Going Mad – The Distortion

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By: Derek Madlem

Well, the cat’s out of the bag and this time it’s no Rootborn Defenses. The release of Oath of the Gatewatch has been plagued with a series of leaks and we’re supposed to feel really bad about it. Well except for all those “accidental” leaks we had in the past…are we really supposed to take this seriously when Wizards is staging fake leaks all the time?

Kozilek, the Great DistortionThe first thing we saw from Oath was combination of Wastes and Kozilek, the Great Distortion. These cards sent people’s imaginations flying and there was some pretty terrible things speculated about the new mana symbol that luckily are not the case.

As it turns out, those little diamonds are quite simple: colorless that is actually colorless. That’s it. So now we finally get the big payoff for the pain lands being in Magic Origins (OMG THEY’RE BASICALLY TRI-LANDS!!!), but we also get a boatload of errata. Like this guy:

KZC

Oh that’s not awkward at all…see here’s the kicker, Wizards obviously knew about this change for a very long time but waited until the second half of a block to introduce what is to be an evergreen mechanic. Yeah, yeah, you’re right, it’s not really a mechanic so much as an unnecessary restriction that adds needless complexity to one of the most complex games to ever exist, but I’m sure it’s totally worth it!

The simple and most elegant solution would be to have included the new colorless mana symbol on those pain lands we talked about and just rolled it out from there. Nobody is excited about “the big payoff” of seeing that Kozilek has a restrictive casting cost…maybe there’s other things in the pipeline that are totally going to blow our minds, but I’m not holding my breath. Among the spoilers are a cycle of guildgate style duals that just enter the battlefield tapped and a number of two-color legendary creatures so we can infer that a decent portion of the set is carved out for multicolored cards.

Kozilek’s Return

The bulk of the spoilers leaked so far have been pictures of damaged Expeditions, but we’ve already seen half our mythic rares spoiled which isn’t going to leave us much to open Christmas morning (or whenever the awkward media blitz begins). We’ll circle back around to the Expeditions, I want to talk about the new Bonfire of the Damned.

Kozilek's Return

See here’s the thing about giant wormy creatures that destroy everything in their wake, they’re bound to come bursting out of the ground every once in a while and lay waste to everything around them. This card is strong enough as a three mana instant speed Pyroclasm that gets around protection…but then they decided to bump it up two rarities and tack that second paragraph on and you’ve got what is likely to become a format warping card.

Big stupid decks have always been soft to the fast and wide ground game in Magic and this shores up a lot of those problems. Having played the big dumb ramp deck for the last few weeks, I am excited (and afraid) of what this coming Standard format is going to look like. The Eldrazi deck already has an incredible long game in abusing Sanctum of Ugin to chain Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger into Ulamog into Ulamog, but give me the ability to exile two permanents, deal five damage to all creatures, and search up Kozilek for an encore really pushes the strategy up a few rungs on the ladder.

Shrine

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Shrine of the Forsaken Gods seems like a pretty good endeavor at this point. Shrine essentially allows you to cast your Ulamogs (and now Kozileks) an entire turn sooner than you would have been capable of before. This card is critical for any attempt at a Standard Eldrazi deck and they’re currently sitting at less than a buck a piece, so it’s hard to make an argument against Shrine. But what’s stranger to me is that it’s partner in crime is below 50¢ and is played with the same frequency.

Sanctum

Sanctum of Ugin is the real powerhouse in Big.Dumb.Eldrazi.deck because it allows you to chain threats into more threats. In what is surely a Vorthos blasphemy, this allows you to cast an Ugin and fetch up an Ulamog to mop up whatever the spirit dragon is unable to. With Oath, this card only gets better as you can use it to fetch up Kozilek to refill your hand with more big stupids and a pile of functional counter magic.

Ulamog

Ulamog is one a very small handful of cards in BFZ that I still have any optimism for going forward, but a mythic that is going to be a 4x in Standard while also slotting into Modern and Commander decks seems like a pretty safe bet, especially when the current archetype gains so much from just two cards and the bulk of the set is still waiting to be revealed.

If you’re even of the mind that you COULD play this deck in Standard, now’s the time kids. There’s a good chance this gets ugly.

Infinite ObliterationThe current foil for big dumb Eldrazi is Infinite Obliteration, this card was  fairly simple answer that the various Jace and Abzan decks could slot in to answer Ulamog outright. The deck can still win with Ugin, the Spirit Dragon but he’s nowhere close to the clock that Ulamog is and is often forced into the -X game rather than the Lightning Bolt game. There’s a chance this card continues to be the go-to answer for Eldrazi, but even having a second big dumb stupid is usually more than enough for the Eldrazi.

Void Winnower

Void Winnower is currently sitting around $2.50 which seems criminally low for a sweet game altering mythic rare. Void Winnower could play a very important role in the upcoming Standard as it plays a dual role: it stops your opponent from casting both Ulamog and Kozilek and it also diversifies your threat package to avoid Inifinite Obliteration from the decks that can cast it. If nothing else, I like this card long term because it does something annoying in Commander and is a mythic rare. <Obligatory “can’t even” joke>

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Pure Speculation

Drana

I like Drana, Liberator of Malakir. Drana is the kind of underwhelming powerhouse that steps up and surprises you from time to time. I have a harder and harder time imagining a world where Drana stays at $7. We have another set that is seemingly going to be heavy into the Allies followed by a return to the land of Vampires, how can you lose? Ironically, in a realm with four color decks, Drana is somewhat hard to cast thanks to that double black in the casting cost but that’s all going away in just a few short months as the tri-lands and fetch lands rotate out in April and we’re forced to return to something a bit more modest. But if Drana alone wasn’t enough to convince you that Vampires might be a thing…

Kalitas

Another leak from Oath, Kalitas is back and has apparently joined the wrong side for the Battle for Zendikar because he’s now a traitorous jerk that eats your opponents friends, makes them into zombies, and then eats them again. While I don’t expect this card to be a Standard powerhouse, it is another moving part in a black deck featuring Liliana, Heretical Healer and Wasteland Strangler and exploits the death synergy to good measure. There is a world that exists where we get a lot of sweet commons and uncommons that synergize well with this, but given Wizards’ recent track record, I don’t think we’re living in it.

Expeditions

I’ll go into the Expeditions more in a future article as I probably have to do some research to back up any outrageous claims that I’d make about them. I can admit that I’m pleasantly surprised with the assortment of lands that’s included as I was expecting them to consist of just the man lands and filter lands. While it’s disappointing to see Tectonic Edge in the ultra-mythic-super-saiyan-rare slot, it could have been much much worse.

If we’re fine with putting uncommons into that slot, the Mike Linnemann in me would have much rather seen an Eldrazi Temple with really sweet art just to hammer home the flavor. I thought the inclusion of Kor Haven was a flavor good catch on their part as it’s a Commander staple that actually fits contextually on Zendikar.  The entire cycle in general appeals to a more causal audience than it’s predecessors, but still has some hardcore gems like Mana Confluence, Forbidden Orchard, and Horizon Canopy…you know, in case you want to pimp out that Bogles deck.

The prices for these are going to be much harder to peg down as shocks and fetches had a pretty well established hierarchy. We knew that if Scalding Tarn was going to be $250, everything else had to be less. This time around we’re going to have to let the market do most of the heavy lifting as there are no clear winners.

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6 thoughts on “Going Mad – The Distortion”

  1. This article is rough. Sarcasm only works if you actually believe what the writer is saying in the rest of the article to be true.

    Unneeded complexity? Complexity is what makes magic awesome. The colourless restriction is awesome for limited play! the added mental challenge will be great. And really, nothing is changing about the fundamentals of the game. So yeah overall, i would say making limited play more interesting at the cost of almost nothing is “totally worth it”.

    No clear winner with the expeditions? Wasteland and horizon canopy are pretty clear to most people. Or was that sarcasm again? I cant tell because this is such a bad article it could be satire.

    1. Any complexity added to the game increases the barrier to entry. While the new mana symbol is very easy for most of us who already play to intuit, it’s just going to be one more thing that a new player has to learn. Wizards has gone out of their way to limit and remove things that were seemingly innocuous throughout Magic’s history. It’s hard for us as established players to recognize that complexity once we’re already in it.

      As far as the promos go, Wasteland does seemingly take the top slot at first glance, but there’s already three promo printings of Wasteland and the artwork for this one is quite lacking. Horizon Canopy is a sweet land, but how many people are looking to pimp out their G/W deck? But if you take a look at something like Forbidden Orchard, a card that slots into very powerful Vintage decks, there’s room for the potential jostling of positions.

      1. Except that this isn’t adding any complexity to learning the game. its the exact same concept as having to tap at least 1 forest for a 3G cost. its one of the first things you learn when you play the game. this is no barrier to entry to the game because it is a fundamental concept that has existed since the games invention. If you can understand tapping a coloured symbol for a coloured cost, you can understand tapping a diamond symbol for a diamond cost.

        The only added complexity is in the draft environment where you may have to consider picking wastes in order to play colourless spells that require the cost or take an extra second to consider your land base in limited play.

        As far as forbidden orchard making waves for the price I cant see it. It’s also had some premium reprints with its FTV version which has gorgeous art and sits at a measly 8 dollars. big difference from the promo wastelands sitting at $250 & $300 respectively. And i think the art is fine… sure it doesn’t compare to the tempest art, but its at least comparable to the 2015 judge printing. Art is a personal preference anyways.

        1. But it’s not as simple as learning another mana symbol, the new player has to retroactively understand that not every (1) on existing cards is the same. For example, they have to carry around the knowledge that Sol Ring costs (1) but taps for , that is not nothing. A new player will now look at a Sol Ring and see that it adds (2), which is the symbol for generic mana on cards they’re trying to pay for, but on cards they are tapping for mana.

  2. I also have to comment on the ‘added complexity’ problem you state.

    The colorless mana symbol is no more complex then all of the other mana symbols we use today. It is actually a clarification of the system that is currently in place. Now you will know for sure that (2) means generic mana and not colorless mana. It should literally lower the amount of confusion for newer players.

    I will no long have to point out if they see (2) in the cost that it means you can use any mana and if you see T: add (1) to your pool it means add 1 colorless to your pool. No longer will we have to explain why the symbols are the same thing for 2 different things.

    All hail the mighty symbol.

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