Card previews for Aether Revolt are just starting to trickle in and things are already looking exciting, so let's go over some of the new cards, with a little look at Modern Dredge wedged in as well.
Heart of Kiran
We all know how ridiculous Smuggler's Copter is, and it's easy to use as a starting point for comparing to Heart of Kiran.
Heart of Kiran might look less appealing at first glance, but I think the fact that it can even be in the conversation is a very big deal. Smuggler's Copter is one heck of a Magic card and Heart of Kiran may work quite well in decks already running Smuggler's Copter, effectively allowing you to run copies five through eight of a Smuggler's Copter look-alike. Every Maverick needs a Goose when entering the danger zone of a new metagame.
In a heads-up dogfight, Heart of Kiran outguns Smuggler's Copter, which is huge. It's not difficult to imagine Smuggler's Copter remaining grounded if Heart of Kiran is on the opposing side of the battlefield, especially if there's also a planeswalker there.
Thraben Inspector can also hop in a Smuggler's Copter, which can then crew up a Heart of Kiran if need be. Not only that, but Smuggler's Copter allows you to loot away extra copies of Heart of Kiran. Keep in mind Heart of Kiran is legendary.
W/R Vehicles looks a good starting place to park Heart of Kiran.
- 2 Selfless Spirit
- 4 Thraben Inspector
- 4 Toolcraft Exemplar
- 4 Veteran Motorist
- 1 Archangel Avacyn
- 3 Depala, Pilot Exemplar
- 2 Pia Nalaar
This list is a simple update of Ben Hull's Top 8 list of R/W Vehicles from Grand Prix Denver.
Simple, effective, getcha dead quick with efficient cards. Heart of Kiran isn't adding anything new other than pure horsepower.
The most exciting part of Heart of Kiran is its ability to feed off the loyalty of planeswalkers, in this case Gideon, Ally of Zendikar.
This isn't merely a parasitic relationship though. Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is benefiting by receiving protection. A 4/4 flying creature with vigilance is no joke to push through and will most likely make combat less than enjoyable for any opponent.
To kill Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, you now have to push through that 4/4 without the use of sorcery-speed removal. If your opponent ends up not attacking, then you don't even need to waste a precious loyalty protecting Gideon.
Ideal scenarios include playing Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, making a 2/2 Knight Ally token and crewing a Smuggler's Copter, removing a loyalty to crew a Heart of Kiran, smashing for seven damage in the air, perhaps taking out an opposing planeswalker, and still having Heart of Kiran on defense.
Good news, everyone! Gideon, Ally of Zendikar may have just got much better!
Does Heart of Kiran fit any other places than the aggressive W/R shells with Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, like Mardu?
Well it's tough to say what decks will survive the rotation, so take my predictions with a grain of salt, but W/U Flash has Smuggler's Copter and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, and I think Heart of Kiran will be right at home there as well.
The next place to look is anywhere cheap planeswalkers with lots of loyalty are found. That means Chandra, Torch of Defiance and Lilana, the Last Hope are prime candidates.
Chandra, Torch of Defiance can be used to +1 and add two mana, which can be used to cast Heart of Kiran and protect the Chandra you just cast.
There are a few drawbacks to Heart of Kiran, though. For one, it's a drawback if you're being controlled by Emrakul, the Promised End. Heart of Kiran can be used to aggressively eat all the loyalty of your planeswalkers if its keys fall into the wrong hands. Its crew cost is also quite steep, which requires some consideration during deckbuilding.
Heart of Kiran is unique. We haven't seen many Vehicles, let alone one that uses loyalty on planeswalkers as a resource, so it's difficult to predict exactly how good it will be. Often, though, in Magic, unique effects are broken ones.
Overall, though, I think Heart of Kiran is excellent. It's great at protecting and pressuring planeswalkers, great at protecting and pressuring life totals, great at dodging sorcery-speed removal, and great with and against Smuggler's Copter.
Heart of Kiran could easily end up being almost as powerful and ubiquitous as Smuggler's Copter, if not more so.
Is Ajani back with a Vengeant?
At first glance, Ajani Unyielding doesn't quite seem like the Cat's Pajamas. Maybe the Cat's Meow, but I don't think we're in Pajamas territory yet.
Six mana is a hefty price to pay for a planeswalker, so we're going to need an especially pawsitive return on our hefty investment to be running Ajani Unyielding. Ajani certainly isn't the second coming of Elspeth, Sun's Champion, but it could still be a Steadfast part of the metagame.
Both of Ajani's main abilities are what we want to see on a planeswalker. There's card draw and creature removal, which has been the mane gold standard for many planeswalkers lately. It's almost like Ajani Unyielding is the third beefed-up iteration of Ob Nixilis Reignited and Jace, Unraveler of Secrets to continue the cycle of relatively unexciting but solid planeswalkers.
Ajani's +2 is deceptively good. In the right deck, if about half the deck is nonland permanents, we can expect to draw around 1.5 cards of pure gas on average.
I think it's very easy to underestimate how much advantage you get by +2-ing Ajani Unyielding for a couple turns. Thanks to Collected Company, Duskwatch Recruiter, and Aetherworks Marvel, I have learned to never underestimate any card that allows me to look at the top six cards of my library.
To look at it from another angle, if you have little use for lands and your entire deck is permanents, Ajani Unyielding's +2 just says "draw three cards." Obviously you would likely still have use for lands in the late-game and your deck almost always has some instants and sorceries, but it just goes to show how incredible that ability can be.
Ajani Unyielding's -2 ability is also very strong.
Was it really necessary to make the controller of the creature you're exiling gain the life instead of just making you gain the life? Maybe having such a strong answer to Emrakul, the Promised End isn't warranted. As it stands Ajani Unyielding is decent, but not incredible against huge Eldrazi. You can exile your own 13/13 to gain life in a pinch though.
Ajani Unyielding's ultimate may also prove to be surprisingly decent and easy to reach. It'll be most effective during board stalls, which is exactly when you want to be +2'ing each turn and dumping the cards you draw onto the battlefield. Ajani Unyielding's ultimate allows you to easily ultimate almost any other planeswalker the turn you play it.
Ajani Unyielding is likely the type of planeswalker you run one or two copies of in very specific decks. It's constrained by it's cost, it's colors, and it's reliance on running a high concentration of permanents, but can be powerful in certain scenarios.
Even trying to figure out the optimal way to sequence things depending on what's in your hand and graveyard to combo off is making my head spin, which I think just helps make the Trolololo song an appropriate anthem for the deck.
Someone solve this.
I don't think there's a way to generate infinite mana and card draw with just one Myr Retriever and one Scrap Trawler and Krark-Clan Ironworks. You need a second copy of either, but once you have it and pretty much any Bauble in the deck, you can go to town drawing cards and generating mana.
Let's run through an example scenario.
Your game state is:
2. Play Chromatic Star and sacrifice it. Three mana floating.
3. Play second Myr Retriever. One mana floating.
4. Return to Step 1 with an extra mana, having drawn an extra card in the process. Draw deck and make mana until you win.
The Dreaded Dog Days of Dredge
Throughout my Magic playing career I've always avoided Dredge decks in every format they've been in.
The purist in me has dismissed them as not really Magic decks at all. They subvert many rules of Magic and don't play fair. They're easily hated out. They're simple to play, linear, and often lose to themselves.
This was a very silly way of thinking about any deck.
Thinking a type of deck is not honorable or beneath you is incredibly dumb if you care about winning. If you care about winning, then you should pick up a deck you think will give you the best chance of winning.
- 4 Bloodghast
- 4 Golgari Grave-Troll
- 4 Insolent Neonate
- 4 Narcomoeba
- 4 Prized Amalgam
- 1 Scourge Devil
- 4 Stinkweed Imp
Even though there isn't room for much variation in the maindeck, I like the look of this list from Team Greece, the winners of the 2016 World Magic Cup.
Burning Inquiry doesn't discard cards before you draw, which means you can't get rid of cards with Dredge and then immediately take advantage. You also won't get to choose which cards in your hand you keep, and you have to discard three cards instead of two.
On the plus side, Cathartic Reunion is insane and Burning Inquiry will often be almost as good for a whole mana less. Burning Inquiry can also help if you end up having to keep a one-land hand and have to desperately dig and rave for another land.
I also think Dredge was an excellent choice for a Team Modern event, since it takes away very few slots from other decks and there is a cap on the amount of hate you can end up facing.
Dredge is just a powerful deck in Modern right now. So are Death's Shadow and Infect. None of these decks is my preferred style, but they are all formidable.
All of these decks are also difficult to play optimally. They might seem simple and straightforward, and in a sense they are, since it isn't hard to pick them up and play them and get access to 80% of their effectiveness. It's the last 20% of being able to avoid subtle misplays or hate cards, sideboarding, and nuanced sequencing that's very difficult to master.
Picking up a deck that has a high skill cap can actually be a very good thing if you're an experienced player, even when you may think it's not your style or it will take too long to learn its nuances.
Sometimes it's correct to just Play The Best Deck, Dummy!