This past Tuesday, I was able to get my hands on War of the Spark a little early on Magic Arena thanks to a fully stocked account from Wizards of the Coast. I streamed almost all day, trying out various Standard brews against a lot of other great content creators. As such, I gained a good bit of experience playing with the new cards, seeing how they feel, and learning a lot along the way.
By this time next week, I should have a lot of concrete information regarding new cards and new decks, as well as a "What I'll Play"-type article, but for now I'm just going to tell you about my experiences and thoughts on everything War of the Spark-related!
First up? You guessed it…
Let's take a look at the newest iteration of Temur Reclamation, featuring quite a few new tools from the new set.
This one is probably the most obvious, but my previous article on Ral, Storm Conduit insisted that playing it in a more aggressive shell was ideal. After all, Ral can't protect itself, so it's best to use it aggressively. Plus, the static effect only hits players and planeswalkers, so it doesn't offer any amount of crowd control the moment it hits the battlefield.
What I failed to take into consideration is that it's actually pretty tough to deal six damage to Ral, Storm Conduit the turn you cast it, so long as you've killed one or two creatures along the way. It's also a lot easier to kill your opponent with Ral, Storm Conduit than I ever thought possible.
This three-card combo with a Ral, Storm Conduit on the battlefield is infinite damage. And while this specific combo doesn't come up all that often, I do think it's sweet that I was able to assemble it multiple times in the ten or fewer games I played with the deck. Admittedly, it's a bit clunky and awkward on Magic Arena, but it's pretty clean in real life.
For those of you who aren't aware:
Cast Shock, then (while holding priority) cast Expansion targeting Shock. Then cast a second Expansion targeting Expansion, which in turn becomes a new Expansion infinity times. With Ral, Storm Conduit on the battlefield, this generates infinite "ping" damage from Ral's static ability.
While this combo is a bit cheeky, the upside is that I already want to play every single one of these cards. My initial match on VS Live! testing out Ral, Storm Conduit was facing off an aggressive deck, so I never really had time to get things going. But now that I got to play against a lot of other strategies, the ease with which Ral, Storm Conduit fit into the deck was mind-blowing.
The other aspect of Ral, Storm Conduit that seemed perfect in the deck and generated another "combo kill" was just copying a big Explosion. Normally you need a ton of land and Wilderness Reclamation to kill you opponent with a big Explosion, but Ral, Storm Conduit allows for much easier kills. The chip damage you deal along the way, the scry digging for combo pieces, and the finale copying a big Explosion all work together seamlessly.
Overall, I think Ral, Storm Conduit is a perfect fit for Temur Reclamation moving forward. It provides you with a real alternate win condition, a solid draw engine while copying stuff like Chemister's Insight, and a way to continually pressure opposing planeswalkers. One of the biggest arguments against Wilderness Reclamation at the moment is that you're soft to Teferi, Time Raveler. While that may be true, I'm hoping the strength of Ral, Storm Conduit solves that problem.
Ral's Outburst, the other card I mentioned in my article a few weeks ago, continues to shine. A four-mana instant that draws cards and kills creatures is actually just perfect for a Wilderness Reclamation deck. All you want from your spells is a way to churn through your deck and play catch-up for spinning your wheels. Ral's Outburst does both decently well.
What I failed to realize was how good Ral's Outburst was with Ral, Storm Conduit itself. Copying a Ral's Outburst allows you to deal a lot of damage to the opponent while continuing to deal damage to opposing planeswalkers or face. On top of that, it helps you find more copies of Wilderness Reclamation or Expansion // Explosion, which in turn will help you close the game.
Much like Chemister's Insight, once you cast Wilderness Reclamation into Ral's Outburst, you really start to understand how well they go together. And now that we're already familiar with how to utilize the most difficult to understand card in Wilderness Reclamation, all the surrounding pieces start to make a lot more sense.
The problem with playing Ral's Outburst is, of course, that it only does three damage, so it doesn't actually kill big creatures. And for four mana, that's occasionally a real issue. However, your deck draws so many cards that it's pretty easy to combo-kill a creature with Ral's Outburst and a Shock (or Fiery Cannonade).
Raw card economy doesn't matter much in Temur Reclamation because of how Explosion functions. It's pretty rare that this deck actually runs out of stuff to do. Most of the time, you're losing because your opponent dismantles your gameplan with disruption, presents you with threats that are difficult to kill, or attacks you too quickly before you set up. Ral's Outburst helps significantly in containing opposing threats in the early turns while also keeping the gas flowing, which is insanely important for your overarching strategy.
This is a newer one that I wasn't entirely sure about, but after playing with it some I really started to like it. Scry is a powerful effect when attached to a removal spell, and I've always loved cards like Magma Jet in this type of deck. Obviously, you want a bit of cheap removal, but that extra bit of dig gives you access to more virtual copies of your combo engine. And as we already know, interaction that also acts as dig is a big deal for decks like Temur Reclamation.
The problem, of course, is that Jaya's Greeting doesn't hit players or planeswalkers, so it's a bit limited in what it helps you interact with. Regardless, the deck has seen success playing Shivan Fire before, so this is nothing new. I want to play with Jaya's Greeting more, but I was pretty happy playing four copies, and I only trimmed two because I needed to find room for Fiery Cannonade.
There's a good chance that you don't need Enigma Drake, and could easily get away with playing Saheeli, Sublime Artificer with just Crackling Drake as the only copy target. After all, Saheeli plays better when you have more interaction, more removal, and more instants and sorceries. The curve is a little higher than I would like right now, so that's definitely my top concern at the moment.
What I like about this deck is having so many "must-kill" threats. All your threats are troublesome against a variety of archetypes, allowing you to go wide or tall depending on the situation. Saheeli, Sublime Artificer is quite strong against control but also buys you quite a lot of time against decks with a bunch of ground creatures. And, on occasion, you get to use the ability on Saheeli to turn one of those little Servos into a big, flappy critter.
The strength of Saheeli relies solely on whether you can protect her. In fact, I'm not even convinced that the minus ability is even worth trying to build around, though it seems rather easy to play Crackling Drake no matter what type of build you make with Saheeli. Therefore I'm leaning towards Augur of Bolas over something like Goblin Electromancer, though I definitely think there's room for innovation here. I'd love to try out Goblin Electromancer, Arclight Phoenix, and Saheeli in the same shell this weekend when War of the Spark comes to Magic Arena for real.
The rest of the deck is pretty straightforward, except for one "new" addition.
I had so many combo-kills with Thud on Tuesday. Game after game, I'd finally get in one big attack with a Drake and follow it up with a Thud for lethal. I won quite a few games out of nowhere because the deck is able to generate a ton of power for the Drakes with ease.
It is rare that an older card comes back in a big way, but I think Thud might do that because of how well it works with some of the cards from War of the Spark. Here, we're using it with Drakes, but there are some other combo-kill finishes available with Thud, and I fully expect it to become a small part of the overall Standard metagame.
The big damage output that Thud allows for here is absurd, giving you a potential combo kill on the third turn if your opponent puts up zero defense. This 21-point burst is more than a lot of decks will be able to handle. And like the combos with Ral, Storm Conduit we talked about before, these cards are already pretty good on their own. The good news here is that Dreadhorde Arcanist is a decent substitute here, but it "only" deals eighteen damage.
I haven't tried it yet, but I think there's a very good chance that Finale of Promise is the card to make Saheeli, Sublime Artificer into a major role-player. My next few days will be full of trying all types of Izzet brews revolving around these two cards, as they work so well together. There's also a really good chance that virtually every Izzet deck should be playing Finale of Promise because it's almost always going to be a two-for-one.
The good news for decks featuring Saheeli and Arclight Phoenix is that Finale of Promise does actually cast the spells, so a single Finale of Promise generates three tokens on Saheeli and brings back Phoenix immediately. And if you diversify your spells so that you play enough instants and sorceries among your removal and card draw, Finale of Promise will almost always be one of the best draws available to you. Here, in this Mono-Red Phoenix deck, Finale of Promise will almost always be able to kill a creature and draw a card.
This deck is rough, but I definitely think there's something here. Finale of Promise is one of the coolest cards I've played with in a long time, and I'm already convinced it deserves some recognition in older formats. Being able to generate a two-for-one featuring the powerful instants and sorceries in Modern and Legacy is huge. It creatures three triggers for Thing in the Ice and Young Pyromancer, and even lets you double-cast four different spells when you have Pyromancer Ascension active!
I keep finding more and more cards from War of the Spark that might see play in Modern and Legacy, and it really has my creative juices flowing. This set has a lot of inherently powerful cards, and many of them seem to work nicely with cheap instants and sorceries, which always bodes well for older formats.
Lastly, I wanted to take a moment to talk about Dreadhorde Arcanist. I honestly believe it will fundamentally change Legacy. If you look at all the cheap instants and sorceries you can cast with it, it becomes a no-brainer. Free spell every single turn? All you have to do is protect it? I can do that pretty easily with Force of Will and Daze! Plus, your opponent will likely have to use their removal spell on your Delver of Secrets, or it could potentially put too much pressure on them.
I'm insanely excited about Dreadhorde Arcanist and I really don't even know where to start. But if you're interested, Emma Handy and I will be playing six different Modern decks on VS Live! from 1-4pm today, all featuring one or more cards from War of the Spark!
Tomorrow on #VSLive at @StarCityGames I'll be guesting with @strong_sad! We're gonna be using the London mulligan to hype up this weekend's MC, but we're ALSO going to be using #MTGWAR cards.— Emma Handy, Knight f Autumn (@Em_TeeGee) April 24, 2019
So you better believe I put my crazy brewing hat on for this.
It might flop, buuuuut pic.twitter.com/yiTE9qfQNE