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Monday, December 29, 2014

Fate Reforged Spoilers: Mechanics Introduction

Today was the official start to Spoiler Season for Fate Reforged! Woo hoo!

As with the official start of every "spoiler season", we got an article detailing the mechanics of the new set.

I won't post every spoiled card; you can read those in the article yourself. Plus, there are too many new ones today. I will, though, post the more interesting ones.

The article: http://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/feature/mechanics-fate-reforged-2014-12-29

First, background...Sarkhan Vol has traveled form the time of a Dragon-less Tarkir to the time when Dragons ruled about 1300 years prior (...okay, I think it's 1,280. So sue me!). The mechanics of this set either copy Khans of Tarkir OR set up precursors to those mechanics.

Let's get started!

1) Prowess
2) Delve
3) Ferocious

Sorry, Abzan (Outlast) and Mardu (Raid). You're not getting these fun mechanics this time. Also, Morph seems to be out for Fate Reforged.

4) Hybrid Mana Symbols: These hybrid mana symbols are back, but they won't be in casting costs. They'll usually be in abilities. Because of this, the Commander "Color Identity" rule kicks in; for example, Yasova Dragonclaw only has Green in its mana cost but shows hybrid U/R symbols in its card text. Using it as a Commander for a mono-green deck isn't a problem; no one says you have to use the U/R abilities or pack in U/R mana producers. If it's not used as a Commander, though, it can only be used in Temur-colored (RUG) Commander decks. (Remember, Extort is an exception to the rule since Reminder Text isn't considered rules text; it's just there as a quick reminder for what the ability does.)

5) Modal Spells: Since they put bullet points on modal spells (for examples, Cryptic Command or practically any Charm in the game), WotC has been taking full advantage of the simpler templating. Since Fate Reforged deals with how choices will affect the outcome of the future, "modal" spells (where you get to choose between 1 of 2 or 3 alternatives) are a theme.

HOWEVER...however...we get new precursor mechanics to make up for it. (These mechanics are supposed to be "prequels" to mechanics we saw in Khans of Tarkir and didn't get reused for Fate Reforged.)

1) Bolster --> This is the new Abzan ability word. "Bolster X" means "Choose a creature you control with the lowest toughness and put X +1/+1 counters on it." (more or less). Bolster will always have a number beside it (Bolster 2 or Bolster 5, for example). For example...

2) Dash --> The new Mardu keyword is Dash. "Dash [cost]" means you can cast it for that cost, the creature gains haste, and returns to your hand at the end of the turn. (This is being nicknamed the "Viashino" effect, named after various Viashino in the game that are cast, have haste, and return to hand at end of turn.) Some Dash costs are right in line with the normal mana cost, while others are cheaper. I wouldn't doubt we'd see one that's more expensive with Dash BUT comes with something else (for example, a creature costing 3W can be Dashed for 5W BUT it gets your choice of Flying, Lifelink, or Double Strike if Dashed, perhaps?)

There is a 2-color Dragon for each Allied color pair, each with Dash and granting a Bonus for each Dragon you control when it attacks.

And it's not just the Dragons...

3) Manifest --> This seems to belong to all clans, or at least can go outside the G/U ones. Manifest takes the place of Morph in Fate Reforged, but it can be used with Morph from Khans of Tarkir. "Manifest the top X cards of your library" means to put the top X cards of your library onto the battlefield face-down as 2/2 creatures; if the face-down card is a creature [whether or not it has Morph], you can turn it face-up at any time for its mana cost."

Simple "Manifest" card...

...and more complex "Manifest" card to show off what it  can do.

Now I don't know about you, but depending on the card...this could blur the lines between token armies and self-milling to get benefit. If you can Manifest, say, 3 cards at a time, that's 6 power's worth of creatures ready to block. And if they already are creatures? Morph creatures or not, those may come in as a nasty surprise for your opponent. ;)

Since Manifest works somewhat differently from Morph, there are new Overlay cards for Manifested cards that have rules text pertaining to what a Manifested card can do.

4) Modal Spells: Wait...didn't I talk about these just above? Yes...and no!  A bit different this time around is that permanents will now have modal choices. Examples include:

"Modal" creature....

...and "Modal" enchantment!

I particularly love Outpost Seige. It's like saying, "Now, planeswalker....CHOOSE YOUR SIDE!!!" There will be a cycle of these "Seige"-type enchantments: 1 for each color. Seems they'll also have 1 cycle of Instants at Uncommon, 1 cycle of Instants/Sorceries at Rare, and 1 cycle at Common.

So far, what do you think? That's not every spoiler, but DailyMTG.com will be keeping an updated Card Image Gallery going, updating with the previous weekday's spoilers each weekday around 11 AM Eastern.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Sealed Help: What Could I Have Done? --> M15 Version

Okay, guys. Think you can build a better sealed pool?

Oh, really!? Okay, fine. Prove it!

Below are pictures of the M15 Pre-release Sealed Pool I had. I got the White box, so Resolute Archangel was guaranteed. That seeded pack came with a Spectra Ward.

I 0-3 dropped the Pre-release (I had plans anyway, so no point in going to a 4th round). I was 1-7 in games.

I started with a B/G/w deck, but when it wasn't too effective I switched in the very next game to a W/U/r deck. The only Red card was Heat Ray.

Feel free to take a look at this and if  you could build something better, please let me know. I'm curious where I went wrong.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

M15 Previews! Some of the Last...The Chain Veil, 5-Color Sliver, Hornets, and Tokens!

Hey everyone!

We're about a week away from the Pre-release and we still have a few previews to go. I want to look today at a couple Mythics, an interesting Rare, and the new look of Tokens and Emblems.

(All pictures come from either the M15 card image gallery or an article from the WotC site)

First off, let's get a preview that goes well with our Planeswalkers because...well, it's a Planeswalker-themed card! You ever wanted to use more than one Loyalty ability in a turn on a single Planeswalker? Ooooh boy, is this preview for you.

Introducing, for the first time in card form since we were exposed to it in Innistrad...The Chain Veil!

Just what Planeswalkers have wanted for...well, their Planeswalkers. :p
Okay, so some lore first...the Chain Veil is what Liliana used to corrupt Garruk in Innistrad. We see the fruits of that corruption in M15's Garruk, Apex Predator.

So game-wise, what's this card doing? First off, you better have a Planeswalker and using one of its abilities each turn. If you don't, you're being zapped for 2 life each turn you don't do that. Ouch! But if you can gain life, it's not that bad a drawback.

I think its second effect is well worth the risk. For 4 mana and tapping The Chain Veil, you get to activate 1 Loyaly ability on each Planeswalker you control as if you hadn't activated one this turn yet!

Now, now, I know what you're thinking..."I can ultimate a Planeswalker with this ability!" Eh...not quite. You'll still need enough Loyalty counters, even with this ability.

Here's what it does do...let's say you have Ajani Steadfast at 3 Loyaly counters and Liliana Vess at 7. You use Ajani's -2 ability to give all your creatures a +1/+1 counter and Liliana Vess a Loyalty Counter (putting her at 8 and Ajani at 1). Liliana activates her +1 ability, discarding a card from your opponent's hand (Vess at 9 counters). You pay 4 mana and tap The Chain Veil. Ajani, if he uses one of his abilities, can only use his +1 (give a creature +1/+1, flying, vigilance, and lifelink until end of turn) because he doesn't have enough counters for the other abilities. Liliana Vess, though, can use any of her abilities since she has plenty of Loyaly Counters.

This will be a casual powerhouse. Use your Planeswalkers twice in a turn!? And what if you use a card that can untap The Chain Veil and you have enough mana to use it again? Or if you can copy its effect? You can keep using Loyalty abilities as long as you can activate The Chain Veil. Just look back on the history of Planeswalkers and the possibilities are limitless.

For Standard, the uses are a little more limited but still potentially devastating. With enough mana and an ability to untap The Chain Veil, Planeswalkers like Elspeth, Sun's Champion go from being difficult to deal with to "wow, did they design her knowing she could use abilities 2-3 times a turn!?"

Next up, we're getting 6 Slivers in this set (not counting the Sliver land). We're getting a new 5-color Sliver. It's a Legendary Creature, so add it to the list of "I just wanna play it all" possible Commanders. Without further delay...Sliver Hivelord!

Yes...yes, you read that right. The most efficient way of dealing with Slivers...is now gone if he's on the board. I don't think I need to share the ramifications of this. Just do remember we have exiling cards, so Sliver Hivelord isn't unbeatable. But you'll need to bounce it back to the hand or exile it to stand a chance against other threatening Slivers.

In Standard, I can see an attempt at a 5-color Sliver deck that runs 4 copies of this to try and get it going ASAP. But that's only really useful for about 2 months. When Khans of Tarkir releases, 4 sets rotate out of Standard: Magic 2014 Core Set, Return to Ravnica, Gatecrash, and Dragon's Maze. M14 had the most Slivers we've had in a while, so come October we'll be down to 6 Slivers...this being one of them.

In Modern, I wouldn't be surprised, honestly. The decks doing the best against it at this point will be those that can sideboard exile cards easily. And you've got some nice old Slivers that can do quite a bit of damage (especially Virulent Sliver...and especially in multiples.).

Finally, how about something that doesn't seem so bad...until you read the effect closer. We're getting a Hornet Queen reprint, which is nice and all. But that's the only card (at least in recent memory) that made green 1/1 Insect tokens with flying and deathtouch. It's no longer the only one. Take a look at

Oooooh....soooo nice! Go ahead, attack me with your 6-power creature. You'll deal 6 damage to the nest, breaking it and putting 6 1/1 flying deathtouching Insects out, only one of which needs to block your 6-power dude to get revenge. Very very nice!

Defender-based decks will love this. It's an extra Defender, and when it needs to block it can give you some attackers that can be used either offensively (against non-flying boards) or defensively (just going up against creatures with too much power to make it worth attacking).

In Standard...we'll see. Exiling may be so prevalent it won't matter. If it dies to a non-damaging removal spell, you'll get nothing. You may really only want this against red decks where killing a creature mostly happens through damage.

In Modern, I don't doubt this'll see play at the kitchen table, especially in a Defender-themed deck. I just don't see the ability being relevant with Path to Exile, Oblivion Ring/Banishing Light, and other exile effects possibly running rampant. Also, combos like Kiki-Jiki + Pestermite or Valakut + Scapeshift + Mountains mean this guy may see no combat, thus pose no threat for their kill spells to focus on.

Finally, we have some token redesign going on. I'll post a couple tokens and an Emblem, then post a couple old tokens and Emblems so you can see the differences.


OLD (from store.tcgplayer.com)

Not too shabby! I think it's actually an improvement. Sometimes the name of the token would get washed out against the background. Now, there's so much of a gold and black contrast it'd be difficult to NOT see the token's name.

Second, they all got the new frame treatment.

Third...is that "token creature" in the typeline? And Emblems got a typeline that doesn't use the Planeswalker's full name? I wonder if that'll mean anything to the rules or if "token" and "emblem" being in type lines is just a helper to distinguish between cards and noncards, tokens and nontokens. ??

That's all I've got! The M15 Release Notes (FAQ) will release next week, so I'll probably be back for a couple day to show off the Pre-Release cards and run down any confusing rules from the Release Notes.

Until then, take care and enjoy M15previews!

Monday, June 30, 2014

M15 Previews, Part 3! Planeswalkers, Planeswalkers, Planeswalkers!

Welcome back to M15 previews! The previews today are the 6 Planeswalkers in M15.

Yes...6 Planeswalkers.

Let's get started!

(NOTE: All but 1 image are from the M15 Card Image Gallery at the bottom of the product page. The final Planeswalker comes from the Arcana "The Hunter.")

The White Planeswalker you already know. But allow me to re-introduce Ajani Steadfast!

You can read my thoughts on Ajani in a previous blog post.

In Blue, we have the return of a Jace!...only the...uh...*still is counting*...5th Jace. Ha ha! This is the 2nd one where we know the setting: Jace became the Living Guildpact at the end of Return to Ravnica block. So let's introduce...Jace, the Living Guildpact!

Okay, okay...I know, it seems even less interesting than Jace, Architect of Thought. It's not even a milling Jace!

But let's consider the following:

1) Doubling Season test: If Doubling Season is out when Jace, the Living Guildpact enters the battlefield, he'll have 10 Loyalty Counters. So for -8, I get to Timetwister with 1 exception: I'm the only one who draws 7 cards! Combined with Jace's Erasure it's more like "Timetwister except you mill 7 instead of drawing 7."

2) +1 ability: If blue decks ever do some kind of Graveyard strategy (Flashback-based decks, perhaps?), this will be a house. You get to look at the top 2 cards, effectively setting up your next draw and possibly putting something in the graveyard to Flashback (either through the Sorcery or Instant's inherent Flashback or Snapcaster Mage).

3) For -3, you get to return a nonland permanent to someone's hand. At -3...that may be too steep. But it was effectively -1 on Jace, the Mind Sculptor and it only hit a creature so maybe this isn't too terrible...maybe?

4) If you can't Doubling Season, I don't see the value in the -8. It basically self-mills you after you shuffling everything in! And we know Jace was a milling-based Planeswalker, so this is a bit baffling. Perhaps they're seeing how much of the old Power 9 they can push onto a Planeswalker and make it balanced? Who knows.

For Modern or Legacy, I could see this being used for its +1 ability. The -8 would just be the icing on the cake. I don't see this being Standard-viable unless a U/B reanimation deck comes to prominence (or returning a nonland permanent to hand for 4 mana and leaving a 1-Loyalty damage soaker is stronger than I think).

Next up for Black, we start hitting reprints. Garruk is the focus of this Core Set, so we're revisiting the Planeswalker that made him the Veil-Cursed Planeswalker he is now. No, we're not getting Liliana of the Veil. It's been deemed too powerful in the current Standard environment. So we're going way back to...Liliana Vess!

So let's recap a few things...

1) Doubling Season test: Liliana also doubles to 10 with Doubling Season out. Considering Doubling Season and Liliana Vess are at earliest 5th- or 6th-turn drops, you're decently into the game already when she hits. If you've been protecting yourself by destroying creatures or milling them, get ready for your army: Activate her ultimate, get back all those nice creatures to your side, and still have a 2-Loyalty Planeswalker that can get you any card next turn or can start building back up for another run at her ultimate. :)

2) +1 to discard this late may be useful. But once your opponent sees her, they'll know their hand is in "use it or lose it" mode and will just start casting and top-decking as often as possible. On the plus side, you only have to target a player, not necessarily one that has a card in their hand so you can always +1 her. :)

3) -2 to Demonic Tutor is extremely powerful, especially when it leaves her with 3 Loyalty and she could do it again next turn!

4) Her -8 is just going to practically end games no matter how you get there. End of story...unless that story involves a bunch of cheap, low-power creatures. Then good luck winning. :p

Red provides another reprint. Re-introducing...Chandra, Pyromaster!

1) Doubling Season test: So Chandra, Pyromaster comes up and get 8 Loyalty counters, enough to get her Ultimate off the turn she enters. But a random chance to get an instant or sorcery to cast for nothing? Some of the better Red spells I'd cast probably have X in their cost, and being a Red/Green deck she'd go into I'd be mana-ramping to take advantage of that X. Also included would be damage preventers, so I'd really just be getting an 8-Loyalty Planeswalker that can keepa creature from blocking and deals 1 damage to my opponent.

2) +1 can be useful at times. Hit your opponent and their biggest creature to have a better chance of taking out some of their other creatures in combat or forcing them to use combat tricks to keep their smaller creatures alive. But it only hits 1 creature. Just...keep that in mind.

3) +/- 0...really depends. Drawing your card and using the 0 ability could effectively mean you've drawn 2 cards. Not bad for Red, but the condition is you'd need to cast that card to get use out of it. Exiled a Fog? Sorry! Exiled a Magma Spray you otherwise wouldn't have had until next turn? Better. Exiling Sould of Shandalahr (sp?) and getting to cast it a turn earlier than you otherwise could have? Priceless. :)

4) -7 again is just too risky for my taste. It exiles all 10 cards, then you better hope that Instant or Sorcery is worth copying. Most burn spells in Standard are nice enough to copy, as they'll either do 2 damage and exile each OR just deal 3 damage...which tripled will be 9..OR in Fated Conflagration's case could take out 3 creatures while letting you Scry up to 6 if needed. Hmm...maybe I should reconsider this. :p But outside of Standard, again, the better spells sometimes are the ones with X in their cost. Especially with Miracles like Bonfire of the Damned or Entreat the Angels, you hit one of those with this and if it's the only thing you hit you'll be facepalming from here to M16. :P  Now...in an "extra turns" deck, hitting Temporal Mastery or Time Warp could about be leathal in itself. Put another way...in 4 total turns (current + 3 extra), you better be able to win. ;)

Next up (and 2nd to last, only because of the way we go around the color wheel. :p), we've seen Nissa Revane only once since Zendikar (which makes her only a few months older than Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Whoah!) as an Elf-centered Planeswalker. After the Eldrazi were freed, she was badly injured and on the border of dying. Rescued by fellow Zendikar inhabitants, she eventually heals up and takes on some of the smaller Eldrazi threats (well...smaller than, say, Kozilek!)...revealing new powers in the battle.

Presenting...Nissa, Worldwaker!

1) Doubling Season test: At 6 Loyalty when doubled....Gah! I'll have to activate one of her +1 abilities and wait a turn or run her with Ajani Steadfast to get the ultimate in the same turn. Considering her 2nd "+1" is to untap 4 Forests, though, this means if you're using all Forests she effectively only costs 1 mana. I can't complain at that point. I could run some Proliferate artifacts and use the now-freed-up mana to put 1 more counter on her.

2) The first +1 is pretty nice. "Oh, hey guys! I'm a 4-Loyalty Planeswalker that gives my controller a 4/4 body to deal with if you want to attack. Even if his/her field is clear, as long as my controller has an untapped land after I hit the field he/she will have a creature."

3) The second +1 again effectively makes her cost only 1 mana. Combine this with lands like Breeding Pool and you can make sure you have your second color ready to go in case your opponent tries to deal with her.

4) Her -7...wow! So by this time, perhaps you don't need basic lands. Cool, that's fine. But could you always use 4/4 Elementals with trample? I'd say the answer is YES! And read carefully...they don't enter tapped. You have even 6 basic lands left in your deck? Nah...that's 6 4/4 creatures that just happen to be lands! ;)

Casually, she'll be a favorite. Tournament-level, we'll see but I doubt she'll be an obscure Planeswalker. Her "untap 4 Forests" +1 is very reminiscent of Garruk Wildspeaker's "untap 2 lands" +1. He was seeing play widely partially because of that! Now apply that to Nissa. Yeah...as long as you're running Forests, you get to untap 4 of them a turn. While Return to Ravnica block is legal, you really have no reason not to be playing her in a 2- or 3-color deck where your non-basics are "Land - Forest [land type]." Price wise? I'd expect $20 early on, not going below $15 while Ravnica is in Standard, then possibly dipping closer to $10 depending on the themes in Khans of Tarkir in October.

Finally (WHEW! That's a lot of typing! lol!), and speaking of Garruk, we have our 6th Planeswalker. Last Thursday, I previewed a Garruk that we'd be using during the Pre-release as an activity thing. He had 4 abilities and was a Black/Green Planeswalker.

Well...guess what? Our actual in-set Garruk is also Black/Green...and comes with 4 abilities! Presenting, last but certainly not least (by a long shot)...GARRUK, APEX PREDATOR!

So I need to note this...officially (as in, for regular-sized Magic cards) this is only the 2nd...or perhaps 3rd... Planeswalker to have 4 or more abilities. The previous 2? One we know for sure, the ever popular Jace, the Mind Sculptor! The other, it depends on your definition of a singular Planeswalker. I'm looking back at Garruk Relentless/Garruk, the Veil-Cursed. Although two slightly-different Planeswalkers, you can't have one without the other as it's a Flip Card. So counting both sides, his Planeswalker card has 5 abilities. However, only 2-3 are usable at a time.

1) Doubling Season test: Yes, yes please give me that ultimate the 1st turn he hits! I want my Llanowar Elves to be 6/6 creatures attacking! Yes, since he's 7 mana I've probably already cast Primeval Titan so let's make him an 11/11 on attacking! Oh, can I get that up to ultimate twice? Why thanks for not attacking! I'll make my few creatures that late into the game a minimum of 11/11 (1/1 creature with 2 Emblems triggering) and perhaps at most a 16/16 (Primeval Titan). Not...too...shabby. :)

2) His first +1 ability is just plain scary. "Destroy another target Planeswalker." I...I really don't see Planeswalker control decks doing too hot against this Garruk. I know 7 mana's expensive, but considering he starts at 5 and instantly goes up to 6, I think being able to destroy an Ajani, Mentor of Heroes threatening to launch off his ultimate for +100 life is well worth it at that stage. Without mana ramp, though, don't expect this to be of any use until right near when any good Planeswalker can use its ultimate ability (if it hasn't already).

3) His second +1 harkens back to just about every other version of him. This time the token he gives you is a 3/3 Beast with Deathtouch. Fine, let that Trampler come in. It's the last time it'll be doing anything. :) Definitely worth using once Garruk hits. Just blow up a Planeswalker next turn!

4) The -3 ability can be a life saver. You're facing down an Emrakul that's having to wait a turn to attack. No problem! Cast Garruk, -3, destroy Emarkul and gain 15 life. REalistically, though, I'd say you'll be doing good to gain 4-6 life on using this ability. The life gain isn't quite as important, though. You can just decide to get rid of the biggest threat to your board the turn he hits. Again, not...too...shabby.

5) I've already made my thoughts clear on the 4th, "ultimate" ability. Outside of Doubling Season, I can see it being used...exactly once. But at +5/+5 and Trample on even a set of 4/4 creatures, that's still a ton of damage the opponent has to either soak up or say "GG" to.

And there you have them! All 6 Planeswalkers. We have 2 reprints and 4 new ones. If you've got opinions, please feel free to share them here or on the group's Facebook page.

I may get some more updates in before the end of the week, but the spoiler goes fully revealed either Friday or next Monday so there's not a lot of new stuff left. Take care and catch you all later!

Friday, June 27, 2014

M15 Previews Continue! Land Previews, A Little More on New Card Frames, and Garruk Pre-Release Activity.

Welcome back to the 2nd day of CGLHixson.Blogspot.com's revitalization! I can do a bit more here with editing and creating so for the rest of the summer if I need to post images I'll post here I think.

I have quite a few previews today. Most of them are lands (but I think you'll enjoy them. ;)  ), and toward the end I'll detail the Garruk activity that'll be part of the Pre-Release (set for July 12-13, 2014).

First up, with the Shocklands going out of Standard in October of this year, and the "Scrylands" being the only duals (which only help more control-like strategies since they must come onto the battlefield tapped), what would the Core Set give decks to help them in the new Standard?

Well...according to Sam Stoddard, they decided to bring back the Apocalypse painlands!

from Sam Stoddard's article linked above

"Hey, what's the foil sticker thingy near the bottom of those M15 lands? Not all of your previews yesterday had that."

Ahhh...that's an authenticity sticker basically. Any Rares or Mythic Rares printed from this point on will have that foil sticker-looking thing that cuts into the text box a little bit. High-end fakes of popular Rares and Mythic Rares are starting to proliferate through the MTG trading community. Since those are the most likely to get faked, this little sticker will help ensure what you're getting is an authentic WotC-printed Magic card.

It doesn't matter if the card is a foil card or a regular card. Only the Rares and Mythic Rares, foil or not, will have the authenticity sticker. No Commons or Uncommons, foil or not, will have that.

So why did they bring back the Painlands? Although they prefer the "Pay 1 life" clause as opposed to the "deals 1 damage" clause for the current design philosophy, these were already available and didn't create duplicates that'd have to be reprinted as a full set of 10.

"But what happened to them saying 'the Core Set isn't the place for Painlands or any land that requires a life payment'?" I guess they've decided that players have grown up; if they're playing with Shocklands, "noob" and veteran alike, then Painlands are fair game again.

Will some players still prefer "enters the battlefield tapped" as opposed to the Shocklands or Painlands? Yes! That's not bad. But this opens up options to those who don't mind that life payment. (And if you're playing a Lifelink-based deck, do you really care? lol!)

Speaking of Rare lands, I've been in love with a certain Swamp-transforming land since it was first released in Planar Chaos. I was even happy it got a foil reprint in From the Vault: Realms. For a year (starting July 18th and ending October 2015), we'll have a land that helps multi-colored decks that use Black as a key color...as long as your opponent isn't also running Black.

Re-introducing (and now in new frame)...Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth!

From "Magic Espana" Twitter feed

It's been a while, so here's the English text for Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth:

"Each land is a Swamp in addition to its other land types." (text from Magiccards.info, which gets its text from Oracle)

Nice! So all your lands are Swamps, meaning Urborg and any other land you have (even if it's a Hallowed Fountain) can make a single Black mana each.

...Oh, but it makes each land a Swamp. This can benefit your opponent too. If they're running anything with Black in it, you just helped out their manabase. Even their basic Forests, where once they'd be mana screwed if that's all they have, now enables them to cast the cards in their hand. Yikes! Use this wisely.

One big thing to remember with Urborg, especially if you're playing in Modern-format tournaments: The phrase "in addition to its other land types" doesn't remove any abilities of any other land on the battlefield. It's like it tacks on, "Oh, btw, all lands can also tap to add a single Black mana to your mana pool."

How is this different than, say, Blood Moon? Simple. Blood Moon doesn't say "in addition to its other land types." Blood Moon completely overwrites all non-Basic lands and says, "Oh, hey Hallowed Fountain [for example]! You now are a basic Mountain and can only provide a single Red mana. That's it. I burned up your fountain! MWA-HA-HA-HA-H*COUGHCOUGHGAAAAG*"

"Okay, enough chatter about reprints. What's the Garruk activity!?"  Fine, fine. Let's get to it. :)

Well...you know how flavor-wise we are the Planeswalker? Yeah...well, this gives you the chance to finally use Planeswalker abilities as the Planeswalker!

May I introduce, the oversized (so not legal anywhere else) Garruk the Slayer!

From http://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/win-ultimate-trophy-2014-06-22
Here's how playing as Garruk works: For each game of the Pre-release, one player plays as Garruk. The other plays his or her deck as normal. The player playing their Pre-release deck always goes first. Garruk starts with 20 Loyalty Counters, and when he hits 0 he loses. He is a Planeswalker, so he's limited to using only 1 Planeswalker ability per turn and must do it at Sorcery speed (when the stack is empty and it's your turn and you have priority). [This makes your first turn mostly obvious: make a 2/2 Wolf!]

Now, does this mean it's Garruk PLUS your deck? I don't believe so. It makes it sound like the player that plays as Garruk only does that...plays as Garruk. No library, no draw phases, just Garruk having 4 abilities, 3 of which he could do on the first turn if needed. We'll need further clarification just to be sure.

Personally...I'd like to be Garruk once, but if I can't use my deck alongside him that's about all I'd like to do it. I don't feel comfortable being that vulnerable with only action per turn (aside from attack and block choices). At least his +4 feels more like life gain, so after you get your first 2/2 Wolf you could start gaining life as long as that Wolf exists. I also like the -10's ability to put Loyalty Counters back on Garruk, so you're not ever losing the full 10 Loyalty: If you use the -10 to kill a 5-toughness creature, you really only effectively lose 5 Loyalty. But watch out for Red! IF they can burn you out after you activate the -10 (remember, the ability goes on the stack; it doesn't automatically resolve.), you still lose. [I'd love to see someone use the -10 on an 11+-toughness creature, though. Adding Loyalty FTW! ha ha.]

So how would I play Garruk? I'd probably make 1-2 Wolves, then give one +1/+0 and Deathtouch a few times. I'd use the -10 only if it was necessary, and I wouldn't use the -25 unless I was absolutely desperate and wasn't up against a Red deck. (If I could get to upwards of 50 Loyalty, though, I wouldn't be afraid to use it. lol! But at that point you're probably not a threat anyway.)

I think it's interesting to note this is the only other 4-ability Planeswalker to be printed in any way. The only other 4-ability Planeswalker? The ever-broken Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

I hope you enjoyed these previews! If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment here or on Facebook and I'll get back to it ASAP. Until then, take care! I'll try to post some preview(s) over the weekend.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

M15 Previews! Including highlights of differences in card frames.

Hello all, and welcome back to CGLHixson.Blogspot.com! While the info about our group is out of date (2012 was the last post. Come on! Give a little understanding here. :p), the group itself is far from dead. :)

Today, I have M15 previews! Yes, yes, we're already gearing up for a new set not long after Conspiracy came crashing on our doorstop and said, "I Know What You Did Last Summer with Modern Masters! And I want to be part of it!"


Am I the only one who thought that? Oh, well.

Onto the previews!

We'll start with a preview of a couple reprints, one of which I'll use to show the differences in the card frames used from 8th Edition up through Conspiracy. RIP, first major card frame change in Magic.

July 28, 2003 - April 26, 2014 (Intro packs of Journey into Nyx started giving away M15 basic lands with the new card frame)

So what card did I use to show the difference in card frame? Well...it's a bit of a shock, really. No...2.5x worse than Shock (if you're on the receiving end), but it takes sacrificing an Artifact to do it.

Re-introducing....Shrapnel Blast! (using the Friday Night Magic/Modern Masters artwork)

Nice card frame, bro.
So you're looking at it without your other Magic cards around and you're going, "...and what's so special about the new card frame?"

Here's a side-by-side (or perhaps top-and-bottom, depending on how this publishes) comparison.

In green, you see we have the name line. Look carefully at the new (left) and old (right) fonts. Wizards of the Coast has decided to use its own proprietary font to give Magic a better fantasy feel, make it feel like you're in the world of Magic rather than reading a card that's based on the world of Magic...I think. :p

The font changes apply to the type line as well (where the card says "Instant", in this case). I didn't see a big enough change in the font to warrant showing it as a change, but especially when you see creature cards that are reprinted I think you'll notice the difference fairly quickly.

In blue, you see how they brought the colored border back into the text box. This makes for more black space at the bottom of the card and I believe actually let them expand the text box just a bit. While it's difficult to see in this picture, you may also notice (once you get your hands on these cards) that the text box still contains its sharp rectangular edges at the bottom. They're a lot more pronounced though because the colored border doesn't extend all the way to the bottom of the card now.

Not used to that? You should be. It's been done on every planeswalker since they were released. ;)

Finally, in purple, you see the miscellaneous information.
     * In the old frame (the Modern Masters Shrapnel Blast here), you see the artist and...that's about it. Good luck trying to read the collector number and copyright information from that.
     * In the new frame, we can more clearly see the artist and collector number (left) and copyright information (right). But wait...what is all that other information?
          --> You see a "U" next to the collector number. That's the card's rarity. "C" is Common, "U" is Uncommon, "R" is Rare, "M" is Mythic, and "P" I believe will be used for promotional cards. No more having to remember what color of set symbol goes with which rarity or figuring out if that foil you have is a promotional card or from the set itself.
          --> Below the collector number, you see "M15 * EN." Cards will now indicate what set they came from with a 3-alphanumeric code. If Conspiracy had used this format, the set would be "CNS," for example. The "EN" is the language abbreviation. This is obviously an English card. But how many times have you looked at a foreign card and not recognized the language or wondered if it was Simplified Chinese or Traditional Chinese (assuming you don't know the difference already, just that there are two Chinese writing styles)? This should alleviate a lot of that problem.

Okay, great, so how can we guarantee we have an artifact to sacrifice? Glad you asked! Apparently Artifact Lands aren't too difficult for a Core Set. Re-introducing, for the first printing since Duel Decks: Elspeth vs. Tezzeret (back in 2010!)...Darksteel Citadel! (and I'm putting a Duel Deck version next to it for comparison. What? If you're going to have to deal with new card frames, best to catch the differences now, amirite?)

So I think we see here they're trying to reprint as many often-used cards as possible that used to simply state "[Card Name] is indestructible" with the keyword version that just says "Indescructible." But in this case, it also helps the price of the card. Darksteel Citadels, which were only Commons before M15, were pushing closer to $1.50 per copy! Some Rares don't go for that much! Ha ha! But really, it's very useful if you don't mind the mana investment. In case your opponent loves to play "destroy target land" or "destroy all lands", this will at least leave you with the Citadel to re-start on artifacts or cheap colored spells if you can draw into/have a land ready to play.

For Standard...I don't know. It depends on how deep the "artifacts matter" sub-theme of M15 goes and what kinds of artifacts Khans of Tarkir gives us. But it'll help alleviate some of the Citadel needs in other formats, that's for sure. HINT: If you're drafting and you've already picked up a Shrapnel Blast, why you wouldn't take this is beyond me. ;)

Finally, I want to touch on a new Planeswalker that I find extremely fun...and it gets around some of the Doubling Season issues with Planeswalkers (aside from Proliferate, there's very little ability for Doubling Season to double counters on Planeswalkers past their initial entry to the battlefield).

Introducing...Ajani Steadfast!

Now I'll be honest...I do a "Doubling Season check" of every new Planeswalker I see. What's this "check"? If I take the starting loyalty and double it, do I get to use the Planeswalker's ultimate the turn it enters the battlefield? If that's a "yes", then I think about using it in a Doubling Season build.

And Ajani comes through on that check! In fact, it's extremely beneficial for the late game. So with Doubling Season, Ajani Steadfast comes in with 8 loyalty counters. Remove 7 of those and you get an Emblem. What does this do? "If a source would deal damage to you or a planeswalker you control, prevent all but 1 of that damage."

Read again...ALL BUT 1!

"How is that useful with Ajani? He'll be down to 1 Loyalty anyway!" First, a good Doubling Season casual build will use 4 Fogs...at least! But look at the longer game. You put a few Ajani Steadfast in and a few other planeswalkers that add 2 Loyalty at a time. If your opponent can only get in with one creature or damage spell at a time, they can only deal 1 damage at a time. You'll net a +1 Loyaly Counter per turn. Again, this assumes they don't use multiple sources to damage your planeswalkers. But I think we'll agree that having a 15/15 Eldrazi hit you for only 1 per turn is pretty sick!

The middle ability is what'll most likely help your planeswalkers out the most. Take 2 loyalty counters off of Ajani Steadfast and you get to put a +1/+1 counter on each of your creatures and a loyalty counter on each other planeswalker you control. Think about that...Elspeth, Sun's Champion can get her ultimate off in 2 turns rather than 4 or so. The same goes for Kiora giving you Krakens and Domri Rade making all your creatures Double Striking Hexproof beatdown sticks! Add in Doubling Season, though...Ajani would come in with 8 counters, and he'd give 2 additional counters to everyone else. Imagine a Jace, the Mind Sculptor coming in at 6 Loyalty counters, using its +2 ability to Scry yourself or Fateseal someone's top of the deck, then using Ajani's 2nd ability. That puts Jace at 10 Loyaly Counters on his first turn on the battlefield! Next turn, use Ajani's 2nd ability again to get Jace to 12, then use Jace's ultimate to exile your opponent's library and make their hand their library instead. Jace, the Mind Sculptor ultimate in his first couple of turns!? Yeesh! Find other Planeswalkers and experiment. I think at least a few of them could do their ultimate and get another couple of loyalty counters to help their ability to survive with this Doubling Season + Ajani Seteadfast combo. :)

His +1 is okay. It helps a ton that the creature gets Vigilance so it can block in the next turn. Lifelink is amazing on almost any creature, I feel, and First Strike is just what the doctor ordered on those Deathtouchers. Oh, and the extra +1/+1 is also nice. ;)

Overall, I love this Ajani. I'll rebuild a Doubling Season deck using him and Kiora at minimum. I do want to live that Jace, the Mind Sculptor dream, though, and ultimate him the 2nd turn he's on the battlefield. lol. And look closely at his artwork. In the Theros story, Ajani and Elspeth were very close. So when Elspeth died, Ajani took it hard. How hard? He's wearing Elspeth's cloak over his right shoulder. :-_(

That's all the time I have for now. Let me know if you like having preview posts done on here or on Facebook directly more. These take more time, but during the summer if it helps more I'll do a few more through the blog. :)

I'll definitely give details on the Garruk activity at Pre-Release tomorrow.

(NOTE: All M15 images come from dailymtg.com . All non-M15 images come from magiccards.info . )