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Seven Turns in the Maze

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The letter C!ome tomorrow, we will get our first glances of what lurks at the end of the Implicit Maze. But for now, what about some understandably excited speculation RE: the new set? There is some flash in the Dragon's Maze and some basic tools. There are cards that will give powerhouse decks headaches and future sideboard superstars that compare favorably to some pretty impressive historical heroes. Let's have a look at...

 
 

Wow, what a card!

Longtime gamers probably immediately zeroed in on the fact that half of this card is about equal to Shatter (a contributor since the dawn of Alpha) and the other half is just a tad weaker than Erase (a respectable sideboard card). Put together? It's kind of a different take on Rack and Ruin for similar mana. Not only not bad... really, quite good in the sense of flexibility, and sometimes a complete blowout (get your Detention Sphere and your Staff of Nin).


Where does this matter?

Wear & Tear is going to be a potential sideboard card for any player who has access to both red and white. I don't think this card is going to generate a huge amount of unaffiliated traffic; but it is going to range from "useful" to "devastating."

When is Wear & Tear going to be useful? A player wants something to maybe interact with enchantments, maybe something to interact with artifacts? A "Disenchant" as it were? This card—again based on being "Boros" or better—fits the bill. And sometimes? You get the sick two-for-one! At that point Wear & Tear is probably performing better than reasonably expected.

 

Did I mention "Wow, what a card" yet?

What I like best about Voice of Resurgence isn't just how good it is (it is obviously good) but how not-obvious it is. Like, what is the first deck you would want to throw Voice of Resurgence into? Might I suggest a Naya beatdown deck?

Wait a minute!

Voice of Resurgence doesn't get along very well with Cavern of Souls... at least not in a deck with substantial Humans.

So Voice of Resurgence makes you choose. Maybe you can play it in your Naya deck... but maybe not in a dedicated Humans deck. You might have to rethink your mana base, or—gasp—play more lands than the average Blitz.

Think about this card in context for a sec.

What kind of defensive card might Voice of Resurgence hate most? What about a Fog?


Voice of Resurgence pretty much just attacks and blocks and makes little buddies that just attack and block (even if they get big). A deck based on Fog can lock down Voice of Resurgenceand all of its progeny.

So you can have this opponent who is Fogging and Fogging and locking down your Voice and all its little sidekicks. Atrocious, right?

Except that you keep making guys because the opponent is casting stuff on your turn, which in turn makes more guys.

What happens when you mix up the not-played-quite-enough Gatecrash foil Skullcrack? All of a sudden, those seemingly locked-down tokens might be looking pretty deadly. You might just get a one-shot start-and-finish.


Voice of Resurgence is an excellent attrition card. Think about how little downside there is to, say, putting a Rancor on one. It dies... you get paid on both cards. What happens when your opponent casts a card on your turn... that results in Voice of Resurgence's death? Not just multiples but multiples multiplying size on each other's backs. Preexisting Naya decks might have, at present, a hard time casting Voice of Resurgence, but that kind of deck is generally pretty thin in terms of card drawing. Voice of Resurgence can give a deck without a lot of card advantage a little, you know, card advantage.

Where does this matter?

Voice of Resurgence is going to create a sub-game in Standard in a similar way to Boros Reckoner. For some players, that sub-game isn't going to matter at all; they are going to tap Red Mana for Pillar of Flame and kill Voice of Resurgence like any other creature. Other players might not have the relevant tool... but because their decks function a certain way they aren't particularly vulnerable to "a Bear" either...

But for a reasonable chunk of decks in the Selesnya, Bant, and Naya portions of the metagame, this card is going to be somewhere from "annoying" to the straight-up game winner. You don't have to think hard to imagine that. Card advantage, untold size, giving the opponent the old "you have removal but the cure is almost worse than the sickness" feeling at the pit of his or her stomach. That's when Voice of Resurgence looks most fun. Because winning is fun.

 

Did this card jump out at you as an excellent potential Constructed card?

Well, hither and thither, Divination has been a hit, generally as a two-of in various blue-black or Grixis decks. Pilfered Plans is kinda sorta Divination-plus.

Obviously, you can use Pilfered Plans to deck your opponent (or at least move him or her in that direction)... but what is more interesting is using it on yourself. Pilfered Plans has excellent synergy with Snapcaster Mage. Not only can you use it to "make your own Mulldrifter" (where a 2/2 Elemental with flying is a 2/1 Wizard without flying) but Pilfered Plans also sets up your next Snapcaster Mage. Not only does it put itself into the graveyard and potentially dig you to a potential Snapcaster Mage, but it fills your graveyard (a little) for additional flashback options. Not busted, but Divination-plus.


Where does this matter?

This card is a solid option; it isn't an automatic four-of and it loses value in formats where it doesn't get to put heads together with a certain flashy 2/1 two-drop. But when you are going to start filling in certain checkboxes in Standard? Pilfered Plans is largely better than a card that has been a reasonable contributor... and should be rated as such.

 

I just wanted to say, for sake of comparison, that on the occasion of my first Pro Tour seventeen years ago, Nettletooth Djinn was played (in Standard), and finished if I recall in the Top 16; Nettletooth Djinn was then the smaller (aka "fixed") version of Juzám Djinn.

Isn't it odd that we now live in a world where green and white have a card that is not only so substantially better than Juzám Djinn? This card has all of Juzám's size, but none of its specific downsides. It isn't just that this card is better on its face (no drawback), but the token has trample... and the creature itself essentially has flash!

Where does this matter?

When Advent of the Wurm was revealed, Thea Steele made the comment that it will never be safe to attack into four mana again. Ooh, one might think,Advent of the Wurm can Elephant Ambush the unwary. But the reality is? That it is pretty much Restoration Angel territory already in Standard.


This makes for an interesting deck-tuning question. Angel or Wurm? One of them thrives with other creature cards (especially other creature cards with interesting enters-the-battlefield clauses)... the other doesn't want to be blinked by an Angel. Ever. This card has tremendous value for the right deck; but that right deck isn't necessarily the GW[x] decks of Standard so far. Tokens strategies might love Advent of the Wurm in a way Restoration Angel could never get any love, as this card works so well with populate or Intangible Virtue.

As a card, irrespective of synergies elsewhere, it's hard to find more value for the proposed effect at this price.

 

This card is one of the most pregnant-with-possibilities spells in the entire set. Obzedat's Aid has the potential to do some of the most interesting things of any card: By being able to bring back any sort of super-expensive (and presumably super-powerful) permanent, it offers a discount on spells like Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker or Omniscience... as long as you can get one of those cards into the graveyard.

So there is a price. You probably need to play a lot of the same kinds of tools we are used to seeing in other Reanimator decks. Mulch, Grisly Salvage, Faithless Looting, etc. On the other hand? If you are already playing a deck that does that sort of thing... Obzedat's Aid can potentially go straight in for Rites-redundancy.


Where does this matter?

There are two questions that must be answered with regards to Obzedat's Aid. One of them is whether it matters that what we are reanimating is a creature (or not). If we are just bringing back creatures, this card is a poor Unburial Rites. It costs as much as the front half of Unburial Rites, but is a bit more annoying being both colors. That said, an annoying set of extra cards is not necessarily a bad thing. Ask any red mage who has supplemented Lightning Bolts with Volcanic Hammers or straight Shocks. Sometimes you just want some more. Fifth or sixth Unburial Rites might be perfectly welcome (if only to get around Nevermore).

Big deal: Let's make sure we are getting a substantial savings or additional efficiency out of it. In previous formats, one bonus on Junk Rites was how good Thragtusk could be in concert with Unburial Rites. Any Thragtusk could be a problem, but the two-for-one after two-for-one after two-for-one that decks had to deal with between Thragtusk (and its Beast) and the next two copies of the same card could be oppressive. We don't really have that here; what we do have is the ability to cheat out, say, an Omniscience.


Did we just cheat out an Omniscience? Well how fast was that? To what degree did we have to bend our mana around potentially hard-casting it? Here is the big one: So now what? Crazy! Right? Because if you just cheated out an Omniscience on turn four or so and you just said "go" instead of winning in spectacular fashion... maybe there was something off with how you put together your Obzedat's Aid deck.

Junk Rites, Four-Color Reanimator, and the various infinite Reanimators have already shown us a massive level of power and success when using these kinds of cards. We have to be vigilant when playing a potentially super-exciting variation that we didn't just trade "exciting" for win percentage. There was already plenty of spectacularly exciting to go around.

 

Speaking of Reanimator, I think Blast of Genius has a potential hole to fill in decks like that... decks that are up against a certain amount of hate, for instance, might see a lot of utility. Take a deck with Griselbrand. Say that a deck wants to reanimate Griselbrand... isn't it cool to brain the opponent with Griselbrand right before trying to bring him back?

Where does this matter?

Now, obviously, the default reaction to this card is unlikely to be "tool for Reanimator" but I do think that the potential is there, in particular for some new-fangled version with lots of colors. If you are going to try to do something crazy with Obzedat's Aid, for instance? There is an implication playing with Omniscience that you might want blue mana for hard-cast and red mana for Nicol Bolas. Junk Rites, unlikely (but they already have a midrange Plan B). New guy? Maybe.


In general, though... this is kind of a Tidings that can affect the battlefield. One of the scary elements players tapping out for a big card-drawing spell face is a non-effect on the board. You might have to tap out... but you're afraid about what's already there (let alone what is coming next from the opponent). Blast of Genius resolves that somewhat. Tap out... but maybe you are clearing an opposing threat at the same time. Your mileage may vary. The more a deck is tailored to take advantage of all parts of the Blast of Genius buffalo... the more value it is going to be able to give you.

 

I don't know if you noticed, but I picked a card at every casting cost in Dragon's Maze to talk about. Okay I cheated on Wear & Tear a little bit but half of that three is a one if you grok. Teysa is at the top of this article's provocative curve.

Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts is our seven. Any time you are considering a seven in Constructed it is implicit that the card is powerful. Think about the fives we play, about how good a card has to be to compete with Thragtusk, Thundermaw Hellkite, or Zealous Conscripts—a seven is two more mana than these fatty boom booms. To get to seven in Standard you have to leap a mana past Staff of Nin and to get to seven in Orzhov—white and black—you are talking about asking Angel of Serenity to give up its seat at the mana curve table.

Does Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts fulfill enough of our seven-drop dreams to get us there?

I think the answer is... sometimes.


Where does this matter?

I am skeptical about knowing the metagame well enough to say that she will see much main-deck play. Your main deck generally has to take a good number of different comers and Teysa is badly outclassed in certain fights, given her cost. Case in point, Teysa is basically there to beat on creatures and some decks beat you with Planeswalker lockdown, rainbow Doors to losing the game, or Drownyard decking. To them, contextually, Teysa is simply four mana more than a 4/4 threat needs to be.

Teysa is powerful and expensive, but she is not a big blunt object. As you might gather from the precision and implied expense of her little outfit, she is more of a surgeon than a jackhammer.

Teysa is built to beat on creatures. As a seven, she requires two bits of machinery, one obvious and one less so.

From the obvious side... you have to live long enough to hit seven. When you will be tapping out. Obvious again... you need to be able to live through the next attack and untap.

Now when that happens, Teysa still needs a little help. Teysa is sweet on offense/defense... Serra Angel reborn. Teysa can attack through any blockers and live through any battle, but...

In order to keep getting money out of Teysa (or get any at all) you need to be able to withstand at least a wave of unblocked attackers. The subsequent 1/1 brigade will help you out after that but I am envisioning the need for an ongoing source of lifegain if you plan to keep taking it on the chin for more and more 1/1s. Luckily, Teysa is two-thirds in the Sphinx's Revelation/Esper colors to start and is already the envoy to Obzedat (who will probably show up first).

Originally, I thought of Teysa as an anti-swarm card but I think she might be even more strategically oppressive to a deck that tries to win with one big guy. Your Thragtusks, Thundermaws, selected Angels, or now Ætherlings. Because these decks work up a lot of effort to get into a "win with this" situation... but might never get a second attack.

So... what are your favorite new ones, twos, threes, and sevens hidden in the Dragon's Maze? Me? I'm bravely planning to send with this, this weekend:


Roar.




 
Mike Flores
Mike Flores
@FiveWithFlores
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Michael Flores is the author of Deckade and The Official Miser's Guide; the designer of numerous State, Regional, Grand Prix, National, and Pro Tour–winning decks; and the onetime editor-in-chief of The Magic Dojo. He'd claim allegiance to Dimir (if such a Guild existed)… but instead will just shrug "Simic."

 
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