Well hello everyone once again to another issue of Cards n’Flux your source for fun decks, strategy talk, and general discussion of the Magic the Gathering card game. As of July 2nd, the new Core Set Magic 2013 has been completely spoiled, giving us our first look at how the whole of Magic could be affected. With this Core Set we get quite a few awesome cards, some cool build around cards, and a few junk cards, but that is to be expected. Of course, as usually happens I cannot wait to get my hands on some of the new cards so let us take this article to just drool over some of the new cards.
Starting off in White, we have one really stand out card. The very first card of the set and one of our two new Planeswalkers. Ajani Caller of the Pride looks to be a great new addition to many a White deck. I have always been a big fan of non-human Planeswalkers, and Ajani is by far my favorite. This newest version of him has some serious potential to see some fun play. His biggest advantage is being 3 total Mana meaning he will be able to really start helping you to get the ball rolling towards your opponent’s demise. Also coming in with 4 loyalty means he can stand up to most early damage dealers. So the big question, what are his abilities? Well take a look:
Most people assess a Planeswalker’s ability on how well they can protect themselves, which is why many people chalk Elspeth Knight Errant up as being one of the best Planeswalkers. Ajani, Caller of the Pride does not necessarily protect himself with his +1 ability, but it does give something else the power to protect him or even go on the offensive. Two really good targets for his first ability would be either the new Knight of Glory which would change this 2/1 into a 3/2 that could deter most attackers, or he can attack alone as a 4/3 thanks to his Exalted ability. The other decent target for Ajani’s first ability is another new card called Warclamp Mastiff a 1/1 for one white that has first strike. Now this 1/1 is not that impressive, but by dropping a +1/+1 counter on it you get a 2/2 first striker, something that should help deter attackers for a turn or two. Ajani’s second ability is a -3 with a hell of hit, giving target creature Double Strike and Flying until the end of the turn. There is really no way to say it simply, this is probably going to be the reason Ajani will see play. He will act as that final way to help White Weenie players push through that last bit of damage. This power alongside Silverblade Paladin and Mirran Crusader (at least for a few more months) gives White quite a few excellent double striking opportunities. Finally, we have Ajani’s ultimate. At -8 it will take a very long time for any deck to come into a situation where this ability will be useful. Either you will be sitting pretty with plenty of life and no need to cash in the eight loyalty for a swarm of tokens, or you will be dead plain and simple. I do love the flavor of it, as Ajani literally calls a pride of cats to his side. This ability might see play occasionally, but more often than not, Ajani will never get that high either due to players wanting to cash in for the Double Strike/Flying combo or the game will be over.
With White done, let’s continue around the color wheel and see what Blue has for us. Well, Blue actually has a pretty fun card for us called Switcheroo where two creatures are swapped between players. This is absolutely perfect for Blue as many players will be pushing to try and defeat you before you can drop your big bombs onto the field. Switcheroo takes all that racing and turns it against them. For example, let us say you are facing a Green opponent who last turn just summoned a 5/5 Elephant with trample and a bunch of 1/1 mana producing creatures while you’re sitting with a 2/2. Playing this card completely disrupts their plan of attack as now they have a worthless 2/2 while you have a 5/5 that essentially prevents their 1/1’s from attacking you. Your opponent may even end up having to sacrifice his own creatures or use a removal spell just to deal with his own creature. It is so deliciously sinister. Combine this with the return of Clone, probably my most favorite Blue card, and you could easily build a deck where you essentially play your opponent’s deck, which is just fun.
We will definitely have to return to Blue for Talrand and a few other cards, but right now let’s go to Black. Wanting to return to the original five, Wizards has giving us yet another version of Liliana and I have to say, she’s rather pointless. Liliana of the Dark Realms is a four Mana Planeswalker that starts at three loyalty, something of especially bad note when we know Ajani, Caller of the Pride comes in with four and can immediately go to five. Liliana’s first ability is a +1 that searches for a swamp and puts it in your hand. This ability is good, sort of, for cleaning out your deck so you can draw into some of your better cards, but it does not help that much. Some would call this Mana acceleration in Black, which is a nice way to think of it, but since you can only play one land per turn it’s more like Mana assurance and only if you activate Liliana’s +1. Her second ability is the only reason why Liliana might see play as it gives target creature -X/-X for every swamp you control. This is decent removal, but costing 3 loyalty has essentially put Liliana in the form of a sorcery speed removal spell that honestly might not actually kill your opponent’s biggest threat on the board. If you want swamp dependent removal, then your best choice is the recently reprinted Mutilate, which can kill everything on the board. Finally, Liliana’s ultimate ability gives you an emblem that turns all of your swamps into super swamps that give you four Black Mana instead of just one. This would be a great ability… if there was something for it to go into. There are not that many mono-black X spells, and nothing that really makes this truly awesome or usable. There is a wonderful kill players can achieve with the card Exsanguinate, and there are a few X value Board Sweepers, but nothing beyond Exsanguinate really gives players a win condition. Honestly, I’d have to say Wizards really just did not think with this version of Liliana. She’s not powerful, too expensive, does little for the board, and ultimately helps her caster very little if at all.
Moving to Red, we can happily see an old friend return to the field… and a very big one at that. Coming in at seven Mana, Hamlet Goliath is a 6/6 giant that first saw his share of battlefields in the Lorwyn era and now he is back to lay down the pain. At seven Mana, this guy cannot fit in your average early game burn deck Red. Instead he would probably work best with a Red and Green deck, or a Red Deck Wins list that wants to go to longer games. This is a key point because whenever a creature enters the battlefield under your control while Hamlet Goliath is on the field, Hamlet Goliath gets X +1/+1 counters equal to the summoned creature’s power. This guy can get big real quick and has potential to swing for continually larger points of damage. My suggestion though would be to play Hamlet Goliath then next turn, play a follow up creature that gets Hamlet Goliath up to the 10/10 range so you can use Fling to kill your opponent. My best suggestion for a new follow up creature would be Thundermaw Hellkite. Five mana for a 5/5 flyer with haste is not shabby at all, plus being able to deal 1 damage to all your opponent’s flying creatures and tap them could easily clear the way for your Hamlet Goliath with enough mana left open for a quick fling to the face.
With Red examined we head towards our last color Green, which I did discuss some last week so I will keep it brief. One creature that has potential to see play in standard is Mwonvuli Beast Tracker… yeah I have no idea how to pronounce that either. Anyway, for three Mana you get a 2/1 that when he enters the battlefield you can search for a creature with either Deathtouch, Hexproof, Reach, or Trample and place that card on top of your deck. Basically, this guy exists to give you the creature you need next turn, which means you can play a deck that operates like a tool kit, a few cards that are specific to certain situations meaning you can be more competitive against more decks. Mwonvuli Beast Tracker probably will not see immediate play due to the fact Green Sun’s Zenith is still in standard, but once Green Sun rotates out, Mwonvuli will seem pretty appealing as a tutor on a stick.
After going through all the colors I feel we should pay a little attention to a few colorless cards and see if there is anything that could draw our attention. There is in fact one very powerful colorless card we should take a look at. Door to Nothingness is a 5 Mana artifact that when triggered forces an opponent to lose the game. That’s it. No discussion, no debate, it’s just you lose. Thankfully, the trigger for Door to Nothingness is a very hard one to obtain as you first have to pay ten total Mana and two of each color at that. Add in the necessary effect of forcing the user to sacrifice Door to Nothingness helps to keep the thing balanced. So the question is, is Door to Nothingness a viable win condition? Answer: No. Is it a fun card that someone is gonna probably structure a fun casual deck around? Answer: Yes, yes indeed.
And with that ladies and gentlemen, I believe it is time to bring this article to a close. Thanks for continuing to read this series and I hope you have as much fun reading it as I do writing it. Be sure to get ready for Core Set 2013. Get to a pre-release or release party if you can and see what fun you can have. I just hope that as you sit across from your opponent, staring him down as you wait for his next move, I hope you remember that, “Etherium is Limited. Innovation is not.” This is Corlando signing out.