I love me a good palindrome.
This is a tough set to analyze, because a lot of the metagame is up in the air right now. We haven’t really seen the fallout from the banning of [card]Mental Misstep[/card], and we’re already being delivered hundreds of new cards to dig through. Normally new cards are a great thing, but we also have to dig through the hundreds of cards that have become unbanned now that Legacy is Legacy again, so we’re a little overwhelmed – in the best way imaginable. We’re going to see some serious brewing over the next month or two, which should make for some exciting Legacy.
Mentor of the Meek[draft]Mentor of the meek[/draft]
A draw engine is never something to scoff at, although this one seems to leave me with a bad taste in my mouth, as it has two crucial strikes going against it – first, it requires you to be in white, and second, it requires you to play a horde of small creatures, which will, in turn, make you draw a bunch of small creatures.
The first part of the problem is kind of a misnomer, because Legacy is nothing if not loose with manabases. Playing four color aggro decks has become something of a norm, so fitting a card like Mentor into your deck shouldn’t be an issue. White is also the color of Swords, Path, and [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card], so there is that, I suppose. The list of creatures I’d be willing to pair with this guy are as follows:[card]Dark Confidant[/card] [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card] [card]Batterskull[/card] [card]Mother of Runes[/card] [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] [card]Qasali Pridemage[/card] [card]Grim Lavamancer[/card] [card]Noble Hierarch[/card] [card]Dryad Arbor[/card]
I’m certain I’m forgetting some relevant ones, but there are actually enough 2 power guys in Legacy that this may be worth thinking about. I’m 99% sure that we aren’t looking at the return of UWb fish anytime soon, so I doubt we’ll really get a chance to see this guy shine, but I won’t write him off out of hand.
Chris Pikula is officially the Invitational winner who has been dumped on by Wizards more than any other. Aside from his card being reprinted with not one, but two pictures that aren’t his face – as well as having a parody printing in [card]Meddling Kids[/card] – the card text of his Invitational prize has now been transplanted to an enchantment that is worse than his card. Granted, Bob Maher’s card had the same treatment with [card]Dark Tutelage[/card], but at least the Judge Promo [card]Dark Confidant[/card] (which is sexy as hell, btw) still has his face on it.
As far as the card goes, I think it’s a strict upgrade for Enchantress decks that were previously running [card]Null Chamber[/card] to combat combo. I get the feeling that people are chomping at the bit to bust out their [card]Serra’s Sanctum[/card]s now that Misstep has left the format, and although I’ll never be an advocate for Enchantress, there are those who play it reverently. This set does actually have a few cards to keep in mind for them, and this is one.
Purify the Grave[draft]purify the grave[/draft]
Generally, when they planeshift a card that sees fringe play in Legacy decks, there is potential for that planeshifted card to see play as well. Occasionally, the shifted card sees more play than the original. Cards like [card]Seal of Primordium[/card], [card]Damnation[/card], [card]Essence Warden[/card], [card]Harmonize[/card], [card]Porphyry Nodes[/card], [card]Simian Spirit Guide[/card] etc have all seen play to a variety of extents. [card]Purify the Grave[/card], being a planeshifted version of [card]Coffin Purge[/card] – which has seen some sideboard play to battle Reanimator decks – may be a card that allows decks like UW control to avoid splashing a tertiary color in order to deal with opposing graveyard shenanigans. On the other hand, the existence of a multitude of colorless options, as well as [card]Surgical Extraction[/card] for the pinpoint removal, may mean this card never gets its time in the sun. Regardless, the printing presents more options for this type of effect in decks which could previously not access it.
Smite the Monstrous[draft]smite the monstrous[/draft]
No, I don’t see this as playable. However, I want to use this opportunity to point out two viable cards which are criminally underplayed – [card]Reprisal[/card] and [card]Retribution of the Meek[/card]. Each of these are excellent solutions to [card]Tarmogoyf[/card], [card]Tombstalker[/card], and even temporarily solve the [card]Batterskull[/card] issue, for a reasonable cost. If you didn’t consider them in your list of playable removal, reconsider.
Stony Silence[draft]stony silence[/draft] [card]Null Rod[/card] it is not. However, sometimes having your lock piece be an Enchantment can be beneficial, and where you would rather not be playing out artifacts (say, against the mono-R Welder Mud deck), this is a serviceable answer which is less vulnerable to things like [card]Shattering Spree[/card], [card]Goblin Welder[/card], and [card]Meltdown[/card]. Does anyone still play [card]Meltdown[/card]?
Delver of Secrets[draft]delver of secrets
This gets my vote as the sleeper hit of the set. A one mana 3/2 flier is a scary prospect, and it’s much less situational in this format than in any other. Aside from the obvious [card]Brainstorm[/card] interaction, the likelihood of hitting on this in the dark is much higher in Legacy, a format fueled by cantrips. Curving through turn 1 Delver, turn 2 [card]Tarmogoyf[/card], turn 3 [card]Vendilion Clique[/card], turn 4 [card jace, the mind sculptor]Jace[/card] is incredibly strong, and not even remotely out of the realm of possible. I believe the combination of efficient cost, easily satisfied “drawback” and evasion will allow this bug to find its way into upper tier play with ease.
An idea for the type of deck that’s interested in running Delver:[deck]4 Delver of Secrets
3 Vendilion Clique
3 Snapcaster Mage
4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
4 Force of Will
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Tropical Island
3 Volcanic Island
4 Misty Rainforest
4 Scalding Tarn[/deck]
A tempo thresh shell, with Delver replacing the slot once held by Mongoose, seems legitimate as a potential build. Here we’ve included [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] as well, who can function reasonably well as a threat, but serves much more duty as additional copies of [card]Brainstorm[/card], [card]Stifle[/card], and [card]Lightning Bolt[/card]. Rough build, testing required, usual disclaimers, etc.
Invisible Stalker[draft]invisible stalker[/draft]
Despite requiring a significantly higher amount of work to utilize, the Stalker has a much higher top end than [card]Delver of Secrets[/card]. Much like his playability in Standard, this guy leans hard on the existence of very good equipment. Fortunately for him, Legacy comes equipped with a certain Sword-wielding lady to help him out with that drawback.
Prior to the release of [card]Mental Misstep[/card] into the format, the single greatest weakness of the Stoneforge package in Legacy was the lack of a real threat to pair the equipment to, under the assumption that your Mystic was not going to survive to attack itself (and it never did). Misstep removed that weakness to some extent by allowing you to play a free counterspell that answered a large portion of the removal spells your opponent would be pointing at the Mystic. The other half of the solution was [card]Batterskull[/card] – an actual threat packaged within the equipment itself, circumventing the need to pair the equipment with another creature. Due in no small part to the presence of [card]Batterskull[/card], more and more decks are packing cards like [card]Ancient Grudge[/card] to deal with the equipment instead of the creature. It’s yet to be seen if the banning of Misstep will remove the oppressive threat of SFM -> Batterskull to the point of Ancient Grudge type cards falling out of favor, but the other issue – a lack of reasonable body to strap a [card]Sword of Fire and Ice[/card] or [card sword of feast and famine]Feast and Famine[/card] to – is mitigated by [card]Invisible Stalker[/card]. We know he won’t be sent farming, but whether he is more reliable than something like [card]Bitterblossom[/card], which gives you evasion, a resistance to removal, and a better attack step without the presence of SFM, is unclear. My expectation is that Stalker will see a bit of play as we try to adapt the UW Stoneforge deck to the new metagame, but will not pan out in the end.
Laboratory Maniac[draft]laboratory maniac[/draft]
So far, the Johnny crowd has been pairing him with:[card]Leveler[/card] [card]Paradigm Shift[/card] [card]Divining Witch[/card] [card]Mirror of Fate[/card]
All of these cards are terrible. You aren’t winning the game with these. Let’s look at some other options varying in degree of playability.[card]Arc-Slogger[/card]
This is a realistic option, until you realize how difficult it is to set up. While you’re going to get your deck to less than ten cards fairly easily, once you reach that point you’ll need to find a way to both stay alive and keep the Lab Maniac alive for the rest of those turns. At that point, you’re probably better off just playing Dragon Stompy if you want to Arc-Slogger someone, and by no means am I recommending you actually play that deck.[card]Gamekeeper[/card]
This is an interesting option, but you’d need to be perfectly set up to utilize it. My guess is the best way would include 4x [card]Cabal Therapy[/card], 4x [card]Living Wish[/card], and 3x [card]Gamekeeper[/card] – and no other creatures in the deck. 3 Gamekeeper may actually be too many, come to think of it. Your goal would be to set up Wish -> Maniac, and then playing and sacrificing a Gamekeeper in the same turn, milling your entire deck. If you use the 3x Gamekeepers, you’d need to chain Cabal Therapies, which adds a margin of error to the combo, but could be useful as you’d be able to strip all of the opposition from the opponent’s hand before casting your Maniac. Protect it for a turn (or draw a card another way), and win.[card]Phyrexian Devourer[/card]
With the change in functional errata to the Devourer, it’s actually become a much better card. For those who didn’t notice the change, the text of Devourer now reads as follows:
“When [card]Phyrexian Devourer[/card]’s power is 7 or greater, sacrifice it.
Exile the top card of your library: Put X +1/+1 counters on [card]Phyrexian Devourer[/card], where X is the exiled card’s converted mana cost.”
In essence, they simply removed the last line of text that sought to prevent the Devourer from ever having power 7 or greater. This really doesn’t change the effect of the card in terms of its constructed playability (which revolves entirely around putting it into your graveyard with a [card]Necrotic Ooze[/card] in play), but it does make the combo less complicated to describe to someone unfamiliar with the card, which is a bonus. In addition, it is now a two-card-combo with the Ooze, rather than a three-card-combo, since you don’t need [card]Triskelion[/card] anymore if you plan to attack with Ooze. For example, you can attack with Necrotic Ooze, and after no blockers are declared, cast [card]Entomb[/card] for Devourer. You then remove cards from your library until the Ooze is lethal, since it no longer has the sacrifice clause attached to the activated ability.
Don’t worry. This isn’t breaking the format.
Tangent on Ooze aside, the [card]Laboratory Maniac[/card] fits well into this theme, because you’d be able to remove your library from the game at instant speed, perhaps during the upkeep before the draw step that would win you the game. I’d consider this to be one of the more likely ways we’d see the combo actually happen – within a shell that is otherwise capable of winning games with its library intact.[card]Sacred Guide[/card]
Similarly to [card]Divining Witch[/card], I feel like this card is more work to utilize than its worth.[card]Thought Lash[/card]
Similarly to [card]Mirror of Fate[/card], this card is far too expensive and narrow to be a reasonable option.[card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card]
Only one time in my tenure of playing with Jace 2.0 has the ultimate ability targeting myself come up. In that instance, the number of cards in my hand was greater than the number of cards in my library, and the game was going to come down to decking. The play won me the game, since my opponent did not anticipate it. In conjunction with [card]Laboratory Maniac[/card], this scenario changes a bit.
I can’t imagine a Laboratory Maniac deck that doesn’t want Jace in it. I can imagine a situation where you’d exile your library with a no-card hand in order to satisfy the Maniac’s ability. That would be a clutch win. It doesn’t hurt that playing Jace will sometimes lead to victory in and of itself, so you’re probably not going to need many reasons to slam him into the deck anyway. Good card is good, duh.[card]Doomsday[/card]
It pains me to say this, but [card]Doomsday[/card] is actually the most likely way to see Lab Maniac win. We already have a few Doomsday stacks that win because of the small library, including the [card emrakul, the aeons torn]Emrakul[/card]/[card shelldock isle]Shelldock[/card] kill, but tossing a Laboratory Maniac into the mix where we previously had a second Doomsday (to prevent decking) seems like a much better option. Why bother trying to stay alive when you could just win? The situational victory pile could look something like this:[card]Brainstorm[/card] [card]Shelldock Isle[/card] [card]Emrakul, the Aeons Torn[/card] [card]Cloud of Faeries[/card] [card]Laboratory Maniac[/card]
I’m sure there are better piles than that, but I admit to being a terrible [card]Doomsday[/card] pile creator, so deal with it. Maniac seems like more of a backup plan than a primary win condition, but in either case Doomsday would be a reliable way to both find the Maniac and achieve his victory condition.
Ultimately, I don’t think the “I win” scenarios will be enough to make this creature viable, but brewers love to brew, and this is the format for them to do it in. If he’s going to be a real card, it will be in Legacy or Vintage, so we can’t quite dismiss it yet, but my expectations are low.
Skaab Ruinator[draft]skaab ruinator[/draft]
Three creatures is a lot, especially in a format whose primary removal spell (and secondary one) exiles the creature rather than destroying it. The natural comparison to [card]Tombstalker[/card] is necessary, because the two creatures fill nearly the same role.
Ruinator – Pros
• Enormous for its cost
• Blue card
• 6 toughness
Ruinator – Cons
• Difficult to satisfy additional cost
• Always three mana
• Blue card
Tombstalker – Pros
• Enormous for its cost
• Not Blue
• Generally costs 2 mana
• Doesn’t care what type of cards are in the yard
Tombstalker – Cons
• If he dies, he dies.
• Not Blue
• Loses the fight with Ruinator straight up (5 toughness)
I think in general, the decks that are looking for a gigantic flier will be more likely to run [card]Tombstalker[/card] because of the less awkward graveyard requirements. The capability of delving with [card]Brainstorm[/card]s and fetchlands far outweighs the fact that you can play it from the yard – mostly because regardless of how it gets there, the probability of you having extra guys chilling in the yard is low anyway, unless you’re milling yourself to put them there – and if that’s the case, why aren’t you reanimating something that wins on the spot, like [card]Karmic Guide[/card], instead? I think this guy is a house in the smaller pool formats where removal like [card]Go for the Throat[/card] and [card]Dismember[/card] reign supreme – especially since he beats Dismember – but here, where Swords is omnipresent, he just doesn’t measure up.
Snapcaster Mage[draft]snapcaster mage[/draft]
Bold prediction of the article: [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] does not live up to the hype.
A lot has been said about the playability of this guy in all formats, and I am not going to disagree that he has potential. Where I will disagree is when players tell you that spending three mana to play another [card]Brainstorm[/card] is the epitome of value.
There are situations where I’d want Snapcaster – and most of them revolve around running additional removal spells, allowing me to win Goyf wars or kill an opposing [card]Vendilion Clique[/card] so I can play my own. I can also see it as a reasonable way to deal with [card]Duress[/card] from combo, when they take your [card]Stifle[/card] prior to going off, or whatever.
To me, the real problem is the lack of synergy with [card]Force of Will[/card] and [card]Daze[/card]. These two spells, more than any others, are the ones I think would benefit the most from flashback via Tiago Chan. Unfortunately, their alternative costs are the real butter zone, and the fact that you can’t remove a card for Force or bounce a land for Daze takes away a large portion of the allure of this card for me. I suppose it’s unfortunate that the card that would drive the playability of this creature more than any other was banned a week prior to Snapcasters release. Unfortunate is probably not the correct word. Let’s use “convenient.”
To be clear, I’m not saying Tiago is bad, or that it won’t be popping into decks left and right. As you can see from the lists I’ve included in this article, I think he’ll be fitting quite nicely into the aggro-control shells of the format. I’m merely advising a tempering of expectations, because the chances of this being the second coming of [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] are nil.
That said, value is value, and there are decks that will be keen to add this to the arsenal. I think that if my previous prediction about the viability of UWb Fish is off, Snapcaster Mage will have a large influence on that deck’s success. We were near the critical mass for a two drop “good stuff” [card]Aether Vial[/card] deck’s legitimacy anyway, and between Stoneforge, Bob, Terry, Tarmogoyf, and role players like [card]Serra Avenger[/card], [card]Mother of Runes[/card], and Pikula, we could theoretically be there. The issue with this type of deck has always been the vulnerability of its creatures, and adding more 2/1’s to the deck, along with requiring a large array of spells to make Snapcaster worthwhile, all paired with an equipment package to turn your weenies into real threats may create a tension greater than the deck can handle.
It’s entirely possible that I’m way off here, and the correct way to play Snapcaster is to insert four of him into whatever blue deck you were already running – possibly replacing those [card]Mental Misstep[/card]s you can’t use anymore.
Undead Alchemist[draft]undead alchemist[/draft]
When this card was spoiled, I told the twitterverse that I believe it has real impact as a sideboard card in Legacy. Most people didn’t agree, and I can’t really say I blame them. At four mana, it’s a bit slow to be an answer to Reanimator or to Dredge, but I think in a deck that can disrupt their natural plan long enough to put him into play, he’s a game breaker.
Consider resolving him against Dredge. They have no legitimate way of interacting with him, aside from attempting to kill you before he hits play, so once he’s there, he’s there for good. They can’t dredge at all, because the vast majority of their engine is creatures, and they’ll all be removed before gaining any benefit from them – even [card]Narcomoeba[/card] gets removed, since the dredging occurs on their turn, and APNAP stacks so that your triggers resolve first. The first time they try to put some cards in the yard, you start getting throwaway zombie tokens, and you use them to begin milling the dredge deck for value – while your Alchemist stays home to protect himself. The only real option your Dredge opponent will have is to find and resolve a [card]Chain of Vapor[/card] or [card]Darkblast[/card]/Dredge/[card]Darkblast[/card] to kill him, and it’s easy enough to protect against that type of thing once you’re all-in on the plan.
Against Reanimator, he’s a bit more sketchy, because there’s no reason they can’t [card]Entomb[/card] before he’s online or [card]Careful Study[/card] to get around his ability. That said, I see no reason why he couldn’t be paired with another type of hate like [card]Coffin Purge[/card], [card]Tormod’s Crypt[/card], etc to buy the necessary time for the Alchemist to come online. Once again, if you manage to get the Alchemist into play, it becomes difficult for Reanimator to win, being forced to Draw/Discard or Careful Study to put guys in the graveyard, since Entomb satisfies the Library to Graveyard clause.
It’s probably worth noting that he crushes the hopes and dreams of your local Cephalid Breakfast player.
I don’t think he’s the be-all, end-all answer to all of our graveyard based problems. I do think he’s a reasonable and left field option, in the same manner that [card]Loaming Shaman[/card] can be. He’s also a reasonable threat, as a four power creature, and brings an army of the dead along for the fun. Much like I mentioned with [card]Smite the Monstrous[/card], he represents an additional option to those looking outside the box.
Bump in the Night[draft]bump in the night[/draft]
Short and sweet – there is a type of player that loves nothing more than throwing Lightning Bolt at your head. This card is another [card]Lightning Bolt[/card] in that deck (which now contains like a zillion of them), and encourages them to splash for [card]Dark Confidant[/card], which they should have been doing anyway.[deck]4 Lightning Bolt
4 Chain Lightning
4 Lava Spike
4 Bump in the Night
4 Rift Bolt
4 Magma Jet
4 Price of Progress
4 Goblin Guide
4 Dark Confidant
4 Grim Lavamancer
I don’t know how to build burn decks. Fortunately for all of us, neither do most people playing Burn.
Liliana of the Veil[draft]liliana of the veil[/draft]
I have a really difficult time evaluating the power level of this card, because I hate discarding cards that aren’t [card]Vengevine[/card], [card]Basking Rootwalla[/card], or other assorted [card]Survival of the Fittest[/card] value cards. The first (and really only) pairing I considered with Lily 2.0 was [card]Life from the Loam[/card], because it gives you three full turns of +1 out of her with no drawback. The bread and butter of this walker, however, is her -2. With the exception of the tribal and zoo decks, spending your third turn playing Liliana and Edict-ing your opponent will often set you far ahead, and give you plenty of time to draw additional value from her + ability. It’s rare that you’ll find yourself staring down multiple threats by turn three against the aggro control and pure control strategies, and I think we can all agree that this style of Planeswalker is weak to aggressive decks anyway. You’re really using her as a way to get ahead of the decks that lack sufficient threats, or those that lack pure card advantage, like Threshold or Team America. I think much like her predecessor, pulling off the ultimate ability is a pipe dream, so you’ll be using her as the ultimate [card]Chainer’s Edict[/card] more than an attempt at Fact or Vindicate.
She’s still a solid Planeswalker, and she’s much more likely to see serious play than baby Jace, who set the bar relatively high for 3 mana ‘walkers.
Past in Flames[draft]past in flames[/draft]
Reckless Waif[draft]reckless waif
In stark contrast to the other one mana 3/2 in the set, I think [card]Reckless Waif[/card] will be stuck on the sidelines. It’s amazing how much evasion changes things. Really though, it has much more to do with the clause that flips the card than the flying.
If your opponent isn’t playing a spell on turn 1 against your aggressive red deck, then they’re either sitting on a counterspell for your burn spell/creature, or they’re waiting to [card]Brainstorm[/card] on your end step. It stands to reason that given the choice between holding off on the Brainstorm (for value), or preventing this duder from becoming an actual threat, they’d be perfectly willing to fire off that main phase Brainstorm.
If you’re spending your second turn to attack for one and pass, rather than throw fire at them, then you need to reevaluate your definition of “aggressive deck.”
I want this guy to be good – at least, as much as I want to be punched in the face. Given the choice between [card]Goblin Guide[/card] and [card]Reckless Waif[/card], I’d say 99% of the time the Goblin gets the gold. In the situations where you don’t want Goblin Guide, you’d still rather have [card]Grim Lavamancer[/card]. Sorry.
Garruk Relentless[draft]garruk relentless
garruk, the veil-cursed[/draft]
I’m never willing to rule out the playability of a Planeswalker, unless we’re talking about [card]Nissa Revane[/card]. Garruk has some things going his way that will be important to his potential for Legacy.
First, he makes guys. This can’t be understated, because the majority of playable Planeswalkers in the format have been able to protect themselves by creating blockers at no cost to themselves (or by gain). This refers specifically to Elspeth, because she’s the only non-Jace Planeswalker seeing play.
Second, he is, at worst, a removal spell. There are plenty of guys with a back-end that Garruk can pick off – [card]Vendilion Clique[/card], [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card], [card]Dark Confidant[/card], [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card], etc.
Third, he is splashable. To date, the only “playable” ‘walker that doesn’t require you to come up with a double mana color to get it into play is Chandra 3.0 – and none of her abilities are really worth going out of your way to utilize. Each of the other Planeswalkers is prohibitive in their mana cost, either by color requirements or converted mana cost (or both). Garruk is the first splashable, reasonably costed Planeswalker that has abilities which are impactful to the board state – which makes him interesting at the very least. Even as a four mana wolf production machine, he’s decent, and he does much more than that.
Geist of Saint Traft[draft]geist of saint traft[/draft]
File this guy under “cards I wish were playable,” right next to [card]Aven Mimeomancer[/card] and [card]Flametongue Kavu[/card]. All this little duder wants to do is crash in for six, but he’s most probably going to hit for four and die to a Goyf, or a fish, or a goblin, or a cat, or sit back and wonder where it all went wrong. His problem is that he’s a blue/white creature living in a red/green world. Combat isn’t where the UW deck excels, and it’s really out of character for the color combination to get such an aggressive threat. If you manage a way to let him survive combat, such as [card]Sword of Feast and Famine[/card], or [card]Gaseous Form[/card], then he’s a pretty solid man. Why even bother, though, when you could be running [card]Invisible Stalker[/card] for half the work, or just playing another [card]Tarmogoyf[/card]? This guy is really just the next [card]Cold-Eyed Selkie[/card] in a long line of [card]Cephalid Constable[/card]s. Just short of being playable, which is the same as miles away from playable. He’s too much work for not quite enough reward.
Past in Flames (for real)[draft]past in flames[/draft]
I honestly don’t know what the hell R&D is thinking. They’ve openly said on at least one occasion that they don’t have the time to put any thought into the impact of new cards on older formats. They don’t test with Legacy or Vintage in mind. This makes some amount of sense to me, but in a field of millions (are the millions?) of players, you’d think they could find one guy with some sense of these formats to hire just to make sure that they don’t screw up.
For example, me.[card]Past in Flames[/card] is dangerously close to the following text box:
“Until end of turn, you may play cards from your graveyard.
If a card would be put into your graveyard from anywhere this turn, exile that card instead.”
What is this obsession they have with “fixing” broken cards? Can’t we just agree that playing out your whole graveyard is stupid and unfair, and be done with it?
Now, granted, there are limitations on the type of spells you’re allowed to play with Past in Flames. It also costs four mana, to [card YAWGMOTH’S WILL]Yawg Win’s[/card] three. These are reasonable drawbacks.
Until you remember they thought they fixed [card]Necropotence[/card] when they printed [card]Yawgmoth’s Bargain[/card]. And they thought they fixed Bargain when they printed [card]Ad Nauseam[/card], too.
If my long history of playing Magic: the Gathering has taught me anything, it’s that Wizards is categorically incapable of printing cards that aren’t absolutely broken in combo, unless they make them so unplayable that they’re essentially blanks. They started off on the wrong foot when they made [card]Dark Ritual[/card], and it’s all been downhill since then.
Fortunately for all of us who’d rather be on the [card]Force of Will[/card] side than the Ritual side, this card doesn’t work with Ad Nauseam, which means it will likely be a [card]Burning Wish[/card] target for the Storm deck, rather than an outright engine. On the other hand, I’m not convinced that this isn’t actually just better than Ad Nauseam altogether, since it allows you to play a more robust mix of spells in the deck.
For what its worth, Bryant Cook, who’s opinion I respect on this deck (although his opinion on others is suspect) supports the idea that it’s better as a Wish target, as a reasonable fall-back plan if your opponent can stop you once, but not twice. He thinks four mana is too much for this effect, and that the inability to play your [card]Lion’s Eye Diamond[/card]s and [card]Lotus Petal[/card]s from the yard makes the overall impact of the card marginal.
I think he’s crazy.
Setting aside my Chicken Little instincts for the moment, I’ll say this – my experience with Storm combo in Legacy, on both sides of the deck, tells me that the critical bottleneck in the deck isn’t the mana. Quite often, Bryant will end a game dead with six cards in hand, all of which make mana, but none of which create a path to victory. [card]Ad Nauseam[/card] is a solution to this issue, because it is a business spell worth ramping into. Past in Flames does not solve the problem, because it can’t ever win the game if you don’t already have a tutor or a Tendrils. It can get you part of the way there in conjunction with the cantrips the deck already plays, but blue mana is at a premium in the deck, and nowhere near as simple to generate as black or red. In essence, Past in Flames allows you to do the things you’re already good at even better, and creates another bottleneck in the situations where you can’t find business – the blue mana requirement.
While it’s no Future Sight, Innistrad looks to have some diamonds in the rough for Legacy play. Your top five real contenders from the set, in no particular order:
[card]Delver of Secrets[/card] [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] [card]Past in Flames[/card] [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card] [card]Laboratory Maniac[/card]
Aside from those five, we have some fringe players, and cards that could find a niche home in the right circumstances. Regardless of the impact of the set overall, I’m very excited for this and the rest of the block, as it feels like real old-timey Magic to me. I’ve been exhausted by the steady stream of garbage and overpowered Mythics, and a balanced, reasonable set is like a cool breeze to me at this point. Limited looks like it will be a joy, and Legacy has some real toys to start working with. Ultimately, that’s all I’m ever looking for.