elcome to another exciting week of previews here on DailyMTG.com! Today's preview card really shows off the depth of design space available for a mechanic like soulbond. Until now, most soulbond creatures strongly encourage their master to create a bond upon entering the battlefield.
For example, a card like Wolfir Silverheart essentially adds 4 points of hasty power to the table if you already have a creature in play. Tandem Lookout can replace itself if you have a creature that can make its way to your opponent's face unmolested. Silverblade Paladin grants double strike to your two-drop (ideally a Cloistered Youth or Porcelain Legionnaire).
Today's card, however, rewards patience. It's a curious situation: a card named Lightning Mauler rewarding patience:
Sure, you can slam down Lightning Mauler after your one-drop and crash in for an extra 2 damage, but a 2/1 haste for isn't exactly the cream of the crop in Constructed. To get full value out of Lightning Mauler, you'll want to wait for a particularly juicy sidekick to give haste.
Lightning Mauler | Art by Dave Kendall
Wolfir Silverheart was previewed by Dave Humpherys on Monday. I can think of no better candidate to give haste in the post-Avacyn Restored Standard or Block formats. Think about it: If you already have Lightning Mauler unpaired on the battlefield, then Wolfir Silverheart adds 12 points of attacking damage to the table for five mana. All kinds of absurd...
Lightning Mauler puts your opponent in interesting situations too. For example, if you have an unpaired Lightning Mauler on the battlefield, then it's very difficult for your opponent to gauge when it's safe to cast his or her Planeswalker. Even a Karn Liberated that goes +4 right away will be in danger of a hasty Wolfir Silverheart.
Lightning Mauler combos nicely with one of the most talked about cards from Avacyn Restored. Vexing Devil is always going to be a 4 damage Lava Spike, unless your opponent has a cheap/effective answer to the 4/3. Lightning Mauler makes the decision a little more difficult. Wait until you have three mana available and cast the Vexing Devil. If your opponent has a spot removal spell for the next turn then he or she is likely to let it stick around instead of paying 4 life. You can then put your opponent in a tight spot by casting Lightning Mauler after the Vexing Devil to crash in for 6 points of hasty damage.
Lightning Mauler can also be used in fringe decks that desire a key combo piece to gain haste. For example, Pili-Pala and Grand Architect create infinite mana together, but this combo hasn't seen play because the Pili-Pala needs to stick around for a turn as a creature with 1 toughness that's also an artifact (i.e., there are a lot of cards that kill it). Lightning Mauler can grant Pili-Pala haste and effectively end the game immediately:
Turn 2: Lightning Mauler (no soulbond).
Turn 3: Grand Architect, tap Grand Architect, cast Pili-Pala, create soulbond between Lightning Mauler and Pili-Pala. Abrakadabra! Infinite mana on turn three in Modern.
In Limited, Lightning Mauler will create situations that reward thoughtful players. To illustrate this concept, I'd like to share a story with you.
It was the third game of the third round of the first draft at the World Championships in 2008. I had managed to get my opponent down to 5 life with some early aggression, but I drew a lot of land and my opponent was able to kill my creatures and was starting to assemble an army of his own. My opponent attacked with all his creatures, cast another creature, and passed the turn. I would be dead in two more attacks. I drew Bull Cerodon, feigned resignation, and passed the turn back. My opponent attacked with everything and passed the turn again. I cast Bull Cerodon the next turn and attacked my opponent for lethal damage. My opponent could have easily left back a blocker, but he hadn't seen Bull Cerodon from me and I didn't give him a reason to believe he was about to get the horns.
Restoration Angel | Art by Johannes Voss
There's a lesson to learn here. Hasty monsters with big numbers are a very effective way to steal games. Lightning Mauler might just be a 2/1, but having a copy of Lightning Mauler in your deck can change the way you play the later turns of the game. For example, if you have a Kindercatch in hand with your opponent at 8 or less life and there's a Lightning Mauler or two in your deck, then it might be wise to wait on casting it. Kindercatch has no evasion and your opponent could probably formulate a plan to race it. However, if it gains haste, then your opponent will be in a world of hurt.
Lightning Mauler will make games of Limited very interesting. Mostly because there's a "flicker" theme in Avacyn Restored.
Flickering creatures has always been a fun Limited effect that encourages players to use creatures with enter-the-battlefield triggers. In Avacyn Restored, we can flicker soulbond creatures to renew bonds or create new ones altogether. The interaction between these two set themes is going to create a lot of exciting Limited matches.
In Standard, Lightning Mauler pairs well with Wolfir Silverheart and Pyreheart Wolf. Giving Pyreheart Wolf haste is a lot better than you might expect. In a lot of ways, it makes your team unblockable forever. That's not entirely true, but it's unlikely your opponents will still be alive by the time they're able to make any profitable blocks.
Wolfir Silverheart is especially good in a deck like this. Birds of Paradise can become a 4/5 flier in a pinch, dominating the skies and showing Insectile Aberration who's boss.
Hellrider lets a deck like this turn sideways with reckless abandon. If you're able to curve out into a Hellrider it's going to be difficult for any deck to race you.
We're going to want a lot of mana creatures because they're worth a lot of damage with Wolfir Silverheart and Hellrider and they help us cast our big spells earlier. Birds of Paradise is especially good here because it taps for red mana.
Strangleroot Geist and Phyrexian Metamorph will finish our creature base. Metamorph lets us get aggressive with an opponent's Swords and gives us a way to kill Geist of Saint Traft. Strangleroot Geist is extremely powerful for obvious reasons and will find itself in just about every RG aggro deck.
Brimstone Volley allows this deck to finish games out of nowhere. Its 5 damage is 25% of the game. It won't be difficult to turn on morbid when you're attacking with all your creatures every turn.
Thunderous Wrath | Art by Adam Paquette
Speaking of 5 damage, I'd really like to only pay one mana to seal up 25% of the game. Lucky for me, Thunderous Wrath lets me kill people out of nowhere for the cheap cost of a single red mana. And even drawing Thunderous Wrath unprepared isn't the end of the world (I've paid kicker on Burst Lightning many times). The topdeck potential of Thunderous Wrath makes it worthwhile here. I'm looking forward to playing actual games with the miracle mechanic; it seems pretty crazy.
Here's what the deck looks like when we put it all together.
Jacob's RG Lightning Mauler
The Avacyn Restored Prerelease events are less than two weeks away. Be sure to look up an event so you can be one of the first people to play with the latest Magic: The Gathering expansion. Call ahead to find out if your location will have a Helvault event. These events are of limited availability and might require preregistration. Don't wait until the last minute to plan your Prerelease adventure!
I'm going to jump back into brewing for next week's column. I've received a lot of great feedback in the last few weeks and I'm looking forward to next week's piece. Be sure to shoot me an email or hit the forums with comments or suggestions for future column ideas.