AER: Compact spoiler

Click here to download a 7-page version of the full Aether Revolt spoiler. The card image gallery at DailyMTG is 48 pages, so I’m hoping this saves a couple of trees, while also being easier to carry around for reference. This spoiler is also text instead of images, so it’s easier to search for card types or keywords before the set is available on Gatherer.

KLD: Reusing enter-the-battlefield effects breaks down the cards in Kaladesh with enters-the-battlefield effects, the blink and bounce effects that let you reuse those effects, and which colors you should aim for if you want to build a deck around them.

MM2: Memorizing the instant-speed tricks

With Modern Masters 2015 release events this weekend and GP Las Vegas coming up, it’s worthwhile trying to memorize the list of instant-speed tricks in the format so you don’t get blindsided by a trick you didn’t anticipate.

I normally break tricks down into 5 categories:

  • Instant-speed creatures: Flash creatures, token generators, and spells that let you play reatures at instant speed.
  • Creature removal: This includes bounce, tapping, and other temporary removal.
  • Pump/protection: Pump spells primarily affect combat by giving a creature +M/+N, while protection spells are primarily used to save a creature from removal by giving it hexproof or protection from a color. However, +M/+N can save creatures from removal, and protection from a color can help creatures survive combat, so I’ve combined them.
  • Sideboard cards: This includes color hosers, artifact and enchantment removal, and conditional removal (e.g., Plummet, which only kills flyers). You don’t usually need to play around them in game 1.
  • Other: Everything else, including counterspells, card draw, and life gain. You may want to play around counterspells on occasion, and you may sometimes want to play around lifegain if you’re planning an alpha strike, but you don’t usually need to play around the rest.

This table shows the count of tricks in each category by color. Note that this count combines all rarities, since the primary purpose of this table is to help you remember the tricks in the set so you can quickly enumerate the relevant ones. If a card belongs to multiple categories, it will be counted in the leftmost column, e.g., Combust is listed under sideboard cards, even though it is also a removal spell.

TOTAL Sideboard Cards Instant-Speed Creatures Creature Removal/ Bounce Pump/ Protection Other Spells in “Other” Category
Colorless 5 1 2 2
White 6 1 1 1 3
Blue 12 2 1 3 1 5 = 3 counterspells (Mana Leak, Remand, Stoic Rebuttal) + 2 card draw (Telling Time, Proliferate)
Black 4 3 1 = Death Denied
Red 8 2 4 2
Green 5 2 1 1 1 = Sylvan Bounty
Multicolor 5 1 3 1
TOTAL 45 8 4 16 10 7

Let’s examine this table and see what we can learn. We’ll ignore the Sideboard and Other categories for the purposes of this discussion, since those are often not relevant.

  • There are 30 tricks in the set, about half of which are removal and a third of which are pump/protection.
  • Every color has access to the 4 colorless tricks, 2 of which are removal (Dismember and Gut Shot) and 2 of which are pump/protection (Mutagenic Growth and Apostle’s Blessing).
  • White, blue, and multicolor have 5 tricks each. All 3 have an instant-speed creature (Raise the Alarm, Vendillion Clique, and Mystic Snake). White has 1 removal spell and 3 pump/protection spells, while blue and multicolor have 3 removal spells and 1 pump/protection spell each. (Blue’s removal spells are all bounce spells.)
  • Black has 3 tricks, all of which are removal. Red has 6, 4 of which are removal and 2 of which are pump.
  • Green has only 2 tricks, 1 of which produces instant-speed creatures and the other of which is a pump spell.
  • There are 4 instant-speed creatures, none of which are particularly large (multiple 1/1s at common, a 2/2 at rare, and a 3/1 flyer at mythic).
  • The 16 instant-speed removal spells are mostly commons and uncommons, and vary widely in the size of the creatures they can handle.
    • 1 toughness: Gut Shot, Instill Infection
    • 2 toughness: Burst Lightning, Grim Affliction, Electrolyze (uncommon)
    • 3 toughness: Nameless Inversion, Lightning Bolt (uncommon), Agony Warp (uncommon)
    • 5 toughness: Fiery Fall, Dismember (uncommon)
    • Any toughness: Vapor Snag, Repeal, Dispatch (uncommon), Wrecking Ball (uncommon), Cyrptic Command (rare), Comet Storm (mythic)
  • Most pump/protection spells are commons, with only Mutagenic Growth and Sigil Blessing at uncommon.
    • Of the pump spells, there are 2 each that grant +2/+2, +2/+0 to multiple creatures (Fortify can also be used to give +0/+2), +3/+3 (Sigil Blessing also gives +1/+1 to all your other creatures), and +4/+4 (Wings of Velis Vel only gives +4/+4 to graft creatures, but that’s also the deck that will tend to play this card the most).
    • There are 3 pump spells that affect multiple creatures: 1 gives +2/+0 (and changeling) to 2 creatures, 1 gives +2/+0 or +0/+2 to all your creatures, and 1 gives +1/+1 to all your creatures and an additional +2/+2 to 1 of them.
    • There are 3 protection spells: 1 gives hexproof (and is also a pump spell if kicked), 1 gives protection from a color, and 1 exiles a creature until end of turn and gives it a +1/+1 counter when it returns (it can also target your opponent’s creatures and so can be used to remova an aura).
  • The 8 Sideboard tricks include 3 color hosers, 3 artifact/enchantment removal spells, 1 that kills flyers, 1 that hurts graveyard strategies.
  • The 7 Other tricks include 3 counterspells (this does not include Flashfreeze, Cryptic Command, and Mystic Snake, which are counted in other categories), 3 card draw/recoup spells, and 1 lifegain spell.

Welcome baby Inara

I didn’t have time to write a post this week, but I have a really good excuse:

She’s 7lb 10oz and 55cm long. Both mom and baby are in good health and are recovering well.

JOU: Additions to the enchantment reuse deck

I’d previously written about a deck that might use Floodtide Serpent to reuse enchantments, primarily cantrip enchantments, but also some others. Journey into Nyx also brings us 3 additional ways to reuse enchantments: Kiora’s Dismissal, Riptide Chimera, and Triton Cavalry. An 8-person JOU/BNG/THS draft has an average of 0.4 copies of any given Journey into Nyx uncommon, so there are likely to be 1.2 copies of these 3 cards, roughly equal to the number of Floodtide Serpents you’re likely to see (1.3).

Reusing enchantments works well with constellation since you can retrigger each of your constellation abilities. In addition, there are a couple of Journey into Nyx cards that work especially well in this deck:

  • Harvestguard Alseids allows you to attack with Floodtide Serpent without worrying about losing it in combat.
  • Crystalline Nautilus becomes reusable removal if you bestow an opponent’s creature, target that creature, and then return Crystalline Nautilus to your hand once it’s a creature. Journey into Nyx also provides several reuable targeting effect on permanents with constellation: Harvestguard Alseids, Whitewater Naiads, Dreadbringer Lampads, Forgeborn Oreads, Goldenhide Ox, Oakheart Dryads, and Strength from the Fallen.
  • Dictate of Kruphix can become a one-sided Howling Mine if played on your opponent’s turn and returned to your hand during your turn. (It doesn’t work with Riptide Chimera, however, since that requires you to return the enchantment on your upkeep.)

(Note that Skybind doesn’t fit in this deck because it only allows you to flicker nonenchantment permanents.)

There are also 3 green cards that might fit well in this deck: Kruphix’s Insight, Reviving Melody, and Strength from the Fallen. Strength from the Fallen is likely unplayable since it has a very high setup cost; it requires you to have a large number of enchantments in your deck, to have creatures in your graveyard, creatures in play (to receive the +X/+X bonus), and to be on the offensive (since the set provides only a few ways to have an enchantment enter the battlefield at instant speed).

Given the above analysis, I will now rate 3 of the TBD cards from my evaluation of Journey into Nyx cards:

  • Triton Cavalry: good; defends while you set up your combos
  • Kruphix’s Insight: good; stocks your graveyard while drawing you cards
  • Strength from the Fallen: unplayable

BNG: Floodtide Serpent and the enchantment reuse deck

Since the release of BNG, I’ve primarily drafted very aggressive decks, usually after being passed multiple copies of Loyal Pegasus, Fanatic of Xenagos, and/or red removal spells. I haven’t yet tried the archetypes I’d theorized that Born of the Gods might make possible. I’m particularly eager to try the enchantment reuse deck since I often see Floodtide Serpent late. I did once draft 2 Floodtide Serpents and 4 cantrip Auras (2 Dragon Mantles, 1 Stratus Walk, and 1 Fate Foretold) but left them in the sideboard because I had a U/R spells deck with Flamespeaker Adept, 2 Spellheart Chimeras, and a Prescient Chimera and so needed my noncreature slots for spells and not Auras.

Let’s consider which colors are best able to exploit Floodtide Serpent. Here are several ways to profit from bouncing and replaying enchantments, listed in order of descending importance for BNG/THS/THS drafts, along with the color(s) that benefit most (-C means that it interacts with rares or mythics in that color and so is less relevant):

  1. (U, G) Reusing enchantment with enters-the-battlefield effects: The format has several cantrip Auras — 1 in white, 3 in blue (including Eternity Snare), 2 in black, 1 in red, and 2 in green — plus Raised by Wolves and Ephara’s Enlightenment.
  2. (W, U, G) Retriggering heroic abilities: W/U and G/W have the most number of creatures with heroic, but both tend to be quite aggressive and probably wouldn’t run a 5-mana 4/4 maindeck.
  3. (all colors) Converting bestow creatures into bestow Auras: This is useful if you have a creature with bestow (either because you cast it as a creature early or because the creature it was enchanting died) and you’d prefer to have it be an Aura.
  4. (W, U, G) Moving Auras from one creature to another: You may want to move certain powerful Auras like Eidolon of Countless Battles, Ghostblade Eidolon, or Flitterstep Eidolon to a different creature as a game progresses. Or you can use it with Feral Invocation or Boon Satyr to make combat difficult. Or you can use it with the Ordeals to get additional +1/+1 counters (although you have to return a different enchantment, otherwise you won’t get the counter).
  5. (R) Bouncing borrowed enchantment creatures: This works with Akroan Conscriptor and Portent of Betrayal. The borrowed creature won’t get to do combat damage, but your opponent loses tempo and any Auras on the creature fall off.
  6. (U, -W/R) Moving a removal Aura to a different creature: This works with Eternity Snare, Chained to the Rock, and perhaps Viper’s Kiss. (You can’t use Chained to the Rock to trigger enters-the-battlefield effects on your creatures that aren’t also enchantments since it can only target an opponent’s creature.)
  7. (all colors) Rescuing an enchantment creature you control from some removal Auras: This is primarily useful against Eternity Snare and sometimes Viper’s Kiss. (Floodtide Serpent doesn’t work against Chained to the Rock since that exiles the creature.)
  8. (-R, -W/U, -G/W) Replaying enchantments to trigger enters-the-battlefield effects of other permanents: Purphoros God of the Forge, Ephara God of the Polis, and Karametra God of Harvests. These are all mythics, so this situation will rarely arise.
  9. (-G) Getting a second use out of an enchantment that has/confers a tap ability: This can potentially be used with Epiphany Storm (requires 3 mana + tapping 2 creatues), Ephara’s Radiance (5 mana + 2 creatures), Evanescent Intellect (5 mana + 2 creatures), Claim of Erebos (6 mana + 2 creatures), Bow of Nylea (7 mana), Oracle’s Insight (8 mana + 2 creatures), Hammer of Purphoros (9 mana). However, there are easier ways to reuse tap abilities granted by the Auras, and you’re unlikely to get to 9 mana if you have a Hammer of Purphoros in play, so this is mostly useful with Bow of Nylea, a rare that is rarely passed.
  10. (-B) Removing enchantments you no longer want in play: This is only useful if you need to get Herald of Torment out of play, a situation that should rarely arise.

(Note that the enchantment is returned as the attack is declared, so you don’t get the trigger from cards like Spiteful Returned and Thunderous Might before they return to your hand. It is also not a combo with Perplexing Chimera because it only allows you to return a creature you control you to hand, not a creature you own.)

Looking over this list, we see that white, blue, and green have the most cards that work with Floodtide Serpent. However, W/U and G/U both tend to be aggressive decks in this format, and Floodtide Serpent is better suited to a control deck that can win by eking out card advantage. The control decks in this format are usually B/X or U/R, and we’ve already observed that U/R is not a good color pair for Floodtide Serpent. That leaves U/B and perhaps B/G/u. And there might also be a G/U control deck that uses Sedge Scorpions and Omenspeakers to hold the ground and mana acceleration to cast Floodtide Serpent earlier, while gaining incremental card advantage with Floodtide Serpent and Meletis Astronomer.

The good U/B decks I’ve drafted tend to run a lot of removal, and don’t usually have a lot of space for Auras. A U/B inspired deck could be a good home for Floodtide Serpent, but inspired creatures + cantrip Auras that grant evasion + Floodtide Serpents is a lot to ask of a single pack of Born of the Gods. However, it might be more feasible if you’re drafting with 2-3 packs of Born of the Gods.

B/G decks tend to focus on devotion or the graveyard. There are few enchantments that interact with the graveyard other than Evanescent Intellect, but B/G/u devotion is a possible home for Floodtide Serpent. The deck is happy to run Auras to increase devotion and can afford to run a couple of splash cards even though they don’t contribute to devotion.

Let’s look at which cards in blue, green, and black would work well in a control deck with Floodtide Serpent:

  • Commons: Chorus of the Tides, Fate Foretold, Stratus Walk, Wavecrash Triton // Baleful Eidolon, Grisly Transformation, Scourgemark // Sedge Scorpion, Feral Invocation, Karametra’s Favor, Nylea’s Presence, Setessan Oathsworn, Staunch-Hearted Warrior
  • Uncommons: Eternity Snare, Flitterstep Eidolon, Meletis Astronomer, Triton Fortune Hunter // Ashiok’s Adept, Ordeal of Erebos (if drawn late), Tormented Hero // Centaur Battlemaster, Order of Nylea (if drawn late and you already have access to blue mana), Raised by Wolves
  • Rares: Agent of the Fates // Anthousa Setessan Hero, Boon Satyr, Bow of Nylea, Hero of Leina Tower // Prophet of Kruphix // Astral Cornucopia

There seem to be enough cards that this deck might be possible. As always, keep in mind that an 8-person BNG/THS/THS will only have an average of 1.3 copies of any Born of the Gods common, so you don’t usually want to draft this deck unless you’re already in these colors and have a couple of Floodtide Serpents.

BNG: Reevaluating God-Favored General

In my evaluation of Born of the Gods, I’d listed God-Favored General as unplayable. I felt the 1/1 body was unimpressive, that it required other cards and significant effort to trigger the inspired ability, and that 2 1/1s was a paltry reward for that effort. Also, I’d determined that most of the enablers for the inspired deck were in blue and black, so I felt like a W/X would not have sufficient ways to trigger the ability.

However, the card has been quite good against me in recent weeks, and I’ve decided that I shortchanged it. I’d been treating the inspired trigger as a combat damage trigger, but really it just has to survive combat. On more than one occasion, my opponent has cast Divine Verdict on my blocking creature and gotten the inspired trigger even though no combat damage was dealt. Cards like Chosen by Heloid can also be quite effective, at least on turn 3, as they let God-Favored general survive combat.

So, while God-Favored General is rarely good on its own, there are enough things it is good with that I am willing to draft it higher now. In addition to spells that grant it evasion, it is also good with cheap Auras, removal, combat tricks, and tap effects. However, an 8-person draft will only have an average of 0.4 copies of it, so it won’t alter my draft picks much unless I have multiple copies of it. And even with multiple copes, I won’t draft/play cards like Ephara’s Radiance that are only good with a small number of other cards.

Here are the cards in each color that fall into the categories described above. The bolded ones have ongoing/reusable effects that allow you to trigger the inspired ability each turn.

  • White: Glimpse of the Sun God (average of 0.4 copies in 8-person draft), Nyxborn Shieldmate (1.3), Battlewise Valor (1.6), Cavalry Pegasus (1.6), Chosen by Heliod (1.6), Dauntless Onslaught (0.8), Last Breath (1.6), Leonin Snarecaster (1.6) = average of 10.5 cards in 8-person BNG/THS/THS draft, 1.6 of which are ongoing
  • W/U: Ephara’s Enlightenment (0.4) = 0.4, all of which are ongoing
  • Blue: Stratus Walk (1.3), Oracle’s Insight (0.4), Retraction Helix (1.3), Sudden Storm (1.3), Aqueous Form (1.6), Nimbus Naiad (1.6), Sea God’s Revenge (0.8) = 8.3, 4.9 of which are ongoing
  • Black: Asphyxiate (1.3), Bile Blight (0.4), Black Oak of Odunos (0.4), Grisly Transformation (1.3), Herald of Torment (0.2), Necrobite (1.3), Boon of Erebos (1.6), Hero’s Downfall (0.26), Mogis’s Marauder (0.8), Pharika’s Cure (1.6) = 9.16, 1.9 of which are ongoing
  • Red: Bolt of Keranos (1.3), Lightning Volley (0.4), Searing Blood (0.4), Coordinated Assault (0.8), Lightning Strike (1.6), Magma Jet (0.8), Titan of Eternal Fire (0.26) = 5.56, 0.26 of which are ongoing
  • Green: Karametra’s Favor (1.3), Boon Satyr (0.26), Feral Invocation (1.6), Savage Surge (0.8) = 3.96, 1.3 of which are ongoing (I’m not counting Boon Satyr and Feral Invocation here, even though they stick around, because there’s no guarantee that God-Favored General can survive another attack without additional help)
  • Artifact: Springleaf Drum (0.4), Fleetfeather Sandals (1.6), Prowler’s Helm (0.8), Witches’ Eye (0.8) = 3.6, all of which are ongoing

So, God-Favored General works better if you’re in W/U or W/B. Blue, in particular, offers a lot of effects that allow you to trigger the inspired ability each turn. Note that, even if you have multiple copies of these cards, God-Favored General is still a 1/1, so there are plenty of removal spells that can render all your efforts moot.