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Magic Origins Card Discussion #2

All of us here at The Gray Merchants are excited about Magic Origins and the spoilers that are being released. It looks like a great send off for the core sets with plenty of re-envisioned classics, but also new convention breakers. So as we usher in a new age, we thought we would take a look at 10 recently spoilered cards and share our excitement, getting different opinions on them from our writers.

A quick introduction:
Reuben: I’m a Timmy/Spike player and custom card creator who loves looking at the subtle ways the limited environments and individual cool cards are designed. Spoiler Season for me always has me looking at what themes and systems are underlying the set as well as how they integrate those with great vorthos flavor.
Molly: I’m a Spike through and through who enjoys aggressively costed, ridiculously powerful cards (who doesn’t!). For me it’s all about the win and whether a card will get me there. I do however really love the flavour that R&D imbues in sets and am super keen for 10 different worlds worth of flavour!

Now that that’s out of the way let’s dive into some cards!

Avaricious Dragon

avaricious dragon
Reuben: Wow this is efficient, the spike in me loves that and I nearly expected a downside. Instead we get a sweet upside which fits exactly into what a red deck wants to be doing. The Timmy and Vorthos in my loves the use of the Hoarding Dragon trope which has been repeatedly used in core sets to great effect. It’s a good example of what R&D calls “resonance” which mean that if you see this card without ever playing magic then you immediately understand its flavor because it has been commonly used in other media. This is one of many reasons that magic has exploded over the last 5 or 6 years.
We have seen plenty of cool dragons recently but they are far less classically flavored which when combined with the great ability makes this feel different and still exciting even after a whole set of dragons.
Molly: This card just seems very good. It is a limited bomb and has potential for standard play in a burn focused deck. It fuels spell mastery if you’re forced to discard something but has the potential to be a threat that continues to draw you more gas. You may also never have to discard if your dragon dies in combat, so you get the best of both worlds; forcing through damage so your opponent can make you discard, or forcing your opponent to use removal. It is an Outpost Siege on a body and if you are playing an aggressive and cheap red deck, this card seems sweet. It can pose problems where you can’t hold your premium removal for the most opportune moment, but we’ll see how relevant that is when you’re drawing two cards a turn and have a 4/4 flier. Also a dragon for any additional Thunderbreak Regent synergy.

Nissa, Vastwood Seer/Nissa, Sage Animist

Nissa frontnissa back
Reuben: These double-faced planeswalker are really hard to evaluate so I’m going to break this down slowly.
At worst this is a Borderland Ranger that can only grab forests and while that isn’t exciting that certainly is a fairly high floor to the card.
Now it’s flip condition is pretty hard to use but unlike a lot of cards it makes this a great rip off the top, making the worst case scenario even better. So now lets look at what our reward is as planeswalkers are not universally amazing in limited if they don’t have a good board impact.
Well I can say a 4/4 elemental or card draw/ramp sounds like a very good thing to me, reminding me a lot of Sarkhan Unbroken which when I was once able to cast it in limited was super super bomby.
Overall the transform planeswalkers are splashy, flavorful and very flexible but often don’t have the initial raw power of other planeswalkers that may cost more initially, making them difficult to evaluate but still with a high floor due to being efficient on their creature side.
Molly: So a 2/2 for 3 with ‘fetch a forest to your hand’ is definitely playable but not super amazing by anyone’s standards. Overall her creature side is okay at best and not too difficult to flip as long as you have an inhuman level of patience. The question which will remain to be seen is ‘Is it even a good idea to play her before you can flip her?’ Opening her up to removal to get a forest in your hand and a 2/2 only ever seems like a good idea if you’re stuck for a fourth land and desperate to lay your 4 drop. Otherwise running out your mythic into potential removal seems awful and this card for all intents and purposes becomes a T7 or later play, sitting in your hand until it has the potential to do something.
On the flip side (#sorrynotsorry), the +1 is strong and versatile; putting a land into play or drawing a card will provide you with gas and smooth draws. the -2 ability leaves me with a bad feeling in my mouth considering other Nissa. It just seems bad in comparison; the creatures are legendary, so you can only have 1 and it’s a neg ability compared to Nissa, Worldwaker’s +1. Obviously this early iteration of the planeswalkers would be less powerful than their older, wiser selves but this seems like a huge leap in power level (especially since Nissa became a planeswalker before the mending and should have been quite powerful at the start). This card is ok. It will be a limited bomb as most planeswalkers are, but will see little to no standard play in my opinion.

Archangel of Tithes

archangel of tithes
Reuben: It’s nice to see the return of some more angels after their disappearance in both Theros and Tarkir.
I like how this card plays compared to other lock effects as it also provides a way of finishing the game unlike something like Sphere of Safety that was great at protecting you but had to rely on other card to finish the opponent. In limited this is just a crazy bomb though but that is fine for a mythic.
The triple white cost is potentially an indicator that there is going to be far less of a multicolored theme in the near future but also means that this will need some sort of dedicated white deck like all the white weenie cards we have seen recently.
Molly: This card had so much potential before I read it properly! if only first glance really was a card. The card is still amazing in limited and has potential to see some standard play. Although with a casting cost like that, it will most likely have to be mono white. It’s also super sweet that it is Angel of Tithe’s headdress that becomes Liliana’s as illustrated in the art of Unholy Hunger.
unholy hunger

Demonic Pact

demonic pact
Reuben: This is my favourite design in the set so far. It it a home run on so many levels. First it is tied into the storyline with Lilianna’s 4 demonic pacts she made. This theme of the number 4 is then repeated all through the card.
Drains for 4
4 cards of card advantage
4 options
CMC of 4
and it even links into the chinese belief that the number 4 represents death, as the 4th option is quite literally you losing the game.
As a spike the card advantage appeals to me as well, as does the decision of when to play it.
While on the other hand Timmies usually don’t love downsides but the ability for this card to create great stories definitely means it has potential even for that psychographic.
Overall I think this card is super sweet and I look forward to playing with it.
Molly: This card has so much potential. Use of a bounce effect will reset the modes, you could reclamation sage or dromoka’s command it for value, or just win the game within 4 turns. Because of the huge downside if your reset or destroy gets interrupted, I don’t think this will see much standard play except in brews, and only very confident people will play it in limited. I’m just not sure where this card fits in terms of magic formats. The BB2 cost pretty much rules it out for eternal formats, and I doubt it will see modern play.

Pia and Kiran Nalar

pia and kiran
Reuben: When I first saw the card I was surprised as I thought planeswalkers were like Disney characters, always having dead parents. Then I read that week’s Uncharted Realms about Chandra’s origin story.
So apart from the character’s tragic death (SPOLIER ALERT), this card is actually fairly cool. Its 4 power and toughness broken over three bodies of which half of it is evasive. The ability to sacrifice artifacts to turn this into an engine combined with the decent stats makes this an attractive card to johnny/spike players as they try to get another version of the Ensoul Artifact deck working in standard before rotation.
I personally don’t care about the card too much as it doesn’t really appeal to my Timmy side even if I appreciate the efficiency. I do however look forward to wrecking people with it in limited.
Also having more red cards that don’t show either angry people, flames or some combination of both is nice to see for the Vorthos players.
Molly: Chandra’s origin was the first and in my opinion the best so far and it’s nice to see her parents make a card. I always feel like these couple cards have a lot of potential but don’t see much play (see Anax and Cymede). I hope this one is different, I like that it gives us multiple bodies, a sac outlet and direct damage. I feel like the sacrifice cost is too expensive for there to be a combo though, so again I don’t think it will see much constructed play. Total bomb in limited though – all those bodies!

Dwynen, Gilt Leaf Daen

dwynden
Reuben: Like Angels it has been two blocks since we have seen Elves so its nice to see a very popular tribe get some more love.
Who this character is we don’t yet know but it is a nice casual elf tribal card with an efficient body, the classic elf lord bonus and a reasonable if unexciting ability. I see this as a card that a beginning player would love to build a deck around as they highly overvalue life gain. This shows how different cards are aimed at different subsections of the audience.
I’ll be happy to open this in limited but for constructed players they have far more exciting options available and that is an ok spot for this card to be in.
Molly: I agree with most of what Reuben said and it’s unfortunate that it’s ability is so mediocre for competitive elves. the fact that this elf has reach is interesting because I have been testing elves in modern recently and one of the major flaws (beside lack of interactive removal) is that it falls down to flying threats, however the kinds of threats you are trying to deal with are not easily silenced by Dwynen, making it a fun tribal addition card, but not at a competitive level.

Sphinx’s Tutelage

sphinx's tutelege
Reuben: Milling! Considering how I’ve made a custom set where milling is a legitimate strategy and I own a Phenax commander deck you could say I love milling, if only to see how players so badly misjudge it, thinking it is a massive threat when it usually is doing nothing. So while I love milling in some formats limited isn’t usually one of them.
However that is where the looting here comes into play meaning I’ll try this in a slow control deck of some sort. Overall a fun card.
Molly: There are going to be so many people who try to break this card, but I honestly don’t think it’s going to need much help. I cannot wait to see the brews that come out of this bad boy! The pay to draw will be irrelevant with other cards such as treasure cruise and a few cantrips currently available. Very exciting times!

Managorger Hydra

managorger
Reuben: Getting rewards from things your opponent does can sometimes be bad design due to your lack of control over the outcome. But this overcomes that by making it on any spell, making it a threat all by itself and thus promoting your opponent to have to trigger it, feeding into itself in a really nice way.
The trample here will make it a huge bomb in limited as you often don’t have the tools to deal with it. In constructed however this could see standard play but a three mana 1/1 is sometimes going to be too slow if your behind when your opponent doesn’t even need to cast more spells to kill you.
Molly: I’m just not sure, I mean his card has a huge potential upside to just win games. If you can hold up a counter you’ve got at least a 3/3 if someone tries to remove it. It is also just guaranteed to get bigger (as long as it survives) otherwise your opponent’s not doing anything and you’re saving your removal, both of which you’re happy about. It seems awesome in limited where removal is much more scarce than constructed formats and contributing to the board is essential (ie. very few control decks). But I’m unsure if this will influence standard play and almost definitely not modern. My guess is you will see some interesting brews, but this card will be much less good when removal is reliable and readily available.

Valor in Akros

valor
Reuben:
While not the strongest card I often liked playing Strongarm Monk in the white/blue tempo decks in DTK as you could get massive swings they didn’t expect. However the push and pull of creature to noncreature slots made it inconsistent.
This on the other hand just says “play more creatures and tokens” but doesn’t have a body itself making it terrible if you’re behind. I suspect this will be decent in limited but it really depends on the speed of the format.
Molly: I think this is really interesting. It is a limited bomb in the right deck and has the potential to make white weenies good in standard. Heliod, this, raise the alarm etc might make a cool brew. The casting cost however is almost prohibitively high and I doubt it will see any serious play.

Mizzium Meddler

mizziam meddelr
Reuben: I don’t play modern so this card doesn’t excite me much more than a normal 1 / 4 flash which is fine. However I’m sure I’ll see this do some silly stuff in Commander which could be fun.
Molly: Spellskite replacement? Modern playable? The non repeatability of this effect makes it less good than spellskite, but it has the potential to be an instant speed blow out of the same proportions. It could be pretty funny against splinter twin combo if the only counter they’re holding up is dispel. The card has lots of potential and I hope it finds a place in modern. I think it will almost definitely see some standard play in the control shell.

Thanks for reading, if you like what we thought, let us know. If you think we’re complete nufties and are so wrong about something, let us know about that too (but play nice).

So long for now,

Molly and Reuben

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