Wednesday, 20 January 2016

MTG: 15 Intriguing Casual Cards from Oath of the Gatewatch

The Eldrazi have launched their offensive on Zendikar, and some of the multiverse's most powerful Planeswalkers must band together to fight off these monstrosities.

Thus, they make an Oath of the Gatewatch, the name of the new Magic: The Gathering set coming out later this month.

It is no secret that I wasn't fond of the previous set (Battle for Zendikar), and I'm looking forward to the next block. That said, every set has its treasures and gems for casual players. Here are the 15 cards that intrigue me the most. 


The one major change to the rules comes in the form of COLOURLESS mana versus GENERIC mana.

In the past, these two terms were interchangeable. A Sol Ring tapped for 2 colourless mana, and a Juggernaut needed 4 generic mana (mana of any colour, or colourless) to be cast. They both had the same number denoting the cost (2), so we didn't think much of it.

Now, colourless mana refers specifically to mana devoid of any colour (as it should), and there are now cards that specifically require colourless mana. This new mana symbol '<>' will now show up on any source tapping for it, rather than the old (1). Yup, Sol Ring now taps for '<> <>'.

To illustrate, here are two intriguing cards.


Magic has always had five basic land types. Over 20 years into the game we get our sixth in the form of Wastes, which taps for a colourless mana.

What makes it special is that it is searchable via any card that can fetch a basic land. Colourless EDH decks will also love the fact they can now have basic lands tailored specifically for them.

If you are playing any deck that needs the diamond mana, you will need a LOT of these. The art, too, is beautiful, especially the Bismuth one on the left.


Much like the popular Solumn Simulacrum, the Reshaper is a source of card advantage that can slot into many different types of decks.

Granted, this is a little harder to get out (colourless versus generic), and it's just one extra card, but a decently efficient creature that gets you a card, or a permanent (even planeswalkers!) on the board, is the type of thing casual players can easily find a use for.

Oh, and does Matter Reshaper remind you of anybody? No?

Try and unsee this...


I don't think he has any Toll House cookies :'(

This scary looking ogre hasn't received a lot of attention, but any ability that costs (0) is always worth some sort of look.

You know that feeling you get when you spend three mana to cast Loxodon Warhammer, three more mana to equip your creature, and then your opponent kills that creature in response? Yeah, nobody likes to get Time Walked.

Why not pile on three or four pieces on the Toll Collector and go to town?

If you are playing the Red-White equipment deck, playing Sunforger suddenly becomes much easier.



I love me some bouncy castles, especially when they come with some killer art.

The problem with bounce spells is that you can boing-boing their big fattie, but then your opponent re-casts it and you are back to square one.

Reflector Mage gives a bit of a reprieve as they can't just simply replay the same creature the very next turn. In a game where you are trying to defend against their biggest threat, or key combo creature, Reflector Mage is a great way to give yourself more time to find a more permanent answer to your imminent problem.


Speaking of creatures that give extra value, the new and improved Kalitas seems like he would make a fun Commander general to build around.

Kalitas turns every removal spell into a token generator, and gets rid of that creature permanently. Being able to use those tokens to make Kalitas bigger is just gravy. The bigger he gets, the more life you gain, and the more your opponents are forced to chump-block Kalitas... which gets you even more tokens, etc etc

Equip a Darksteel Plate on Kalitas, wrath the board, and you now have your own personal Zombie army while your opponents can only stare at their empty battlefield.


While this might not be the most mind-blowing card, the fact is that you are getting 3/9 worth of creature for just three mana - That's absurd!


"I see what you did there!"

Here we have a card a lot of pro players have had their eyes on, especially as it reminds us of Legacy staple Vendilion Clique. You can swipe your opponents best card in hand, or key combo piece, and then they simply get some random card back when it dies.

For us multi-player Mages, Thought-Knot Seer allows for even more cruelty.

The death trigger simply states 'target opponent', so you don't have to be nice to the player that you swiped the original card from.

You believed I was going to let *you* draw that card? I thought not!

(Fine, I am no LSV when it comes to puns)


Speaking of cards that pro players will look forward to, I expect we'll see a lot of Reality Smasher as a curve-topper in aggressive decks in the upcoming Standard format.

A 5/5 with trample and haste for five mana is already potent, but the fact your opponents need to spend an extra card to simply target it makes this thing a nightmare to see on the other side of the board. Whatever happens, you aren't coming out of a tangle with Reality Smasher without cuts and bruises.

Better get that Wall of Resurgence out! :p


More like 'dork' dwellers, am I right?

It's not often that red gets blatant card advantage, but Goblin Dark-Dwellers is one way for red mages to experience what blue mages always feel.

I like the idea of the dwellers as a curve topper (probably next to Reality Smasher) in aggressive red/burn decks. Cast the dwellers on turn five, and flash back a Lightning Bolt or some other cheap burn spell. The menace ability makes the dwellers hard to block, too.

In more control/midrange builds, these fellows can flash back a lot of toolbox cards: Kolaghan's Command, Terminate, Electrolyze, etc... It's basically one way for red to get its own Snapcaster Mage, albeit without the flash.

Better yet, flashback something like Ancestral Vision, and build your own bear red Mulldrifter!


Welcome to Jes's Combo Corner! (canned applause)

Today, we have Wandering Fumarole from Oath of the Gatewatch. This land can animate and turn into an elemental than can flip its power and toughness. Seems nifty, right?

Digging into the old junk box, we find Ceaseless Searblades.

As Wandering Fumarole turns into an ELEMENTAL, and its activated ability costs (0), just activate its ability over and over and make the Searblades as big as you want. Easy, breezy, beautiful Cover Girl.


Side note: According to my wife, Linvala looks like Lightning from Final Fantasy 13. I didn't play that dreck of a game, so I'll take her word for it

I don't know how I'm going to keep fitting all of these awesome angels into my Akroma EDH deck, but I need to find space for the newest Linvala.

Her abilities hearken back to the aptly-named Timely Reinforcements, one of the cooler control cards in recent history. Beautiful art and relevant abilities make her useful in a variety of decks. Slower decks will appreciate how she can help play 'catch-up'.


Three-mana Planeswalkers have always been good, and Nissa, the damage sponge, is no exception.

The ability to keep producing chump blockers makes her a great defensive option. In token-heavy builds, or decks that care about +1/+1 counters, her permanent pump is quite useful. She's good early, and pretty good late-game, as well.


There has to be a heavy metal band with this name somewhere in the world, right?

Here we have the card that was obviously designed for us multi-player Mages, especially with the "untap Endbringer during each other player's untap step" text.

I love how flexible Endbringer is, and how political you can be with its abilities. Ping off that chump blocker? Clear a path so you can attack her Nissa? Or, maybe I'll just draw a card. The 5/5 body is beefy enough, too.

This is the type of card that you don't really build around, but one you can shove into many different decks that can support the '<>' mana requirement.


My wife knows how much I *love* tentacles ^.^

As a six-mana mass bounce spell, it's adequate. As a five-mana mass bounce spell that gets you a slimy friend? Much better!

Blue has all sorts of easy cantrips that allow you to play this for the Surge cost... just Ponder your existence or Brainstorm a plan, and then wash away your opponents' tears and leave them staring down an angry, hungry Octopus.


Welcome back to Jes's Combo Corner!

If you thought the Wandering Fumarole trick was neat-o, wait until you see the #1 casual card from this set: Eldrazi Displacer.

As creatures continue to get printed with powerful 'enter the battlefield' effects glued on, 'blinkers' like the Displacer will continue to be MVPs and sought-after by EDH and Kitchen table players, alike.

You can combo Eldrazi Displacer with either Emrakul's Hatcher or Brood Monitor.

Just sacrifice the three tokens for three mana, and you can blink the token maker infinite times. Combo this with a Soul Warden (+1 life) or Zulaport Cutthroat (-1 life), and you have a machine gun that will mow down any number of rebel armies.

The great thing about the Displacer is that it doesn't have to bother with that summoning sickness nonsense, and it can be used multiple times per turn. As long as you have enough precious diamonds, you can blink to your heart's content.


So, I am excited about a few of the cards in this set, even if the Allies vs. Eldrazi storyline is a giant bore. What cards are my other filthy casuals on the lookout for?