Alara Reborn – New Cards!
Phew. I’ve been flat out with work and study lately, so not much time to write articles, but here we are a week before the Alara Reborn prerelease! I have three unfinished articles sitting in my Google docs, including a review of the very sparse spoilers we had up until a few days ago. Since then, though, we’ve had an explosion of spoilers and I won’t have to review cards as dull as Pale Recluse and Unscythe – instead, I’ll pick what I think are the most exciting cards to be previewed so far and posit combo and or deck ideas for them. These aren’t going to be competitive level ideas, but I’ll point out cards I think are going to be expensive so you can try to grab them at your prerelease on the cheap. Feel free to contribute your own ideas and favourite spoilers in the comments!
Spellbound Dragon 3UR
Creature – Dragon (Rare)
Whenever Spellbound Dragon attacks, draw a card, then discard a card. Spellbound Dragon gets +X/+0, where X is the discarded card’s converted mana cost.
This guy is a big upgrade on Looter il-Kor, his nearest relative. I love looter effects, as drawing more cards is always great and discarding can often be turned into an advantage when you have control over when and what you discard. The second part to the ability makes this guy unique though, giving him a potentially big pump. Despite not being black, Spellbound Dragon fits right into Grixis, being Sedris, the Traitor Kings best buddy as you can discard fat monsters, giving your dragon a big boost in power, and unearth them the next turn to swing in with the team. Rotting Rats and Blightning will help disrupt your opponent long enough to let you drop your dragon, and discarding a Cruel Ultimatum you don’t have the mana to play yet to the dragon lets you get in for 10 in the air.
Marisi Twinclaws 2(w/r)G
Creature – Cat Warrior (Uncommon)
I just so happen to have a warrior tribal deck and a cat tribal deck, and I can’t decide which this will fit best in – I might just put it in both! It conveniently comes down right after Obsidian Battle-Axe though, and hopefully picks up a counter from Bramblewood Paragon to swing for 10 hasty trample damage on turn 4. Yes, walking into Wrath of God is what warriors do best. Dropping a Colossal Might (RG Instant, target creature gets +4/+2 and trample until end of turn) on this guy is a total ass-kicking, by the way.
Bolt of Intimidation 1RW
Bolt of Intimidation deals 3 damage to target creature. Other creatures can’t attack this turn.
This card seems stronger than Lightning Helix on first glance, but the 3 mana cost probably makes it unplayable in constructed. Nevertheless, this neuters your opponents offense for a turn while also taking one of their guys out entirely, meaning it is not card disadvantageous as most fog type effects are. I think this card will be at its best in aggro mirror matches as it lets you jump ahead in the race, but keep in mind that those creatures that aren’t able to attack will be waiting to block your own next attack. One to keep in mind for aggro-control or even plain control in RW for some time to come, I think!
Mayael’s Aria RGW
At the beginning of your upkeep, put a +1/+1 counter on each creature you control if you control a creature with power 5 or greater. Then you gain 10 life if you control a creature with power 10 or greater. Then you win the game if you control a creature with power 20 or greater.
You Win the Game. Are there any more exciting words to read on a card for a casual player? (Well, maybe Protection from Everything). Mayael’s Aria. Before anyone mentions the phrase “win more”, that is exactly what you want to do at the multiplayer table. At 3 mana, this card is really cheap for what it does – assuming it does anything, which depends on the power of creatures you control. During your upkeep, the Aria checks for a few conditional effects. If you have a 5 power guy, it gives you an evoked Meadowboon. 5 power guys are not very hard to get these days in Naya colours, eg. Woolly Thoctar or Mosstodon, so assuming you are in anything like a good position with an Aria deck, you can expect this effect to fire. The second effect looks for a creature with 10 power, and lets you gain 10 life. Now if you have a 10 power guy, you are probably not too worried about your life total, but gaining 10 life a turn makes it really hard to lose the game. The final check is for a 20 power creature, and if you have one you win the game. Presumably the sound of the 20 power creature joining in on Mayael’s song melts the face off your opponent, or something. So, for an Aria deck we want to make RWG mana early and consistently, and we want to have 5, 10 and 20 power creatures. Here’s a quick shot at a deck with a few ideas:
4x Jungle Shrine
2x Dark Depths
4x Naya Panorama
4x Birds of Paradise
2x Duergar Assailant
4x Bloom Tender
4x Colossal Might
3x Mayael’s Aria
4x Woolly Thoctar
4x Wild Leotau
4x Soul’s Fire
4x Cliffrunner Behemoth
4x Soul’s Might
1x Mossbridge Troll
There might be too much space devoted to the mana in this first draft, but there are a lot of different colours to worry about. One general note with my decks, I’ll tend to avoid super money-rares when I can – both because they are hard/expensive to get and because they are usually so strong that they change the focus of the deck – hence the Duergar Assailant instead of Figure of Destiny. There are plenty of 5 power guys available in this deck, and they can all be powered up with Soul’s Might to trigger the 10 power condition. Colossal Might can power up the 1 power mana dorks to trigger the 5 power condition, or once that has gone off once it can power up a 6 power creature to trigger the second. The 20 power condition is probably only going to be triggered by a Marit Lage token or Mossbridge Troll. The other cards like the Soul’s suchandsuch cycle are in to play off the high power theme in the deck. Phew! That’s enough discussion for the Aria, on to other cards.
Sen Triplets 2WUB
Legendary Artifact Creature – Human Wizard (Mythic Rare)
At the beginning of your upkeep, choose target opponent. This turn, that player can’t play spells or activated abilities and plays with his or her hand revealed. You can play cards from that player’s hand this turn.
My first thought was “Free Mindslavers, what the hell?!” which was soon proved errenous. The triplets are a bizzare combination of half a Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir, Telepathy and Colfenor’s Plans. You can play cards from their hand, but you have to use your own mana to do so, you don’t control their turn as with Mindslaver. That said, it is still a really great card as you can play one of your opponent’s lands, use their own Terminate to kill their best guy, swing with a Sanctum Gargoyle or whatever and pass the turn back. Whenever they topdeck something useful they have to be able to use it in their turn, or else give it to you on your turn. This card is probably on the borderline of tournament playability, if you keep counterspell mana up during your opponents turn I don’t see how they can possibly win against this card, but since counterspell decks aren’t really doing much in constructed I’ll just have to use it in really frustrating-to-play-against casual decks. Depending on it’s tournament playability it could be a chase rare, so it’s not a bad idea to pick up a playset if you can. Will probably be much better once Lorwyn megablock rotates out of standard.
Maelstrom Pulse 1GB
Destroy target nonland permanent and each permanent that shares a name with that permanent.
This one is a certifiable chase rare. It answers just about anything and is sure to go in many tournament winning decks. Unfortunately, that means it will be expensive to get as singles. If you can find anyone willing to give these up at your prerelease or release events, get them! I will be looking for some number for my casual Rock deck, as it doesn’t have any easy way to deal with planeswalkers or enchantments.
Necromancer’s Covenant – 3WBB
When Necromancer’s Covenant comes into play, remove all creature cards in target player’s graveyard from the game, then put a 2/2 black Zombie creature token into play for each card removed this way.
Zombies you control have lifelink.
This seems like a great way to win a game, except that Volcanic Fallout is such a neat answer to it, at half the cost and at instant speed. On the plus side it does hose enemy reanimation or other graveyard shenanigans, and zombies are the most pump-able tribe out there, with Lord of the Undead, Death Baron, Undead Warchief and Bad Moon all waiting to pump these lifelinking zombies into a monstrous army.
Maelstrom Nexus WUBRG
Enchantment (Mythic Rare)
The first spell you play each turn has Cascade.
Wow. Patrick Chapin had a much better writeup than I could do on cascade in his article on Monday, but he hadn’t seen this card. Cascade is way too complicated for me to understand fully without playing with the cards, but I think if you stock your deck full of good stuff then you won’t mind having to play a bit of a premium for the cascade spells. This card is great Johnny fodder, but I will leave it alone until I’ve played with the mechanic in real life. I wonder, if you play a cascade card with this in play, do you get double cascade?
Well, that’s enough of a preview for now of some of the cards in Alara Reborn – we still don’t know most of the set, but what we have seen so far looks really, really awesome. A lot of powerful but straightforward cards have been previewed at common and uncommon, and there is a really strong common cycle of XY cost creatures that everyone should keep an eye out for – Quasali Pridemage is the obvious leader here, but they all look like great commons for any deck in their colours to consider. I’m normally against the idea of too much gold in Magic, but when they actually make the cards mechanically multicoloured as opposed to just for flavour reasons, they can produce some very cool cards like the above. I am in assignment season at uni at the moment, but hopefully these articles will increase in frequency in a couple of weeks’ time, so talk to you guys then and good luck at your prereleases!