It is time for Pre-Release, so that means all the fun prep work we get to do to make sure we can CRUSH! Be ready for those combat tricks or silly flash creatures.
I like doing these because I get familiar with the tricks or removal spells my opponent could have. It’ll be up to you to make up your rating, but a quick read through will help you familiarize yourself with some of the things you can expect.
That time of year is upon us where we herald in a change in the standard environment by welcoming in the new core set. Today, the concern isn’t how much M15 is going to change standard, but what limited is going to look like. I know you all have so very few means of getting set reviews or strategy tid-bits, so I will try to make my contribution.
Core sets (at least in terms of limited), can generally be boiled down to games of creature combat. As a quick overview of the set as a whole:
1. Relatively low power level
2. 3/3 is pretty big, 4/4 is huge
3. There are not many big pump effects (think Giant Growth)
Knowing about the things your opponent can do at instant speed is important, but especially given the three points above, having an idea of what can happen during combat is going to serve you well.
Before we get into a breakdown by color, here are some disclaimers:
1. This isn’t necessarily a card by card evaluation, mostly a collection of instants/flash things as a tool to help keep them in mind during your pre-release.
2. I will evaluate the color as a whole only in terms of these instants/flash in the context of combat.
3. I hope this is obvious, but this doesn’t account for effects/abilities of creatures already on the board, so adjust accordingly.
4. The card text won’t always be exactly what is printed, but rather phrased in a way that’s easiest to remember.
5. Despite appearances, I have only very little idea of what I am talking about.
|Congregate||UNC||3W||Player gains 2 life for each creature in play.|
|Devouring Light||UNC||1WW||Convoke. Exile attacking or blocking creature.|
|Ephemeral Shields||COM||1W||Convoke. Creature gains Indestructible.|
|Hushwing Gryff||RARE||2W (Creature)||Flash. Flying. Creatures entering the battlefield don’t trigger abilities. 2/1|
|Meditation Puzzle||COM||3WW||Convoke. Gain 8 life.|
|Pillar of Light||COM||2W||Exile creature with toughness 4 or greater.|
|Raise the Alarm||COM||1W||Put two 1/1 white soldiers on the battlefield.|
|Sanctified Charge||COM||4W||Creatures you control get +2/+1. White creatures you control also gain first strike.|
Two situational removal spells: I like Devouring Light because despite it being more intense of a color requirement than something like Divine Judgment, it is cheaper. And two bonuses, it exiles and maybe even more importantly, convoke can turn it into more of a surprise. Pillar of Light is something I’ll play but there aren’t that many 4 or more toughness creatures. That being said, it will be hard to deal with 4 toughness creatures, this is a safe hedge.
2 “combat” tricks: Ephemeral Shields not granting a boost to power and toughness seems underwhelming, but most creatures in the set are capable of trading with one another so it helps win those battles. Even with convoke this isn’t exciting. We also get Sanctified Charge. This card seems like it could be sweet. White has a bunch of small creatures and ways to create them. This will be something easy to spot when your opponent is keeping it, but chaining Raise the Alarms into this seems like it will be sweet.
Overall, coming out of white there is only one way to boost power and toughness and it should be easy to spot. Combat against white should be easy in this regard. The situational removal spells can also be played around. Convoke on Devouring Light is just something to keep in mind and regarding Pillar of Light, I can honestly see some decks dodging this entirely.
|Aetherspouts||RARE||3UU||Attacking creatures are put onto the top or bottom of their owner’s library.|
|Chronostutter||COM||5U||Put creature into owner’s library second from the top.|
|Dissipate||UNC||1UU||Counter spell. Exile it instead of graveyard.|
|Hydrosurge||COM||U||-5/-0 to a creature.|
|Jace’s Ingenuity||UNC||3UU||Draw 3 cards.|
|Negate||COM||1U||Counter noncreature spell.|
|Peel from Reality||COM||1U||Return a creature you control and a creature you don’t control to hand.|
|Polymorphist’s Jest||RARE||1UU||Each creature opponent control’s becomes a 1/1 frog with no abilities until EOT.|
|Quickling||UNC||1U (creature)||Flash. Flying. Sac this until you return a creature to your hand. 2/2|
|Statute of Denial||COM||2UU||Counter spell. If you control a blue creature, draw a card then discard a card.|
|Turn to Frog||UNC||1U||Creature becomes a 1/1 frog and loses abilities until EOT.|
Typical blue in the sense of instants being counters, some card draw, and tempo plays. There aren’t really removal spells. Obviously Turn to Frog and it’s rare version can get the job done but will require some setting up, and sometimes it’s just what you’ll have to do to get rid of that bomb. Chronostutter and the rare version will be decent tempo plays. They are expensive so play them accordingly, but there will be times where all you (or an opponent) need is an extra turn or two. Lastly, Peel from Reality and all of it’s applications ranging from tempo to just saving one of your creatures.
Blue has two rare instant speed tricks. Keep them in mind but most of the time it’s going to be hard to play around them. It is unfortunate that both of them punish the player that is “going wide” with a lot of creatures.
Hydrosurge isn’t worth playing. I know I will get gotten at least once, nonetheless it’s still a no.
|Flesh to Dust||COM||3BB||Destroy creature. Cannot be regenerated.|
|Necrobite||COM||2B||Creature gets deathtouch until EOT. Regenerate it.|
|Ulcerate||UNC||B||Creature gets -3/-3 until EOT. Lose 3 life.|
|Unmake the Graves||COM||4B||Convoke. Return 2 creatures from your graveyard to hand.|
Not much in the way of instants that can affect combat. But so far, the most power that we have seen in terms of instants. Flesh to Dust is our first premium removal spell in that it isn’t conditional. It does cost 5 and is color intensive, but I’m still game. Ulcerate also is going to kill most things. There are a bunch of ways for black to pay/lose life though so these effects are worse in multiples (hopefully your opponent doesn’t know this). Necrobite is better than Ephemeral Shields in white. It does cost more and does not have convoke but allows your creatures to trade up. The same analysis applies in that it doesn’t boost power, but I’d rather have this effect.
|Blastfire Bolt||COM||5R||5 damage to creature. Destroy all equipment attached to it.|
|Crowd’s Favor||COM||R||Convoke. Creature gets +1/+0 and first strike until EOT.|
|Heat Ray||UNC||XR||X damage to creature.|
|Lightning Strike||COM||1R||3 damage to creature or player.|
|Shrapnel Blast||UNC||1R||Sac an artifact in addition to the cost. 5 damage to creature or player.|
|Stoke the Flames||UNC||2RR||Convoke. 4 damage to creature or player.|
This feels very red, and I’m excited. I don’t think I need to discuss Lightning Strike, Heat Ray, or Stoke the Flames. Those are all just good. All pretty efficient and will kill everything. Blastfire Bolt will definitely kill everything but is a bit of a trap, 6 is really expensive. Shrapnel Blast doesn’t seem worth it because there probably won’t be enough artifacts in your deck, just be aware with the person who plays one of the Staves and keeps up 1R. Most importantly, I actually like Crowd’s Favor. Since most combat will be about 2/2’s running into each other, this card is the trump, with convoke to boot! I’m excited for red, I may have said that.
In summation, this will be the color that despite not having many combat tricks, combat will become difficult because the amount of damage based removal available to the red mage means trading up won’t be hard. And rethink that Alpha Strike when you’re at 5 or less life.
|Back to Nature||UNC||1G||Destroy all enchantments.|
|Chord of Calling||RARE||XGGG||Convoke. Search your library for a creature with CMC X or less and put it into play.|
|Gather Courage||UNC||G||Convoke. Creature gets +2/+2 until EOT.|
|Hunter’s Ambush||COM||2G||Prevent all combat damage to nongreen creatures until EOT.|
|Naturalize||COM||1G||Destroy an artifact or enchantment.|
|Plummet||COM||1G||Destroy creature with flying.|
|Ranger’s Guile||COM||G||Creature gets +1/+1 and hexproof until EOT.|
|Titanic Growth||COM||1G||Creature gets +4/+4 until EOT.|
If Red was very Red, Green is Very Green. There are two common pumps and one uncommon pump. Greens creatures are, unsurprisingly, the biggest in the set so the Green mage won’t need these to win combat. I wouldn’t play around the Fog for green creatures card, but be aware of it. The card I know I am going to always be thinking of is Gather Courage. The single color convoke spells are going to be powerful. Block, tap to pay via convoke, then blow you out series of plays will happen a bunch. Naturalize and Back to Nature will be in the board.
THE ENDING STATEMENT
I know that a typical set review would have probably been more engaging, but that is all out there already. I know nothing I have said here is particularly groundbreaking, but I hope it’s helpful. I know one of the things I try to hammer into my head is “what could my opponent have to make this attack terrible” and other similar thoughts, when a new set comes out. Like I said before, I think this is helpful for Core Sets especially. I know those silly tables I’ve created have helped in the past, so I hope my attempt to pay it forward helps you as well… Except if you play against me.
Next time we meet it’ll be in the form of some sweet Magic Online videos. Thanks for stopping by and do Ryan and I the biggest favor, tell everyone you know how super great we are and to watch our videos and visit ManaBluff.com
Yes, Theros is here. Well, in paper at least. Soon enough it will be online and all the ManaBluff glory will continue. For now, I’ve got a fun paper Magic post. Those were my draft packs on my awesome playmat. Unfortunately I did not open any of those cards whose images are pictured. But what I did open …
Ended up drafting Black/Red with a Blue splash. The deck was fun and all of my matches felt slow enough where I wasn’t too worried about the relatively high curve and my lacking in the two drop slot. I initially attempted the draft the black devotion deck as I got the Grey Merchant, the Disciple, and the Insatiable Harpy all in the first pack. I ended up getting some late red in the form of Lightning Strike as well so I picked it up. Pack two I opened the Ember Swallower and that card is awesome. Picked up some of the “ramp” and fixers in the forms of the Amulet and the Elk, so I knew my blue splash wouldn’t be all that difficult.
The way the deck played was interesting in the sense that I may not have had the most cohesive strategy. I was on the draw every game because I knew my deck wanted to draw and go late. Two plans of attack. 1) Stall and chip away at life totals until I had a substantial enough devotion count for my Gray Merchant to be awesome, or 2) “Ramp” into Ember Swallower’s monstrous and deny my opponent lands. In the draft my goal was the pull off the devotion deck but what ended up happening was that I wasn’t ever really in a position to finish off opponents with devotion (I also was never able to loop a Gray Merchant with a Rescue from the Underworld). The more successful games were where I used the second plan of attack listed above, or a combination thereof.
Like I said, the format felt slow enough where I was able to pull this all off. Combat feels really interesting because of all the conditional removal and the fact that games are going later. I found myself thinking about combat tricks a fair bit more than I have in M14. These are all just really quick observations based on a couple rounds of one draft, so take them with a grain of salt. That being said, I am super excited for Theros online.
Take a look at the deck. Ask me any questions about the deck itself, certain cards, or even other decks/cards I played against. I didn’t write a full tournament report because well, I intended this post to be slightly more global in perspective, in terms of Theros as a whole.
But wait, there’s more …
Below you will find a spreadsheet of all the instants and flash creatures in Theros. Keep in mind this does not contain any of the sorceries, so being successful when it comes to Theros limited is going to require a little bit more homework on your part. This will, I hope, be helpful when it comes to keeping in mind what your opponent may or may not have in hand. It is a public google doc so you should all be able to pull it up on a phone or your computer for use whenever.
When it comes to the actual wording of the cards, in some (most) instances I shortened it so that typing (yes, I did not copy and paste) would be quicker. This means that I often left things out like “until end of turn,” but I’m hoping you will realize this, or else Theros combat tricks would just be absurd.