The War Report: The London Mulligan

Earlier this week it was announced that all formats would be updated to a new mulligan rule, the London Mulligan. This replaces the long standing Vancouver Mulligan rule, and all of this probably sounds like nonsense to a non player. Let me first explain what a mulligan is, and then we can jump into the differences between the two rulesets.

A player may “mulligan” if they are unhappy with the first set of seven cards they draw before the game begins. To mulligan means to shuffle your current hand into your library and then draw that many cards again. It’s a way to combat the random mechanic that stems from having a deck of cards with which to perform actions. However, there are caveats to a mulligan — you’ll rarely get to simply draw seven new cards and this is never an unlimited action, or else we’d have games that are over before they start because some decks can end a game with a “God hand.”

The Vancouver Mulligan has been around for a while. When a player is unhappy with their starting hand, they may shuffle those seven cards back into their deck, draw six new cards, and then Scry 1. To Scry, you’ll look at the top card of your library and either leave it there or put in on the bottom of your library. It’s a strategic way to control your next turn, but you’ll still be down a card which kind of sucks.

The newly minted London Mulligan is a little bit different. After drawing your first seven and being unhappy with the result, you can then shuffle those cards back into your library. This is the same as the prior iteration, but it changes from here. Instead of picking up six cards, you still get to pick up seven, and instead of a Scry, you’ll put one of the cards in your hand on the bottom of your library. It’s a similar mechanic with a similar result, but the card selection is greater from your hand rather than from the top of your library, and you essentially get to weed out unneeded cards.

I don’t play Standard, Modern, Vintage or Legacy at this juncture, and because Wizards of the Coast cannot change the rules for Commander without the EDH Rules Committee’s blessing, their official announcement that I linked to above doesn’t cover EDH. Thankfully, the Rules Committee is already on top of things, and has said that this will be adopted by them as well!

This is great news, because I think that cEDH decks in particular, but also decks of all power levels will benefit from this change. It doesn’t seem like that much of a change but I think you’ll be able to find more consistency for your combos and just having enough land to do things during a match with this new Mulligan rule. Not only do you get more card selection power, but you’ll find better performance for all decks, particularly those that need the help with their early curve.

This change doesn’t go live for all formats until the release of Core Set 2020, but that does occur next month so we’ll be testing out these new mulligan rules sooner than later. The rest of the year is looking really good for MTG — Modern Horizons is at our doorstep, the Core Set should bring some new spice with it in July, and then we get the new Commander sets in August. This summer is going to be lit!

TWR: Looking Ahead to Modern Horizons

Although it’s not a normal set, it’s not quite a masters set either. It’s not standard legal, instead skipping right to Modern legality (but this also means it’s great for EDH). Like Battlebond last year, we’re getting a late spring alternate set that comes with a variety of things you just couldn’t jam into a standard legal set. This one comes out in June, and is called Modern Horizons. It was advertised to have all new cards to Modern, so any of the reprints would have to be legacy cards, but we still managed to get a nice mixture of reprints that are nice and new cards that will work in Modern, EDH, and Limited formats. I’d even think Pauper got a thing or two, but I’m not really up on its meta. As usual, there is a Buy-A-Box promo card, this time being one I’m not thrilled about but I’m sure there are people out there that will want it.

Buy-A-Box:

It’s Flusterstorm! It’s a one mana counterspell that forces an opponent to pay one mana or the spell they cast will be countered. The reason people actually want it is that it has Storm, so if someone starts to “storm off” (playing with a storm deck that specializes is casting many spells quickly) you can use this to stop them in their tracks. As counterspells go, it’s fine, but it’s not a good enough incentive to buy a box. Though I think the set itself does have that sort of value — it’s unfortunate that they cost so much more than a normal box ($250 as opposed to $100). This set brings with it some interesting cards, and as usual I won’t be able to comment on them all, but I thought I would highlight some of the new cycles, new legendary creatures (aka new commanders) and EDH playables.

Force Cycle:

The first new cycle we saw spoilers for was the “force cycle” which includes a new force spell for each of the game’s five colors. They are modeled after the excellent Force of Will, which allows you to discard a blue card to cast it rather than paying its mana cost. It’s great for competitive and casual decks alike. The new blue force spell is to Negate what Force of Will is to Counterspell. Still pretty good but not amazing. The green force is pretty good artifact/enchantment removal for free, so you can blow up that Chain Veil that’s about to go off. The black force is good to slow down an aggro or token deck that puts a lot of creatures down in one turn. Outside of that, the white and red versions are pretty terrible but I wanted to include them nonetheless.

Talisman Cycle Now Complete:

Talismans have been around for a long time, and they are basically Pain Lands on an artifact. For 2 CMC you get an untapped colorless rock, or you can take a damage and get one of two colors. Five of the color combinations existed until now, so the cycle is finally complete. Great for most decks that are running multiple colors, they are damn good rocks and auto includes.

New Legendary Creatures:

Next up, new Legendary creatures. I was really impressed with these, and we got one of each color along with a WUBRG and Colorless option. Technically our White and Colorless options count as WUBRG commanders as well, but for all intents and purposes they’ve spread the love around pretty well. I was most interested in Morophon initially, as he looks like a cool commander for changelings and shapeshifters but he also can slam right into Jodah and between the two of them you’re casting spells for free — this makes the creature another omnipotence, which I’ve already got in the deck. Then The First Sliver was spoiled and holy shit! Slivers already looked like a pretty strong tribe, and then this guy comes out with Cascade and gives all of his homies cascade too! What the actual fuck? Too bad he’s already speculated to cost $40 and the older legendary Slivers are more than that.  I’m so-so on Sisay… seems good but I’m just not into that style of commander, the same goes for Bear tribal, Urza and Yawgmoth. It’s cool that they got legendary cards finally, but I don’t really care. Now when it comes to Pashalik Mons on the other had, I completely approve! I have a Krenko goblin deck already, and I threw the recently released new version of Krenko in the deck, but this guy also deserves a slot. I still think that Krenko is the better commander, but you essentially only infinite mana to win the game in combination with this card. So another tool for the goblin deck is coming, and I can’t wait to use it!

EDH Playables:

These cards are all the best ones I saw while spoilers rolled out for the last couple of weeks. Honestly there are only a few here that I really can’t wait to get my hands on, but I can see that some of these are great additions to decks that I don’t play but I know people who do. There are two new swords that are part of a cycle that is also not yet complete, but they didn’t end up putting all 5 that were needed in the set. Out of these two, the Sword of Truth and Justice is really good… Sinew and Steel is less so but could be good in certain decks. Winds of Abandon is a new Cyclonic Rift in white, but it will ramp the shit out of your opponents so you’ll want to be carefull how you use it… Perhaps an Armageddon is in order afterwards. The Ninja at the top is pretty amazing, and there were a handful of others in this set, which means Yuriko just got some new toys and Ninjas are a more viable tribe now. There are some other great cards here, so take a look. Remember, reading the card explains the card!

Lands:

Finally, we have lands. For whatever reason WotC decided it was a good time to bring Snow-Covered lands back, which haven’t seen printing since the Ice Age set. This means there are other cards in the set that reference “snow permanents” and some mana costs or ability costs require snow covered lands to activate/play. Another new cycle are these dual lands that allow you to use them immediately but cost you life. They seem okay for EDH but not so great otherwise. However, you can sacrifice them for card draw so that’s okay. Otherwise we have a fetch land that fetches basics, which is weird but could be effective if you can bring it back from the graveyard and you run enough basics to make it worthwhile. And then we have The Hall of Heliod’s Generosity, which will allow you to return enchantments from the graveyard but you have to be playing white to use it. Enchantment recursion is a bit limited so this is great for enchantress decks. That’s about it for this set preview, I’m looking forward to getting some new tools soon!

TWR: Such Uncommon People Emerge Radically Friends

In case you don’t catch the meaning of this post title, this is a new deck I brewed up using Atraxa, Praetor’s Voice along with a pile of new and old Planeswalkers. That means, we’re talking Superfriends!

Such
Uncommon
People
Emerge
Radically

F
R
I
E
N
D
S

Hopefully that clears things up. I don’t know if that’s clever or not, but I like naming my decks random things if something catchy comes to mind, and there you have it. But enough about the naming convention, let’s look at our queen of the deck, Atraxa herself:

I’ve owned a copy of Atraxa for nearly a year. I purchased her and a copy of Doubling Season at GP Vegas last summer, and this summer’s convention is fast approaching as well. Originally I wanted her to build a superfriends deck, but then I started thinking I’d like to have access to red and wanted to make her into an infect deck instead. I still like the idea of infect for Atraxa, and I wrote about it before, but I never did get around to actually building the deck. As such, she sat and collected dust while I worked on other things. With the release of War of the Spark and the plethora of new Planeswalker additions I just knew I had to go back to my original idea for the commander. The reason infect or superfriends builds are so popular with Atraxa at the helm is because she has that one line of text that reads “At the beginning of  your end step, proliferate.” This means that at the end of your turn, anything with a counter on it, will get an additional counter. So if players have infect counters, or Planeswalkers are on the board, or if anything has a +1/+1 on it, they’re getting one more. Combo this with things like Doubling Season and the Chain Veil, and you can do some fun stuff. First though, let’s look at other ways we can proliferate without relying on our commander completely.

Proliferate Effects:

I’ve added in a handful of creatures that help with our proliferate theme, mainly by proliferating after a certain requirement is met, be it lands entering the battlefield or spells being cast. We have one draw spell that also proliferates, and an enchantment that doubles up with Flux Channeler. Deepglow Skate can be the finishing touch if you already have a bunch of Planeswalkers on the board. Next up I want to talk about the Planeswalkers themselves, but I have a couple of notes: First, I actually threw this deck together strictly with cards that I opened up with my War of the Spark box, along with cards I already owned. Having a Doubling Season and The Chain Veil made this an easier deck to slap together. The mana base is currently shit, and there are some more powerful walkers that I could include in the deck, however some of them have hefty price tags and those have gone up after the release of this set. So this was sort of a budget build for me, but also would still be kind of expensive for one to purchase as singles all at once. So these selections I’m going to show you were either lucky pulls for me, or cards I already owned, so I didn’t have to make a big investment to slam the deck together. As such, it is a little all over the place, but I intend to smooth it out over time.

Planeswalkers:

As you can see, the majority of the Planeswalkers I’m using are from War of the Spark, with the exception of a handful of ones that I already owned and had primarily used in other decks. However, I wanted this to be playable now, and tune it as I go. As it stands it did well in the games I’ve played with it, but that hasn’t been too many. I have some powerful Planeswalkers here that will do some cool things, but I don’t have ones like Jace the Mind Sculptor which has a $150 price tag — but it will win you games. The main idea here is to just throw down some Planeswalkers that will create some tokens and get some proliferation going on so that your walkers are getting closer to their ultimates, you’ll get more tokens, and if you can get some counters down you’ll also get more of those. I managed to have a pretty good game with some of the less powerful ones, so if they don’t get answered immediately you can run away with a game. However, in multiplayer I imagine this doesn’t go as well, but I also know ways that we can shore things up. Perhaps I don’t have enough of a removal package or am not playing enough counters. Maybe I need to shift in other directions as far as my Planeswalker choices go. That’s the beauty of this game, being able to throw something together, find out what works and what doesn’t and then make adjustments accordingly. Not to mention, with each new set we get new walkers and new synergies and soon decks take on a life of their own. But I digress. I’m not going to share any more of the cards here today as I think you get the gist of where this is going. However, I wouldn’t recommend building this sort of deck unless you have at least a few of the better walkers along with Doubling Season and The Chain Veil. Oath of Teferi is helpful too. That’s all for today. You can check the full decklist here.

The War Report: Kefnet Slings Spells

The God-Eternal series that released with War of the Spark was inspiring, and better than their previous forms by a long shot. I never really used the Amonkhet Gods in any of my decks, but this time around they were all worthy inclusions into many decks. I slotted the Boar into my Jodah deck and Oketra slammed into zombies. I didn’t pull Bontu out of my box, but he’ll get picked up and used eventually. Kefnet was the only god that didn’t seem like he would be better in the 99 of another commander’s deck, no he seemed worth building around entirely. I’ve never really built a mono blue deck before, and as some of my friends have already done so I know a couple of tricks but wanted to make something that was my own. Let’s take a closer look:

God-Eternal Kefnet is a flying 4/5 for four CMC. That’s huge right there, as most cards this cheap will usually be a 3/3 or so and not have nearly as much relevant text. His main ability is that you may reveal the first card drawn each turn (even on opponent’s turns, keep this in mind) and copy it while reducing it’s cost by two generic mana. This means you can cast spells twice, because you draw the card and only cast a copy, and it also allows you to save some mana in the process. This means we can include cards that are normally a little bit suboptimal like a three mana draw two spell, but will actually only cost us one mana when casting the copies. There are other ways that we can abuse this ability, but the most important part of the plan comes via top-deck manipulation. I’ve tried to keep this deck fairly budget but there are a few cards that are necessary evils.

Top-Deck Manipulation:

Scroll Rack and Sensei’s Divining Top have both gone up in price recently. They are the money cards here, but they are absolutely needed to be able to abuse Kefnet’s abilities to the maximum potential. Being able to rearrange the top few cards of your library, scry cards to the bottom or otherwise choose your fate will allow you to set up spells that can be copied while Kefnet is on the board. This will also help you to dig for your win-cons, and I’ve included a few that should be able to keep this deck competitive or near it.

Win Cons:

There are a few combos that are included in the deck, and the first will make you infinite mana. I’ve covered this before, but by using Dramatic Reversal imprinted onto an Isochron Scepter, you can produce infinite mana with a basalt monolith, gilded lotus, or whatever you need. With said infinite mana, you can do a number of things, but one option is to unload the pain on everyone with a Walking Ballista. Add infinite counters, and remove those counters to ping everyone to death. Or, you can use the mana to cast a large Blue Sun’s Zenith to draw your library and win with Lab Man or the new Jace. Conversely, you can use BSZ to target other players and mill them out, you’ll just have to be able to re-draw BSZ once it’s back into your library.

The other pairing for Isochron Scepter is the new Narset’s Reversal. It is an instant that will return a spell back to its owner’s hand, while allowing you to copy said spell for free. This means we can do some twisted shit with extra turns! As such, I’ve included a number of extra turn spells, and again these are the money cards that you can’t really avoid to make the deck work the way I intend. Basically, with Narset’s Reversal imprinted, you can cast an extra turn spell and then respond with the Scepter activation, returning the card to your hand but also casting a copy of it. You can then cast it again and rinse and repeat. Each new turn you’ll be able to untap your lands, so you’ll essentially have infinite mana too. You can then just create a loop of sorts, gaining life with Aetherflux Reservoir and then blow people up with it.

Lastly, the deck is set up well to go wide with tokens, and so I’ve included a few ways to create them. If you can get one or more of these on the battlefield for a few turns, you should be able to make one of those infinite turn loops, or just cast a bunch of cheap spells to create a bunch of tokens, and in the case of Metallurgic Summonings, you can later sacrifice it to recur all of your spells from the graveyard to set up for an explosive turn.

Removal Package:

Outside of a ton of counterspells (mostly budget), these cards are here to deal with big threats. Turning an Eldrazi Titan into a 3/3 vanilla creature will piss your opponents off. Or you can turn their whole army into 1/1’s so that a big swing doesn’t hurt so much. Have a ton of mana? Capsize can help you remove a bunch of threats and keep your opponents busy recasting spells.

Other Utility:

Otherwise, I’ve included cards that will help you to draw more cards on other player’s turns so you can get more free casts (or at least card draw), and ways to make spells cheaper. Baral, Kefnet and Jace’s Sanctum on the board at once and you’re casting most spells for one mana. There is some tutoring with cards like Mystical Tutor, Long-Term Plans, Trinket Mage and Spellseeker, also Fabricate. And you can turn off all of those fancy duals your friends play with by dropping a Back to Basics on the board. Good times.

I think Kefnet has the power to be great, and I’ll be putting this together with real cards soon. Mono Blue is evil, and I want to join in on the fun!

TWR: The Value Proposition – War of the Spark

The newest Magic: The Gathering set, War of the Spark, released this past Friday, and for the third year in a row, I’ve purchased a box of booster packs around this time of year. This time around, I don’t really have an LGS without making a trip out of town, so I opted to utilize Amazon, which Wizards of the Coast recently partnered up with for people like me to have easier access. The main downfall to this is the fact that you do not get the Buy-A-Box promo card, and since I didn’t have an LGS to go to for the pre-release, I didn’t get any date-stamped promo cards this year either. Apparently the purchase price for the box was supposed to be lower on Amazon, but I don’t really think that’s the case, unless I missed somewhere that box prices went up? Whatever the case, I’ve written about the past two box openings with a break down on how I did, so I thought I’d keep with tradition and do it again.

I actually pre-ordered my box back in April, but the set didn’t release until last Friday, and initially it appeared that I wouldn’t get my order delivered for nearly a week past that date. Thankfully, once the box shipped on Friday, the delivery time was updated to Saturday, and it was awaiting me on the porch when I got home from work that morning. Above, I sort of “live-tweeted” my box opening experience with pictures of most of my best pulls. You can see visuals if you read that thread. Let’s get on with the goods, and the card breakdown in the box.

Multi-color:
10 Rare
42 Uncommon

Colorless:
1 Rare
4 Uncommon
19 Common

White:
1 Mythic Rare
3 Rare
12 Uncommon
67 Common (1 foil)

Blue:
1 Mythic Rare
5 Rare
13 Uncommon
70 Common (1 foil)

Black:
1 Mythic Rare
3 Rare
12 Uncommon
66 Common

Red:
1 Mythic Rare
4 Rare
12 Uncommon (1 foil)
66 Common (1 foil)

Green:
1 Mythic Rare
3 Rare
14 Uncommon
65 Common (1 foil)

Miscellaneous:
36 Tokens
6 Non-Basic Lands – Emergence Zone, Mobilized District, Interplanar Beacon, Gateway Plaza
37 Basic Lands – 1 foil Swamp

The breakdown for this box is a bit misleading, since a majority of the cards in the set are Planeswalkers and a bunch of them are uncommon and still pretty damn useful. So I think the value is skewed a little bit given that some of these cards are bulk, and yet they’ll still find homes in decks where you usually only see one or two uncommons/commons become staples. I did pretty well with my pulls, getting most of the chase cards, but I didn’t pull Feather, which I was really hoping to get my hands on to brew. However, with the large amount of Planeswalkers I have on hand I’m thinking of making Atraxa superfriends first. I’ve had her for some time and was going to do an infect build but I think instead I just might roll with the walkers instead. Whatever the case, I ended up with a bunch of great cards and I’m excited to tweak my existing decks and make new ones. Cards like Massacre Girl and the new Gods have me excited. Speaking of the Gods, let’s take a closer look at the Mythic Rares I pulled:

I managed to pull all but the new Bontu, but I wasn’t overly thrilled with him anyway. Ilharg is intriguing as a build around, but I think I’m going to slot him into Jodah instead, as cheating out big Eldrazi is the name of the game in that deck. It will also lose most of its Planeswalkers if I go that route with Atraxa, so I’m going to be looking for a few replacement cards that I just might find from the set. Oketra is slamming into my Zombie tribal deck, while I think I’m finally going to build a mono blue deck around the new Kefnet. Rhonas looks more like a finisher for a green beatdown deck, so I’ll probably put him somewhere that I already have a Craterhoof Behemoth for redundancy. Finally, the only non-God mythic I opened was the new Liliana, and she is a beauty. I really want to put her into my Zombie deck because I have two other Lilianas already in the 99, but I feel like this would be better for superfriends. As it stands, the possibility of building Atraxa means needing to re-evaluate where I have my other Planeswalkers, however I think I sold off most of the ones I had before now, outside of those in decks.

This set has reinvigorated my love for building decks and collecting these cards. It was definitely worth the money. I’m sure I’ll have some new brews to write about soon enough, so until then, I bid you farewell.