The Kitchen Table #346 - M11 and Five
Hello folks and welcome to the column dedicated to all things casual. Today’s offering is an article that we do every few months here on the Kitchen Table. Today is my casual review of the new cards in M11 concentrating on those that I think will have an impact on casual land.
Lots of cards get played by casual players and at one point in time or another I expect to see every card in the set in someone’s deck but cards like Act of Treason from M10 will have the same impact as Threaten which is to say very little. I will be looking at these various cards from the perspective of a variety of casual formats and variants: Multiplayer Five Color Acid Magic (and PPS) Peasant and of course EDH.
However because I don’t want to write a review that mentions every card under the sun instead I will simply go over the ones that I think will have a big impact or get the causal players talking. Are you ready? Let’s begin!
White is more workmanlike in this set than in many others. Its new big flyers are just okay at best its new removal is lacking and the two best cards in the color are in cycles that have better entries in other colors and thus look a little less than great.
Ajani’s Pridemate – The previous cards that worked with life-gain triggers saw heavy play in a variety of decks and I would expect the same from the Pridemates. Expect these in the same sort of decks as Ageless Entity and Searing Meditation and Well of Lost Dreams.
Angelic Arbiter – Well it’s an angel it messes with people’s game and it is super cheap to buy right now. I expect to see them very shortly after the release of M11. For one more mana than a Mahamoti Djinn you can punish people for attacking or for casting spells. It’s not a major punishment for most people however just annoying. It may not be the super Propaganda that it might otherwise be with slightly different wording. Imagine this with the Arboria language instead for example. It’s still solid.
Inspired Charge – Throughout the history of Magic White has received these instants and sorceries that pump your whole team. I wonder why in this version they get more in the front than the back? That’s not a usual ability in White. Doesn’t that seem a little more Red to you? It seems a little more like Heedless Charge and a little less like Inspired Charge.
Knight Exemplar – I’m still annoyed by how easy they made the newest core set lords with cards that really put lords over the top. Let’s not only pump knights but let’s make them indestructible! Sigh.
Leyline of Sanctity – I love this card. First of all it’s better than Ivory Mask at the same casting cost. The Leyline ability is super cool and can get it into play early. You can target yourself with this out but not with a Mask out. It helps to shutdown some combos. It’s great!
Roc Egg – When the flavorful and better spelled Rukh Egg just won’t do there’s a Roc Egg! In the history of Magic all three previous Rocs and the one Rukh were Red including Roc Hatchling but not this one. It’s like seeing a card named Phoenix Egg in Blue. It’s very jarring.
Serra Ascendant – It doesn’t sell me it seems a little meh. It has uses sure. You can get several beaters with a Ranger of Eos in the later game or get four 6/6 creatures from a Protean Hulk and still have room to get more creatures. It doesn’t suck. It just doesn’t wow me. I see it as a role player in a handful of decks.
Squadron Hawk – If you like Squadron Hawk there is a group of creatures like Nesting Wurm and Skyshroud Sentinel from Nemesis that have the same ability. It was originally printed in Green but I like it in White too. Note that you can use this to tutor for ________________ a.k.a. Blankman with this card.
Sun Titan – Of the set of Titans this is amongst the ones that most appeals to me (I like it second best). Getting a Resurrection for the smaller creatures in your deck is very unusual for White. White does not often get reanimation but it does get it occasionally. Including this guy there are probably less than 10 White cards that Resurrect creatures (random guess no research done there) but they are there.
Vengeful Archon – It’s very mana-hungry and it doesn’t work well against multiple foes that may be attacking you in waves so I’m not sold on it. It’s a 7/7 flyer for seven mana and that’s one of the rarest things in all of Magic (there are only a handful of creatures ever that have a power of 7 or more and fly for seven mana). On the other hand it basically has flying and an ability that’s not great usually because it requires you to leave a ton of mana open and can really just be used once a turn.
War Priest of Thune – This is a great card for some aggro decks because unlike cards such as Ronom Unicorn it does not require a sacrifice to be useful as a Demystify which gives you card advantage. In aggro decks with enchantments it’s not a winner. Otherwise it is a great bear in a set with great bears.
Green hasn’t had this much card fetching since Champions of Kamigawa. It’s got a lot of solid stuff and there are some high value cards in here that are among the best in the set. I think it made out and is the second strongest color in terms of the new cards for casual.
Back to Nature – I hate this card. Well maybe not hate but I really dislike this card. See White was supposed to be the super-angry-versus-enchantments color and it got cards more powerful than Tranquility such as an instant Tranquility and so forth. Green lost this ability since it gained the ability to take out artifacts regularly it lost the ability to sweep enchantments and it has not had it since. Now in one fell swoop it regains the ability to sweep enchantments and does so with the most efficient package ever seen. This should have been White.
Cultivate – Because sometimes Kodama’s Reach is so good you want more there’s Cultivate! It has card advantage and it gives you two colors of mana for smoothing. There is no reason not to play twenty thousand of these in your decks.
Fauna Shaman – Everybody loves Fauna Shaman! It’s awesome. It makes decks work. It is the oil for your creature engine. It tutors for combo pieces. It tutors for answers to problems. It tutors for problems. It feeds graveyard strategies. It can fight in combat. Don’t you love the Shaman? Remember it is now vulnerable to every creatures removal spell not named Tremor. I can see it in Five Color where the ability to tutor reliably on a recursive basis is always golden.
Gaea’s Revenge – It’s big it can attack early and it can’t be stopped by conventional means. It can be stopped by things like Roots and a card from the last set (Entangling Vines) and Desert Twister. You just have to work a little harder to find answers. Love the flavor by the by.
Garruk’s Companion – It’s like every time I see the newest super-powerful early beater I wonder what the final one will be that’s too powerful. Maybe is a GG 4/3 with first strike or a R 3/1 with haste and no sacrifice ability. It’s crazy.
Leyline of Vitality – The defense pump is okay but not that hot. It’s not like people were going out of their way to play Spidersilk Armor. The lifegain is nice but certainly something you could find in a one drop like Essence Warden so not that hot. This is the worst Leyline to my mind of this new cycle.
Mitotic Slime – It’s a cool design and because of that I expect to see it get played here and there.
Obstinate Baloth – Note that this obvious homage to Ravenous Baloth works against discard even if you are not playing Green. This may be one of those times when a card is much better for tournament play than in casual play.
Plummet – In some PPS decks flying is super common and thus this has a lot of value. It’s a great card for multiplayer as a cheaper instant Wing Snare. Now just reprint Whirlwind in Scars of Mirrodin and they will have printed the three deadliest cards against flyers in three consecutive sets (Leaf Arrow and Plummet).
Primeval Titan – For my money this is my favorite Titan because it gets you two lands of your choice. The Titans are amazing in a Sneak Attack deck. Can you imagine sneaking this out and getting four lands for your R investment? You could get four Cloudposts or the Urzatron and a Mountain for more Sneaking in a future turn. You could get Maze of Ith Wastelands whatever your heart desires. This is a powerful tool. There is no wonder it’s the Titan with the highest cash value.
Runeclaw Bear – Why are we bringing this stupid card back?
Sylvan Ranger – Another entry in the roles of “solid” land retrievers this is better than a Sakura-Tribe Elder in some circumstances because you don’t have to sac it and because it’s an elf even though the land goes into your hand. This will be seen in a thousand decks much like STE was of old. I would expect you to want roughly 53 of these for your decks.
I’ve seen much worse sections of Red and I’ve seen better. There are a few interesting cards in here like Hoarding Dragon.
Ancient Hellkite – We all like the ability to destroy creatures on the defense before they defend. Attacking with this and then blowing up a Silklash Spider before it can block is pretty cool. This wants to be in your mono-Red deck where it can destroy multiple creatures with its flaming fireness. It definitely has some power.
Chandra’s Outrage – Here’s a good burn spell for all of the formats that are sensitive to rarity since it’s a common. It certainly is a solid little package for what it does.
Cyclops Gladiator – Yuck. Couldn’t we have the Karplusan Yeti ability instead where you tap it? I’m not a fan of there being more than one “attack and you can deal damage to a creature” ability in the set especially if they work differently.
Destructive Force – After a while Wildfire just become sucky and rarely played. Adding a mana to destroy an additional land and deal one more damage may not be the answer.
Ember Hauler – See my comment from Garruk’s Companion above. This is by far the best two-drop for a Red deck in its history. It’s a 2/2 with no disadvantage and the ability to sacrifice for a Shock just like Goblin Legionnaire which was played a ton. It’s just staggering in its implications.
Hoarding Dragon – This is a card that I expect to be quite awesome both now and post-Scars. It’s a 4/4 flyer for five mana and it stores a card for you. Then you can be as ornery with the creature as you want and if no one wants to see that artifact hit play they are not killing your dragon. You can attack willy-nilly keep back creatures much bigger and more. I love it!
Inferno Titan – If it didn’t deal damage to players it would be crap. It’s yet another entry in the attack to deal damage camp and again with a different mechanic. What is with this?
Leyline of Punishment – This is a great tool to shutdown cards that want to undo what you have done. Protection from Red creatures still take Red damage and Cho-Manno is a chump. Every time this ability had been printed I’ve been happy and today I’m happy again.
Manic Vandal – Uktabi Orangutan in Red is card that will make a lot of people take notice. So take notice! This card is simple but awesome.
Pyretic Ritual – Because no one has seen enough storm decks.
Wild Evocation – In every set Red should get a janky crazy enchantment or a zany card that does something wild and unpredictable. Here you’ve got both!
There are a good amount of solid cards for various games from commons for PPS/Acid Magic (Liliana’s Specter) to cards for combo decks to aggro cards and more!
Captivating Vampire – The Knight lord makes their guys Indestructible the Elf lord combines a Wellwisher and an Elvish Champion in just one card and the Goblin lord combines the best parts of Goblin Warchief and Goblin King in one card. This is just a tap five ability similar to the guys from Onslaught block. This is basically a cheaper Voice of the Woods or Ancestor’s Prophet except with a flavorful ability. This is about the power level I expect from a banner lord not some of the other ones so good job.
Dark Tutelage – It’s another card that I feel will have a greater impact on tournament play than casual land. I’d rather have Phyrexian Arena in casual land and since you can buy one from SCG for all of two bucks and since this is going for a lot more if you are a casual player not bound to Standard cards I’d hit up some Arenas. They have a much more manageable life loss and they keep the card secret.
Demon of Death’s Gate – I mention this is last week’s article and how powerful it is off Buried Alive and triple Bloodghast. Imagine speeding that up with Dark Ritual. Second turn play the land out come the Ghasts and down comes a Demon and you have two mana to use. Next turn the Ghasts come back with a third land and you attack for a ton with the Demon and have three mana to use. That’s just one deck idea; I bet there are dozens. This is nasty.
Grave Titan – Making 2/2 zombies is cool! Making them without discarding two cards is hot! Making two at a time is hotter! Take a look at Grave Titan. Shouldn’t it be a Zombie Giant? That thing is creepy.
Liliana’s Caress – Because they really needed to make Megrim better now for all of your discard needs there’s a Caress. Now every Megrim deck in the world can play four more and can play them more cheaply. This will get overplayed a lot in discard decks. Yuck. Wizards that was not nice! You don’t get a gold star or a silver star or even the rare and coveted uranium star you get an ugly wood star. Ick. The only time I expect this to be okay is in EDH where you can play TWO Megrims now instead of one. Whoop-de-doo.
Liliana’s Specter – Let’s give Cackling Fiend flying and let’s make it cost one less too and we’ll even keep it common. Pick up about 27 for your multiplayer Black decks. Even in duel a flying 2/1 Ravenous Rats for 3 mana is not shabby. You could play it the turn after your new turn 2 Megrim. This is definitely a keeper. This is one of the power cards in the set for multiplayer.
Nether Horror – I find this name a bit jarring. Imagine it was called Horror Shade and then did not have the shade ability. Jarring right? What if it were called Specter Horror and then did not fly or have a discard element. Jarring right? Well here are the three previous creatures with the name Nether X – Nether Spirit Nether Shadow and Nether Traitor – and all come out of the graveyard on their own terms. This is just a vanilla creature. Jarring. There have been a few times I’ve found the flavor of some things to be a bit off in this set. (Netherborn Phalanx does not have the name Nether X).
Phylactery Lich – This is not jarring this is awesome. Very flavor-tastic for D&D aficionados. However as much fun as it is for them I don’t want to see too much of an homage to D&D. This is Magic-world not D&D world. I don’t want to see Gelatinous Cube and Carrion Crawler and Rust Monster in this game. I don’t want to see a giant centipede that paralyzes its victims but deals no actual damage with a different name either. They pointed out that this was a nod to D&D and as awesome as the card is in flavor I think they are close to the line of no return. Oh and what is up with the creature type – ugh. We have got to give the undead another creature type. First of all it doesn’t look like a zombie it looks like a withered skeleton-ish creature. Second far too many undead types are tied to a mechanic like shades skeletons specters and wraiths. Everybody loves what they did with vampires making them more than what they were and that’s great but you need to have room for the occasional oddball undead type like mummy or lich. Wouldn’t it be great to have an Egyptian themed set with mummies instead of creatures called mummies with the zombie type? What about an actual lich creature type? By making it a zombie when it doesn’t even come close to zombie-dom you are hurting its flavor in favor of game mechanics and jarring what is otherwise a very elegant piece of work with this card. Why close off options in the future for liches? You did it with Dralnu too but now we know it’s not a one-of. In the set you have a zombie that enters the battlefield tapped and you say zombies are super slow in the flavor text and yet this is not super slow this is not shambling and this does not resemble what the public thinks when they think “zombie.” It’s like giving a scorpion the spider type; it feels wrong. Isn’t that supposed to be the point of the new core sets – to create cards that represent the basic fantasy archetypes so they will resonate more with people? A zombie type for the lich is a failure in that respect.
Reassembling Skeleton – Totally cool and mentioned a ton in last week’s article. I love them!
Viscera Seer – Add this to the engines from last week’s article.
Blue is by far the most powerful color from this set with a ton of great cards from common to mythic to enthrall you.
AEther Adept – I still use Man-o’-War a ton in my decks and some of them are very Blue or exclusively Blue and thus AEther Adept fits in very nicely. It’s also a common so it likes formats that care about the rarity of a card.
Air Servant – This is what Air Elemental got pulled for? I mean it doesn’t suck but it doesn’t exude massive flavor to me. I don’t look at an Air Elemental and say gosh shouldn’t it lock down a flyer for a bit? It seems that an Air Elemental should be able to fly and that’s about it. The ability is cool for those multiplayer metagames where flying is seen pretty often and it is splash able so it should more play than Air Elemental. Yet I miss my Air Elemental; maybe I’m just sentimental.
Augury Owl – This appears to be mega powerful. PPS/Peasant/Acid are loving this common. You can get them for very little. Drop them very early and dig three. In some ways this is better than Wall of Blossoms in Blue for combo decks because it looks through more cards for combo pieces. In other ways – like defense and actually drawing a card it’s much better. This has a great place to play in a ton of different decks and it is in a color that loves to bounce things and I see a lot of bouncing Owls in the near future.
Call to Mind –Blue sometimes gets these Relearn/Dj vu/Scrivener type spells. It feels like it’s been a while since we’ve seen one though so it’s a long time coming. For a lot of players this may be the first time they’ve seen one of these. It’s totally playable so grab some and run them.
Conundrum Sphinx – I would have preferred that just you do the riddle when it attacks. How about this for flavor? When it attacks do the puzzle game on your opponent and if they fail they take the damage but if they succeed it gets prevented. Then make it cost three mana. Figuring out the riddle or the puzzle usually prevents the sphinx from attacking you in fantasy so why not make that a reality in Magic?
Diminish – Amazing. Truly Amazing. If it weren’t for mega powerful cards like Time Reversal and Fauna Shaman then the commons in this set would be the best. This does everything you want for one Blue mana. It shrinks any creature to manageable chump blocking size. Any attacker gets brought to 1/1 and then get’s blocked and killed. It does not monkey with abilities so you don’t have to worry about what happens when it loses X ability. Just attack into a big guy or block it and then bring it down to size. Blue is always on the lookout for creature removal and this is another entry that will be in Blue decks for the rest of the game. (It’s also common for rarity based formats)
Frost Titan – Of the titans… ick. Tap something? Spend two more mana to target me with stuff? No trample no vigilance no deathtouch (although that seems a bit redundant on a 6/6) no firebreathing nothing cool – just two extra mana? I agree that it’s cool to try out that ability and stuff like flying always goes on the Blue creature in a set of five that gets an extra ability so let’s experiment. How about – Protection from Instants and Sorceries? That’s cool in flavor for Blue and is a better ability. This is especially good since its arrival/attack ability is pretty pedestrian compared to several of the others.
Jace’s Ingenuity – This will be an interesting question. Do you want three cards for 3UU at instant speed or four cards from Tidings for 3UU at sorcery speed? Which will win out? I suspect it will be a matter of choice. Note that Pauper formats are sad that this is not a common.
Leyline of Anticipation – Jiminy Cricket! Zounds! I love and by love I mean adore Veldaken Orrery. It is a sexy card that will help you win games. This makes the Orrery look downright trivial in Blue decks. The Leyline is the typically slightly harder to destroy enchantment and the card that can get played way earlier and allow you to flash everything for an entire game. This is what sexy is all about. This is one of my faves from the set no doubt. Rock.
Preordain – I like it and you’ll like it too. It’s not as good as Ponder but it is good. Lots of people have said lots of things about this card already so there is little left for me to say. Get a ton of them for your decks.
Redirect – Wizards here’s a little tip. You could make Deflection a one Blue mana spell and people would have difficultly playing it. It sits in your hand while you wait for this “Gotcha” moment and it never comes as often as you like. The only thing I like here is that you can choose all of the targets whereas many Deflection-types only work on spells with a single target. That’s cool. But I just don’t think it’s cool enough. We’ll see… perhaps I’m wrong.
Scroll Thief – It’s exactly like Ophidian except it deals damage which is both a good thing and a bad thing. I’ve drawn Ophidian cards tons of times in multiplayer because I didn’t deal damage and people let me do it. Making it stronger in duels weakens it in multiplayer. It’s still good and you can load it with stuff like Whispersilk Cloak. It’s just not as powerful on its own outside of duels.
Stormtide Leviathan – No one will ever say it sucks. It would probably go into Joey’s Ice Deck! This is a card that oozes flavor and I love it. It easily can dominate a table if it comes out and of course that if is a giant IF. Everybody goes on an Island Sanctuary but there’s no upkeep. It’s awesome!
Time Reversal – I don’t think Jace TMS is worth the price of admission in terms of its cost in money. For multiplayer or casual players it doesn’t give you that much power. Gideon is cool but probably not worth the cost either. Baneslayer is closer but again probably not worth it. This is one of the few times you will ever hear me say that the price of a card in the 20+ dollar range is worth it. This thing could be worth 50 bucks and to my mind it’s worth it. Having said that please note that you can get a Time Spiral today for four bucks from Saga. That’s an amazing deal so you should pick those up too. As someone who has owned and played Timetwister for years and years and years and Time Spiral and Diminishing Returns this is amazing. Draw 7 cards are very very rare and to see one for 5 mana with no disadvantage – you have to take advantage of that. Here are your good draw 7s – Memory Jar Magus of the Jar Timetwister Wheel of Fortune Contract from Below Time Spiral Time Reversal and perhaps Diminishing Returns in the right format and perhaps Windfall at the right time. That’s it folks. One of those is a creature that can’t tap for a turn. One of those is an ante card. One of those is a Power 9 card. What is left for you? Not a lot. This stuff is mega powerful for all sorts of decks and situations and you can get one in M11 and to my mind that’s just incredible. If you don’t pick up some of these now when the set is out who knows what they will be worth in two or three years? Who knows if you’ll see copies regularly in people’s trade binders and in your local store?
Artifacts and Lands
Brittle Effigy – This is a great rattlesnake card. Play it and when you have the mana open you may keep creatures away. Watch as Akroma attacks elsewhere. You can also use it on any creature not just those coming your way. It is a colorless way to Exile any creature from a utility creature to a combo creature to a beefy attacker or defender. I think this works best in Green which probably won’t mind the four mana activation cost in order to exile creatures. As a one mana artifact it also loves Blue and cards that want more artifacts in play such as Master of Etherium.
Crystal Ball – I love the combination of scry and a Crystal Ball. However in my opinion if you are going to make one of the iconic fantasy items of all time it should have a little more spark? How about scry 3? How about two mana for scry 5? Let’s make it really powerful!
Elixir of Immortality – Again a great flavor for an epic card. Perfect on the nose flavor and again I would loved to have seen a bit more punch from it. Three mana for five life is nothing. What about ten life? Bring that back again and again? That’s immortality.
Gargoyle Sentinel – I think this is a fine card for your decks if a little underwhelming. It’s a nice colorless wall that turns into a 3/3 flying beater occasionally. It slips into a lot of decks that want this and it looks great as a card that does what you would think it should do.
Sword of Vengeance – That’s a really powerful set of abilities for 3 mana to equip. I think a plethora of creatures will want to wield this. I particularly enjoy the haste on this as it promises an early hit with your suddenly vigilant first striking trampling and +2 power beater. I think there is a lot of value in this.
Mystifying Maze – This is yet another land that can stop an attacker. It is weak against 187 creatures and it looks bad in the mana department but it is a strong card nonetheless for control decks that might have the mana and multiplayer where you can often expect to get later in the game. It does send away a creature for a while and something like a Serra Angel is out as a blocker for a turn. In a duel it’s exiled on your turn as well which makes it immune to sorcery removal in a duel – and that’s not good. Overall it’s a tool but it’s no Kor Haven or Maze of Ith and yet it goes into any deck. Expect to use it as an adjunct for other removal and damage prevention not as the main guy.
And with that we come to the end of another article. I hope you enjoyed it! Check out below for today’s deck form the past… it’s one of my favorites!
APPENDIX – As promised last week here is the next deck and description from a previous article. This is one of my all time favorites because of the cool interactions. It comes from a Bad Rares article way back on 3/30/2005. I randomly pulled Thran Weaponry from my bad rare box and then proceeded to build the following deck along with a small amount of conversation about it.
Thran Weaponry gives a bonus for all creatures including certain creatures of your opponent's. There are several ways to use this but I have a particularly naughty idea. Let's take a look.
This deck is clever in its trickiness. The goal is to play a Weaponry tap it and never untap. Opposing creatures that get bigger will likely die to Reprisals Retribution of the Meek and Intrepid Heroes. Only creatures with a power of one or less will survive the Retributions with a tapped Weaponry.
That is exactly why every creature in this deck has a power of one. Note that Amrou Kithkin is virtually unblockable with an activated Weaponry. The Chaplain is also unblockable as well as a great blocker for your opponent's pumped up creatures. You also have Soltari Foot Soldiers to swing for damage or block on that front.
The Skirmisher is particularly nasty with an activated Weaponry becoming a 3/3 flying double-striking machine of death.
However no trick in this deck makes me smile more than another bad rare: Crackdown. With an activated Weaponry no creature unless it normally has a power of zero will untap unless it is white. So unless your opponent is playing with Birds of Paradise or Will o' the Wisp all of their non-white creatures are staying tapped.
That's a pretty potent combination with Thran Weaponry made all the more potent by having nothing but white creatures available to you.
You also have the Watchtowers and Shaman en-Kor to help your defenses. Remember to untap the Weaponry if the tables turn and you are on the beating side of some large creatures. This deck seems like a fun deck to play and try out although I'd probably take out a single copy of Thran Weaponry (after all you don't need two in play at the same time) and maybe something else for a pair of emergency Disenchant effects - like Terashi's Grasp from Betrayers.