Thursday, 24 January 2019

Ravnica Allegiance Highlander Playables

What's uuup!

Well, I broke my promise to get this out before the prerelease (I'm a week late), but at least I got it out before Cancon this weekend and GP Sydney next weekend. I'm going to both! Gonna be awesome. I haven't decided on a deck yet, which is NOT IDEAL. Hopefully writing this gives me an idea. Here we gooo...

She only disrupts the opponent, which is surprising. If she isn't disrupting the opponent she's still a bear that can attack, block and wear equipment, and when she's disruptive she's amazing:
  • Dig Through Time
  • Treasure Cruise
  • Summoner's Pact
  • Any kind of mana acceleration for casting non-creature spells, e.g. Signets into Wrath or mana dorks into planeswalkers.
  • Black Lotus
  • Force of Will
  • Dread Return
  • Bring to Light
  • Mizzix's Mastery
  • Mind's Desire
  • Phyrexian mana
  • Daze
I could go on forever. You see my point, there's heaps of things. Lavinia is great and a cheap legend for Mox Amber.

Detention Sphere on legs
Utility for decks with Collected Company, Chord of Calling and Survival of the Fittest.
If Deputy dies before the trigger resolves, the target won't get exiled.
It's 'opponent controls', so no shenanigans with Parallax Wave.

Dovin's clearly working for Bolas. Strange, he didn't seem like such a bad dude in the Kaladesh story.
I only like Dovin with Shape Anew and Reality Scramble, where you want ≤3 CMC artifact tokens and huge artifact monsters in your library. That deck still needs more payoff though.
I can't imagine Dovin ultimating; you lose too much tempo casting him. Your opponent will either deal with your existing dudes or pressure Dovin too much to get to seven loyalty.
Making a thopter each turn is too slow for Highlander. It's ok against control where they're unlikely to attack Dovin but it's not enough damage to kill them before they start drawing cards and overwhelm you.

Another 'power/toughness switcher'. Still need ~five more to make a deck. Now we have this and:
Doran, the Siege Tower
Treefolk Harbinger
(there are other tutors but they're either pointed or too slow)
That untap ability makes me think of Bloom Tender. All you need is a RB permanent and you have infinite mana.

I would only maindeck her in aggro, which compliments her ultimate. If you can't use her ultimate well, then she's only good against hyper aggro decks where life gain and exiling CMC 1's is good. Having said that, she's fine sideboard.
Relevant CMC 1 cards include Skullclamp (obviously), mana dorks, Kird Apes and Savannah Lions. She may also work against artifact decks with Sol Ring, Candelabra of Tawnos and Voltaic Key.
There aren't many ways of boosting her ultimate artificially; Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver is the only one I like. Otherwise you're relying on natural game play to give her food.

Sideboard only. Can't imagine it in a blue deck because basic Island doesn't cast it. I can see it in the board of a 'Ghost Dad' style deck against aggro. Black would provide discard disruption and the rest of the deck would be token generation and equipment/anthems.

Control decks often include a sacrifice effect to answer certain hard to deal with threats like True-Name Nemesis, Thrun, the Last Troll, Inkwell Leviathan (Tinker) and Carnage Tyrant. A problem with Diabolic Edict is sometimes you won't have enough removal to isolate the problem creature, whereas Consume will mostly hit it.
Diabolic Edict is blank if they have no creature, whereas Consecrate lets you at least cycle.
Having a maindeck answer to Life from the Loam is also nice.

Could be good in the aristocrats deck I suggested last time, involving Hunted Witness and Midnight Reaper.
Teysa costs four, so she's difficult to get back with Rally the Ancestors or Immortal Servitude, but her doubling effect is a quadrupling effect when saccing Hunted Witness for Blood Artist triggers.

It's Judith Lucy!
Another Blood Artist for the aristocrats deck. A rare treat. She also hits creatures and planeswalkers, which is special, although she says 'nontoken'. Watching tokens die isn't thrilling apparently.
Unlike Blood Artist, Judith is a solid card even without death triggers.

Awesome artwork
In contention for best 'win by itself' enchantment. Other contenders include Sandwurm ConvergenceForm of the Dragon and Cruel Reality (Yawgmoth's Bargain needs help). You would need some serious ramp to cast these, so you may want to cheat them into play instead, e.g. Replenish, Flash + Academy Rector or Show and Tell.

Great sideboard card against control. Your deck needs to be pretty aggressive otherwise you might lose your ticket to the theatre.
The cards exile face-up, therefore your opponent can better priorities their plays.
Yes, damage causes loss of life.
It says 'play' (flavour win) so you can play the lands you reveal, unlike Vance's Blasting Cannons.
The activated ability is relevant. I can imagine it dealing the last two points.

Great art. Go go Seb Mckinnon.
A very versatile text box, but very narrow casting cost. I only expect this to go in straight Rakdos. A little expensive for the currently popular RB aggro deck, but deals with problem permanents such as Jitte, Tasigur, Gurmag Angler, Vedalken Shackles, Tarmogoyf, Batterskull, etc, so probably worth it.

Not efficient enough naturally, but if you want that CMC of 8, then it could be useful. Gives cascade decks some early interaction and pitches to Blazing Shoal or Sickening Shoal for huge damage with Vial Smasher the Fierce. Bad to reveal off Bob (Dark Confidant) though.
You can make your 4/4 a 7/1 for extra damage, so this isn't blank against combo.

Could go in straight RB aggro. Shares the love around. Might be too expensive for that deck though, considering some builds play Necropotence and Wheel of Fortune.
Goes a long way to animating Mogis, God of Slaughter, who is a nightmare for control decks.

RB aggro gettin' paid! Decent beater that gives reach in board stalls. RB aggro typically runs Gravecrawler, Bloodghast, Bloodsoaked Champion and Dread Wanderer, who keep coming back for more, and now this guy:

Black aggro has serious resilience to removal. Anger of the Gods is so much better than non-exile versions.
Cute with Stormbind, but I don't recommend that.

Super niche, but this would replace Mogg Fanatic in some combo kills. Once upon a time Flash Hulk used to win by looping Mogg Fanatic with Reveillark (Farrrk Reveryark!), Body Double and Viscera Seer/Carrion Feeder. Footlight Fiend would take the red out of the equation. There's always been Bile Urchin but that's less useful to cast and doesn't deal with random cards like Worship or True Believer.

Pod on legs...I mean, tentacles?
Four mana with no protection or ETB trigger means she's risky against Jace, the Mindscupltor, Fatal Push, Snuff Out, Chandra, Torch of Defiance, etc. If you can give her haste, then you'll still get some value against instants, provided you have a creature to sacrifice.
If Vannifar does overcome summoning sickness, then she can win the game. Say you have her, a mana dork and a green fetchland; Crack the fetch for Dryad Arbor, sac that into Quirion Ranger, into Scryb Ranger. Sac your mana-dork into Phantasmal Image copying Scryb Ranger. Sac that into Pestermite, into Breaching Hippocamp, into Kiki-Jiki. Copy Scryb Ranger untapping Vannifar and sac the copy into Deciever Exarch. That's just one example of a chain you can pull off. Basically Vannifar plus two creatures equals win. Obviously you're vulnerable to removal and your deck is full of all these janky creatures AND during the course of the game some of the chain links (*shudders at memory of old GP T.O.*) may have been cast and killed. Despite all those things, Vannifar is very powerful for zero points. That gives you an idea of why Birthing Pod is a point. Note that you can't use Felidar Guardian like you can with Birthing Pod because that will give Vannifar summoning Sickness.
Torch Courier was printed in Guilds of Ravnica. It's janky, but now you can Flash Hulk for Vannifar, Torch Courier, Dryad Arbor and a one-drop for the win.

Decent sideboard card for ramp decks against control because the life gain and card draw is a 'cast' trigger, therefore you still get value against counterspells.
This is an indirect win condition for Food Chain combo since it guarantees you draw into a direct win condition such as Walking Ballista.

Replicate goes infinite with Dualcaster Mage. 2RRUG for infinite dudes at sorcery-speed is not amazing, but both cards are useful on their own, so the combo is free if you're already a Temur instant-speed deck. Naru Meha, Master Wizard doesn't work because she's legendary.
Redupiate can be game winning if you get the right target, e.g. a fetchland or a storm trigger.

I've had Training Grounds on the brain ever since Pack Rat got printed. When this got spoiled I whipped up a janky UG Collected Company Training Grounds deck for Modern with Duskwatch Recruiter and Rhonas the Indomitable. It also had Izzet Guildmage and Manamorphose, which is infinite draw and a mana for each card you draw.
Biomancer's Familiar and Training Grounds are are not enough to build around. However, there are cards like Thran Turbine and Urban Burgeoning, which have huge potential with activated abilities.
Eldrazi Displacer with Eyeless Watcher or Drowner of Secrets is infinite.
Tasigur, the Golden Fang and Walking Ballista are other noteworthy creatures.

I've played Commune with Nature in Highlander infect. Incubation is great when you need a certain kind of creature but there aren't enough printed. Incongruity is gravy; sometimes you really gotta kill something, e.g. Gisela, the Broken Blade, Hermit Druid or Metalworker.

Extremely vulnerable to removal for a three-mana creature. However, it goes infinite with Pemmin's Aura or Freed from the Real. As does the aforementioned Bloom Tender.

Wow, all the Simic art is pretty interchangeable. I miss fully hand-painted artwork.
Ironically Riptide Laboratory doesn't cast this. The GGUU casting cost is 'almost' incompatible with Eldrazi Displacer as well.
Green doesn't play well at instant-speed. However, if you spend your first three turns deploying an army, then you'll have enough pressure that your opponent will be forced to react and Frilled Mystic will hit every time.
Nice with Restoration Angel.

This artwork has more soul. Seb McKinnon shreds.
Perhaps The Kurgan, a.k.a Sultai Control may make a comeback with the addition of these Simic cards. 
Control mirrors typically play out like this: both players hold up counterspells every turn until someone has a large mana advantage or card advantage. No one can tap out early, otherwise their thing gets countered and the other player drops a planeswalker and wins. Growth Spiral lets you develop a mana advantage or 'cycle' without dropping your shields, unlike Explore, which is sorcery.
And of course Growth Spiral can simply be a harder to cast Explore in ramp decks. It's already in my Scapeshift deck, which I listed in my Guilds of Ravnica review.

Hulk Smash
Boggart Ram-Gang sees some play in aggro. This doesn't wither down big blockers like Ram-Gang does, but she's better in other ways:
  • 1RG is much easier to cast. 
  • Against True-Name Nemesis you can play her as a 4/4 trampler. 
  • If they have instant removal, she'll at least get one hit in.
Super strong. Definitely maindeckable. That triggered ability hoses storm and channel. Puts control on a serious clock and is very difficult to deal with. Grixis control is going to be terrified of this card on turn two.
Gives aggro a maindeckable answer to problem permanents like Umezawa's Jitte and Humility.

Nothing exciting (although he's very excited), just a decent beater. 
The new two-drops in Ravnica Allegiance let aggro improve their Mox mana. Not being able to cast certain two-drops like Figure of Destiny, Qasali Pridemage, Strangleroot Geist and Eidolon of the Great Revel off the same mox is annoying.

Looks like Domri has invoked some good 'ol Warcraft fel magic gifted to him by Bolas. I haven't played WoW but I know a helboar when I see one.
Yet another strong anti-control card! At this rate the control decks may need help with their points.
I can see this in a Melira Pod deck where it combos with Kitchen Finks / Murderous Recap but also gives your mana dorks haste for big Skullclamp turns.

Strict upgrade on Colossal Might, which I like in infect and aggro decks, especially ones with double strikers (but not Mirran Crusader). Also kills Baneslayer and Atraxa, Praetor's Voice.
If you have a Sword of Fire and Ice, due to pro red you'll need to have it on another creature; Colossus first and then equip Sword to the Colossus'd creature.
A cute trick you could pull: jump an opponent's creature with Elspeth, Knight Errant, then Collision it down. Not sure when you would do that though :P Maybe against Devoted Druid or Hermit Druid where you fear the combo.

Pretty bad against combo but I can see him in equipment decks. The mana tax makes it hard to respond to equipping. If they have lots of removal they probably need to kill Tithe Taker on sight.
Skullclamp can eat him and his spirit for great value.

Good for human tribal. Makes human tokens for your lords, therefore you still get enough value even if only half your spells are multicolour.
I wouldn't shape my card choices to improve Hero of Precinct One. After all, your opponent might just kill it. I would only play this if I were already mostly multicolour. I might play the following card too:

There's no good multicolour token generators and very few multicolour one-drops (hybrid mana). Everyone loves multicolour cards though, so more multicolour-themed sets are inevitable. Slowly but surely this will become playable.
I've play Honor of the Pure and am very happy with it.

Might be good enough for 'draw go' control decks. I initially compared it unfavourably to Confirm Suspicions but they're different cards since you can cast this without a target.
Could go in a Dream Halls combo, which storms off with draw spells.

I did a Gatherer search expecting to find something that said "Whenever you draw a card, put a +1/+1 counter on target creature" but to my surprise there was nothing. They all only put counters on the creature which enters, e.g. Master Biomancer or on the creature with the ability, e.g. Lorescale Coatl. Same goes for 'whenever you discard a card...". One day they might print a card that does it. Hopefully it's costed high enough to not be broken with Benthic Biomancer. Outside of that non-existent combo, this is too inefficient.

If there's ever a mill deck, this will be good against aggro. There isn't a mill deck yet, it's barely playable in Modern with roughly four times the number of good mill cards (there aren't many old border ones).

What a cute little dude!
Wow, they keep printing these 'instant/sorcery graveyard' payoffs. Last set had Crackling Drake and Arclight Phoenix, joining the ranks of Young Pyromancer, Thing in the Ice, Monastery Mentor, Bedlam Reveler, Enigma Drake, Cryptic Serpent, etc
How cheap does the adapt need to be? It's easy to find a gap in your curve to drop Pteramander in the first three turns, so when you adapt it you'll be able to attack straight away. Activating for three-mana is good. Any cheaper is amazing.
Being one-mana to cast makes this great against counterspells.

Sorcery speed Impulse. Doesn't play well with counterspells, but is decent in combo decks. 
If you only have one to three combo pieces that you're looking for, then I would play a three-mana tutor instead. If you're looking for one of ten different pieces, then Shimmer seems better. I'm picturing it in High Tide combo.

Turning on spectacle shouldn't be too hard in a hyper aggressive deck. At worst you can use a burn spell. Three mana for effectively a 5/4 flample (extra damage from upkeep trigger) is an amazing rate. They could have the Fatal Push, Swords or Abrupt Decay to put you behind, but otherwise he brings the pain.
Flies over aggro's usual problems: Tasigur, True-Name Nemesis, Moat. 
Even against Baleful Strix you get the ping each turn.
Some aggro decks spend a lot of life on Necropotence or Price of Progressing themselves, which can turn on the +1/+1 counters.

Love the art
I can see this with a mana base of fetches, shocks, Hour of Devastation lands, Horizon Canopy and Mana Confluence. Then payoff for having low life, e.g. Death's Shadow, Second Chance and Convalescent Care.
Tezzeret's Gambit gives three counters :)
Kills Emrakul, the Aeon's Torn.

"Not even death can save you from me!"
Another Flaying Tendrils except they can't even sac their black aggro guys in response to bring them back later. Colour requirements aside, I would play this over Radiant Flames.

Best in aggro decks where turning on spectacle is easiest. Also playable in reanimate strategies. Nice to have a discard outlet that's also a body for Recurring Nightmare.
If you're trying to dredge, then rummaging is better than looting
Gives some nice value if you're discarding one of the Gutterbones creatures.
Amazing if you're hellbent and casting it for it's spectacle cost. Rix Maadi Reveler is so good that you should try running return-to-hand effects like Rise // Fall, Kolaghan's Command and Liliana, the Last Hope.
Make sure all your cards can be played onto an open board, the same way you would build with Wheel of Fortune: no counterspells and minimal creature-only removal.

Not maindeckable like Harsh Mentor but still a decent sideboard card against Time Vault, Devoted Druid and Viscera Seer combo decks.

Oh skew me
Straight into burn. Nuff' said.

Unique effect and super powerful. It's a triggered ability, so you can float mana before it resolves and untap to effectively double your lands. That's some serious mana, but you can only sink it into instant-speed things.
Enchantments are difficult to tutor for but there are other payoffs for having lots of instant-speed effects: Braid of Fire, Prophet of Kruphix and Seedborn Muse come to mind but they're pretty slow.
Some decks are already full of instants, e.g. most blue control decks. This could let blue control go way over the top of midrange.
Any land-ramp in your deck is amplified. 
If you have lots of activated abilities, you don't even need lots of instants. 

Naturally a good card but if you artificially put a counter on her, that's game-winning mana.

I can imagine casting this EOT to kill your own things and attack with ~five 3/3's. 
Green is not often paired with artifacts but the non-basic land tutors and Ancient Stirrings are really good for finding Mishra's Workshop and Tolarian Academy.
Note that you won't get a 3/3 from a Darksteel Citadel, unfortunately.

OK! That wraps up my list of playables. There were a few close calls, e.g. Priest of Forgotten Gods and Electrodominance, prove me wrong!
Here are my picks for best cards in the set, in no particular order: Lavinia, Azorius Renegade, Cindervines, Growth Spiral, Rix Maadi Reveler, and Wilderness Reclamation.
Hopefully see you at Cancon or GP Sydney!

Monday, 14 January 2019

Guilds of Ravnica Highlander set review

This is not the set review for Ravnica Allegiance, this is Guilds of Ravnica. We have been here before, both to Ravnica and also reviewing a set months too late. I promise to do Ravnica Allegiance before the pre-release this weekend!
Multi-colour cards are pushed in power since they're harder to cast, so we should get a large amount of playables (although my bar for 'playable' is very low).


After playing Hardened Scales in Modern I've become even more aware of +1/+1 synergies in eternal formats. Aggro is at a low in Highlander at the moment. Hopefully this aggressive mechanic helps.


Historically weak because it exposes you to sweepers. Not necessarily a good mechanic for aggro because you're tapping your dudes rather than attacking.


Card selection effects are better in Highlander because pointed cards are so powerful. Surveil can also add to your graveyard, which is relevant for popular delve cards and more.


Combo mechanic. Graveyard hate options are plentiful, therefore I'm not worried about graveyard combo being too good.


This is the most interesting mechanic for Highlander.
  • Good for aggro since their curve is low enough that lands become useless.
  • Good for graveyard decks since you can get free value from milling yourself.
  • Good for reanimator decks, more ways to discard uncastable fatties.
  • Good with prowess and other things which trigger from casting instants and sorceries.

The headliner of the set. Quite beautiful how well balanced this card has turned out to be. Well done Wizards.
This is a great card for the health of Highlander. It deals with over-powered permanents and it encourages players to run basic lands, something they should be doing anyway.
A generally great card but particularly useful for cascade decks, which want removal that isn't blank when there are no creatures to target.
Can be Spellseeker'ed and transmuted for, making it an ideal catch-all in many combo decks.
Note that the opponent can choose not to shuffle their library by choosing not to find a land. This is important if you were trying to mess with their scry or Imperial Seal, for example.
Gets better with Aven Mindcensor.
Field of Ruin is another new card which encourages players to run basic lands. The more cards you run which ask the opponent to find basics, the greater chance of them running out. At this point playing no basics in your deck is wrong unless there's a reason other than colour requirements.

Not playable yet, but hear me out. This is another creature with the 'revenge' damage ability. Here are the other ones:
There are tutors also. We roughly need another five before we start seriously considering this strategy. What I'm talking about is combining these with cards that do huge amounts of damage to creatures. The easiest setup is Volcano Hellion or Fire Covenant. Other ways involve a large graveyard, typically full of instants and sorceries:
Wow, I don't think I've heard anyone talk about Truefire Captain combined with Beacon Bolt or Ral, Izzet Viceroy in Standard yet. Perhaps I'll give that a try next Standard tournament.
Blasphemous Act sideboard against heavy creature strategies works nicely too. 
Rush of Vitality is a bad card that's good with these creatures. With indestructible, the creature can repeatedly damage itself, gaining you infinite life. Fairly hard to setup because you're likely relying on an opponent's damage source.

I can see this as a role-player in a dredge deck. Sometimes you really need to kill a Baneslayer.
A very replaceable win condition for UR control decks. There are several U/R planeswalkers which kill a creature and draw cards, but Ral might find a niche since he can take down bigger threats, e.g Chandra, Torch of Defiance only deals four damage whereas Ral can deal much more.

Man I love pork crackling. If you're in Melbourne or Sydney CBD I recommend going to Mr. Crackles for heavy, rich pork rolls.
If we can get enough instant and sorceries for Ral, then we can get enough for Crackling Drake.
It counts exiled cards too. So if you delve away your graveyard, Crackling Drake is still massive.
UURR casting cost is restrictive, rare for Highlander. Try not to play lands which can't produce blue or red. Not having a plains to fetch in your Jeskai deck or a Swamp in your Grixis deck is a real cost when Path to Exile, Assassin's Trophy and Field of Ruin are popular cards in the format. The Shadowmoor filter lands can help here.
You'll always be happy with Crackling Drake, except maybe against Snuff Out or combo when you absolutely can't tap out.
I've seen Richard Owen use Crackling Drake effectively in the sideboard of his storm deck. He even cracked his (very beat up washing machined) Black Lotus to cast it turn two.
You can one-shot opponents with Tainted Pact or Demonic Consultation exiling >20 cards. Doomsday into Crackling Drake is pretty baller. You could stack your library to draw Crimson Wisps for haste.
Something else that's exciting about the 'CCDD' cycle from Guilds, is how devoted they are to dual-colour gods. The guilds in this set are Izzet, Golgari, Dimir, Boros and Selesnya. Out of the respective gods, I think Keranos and Pharika are playable. Keranos is probably sideboard only for control mirrors and grindy midrange decks.

Speaking of turning on Keranos!
I consulted a couple of local Blue Moon specialists, Riley Jones and Paul Mitchell. The consensus was that Niv is too expensive and doesn't impact the board enough when he comes down. Aggro might just burn you out or have too many creature to block, and combo will just combo off; maybe not storm though, since they cast enough instants and sorceries that you may draw into Force of Will. With these scenarios in mind, like Keranos, Niv Mizzet is suited as a sideboard haymaker for control mirrors and grindy midrange matchups.

Here is Pharika's...disciple. Heh, this is pretty close to the actual Pharika's Disciple.
Bit of a beefy Eternal Witness but not returning instants and sorceries is a downgrade.
If your deck already produces GGBB easily, this is fine.
Returning important cards like Skullclamp, Gaea's Cradle and Birthing Pod is very desirable.

Such a shame that Phenax is so shitty. This has hexproof, so it would be quite good at turning him on.
Great against control decks. Can act like a Moat against aggro, provided that you have removal for the bigger creatures, although they could have Rancor or an equipment to force a trade with Predator.
Pure dimir struggles against artifacts and enchantments, but you can still counter or discard them. Brandon Owen has been doing so successfully for a long time now.

Very difficult to pull off but wins the game when you do. You have to cast a couple rituals to get enough mana for this AND another ritual once it's on the battlefield, then just a cantrip should win the game.
Unlike Tendrils of Agony and Mind's Desire, this doesn't have inherent protection against counterspells.
You could sideboard Academy Rector against aggro. Then if they attack ,they'll die to Thousand-Year Storm.

Wan Chin Lee has been playing UR burn for ages. This seems like a perfect fit. Gives that deck some much needed disruption.

Being able to discard an excess lands in a burn deck helps a lot.
This is probably the best jump-start card. There aren't many good ones. Unfortunately they're all too expensive to work in my madness deck.
Risk Factor is a very fun card. The decision makes for interesting games and it's fun to make your opponent sweat over it.
Make sure you kill their Leovold before casting this! 
It's easy to assume your aggro deck isn't drawing extra cards, don't play this with Spirit of the Labyrinth or Chains of Mephistopheles.

Sideboard only. I can see this in a Jeskai control sideboard where red is just a splash and you don't have enough red sources to consistently cast Anger of the Gods or Slagstorm. Radiant Flames already exists, but you may have colourless mana which hurts the converge of Radiant Flames, or you may simply want two of this effect. 

Uncontested this packs on the damage but it also gets held off by Grizzly Bear. Therefore this is good with removal.
Against sorcery-speed removal you still get a gobbo out of the deal.
Much like Goblin Rabblemaster, if you find a way to tap the tokens, e.g. with Opposition or Earthcraft, then you can amass a nice little goblin army instead of charging them to their deaths like a Russian lieutenant.
An addition to the goblin tribe but they need one-drops and disruption, not three-drops.
Triggers revolt nicely.

The number of double striking two-drops is steadily increasing. At the moment the list looks like this:
Swiftblade Vindicator
Eventually it will overtake infect since they won't redo that mechanic. FYI there are nine ≤2cmc infect creatures but many of them are artifacts, which are more vulnerable. Also, they're spread out over more colours. But you may want to be five-colour anyway for Gaea's Might and Might of Alara. Some infect creatures have evasion, which is the reason they're good enough for Modern. Double strike triggers twice on things like Jitte and the Sword of X & Y cycle. The froghurt contains potassium benzoate.

Hits hard. Basically dies to every cheap removal spell, so if they have it, they will gain mana on you. However, haste means that you will get value against sorcery-speed removal or if they're tapped out. 
Haste is good for pressuring planeswalkers. Mentor plus haste is really nice against Liliana, the Last Hope and Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, since whatever they shrunk last turn will almost always have less power than Tajic. Haste is key here, otherwise Lili or Jace just shrink the creature with mentor instead.
Tajic helps against one of aggro's weaknesses, sweepers, e.g. Anger of the Gods, Pyroclasm, Fiery Confluence, etc.
If you suspect your opponent is holding up Snapcaster Mage, you may want to wait until you have mana for his first strike ability before attacking.

A fine card. Most decks have a few big bounties to collect. 
Best in aggro decks which can't devote too many slots to removal but really need the removal when they need it.
Tasigur, the Golden Fang
Titania, Protector of Argoth (in response to her trigger so they get one less 5/3)
Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
Kess, Dissident Mage
Vendilion Clique
Leovold, Emissary of Trest (although they will draw a card)
She doesn't kill Elesh Norn unfortuntely, unless you manage to give her some extra toughness. If you're versing Reanimator, keep your Jitte on Bounty Agent in case they get Elesh Norn.
Not many relevant legendary artifacts and enchantments... Search for Azcanta is the only popular one.

Very niche. I can see this in the sideboard of aggro decks as an answer to big lifelink creatures like Wurmcoil Engine or Baneslayer Angel.
You wouldn't maindeck this card because it's only good if you're the beatdown and only if they have something to target.
Tutorable with Open the Armory, which also finds Rancor, Chained to the Rocks, Skullclamp or Wheel of Sun and Moon (sideboard).

Yet another Doomed Traveler (aren't we all). Now we have:
Hunted Witness
I'm thinking an aristocrats deck. Some sacrificers, a bunch of death triggers and spells which reanimate all your cheap creatures.
We'll have to dip into the two-drops Doomed Travelers, of which there are plenty. 
The bottleneck of the deck is the mass reanimation. There are only three. Most of our points will be spent on tutors for these:
We'll also need:
Judith, Scourge Diva (Ravnica Allegiance)
If you want to push it, you may be able to count these

If you're playing Standard at the moment, you'll be familiar with this card.
Great against sweepers. 
Note that the trigger is a must, so you may need to be careful about your life total.
Midnight Reaper is a zombie for Gravecrawler, which is desirable as another good card to Entomb if you already have Bloodghast.

Highlander has the most powerful instant and sorceries.
To maximise your chances of copying them, you should play mostly instants and spells with flash.
Trying to copy your own spells comes with risk. Once I tried to copy my own Time Walk against a tapped-out opponent, and it got Dazed. 
Here's the list I was playing in case you are wondering:

Diligent Farmhand
Wayfarer's Bauble
Font of Fertility
Search for Tomorrow
Nature's Lore
Three Visits
Rampant Growth
Into the North
Time Walk***
Sakura Tribe-Elder
Edge of Autumn
Demonic Tutor***
Mizzix's Mastery
Bring to Light
Goblin Dark-Dwellers
Beseech the Queen
Titania, Protector of Argoth
Grim Tutor
Primal Command
Eternal Witness
Dark Petition*
Pernicious Deed
Clutch of the Undercity
Dimir Houseguard
Snow-covered Forest
Snow-covered Forest
Snow-covered Forest
Snow-covered Swamp
Snow-covered Swamp
Snow covered Island
Overgrown Tomb
Tropical Island
Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
Scalding Tarn
Bloodstained Mire
Polluted Delta
Wooded Foothills
Misty Rainforest
Verdant Catacombs
Windswept Heath
Snow-covered Mountain
Snow-covered Mountain
Snow-covered Mountain
Snow-covered Mountain
Stomping Grounds
Cinder Glade
Volcanic Island
Smouldering Marsh

Faerie Macabre
Mindbreak Trap
Shattering Spree
Thrun, the Last Troll
Sphinx of the Last Word
Gaea's Revenge
Carnage Tyrant
Leyline of the Void
Wheel of Sun and Moon
Toxic Deluge

The other copy effects: Fork, Reverberate and Doublecast might be better as Titans or Thragtusk.

A weak card in general but I can see it being the 5th best card of a desirable effect.
  • For a non-blue deck which really wants card selection.
  • A graveyard strategy which would happily pay an extra mana for Preordain to get a couple cards in the graveyard.
  • Maybe you're really hungry for answers to Inkwell Leviathan or Progenitus
  • Maybe you want cards to pitch to Sickening Shoal (CMC=2+5).
  • A desirable spell for the cascade Hypergenesis deck, because it won't get cast if revealed during a cascade trigger.

What a weird card. The art makes me think of The Temple of the Many-Faced God from Game of Thrones.
Cheap legend for Mox Amber.
Goes straight into my Hermit Druid combo deck. He performs a very similar function to Apprentice Necromancer. Being a creature is important because all my tutors search for creatures. Lazav is also CMC 2 for Shred Memory, Muddle the Mixture and Dimir Infiltrator.
Being a proactive reanimation effect is especially good for Hermit Druid since he needs to overcome summoning sickness. 
A 1/3 for two mana is nice against aggro's 2/1's.
With enough mana Lazav can pull off some cool tricks, e.g. become an evasion creature and once unblocked become something huge before combat damage. Or if there's a cheap hexproof creature in your graveyard, he becomes really hard to kill. Note that he can only use your graveyard.
Lazav combos nicely with Phyrexian Dreadnaught! That could have some Legacy applications. 
The dream is turning Lazav into Phage, the Untouchable FTW.

Speaking of Hermit Druid! I got really excited when I saw this card. I thought they had printed a one-card Dread Return kill. I mean, they have, and it's possible this could be my kill in the future but at the moment the benefit of running more non-creature spells outweighs the benefit of having two less 'bricks' in my deck. My current kill is The Mimeoplasm + Murderous Redcap + Lord of Extinction.
I was thinking there might be a build of Hermit Druid which doesn't need Dread Return; If you're feeling baller you could instead activate Hermit in your upkeep and use Memory's Journey to shuffle just Reanimate into your library - draw it and Reanimate Lotleth Giant. Only two bricks in your deck to have access to a one-card turn three combo!

This is definitely not Snapcaster Mage but it's still a great card. Snapcaster's 2/1 body often trades with a creature or attacks a few times. I was going to say that if Snapcaster Mage is Eternal Witness, then Mission Briefing is Recollect, but that wouldn't be fair because Mission Briefing also has surveil 2 and doesn't target.
I'm finding it hard to tell what surveil 2 is worth, I guess it depends on the stage of the game; If it's late, then binning lands off the top is much stronger than early on. Also, in a desperate situation you could cast Mission Briefing with no instants or sorceries in your graveyard with the hope of surveilling one.
Not targetting means you can run Ground Seal or Silent Gravestone without the nombo.
The double blue mana requirement is significant. It is easy to cast Snapcaster and flashback Preordain in a three-colour deck, but triple blue on turn three requires some dedicated fetching.
Snapcaster Mage and Mission Briefing are pretty sweet with the 'increasing' cycle from Dark Ascension. Increasing Vengeance is the best of them. 

You'll already be playing DITS (Duress, Inquisition, Thoughtseize). This will be your 4th card of that effect. But It's a longgg way behind DITS. Some decks want this effect badly enough that they're willing to pay the extra mana.
Players often don't consider how bad DITS are when the opponent has no cards in hand or the tempo loss that DITS create. You're trading 1-for-1 but paying a mana, whilst your opponent pays zero. Decks which play these cards need ways to catch back up on tempo, e.g. comboing off, sweeping, or really efficient answers.
Knowing your opponent's hand allows you to sequence spells effectively.
I personally only want dedicated discard effects in the maindeck of combo where I can win faster than most decks and all I care about are the 5-10 disruption spells which dismantle my combo. Sideboard I would rather play cards which trade favourably on mana or outright win the game.

Another effect which requires plenty of ways to regain tempo.
In combo decks you would rather play one of the many three-cost tutors instead of this card. 
You play this in decks with lots of really efficient narrow answers. 
I can see this being played in the Yidris value cascade deck over Painful Truths, since it doesn't nombo with cascade like Painful Truths does.

Sideboard against slow decks.
Tokens require support since they aren't disruptive against combo and aren't big enough against blockers. The support I refer to is mass pump. With enough tokens on your side, a mass pump effect gives you the kill speed you need against combo and an answer to opposing blockers.
I'm going to whip up a rough GW Tokens list to showcase a few of the new cards. I'll show the list after I've talked about the remaining cards of that strategy:

She's no Titania but she's decent. Leaves behind a little value if removed. At least she fares better against 3-damage sweepers than Titania. She's Legendary but you don't really mind if she gets bounced thanks to that ETB trigger. 
Green, so she's Green Sun's Zenithable. 
That final ability is pretty funny. I could see a Blade Splicer token getting Dack Fayden'd, or perhaps Treachery or Control Magic postboard. It's symmetrical so you'll get Trostani back if stolen. The ability reminds me of a cool story: Back in 2011 when Modern was introduced, my friend had a green Cloudpost ramp deck. At the time he was having trouble against the card Bribery. He had 4 copies of Green Sun's Zenith in his deck and wanted a tutorable answer to Bribery. He found Brooding Saurian. Soon after he came up with the ingenious sideboard plan of siding out a Green Sun's Zenith when he boarded in the Brooding Saurian. The idea was that his opponent would Bribery him, fan through the deck and notice the Brooding Saurian. Then realise there was a Green Sun's Zenith missing from the deck and assume it to be in his hand and therefore choose something small with Bribery instead.

Stonybrook School Master on crack
Not amazing by herself but I really like her interaction with cards like Opposition, Earthcraft, Cryptolith Rite and Glare of Subdual. Those enchantments are also great with the inspired creatures from Born of the Gods.
Another cheap legend for Mox Amber.
Plays well with Heritage Druid.

Very all-in but decent payoff. The Loxodon itself dodges Anger of the Gods and Fatal Push, which is nifty.
All the recent Krark-Clan Ironworks overpaying for spells shenanigans had me wondering if you could overpay for Venerated Loxodon too. Turns out you can't. Here's a snippet straight from Gatherer:

March of the Mulch-itudes
I don't think this is playable, I just wanted to make that pun. I've chucked it in the below list for lols. It's actually really good with Gaea's Cradle.

Crop Rotation #
Deathrite Shaman
Birds of Paradise
Mox Pearl ###
Legion's Landing
Green Sun's Zenith #
Noble Heirarch
Avacyn's Pilgrim
Arbor Elf
Skullclamp #
Gather the Townsfolk
Sylvan Scrying
Raise the Alarm
Saproling Migration
Servo Exhibition
Nest Invader
Qasali Pridemage
Renegade Rallier
Lingering Souls
Venerated Loxodon
Gaea's Anthem
Scatter the Seeds
Spectral Procession
Glorious Anthem
Garruk Wildspeaker
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
Secure the Wastes
Natural Order #
Emmara, Soul of the Accord
Battle Screech
March of the Multitudes
Sram's Expertise
Titania, Protector of Argoth
Trostani Discordant
Dictate of Heliod
Craterhoof Behemoth
Collective Blessing
Dryad Arbor
Windbrisk Heights
Gaea's Cradle
Windswept Heath
Flooded Strand
Arid Mesa
Marsh Flats
Wooded Foothills
Misty Rainforest
Verdant Catacombs
Temple Garden
Gavony Township
Horizon Canopy
Wooded Bastion
Razorverge Thicket

SIDEBOARD (more of a 'other sweet cards list' than a sideboard)
Elspeth, Sun's Champion
Doubling Season
Parallel Lives
Anointed Procession
Primal Vigor
Divine Visitation
Conclave Tribunal
Selfless Spirit
Glare of Subdual
Conquerer's Pledge
Scavenging Ooze
Ghost Quarter
Deranged Hermit
Increasing Devotion
Hour of Reckoning

You wouldn't play this for it's text box, it's that zero converted mana cost that you want. There is a Flash Hulk kill which uses Mogg Bombers and a bunch of zero CMC creatures. Chamber Sentry happens to be one of the best because it's actually useful when cast naturally, unlike Phyrexian Marauder or Kobolds of Kher Keep
That kill is interesting for a few reasons: 
  • The way Mogg Bombers works, you still get the triggers even if it dies before they resolve. 
  • The number of cheap creatures you should have in your deck is unclear, since they're bad to draw but you still need enough to kill your opponent when you combo. 
  • The kill is immune to removal AND to reactionary graveyard hate like Scavenging Ooze and Relic of Progenitus, whereas other kills are not. To beat the kill you want Grafdigger's Cage or replacement effects like Rest in Peace or Anafenza, the Foremost to prevent the Protean Hulk from triggering.

I think this is over-rated. Ok against control decks for killing True-Name Nemesis or a planeswalker, or against Tinker and Reanimate decks which typically present one hard-to-deal-with threat. 
You would have plenty of creatures you don't mind sacrificing, e.g. mana dorks which have already accelerated you, or creatures with death triggers.

Goes in the Crackling Drake deck. Plenty of other good payoffs available:
Some of the cheap instants and sorceries include:
Gitaxian Probe, Gush, Thoughtscour, Mental Note, Frantic Search, Careful Study, Faithless Looting and all the regular cantrips.
Lately I've been adding Mistcaller to my sideboards because it effectively counters Flash. You can also sac it in response to the Phoenix trigger, since the Phoenix MUST try to enter.
Hardcasting a four-mana 3/2 flying haste isn't the worst either. A long time ago I considered Mirri the Cursed playable.

Super powerful. Probably earns a spot in storm combo and any aggro deck. The key is to have proactive spells. The cheaper they are, the more effective Experimental Frenzy will be. 
Frenzy would just be one card in your deck so you can't build entirely around it, although there are some cards which do a very similar thing: Future Sight, Necropotence, Wheel of Fortune. There aren't many good enchantment tutors.
If this is in your deck and you have lots of mana, it is a good idea to not crack your fetch lands in case you draw this and want the shuffle effect.
Sensei's Divining Top is pretty nice.
Beware that Grafdigger's Cage will lock you out.
Fastbond is absolutely insane with this.
Maybe in Goblins you could stack your deck with Goblin Recruiter and combo off.
Insidious Dreams dumping your hand and stacking your library is pretty nice.
Grixis control is a very popular and successful deck at the moment. That deck can't kill enchantments. If you can stick this against Grixis and your deck has a low curve, then it should be enough to win the game, although it does get Hydroblasted or Blue Elemental Blasted.

Fantastic with Experimental Frenzy.
Red has got some great additions lately: Harsh Mentor, Earthshaker Khenra, Dire Fleet Daredevil, Bomat Courier, Hazoret, the Fervent. I feel like red aggro is underplayed. I guess it will always be a metagame deck, since there are so many ways to hate on it, e.g. big lifelink creatures.

This is my pick for most undervalued card in Guilds of Ravnica. I think it's the second best anti-artifact creature, second to Qasali Pridemage.
There are plenty of three-cost creatures which kill artifacts when they enter, but they are worse than the ones you can proactively cast and attack with. It's pretty embarrassing to have Reclamation Sage do nothing against Time Vault + Voltaic Key. Jitte and Skullclamp and are also important to have instant speed kill for, otherwise an extra dude dies or they draw two cards respectively.
Goblin Cratermaker doesn't just kill artifacts, it also kills Karns and Eldrazi. Emrakul, the Aeon's Torn is the win condition for many combo decks, whether it's Shallow Grave, Sneak Attack or Channel. In that scenario, this little dude wins you the game.
Until now, goblins only had sorcery speed artifact kill to tutor for with Matron.

A huge upgrade on Reclamation Sage if you're playing white. Being able to play this as a 4/3 makes it a forgivable card all of the time, whereas Reclamation Sage can often have no target.
Adds extra utility to Green Sun's Zenith and Restoration Angel. 
Excellent against burn. 
I see this as a staple in GWx Birthing Pod decks.

Innocuous little guy. He may not look like much, but he has a unique effect. No other one-cost creature can give haste immediately. He may open up a new combo somewhere. It's possible there could be a new Flash Hulk kill. Perhaps Torch Courier, Benevolent Bodyguard and two other things?

A tutor is a tutor. Wizards have learnt their lesson. They're making us jump through some hoops here.
There aren't any cheap black spells worth paying an extra 1B for, but this is still a handy versatile card. It can be Viscera Seer; in the same deck it can be Murderous Redcap. It can be Fatal Push. It can be Death's Shadow.
Obviously you'll need plenty of creatures in your deck. Natural game play should be sufficient for finding CMC one and two cards but if you want to tutor for anything more expensive you'll need to actively mill yourself.
If you have Painter's Servant naming black, Mausoleum Secrets finds Grindstone!

Just playable I think. Best in aggro decks. Castable off Burning-Tree Emissary and Hidden Herbalists.
Kills Birds of Paradise nicely. Trades with Spell Queller.
Can take down Baneslayer Angels. They'll still gain the life but that's better than losing the game.
Battlebond introduced the beginnings of a warrior tribal deck. Kraul Harpooner will make it into that deck if warriors get more payoffs later. As will this other warrior:

A more tasteful or less tasteful garment than Grim Flayer?
Solid creature for Zoo. Can make for some interesting decisions regarding what sequence to cast your creatures. You may also get to influence combat such that a first strike creature kills one of your dudes and Pelt Collector grows before regular damage.
Beats hard early but still Skullclamp-able if drawn late.
Note that Pelt Collector's ability won't even go on the stack if the creature entering isn't already bigger. So you can't cast Figure of Destiny and pump it immediately to grow Pelt Collector.
If you can get Pelt Collector big enough, then trample is nice against True-Name Nemesis, one of Zoo's big problems.
This is a beatdown card, whereas elf tribal is more about ramping and comboing off, so I don't expect this to make the elf deck.

This definitely makes it into Elves. Goes crazy with Gaea's Cradle, Heritage Druid, Priest of Titania or Elvish Archdruid.
Ever since Squee, the Immortal got printed I've been trying to break Food Chain. Beast Whisperer is another indirect win-condition for that deck.

Would be cool to name this with Phyrexian Revoker.
Very interesting card. Targeted removal costs two more to kill it, so Fatal Push isn't the blowout it normally is against four-cost creatures without an ETB.
Obviously Ferox puts a large restriction on your deck building. You wouldn't want to play non-creature spells which cost more than three, unless they're super powerful.
The final ability, seen on other creatures such as: Loxodon Smiter, Obstinate Baloth and Wilt-Leaf Liege, is game over against the very popular Liliana of the Veil. Other popular discard effects include Balance, Mind Twist and Wheel of Fortune. Do you think anyone would fall for it if you cast a Scandalmonger?

Ok, that concludes my Guilds of Ravnica set review. That was a long one. I've promised to do Ravnica Allegiance before the prerelease this weekend! What the hell am I doing!?
Good to get updated on my set reviews before Cancon for my sake and your's (assuming my set reviews are any good!). Cancon is in two weeks. Gonna be awesome. I reckon there'll be about eight of us going up from Melbourne to Canberra. Cancon has a win-a-dual Legacy on Saturday 26th, then a win-a-dual Highlander on Sunday and a Modern event on Sunday, the public holiday. 
Then there's GP (Magicfest) Sydney the weekend after! I'm lucky enough that my work has an office in Canberra, which I can work at for a few days, so that I can go direct to Sydney afterwards. There's a high-stakes Highlander on the Friday but unfortunately it clashes with a sealed Mythic Qualifier, which is more important to me. Maybe if my pool's bad I'll drop for the Highlander. 

Gonna be a hell of a week! Come say hi at Cancon or the GP. I'm always down for Highlander games and points discussion,