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Archive for the ‘Spoilers’ Category

Working on my article for ManaNation this week I started looking closely at Joraga Treespeaker. Here’s the spoiler again for reference:

Forget the last ability. Joraga Treespeaker basically reads as follows:

Joraga Treespeaker G

Echo 1G

tap: add GG to your mana pool

1/2

This is some crazy ramp! In your opener you drop it on turn 1, then the second turn you level it up once and immediately have another 2 mana open which you can use for whatever two drop you would have played without levelling, like Overgrown Battlement. Turn 3 you untap with 6 mana available, even with just Treespeaker you’ve still got 5. Lotus Cobra is too slow to keep up with this uncommonly powerful elf!

Looking at other mana ramp strategies brought me to Conley’s Magical Christmas Land deck from Worlds, which would get ahead on mana with Cobra, Khalni Heart Expedition and Harrow and then put the opponent way behind with land destruction spells. When your opponent is stranded permanently in stage 1 with just one or two lands they will have no answer to big dudes like Rampaging Baloths. While a mono-green Treespeaker based version obviously can’t top its curve with Violent Ultimatum, there are a couple of other options at 8 mana I’d like to try – Terastodon, and Ulamog’s Crusher. Now that you know where I’m coming from, here’s an off the cuff list.

Christmas Tree

21 Forest

4 Eldrazi Temple

4 Joraga Treespeaker

4 Llanowar Elves

4 Overgrown Battlement

4 Growth Spasm

3 Awakening Zone

3 Garruk Wildspeaker

4 Acidic Slime

4 Mold Shambler

3 Terastodon

4 Ulamog’s Crusher

2 Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre

This list is about as rough as it gets, and I really think some more land destruction spells would be good. A red splash for maindeck Ruinblaster or Demolish might be worth investigating but I want to give the mono-green version a try first of all. Keeping the opponent off their mana while presenting diverse problems like Garruk and Awakening Zone should in theory buy us time to land one of the big game enders, which could be as early as turn 4. Feel free to discuss the idea or offer suggestions in the comments, if you give it a go in testing please let me know how it works out.

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Abyssal Persecutor

Remember what I said about hype last week? Well, the internet has latched onto one of the latest spoilers and proclaimed it the second coming. Check out Abyssal Persecutor: http://www.mananation.com/abyssal-persecutor-worldwake/

SCG and CoolStuffInc are already preordering this guy at $20, which seems like a ludicrous price to me. That’s above Baneslayer’s presell price.

First of all, the points in his favour. A 6/6 flying, trampling dude is obviously way above the expected power level for a 4 mana, mono-coloured creature. This will take a 20-life opponent to 0 in four swings by itself, and could be profitably employed in either an aggro deck or a control deck as a finisher. How does this compare to the other finishers in the format? Well, the obvious comparisons are to Malakir Bloodwitch, Baneslayer Angel, Broodmate Dragon and Sphinx of Jwar Isle. The Persecutor has a bigger power and toughness than any of these (though with Broodmate putting down two 4/4s the point is arguable), and at a cheaper cost to boot!

His downside is not deal-breaking either, as black has plenty of ways to destroy its own creatures – Gatekeeper of Malakir, Bone Splinters, Fleshbag Marauder, Terminate, a big Tendrils of Corruption, etcetera; so once your opponent is at negative life you just need to dispose of your no-longer-useful demonic servant and win the game.

That said, the downside is not a non-factor. You do need to have that way to kill him when you’re finished. Whether this means holding a removal spell that would otherwise clear the way for your team, playing otherwise less optimal cards like Vampire Aristocrat or Carnage Altar, or giving up a few precious turns trying to topdeck an answer to your own creature while your opponent turns the game around, there will be times when you really feel the impediment of being unable to win the game.

In addition, he is unfortunately weak against a couple of the dominant creatures in the format – Baneslayer Angel and Wall of Denial. Baneslayer’s seemingly trivial protection abilities have become very useful recently, protecting her from Halo Hunter, Bogardan Hellkite and now Abyssal Persecutor. He can almost never win a straight race against the Angel, and he can’t even be held back to block as protection lets her sail right on by. Wall of Denial sniggers at his pathetic 6 power, and rolls its eyes at both flying and trample.

I feel this is another case of a mythic rare being overrated and overhyped. With presell prices flying ever higher even as I write this, I feel Abyssal Persecutor will be Worldwake’s Lotus Cobra – initially disappointing, but eventually a role-player with the potential for brokenness if the right environment emerges… and an ever-falling price tag.

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Congratulations to wizards for keeping Worldwake so firmly under wraps, we have barely a smidge of the set available and official spoilers are starting this week, I believe. While Gwafa’s Bazaar was not lucky enough to recieve a spoiler I can offer the savvy traders out there some advice to prepare for the onslaught to come. Note that all cards and decks mentioned here are hypothetical and used only as examples of the sort of things that might happen in spoiler season.

1. Stay tuned to spoiler outlets

The MTGSalvation Rumour Mill collects every spoiler, official and unofficial – eventually. Those few short hours between a card being previewed on a blog or on twitter and it going up on the MTGS spoiler page can be the difference between an existing, undervalued card being in plenty of stock and it selling out – or, just as bad, it rising in price. This is especially notable on Magic Online where speculators can easily clear out bots in very short order, and some bots are programmed to raise prices in response to a run on a card. Keep your browser pointed at the mothership, SCG, ManaNation, MTGCast and anywhere else you expect to see spoilers posted. Twitter is also great for this as new cards are endlessly retweeted and discussed.

2. Get Liquid

Now is the time to sell off those moderately gaining investments that seem to have stalled and get some cash or tickets ready. In order to respond quickly to spoilers you need liquid assets – there is no point listing some ebay auctions or scouring buylists while everyone else is buying up all the foil Mindless Nulls they can find for that hot new deck people are talking about. Sell off now so you can afford a ticket on the wild ride of spoiler season.

3. Don’t believe the hype

Not every new card is going to be a winner, even though you will find segments of the community that will say that any new rare is completely broken. Check out my article on Quiet Speculation for examples of some mega-hyped flops that never lived up to their promise and lost a lot of value as a result. There are a few simple rules that can help you drive through the hype to find the real worth of the card, the easiest of which is – how does this compare to what we already have? For example, a hypothetical fat blue-red flying creature is previewed in Worldwake. The decks that this might obviously go in are RWU and RBU control – but these decks already have Baneslayer Angel and Sphinx of Jwar Isle, so unless our new toy fits into those decks better than the existing rivals it doesn’t matter how much the rumour mill rants and raves about it, it is probably not worth as much as they think it is.

4. Do believe the hype

Or is it? Sometimes mere hype is enough to set up a great deal. If the internet hive-mind has declared merfolk the new “best deck” but you’re not buying it, that doesn’t mean you can’t make a profit. If you can grab Merfolk Sovereigns early enough, then when the hype pushes the price up in the short term you can sell them off for some quick bucks. In this scenario you will need to keep track of all new spoilers though, as another spoiled card may make the hive-mind’s declaration correct!

5. Most cards go down after release

Following on from the points about hype, most cards go down in price from the price they presell at. This is inevitable – most cards are not tournament worthy, though people often think they will be. Don’t buy up everything you can on release as most of them will be losing investments – pick and choose carefully. It is usually better to miss one surprise hit, than to buy ten losers.

This is all pretty much common sense but it is good to be reminded, and this is the perfect time to do so. I’m as excited as any of you about the new set, I can’t wait to see whats in store! I won’t be posting on every spoiler, just the ones that catch my eye as good investments – or overhyped dud. Catch up with me on twitter for more spoiler thoughts.

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FNM & New Jace

First off a big thankyou to everyone who has been retweeting my posts this week, especially Trick from Mananation who named “The Price of Extended” his Excellent Series of the Week. I’ll be continuing the series from Monday, hopefully winding up Christmas Eve so I can take a bit of a break!

Before I get down to discussing the new Jace, a bit of self-aggrandizement. I played the last FNM of the year this Friday, standard constructed. I was playing Boros Bushwhacker with nothing too spicy maindeck, but 3 Manabarbs out of the side were my best card by far, and I brought them in every match as I didn’t face the mirror or monored. Just quickly, the matches:

Aaron, WR Valakut, 2-0: First game was a blowout as Aaron had borrowed the deck, kept a bad hand, and misplayed by Earthquaking for 2 when I had a fetch on the board to save my guys. Second game was closer as he kept something like 3 lands and 4 board sweepers, but my Manabarbs meant he had to take damage removing my guys and my burn finished him off. He never got Valakut online.

Simon, Eldrazi Green, 2-0: Simon seemed pretty new to his deck as well, as I don’t think he was correctly using his Nissa. I mulliganed to 5 and kept a one lander in the first game, but topdecked fetchlands like a hero to put him on 2. He should have gained life here but made a guy instead, and I drew a Lightning Bolt to kill him. Second game Ajani V came in and kept Nissa’s Chosen off the table long enough for me to win.

Anthony, Jacerator, 2-0: Anthony kept a slow hand in the first game and Steppe Lynxes took him down in short order. He Jedi-ed me good this game, on 2 life he asked matter-of-factly “Burst Lightning for the win?” and I showed him the one in my hand. He quickly Negated it, maybe planning to untap and Wrath, but I showed him the Lightning Bolt also in my hand to finish it. Game 2 he tapped out for something, Manabarbs came down next to my creatures, and the game state became impossible for him.

Michael, Big Naya, 2-1: Michael was paired up against me, having drawn his first round against a lifegain deck featuring Celestial Mantle. He was playing Behemoth Sledge and Baneslayer Angels, and I thought this would be a terrible matchup. Fortunately the first game I got the god-draw and it was over on turn 4. Second game I think he brought in Naya Charms, and I brought in something – not Manabarbs, as I thought his lifegain would negate their effect.

Big mistake! I couldn’t draw removal for his t-2 Woolly Thoctar, and it picked up a Behemoth Sledge. My Goblin Guides drew him about 50 lands this game and it was messy for me, I should have taken them out. Game 3 I was on the play, and I sided in my Manabarbs. I kept a hand of 3 removal spells, Steppe Lynx and lands, and drew into a Ranger of Eos. I had removed his Thoctar with a Journey to Nowhere, and landed Ranger followed by Manabarbs – I held the alpha strike in hand and attacked my 3/2 into his empty board, and eventually he realised death was inevitable. He severely misplayed on the first turn I attacked with Ranger – he tapped it with his Naya Charm, forgetting its 3 damage mode, which would have made things closer.

So I had some luck through opponent misplays, but I think my play was fairly tight, my deck was good and I earned first place at 4-0! Aaron – a good friend of mine who I played in round 1 – and I pack wars-ed the packs straight after, and I ripped a Marsh Flats amongst other things. Enough bragging, on to the latest  spoiler and what cards you should be looking to pick up in light of…

Jace, the Mind Sculptor

Jace is the first planeswalker to have four abilites! They are pretty wordy as well, as far as planeswalker abilities go. When it comes to evaluating complicated cards like this I like to find analogous spells or abilities on older cards, that I already know how to evaluate. So, looking at Jace through that lens, he becomes:

Jace, the Mindscupltor 2UU (3 loyalty)

+2 Fateseal 1

+0 Brainstorm, sorcery speed

-1 Unsummon

-12 Practically win the game

The fateseal ability seems marginal at first glance, though Patrick Chapin wrote a very compelling case for control needing card selection since its answers were so limited these days. This is the ability I will most need to play with to determine its worth.

Brainstorm is one of the more powerful things you can do with U, especially with fetchlands in the format to shuffle away bad cards. This is a free brainstorm every turn, it doesn’t even cost you a card! Taking a cue from Alex over at Channel Fireball, my initial Planeswalker Algorithm for new Jace is “do I need to unsummon something? If not, brainstorm.” That might just turn into “Brainstorm” after playtesting, this ability is pretty incredible.

Unsummon is always handy, but it gains a tempo advantage by giving the opponent card advantage. Jace’s ability doesn’t give card disadvantage, its just pure tempo. This ability makes fatties worse as Unsummon is practically Time Walk the turn after your opponent plays, say, Baneslayer Angel.

The last ability is very scary for your opponent, but it takes 5 turns to charge it up using the mediocre Fateseal ability. It does mean that if you’re charging Jace up, the opponent has to spend resources to destroy him.

What does that all mean?

First thing’s first, Jace will definitely be played, and he will definitely be expensive at release unless he is a promo. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is the prerelease or release promo, as they often spoil those cards earlier than others. Hype is particularly important with planeswalker prices, as you can see by Sarkhan Vol’s initial valuation, and the early buzz on Jace is that he is great.

With all this top of the deck manipulation, many evaluations of other cards have to shift. Fetchlands become even more amazing, as if you don’t like the cards at the top of your deck you can shuffle them away. Some folks – eg. Joey from Affinity for Islands – have suggested Lorescale Coatl should pair up with the brainstorm ability, which is pretty tasty – becoming a 5/5 on turn 4, or turn 3 if you’ve accelerated it out. 6/6 with Noble Hierarch! I think blue/green Lorescale is worth exploring, probably with white as well.

Archmage Ascension is also pointed out by Joey, but I really don’t think this will be worthwhile. It’s still 6 turns of work to get the Ascension online, assuming your opponent doesn’t Pulse it, or Esper Charm it, or Oblivion Ring it, or Vampire Hexmage it. Sure once you complete the quest you are looking good, but by then you have drawn a third of your deck! I just don’t see it happening. With card selection and shuffle effects from other cards you should be able to find what you need.

This post is already long enough, so for homework I want you to go to gatherer or magiccards.info and track down every card that benefits from being able to manipulate the top of your library, or unsummoning every turn, or just from blue becoming good – which is not assured just from Jace, of course, but he is a step in the right direction. If there were a mono-blue control deck, or blue white or blue black, what would it use as its finisher? If you are playing a blue deck at the moment, how would new Jace fit in? Please discuss in the comments, and we’ll be back into the Price of Extended on Monday.

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So our first Worldwake spoilers are here, the reprint Smother and the mildly interesting Leatherback Baloth. Smother is the more interesting of the two for me, but I’ll just quickly look at the  big vanilla dude.

A 3 mana 4/5 is way ahead of the curve, but unfortunately not in a very relevant way. Creatures have come a long way since Phyrexian Ironfoot was a strong early dude in control decks a couple of years ago. Tarmogoyf is great because he is splashable, and 2 mana is a lot less than 3. 3 mana these days buys you Rhox War Monk, Knight of the Reliquary, Sprouting Thrinax or Woolly Thoctar. Unless Eldrazi Green is really hanging out for a cheap fat vanilla dude, I can’t see a current deck that will want him and be able to pay GGG either. Is there enough linear green stuff like Timbermaw Larva that a mono-green stompy type deck could emerge? Or Beasts tribal? Leatherback Baloth is efficient enough to be considered, but I don’t think the effect is powerful enough for the restrictive mana cost.

Much more interestingly though is the reprinting of Smother! 1B kills any 3CMC or less creature on the table, even regenerating ones. This bins nearly every creature in Mono-Red and Boros, all the “better than Leatherback Baloth” creatures mentioned above as well as Vampire Nighthawk, as well as mana-accelerants like Lotus Cobra and Noble Hierarch and combo enablers like Hedron Crab – cheers to twitter for brainstorming with me. Unfortunately for Smother’s prospects it is entering a crowded market. Doom Blade, Hideous End, Disfigure, Gatekeeper of Malakir – it is a good time to kill things with black spells.

Terminate is the most imposing rival, answering all the questions Smother does – excepting Valeron Outlander – as well as 4+ mana creatures like Baneslayer Angel. The only reason a deck would want to play Smother over Terminate is if it can’t pay the red, but mono-black decks have Tendrils of Corruption and the WBG Junk decks have Path to Exile. Perhaps if there’s a UB deck in Worldwake that wants to kill your early dudes it will want Smother, but in the current meta I think it would likely be Terminate or Tendrils 5&6. The comparison to Terminate is quite useful – by looking at Black Lotus Project’s graphs we can see that Planeshift Terminate took a price hit after its reprinting, it’ll be interesting to see what effect reprinting has on Onslaught Smother. Will another 7 years of extended legality see it rise, or will the glut of new pretty Worldwake ones sink it without a trace?

These early spoilers are great fodder for card speculators – although neither of these cards in particular is likely to shake the metagame up, if we see anything that might strengthen blue – like the rumoured but unconfirmed new counterspell – it is a good idea to think about what sort of current cards might go into a blue deck with counterspells. Similarly a card that could help Vampires deal with its particular difficulties in the metagame, or that could deal efficiently with planeswalkers, would shift valuations of various existing cards. Making these early calls requires intimate knowledge of the current available sets and the tournament metagame, as well as quick card evaluation skills and the ability to conceptualise new decks rapidly. I’ve tried to examine the above spoilers with this in mind but I certainly don’t claim to have mastered all these skills, and I’d love to hear peoples thoughts on the new cards in the comments.

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