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Defending the Commander Social Contract

Tag: Theros

Theros Spoilers Review for EDH Pt TWO: Spicier!

THEROSSPOILERPart2

Jump into our second installment of Theros love. Team GDC continues to hold nothing back. “How do they produce such hard-hitting review of spoiled cards so fast?” you may ask.
(Editor’s Note: By being super full of ourselves and also bubbling over with awesome. Deal with it.)

Also, check out the spoiler list on MTGSalvation (or MythicSpoiler if you prefer) for card images and full details.

White

Heliod, God of the Sun

Um…

Umm…

Ummmmm…

Oh hey! Let’s start with a story that ends in complaining! I’m good at that!

So, back in the day, for a brief period of time I because obsessed with building Clerics tribal. Why? Because I had a foil Edgewalker, and he looked really cool in foil. Also, what a weird card! Also, Rotlung Reanimator! Also, Cabal Archon! This should be great.

Sadly, as Legendary Clerics who are both White and Black go, there is only one. Let me give you a hint: she’s the single most linear Legend ever printed. That’s right, Kaalia of the Vast is a Legendary Cleric.

Oh wait, I’m supposed to be talking about the White god! Um, he makes Clerics? See, I didn’t just tell that story to complain about Kaalia!

Here’s the thing about this guy: he seems like the worst of the gods. All the other ones have static effects that approximately mirror an enchantment and activated abilities that mirror a spell. This guy approximates a single card: Mobilization, a card that is not exactly breaking EDH games. Don’t get me wrong, he will be good because he’s a huge Indestructible guy for cheap, and his free men ability is decent, if expensive. I just don’t see him being in any way unfair in EDH, which is good design (if a little uninspiring.)

That said this guy (like all the Gods and most of the Mythics) is going to be an unholy beating in Limited.

Hundred-Handed One
100hands
Ah, the joys of flavor-first design!

So, for those of us who remember our Greek Mythology, the Hekatonkheires (which literally translates into “Hundred-Handed One”) were three giants who helped Zeus and the other gods/goddesses overthrow the Titans. They actually had fifty heads as well, but I guess cramming that all into the card name box would be tough.

So they helped Zeus out, which is great because they were supposedly stronger than the Titans themselves, and the Olympians arguably wouldn’t have been able to off their parents without these dudes. For their troubles, Zeus let them be guardians of Tartarus, the underworld and purgatory for the damned.

This is something like saving the President’s life and being awarded the position of “greeter” at the local Walmart. But I digress.

So…the actual card. We’ve got a 3/5 for a CMC of four, which seems some combination of fine/decent in draft/unspectacular. For another six (and a very white-committed six at that…), the thing gets monstrous, gains +3/+3, and can now flavorfully block one-hundred guys.

Mechanically, the flavor is there. But if we’re dealing with mythological flavor, the Gods in this set are stronger, as they’re Indestructible. C’mon, Wizards…you couldn’t give this guy firebreathing, or “…and gets +1/+1 for each additional creature it blocks this turn” or something? This set is complex already…do something interesting like “Creatures blocked by Hundred-Handed One lose trample until end of turn.” Make it feel big and powerful, dammit!

As it is, it will be getting nibbled to death by plant tokens, which is pretty uninspiring. And that sadly sums up what I think of this card.

Blue

Artisan of Forms

I won’t lie, this seems pretty terrible. Heroic as a whole seems like sort of a wash in EDH; while there are certainly some Voltron aura decks running around (a few of which run blue), for the most part pump spells are not heavily played because they are so non-cardvantagetageous, a new word I just made up to describe every single good EDH card ever.

The Heroic guy that mini-Overruns your team in red-white seems ok, if only because that effect seems decent and those colors might actually be able to target him with useful stuff. As for this guy, why not just run a clone effect that actually works? There are plenty of these sorts of novelty clone effects that already exist, and nobody plays those either (with good reason).

Oh hey! I realize I could have ended this review with “seems pretty terrible,” but that’s not how I get down.

Master of Waves
fish
In a way, Master of Waves plays pretty similarly to Abhorrent Overlord. The tokens are 2/1s that become very, very dead 1/0s if it dies, and they don’t fly which is obviously worse. But you’re probably going to wait for value and cast them around the same time in your game. Of course, your guy is really derpy at 2/1 for four with pro-red, so that’s a clear downside.

The coolest application I’ve seen for Merfolk Surfer is with Cultural Exchange to steal everything from one player in exchange for a bunch of 1/0s, but that seems like a really expensive way to do that. On the other hand, you could just play him as a lord in a blue-focused elementals deck and treat the tokens as a bonus.

All in all, I’m mildly interested to see what the Johnnys figure out with this guy, but I’m not expecting much more than something “kinda neat.” Oh and it’s a mythic for no obvious reason because, yeah…. But hey, tokens, right? You can always find use for sacrifice-fodder in EDH.

Black

Erebos, God of the Dead
Erebos
When Erebos was spoiled, I immediately thought “hey, this is Greed 2.0 just like Thassa’s Bident is Coastal Piracy 2.0!” Erebos is more than that, though. There’s a fairly strong conditional body attached and a clause against your opponent’s life gain, of course. The lifegain clause does not especially thrill me; most of my Commander games do not feature lifegain prominently. The only time they do is when there is an unanswered Soul Warden, someone has Trostani or Zedruu as their general, there’s a Sun Droplet, or a player is going to use some one-shot effect like Plunge into Darkness, for which I suppose Erebos is an acceptable counter.(Editor’s Note: Here’s a quick list of why his anti-lifegain is better than you think: True Conviction , Momentous Fall, Miren the Moaning Well, Lodoxon Warhammer, Exquisite Blood, Basilisk Collar, Exsanguinate, etc.)

The second ability is the rough equivalent of a Night’s Whisper. You pay 1B and two life to increase your card advantage by one. Is this special? Could be; drawing cards is always nice, but it’s important to remember that Greed doesn’t see much play, and that other more efficient options like Phyrexian Arena and Graveborn Muse exist. It might be acceptable enough to cut most of your other card draw for other cards, and to depend entirely on Erebos for card draw.

More than anything, Erebos is made more powerful by the relative ease of his devotion requirement to be a creature. Grave Pact, Necropotence, Mikaeus, Massacre Wurm and many other black cards with intense mana costs see play already. You need only have a Bloodghast and a Big Game Hunter for Erebos to be a creature. And, failing that, you could just draw cards until you found enough devotion. As a creature, Erebos will be hard to ignore.

Nighthowler

When I first saw Lhurgoyf in an Ice Age booster, I was pretty stoked. It was strong, cost-efficient, and would only get more powerful as the game progressed (Graveyard hate was almost unheard of, limited to Tormod’s Crypt, the basically unseen Timetwister, and Diminishing Returns, which appeared later in Alliances). Lhurgoyf has been outclassed over the years, first by Mortivore, and then later by a host of others, including Lord of Extinction. Nighthowler is the latest incarnation of Lhurgoyf, but the “attach a Lhurgoyf to another body” idea is not new. Only a couple of years ago, Bonehoard appeared in Mirrodin Besieged.

All things considered, you can probably expect Nighthowler to see about as much play as Bonehoard; black does not currently have the Enchantress support other colors do, though enchantments are less vulnerable than artifacts. Further, you can always equip Bonehoard to a creature (one with evasion, perhaps?), while Nighthowler’s attachment is a one-time deal. All in all, not terrible, but not exactly thrilling either.

Red

Porfuros, God of Fire
FIRE
An EDH deck entered my brain within about 10 seconds of seeing this card. I realize now that my ideas are not innovative, and it’s pretty linear build, but that doesn’t decrease my excitement about the red God.

This would be a niche-playable enchantment the triggered ability alone at four mana. Partner with Warstorm Surge and Electropotence and season to taste, but nobody is chomping at the bit for that card, even with indestructible. This piece of the card promotes a swarm strategy based on a high efficiency of creatures to cards and mana, to maximize the two damage trigger.

The pump ability is cool, but finding trample in mono red to maximize its value is tough; in mono red you’ve got Akroma’s Memorial and Soulbright Flamekin for trample anthems. But team pump is still a great way to make shoving everyone into the red zone worthwhile when you don’t have a better anthem option (cough, Moonveil Dragon).

Also being a 6/5 for four at four mana as long as you can maintain your devotion – a piece of card design that introduces awesome tension – is just gravy. It encourages playing actual creatures instead of tokens. Being a legend who can self-pump, it might also make you think about how to add evasion.

The three pieces synergize interestingly. Cast a lot of guys for more triggers. Have a lot of creatures and the team pump is more valuable. As long as you’ve got all that devotion to red lying around, have a big, indestructible beater for your trouble.(Editor’s Note:Also, this guy seems insane with Assemble the Legion, just sayin’.)

Yes. Yes, please.

Stormbreath Dragon

If I had to sum this up in a meme, I’d give it a hearts “What is this I don’t even.”

We have a reasonably-costed, flying, hasty 4/4 with…Pro: White? Am I missing something here? Why white? I’m so confused…but whatever.

The rest seems fine. It gets monstrous a few turns down the road after it shows up, and now it’s a 7/7, and it hits each opponent with Storm Seeker (Sorry…Runeflare Trap. This is now a red effect, which is good, because otherwise I’d have something else to complain about.) Again, that’s nice and all, and I understand that there needs to be a power-level balance, but two things jump to mind here:

1. This is EDH. Storm Seeker effects are markedly worse than they are in other formats. (Editor’s Note: Um, really? Praetor’s Council and Reliquary Tower say “hi!”)
2. This effect is happening on turn six or seven. Other than the control player sand-bagging counterspells, who’s got more than a card or two left in hand at this point?(Editor’s Note: Um, really? Praetor’s Council and Reliquary Tower say “hi!”)

Dunno. This may or may not be good elsewhere, but in EDH, it’s simply okay. Better than a lot of options, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it makes the cut.

Gold

Ashiok, the… Basket-Weaver

When I play a planeswalker, or really any card, I want it to impact the game. Ashiok, curiously, does not immediately impact the game. His second ability cannot even be played until he’s survived a turn, so invariably, you’ll exile three cards from an opponent’s library, and that will be it for that turn. If you luck out and exile a 4-5 cost creature, you can table a brute on Ashiok’s second turn, but, not more than you could have done yourself. The introduction article on the Wizards site suggests that this is a card for the control mirror in traditional constructed formats, cursing your opponent with an Identity Crisis (eventually).

In Commander, we inevitably demand more; planeswalkers are subject to attacks from many fronts, so very frequently, we look to them for what they will purchase us in one turn, whether they’re a tutor, removal, a handful of token creatures, or a creature. Ashiok offers almost nothing, seemingly having been designed for other formats. Ashiok may not be unplayably awful, and I do believe in investing for future plays, but there needs to be some kind of consideration for the fact that Homeward Path is a card, and that there are other planeswalkers you would be much rather draw at any point when you need something that does, you know, something.

Fleecemane Lion

Watchwolf. Watchwolf run. Run Wolf Run!

This critter is rather impressive. A 3/3 for two mana is a deal, but a 4/4 hexproof/indestructible for another five is pretty good. I’ve long been an advocate for investing mana in cards on the table to advance your board position, rather than playing more cards from your hand while risking overextension. This card, and the Monstrosity mechanic in general, really play into that game. What makes this guy special is that his monstrosity ability gives him real staying power, a personal indicator for strength in Commander. And he becomes a very reasonable target for auras, which is probably what it was meant for.

Prophet of Kruphix

Seedborn Mage of Zhalfir, Yevaborn Muse… with names like these you know it will be powerful. And it has me salivating, although I expect my experience will quickly sour once somebody does something truly busted with it.

So you get more mana and pseudo vigilance. And you get flash creatures, which obviously pairs well with the untapping. You can use your mana every “turn” to cast more dudes while holding up reactive spells, and you never get punished. Options! Value! There’s a reason Benny Smith @blairwitchgreen went on a campaign of months to try to get the RC to ban Seedborn Muse. It’s really good.

Downsides? UG instead of GG could make it worse than the Muse. The cost narrows the decks it goes into a bit. Jund and Junk colors would love another muse effect. However, blue arguably has the best stuff to do on other players’ turns even without the creature-flash, so maybe this isn’t much of a drawback.

More importantly, three toughness. Inferno Titan, Jaya Ballard, Task Mage, Oros, the Avenger‘s trigger, Ral Zarek, Magmatic Force, Ajani Vengeant, Firemane Angel, Valakut. These are all the commonly played things that bolt creatures. Also, elephant tokens and centaurs with three power. In other words, it will die easier than Seedborn Muse.

So there’s that at least. But on the flip side, Momir Vig, Simic Visionary, Mimeoplasm, and all the Simic-including decks now have three personal Awakenings (Patron of the Orochi), and can play six flash-enablers: Tefiri, Mage of Zalfir, Yeva, Nature’s Herald, Leyline of Anticipation, Alchemist’s Refuge, and the two colorless options, Winding Canyons and Vedalken Orrery. That is terrifying.

Reaper of the Wild

Ever played against a Savra deck? Creatures die a lot. Ever played against a Jarad deck? <strike>Nice Lord of Extinction, yo.</strike> Creatures die a lot. Ever played a game of EDH? Creatures die a lot.

If this guy were an enchantment that, say, cost GB and only gave you the “dies, Scry 1” ability, I would say that it is aggressively OK (it’s like a bad conditional Think Tank, a card that has not exactly broken EDH.) The fact that this ability is stapled to a dude both makes it better (easier to recur), and worse (because anything that kills a lot of guys probably also kills it.)

I can’t see any situation where this guy doesn’t see a LOT of EDH play, both because he is valuetastic all around, and because as a 4 mana 4/5 he blocks pretty much every single utility beater printed, and lives (and Scrys 1!) He’s a solid value role-player, but it’s not like he’s going to break the format or anything. Also, since he hasn’t been officially spoiled, SCG doesn’t have a preorder price on him, but I would guess he might start kinda high as people try to figure out if he’s good in Standard. Tight!

Tymaret, The Murder King
murder kind
This thing ought to garner some EDH notice right out of the gates.

First off, it’s a 2/2 for two mana. Two-mana generals tend to attract people due to the ease of casting and recasting them, so it’s in the right ballpark.

It’s a Zombie. People love their zombies. Check.

It’s got a very Zombie-friendly set of abilities as well. Tymaret has a limited Deadapult strapped to his back for two mana, although not being able to toss damage at creatures is a bit of a black mark against the card. At least it’s not a tap ability.

It has built-in recursion, which is never a bad feature. Perhaps most importantly, both abilities are sacrifice outlets.

On the downside, the art is pretty goofy. If you glance quickly at this thing, it looks like someone offed The Cheese Stands Alone and it went Zombie and came back.

It’s missing blue as well, which is a bummer, because Innistrad block was a shot in the arm for Zombies. As a result, Sedris, the Traitor King may remain the de facto Zombie general, and Lord of Tresserhorn might still give this guy a run for his money.

Nonetheless, this is a new general option, and a cheap one with a nice skills et at that. He’ll see solid EDH play.

Xenagos, the Reveler

Ok, first things first: I haven’t seen the whole set, but this is going to be silly silly SILLY in Limited (just like every other Mythic in this set.) Also, it seems like it is shaping up to be pretty good in Standard (although, to be fair, Mr. P has played Standard exactly twice in the past six years).

So how EDH good is this guy? I think the answer is probably “depends on the deck,” which is totally boring and safe, but also totally true. There are going to be times when he is in a tokens deck, and he will be win/winmoretastic. I could give you some hypothetical scenario that begins with “untaps after casting Avenger of Zendikar with 12 lands,” but you were already winning that game. In non-tokens decks he will be decent, but seems pretty reasonable. Early on he makes some dudes, which is nice. If his +1 ability generates anything less than three mana, then he is comparable to Garruk 1.0, who is pretty much the ultimate “fair” EDH Planeswalker. For me part of the assessment of any new planeswalker is how ultimate they go when cast with Doubling Season out. He doesn’t, so there’s that.

(Goes and looks up the preorder price on this thing) Holy potatoes, this dude is $40? SELL SELL SELL!!!!!!! I don’t give two friendly squeezes how EDH good this guy is, he is going nowhere but directly into the tank! (Mr P knows nothing about MTG Finance.) Who cares how EDH good this guy is, trade every single one you open for dual lands or other cards that will hold value!

Nice review, Mr. P!

Land

THE TEMPLES
temples.2
The much-heralded new take on dual lands finally hit the spoiler scene this week. It turns out that we get Guildgates that Scry for one to replace the Shocklands.

I really want to have some deep, introspective points to make here, but there are two things that I understand pretty well when it comes to land:

1) Halimar Depths is barely playable because it enters the battlefield tapped. It drives me nuts to see it at any point in the game that isn’t roughly turn one, so I’ve pulled it out of everything.
2) The real nail in the coffin is exactly that – “Enters the battlefield tapped.” For years now, that’s essentially a deal-breaker in competitive formats, and it doesn’t do much better here.

I’m already overloaded with dual land options (Editors Note: Because you take baths in money and light your Cubans with hundos, so FBB Duals and JP Foil Fetches that aren’t miscuts are passe, right?) to the point that I don’t typically get much past Shocklands or occasionally Filterlands, and these things are a few steps further down the pecking order. I expect to see very few of these hit an EDH table ever.(Editors Note: Really? I will bet you a dinner of J. Gumbo’s and FroyoYolo that these things are everywhere. XO, Mr. P)

temples.3

THE TEMPLES, take two

These hit and the community uttered a collective “Seriously? I mean sure but really????” In Standard, they’ll cost a buck or two because they’re better than Guildgates if you have to have a second set of duals for your color pair. I guess.

In EDH, they upgrade Salt Marsh and team and the Guildgates, and probably over the Coldsnap Salt Marsh cycle, and you’re pumped if you were playing the tapped pain lands or the don’t-untap cycle like Mogg Hallows. But if that’s you, Guildgates also just changed your world. I guess Scry 1 is better than a life point, so they also edge out the Refuges.

That just leaves a few better two-color fixing options: duals, fetches, filter lands, (hundred dollar bills), pain lands, check lands (AKA “buddy lands”), bounce lands, the Future Sight pseudo-cycle, and shocks. Oh and in allied colors also the Scars “fast” lands, the man lands, the Odyssey filters, and the slow fetches. Oh and the Tainted lands if you’re running black. That’s five budget-friendly, two-color fixers, up to ten with allied colors, on top of Command Tower and other comparable options like Reflecting Pool and the Panoramas. Seriously, if you’re in the market for more fixing than that, you’re saying you want less than two thirds of your lands to be basic – cuz you are running spell lands too, right? And some colorless options like Reliquary Tower? – and seriously, you need your 25th basic more than you need scry 1 on a land.

In other words they would be decent budget options for EDH newcomers except that speculators seem to be keeping the price of turds unseasonably high this year…

 

Yumm. That was a crunchy second round. Comment here or hit us up on Twitter to extend the conversation. Part three will show up as soon as they spoil something to ruin magic again.

—>The GDC Guys
Dave – @MdaveCs
Imshan – @generalspeak
Mr. P – @thingsMrPthinks
Cass – @GDCCommander

Theros Spoilers Review for EDH Pt 1: Teamwork!

THEROSSPOILERPart1

Check out the first installment of our set review for Theros, in which all of the writers at GDC come together to say whatever the hell we want about the cards spoiled in the past week that caught our attention. Value! (It also creates a sweet sub-game where you have to guess who wrote which review. Yay!) We’ll be doing a few more of these once there’s another critical mass of EDH-relevant cards spoiled officially.

Also, check out the spoiler list on MTGSalvation (or MythicSpoiler if you prefer) for card images and full details.

White

Chained to the Rocks

Chained to the rocks immediately begs comparisons to Journey to Nowhere. It also nominally resembles Swords to Plowshares; it’s one mana exile removal, and if you want a critter gone, this is the cheap and expedient way to do it. Unlike Swords, there is no life gain associated with it.

Like Journey to Nowhere, Chained to the Rocks lasts only as long as you can hold on to it. Chained has an increased vulnerability in addition; if someone ever destroys the underlying mountain, the Chained creature walks. In an environment rife with Strip Mine, is this worth the one mana you save from Journey? Probably not, but, at least your Kor Spiritdancer would draw you a card. In terms of enchantments that are removal, it’s much like Pacifism, Temporal Isolation, Arrest, and the rest.

Perhaps the saddest part about Chained to the Rocks is that Zedruu the Greathearted, the most common purveyor of these kinds of effects (because they can be donated after their good work is done), can’t donate Chained because it must enchant a mountain you control. This isn’t helped by the fact that there are already a plethora of Journey to Nowhere and Pacifism-style effects.

All this to save one mana. Why couldn’t you just chain him to your opponent’s rocks?

Elspeth, Sun’s Champion

Yeah…I suppose this thing is pretty good in white token decks, since it, you know, makes white tokens. It kills off big creatures, because, you know, white tokens. And then it makes white tokens bigger and flying, because, you knozzzzZZzzzZzzzzZzZZZZzzzz…

Ah…sorry. Nodded off with all the excitement here. Is this thing any good? I really have no idea. It’s incredibly narrow in application, and as is usually the case, also incredibly over-priced for presales. My recommendation is to sell this off as soon as possible unless you play Standard, collect planeswalkers, or have some personal desire to have this thing for some wacky reason.

Gift of Immortality
Gift of Immortality

Oh hey, the card everyone is bitching about for Zur the Enchanter decks!

I’ve played against Zur a few times, and it’s pretty annoying, but to me the funny thing about Zur is that he gets hated on really hard, and no one EVER mentions Bruna. Honestly, I would rather play against a Zur than a Bruna most of the time; at least Zur can’t find stupid Eldrazi Conscription.

Oh hey, I’m complaining! Quick, let’s pretend that this card exists in a world where Zur, Bruna, and Uril don’t exist!

This card is similar to Rescue from the Underworld (see below), which means that here in non-Bruna, non-Zur, non-Uril Land this card is an interesting way for white decks to get some extra value out of their dudes. The similarity of these two cards (and the likelihood that people will play them) also suggests that Grim Return might be worth considering adding to any Black decks you haven’t added it to already.

Also, play more graveyard hate!

Blue

Bident of Thassa

Look, it’s Coastal Piracy 2.0! Okay, now that we’ve stated the obvious, the second ability is what really sold this card for me. There are many ways to force an attack from your opponent, but this one is built on to something useful. The forced attack is not so much an excuse to start running Wall of Ice or the ultra-thematic Labyrinth Minotaur, but to grant you a blocker-free red zone into which you swing (and then draw cards!). There’s not much else to this card, other than encouraging red-zone tactics in a colour that is basically never known for it. Look for it in someone’s Sun Quan, Lord of Wu deck.

Curse of Piggy-Wiggy (AKA Curse of Swine)

I sort of hate that this card exists. More specifically, I sort of hate that his card is Blue.

I say that I “sort of” hate this card because I have a bunch of decks that really wanted a blue Plague Wind, and now they have one. It was always frustrating when building mono-blue that I could bounce creatures, or I could steal creatures, or I could play Ixidron and ruin people’s lives, but I could never permanently get rid of creatures, and now I can get rid of all of them at once (within reason). I know Cyclonic Rift is a thing, but this actually gets rid of them, for reals, forever.

The reason I hate this card is because blue now has a Plague Wind. For those of y’all keeping score at home, that now means that every color (except green) has a card that functionally says “Destroy all creatures.” This seems color-pie problematic.

Hold up! No one wants to hear me complain about staples and homogenization or the fact that they could have just made this a White card and not ruined my life! Sorry! Let me try again!

This card is awesome! It makes Piggy-Wiggy! As a huge fan of the movie Willow, I love how they did an awesome job capturing the flavor of a bunch of dudes that were turned into Piggy-Wiggy!

(Although, and it’s been a while, I don’t remember the movie Willow ending with all the dudes getting turned into Piggy-Wiggy, because at some point they got turned back into their original forms, right? I look forward to the spoiling of “Return from Piggy-Wiggy” in a week or so, because this card wouldn’t just RFG the creatures forever and turn them into Piggy-Wiggy, would it? Especially not in Blue, right? Crap, I’m complaining again!)

Shipbreaker Kraken Shipbreaker Kraken

I wanted to jam this card from the moment I saw it, but I may have a mild obsession with sea creatures. I don’t anticipate this guy crushing any dreams, but rather just being flavorful and fun, along the lines of the GIANT FREAKING WHALE (Colossal Whale) or Stormtide Leviathan.

As far as Monstrosity, locking down four dudes is only a little bit good. There are niche uses for Frost Titan, for example, and the Kraken is a great stall for difficult creatures like Avacyn, Angel of Hope until someone finds a Swords. Of course, at six mana for a 6/6 and then another eight mana to tap four dudes for a while and upgrade to a 10/10, nobody’s writing home about mana-efficient ship breaking.

Then again, I don’t know any eel-looking monsters with crabs on their heads that are all about ROI.

Thassa, God of the Sea

To me, the single most interesting thing about the new Chroma things that have been spoiled so far is how they seem to be very intentionally designed to contribute as little as possible to your Chroma count. If you look as something like, say, Primalcrux, part of its appeal is that you drop it onto an empty board and it’s immediately a 5/5. By contrast, playing this thing into an empty board still puts you a ways away from full value. That said, in non-critical mode it is an indestructible Think Tank with a value ability attached to it, which makes it, um, OK in non-critical form.

Once this thing goes critical, it obviously gets better, and the ability to drop a three-mana indestructible 5/5 that has other non-drawback text on it seems like pretty insane value and an absolute beating in limited. That said, indestructible creatures are not new territory in EDH, and the fact that this is always an Enchantment may or may not have caused me to go buy SCG out of Aura Thief, who is about to get way, way better.

Is this card “good” in EDH? Sure! Am I worried about it? Not really. I’m sure someone will figure out how to make some really annoying mono-blue thing with it, where it comes out early, Scrys into good cards and eventually makes itself unblockable for the win. Then again, the idea that a legendary creature could be used to make an annoying mono-blue thing is not exactly new territory, so there’s that.

Black

Abhorrent Overlord/Gray Merchant of Asphodel

A demon with a drawback! It’s like the good old days. So, what’s special about these chaps? Abhorrent Overlord is the latest black creature to join the ranks of cards that produce hapless (or not so hapless) creature tokens, like Breeding Pit, Sengir Autocrat, and Bitterblossom. Sadly, they will probably all get crammed into an Ashnod’s Altar for the inevitable dorky Exsanguinate (or Maga, Traitor to Mortals) in someone’s mono-black control deck. The real question will be how many tokens can you produce, and can this card break Carnival of Souls?

Merchant of Asphodel is disturbingly reminiscent of Kokusho, the Evening Star. Incredibly, it drains each opponent and provides two devotion to black all its own; all the usual Kokusho loops apply. Is it hard to create a big devotion to black? I don’t think so; Phyrexian Obliterator and Reiver Demon are not bad creatures who give a whopping quadruple black mana devotion. Necropotence, Grave Pact, Mikaeus, the Unhallowed, and many others are also very willing to help.

Perhaps most relevant to Merchant’s lifegain is Lich and it’s younger cousin, Nefarious Lich. Both of these also provide quadruple black devotion, and will draw you a card for each point of life you would gain (to draw you into more reanimation spells and sacrifice outlets. Obviously.) Furthermore, it’s a Zombie, which immediately brings Unholy Grotto, Lord of the Undead, and Rooftop Storm shenanigans into question. Needless to say, this will be a card to watch, given that his drain could be stronger than Kokusho’s.

Rescue from the Underworld
Rescue from the Underworld

Interesting card. Seems like they clearly designed this one in an attempt to avoid any infinite combo loops, what with the delayed return and the self-exiling. I approve.

Is this card good? Sure! It’s some nice value, and the fact that it is an instant and puts it back on a delay gives it nice usefulness against Wrath effects. It is interesting to note that graveyard hate after the spell has resolved can still get rid of the creatures that were going to come back.

Overall, seems fun and reasonable.

Red

Akroan Crusader (it’s only because of Seething Anger)

So this isn’t an EDH card. But I’m high on it anyways. Don’t play it. It will make your deck worse. I also really like Young Pyromancer. And the recently spoiled Red God makes him a little less dumb.

The coolest thing to do with Akroan Crusader, as far as I can tell, is Seething Anger and Braid of Fire. There’s a turn-two kill in Modern if you play in Magical Christmas land, but in EDH you just add this guy to your Tibor and Lumia deck, not because of any real reason, but because it gives you a backup plan to have no impact on the game in another fun way.

Hammer of Purphoros
Hammer of Purphoros
It’s pretty exciting to have an artifact that gives all your creatures haste and only costs three mana. This would be all over the place if it didn’t have red color identity. As it is, it’s probably going to be in a lot of red decks going forward.

Oh wait…there’s an ability that does something else? Hmmm.

<reads card>

Well, that seems aggressively underwhelming for a legendary hammer. This thing shouldn’t have tapping as part of the cost. I suppose that would make being legendary from a mechanical standpoint pointless under the new rules, but flavor-wise, it seems way better. (Editor’s Note: Ever notice how close tapping is to swinging a hammer? A Really Heavy Hammer that takes a while to pick up again?)

{Author’s Note: The thing is floating in the air. Can’t be all that heavy, now, can it? 😉 }

Seriously…can you imagine a god descending from the clouds and landing with a thundering crash, raising up his legendary hammer, and…crapping out one golem before calling it a day? Who’s that going to impress?

Oh well…can’t win them all, I suppose. This thing is still pretty cool.

Green

Bow of Nylea

Versatility town. That’s where I want to go. And apparently I’m riding Nylea’s bow because this goddess is all about options. I’m torn about whether it’s the all-deathtouch feature or the activated abilities counting up from one to four that I like better about this card.

Token decks, recurring-little-dudes sacrifice-matters decks – they’ll all like this. Lots of decks enjoy playing with +1/+1 counters, but there are several more efficient ways to do it. Shooting flyers for two is basically blank text. Three life isn’t great, but it means you can get value even on an empty board. And the last ability may be the most useful if you shuffle or tutor regularly, like another Battlefield Scrounger.

Just like with the RTR-block charms, more options on one card makes it worth more than you’d think because it’s never dead and fills a lot of situational needs. On the other hand, it doesn’t look like the bow from Hunger Games, and it’s an enchantment and an artifact so it dies to almost every variety of stuff breeze. But that seems fair.

Nylea, God of the Hunt
Nylea, God of the Hunt
Right off the bat, I’ll say that I’m a little over-enthusiastic about the god cycle. This is probably tied into my early love for Greek mythology, which ensured that I could tell you anything you wanted to know about anything in the Greek pantheon and also ensured that I wouldn’t get a date until I was about seventeen.

Anyway, I’ve been waiting for gods to be introduced to Magic since I learned to play the game two decades ago. This is awesome. I had an initial fear that Wizards of the Coast would come up with some rule surrounding the sub-type “god” that would negate the need to make it legendary and thus prevent it from being a valid EDH general, but thankfully they did it right.

So you can now play a god as your general. Awesome.

The dual mode (part enchantment, part creature) thing is cool too. It does mean that there are some weird non-flavorful things that will happen (“So I sacrifice my Academy Rector to High Market and put a God into play. Your turn.”), but the benefits outweigh the negative aspects. For example, the ability to mess with your devotion count to dodge Swords to Plowshares seems pretty cool.

Again with the dual mode thing, though…I like this application. There are some cool interactions that can come out of this, mostly related to tutoring (Yay!) and removal (Boo! Although if I’m doing the removing, then Yay! after all…)

So…Nylea. Indestructible. (If you read this site regularly, you know that’s the keyword that will sucker me in over anything else in a general.). I’m sold.

6/6 seems fine, I suppose. I’d like to think that these gods would be able to laugh at Eldrazi, but I guess you can’t win them all.

This thing will be great in green decks. This is not a shocker by any stretch. The ability to pump a creature is not too compelling, but adding trample to all your creatures in the same indestructible package seems pretty good. If anything, I’m unsure why this thing wouldn’t give itself trample; seems like a pretty easy thing for a god to do, but whatever.

Pretty exciting, all in all. This should see a lot of play from a flavor standpoint alone.

Reverent Hunter

Oh hey, boring Chroma guy!

This has the same Chroma issue as Thassa. In other words, it contributes very minimally to its own Chroma count.

Empty board: he’s a 2/2 for 3. Awful!

Average board: he’s a 5/5 with no evasion or abilities for 3. Whatevs.

Insane board: HE’S HUGE! (…player next to you untaps and wraths. He’s dead!)

Gold

Anax and Cymede
Anax and Cymede

Anax is a savage, angry ball buster. And his wife… supports him aggressively or something? In EDH he offers Boros a slightly different angle of attack. People dream of curving Anax into Tajic, Blade of the Legion into Agrus Kos, Wojek Veteran into Aurelia, the Warleader into Gisela, Blade of Goldnight (into Razia, Boros Archangel if you really want…) for the full-on Boros beatdown.

You really want to spew out some other decent-sized guys and then Overrun with him. The decent options for targeting spells rarely see play in EDH, so running them is interesting. Radiance spells like Bathe in Light, Surge of Zeal, and Rally the Righteous seem like a reasonable place to start, but I’m sure there are more creative options. I like that it’s not too linear, but suggests some clear direction; I’m partial to attacking, so that piece of the narrowness doesn’t bother me. I’d rank Anax and Cymede below Daxos of Meletis in terms of breakability, but being a three drop means he might have a very high synergy upside in the right curve-focused shell. Just don’t bust out Ruination and Ravages of War to maintain parity.

Daxos of Meletis

Saboteurs (WotC Design and Dev’s name for dudes who have a trigger on attack damage) have a mixed history in EDH. Most are pretty bad, but Edric, Spymaster of Trest is clearly solid, and Ohran Viper and Cold-Eyed Selkie see some play because they connect. Daxos can only be blocked by chumps, which is worse than Islandwalk, but comparable to triggered deathtouch as far as chances of landing a hit.

I’d rather draw a card than cast the random top of my opponent’s deck, because in my deck I know there are fewer irrelevant “misses.” However, Spin into Myth and team offer a fun angle. It’s a free card, but only about 60% of a card; it says “cast,” whereas Nightveil Specter says “play.” So I’m guessing lands are off limits. Then there’s the life gain. After narrowly failing to kill a friend many times across many games due to Miren, the Moaning Well, I have a new respect for incidental life.

I’m not excited about building a Daxos deck, but I will almost certainly love playing against creative, mechanically themed decks commanded by the Meletian.

Underworld Cerberus

Not a sublte guy, the stats on this Greek Hellhound of Hell are relevant in other formats, but who cares about a no-evasion 6/6 in EDH? He does have three heads and thus flavorfully can’t be blocked by fewer than three creatures, but he’s never making it through being triple-blocked, so you’re probably just going to point him at the player with the weakest board, perhaps to make casting Rakdos, Lord of Riots easier.

Then it’s Ground Seal (does this mean a creature Torpor Orb is forthcoming? We can only hope!). In black/red, protecting fatties the yard from grabby reanimation spells a unique effect that I may be undervaluing. Lastly, it casts Empty the Catacombs when it gets knocked off. I’m sure you can break this parity even though the new self-exile prevents abusive loops. That protection seems like mainly a shout out to EDH and other casual formats, and I appreciate it.

All in all, this mythic won’t make a huge splash in EDH, although it will probably be a decent role-player in decks that aren’t too interested in Reanimate and cousins.

Artifacts and Lands

Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
Ok, first things first: at some point in the next three weeks, someone is going to (erroneously) refer to this as the next “land that goes in every single EDH deck ever.”

Again, this is wrong, but let’s start on a positive note and look at the last “land that goes in every single EDH deck ever,” which is called Thespian’s Stage and is currently selling on SCG for a whopping $.99.

These should hopefully (and most likely) be cheap (eventually, although I would imagine they would trade well the first few weeks, as Thesbian’s Stage did). (Editor’s Note: Good lord, the presale prices on this thing…)

But what about the more important question? Is this the next “land that goes in every single EDH deck ever”? Well, to answer that we have to pause for a moment and examine how achievable we think Chroma is going to be. The main distinction between this and Cabal Coffers (a similar-seeming land that you will hear people erroneously liken this thing to) is that Coffers only cared about having Swamps, which was relatively easy to do by either playing mono-black or cheating.

In contrast, in order to make this better than, say, a basic land, you have to have at least Chroma 3 (and at Chroma 3, this functionally IS a basic land in a mono-color deck). At Chroma 4 this starts being pretty OK, at Chroma 5 it’s good, and anything higher than Chroma 5 is probably pretty awesome. So how often do you achieve Chroma 5 or better? I would imagine the answer would be “pretty often” in mono-color decks, which are the decks that truly want this all the time (especially since it also taps for colorless, which is nice). This is probably only playable in multicolor decks if you are running something that pumps out a lot of (nontoken) permanents.

My initial impression of this thing is that it’s going to be good, but people will try to GoodStuff it into multicolor decks and have it do less than they expect. That said, I have no doubt that within one week of this set being released everyone who reads this will have experienced some combination of this thing, Seedborn Muse, Rofellos, Llanowar Emissaryand Yeva, Nature’s Herald to absolutely ruin your life. Awesome!

. . . . .

So there you have it. Round one. You can comment here or hit us up on Twitter to extend the conversation. Part(s) two (and three) will show up as soon as we’ve got more cards to complain talk about.

—>The GDC Guys
Dave – @MdaveCs
Imshan – @generalspeak
Mr. P – @thingsMrPthinks
Cass – @GDCCommander

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