Magic: The Gathering is expanding…again…and we take a look at some of the new cards. Assemble your deck!
Well, it’s that time of the year again in the world of Magic: the Gathering. The second expansion of the Ravnica block, Gatecrash, is about to be released, and tournament play will never be the same. As each new set is released in this block, it’s always good to look back at the sets released before it to see how it will integrate itself successfully.
Now, I started playing Magic this year, so my knowledge of the game doesn’t extend far past M13. Luckily, M13 is as far back as I need to go to write this article (yay convenience!) so let’s start there. Semantic note: with the exception of the Black/White deck that will be discussed later, none of the topics I’m discussing today are mechanics focused, unlike Return to Ravnica or Gatecrash. Instead, I’m going to focus on what each intro deck offered tried to do, as that is Wizard of the Coast’s stated intention with the set, and thus a very good place to start. Cool? Let’s get started.
(Actually, one more side note: those of you who don’t play Magic should probably read this first to understand what the hell I’m talking about)
White/Blue: The Soldier Spawner
So, as a general rule, it’s nice to have more creatures on the field than your opponent for obvious reasons. This becomes even more true when Odric, Master Tactician is on the case, as his ability allows him to choose how an opponent blocks (or doesn’t block, as is often the case) as long as he has three or more other creatures to lead into battle.
As such, the White/Blue combination presented in M13 is one that creates as many creatures as physically possible. Attended Knight is a perfect example of such a card, as it creatures a 1/1 soldier token in addition to being an awesome 2/2 with first strike. Captain’s Call gives you three soldier tokens for four mana, which is quite useful in a pinch. Of course, Captain of the Watch is the true hero of this deck, bringing three soldier tokens (all buffed and given Vigilance) and having as much power and toughness as there are creatures on the field. Throw in an Ajani, Caller of the Pride, and what more could you need? Summoning swarms of soldiers to charge into battle never felt so good.
Blue/Red: Total Control
Let’s face it: there is nothing more frustrating in this world than being helpless to stop enemy attacks. That’s why the Blue/Red combo deck in M13 is designed specifically to frustrate your opponents all game long. Low level monsters like Kraken Hatchling (0/4) and Fog Bank (0/2, Flying, does not take combat damage) slow opponents nearly to a crawl. Red spells like Searing Spear take out any remaining threats, while spells like Sleep help you bide time and get you into the late stages of the game.
What happens then? Well, with Jace, Memory Adept, you can try to mill your opponent, combining it with Spelltwine for maximum value, or you can just use all of the fliers. Seriously, Blue has a ton of fliers in M13, and Talrand, Sky Summoner will give you more of them just by using your own instants and sorceries. Now that’s awesome!
Now, this is arguable, but I believe the central feature of Red in M13, other than just killing all the things with Flames of the Firebrand, is its use of Goblins. Goblins aren’t necessarily the most intelligent creatures on the planet (see Mogg Flunkies for evidence of that; can’t even attack without someone else telling them what to do), but they are relatively strong, and creatures like Krenko, Mob Boss and sorceries like Krenko’s Command can give you more of them really quickly. Sure, it doesn’t have the grace of the White/Blue Solider spawner, but the brute force available when you use the Arms Dealer effectively makes the goblin deck more than viable in its own right.
That said, the two most fun Red cards in the set are not goblin related. The Thundermaw Hellkite is a massive dragon that will decimate any fliers your opponent may have built up (it can single-handedly destroy that Blue/Red control deck if not dealt with immediately). Oh, and did I mention Red also has Chandra, the Firebrand, who can let you cast spells twice while whittling away at your opponents life total? Because I should probably mention that.
Green/Black: All the Power!
Green is probably the simplest colour to understand in M13, as the focus of the set is almost entirely based on domination through sheer power and toughness. Arbor Elf is there to help you ramp into stronger creatures like the Sentinel Spider and Duskdale Wurm. Garruk’s Packleader is great to help you widen any potential advantage you may have over your opponent, and Garruk, Primal Hunter can produce 3/3 beasts all day long, and a deadly swarm of worms if you don’t deal with him quickly enough.
The most interesting cards in the set have a little bit of a twist to them. Yeva, Nature’s Herald turns every creature into a sneak attack, which is invaluable in its ability to give Green combat tricks (which, let’s face it, is rather rare). The Elderscale Wurm, should you be fortunate enough to find one, makes it nearly impossible to have your life drop below 7 while also being a 7/7 in its own right. Oh, and Thragtusk became a must have in practically every competitive deck, as well as one of the most expensive cards in the set, bestowing life upon entry onto the battlefield and leaving a creature behind once killed. Seems legit to me.
Finally, we reach the one that’s actually based on a card mechanic! Exalted triggers every time a creature on your side of the field attacks alone. For each exalted trigger present on your side of the field (mostly creatures, though Cathedral of War is a great land and a must have for every exalted deck), the attacking creature gains +1/+1 for the turn. This allows you to attack with one incredibly powerful creature while leaving the rest back to block. The attacking creature doesn’t even have to have Exalted for this to work; as long as something on your side of the field has Exalted and your creature attacks alone, the triggers will all activate. This is especially useful if you can sneak a flier over enemy lines.
While there are many great cards that use Exalted well (*cough* Vampire Nighthawk and Angelic Benediction *cough*), there are two that stand above the rest. First, Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis is a powerful flier with Exalted that forces your opponent to sacrifice a creature each time it attacks. That’s double the decimation in one card. Awesome. Also, my favourite card in all of M13, Sublime Archangel, is a 4/3 flier with Exalted for 2 and 2 white, which would be enough to make it a rare creature in its own right. However, its most powerful ability by far bestows an Exalted trigger on each of your creatures, greatly amplifying your exalted potential. What’s that? You say your creatures already have Exalted? Well, congratulations, Sublime Archangel just made them doubly Exalted, as their original trigger and the newly bestowed trigger occur separately. The amount of power you can gain quickly cannot be overstated.
So that’s it for M13! Let me know in the comments below which one of these sound right for you, and come back next week for my look at the mechanics in Return to Ravnica as we continue our preparation for Gatecrash.