I can't believe it's preview time already. Wizards is pumping out preview after preview, and the entire M13 spoiler is almost live. There are so many exciting cards coming out of this set, but this week I am going to limit myself to three that absolutely blow my mind. Let's get started!
Talrand, Sky Summoner
There are so many amazing things going for this guy. He'll find a home in almost every version of Delver, but he'll lose most of his potential after M12 and Scars Block rotate out. That means this guy is going to be format defining, but only for a limited time so we don't get sick of him. This makes him a perfect Magic card in my book.
I guess I should start with why this guy is amazing in Delver decks. On paper, he doesn't look that good. Four mana is a lot to invest right now in any card. Every card that is that expensive does something extremely powerful on its own or has enough power and toughness to protect itself. Talrand, Sky Summoner does neither of these things.
The way I found out about this card's potential was when Nick Spagnolo told me to think about how Emeria Angel got its start. Emeria Angel wasn't a highly played card for most of its time in Standard, but only started to appear in decks once it was used to generate virtual card advantage in the Caw-Blade mirrors. There was a hole in the mirror match, and Emeria Angel was the perfect card to help solve many problems players faced. It was a mid-game card that could not be Spell Pierced and was able to create 1/1 fliers that made it very difficult for an opponent to attack through. Given enough time on the board, Emeria Angel would take over the game.
Talrand, Sky Summoner has the potential to do the exact same thing but way better. Sure, this guy will die, but there are so many cards right now that can help protect it from not impacting the board. Cavern of Souls helps to safely resolve this guy through countermagic, and Mutagenic Growth helps protect him from Pillar of the Flames and Bonfire of the Damned. Even playing him on turn 5 with Vapor Snag can be a profitable line of play. If an opponent Doom Blades him, you can Vapor Snag him back to your hand and generate a 2/2 flyer.
The biggest reason I love this card so much is that if you ever untap with it, you will litter the board with creatures. Delver decks have a very high number of cards that cantrip, and it is not difficult to find a cantrip off of a different cantrip. You never want to Ponder into multiple Probes and Ponders in a normal game, but what if every one of these spells produces a 2/2 flying token?
Emeria Angel was only producing 1/1 creatures and at max could get two into play in a single turn via a sac land. The sky's the limit with how many tokens Talrand will be able to produce in a single turn. You might even be able to get two into play the turn you play it with access to Phyrexian Mana spells.
I played a version of Mono-Blue Wizards in a playtesting video I did with Gerry a couple days ago (will be posted next week). This is what I played.
There were also two Auger of Bolas in the maindeck. He an experiment that was a smashing success! He really reminded me of Silvergill Adept even though his power is only one. One very impressive thing is that this creature survives a non-miracled Bonfire of the Damned, Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, Pillar of the Flame, Whip Flare, etc. All of this makes him a very strong target for Runechanter's Pike in many matchups. I definitely wanted more than two the instant I cast him.
Talrand, Sky Summoner was not suited favorably in the matchup we played, but I saw insane potential while just playing with the deck. In combination with Cavern of Souls, this card is almost unbeatable in the mirror match, making it probably the most important card in the mirror from this moment forward. It does cost four mana and is very weak to Mana Leak without Cavern of Souls, but there is nothing else wrong with the card.
I feel that this card will shine brightest against creature-based decks. The best way to attack Delver decks right now is to swarm. Simply taking over the board and hindering Delver decks from gaining tempo has been the way of the world for the past six months. Restoration Angel has helped a bit since it is the only creature in the deck that can get into combat and live to tell the story, but it still isn't enough to stop an aggressive enough curve. Talrand is going to change all of this.
Delver players are now going to be able to play this card and just start slamming Vapor Snags and Gut Shots for value. How in the hell do you expect to attack into open mana against Talrand, Sky Summoner?
I don't think this mono-blue approach is the best this deck can do since people will start playing more spot removal like Combust and Dismember. This is the version of the deck I am going to start working with when the set becomes legal.
This version of the deck has the potential to punish people for relying on spot removal to kill the creatures since Geist of Saint Traft is in the deck as well as an abundance of Mutagenic Growths to help protect from damage based mass removal spells.
I am not even sure if this deck wants Moorland Haunt anymore since it can now produce so many more creatures than Delver has been able to in the past. I have not been a fan of Timely Reinforcements as of late, but this has changed now as well. All this deck wants to do is get enough time to set up a stream of Drakes, and Timely helps do this.
Talrand, Sky Summoner is going to be a real force in this deck, and I cannot wait to get a chance to play with him for the next couple months.
The next two cards I want to talk about go in the same deck.
Thundermaw Hellkite and Flinthoof Boar
Wow! Both of these cards are insane, and I can't really tell which one is better. Obviously Flinthoof Boar needs a Mountain in play to be powered up (Return to Ravnica should make this very easy ;]), but it is still a fine card without it.
Thundermaw Hellkite, on the other hand, is bonkers! Five mana for a 5/5 flying haste creature is already impressive, but the ability to always connect pushes this guy over the edge. Patrick Chapin wrote a very good article about this guy earlier in the week, so I will leave it at that. Here is the deck I have been working on to utilize the abundance of haste creatures in the format.
The first thing to take note about this deck is that it is more of an experiment than a final version. This is the most extreme way I can think of to build this deck. Haste creatures are always good in multiples, and this deck is based on this fact. This high number of haste creatures allows so many draws to have an immediate impact on the board. 23 of the 60 cards in this deck have the potential to deal damage to an opponent the turn they come into play. This means that it should be easy to keep the pressure on and keep an opponent on the back foot.
Bonfire of the Damned is the hottest card against creature-based decks, yet it's not that impressive against this deck. An opponent can't rely on a miracled Bonfire to save them, so they will constantly try to trade and block to preserve their life total. This means that even when they cast a miracle, they might not have a good board position to take advantage of it. One more Hellrider might be enough to put them into the ground so they may not even attack. This gives you the ability to find your own Bonfire of the Damneds as well as build up enough threats to Hellrider them anyway.
Thundermaw Hellkite is the top end of this deck and will be the last card you cast in most games with this deck. I really don't know how a creature-based opponent can deal with this guy. Not only does he tap all of the blockers in the way, but the next copy will do the same. Phyrexian Metamorph just found the perfect creature to clone, and these two cards will be the best of friends until we Return to Ravnica.
Abundant Growth might seem like a strange card to play, but I think it is very important in this deck. Double red can be very difficult to get to some games, and it is very crucial to play Hellrider once you have four mana. This also lets us skimp on a couple lands since we will be drawing an extra card a game.
I don't want to, but this deck might need more Borderland Rangers. This guy brings home the bacon by getting a Mountain for the Flinthoof Boars as well as helping get to five mana for Thundermaw Dragon. He really brings the deck together.
If you end up working on this deck, these are the question I would like to be answering.
Is the lack of Kessig Wolf Run a problem?
I don't think I want this card in the deck for the fact that we will be constantly casting creatures on our main phase. This means we will threaten this land very infrequently, and we need Mountains in the deck to turn on our Flinthoof Boars. It might even be important to have more Mountains in the deck, making it even more difficult to play Kessig Wolf Run.
Huntmaster of the Fells might end up being a big issue. Obviously Bonfire of the Damned plays a huge role in these matchups, but there are games that neither player wins on the back of this absurd "Wrath you." This means that there will be games that a couple Huntmasters might be enough to stabilize the game. Multiple Hellriders and Thundermaw Hellkites might be enough steal these games, but only testing will tell.
The moment I saw Farseek in the set was the moment I feel guaranteed that shocklands will probably be coming back. It would be bad business for Wizards to troll us, so there is almost no way they leave these lands out. This creature cycle also suggests that these lands will be coming back. So are these creatures good enough before we get the lands?
A decent number of games will end with Flinthoof Boar never getting to become a 3/3, but that might still be enough. His haste ability can be activated even if there is no Mountain in play, making this guy still a decent spell. Strangleroot Geist is one of the most powerful cards in the set, and even though this guy isn't as good, I still think he will be good enough.
M13 looks like a very exciting set so far. Next week I have a couple videos going up where I play with both of these decks against Gerry Thompson (Mono Blue Wizards and G/R without Flinthoof Boar since it wasn't spoiled yet). I believe both of these decks will be strong choices right out of the gates, and I can't wait to play eight-set Standard for the summer. See you guys next week!