With M13 around the corner I'm going to reprise my article from Avacyn Restored about role-players in the set. Given the simpler cards in a core set the whole question/answer layout doesn't really make sense. When you basically know exactly what the cards do there is much less speculation involved. Instead this is going to be a straightforward look at some cards that while they won't pull the greatest amount of attention should be on your radar for deckbuilding.
With M13 around the corner I'm going to reprise my article from Avacyn Restored about role-players in the set.
Given the simpler cards in a core set the whole question/answer layout doesn't really make sense. When you basically know exactly what the cards do there is much less speculation involved.
Instead this is going to be a straightforward look at some cards that while they won't pull the greatest amount of attention should be on your radar for deckbuilding.
Counter target Bonfire of the Damned. This card still does something even if they don't have it.
First this card likely won't see play on this side of the rotation. Seachrome Coast is unfortunately a little too good to want to rely on basics in a blue-white deck.
That said lifelink is very strong. 3/x fliers for three mana are also strong when they actually do something. I've even considered playing Horizon Drake before and that guy didn't even have another ability beside flying. Depending on what the blue-white land is next year this guy may or may not readily find a home applying some Skies-style beatdown.
This card seems like an awesome Sea Gate Oracle or Wall of Omens variant. You obviously need a reasonable amount of instants and sorceries to make this card worth it. Here are some numbers to figure it out with assuming the rest of your deck is completely random minus two lands and an Augur:
15 instants and sorceries is about 60% to hit.
20 is 73% to hit.
25 is 83% to hit.
To put this in context you want Delver-like numbers with this card. The difference is that the effect is much more likely to happen and there is a smaller swing between hits and misses. I would likely start with Desperate Ravings if I wanted to play this but be aware that you probably don't want to play it with most miracle spells. Bonfire of the Damned is probably fine to have in your hand but Terminus and Entreat the Angels aren't exactly greatest hits here.
Maybe the name just gives us the answer here... (Spoiler alert: Nicol Bolas is good times.)
I'm not sure I can justify this guy given the above card exists but it does a good job against things like Strangleroot Geist. It can even hold off the hasted half of a Wolfir Silverheart and buy you time to answer it at sorcery speed. Just count the number of Pillar of Flames in lists before you start this one; I would hate to make one of their worst cards live against a control deck.
Just reminding people that Jace and his M12 cohort Garruk Primal Hunter are still here. Both have been awesome from time to time and planeswalkers were extremely good in Innistrad Block but unfortunately mostly unsupported. Expect these powerhouse five-drop 'walkers to play a greater role in Standard to come (read: less Delver of Secrets and Mana Leaks).
Legacy aside here. If you don't care about that format skip to the next card.
This card is NOT Dream Halls in Legacy. It isn't even remotely close. The main reason that card is even good is that it is perfectly castable on its own. 7UUU is more mana than I've ever had in play with the deck and the jump from reasonable to play through Wastelands to almost completely uncastable occurs between five and six. Imagine where that puts ten mana.
Now that we have that out of the way back to our scheduled programming.
Seeing this card makes me shocked that no one has cast Snapcaster Mage targeting Frost Breath. Depending on how much walking into Restoration Angel there is Sleep-Geist of Saint Traft-Snapcaster Mage could be a legitimate package for aggro-control decks. It doesn't beat a Bonfire of the Damned but realistically what does? This at least trumps all the other cards in those decks. Six mana seems like a lot but that alone should kill them with Geist of Saint Traft.
I'm much less excited about this card than a lot of people. It has some stiff competition between Dungeon Geists and Restoration Angel. I'm far from excluding it; I just don't know if it has legs just yet. Likely worth trying out in testing but probably not an auto-include for the first major event without having played it before.
This card will be much better than its white counterpart. Not only is black extremely short on two-drops right now but protection from white is protection from basically the entire Humans deck (excepting Riders of Gavony) while protection from black still dies to Curse of Death's Hold and still results in you being drained out of the game.
I'm only touching on this planeswalker because my own opinion drastically differs from what I've heard from most other people. Personally I really like this card. Drawing a card every turn is a huge deal even if it is just a land. If you can fit enough red into your deck for Faithless Looting this card seems easily worth it as a Phyrexian Arena that makes you never miss land drops.
This card excites me. I haven't really thought about how much work it is to get this card active but it's an instant creature. I expect it to fill the Limited tables and likely make a splash in Constructed at least as a sideboard option. It's unfortunate that the actual Zombies deck has fewer targets than it seems due to Gravecrawler wanting to stay "dead."
Arc Trail is likely better while it remains in the format simply due to the reduced mana cost but having access to another way to gun down mana dorks and deal some residual damage is going to be nice. The red deck was only a couple cards off of working in Block and it's unlikely it won't see those in the sets to come. A critical mass of burn spells is one thing that will push the deck into the realm of solidly playable and this could help there.
Three-power haste creature for three. The drawback tells you how to play better. I might be behind the times but I think this still has to be at least close to viable in aggressive decks post-rotation. Exactly how viable Brute is likely depends on the number of Geistflames and Avacyn's Pilgrims there are floating around to punish the x/1 part of the card.
Eight Incinerates is certainly an interesting prospect. It means that for the next couple months the red deck can be much closer to Burn and further from Sligh which seems great against all the Vapor Snags and Gut Shots floating around. The full eight might not be right but I'm pretty sure I want more than four.
Four more years! Four more years!
About one year after the fact the core of this deck will be legal again. You lose the Fauna Shaman-Vengevine package and Joraga Treespeaker which is likely a huge blow. You can replace it with a big game package involving Primal Surge Genesis Wave and/or Craterhoof Behemoth but I'm skeptical of how well that will perform with the number of Bonfires and Gut Shots floating around. At the least people are cutting back on Mana Leaks so that the giant spells are legitimately over the top of everything else.
You do lose Ezuri Renegade Leader Llanowar Elves and Green Sun's Zenith with the rotation so if you want to Elves! people in Standard now is the time. Just don't play against Bonfire of the Damned or Elesh Norn.
Commander aside. For those only interested in tournament-real formats feel free to skip ahead.
I don't play EDH/Commander much but when I do I want all the mana possible. Two Skyshroud Claims seems like the default for anyone playing green even if one doesn't let you chain ramp spells in the same turn.
It's worth noting that unlike most other cards of this type Roaring Primadox is not restricted to green creatures. Zealous Conscripts comes to mind but that could easily be overkill. The 4/4 body is likely the deal breaker here. At least the old school version trampled (Stampeding Wildebeest).
The only reason this card wasn't played the first time around was that Cruel Ultimatum cost one less and mana was completely irrelevant. Also Bloodbraid Elf was a thing later but that's a different issue.
In terms of unbeatability Nicol Bolas is definitely closer to his Ultimatum than he is to the other uber-expensive 'walker Karn Liberated. Plussing to LD them is much more relevant than plussing to Raven's Crime them and not having to -3 to kill a planeswalker is huge. Add in that the minus ability actually kills guys and the ultimate actually always kills them and you have a game ending curve topper for control that trumps a Titan.
The only reason this card wouldn't be played this time around as of now is Zealous Conscripts which to be fair is an extremely legitimate concern. It is very unfortunate that the Dragon Lord is able to commit suicide when Conscripted.
I played with my fair share of Armillary Sphere and this is just a bigger version. The extra mana is somewhat of a concern compared to the sleeker curve Sphere represented but this card also gives you a ton of fuel for the best control engines in the format: Faithless Looting and Desperate Ravings. I don't know if this will see play in a world with Mana Leaks and Titans but when those are gone Gem of Becoming could be an important part of a post-rotation control shell.
Also for those who haven't tried it Faithless Looting is awesome even when you are only playing it as a fair Careful Study times two. Instead of having extra lands late game and Curse of Death's Holds against control you have exactly what you need at all points of the game. Costing one is also a huge benefit during the early turns allowing you to curve out on land drops and answers.
This card is awesome. Red decks always want ways to make spells out of not spells and this makes a 4/4 haste. I don't know about you but paying in installments for a decent sized haste body seems awesome when the card you spend to do so is an extra land.
The colorless mana isn't really an issue. Your burn spells are mostly Incinerates and none of the good two drops cost double red. Goblin Wardriver is actually the only one in the format and that card wasn't even good enough for Kuldotha Red. Stormblood Berserker Lightning Mauler and Shrine of Burning Rage can all be cast by this card.
The only question is whether this beats out Cathedral of War for the slot and I think the answer is yes. Going back to the last point Hellion Crucible casts two-drops on turn 2 but Cathedral does not. Crucible is also a much more reasonable late game top deck compared to what is basically an aura on a land.
Sample Post-M13 Red Deck:
Yes zero Bonfire of the Damned. You don't have the mana the green decks do to miracle it for actual lethal nor do you have the creatures to follow up with in combat.
I opted to stay away from creatures in favor of not losing the game to Gut Shot or Vapor Snag. Instead you are the can burn must burn deck aided by some random dudes that can all deal damage outside of ground combat.
I haven't figured out the Sword of War and Peace issue just yet; I'll get back to you if I do though. It might just be the plan of burn all your guys Shrine you.
For those of you who want a little bit wilder red deck try this one out:
You are super soft to the Esper deck but you bring the beats against Delver. Hopefully people stick with the tried and true plan and avoid making Golem tokens that you can never hope to win against.
I'm not sure how much M13 is going to shake up Standard but there are certainly a lot of interesting cards for a core set. There are a few more cards I want to play with I haven't mentioned above but I'm pretty sure they are outside the realistic range.
One example for the road? Someone please make Staff of Nin good. Talk about some value!
In light of the results at the recent Legacy Grand Prix in Atlanta I figured I should shed some light on a combo deck I've generally avoided: Belcher. As dumb as it sounds the deck is actually much better than you would ever expect and has a lot of play to it. Contrary to popular belief Force of Will is not a death sentence. You can't really play around it per say but playing straight through it is definitely an option.
Ten Ways to Beat a Force of Will with Goblin Charbelcher:
10. They don't have it.
9. Draw the win again after the Force of Will but before you die.
6. Board in Pyroblast.
5. Board in Xantid Swarm because they don't have removal.
3. Make eight mana then cast Goblin Charbelcher. They counter it then you play the other one in your hand. Draw mana before you die!
1. Seriously they don't have it. Some people do show up to these events without Force of Will in their decks.
Beating a Force of Will isn't that hard. Sure Thoughtseize plus Force of Will is fairly rough or sometimes just Force of Will and a Brainstorm for Terminus but often you just get to drop your deck on the table.
Good luck and happy Belching.