Shards of Extended

Shards of Extended

The problem with writing about a new set rotating into Extended at present is less what's going in and more what's going on. In my previous article, we saw what sets were leaving, what cards' absence will affect the format, and how to make due without those cards. As a result, speculation of what's worth the investment in Extended is twofold - what cards would normally have an effect? What cards will have an effect with so many old cards leaving the format, with the still somewhat ambiguous effect that has on Extended?

Before we start looking at what cards are great, awful or somewhere in between, let's take a peek at what mechanics are coming in with each shard and what they bring to the table.

Mechanics Showcase:

Bant-
Exalted
Whenever a creature you control attacks alone, that creature gets +1/+1 until end of turn.
Creature decks in Extended right now mostly all come in swarms of some form, meaning this mechanic is useless with Decree of Justice tokens and requires you to hold men other than Granny Goyf back from the red zone. It is imperative that you keep at least some defensive formation up against other aggro decks, even if you're just playing control. The Exalted keyword does nothing to support either swarm attack or defense.

Esper-
Colorfacts
Artifact creatures and artifacts with colored mana costs.
While not a keyword, the use of "Artifact-ifying" cards is nothing new to Extended. Affinity, in all of its forms, is primed to sweep into Extended and on the back of new tricks available through Esper-aligned cards. It is an obvious addition to decks in Extended, both current and yet to appear.

Grixis-
Unearth
Cost: Return this card from your graveyard to play. It gains haste. Remove it from the game at end of turn or if it would leave play. Unearth only as a sorcery.
The unearth mechanic should be familiar to players and particularly useful to Extended aficionados who got to be unfair with free spells and creature playing Friggorid last season. The mechanic interacts well with the deck's heavy dredge use and one card in particular stands out. Though few unearth cards are effective and cost effective enough to eat up deck space, it's too early to turn a blind eye to unearth cards as it is easily one of the more broken new mechanics.

Jund-
Devour
As this comes into play, you may sacrifice any number of creatures. This creature comes into play with that many +1/+1 counters on it. (Note: Devour can be greater than 1)
The Red Shard's mechanic has beneficial side effects on some cards beyond adding +1/+1 counters. Unfortunately, none of them are very, if at all, relevant in Extended, which is what I'm writing about. The "additional devour effects" are very interesting spins on a seemingly bland mechanic and I'm glad there was foresight in spicing the effect up on some cards.

Naya-
Enormous
Similar to Scourge's "mo' mana, mo' problems" theme, positive interactions with creatures power 5 or greater.
Reminiscent of cards like Dragon Breath, which was probably the only playable card using the thematic ability, Naya's inclusion in Shards has never seen even remote play. As is usually the case, when you control a 5+ power creature, anything tacked onto it through additional cards is likely "win more."


Bills in a Short Stack:

With that out of the way, I can get down and dirty with my analysis of Shards in Extended. Expect some changes, expect more of the same, expect some changes in what is more or less the same. But most importantly, look below for what should (or shouldn't) be rearing its head at your PTQs next season:

White
Battlegrace Angel 3WW
Creature - Angel
Flying
Exalted
Whenever a creature you control attacks alone, it gains lifelink until end of turn.
4/4

Exalted Angel, the card its new reflexive-keyworded friend references, still exists in Extended. The benefits of Battlegrace Angel are few in comparison to its predecessor. Attacking with another creature gives it +1/+1 and lifelink, on its own it deals 5 damage and it doesn't cost 6. Additionally, it will never have an early-game discount of being flipped over for 4 mana and only gets its power bonus and lifelink ability attacking solo, making a stacked-Angel field only worth the additional +1/+1 and double lifelink. Considering Exalted Angel is still unplayed in an increasingly aggressive format, this should not break any new ground in Extended.

Dispeller's Capsule W
Artifact
2W,t, sacrifice Dispeller's Capsule: Destroy target artifact or enchantment.

This new "Spellbomb" is a valid target for Trinket Mage, who adds artifact/enchantment removal to his already substantial resume. Effective turn one Seal of Cleansing is not the worst use of deck space. It is fairly expensive for what it does, which is to say that it can come in turn one and kill Bitterblossom on the play, but can at worst take part in a Trinket-box and recur with Academy Ruins.

Elspeth, Knight Errant 2WW
Planeswalker - Elspeth
+1: Put a 1/1 white Soldier creature token into play.
+1: Target creature gets +3/+3 and gains flying until end of turn.
-8: For the rest of the game, all artifacts, creatures, enchantments and lands you control are indestructible.
4

I will look at each planeswalker, regardless of quality, for the sake of this review for two reasons: one, the planeswalker card type is still very new and at a relatively high power level because of this, and two, it is easy for cards with this "innate" power level to have larger effects on the format with nothing else going for them.

Flying Giant Growth and Keljorian Outpost for a beneficial cost are never bad things to have. The greater issue with Elspeth is that other planeswalkers with similar abilities, while not always at the cost of increasing your loyalty count, have much wider reach in winning the game outright. Why push out 1/1 creatures at sorcery speed and give one creature +3/+3 and evasion when you can push out 3/3 dudes and Overrun your opponent with the same grace? I've heard this compared to a white Bitterblossom, but it comes at double the cost and higher vulnerability in an environment less likely to maindeck enchantment removal than attacking creatures and burn spells.

The "Ultimate" ability is also one of the worst; by the time you trigger the ability, you should either have the game in your pocket or be in a world of hurt, and making your other permanents indestructible does little to stymie that.

Ethersworn Canonist 1W
Artifact Creature - Human Cleric
Each player who has played a nonartifact spell this turn can't play additional nonartifact spells.
2/2

Erayo, Soratomi Ascendant has a new friend in town. The clunky 3cc of Rule of Law makes it hard to fit with Erayo, as does its inability to do anything other than sit there after it comes into play and slow you down. Putting a body on it, lowering the cost, making it an artifact creature and, most importantly, allowing you to play artifacts unhindered break the Erayo-lock concept.

Alternatively, the control decks of the format lose some key effects: Counterspell is gone along with other counters, Sensei's Divining Top's absence removed the Counterebalance/Top lock. With the general speed of Affinity coupled with a spell-lock effect (as well as game-slowing effect from the Canonist's static ability) gives Erayo-Affinity a fighting chance at breaking into the format. Beware of the Affinity hate that will be common to Extended post rotation before venturing with the Aggro-Control deck.

Knight of the White Orchid WW
Creature - Human Knight
First Strike
When Knight of the White Orchid comes into play, if an opponent controls more lands than you, you may search your library for a Plains card, put it into play, then shuffle your library.
2/2

This Knight is a 2/2 with first strike for 2. Already, we're at the curve. Its additional effect is what makes it really stand out; fetching any Plains card and putting it directly into play has the potential to accelerate you and color fix, if not at least put you on the level with land. It looks almost like an aggressive white Sakura-Tribe Elder, although it's unlikely white can abuse the effect as well as green but does have potential to take advantage of the well-curved body.

Without an obvious deck for the card, White Orchid's presence may not be felt until after the format stabilizes further and a deck that can truly take advantage of its considerably powerful effect at the start of the coming season. Silver Knight will still probably be your WW-weenie of choice post rotation.

Blue

Etherium Sculptor 1U
Artifact Creature - Vedalken Artificer
Artifact spells you play cost 1 less to play.
1/2

Effectively making everything in Affinity cost 2 less to play, Etherium Sculptor costs mana to do what 90% of the cards in Affinity do for free.

Master of Etherium 2U
Artifact Creature - Vedalken Wizard
Master of Etherium's power and toughness are each equal to the number of artifacts you control.
Other artifact creatures you control get +1/+1.
*/*

One of the most oft-discussed cards of the set in Extended, Master of Etherium just reminds me of a grounded Broodstar with more vulnerabilities and a constant 3cc. It interacts positively with Plating, Arcbound Ravager and reducing costs for Affinity... plus it's basically a Glorious Anthem. If you're not satisfied with Atog in your Affinity deck, give the Master a ride around. The Anthem effect is not meaningless and Broodstar, even though unplayed, is no laughing matter when it's threatening to take your life down a peg or ten. Despite all of my arguing against it on the forums, the more I look at it, the more I feel like it's just this huge, cheap fatty, and so what if your opponent gets a 0-1 with Tin-Street Hooligan?

Mindlock Orb 3U
Artifact
Players can't search libraries.

I don't really know why this card stands out. It's a permanent lock against fetchlands, which I guess is something when some of the best decks in the environment fill anywhere from forty to fifty percent of their land base with these, but Aven Mindcensor has been legal, has an evasive body, and isn't afraid of anything. This card is probably awful, but may just be a wake-up call to how common search effects are in Extended, even if they're just for lands. Not much of a ringing endorsement, though.

Tezzeret the Seeker 3UU Planeswalker - Tezzeret
+1: Untap up to two target artifacts.
-X: Search your library for an artifact card with converted mana cost X or less and put it into play. Then shuffle your library.
-5: Artifacts you control become 5/5 artifact creatures until end of turn.
4

Tezzeret comes on the back of an artifact revolution in Extended, where every deck wants to or at least threatens to overload on the (now usually) colorless spells. Its loyalty-increasing ability is essentially Garruk with plenty of added bonuses in the decks Tezzeret is good in. Actually, all of his abilities represent some jacked-up reflection of Garruk in blue-based artifact decks, with the coup de grace in the form of turning your lands into an overruning army. His second ability also fetches Chrome Mox and artifact lands for free, making it less ineffective to generate the army for his last ability. I can see the card having its own deck, though it seems good as an alternate win condition for Erayo-Affinity.

Black

Ad Nauseam 3BB
Instant
Reveal the top card of your library and put that card into your hand. You lose life equal to its converted mana cost. You may repeat this process any number of times.

The only reason I bring this card up is because there's an entire multi-page thread dedicated to using this with Angel's Grace. Don't. I know I'm just asking to have some Japanese player build an entire deck around this, but I don't see this card panning out in such an aggressive format.

Executioner's Capsule B
Artifact
1B, {T}, Sacrifice Executioner's Capsule: Destroy target nonblack creature.

Black was pretty much shafted in Shards of Alara. This new Spellbomb is a valid target for Trinket Mage, who adds targeted removal to his already substantial resume. Effective turn one Seal of Doom is not the worst use of deck space. That said, you have a lot of black removal competing for the same deck space, so Trinket and Academy Ruins tricks may be the end of the line for this Spellbomb revisited.

Viscera Dragger3B
Creature - Zombie Ogre Warrior
Cycling 2
Unearth 1B
3/3

Ichorid it is not, but the Dragger acts as its own Dredge tool kit, triggering the mechanic and later unearthing itself to join your Zombie token army's attack to victory. As one of the few affordable unearth costs, the card is destined for Dredge greatness.

Red

Flameblast Dragon 4RR
Creature - Dragon
Flying
Whenever Flameblast Dragon attacks, you may pay XR. If you do, Flameblast Dragon deals X damage to target creature or player.
5/5

I have a soft spot in my heart for Timmy cards that think they're people (aka Spike cards). 6 for a 5/5 flier is pretty on the money. 6 for a 5/5 flyer that Demonfires in the middle of your attack step is all kinds of fun. Because the cost is so affordable, I wouldn't put it past this card to show up in Red Deck Wins sideboards. Then again, I may not put it past myself to be a horrible Magic player.

Goblin Assault 2R
Enchantment
At the beginning of your upkeep, put a 1/1 red Goblin creature token with haste into play.
Goblin creatures attack each turn if able.

I love when Goblins try to imitate smarter races. The haste and lack of life loss seems like good times, but not being a tribal permanent when Goblins would sell organs (or just Goblin Matron) to replace what rotates out of the deck does so much disservice to the quality packed into this card. The lack of evasion on the tokens makes them considerably worse than the Faerie tokens Bitterblossom will dump into play, especially with Scion of Oona being so many levels higher on the "good" scale than Goblin King and Mad Auntie. If this card sees any play, it will probably not be in any Goblin deck.

Hell's Thunder 1RR Flying, Haste
At end of turn, sacrifice Hell's Thunder.
Unearth 4R

Give it trample and it's an all-star that needs no introduction. Without trample, it's only "quite good." The flying makes it a recursive to-the-dome burn spell, but we're talking about a format where Faeries have good odds at being one of the best decks around. That said, against anything other than Faeries, having a reusable Flames of the Blood Hand minus any additional effects doesn't seem very bad, especially considering it is unlikly to be burned out before it hits. Food for thought: its "flashback" cost is the same as Firebolt but it deals twice the damage.

Soul's Fire 2R
Instant
Target creature you control in play deals damage equal to its power to target creature or player.

It's like Fatal Frenzy but you don't sacrifice the creature end of turn, zowie wowie! Pros and cons of that aside, I would play this before trying Rites of Consumption in a deck like Affinity, where you're trying to double up on your creature investments instead of playing outright broken creatures like everyone else. Pretty savage way to get 2-for-1-ed by any removal spell in response.

Green

Wild Nacatl G Creature - Cat Warrior
Wild Nacatl gets +1/+1 as long as you control a Plains.
Wild Nacatl gets +1/+1 as long as you control a Mountain.
1/1

Possibly the only card that needs no explanation in the set. If you live under a rock, play this in Gaea's Might Get There or other GRW-based Zoo decks and you more or less have a 3/3 on turn two for 1 mana. Yeah.

Multicolor

Ajani Vengeant 2RW
Planeswalker - Ajani
+1: Target permanent doesn't untap during its controller's next untap step.
-2: Ajani Vengeant deals 3 damage to target creature or player and you gain 3 life.
-7: Destroy all lands target player controls.
3

Your opponent needs to cast and resolve a fairly impressive permanent that you cannot otherwise remove to make Ajani's first ability anything more than "For the love of god, please power up my other two abilities." The 3 loyalty really hurts this cat, as does the -2 loyalty for the Helix effect... and with your starting 3 loyalty, barring acceleration into Ajani, it'll be six turns that your opponent will have had no way to deal with Ajani whatsoever, and they'd probably have lost even if they had infinite lands and mana, before you one-sided Armageddon them. I earnestly want Ajani's second run to be more successful, but the minimal benefit his plus-loyalty ability has combined with the great expense of both loyalty reducing abilities and low starting loyalty count prevent me in good conscience from rating him highly.

Bant CharmGWU
Instant
Choose one - Destroy target artifact; or put target creature on the bottom of its owner's library; or counter target instant spell.

People who earn more money playing Magic than I do say this card will probably be pretty good, and that's more of a ringing endorsement than I can offer for anything. Every mode of this card is a beating, and if it's in your colors you should play it.

Esper CharmWUB
Instant
Choose one - Destroy target enchantment; or target player draws two cards; or target player discards two cards.

Like Bant Charm, all modes of this card are relevant, though some more so than others. I would argue this could go in pretty much any deck, as there is no down side to drawing cards or making your opponent discard non-Dodecapods or blowing up a Bitterblossom. While I don't like it as much as I love Bant Charm, Esper's a good man and has my support in the upcoming election.

Rafiq of the Many 1GWU
Legendary Creature - Human Knight
Exalted (Whenever a creature you control attacks alone, that creature gets +1/+1 until end of turn.)
Whenever a creature you control attacks alone, it gains double strike until end of turn.
3/3

I don't know why I even mention this card: all this does is double your attacking Tarmogoyf's power after a +1/+1 buff. I honestly cannot name a time where this guy wants to occupy more than a singleton slot in your deck, and even then he has no other trick than just being kind of big for 4 mana. Maybe if you stack this with Battlegrace Angel in some kind of "eggs in a basket, but slower and bad" Exalted deck, you'll have a 6/6 double striker with lifelink for the low low cost of 9 mana and two cards. Sounds great. What was I thinking?

Sarkhan Vol 2RG
Planeswalker - Sarkhan
+1: Creatures you control get +1/+1 and gain haste until end of turn.
-2: Gain control of target creature until end of turn. Untap that creature. It gains haste until end of turn.
-6: Put five 4/4 red Dragon creature tokens with flying into play.
4

Every ability on this card is good on its own. 4 loyalty is so solid, especially when it allows you to use its first depletion ability twice (something new Ajani could learn) or just when you want to make it 5 by giving your army Anthem + Fires. The only question I have is what deck wants him? RDW, while red and green, cizkd up its curve to play this, but at the cost of, duh, upping its curve. Zoo should already win by the time turn fizr clicks on and Rock is sitting pretty with Garruk's untap ability being a bigger help than usually expected in decks with Garruk. This card will be huge in the deck it is in, if there is a deck for it, which I'm sure one will come into existence if not.

Stoic Angel 1GWU
Creature - Angel
Flying, vigilance
Players can't untap more than one creature during their untap steps.
3/4

I don't know if you, kind reader, are aware just how much I love Lightning Angel, but I will tell you it's a lot. Stoic Angel has a lot of things going for it, aside from its coloration which, at best, raises an eyebrow in concern for its well being. Primarily, as a 4-drop that isn't completely crushed by Gaddock Teeg, it really does a job on any Zoo deck that hasn't put you at 0 on turn four (or three on the play). It doubles its duty by blocking every non-Tarmogoyf, non-Figure of Destiny (but who plays that terrible card, amirite?) creature they throw at you, pretty much turns off their attack step for at least a turn, and is only killed by double burn, a supposed-to-be-game-ending Tribal Flames, or Putrefy and similar cards.

It can also be assumed that they'll be at not-a-lot life when this drops down onto the field like a bottle of clean water in the middle of a shelled Iraqi city, meaning you can glide gently over their now seldom untapping creatures, who stare stupidly sideways, wondering why a three-color control deck is about to beat them into the stone age. Protip: Wall of Roots doesn't need to tap and Tarmogoyf does. Do math, win games.

Swerve UR
Instant
Change the target of target spell with a single target.

This card, assuming the cost is relevant for decks, seems like a fair inclusion for sideboards. The card resembles Misdirection and Divert, both of which have seen play, yet is neither. A much better-costed Deflection seems like good times.

Tidehollow Sculler WB Artifact Creature - Zombie
When Tidehollow Sculler comes into play, target opponent reveals his or her hand and you choose a nonland card from it. Remove that card from the game.
When Tidehollow Sculler leaves play, return the removed card to its owner's hand.
2/2

Is Mesmiric Fiend a good card with an additional point of power, sometimes relevant creature type, a beneficial extra color but an artifact subtype? The Fiend has not seen much play since its Standard days, but then the Extended discard arsenal has depleted somewhat with Duress and Cabal Therapy leaving the fray. If you're masochistic, WB with Isamaru, Hound of Konda, Dark Confidant, and Castigate may not be your worst bet. Season in green for Goyf, Doran and enjoy.

Woolly Thoctar RGW
Creature - Beast
5/4

In Gaea's Might Get There, your curve caps out at 3, which is usually when you cast a Putrefy/Vindicate on a problem permanent and go nuts for the win. Casting more creatures in your 3-slot instead of giving your board more reach or burning out your opponent seems less effective, as the deck moves slightly away from being "all creatures, all the time" and closer to "swing and burn out." Three-color Zoo, which is absent Confidant and Tribal Flames, could use a man like this, but that's the difference between breaking the bank and just breaking even.

Artifact

Relic of Progenitus 1
Artifact
{T}: Target player removes a card in his or her graveyard from the game.
1, Remove Relic of Progenitus from the game: Remove all graveyards from the game. Draw a card.

Scrabbling Claws saw some sideboard play. A "salt the earth" type Claws with cantrip goodness does not seem bad in a deck that doesn't have room for Goyf. Obviously has to contend with the free and often better Tormod's Crypt. Due to the free cost and activation of Crypt, I would prefer it to this more often than not.

Land

"Shard Tri-Lands"
Land
~ comes into play tapped.
T: Add to your mana pool.

I can summarize these with "comes into play tapped." I do not expect these to make any significant impact on Extended whatsoever.

Bills to the Ceiling:

Shards of Alara should bring some interesting new cards to Extended. At least some of the above should break ground in the format, if not help define new, previously unestablished archtypes. Here, in a somewhat ordered list, are my top 10 picks for Extended from Shards of Alara:

10. Dispeller's Capsule- Despite its steep cost of activation, being a tutor target for Trinket Mage, as well as having the "set it and forget it" ability of Seal of Cleansing, makes it a worthy component of any relevant deck. Should be a white-control staple to some degree.

9. Knight of the White Orchid-
If you asked me now where this card would fit in, I couldn't say. The aforementioned black-white discard monstrosity could use a fellow like this to grab mana and beat down or it may just be a non-green STE in white control decks. Expect him, though: he's a good man.

8. Sarkhan Vol- Call it rating on a scale that doesn't know where it would go despite having nothing to prove. Sarkhan Vol does everything well, but needs a deck to do those things well in. I would not doubt a deck built to abuse it (why not include Radha, while we're at it?) is close to fruition.

7. Executioner's Capsule- There are approximately a thousand (give or take 995) superior targeted removal spells in Extended. Executioner's Capsule is good not because it's an efficient way to kill any creature, because it doesn't even target Faerie tokens, but because it can be tutored out, set, and forgotten. While artifacts (and some enchantments) have killer effects, the lower cost of activation and the fact that creatures do most all of the leg work in Extended make this superior to its white counterpart.

6. Bant Charm-
There is nothing this card can do that you wouldn't want to be able to do. Most of the best spells in Extended are instants, artifacts and creatures, with Mind's Desire, Tribal Flames, Garruk, and other ridiculous and glaring exceptions to this presiding. With the exception of letting an artifact regenerate, Bant Charm deals with all three spell types in the relatively best way to take care of your respective instant/artifact/creature problem. Cryptic Command has become a growing component of Extended just for the variety of options it gives you. I can only imagine the same would be true for a card that costs less and has a slightly lower restriction on casting in an environment of shocklands and fetches.

5. Stoic Angel- Call it writer's bias, but the blue-green combination has established Next and Previous Level Blue as decks to beat last season and modified (read: Top-less, and get your mind out of the gutter) builds threaten to climb this season's queues. This Angel does a number on non-Affinity aggro decks and holds its own against everything else.

4.
Ethersworn Canonist- He blows a hole right through the wall between being competitive and Erayo Affinity at a time when everyone was gearing up for Myr Enforcer and more of the same. The card has single-handedly taken Erayo Affinity from a tier 12 rogue deck to "a deck to beat" in the coming Extended season as a one-sided Arcane Lab.

3. Tezzeret the Seeker- Tezzeret is to control Affinity what Garruk is to Extended and Standard BG aggro-control, which is to say a complete and utter beating.

2. Master of Etherium- Ben Bleiweiss has already heralded this as the best card in Alara in one of his premium articles on the costs of Magic. A questionable claim, but surely the card is a solid addition to Affinity.

1. Wild Nacatl- The new best aggressive one drop in Extended. On turn one, it will almost always be on par with Kird Ape. On turn two, it surpasses it. Its quality comes to a point, however, where it will not likely overcome Kird Ape in Red Deck Wins nor will it cause a white splash to appear in the deck. But I've been wrong before.

I hope you've enjoyed my first Extended-perspective set review. While calling shots on a format losing two blocks and a base set with several more blocks still running is difficult, hopefully this article will give you some idea of what to expect and what to look or trade for prior to the coming Extended season. Good luck at your qualifiers!

Comments

Posts Quoted:
Reply
Clear All Quotes