If your Twitter feed is like mine, it has been burning up lately with news, views, and spoilers of new Magic 2011 cards. There have been so many new spoiled cards that it’s been hard to keep up with, and especially write about, all the new additions. The whole set still hasn’t been completely spoiled, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Magic 2011 tops Magic 2010, and 2010 really was stellar.
First off, I’m in love with Fauna Shaman.
Since Michael Flores spoiled this card I’ve been thinking up ways to use and abuse it. It has me more excited to build decks than I have been in a while. I love its interaction with Vengevine. This card in conjunction with one of the Eldrazi gods (Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre or Kozilek, Butcher of Truth) allows you to recycle your graveyard back into your library to continue the shenanigans. The shaman will be competing with Lotus Cobra for the creature to be most ‘bolted on sight. If you can get this guy to stick around a turn or two, the card advantage and ability to find creatures that are answers to your opponent’s strategy will be huge. I can see main decks and side boards slotted with one-ofs like Mold Shambler or War Priest of Thune to answer specific threats such as Planeswalkers, Journey to Nowhere and more. This is one of the Magic 2011 cards that I will be trying to build every deck around for the next few months. To see the full art, check it out here (courtesy of @mtgcolorpie).
The top dog of the white angels, Baneslayer Angel, is back but red and green both have new answers. Red gets Combust, and green netted Plummet. Combust really seems to be an answer solely geared to fight control. I’m sure it will take down it’s share of Baneslayer Angel, Conundrum Sphinx and their ilk. Green’s answer, Plummet, is cheaper and hits all fliers. With green being so strong lately I see Plummet getting used more, but both will likely see constructed play – at the very least in sideboards.
The leylines are back, with the best one from Guildpact, Leyline of the Void coming back to head up the cycle. This will be a useful tool against Vengevine, as well as against Fauna Shaman or Sun Titan engines. The most exciting leyline of the bunch happens to be the blue one, in my opinion. Leyline of Anticipation is pretty sick. Being able to start the game with all your nonland cards having flash is crazy talk. This is the foundation of some crazy combo decks. I’m fairly certain of it.
This next card will also be fuel to the fire of combo decks as well as possibly black aggro decks. Dark Tutelage brings back Dark Confidant in enchantment form. Slightly worse than Pyrexian Area in mono black decks, it will give other colors access to a splashable and abusable card drawing mechanism. The art is absolutely amazing, and slightly disturbing. Makes me think that Sarkhan Vol studied this way, and that’s possibly what drove him to become Sarkhan the Mad. With the return of Nantuko Shade, which I heartily approve, black aggro may have a shot at being competitive.
The Five Titans have arisen. Sun, Frost, Grave, Inferno, and Primeval have pushed the flavor and power of Magic 2011 to new heights. Each titan is unique and, outside of maybe Inferno and Frost, totally bonkers. My two favorites are Primeval Titan and Grave Titan. Primeval seems absolutely insane, finding any land you need and ramping you up to Eldrazi levels of land. If you get to attack with this guy unopposed I don’t think your opponent is winning. Grave Titan is an insane threat, putting zombies onto the board willy-nilly. In extended, simply playing this guy is enough to trigger Mosswort Bridge. With the rules updates to deathtouch he’ll be plowing through creatures on your opponents side of the board. Sun Titan seems like he will be equally sick in constructed. Looking past Shards block you can see Condemn, Oust, and Journey to Nowhere being recycled, providing white with an insane removal engine. Sun Titan also walks us right into the vein of using life gain as a means to win. Standard will have Baneslayer Angel, Serra’s Ascendant, Sun Titan, Felidar Sovereign, Perimeter Captain, Wall of Omens, Condemn, Oust, Lone Missionary, Goldenglow Moth, Solemn Offering, Tireless Missionaries, Landbind Ritual, Narrow Escape… many of which can be returned via the Sun Titan. Not all are constructed playable, but in a dedicated life gain deck some may be applicable. Losing to Felidar Sovereign might not be unlikely anymore.
Green messes with people’s heads by adding Hornet Sting to its arsenal. Hornet Sting especially got under people’s skin as it felt, as they put it, outside of green’s piece of the color pie. However, there’s a long history of green doing direct damage. Albeit, it’s usally been against flying creatures. To me Hornet Sting doesn’t feel completely out of place. I’m surprised that it’s in the set for sure, but I think that it really pushes the flavor aspect of Magic 2011. I’ve been very happy to see the core sets become more well-rounded, rather than just being a “best of” for new players.
There was some controversy on Twitter regarding the card. I’ll try to highlight a few of the ones I thought interesting, thought provoking, or funny here. Bennie Smith, perennial green mage, said:
blairwitchgreen: ah, but what coulda been: stinging hornet, G, 1/1, flying, sac to deal 1 dmg
Followed closely by Jonathon Richmond’s response of:
norbert88: @blairwitchgreen Yes, a flying Green Mogg Fanatic, that’s exactly what we need.
Aaron Forsythe weighed in with the following:
Hornet Sting: …It came down to white or green for me. Green’s version had better flavor and a little history on its side. ZZZT!
Mark Rosewater had a lot to say on the subject, all good arguments I might add, against the addition of Hornet Sting:
While I hate this decision, I should stress that the consensus building in design and development is what makes Magic what it is.
I don’t think Hornet Sting is the end of Magic or anything. My tweets are just a sad face from a color guru.
MtG Color Pie (@mtgcolorpie on Twitter) was kind enough to compile the history Aaron Forsythe was referring to. Much ado about a one mana green card. I think this will see play in limited, but in constructed I’m not sure it has too much life, unless it comes down to eliminating your opponents Bird of Paradise or Lotus Cobra and you’re mono green. Again, Wizards shows that they are a group willing to converse actively with the community, and I applaud them for doing so.
Another fun green card that was revealed was Mitotic Slime. The poor opponent has to go through three rounds of tokens to clear the board. This is like Sprouting Thrinax on Miracle Gro. Mix this into a deck with Bloodthrone Vampire to give the vampire +14/+14. Or, you can use it in conjunction with the new “scry guy”, Viscera Seer, who lets you filter the top of your deck. Sacrifice the slime, and if you don’t like what you see, put the card on the bottom of your library and sacrifice another slime. Repeat until you find something you like. Do this at the end of your opponent’s turn to guarantee a good draw. He doesn’t require tapping to activate, so he’s online as soon as he hits the board. In a pinch, the Seer can simply sacrifice himself to give you one last look.
Vengevine’s big brother, Gaea’s Revenge, is also pretty cool. He lacks the ‘vines insane resurrection abilities but instead specializes in being untargetable by nongreen spells and abilities of nongreen sources. I would think that this means that cards like Journey to Nowhere, which get around Emrakul, the Aeons Torn‘s defences, will not be able to target Gaea’s Revenge. This card may see constructed play in the right deck. I can maybe see him being searched for using Fauna Shaman in a green ramp deck which has the ability to cast him reliably. He plays nice with Primeval Titan who can ramp you into the mana you need to cast this guy.
I keep going on and on about green, but I can’t pass by Obstinate Baloth without a mention. I love this guy. In extended he will be anti-Jund tech, and I think he’ll see plenty of play in standard. One last green card worth mentioning is Overwhelming Stampede. It’s not always strictly better than Overrun, but in the right deck it can be devastating. Imaging casting Khalni Hydra the turn before and then adding +8/+8 and trample to all your creatures. It’s not as effective as Eldrazi Monument however, so I’m not sure you’ll see it played much outside of Sealed, Draft or maybe EDH.
Red has seen a bit of love too, though not nearly as much as green. It was revealed today that Reverberate is in Magic 2011, in place of Twincast. It’s the same card, just red instead of blue. Fork 2.0 has returned to its rightful home in red. This with Pyretic Ritual seem like they’d fit together into a red combo deck or a red “ramp” deck. An amusing conversation that has sprung up over this card is that some are claiming this violates Wizards of the Coast’s reprint policy, but it just feels they are looking for a reason to poke at Wizards over their not long past update to the policy. Likely, the decision to never reprint from the reserved list again was made by legal minds and not the creative end of the company.
In the artifacts, there are also some surprises. Voltaic Key is making a return. With an artifact block (Scars of Mirrodin) on the horizon I have to wonder what insanity this will fuel. I really like Voltaic Key. I’d much rather they reprint that than the “fixed” and more expensive Galvanic Key. The Crystal Ball looks to be my most favorite card in the set with scry, as the flavor and mechanic meld perfectly. Combine this with Voltaic Key for some scry sessions. Or, combine Voltaic Key with Temple Bell to make everyone happy by drawing cards right before you hit them in the face with Runeflare Trap. Steel Overseer feels like a card with a bright future that’s just playing a waiting game until the new – still speculative – artifact block comes out in October. Again, Voltaic Key bumps this guy up a notch as well.
As a quick summary to what’s been discussed here: I think white, blue, and green are bonkers. The bant colors were already good, and they’ve really gotten more ammunition to work with. Red and black just don’t feel quite as powerful to me overall. I personally will be brewing up with mostly green and blue to start with. There’s so many ideas stirring in my head. I just need to spend some time nurturing them as I’d like to become a passable deck builder some day. I’m sure I’ve missed some interesting things to discuss, but this set is so chock full of interesting new cards it’s hard not to miss some good stuff.