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.)
Heliod, God of the Sun
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.
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.
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
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.
Erebos, God of the Dead
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.
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.
Porfuros, God of 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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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)
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.