TWR: Looking Forward to Ravnica Allegiance

Every few months a new main expansion for Magic: The Gathering releases, and we’re fast approaching the time when the next set comes out. Ravnica Allegiance releases on January 25, 2019, and spoilers have already begun. I’m still trying to acquire the cards I want from Ultimate Masters, and now there’s more good stuff coming down the pipeline. Such is the life of a Magic Player, I suppose. Like Guilds of Ravnica before it, Ravnica Allegiance takes place on the same plane, and with GRN covering five of the ten guilds on the plane, this new set with cover the other five. My favorite guild is present this time around, but I do enjoy three of the five very much. Regardless of my personal bias, there are some great cards coming out, new mechanics to explore and more stuff to collect! We haven’t seen too many spoilers just yet, but as I am excited to talk about what we have seen, I thought I’d get in a post today to do so.

Buy-A-Box Promo:

The tradition of the Buy-A-Box promo is still alive and kicking, and this time around there’s a pretty decent card being released. Unlike the Wurm from GRN, this Vampire is actually pretty sweet. A steep 6 CMC is the main limiting factor, but for EDH players like myself this should slot right into Edgar Markov decks. As I said, it’s 6 CMC but you get a 3/3 flier with lifelink which isn’t bad. He also causes people to discard when he attacks, so he’s also perfect for mill themed decks. What’s really great about him though, is that he gets +1/+1 counters each time any opponent puts a card into their graveyard from anywhere. This is huge, because not only will he turn into a 4/4 the first time he attacks, he’ll also get bigger each time you opponents cast spells or their creatures die. In a dedicated mill deck this guy is probably your go-to finisher, but even in a Vampire tribal deck he should be able to shine. I like it, but buying a box of this set probably isn’t in the budget so I don’t see myself getting him unless buying a single is reasonably priced.

Orzhov:

Orzhov’s new mechanic fits in with the flavor of the guild, as they have sported plenty of spirits over the years. Afterlife is the keyword, and it will have a numerical value after it. In this example, the Impervious Oligarch has Afterlife 1, so this means when it dies you get a 1/1 spirit with flying. Other cards in the set will likely have higher numbers, so there might be a way to flood your board with spirits if someone casts a board wipe. We’re also getting a reprint of Mortify with is a great removal spell in the colors, and Tithe Taker is already one of my favorite cards in the set, taxing our opponents for casting spells or activating abilities on our turn.

Simic:

Zegana is probably my other favorite card that has been spoiled so far. The new Simic keyword is called Adapt, and also comes with a numerical value attached to it. You’ll have to pay a mana fee to use Adapt, but when you do you get +1/+1 counters on your creature. Zegana is already a 4/4 for 4 CMC which is great, but also has a card draw ETB provided you have another creature on the board. An added bonus is that all of your creatures with +1/+1 counters on them get trample, and my merfolk deck already has a ton of +1/+1 synergy. Instant add. I highlighted Growth Spiral as well due to it being a nice ramp spell that replaces itself for a cheap CMC, but also because I like these promo card’s artwork.

Azorius:

The Azorius leader of old, Lavinia is making her return as a stax-y 2/2 for 2 CMC. But she also basically shuts off mana rocks, as people can only play spells that they can tap lands to cast. She also shuts down cards like Force of Will or Pact of Negation, as if anything is cast without using mana to do so it gets countered. She’s going to make her way into my stax deck for sure. The guild’s new keyword is Addendum, and it basically adds additional effects to any card if it was cast during your main phase. It forces you to use instants when you normally wouldn’t if you want the additional effect, but seems to be worthwhile in some cases.

Rakdos:

I’m not a fan of Rakdos, as their mechanics tend to feel detrimental more than helpful. Their new keyword is Spectacle, and it is an alternate cost that can be paid if an opponent lost life this turn. This basically forces you to play burn spells or to wait to cast things until your 2nd main phase, which usually feels counter intuitive. Whatever the case, it’s what they have to work with. They did however get a great new removal spell that can also target Planeswalkers and there aren’t too many of those in the game so it’s worth playing.

Gruul:

Gruul is the other guild I’m not overly fond of. I do think their new mechanic is pretty good however. Riot is the keyword, and it allows you to chose to either give the creature a +1/+1 counter or haste, and haste is a very powerful tool. The Spellbreaker is a great card in general, as it gives you (the player) and itself hexproof on your turn. The other creature highlighted here isn’t all that great, but a decent limited card.

Colorless:

We’ve only seen one colorless/artifact card so far, and it’s an interesting one. An 8/8 for 8 that has some built in recursion along with cost reduction if you happen to be playing a bunch of gates. The Guildgates are dual lands that come into play tapped and really are rather shitty and slow, but with this set and the last it seems that Wizards is trying to make them a thing. I wouldn’t go building a gates-matter deck, but it seems they are trying to make that an option if you wanted to go that way. Most likely a Standard/Limited finisher and not really viable for more competitive formats.

So there you have it. Five guilds with five new mechanics. I like some of what I’m seeing here, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing more in the weeks to come. I’ll try to come back around to this after the complete spoilers are released. What do you think of the new set so far?

The War Report: Aminatou Blink

When new sets release in the Magic: The Gathering universe, I tend to focus on building some EDH decks around some of the new legendary creatures of the set, but sometimes (as with Guilds of Ravnica) there are only a handful of new legendary creatures and only some of them interest me as commanders. As such, there are times between set releases that I have to dig into the past for inspiration. There are still a ton of viable legendary creatures out there, and many of them deserve to see play even if they’ve been out for a long time. Many of these legendary creatures aren’t viable in any other format to boot. So for this edition of the column I’m looking at one of the Planeswalkers from Commander 2018 that I hadn’t yet built a deck around. I’m talking about Aminatou, the Fateshifter:

Of the Planeswalkers-as-Commanders introduced with this set, Aminatou was at first glance not something I was interested in building around. However, she came with Yuriko in her deck, so I picked it up anyway so I could build around a sweet ninja commander. Having this card on hand I decided that I should at least see if I could find something interesting to do with it, and decided that I wanted to focus on her blink ability and to find ways to exploit it. Her card selection ability is nice for setting up miracles as well, so I have included a light miracle sub theme. Let’s look at some of the cards we can have some fun with by blinking them:

Blink Targets:

All of these creatures have an enters the battlefield effect that are prime targets for blink effects. Not only will you get the original trigger off of the first cast, if this creature dies and is recurred from the graveyard you’ll get the trigger again. Or, if you use Aminatou’s ability you can then blink one creature per turn for instant value. As such, I’ve included additional ways to blink for when you don’t have your commander on the board or to blink groups of creatures at a time.

Other Blink Effects:

These cards allow us to blink one or more creatures under different circumstances. Brago is essentially a backup commander due to being a great blink enabler. With cards like Flickerwisp you can also blink enchantments, so Oath of Teferi can be blinked to blink again, or you can target Disinformation Campaign to draw cards and make opponents discard. There’s a ton of fun to be had here by blinking everything just to get a ton of ETB effects. One issue we might face though is ramping up to be effective, so I’ve included some special cards to help us out there:

Ramp

Nothing too out of the ordinary here, just some creatures that will get you land with their ETB, which can be targeted with blink effects, and one spell that is essentially Land Tax in sorcery form. I may add a Land Tax as well after I test if more is needed. Besides this there are plenty of mana rocks and a Panharmonicon to help us get extra triggers off of the ETBs.

Miracles:

These are simply the best miracles in these colors. We can pump out a bunch of Angels as a finisher, do a mass recursion to get a ton of ETB effects, bounce all non-land permanents to owner’s hands, grab an extra turn, or put all creatures on the bottom of libraries. These can be easily manipulated with Aminatou, as her +1 allows you to draw a card and then put a card on top of your library, guaranteeing that a miracle is the card you draw next turn, thereby allowing you to cast it for its miracle cost. Nice!

Otherwise I’ve included a pretty standard removal package, and enough lands to get things done on a budget. The deck is currently valued at about $190, and includes several cards from her precon as well, so consider this a budget upgrade to the base deck. You can see the full list here.

TWR: Ultimate Masters Spoiled

Ulitmate Masters releases early next month, and it was just recently spoiled. When we first found out about the set, there was some community backlash because of the increased price point, but we have already seen lower than MSRP pricing for box pre-orders at LGS and online retailers. They also spoiled the box toppers which I showed off earlier in the month. That sneak peak of the set was enough to color me interested, with some amazing reprints coming and simply too many good cards that I’d love to get copies of. However, with the ridiculous $300+ price tag for a box, I figure I’ll only buy a couple packs and then buy singles as the reprints should drive the price down on some of the better cards.

People figured out that because the 3-booster blister packs were being sold at box stores like Wal-Mart and Target, they could actually buy the same 24 packs for a lesser price than buying a box, but then they would miss out on the box toppers. I’m in love with these new super art cards but I can’t justify the expense so I’ll likely never have one. I’m okay with this, and am going to roll the dice on a few packs just to see if I can make my money back. Anyhow, the rest of the set is public information now, so there’s a few cards I wanted to highlight that weren’t given the box topper treatment. Despite the fact that there are some multi-colored and hybrid mana cards in this set, none of them are particularly good so I skipped those. Let’s take a look.

Colorless and Land:

Holy shit! Phyrexian Altar hasn’t been reprinted in a long time and is a great card! I really wish they would have reprinted Mana Crypt instead, but this is a damn good artifact as well. Eldrazi are getting some love too, with this set containing some of the best Eldrazi along with a couple of their tribal spells. These aren’t great for every deck, but if you want an Eldrazi theme or a good finisher, they can work great (mostly in EDH). The couple of lands I highlighted here are also interesting, one essentially being a ashnod’s altar but provides black mana, and the other is a land that replaces itself if it happens to hit the graveyard, which is pretty cool.

White:

The Wall of Reverence is a shoo in for lifegain decks but would also be a nice add for Arcades, where it becomes a nice beefy attacker and will also keep our life total high. Heliod’s Pilgrim is a nice tutor in the right decks, and Containment Priest will fuck over token decks. Cool utility.

Blue:

 

I didn’t see a lot to love in blue outside of these two cards. I’ve been wanting a Glen Elendra Archmage for some time but it’s a bit pricey at the moment. Counterspells on creatures are a nice touch and it’s a wizard to boot. Dig through time is just a nice spell all around, especially if you can cheat its mana costs — I have one in my Jodah deck for this reason.

Black:

Black had a strong showing. Buried Alive and Entomb are the two best graveyard tutors for decks that want this effect. Unburial Rites works right along side them to allow you to cheat big fatties into play on the cheap. Shriekmaw has been a staple for some time now, especially in decks with recursion. Songs of the Damned was a surprise for me, but I actually really like it for big mana mono-black decks.

Red:

Gamble is red’s only solid tutor, and copies of it are still in demand. Anger is a nice haste enabler for decks that need it. Seize the day is another extra combat card, but these are nice to have when playing red.

Green:

Fecundity is a nice enchantment for sacrifice themed decks. Card draw is always a good thing. Ditto ramp, with Kodama’s Reach being one of the best (alongside cultivate). It’s not expensive but still a great card. I’m happy to see Pattern of Rebirth here too, as that will slot right into my Karador deck.

Overall the set looks great. I won’t be able to buy as much of it as I would like due to the higher price point, but fingers crossed that I’ll be able to get something good out of the packs I do pick up. Then singles will round things out. Good stuff to look forward too, for sure!

TWR: Disconnected Weekend

A couple of months ago my stepson signed up to play Magic: The Gathering at his after school program. Apparently one of the counselors plays the game and wanted to encourage kids to play. He provided starter packs that the kids got to play with that appear to be the packs that are given out at Magic Open House events, just before each new set releases. He ended up with a Mono White 60 card deck that he seemed to enjoy. Because he was able to learn the basics at his school, I could then take over and teach him more of the nuance.

After Guilds of Ravnica released, I was able to go pick him up a couple of the Planeswalker decks so he could see the new mechanics of the set along with the mechanics of Planeswalkers in general. A couple of weeks back we had a session where he played Vraska and I played Ral and we had a pretty good time. He won a couple of games and so did I, but as you all know I tend to prefer playing Commander over standard, so I’ve been pushing him in that direction as well. He had a bit of experience under his belt with standard play, but also had a couple of modest collections sent to him from his mom’s friends, so I built him an EDH deck to play with.

This past weekend with all of the wildfires that were surrounding our valley there was worry about property burning but also the Internet went down for over 24 hours. This meant no one in the house was playing video games or watching anything as we don’t have regular cable — everything we watch is via streaming services so we were all out of luck. This did mean however that we had time to play Magic, so that was actually a bit of a boon. My roommate and I were playing some EDH and he watched for a bit, but when we took a break he decided that he wanted to try it out. He pulled out his EDH deck that I had built for him, and I used one of my more recent builds that is not quite done.

He seemed to enjoy his commander, but the rest of the deck was pretty sub-par. This isn’t something I did on purpose, but I only used cards in his possession to make the deck so he didn’t have the advantage of building it himself or having enough good cards in those colors to make something competitive. My Selvala list is nice, but I don’t have a good 30% of the cards needed so I just filled in with other cards that would work. I ended up winning this round but it was still pretty close for a time.

The next day he said he wanted a rematch, but I instead chose to run my Tawnos deck. It’s another deck that I had most of the cards for but I am missing a chunk of the cards that will eventually go into it. It still performed well and he didn’t really get much of a chance to do anything before I was winning. Since we know that his deck is sub-par, I decided to let him use one of my decks to play for the next round.

He chose my Selvala deck because he had seen what it could do and seemed interested in it. I chose to run my Wall deck because it’s a little slower going and thought it would give him a better chance to win. He seemed impressed with my deck building and loved seeing some of the cool effects that exist within Magic’s history but aren’t really represented in Standard. Arcades has a bad habit of going off out of nowhere so there was a point in time where I could have won the round but chose to do something else instead and he managed to win by casting Approach of the Second Sun twice. He was thrilled to win and seems very into the format. Now I’ve convinced him to get one of the Commander 2018 precons to mess around with and in the meantime I’m going to try and make his existing commander deck a bit better. It’s nice to have someone new to play the game with and bringing the next generation into the game is an awesome experience. Look forward to having more games in the future!

TWR: Thoughts on Ultimate Masters

Earlier in the year, Wizards of the Coast had said that Masters sets were not performing as expected, the community had made it clear that some of the reprints were not desirable while many cards that are super expensive were not making their way to these sets. Masters 25 which released earlier this year was said to be their best offering to date, and they went ahead and increased the price saying using that justification. The set ended up being a bit of a flop. There were some cool cards reprinted while most of it was chaff. The company said this was because Masters sets are meant to be drafted, but honestly the focus of these sets were supposed to give Modern players reprints and new weapons to use. It was also a beneficial set for Commander players who want reprints of cards deemed too expensive.

A while back, Guilds of Ravnica released and with it a “Mythic Edition” that was not well received by the community. It was sold only through Hasbro Direct and was rather expensive. In it, you got “super art” reprints of Planeswalkers, and then some boosters of the new set. Apparently it was sold out very quickly and people had issues with the website or didn’t get to order at all. Wizards took it upon themselves to then send some “Ultimate Box Toppers” to those who were negatively impacted by the purchase. Thought this is a good PR move, this does kind of feel like a slap in the face to those of us who said “fuck that” to buying one of these boxes. We thought it was overpriced, and we were not then subsequently rewarded for trying to buy said product. Whatever the case, those Ultimate Box Toppers are going to be available to the public, so at least that’s something. The caveat here is that you have to buy a box of their new product, Ultimate Masters, in which you’ll get one of these super art reprints. Here’s what we know so far:

Ultimate Masters releases December 7th, and will be the last Masters product “for a while.” Each booster box will contain 24-packs, with each pack containing a premium foil.

  • MSRP is $335.76 / box ($13.99/pack).
  • Boxes are only available at Local Gaming Stores, but each comes with an “Ultimate Box Topper” buy-a-box promo, which is a near borderless foil promo.
  • There are 40 box toppers in total.
  • UMA packs will be available at big box stores for $34.99 for 3 packs.
  • UMA is printed in EN and JP languages, but available worldwide.
  • Spoilers are on November 19th and 20th, with the full set reveal on Nov 21.

MSRP for this set is ridiculous once again. We thought the Mythic Edition of GRN was bad, but this is almost $100 more, and you only get one super art card instead of a set. Seems like a bad value. Rumor has it that local game stores are actually selling these boxes for somewhere in the ballpark of $240, so that’s at least a bit better. The other good news is that though you won’t get a super art card if you don’t buy a box, they are not buy-a-box promos in that regular versions of those cards are in packs. There are a ton of good reprints that have been revealed so far, and I’m sure there will be more for us to look forward to once we get the spoilers later this month. The super art cards are absolutely gorgeous though. Take a look:

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I want nearly every card displayed here, so I’m more hyped for this set than I was for M25 or Iconic Masters. I’m just hoping that the reprints mean a drop in price for some of these cards so that I can get extra copies. Packs are a bit expensive so I probably won’t buy many, opting for singles instead. I still think these should have been included as chase cards in packs, basically a new masterpiece set, but I’m okay with normal art as long as I get some good cards. Where Wizards is going from here is anyone’s guess. It appears there won’t be Masters sets next year, and we only know about two more sets on Ravnica. I’m hoping for a second Battlebond set, and would prefer a new plane to explore next year rather than another return to an old one. I guess we’ll see.

What do you think about this set? What about price increases? Let me know in the comments.