Recently, Wizards announced a set of rules changes that will come into effect with the Magic 2014 Core Set on July 13.
I was going to make a How I Met Your Mother reference here, but then I got sad because that show should’ve been put down long ago. It struggles on like a beloved household pet, broken with age yet still cared for and loved with delusion-soaked affection.
“Yes, Mimsy is drooling on my thigh, but that’s love drool. She’s still healthy as ever!”
The new legend rule states that, if you have a legend and play a second of the same name, you choose which to keep. This means that if you have one enchanted with a [card]Pacifism[/card], you can exchange it for the fresh copy. Also, both you and your opponent can have the same legend in play.
This places more emphasis on the die roll. If you and your opponent are playing the same legend, whoever jams it first will have a huge advantage. That player gets to untap with the busted creature while before they would’ve traded. Can you imagine playing a UW Delver mirror with the new rules? Landing a [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card] on three would just win.
I do think Wizards learned their mistake from [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card], and to a lesser extent [card]Thrun, the Last Troll[/card], and they have been playing with these rules for over a year now. I look forward to seeing what they do with this new design space! No pressure, Wizards.
Legacy has a gigantic card pool of sweet legends, so I’ll just go down the list:
• [card]Umezawa’s Jitte[/card] worsens in multiples. Before, your first Jitte would trade with the opponent’s, and your second would win the game. Now, the second copy is dead. Also, I can’t wait until my opponent and I both have a Thrun with a Jitte on it. On second thought, I can wait, hopefully forever.
[draft]show and tell[/draft]
• Casting [card]Show and Tell[/card] in the Sneak and Show mirror used to be miserable if you weren’t cheating a [card]Sneak Attack[/card] into play. It still is.
• The hype over [card]Gaea’s Cradle[/card] makes sense. After all, one of the more powerful lands in the format got a strict upgrade, moving it to an auto-four-of in Elves. I remember all of the errata for power level and re-errata for “original intent” and such, which makes me hesitant to speculate on the card. With the new rules, Cradle functions differently than its creators intended, making it a consideration for banning or errata. I don’t think it’ll happen, but I wouldn’t rule out the possibility.
• [card]Serra’s Sanctum[/card] gets the same buff as [card]Gaea’s Cradle[/card], to the joy of that one guy still playing Enchantress. Cheers, guy.
• The [card]Vendilion Clique[/card] + [card]Karakas[/card] combo gets more annoying, as playing your own Clique or Karakas no longer breaks it up. Now, both players can have the soft lock going at the same time. Also, chaining [card]Vendilion Clique[/card]s together is far more powerful, and the card will go from a one- or two-of into a solid three-of. I like how you can flash it in, kill off your opponent’s planeswalker, and still block with another Clique on your opponent’s turn.
• [card]Dark Depths[/card] and [card]Thespian’s Stage[/card] is now a combo. Just activate Stage, choose to keep it over the original [card]Dark Depths[/card], and make a sweet 20/20 from having zero counters. This combo is almost as weak as the [card]Vampire Hexmage[/card] version, though there are some key differences. While they can both be fetched by [card]Living Wish[/card], [card]Life from the Loam[/card] grabs Stage directly without needing [card]Volrath’s Stronghold[/card]. Both combos are weak to [card]Wasteland[/card] and [card]Swords to Plowshares[/card], two of the most popular cards in the format, but at least Stage circumvents countermagic.
• As a deckbuilder, I’m intrigued by [card]Mox Opal[/card]. Extra Opals turn into [card]Lotus Petals[/card], making it a more consistent source of fast mana. I predict a restriction in Vintage, and I can’t wait to see how it plays out in other formats.
Modern Opal KCI
1 Hallowed Fountain
2 Misty Rainforest
2 Scalding Tarn
4 Darksteel Citadel
4 Ichor Wellspring
3 Talisman of Progress
4 Krark-Clan Ironworks
2 Elsewhere Flask
1 Myr Incubator
4 Lotus Bloom
4 Faith’s Reward
2 Open the Vaults
2 Conjurer’s Bauble
4 Chromatic Sphere
4 Chromatic Star
4 Mox Opal
2 Defense Grid
4 Leyline of Sanctity
4 Echoing Truth
2 Torpor Orb
1 Pithing Needle[/deck]
With the old legend rules, [card]Mox Opal[/card] wasn’t particularly good in KCI, as every time you’d cast a [card]Faith’s Reward[/card] all the Moxen would come back, legend rule each other, and fall back into the ‘yard. Now you’ll get to keep one, and having a Modern combo deck that can run four Moxen/Lotus Petals is kind of broken.
This deck is a different beast than the old Eggs deck, which had little use for ramp. Here, the Talismans and Moxen give us an early [card]Krark-Clan Ironworks[/card] while fixing our mana. If anything, the turn three kill should happen more often than it did in Eggs.
While the deck isn’t trying to create an infinite loop with [card]Conjurer’s Bauble[/card], the card prevents us from losing to a random [card]Thoughtseize[/card] taking [card]Banefire[/card], and shuffling in gas like [card]Faith’s Reward[/card] is still useful when comboing off. We’ll have to choose if we want KCI mana or an extra card, but after the first [card]Faith’s Reward[/card] we’ll have more mana than we know what to do with anyway.
So far, testing has shown that [card]Ichor Wellspring[/card] prevents fizzling. Similarly, a [card]Myr Incubator[/card] activation can remove all of the non-cantripping artifacts, providing valuable thinning and a minor army of Myr tokens. At a certain point, you have all the mana in the world and the only thing you care about is drawing into [card]Banefire[/card] or another [card]Faith’s Reward[/card]. I could just run a second [card]Banefire[/card], but I like that Incubator is tutorable with [card]Reshape[/card] and something to do with a pile of extra mana. [card]Thopter Foundry[/card] could also fill this role, and it also randomly gains life, screws with [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] clocks, and acts as a sacrifice outlet for Ichor Wellspring. It’s a less powerful tutor target, and I’ll probably keep it on the shelf for particularly aggressive metagames.
There are a variety of other ways to approach the deck. Cards like [card]Cloud Key[/card], [card]Semblance Anvil[/card], and [card]Etherium Sculptor[/card] reduce the cost of the cantrips, creating a different sort of mana engine than Reshaping into [card]Lotus Bloom[/card]. Such a deck could loop [card]Spine of Ish Sah[/card] in the most delightful way.
[card]Sleight of Hand[/card], [card]Serum Visions[/card], and maindeck [card]Silence[/card]s are cards I left out of the above build for space reasons, but I could see them creeping back in. I haven’t had a chance to test [card]Thoughtcast[/card] yet, but Conley Woods played a version with four in his GP Providence deck that you can read about here.
As far as the sideboard goes, [card]Leyline of Sanctity[/card] is better than it looks. Not only does it stop discard, but it also turns off targeted hate like [card]Tormod’s Crypt[/card] or [card]Rakdos Charm[/card].
The current Legacy decks that play Opal are UR Painter and Affinity. They get better, though not by much. Logically, the next step is to figure out what deck wants the full eight Lotus Petals.
3 Underground Sea
2 Seat of the Synod
2 Vault of Whispers
2 Misty Rainforest
4 Polluted Delta
3 Cabal Ritual
1 Tendrils of Agony
4 Lotus Petal
2 Ad Nauseam
4 Lion’s Eye Diamond
2 Sensei’s Divining Top
4 Mox Opal
4 Dark Ritual
2 Chrome Mox
4 Infernal Tutor
4 Dark Confidant
1 Tendrils of Agony
1 Tropical Island
3 Abrupt Decay
1 Volcanic Island
1 Past in Flames
1 Empty the Warrens
3 Chain of Vapor[/deck]
In Painter, I ran 3 Opals alongside 23 other artifacts. This deck has 16, which is significantly less, but not cripplingly so. After all, we have way more filtering and draw to make sure we have enough artifacts to turn on [card]Lotus Petal[/card]s 5-8. Casting [card]Ad Nauseam[/card] with zero floating was never safer.
Speaking of [card]Ad Nauseam[/card], this deck flips like a dream with an average casting cost of 1.09, significantly lower than the typical 1.22ish. However, the cost for this low curve and extra mana is a slightly weaker mana base and fewer actual cantrips. [card]Sensei’s Divining Top[/card] ups the artifact count while offering some resiliency to discard, but it is clunkier than [card]Preordain[/card].
Opals fix the mana for the sideboard splashes, but this could be taken even further into the main deck. Opal Storm is capable of more colors and more artifact lands, though that would take a ton of fiddling.
Wizards changed the planeswalker rule to match the legend one, and now you can play a second ‘walker of the same type and choose the one you want to keep. This improves them, as you can cash in your extras for multiple activations on the same turn. Also, as with legends, your opponent will no longer be able to [card]Vindicate[/card] your ‘walker with theirs, making them slightly easier to ultimate.
I’m not sure planeswalkers needed the buff, but I am looking forward to some sweet new interactions.
Many are excited for some hot Jace-on-Jace action, and I am too, but I’m not sure it’ll be as skill intensive as people think. We can imagine a world where the player who manages their Jace better will win, but I don’t think that’s realistic. As with sweet legends, whoever untaps with a ‘walker first has a huge edge.
Player A: Jace, [card]Brainstorm[/card] with it.
Player B: Jace, [card]Brainstorm[/card].
Player A: Fetch, [card]Brainstorm[/card] again, [card]Thoughtseize[/card] player B and [card]Vindicate[/card] his Jace.
The main improvement is that, in grindy mirrors, one player doesn’t just win because of drawing more Jaces. Still, unlike the die roll, this was a condition we had some control over, from the number of Jaces we ran to our mulligans to our sequencing with cantrips.
Besides player skill and landing Jace first, there is one more factor in the planeswalker war. That is, unless it’s a mirror, one of the two decks will be better suited for such a battle.
Take Team America vs. BUG control. Before, Team America might be able to proactively use a Jace to further an advantage while locking the control deck out of its best tool to get back into the game. Now, both players can stick a Jace and the control deck, with a higher curve and more powerful spells to draw into, will have the advantage. With the new rules, Jace is no longer the best proactive answer to Jace, and decks that want such a tool will have to turn to worse cards like [card]Pithing Needle[/card].
The new Jace interaction might favor combo. ChannelFireball’s own Matt Nass tried Jace in the sideboard of storm combo, and I’ve seen it put to good use out of the [card]Omniscience[/card] sideboard. While a control deck could always answer a Jace with its own, the combo deck was happy trading for one of the control deck’s best ways of locking combo out of the game. After July 13, control decks will have fewer answers, and an early planeswalker out of combo is more likely to run unchecked. [card]Detention Sphere[/card] and [card]Oblivion Ring[/card] will be in post-board against [card]Show and Tell[/card] decks, but getting those hosers out of the opponent’s hand is still awesome.
The new sideboarding rule changes sideboarding from “either 0 or 15” to “up to 15.” Instead of punishing someone for a 14-card sideboard in games two and three, that’s now a legal thing, which is nothing but awesome. Under 60 cards in the main or over 15 in the board is still bad, of course.
For reference, here’s the table that Matt Tabak used to clarify things:
While I love the second example, as it takes a bit of “gotcha” out of the game, the fourth one excites me the most. Let’s consider it for a second.
I like maindecking versatile, high-impact sideboard cards and then boarding them out when they’re less applicable. [card]Nihil Spellbomb[/card] or [card]Relic of Progenitus[/card] are great examples of this, as both cards steal games from linear decks and can always cantrip. If I’m playing against decks that don’t use the graveyard, I can always switch them out for something more versatile like a [card]Thoughtseize[/card] or a [card]Thrun, the Last Troll[/card].
With the new rules, this is still a valid line of play. However, another option presents itself. Rather than sideboarding maindeckable cards, we can start with a deck that’s over 60.
Come July 13, the following list will be legal:
1 River of Tears
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
2 Scalding Tarn
1 Academy Ruins
1 Creeping Tar Pit
2 Mishra’s Factory
1 Marsh Flats
4 Polluted Delta
4 Underground Sea
2 Trinket Mage
1 Engineered Explosives
1 Zuran Orb
4 Innocent Blood
1 Pithing Needle
2 Spell Pierce
4 Force of Will
3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
3 Liliana of the Veil
1 Inquisition of Kozilek
2 Nihil Spellbomb
1 Sensei’s Divining Top
2 Crucible of Worlds
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
3 Engineered Plague
3 Hymn to Tourach
1 The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale[/deck]
The idea is to have access to extra hosers game one and then board down into a thinner, more focused deck for the post-board games.
By going over 60 we make the deck’s draw slightly less consistent. Even with the new rules and the ability to slim down for the post-board games, I wouldn’t suggest going past around 63. A package of a [card]Nihil Spellbomb[/card], an [card]Engineered Explosives[/card], and an [card]Academy Ruins[/card] sounds just about perfect for keeping a deck’s draws consistent while adding more tools and inevitability for various matchups. Post-board, we have more information on what’s important and can slim down, increasing the odds of drawing the relevant cards while still having access to them in game one.
This strategy is best with a tutor package, as we see here with [card]Trinket Mage[/card]. Each slot over the typical 60 is more high-impact than it would be otherwise. When we break the deck down, there’s the various engines and disruption that it needs to take over the game, and then there’s the tutor package with bullets for specific situations and matchups. Combined, this equals more than 60 cards. In the past, people have solved this problem by sideboarding parts of the toolbox, but in some cases we’ll have versatile tools in an open meta. When that happens, going over 60 becomes a viable strategy.
This strategy is best in control decks. Control naturally slows down the game, giving more time for the sideboard-type cards to show up in the matches they’re intended for.
I won’t run the 64/11 at most tournaments I go to, but I look forward to exploring this new option.
Which of these new changes excite you the most? Do you have any hesitations? Share your thoughts in the forums!