The effects of Ravnica Block have already been felt in Extended. The Golgari’s dredge mechanic turned the format on its ear, adding the potent Friggorid deck toward the end of last season, and enabling new strategies with Psychatog and U/G Madness. Unfortunately, Extended season drew to a close before we could see what the guilds of Guildpact would have done to the environment. The Azorius, Rakdos, and Simic guilds of Dissension will have to wait for the next season to roll around before they get their time in the sun.
That doesn’t mean we can’t speculate on how good (or bad) they’ll be in the meantime. As I did with the Guildpact review, I’m dividing this into five sections, ranging from strictly sideboard stuff to cards every deck in certain colors would want to play. Also like last time, I’m not going to bother listing rubbish, nor things which are good in Limited decks but will be awful in Constructed.
Section 1: Obv Obv Obv
The cards in this section are obvious inclusions into any deck which could run them.
Land - Swamp Mountain (R)
(T: Add or to your mana pool.
As Blood Crypt comes into play, you may pay 2 life. If you don't, Blood Crypt comes into play tapped instead.
Land - Forest Island (R)
(T: Add or to your mana pool.)
As Breeding Pool comes into play, you may pay 2 life. If you don't, Breeding Pool comes into play tapped instead.
Land - Island Plains (R)
(T: Add or to your mana pool.)
As Hallowed Fountain comes into play, you may pay 2 life. If you don't, Hallowed Fountain comes into play tapped instead.
There’s not a lot I can say about these, except that you should nab a playset of each if you’re going to be playing competitive Extended (or Standard). Like the other seven, these dual lands are better in Extended than in Standard because the Onslaught fetch lands help you guarantee your colors when you need them. U/G Madness finally gets a real dual land to shore up its often dodgy mana, but does anyone still play straight U/G? U/W Control, a popular deck in the Northeastern US, gets help for its mana, as does Scepter-Chant.
Spell Snare -
Like flies to a web...
Like flies to a web...
Counter target spell with converted mana cost 2.
People are already raving about this card in Standard, but I’m here to tell you that it’s even better in Extended. Here’s a list of just some of the saucy 2-drops this spell counters:
- Wild Mongrel
- Lightning Helix
- Volcanic Hammer
- Sakura-Tribe Elder
- Isochron Scepter
- Arcbound Ravager
- Fire // Ice
There are more, certainly. The good thing about Spell Snare is that it always costs less than the spell it’s countering. Look again at the U/W Skies list I speculated on above. Imagine countering Sakura-Tribe Elder. For :symu:, you get to do at least 2 more damage and you effectively destroy a land. That seems fair to me. For those of you who think Force Spike is better, you should only catch someone with Force Spike once. You can’t pay for your Wild Mongrel so that it avoids Spell Snare, though.
Section 2: That Small 1/1 Flagbearer
Cards in this section are the standard bearers for decks. (You get the section title now, I’ll wager.) They may be the “kill card” in a combo deck, or they may be a significant part of the engine. Either way, they’re cards you build entire decks around.
Grand Arbiter Augustin IV -
Legendary Creature - Human Advisor (R)
White spells you play cost less.
Blue spells you play cost less.
Spells your opponents play cost more.
I don’t think Augustin slides comfortably into existing U/W decks, since their creatures are usually game-enders like Exalted Angel. However, the cost reductions are significant enough that something new could emerge to exploit them. Also, the Sphere of Resistance this puts your opponent under makes it harder to play all those “free” spells with Mind’s Desire. Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of this card, but there’s no other section it goes into: this is something that either gets decks built around it or doesn’t get played.
Lyzolda, the Blood Witch -
Legendary Creature - Human Cleric (R)
, Sacrifice a creature: Lyzolda, the Blood Witch deals 2 damage to target creature or player if the sacrificed creature was red. Draw a card if the sacrificed creature was black.
Like Augustin, this either gets decks built around it, or it remains in your trade binder. Considering all the playable burn in Extended, this should really be treated as a 5-drop against any deck with Mountains. Against decks which can’t easily remove Lyzolda, though, she can dominate games. If you have enough fodder creatures to sacrifice to her, this puts your opponent on a respectable clock.
Section 3: Solid!
The cards in this section are just good cards, and will appear in the majority of decks which could run them. They might turn out to be great down the road, but they’ll definitely see some play either way.
Azorius First-Wing -
Creature - Griffin (C)
Protection from Enchantments
The best thing about the Protection from Enchantments ability? This can’t be killed by Seal of Fire. Taking second place in the Best Uses of a Seemingly Random Ability is immunity to Opposition (and its one-legged cousin, Glare of Subdual). Even if your opponent isn’t playing any enchantments, this is still a 2/2 flier for 2 mana. People try to build White Weenie with a Blue splash every season; now you can play a 2/2 besides Meddling Mage or Galina's Knight in there.
Put target attacking creature on the bottom of its owner's library. That creature's controller gains life equal to its toughness.
It’s the latest in the series of cards which mimic Swords to Plowshares while being nowhere near as good. This is the best of the imitators, though, since it costs only :symw:. Swords was most useful in getting rid of a potential blocker, which this card does not do, but sending a problematic attacker to the bottom of a library is still strong.
Demonfire deals X damage to target creature or player. If a creature dealt damage this way would be put into a graveyard this turn, remove it from the game instead.
Hellbent - Demonfire can't be countered by spells or abilities, and its damage can't be prevented as long as you have no cards in hand.
A potential finisher for Red decks, this is especially good in metagames where Control is king. Emptying your hand shouldn’t be a problem in any aggro deck in the format. No one plays Urza’s Rage because it only deals 3 damage or 10 (and costs either 3 or 5000); with Demonfire, you can do as much as you can pay for, or as little as you need. This will never have an efficient cost, but the Hellbent perks make it worthwhile.
Gobhobbler Rats -
Creature - Rat (C)
Hellbent - Gobhobbler Rats gets +1/+0 and has "B: Regenerate Gobhobbler Rats" as long as you have no cards in hand.
There isn’t a competitive deck in Extended at the moment, but with some of the better Rakdos cards in Dissension, we might be seeing one. You get burn, removal, and efficient creatures like this. It’s just a bear normally, but if you have no cards, it’s a 3/2 regenerator for 2 mana. Those stats will let it throw down with any other cheap creature in the format.
Infernal Tutor -
Reveal a card in your hand. Search your library for a card with the same name as the revealed card, reveal it, and put it into your hand. Shuffle your library.
Hellbent - If you have no cards in your hand, search your library for a card and put it into your hand. Shuffle your library.
Obviously, you’d rather play this when you have no cards in your hand, since Demonic Tutor is an excellent card. Even if you’re not bent for hell, though, this can find you something good. You can double up on a burn spell, get a second Cabal Therapy to really rape your opponent’s hand, or just grab a redundant creature.
Loaming Shaman -
Graveyard? What graveyard?
Graveyard? What graveyard?
Creature - Centaur Shaman
When Loaming Shaman comes into play, target player shuffles any number of target cards from his or her graveyard into his or her library.
From: Loaming Shaman
Nice graveyard, chump.
To: Loaming Shaman
Re: Delayed gratification is still gratification
I’ll just get you next turn. What, you think I can’t? If I pitch one Golgari Grave-Troll to my Zombie Infestation, the fun just begins again.
P.S. I really wasn’t referring to your mom in the subject line.
Mistral Charger -
Creature - Pegasus (U)
White Skies for the win! Combined with Blue, there could be a very good deck here, using cheap flying creatures and good tempo countermagic. Let’s speculate on that for a moment . . .
We’ve already talked about Spell Snare, but don’t sleep on Memory Lapse: it’s in 7th Edition. It’s better for your tempo than Remand, but the cantrip effect of Remand makes it a definite inclusion.
Pride of the Clouds -
Creature - Elemental Cat (R)
Pride of the Clouds gets +1/+1 for each other creature in play with flying.
Forecast - , Reveal Pride of the Clouds from your hand: Put a 1/1 white and blue Bird creature token with flying into play. (Play this ability only during your upkeep and only once each turn.)
See that decklist right up there? This might get a spot in it. The Forecast ability is painfully slow in Extended, though it’s nice to have it against a control deck. You’ll want at least 16 fliers to make sure this fellow is always getting a boost, and there are certainly enough good ones in White and Blue to choose from [Don't forget Battle Screech! -Ed].
Rakdos Augermage -
Creature - Human Wizard (R)
T: Reveal your hand and discard a card of target opponent's choice. Then that player reveals his or her hand and discards a card of your choice. Play this ability only any time you could play a sorcery.
When I first saw this, I wrote it off as bad, since it didn’t compare well with the version Terry Soh had submitted after his Invitational win. However, Soh’s version was pretty unfair, and the more I look at the printed version, the more I like it. A 3/2 first striker will hold the ground pretty well, and will kill annoying creatures like Kird Ape. The discard ability is what makes this good, though. R/B has a lot of weapons already for fighting control (including two of the best discard spells ever printed), but this gives it another weapon. At some point, though, you’ll have to decide if you’re going to attack or use the discard ability, which will depend on who the beatdown is in the matchup.
Rakdos Guildmage - :symbr::symbr:
Creature - Zombie Shaman (U)
(:symbr: can be paid with either or :symr:)
, Discard a card: Target creature gets -2/-2 until end of turn.
: Put a 2/1 red Goblin creature token with haste into play. Remove it from the game at end of turn.
The only Guildmage that’s better is Selesnya’s, and the margin is small. Boros Guildmage gets played in BDW because both of its abilities can be used, but the Red ability on Rakdos Guildmage might allow it to supplant Boros Guildmage in the Boros decks. It goes without saying that this looks good in any B/R deck which emerges next season.
Rix Maadi, Dungeon Palace
T: Add to your mana pool.
, T: Each player discards a card. Play this ability only any time you could play a sorcery.
And here’s another weapon B/R has against control. Discard tends to beat counterspells, and here’s a discard outlet which can’t be countered. You can play a threat or two and a little disruption early, then use Rix Maadi every turn to destroy your opponent’s hand. There’s a lot of hate for control decks in this set, which just adds to the pile of hate already extant in the format. Now all someone needs to do is put it together the right way and make a good deck. The disruption in this set isn't fast enough to stop broken things on its own, so it needs to work with what Extended already has.
Seal of Fire -
Sacrifice Seal of Fire: Seal of Fire deals 2 damage to target creature or player.
Red Deck Wins used this card to great effect. RDW has been supplanted by its Boros cousin since the format rotation, but this is playable in BDW, also. If RDW does make a comeback, expect to see this as a 4-of in every decklist.
Section 4: Online Dating
It’s getting a little desperate now. These cards are serviceable, and might see play. However, they’re weaker than the cards in the previous section, and may well be passed over for better alternatives. They merit consideration, though, and that’s why we’re talking about them. Remember, Ichorid was probably classified like this at one point, so being in this section isn’t a death sentence.
AEthermage's Touch -
Reveal the top four cards of your library. You may put a creature card from among them into play with "At the end of your turn, return this creature to its owners hand." Then put the rest of the cards revealed this way at the bottom of the library in any order.
Couldn’t they just reprint Reviving Vapors? I’m aware it’s still legal in Extended, but it was never an iconic card of Invasion Block, even in IBC decks. This basically tutors for a creature, as long as you have one somewhere in your top four cards. Knowing the top three cards of your library is pretty easy, but unless you’re finding a creature with a hella good comes-into-play ability, or something like Exalted Angel, this will rarely be worth it. Getting two uses out of Flametongue Kavu is pretty hot, though. Pun intended.
Avatar of Discord - :symrb::symrb::symrb:
Creature - Avatar (R)
(:symrb: can be paid with either or )
When Avatar of Discord comes into play, sacrifice it unless you discard two cards.
This has been sufficiently derided for Standard play, but Standard doesn’t utilize the graveyard like Extended does. When you play Avatar of
Azorius Herald -
Anyone seen my Sword of Fire and Ice?
Anyone seen my Sword of Fire and Ice?
Creature - Spirit
Azorius Herald is unblockable.
When Azorius Herald comes into play, you gain 4 life.
When Azorius Herald comes into play, sacrifice it unless was spent to play it.
Trade with target aggro creature and gain 4 life. That’s about the worst you’ll get out of this (well, unless it eats a burn spell, but you still gained 4 life and took a card). Against most aggro decks, gaining 4 life undoes their entire previous turn, and being able to trade with an attacker is just gravy for you. As an unblockable creature, this can also play offense reasonably well, especially when you factor in equipment like Sword of Fire and Ice and Umezawa’s Jitte. This is a card without a real home at the moment, and it may never find one, but it deserves consideration.
Crime // Punishment - //
Put target creature or enchantment card in an opponent's graveyard into play under your control.
Destroy each artifact, creature and enchantment with converted mana cost X.
Crime is an expensive reanimation spell that can also bring back enchantments. Yawn. The Punishment half is what’s going to drive this card. Note, though, the lack of the words “or less” on the Punishment half. This is not Pernicious Deed as a sorcery, but rather Engineered Explosives. That’s still good enough against most decks.
T: Add to your mana pool.
T, Sacrifice Ghost Quarter: Destroy target land. Its controller may search his or her library for a basic land card, put it into play, then shuffle his or her library.
No, it’s not Wasteland. It’s certainly not Strip Mine. Against some decks, though it might feel like it. With all 10 dual lands now in the environment, people can go really heavy on the nonbasics, especially in a three-color deck. Consider this hypothetical manabase:
|DeckMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards|
12 Dual lands
Impossible? Maybe. It’s an awful lot of pain, but also an awful lot of mana consistency. Against a mana base like that, Ghost Quarter becomes Strip Mine. I think you’ll see at least a couple of basics in every deck, though. The best use for this is blowing up Urzatron pieces (or Boseiju if you’re a control deck) against Tooth and Nail; replacing a dual with a basic will be annoying pretty often.
Ignorant Bliss –
Remove all cards in your hand from the game face down. At end of turn, return those cards to your hand, then draw a card.
It’s a nice response to discard, and it gives you Bloodthirst for a turn. If R/B turns into a deck featuring Hellbent to capitalize on some of the Rakdos cards, I would expect to see this in it. Apart from that, and its discard-dodging, I don’t see a lot of uses.
Isperia the Inscrutable -
Legendary Creature - Sphinx (R)
Whenever Isperia the Inscrutable deals combat damage to a player, name a card. This player reveals his or her hand. If he or she reveals the named card, search your library for a creature card with flying, reveal it, and put it into your hand. Shuffle your library afterwards.
This not only complements the finishers in U/W Control decks, but it tutors them up. Hit with Isperia and find Exalted Angel, or Eternal Dragon, or Yosei, or Keiga, or Meloku, or . . . well, you get the point. This is a mana-intensive creature, but six toughness is a lot, and being able to tutor up other fliers is a relevant ability. The other fliers mentioned may prove better without Isperia in the deck, but this is an option that should be considered.
Counter target spell unless its controller pays X. You gain X life.
It won’t be cheap, but it could be important. This is no Absorb, but countering a spell and gaining life at the same time is potent. Also, note that this will cost less with Grand Arbiter Augistin IV in play. So you could announce that X = 5 when you play the spell, and it would only cost you . This doesn’t make either card stellar, but it’s worth pointing out.
Creature - Beast (U)
You may play Plaxmanta any time you could play an instant.
When Plaxmanta comes into play, creatures you control can't be the target of spells or abilities this turn.
When Plaxmanta comes into play, sacrifice it unless was spent to play it.
Let’s recognize what this is. It’s an instant that makes your Wild Mongrel, Arrogant Wurm, 6/6 Wurm token, or Psychatog untargetable until end of turn. That it happens to leave a body behind (most of the time, at least) makes it better. Playing this as a virtual counterspell (think Confound), however, will often be enough.
Rakdos Pit Dragon -
Creature - Dragon (R)
: Rakdos Pit Dragon gains flying until end of turn.
:symr:: Rakdos Pit Dragon gets +1/+0 until end of turn.
Hellbent - Rakdos Pit Dragon has double strike as long as you have no cards in hand.
I don’t think this will replace Fledgling Dragon as the Mostly Sideboarded Dragon of Choice. However, it can end the game faster than its threshold-based cousin, though a grown-up Fledgling has +2 toughness on this fellow. In a format where Lightning Helix can be imprinted on Isochron Scepter, that’s huge.
Research // Development – //
Next split card: Rosewater//Buehler
Next split card: Rosewater//Buehler
Shuffle up to four cards you own from outside the game into your library.
Put a red 3/1 Elemental creature token into play unless an opponent lets
you draw a card. Repeat this process two more times.
The Judgment Wishes let you get a card you own from outside the game and put it into your hand. This lets you get four cards from outside the game (which, in tournament play, means cards in your sideboard or cards already removed from the game), but you don’t get any of them right away. That makes this a very disappointing pseudo-tutor. I mention it here mainly because this card can be imprinted on Isochron Scepter. When you activate the Scepter to copy this, you choose which half to play, which means you can play Development for repeatedly. Why isn’t this higher on the list, then? Because the Research half is underwhelming, and because the Development half is really only playable if you get the card imprinted on a Scepter. The other cards commonly imprinted on Scepter are good by themselves; this one is not.
Sky Hussar -
Creature - Human Knight (U)
When Sky Hussar comes into play, untap all creatures you control.
Forecast - Tap two untapped white and/or blue creatures you control, reveal Sky Hussar from your hand: Draw a card. (Play this ability only during your upkeep and only once each turn.)
So if you play this guy, you get to untap all your creatures. OK. That means if you copy him with Kiki-Jiki, you’ll get to untap all your creatures when the copy comes into play. That includes Kiki-Jiki. You could make an arbitrarily large number of tokens this way, and swing with them, since they’ll all have haste. The new kill for Tooth and Nail? I keep trying to think of reasons why not (like the fact that you'll never be able to play this should your Tooths gets [CARD=Cranial Extraction]Extracted), but the whole “you die NOW” factor keeps getting in the way. Outside of that deck, you can do a lot better for 5 mana.
Supply // Demand - //
Put X 1/1 green Saproling creature tokens into play.
Search your library for a multicolored card, reveal it, and put it into your hand. Then shuffle your library.
Supply is underwhelming. It’s an inefficient way of pumping out tokens, but if you have Opposition in play, that inefficiency could swing the game. Demand’s problem is the colors in its mana cost. U/W decks tend to kill with monocolored cards, though this set does give them two multicolored options.
Utopia Sprawl -
Enchantment - Aura (C)
As Utopia Sprawl comes into play choose a color.
Whenever enchanted Forest is tapped for mana, its controller adds one mana of the chosen color to his or her mana pool.
Only [CARD=Verduran Enchantress]Enchantress[CARD] need apply. Does anyone still play that deck?
Counter target spell or activated or triggered ability. (Mana abilities can't be targeted.)
It’s a hard counter for 3 mana that can also nab abilities. That alone will make it useful, though the color commitments limit which decks can use this. There are plenty of abilities in Extended worth countering, but some (like the fetchlands) aren’t worth spending to nullify. Others, like Pernicious Deed, certainly are. U/G Madness, which has never had a true hard counter, can make use of this, especially as a later-game counter, when it’s trying to protect a Mongrel and a 6/6 Wurm token.
Creature - Elemental (R)
:symw:: Windreaver gains vigilance until end of turn.
:symw:: Windreaver gets +0/+1 until end of turn.
:symu:: Switch Windreaver's power and toughness until end of turn.
:symu:: Return Windreaver to its owner's hand.
This is getting compared to Morphling, for obvious reasons. It can do more damage in a single hit than Morphling could, but it doesn’t protect itself as easily, and all the activation costs require colored mana. Morphling became untargetable for :symu:; this becomes untargetable for , the combined cost to bounce it and replay it. That’s not a bargain.
Section 5: Riding in the Sidecar
These are sideboard cards. They’re too narrow to be maindeck choices, but they’re good against certain decks or archetypes. You’ll need to be aware of them if you’re looking for hate, or if you’re trying to see what hate is out there for your deck of choice.
Bound // Determined - //
Sacrifice a creature: Return up to X cards from your graveyard to your hand, where X is the number of colors that creature was. Then remove this card from the game.
Other spells you control can't be countered by spells or abilites this turn.
Draw a card.
Bound will end up being Restock most of the time. The best part about it is that it’s an instant, so you can respond to your creature being destroyed by playing, at worst, Regrowth. Determined is a way for Heartbeat decks to make sure their key spells resolve. Even getting into a counter war over it benefits the Heartbeat player. Storm triggers can still be Stifled, of course, but without something that counters abilities, Determined will make you a spectator against the format’s best combo deck.
Indrik Stomphowler -
Creature - Beast (U)
When Indrik Stomphowler comes into play, destroy target artifact or enchantment.
This is what happens when Viridian Shamans take steroids. It has the added benefit of being a full-fledge Naturalize, and there’s a sizeable body left in play, too. Sometimes, leaving a 2/2 behind just isn’t enough.
Rain of Gore -
If a spell or a ability would cause its controller to gain life, that player loses that much life instead.
There’s still an “infinite” life combo in the environment, and even though it’s not what it once was, someone is bound to play it. More relevantly, this turns Exalted Angel from extremely good into extremely suboptimal, and does the same work against Lightning Helix. Its uses are narrow, but that’s why it’s a sideboard card.
Stomp and Howl -
Destroy target artifact and target enchantment.
If you really want Hull Breach but don’t have access to :symr:, this is the card for you. We’ve seen Mono-Green Aggro in Extended before, and TNN is solely Green. If it’s going to catch on, look for it in one of those two spots. Most likely Naturalize will be sticking around a little while longer, though.
Swift Silence -
Counter all other spells. For each spell countered this way, draw a card.
When you want a really definitive answer to Brain Freeze, this is it. You’ll counter the original Freeze, plus all the copies that storm puts on the stack, and you’ll draw somewhere around a dozen cards. You’ll also be vulnerable to Brain Freeze #2 over the top of this, so don’t don the Superman costume just yet. Still, this and a Stifle might be all you need.
That’s all for the Dissension review. A few decks get some help, other decks begin to coalesce, and there are some cards which may be the foci of completely new decks. You’ll have time to work on them, since non-MTGO Extended events are still months away. Overall, I'm rather underwhelmed by this set for Extended play, but we'll see how things turn out in the PTQs and GPs ahead.
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