remakes. Final Fortune into Day's Undoing allows you to actually take advantage of your Timetwister first, and at the same time you can cast another one on your Final Fortune turn to avoid the lose the game trigger at the end of that turn.
All these cool shenanigans are sweet but I have strong doubts they're even close to good enough to actually be worth building around in Legacy and Vintage. When two-card combos that usually win the game are available for 2U and 1BB, it's hard to justify loading your deck with weird cards only to not actually win for more than twice that. What is required of a combo deck is much different in Modern, though, so maybe there's something cool to do with Notion Thief and Day's Undoing there. Other than that, there's always the possibility that you're mainly interested in refilling your opponent's hand – the Waste Not + Dark Deal deck in Standard might be interested, seeing as the deck needs its opponent to have cards in hand to actually start going off.
Verdict: Likely won't turn out to be good enough. A Timetwister your opponent always gets the first crack at simply isn't that impressive and the fate of Diminishing Returns as a card that sees very little play tells us how weak Timetwister actually is in Magic as we know it today.
This is basically Demonic Tutor as long as you want to play your tutor target this turn, already have two Instants or Sorceries in your graveyard, and can frontload the five mana cost. This seems questionable in fair decks – five mana is rather limiting and Demonic Tutor isn't actually that good when you aren't trying to do broken things (see also: nobody touches Grim Tutor outside of Storm), basically working out similar to an improved Impulse – but very interesting for a combo deck that already plans to unload the turn it casts its tutor.
In that kind of set up, Dark Petition looks very strong, especially given that Spell Mastery is basically an incidental given in Eternal formats. The last Demonic Tutor clone whose condition happened to naturally intersect with a combo-deck's set up is Infernal Tutor, and we all know how important that one has turned out to be for Legacy Storm. I suspect you can guess that I'm rather excited for Dark Petition given my deck preferences.
So what can we do with the card? Well, the obvious place to start testing is No Ad Nauseam Legacy Storm along the lines of the Prague Eternal Top Eight lists:
Grim Tutor has always been basically the weakest card in Storm, and Dark Petition could easily be a superior replacement – plus it's definitely a much cheaper one money-wise. This at the very least is something that will need to be tested.
There is the potential for Dark Petition to be much bigger, though. To look at the card's potential in Storm-style shells – because that's where I'd assume it would be good – let's take a look at the specific interactions it enables/enforces and do so while comparing it to Infernal Tutor, the card whose role it most closely approximates.
The very first thing to come to mind is actually a negative: Dark Petition interacts much less favorably with Lion's Eye Diamond than Infernal Tutor does. With Infernal Tutor, Lion's Eye Diamond is live as soon as you can frontload two mana. With Dark Petition it's five, something that basically means you need at least one Dark Ritual/Cabal Ritual to be able to do anything useful with it.
The second huge downgrade compared to Infernal Tutor comes when we're looking at setting up your combo turn in the first place. Extra Infernal Tutors can also be turned into more mana by copying any in-hand accelerator for two mana, something Dark Petition just can't do. That card you'll only be able to cast on your combo-turn nearly without exception.
That's it, though. These are the two scenarios in which Dark Petition is clearly worse than Infernal Tutor, and given how strong Infernal Tutor is in Storm these could easily prove to not be dealbreakers. With the main cons out of the way, let's have a look at the pros.
The most important thing about Dark Petition is that it actually plays as a two-mana tutor in contrast to Grim Tutor's three mana. This has huge implications concerning spell-chain turns and Past in Flames loops both because it keeps the cost of the loop at its lowest all the time instead of sometimes needing additional mana and life points with Grim Tutor.
It also means – and you might not realize how big that is if you haven't played Storm – that leftover Dark Petitions actually have the capacity to work as additional mana accelerants during the combo turn (your fast mana is always plus three mana at best, meaning Grim Tutor breaks even at best). Many of Storm's kills involve using an extra Infernal Tutor from your graveyard to generate an additional mana by grabbing Lion's Eye Diamond or Cabal Ritual, and Dark Petition does that job just fine. There also are a ton of scenarios where you can go off by fetching an extra Cabal Ritual during your combo turn – especially important when you've drawn a Past in Flames, but reasonable in many other situations too.
The second very important contrast to Infernal Tutor is the obvious one – you don't need an empty hand to actually use it as a Demonic Tutor. I've lost games to not finding Lion's Eye Diamond and getting stuck with lands or random cantrips in hand, something that won't be a problem with Dark Petition. It also means that you suddenly have an easy, mana-advantageous way to find that Lion's Eye Diamond you need to enable that Infernal Tutor in your hand as long as you can frontload five mana on your combo turn.
Rounding things out, a note on Dark Petition and Ad Nauseam. Yes, the cards aren't particularly synergistic and you clearly won't be able to stuff a full playset of Petitions in your deck and play Ad Nauseam. However, I've been playing with Grim Tutor and Ad Nauseam as one-ofs in the same list for years and Dark Petition might actually be a better thing to flip in spite of costing two mana more – thing is, Grim Tutor costs you six life if you flip it and want to use it, more than Petition's five, and not also needing an Lion's Eye Diamond to make things work is actually pretty helpful when Ad Nauseam-ing.
Alright, so Dark Ritual plus Demonic Tutor spliced together should be decent in established Storm lists, big surprise. There has to be more we can do with this than just replace a single card, right? Yes, there might be, and the potential looks awesome to me so far.
The most exciting thing for me is that having a two mana tutor that works while you still have cards in hand might mean we can actually move towards building a Storm deck that works without LED – giving us a shot at trying out hand at combining the ridiculous power of Storm with Force of Will to create something similar to Vintage TPS. A (very) rough sketch:
A list like this would be a tiny bit slower than current ANT for sure but it also has the awesome ability to protect its Storm kill with countermagic – and not having access to its own Force of Wills is one of the bigger weaknesses of current ANT in combo mirrors.
Another thing to look at is to use the suddenly-available tutor density to turn ANT from a mostly cantrip-based deck into one that consistently sets up multi-tutor spell-chain kills. Say we try this set up:
Yes, we have slightly fewer cantrips than traditional ANT, but we have three additional tutors, so we usually have to dig a lot less hard to find the first one and oftentimes get double-tutor hands that create conditions where we get to go off by tutoring for mana before using the second tutor to find Past in Flames or the Tendrils itself. I'm not sure that that's a better approach than what we've been doing this far, but I could easily see that being the case.
Another approach that could become more viable now is building ANT with Burning Wish. One huge weakness of those lists has always been that you obviously never wanted to cut an Infernal Tutor from the maindeck but also didn't have a reasonable Wish-target tutor to allow wishing into a full Past in Flames kill: Grim Tutor is slightly too clunky, and just wishing for Past in Flames doesn't work because Wish exiles itself.
I'm somewhat skeptical that's enough to push Burning Wish ANT over the heavy tutor list above (my main problem with the list was the red mana commitment more than a lack of Wish targets), but at the very least it should mean TES finally has a good Tutor to sideboard as a Wish-target starting game one. Wishing for Dark Petition even eliminates the dis-synergy with LED – just crack it in response to the Wish already.
Actually, thinking about it, maybe having four more tutors means we could go full Belcher in a TES Storm shell now:
This might need rainbow lands and it might just be less consistent compared to a more ANT-ish build, but I could also see this being a consistent hyper-fast Storm shell.
As a last Legacy thought, maybe this allows Doomsday to get rid of the Burning Wishes, stabilizing the mana base and allowing the deck to get access to classic tutor chain kills. Now, I'm no Doomsday expert, but maybe something along these lines might work:
Actually, seeing as the whole LED thing isn't a problem in Vintage most of the time, maybe Dark Petition has applications in Storm decks there too? The main problem I have with that idea is how easy it is to play a nearly-as-fast combo-control deck instead of a dedicated combo deck there, and usually when that's the case playing pure combo is just not worth it. However, TPS was an awesome deck in the past and would have killed for the consistency of more Demonic Tutors, so maybe something like this is actually worth a shot?
- 1 Black Lotus
- 1 Lion's Eye Diamond
- 1 Lotus Petal
- 1 Mana Crypt
- 1 Mana Vault
- 1 Mox Emerald
- 1 Mox Jet
- 1 Mox Pearl
- 1 Mox Ruby
- 1 Mox Sapphire
- 1 Sol Ring
- 1 Necropotence
- 1 Yawgmoth's Bargain
- 1 Ancestral Recall
- 1 Brainstorm
- 1 Chain of Vapor
- 4 Dark Ritual
- 4 Force of Will
- 1 Hurkyl's Recall
- 1 Mystical Tutor
- 1 Vampiric Tutor
- 4 Dark Petition
- 1 Demonic Tutor
- 4 Duress
- 4 Gitaxian Probe
- 1 Imperial Seal
- 1 Ponder
- 1 Preordain
- 1 Tendrils of Agony
- 1 Time Walk
- 1 Yawgmoth's Will
To round things out, a note for all you Modern players out there: while it's not particularly relevant for Legacy, the fact that Dark Petition's mana-generation ability actually applies to copies too may be of huge importance in Modern. To go straight where I'm going with this, if you cast Dark Petition with an active Pyromancer Ascension, you actually end up a mana when all is said and done. This might have profound implications for Storm decks in Modern, assuming the fact that it produces BBB in a deck that needs blue and red mana for its acceleration doesn't turn out being a dealbreaker. Heck, we might even see full Past in Flames tutor-chain-kills Legacy-style become a possibility in Modern!
Verdict: Niche player, but possibly one that triggers the next evolutionary step in Storm.
Is That All?
So is this my usual brew review article for Magic Origins? Is this everything I have stuff to say about in the whole set? No, far from it. These are simply two of the most interesting cards from the set, one of which I think is actually powerful enough to have an important impact on Eternal Magic in the future. You can look forward to my impression on the rest of the set once we have a complete (enough) spoiler available! At this point, I'm simply happily contemplating counting to ten again.