Last year was a year of surprises, where the cards I ended up liking the most weren’t the ones I was expecting to. Cards I thought to be dead-set shoo-ins like Ugin and Kiora and Blade of Selves didn’t even make this list. (Check out 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 here).
If anything I think it’s a lesson that love shows up when you’re least expecting it, like when you’re exiling the top card of someone’s library or something.
That’s it! LIBRARY! I need to get off Tinder and try pick up chicks at the library…
In the meantime, the best of 2015!
Much like my invite to all those parties back in high school, Oblivion Sower’s invite here is based entirely on how nutcase weird it is.
The Eldrazi were designed to be deliberately odd this time around in order to exemplify their alien nature. Well, Oblivion Sower is pretty much their poster boy. He does something that’s never really been done before, and that’s saying a lot for a game with close to a hundred expansions.
He’s really fun to play with too. I’ve been a die-hard ramp player since dot and there’s something disgustingly fun about ramping with other people’s lands. And the fact his ability isn’t limited to the four cards you hit means you can now own more real estate than Warren Buffett. It also triggers on cast, so I don’t give a dog’s balls how many counterspells you’re holding.
My personal record is getting thirty lands off this guy. Your move Buffett.
There’s quite a few utility cards that managed to sneak into the list this year, just to keep me grounded amongst all the splashy haymakers. I’m still trying to decide which one of the two Damnable Pact is.
This card has killed more people than starving lions and runaway trains combined. It does a pretty innocuous thing of trading life for cards Sign in Blood style, but refilling your hand is a powerful play.
Hell refilling? Why not overfilling? That’s all gas in the tank, which you can then siphon out into a homemade flamethrower.
But the most fun part of this card is aiming it at your opponent. That’s life loss not damage mind you, so pesky cards like Worship don’t do jack and its doomsday for the poor sucker dumb enough to play against you.
I have a passionate hate of Overrun effects. Winning with them feels cheesy and dying to them feels like being cheated. Overrun itself straddles the fine line between acceptable and annoying, but of course no-one plays it with Craterhoof Behemoth around. That card is banned at my house and I would happily dance on the grave of the person who designed it.
So it is to my great surprise to include Pathbreaker Ibex on this list, possibly the first goat ever worth Goatnapping. I only happened to play it because we always play Commander precons straight out of the box and it proved to be every bit as overwhelmingly powerful as it looked. But a curious feeling piqued up in me as I trampled the decimated corpses of my friends into the dirt. Love.
At first I couldn’t tell why. Why did I love the goat, but hate Craterhoof? For all practical purposes the goat is stronger. It costs less, requires less board presence and the pump effect is just one hydra away from crushing everyone into oblivion. What’s more I had friends pick up Goats of their own and didn’t mind once being pulverized by them, where as a Craterhoof would’ve sent me running off crying into my pillow. My feelings didn’t make sense.
That’s when it occurred to me. The difference between Pathbreaker Ibex and Craterhoof Behemoth is that you can see it coming. There’s no haste enters-the-battlefield bullshit. Lightning Greaves aside a full round has to pass before the goat stomps everyone into dust. It gives players time to react. Losing to it doesn’t feel unfair and playing with it still feels like an honest game of Magic.
Break out the Goatnappers.
For all practical purposes Ezuri is the missing link between Rugrats and Pacific Rim.
He accumulates experience counters very fast, so casting something innocuous like Patagia Viper quickly results something like the Cloverfield monster. I’ve had some serious fun with this bastard.
The problem is he’s facing a continuous firing squad. Any smart player will rub him off the face of the planet the second they have a chance. As a result any Ezuri deck needs a metric fuckton of mana to keep recasting the bugger as well as more ways to protect him than a workplace health and safety officer can reasonably think of.
But once he gets going it’s the fast lane to monster-town, and you can experience the thrill of your Sakura-Tribe Elder going all kaiju on someone else’s back end. All sorts of cards work with him but I have settled on a favourite: Triskelavus. With enough mana you can create the kind of apocalypse a dying clown would masturbate to.
Without question Dragons are my favourite tribe. Hearing we were getting not one but two dragon-centric sets this year gave me the longest orgasm of my life. The MTGSalvation Rumour Mill replaced my porn collection for an entire two months.
Mechanically speaking, dragons are all about flipping sideways and doing damage. Angels and sphinxes might have lifelink or protection or generate card advantage or something, but nothing compares to the damage output of a good dragon.
Dragon Tempest is the perfect dragon support card. It’s like Scourge of Valkas got it on with a Hammer of Purphoros (don’t try and visualize that please). It helps dragons do everything they want to be doing. Which is burninating the countryside and eating all the peasants. And the odd Rune-Scarred Demon that always slips in also benefits. Hooray for multiculturalism!
For several years there seemed to be a trend of making creatures so powerful they simply sucked the life and joy out of any game they entered.
As far as I’m concerned Annihilator was the pinnacle of that trend.
Annihilator. The biggest mistake since George W. Bush. Playing against it was like receiving a root canal. I’ve never actually had a root canal, but my friend has. When I asked him what it felt like he said ‘like sacrificing six permanents’.
What I love about the new Ulamog is that he’s still every bit the exemplar of overwhelming power, but this time he’s fair.
The Annihilator is gone. He no longer punishes people who try to play against him. His gluttony is still represented flavorfully on the card, but it’s no longer anything that makes the opponent scoop and contemplate playing Yu-Gi-Oh. No matter how much of a player’s library he chews up the game always remains interactive. Is that game going to last long? No, probably not. But neither is it against a Shivan Dragon with no removal and a crapload of untapped mountains.
But what’s absolutely best about him is that every deck finally has a colourless, playable solution to take care of that bitch Avacyn!
I am not a complicated man. I enjoy food, sex, sleep and dragons. And as far as tribal dragon commanders go, things don’t get much simpler than Kolaghan.
There’s not too much strategy involved. Get dragons. Point dragons at face. Profit. That’s about the extent of Wizards’ design philosophy for the most hallowed of creature types.
Kolaghan exemplifies that philosophy to a ‘T’. She makes an awesome general for plain old simple dragon beatdown.
Before you ask, yes of course I’ve tried Karrthus. Karrthus does an excellent job of beating the snot out of people. But the deck is vulnerable. One wayward Clone and your entire dragon horde is in someone else’s grubby hands. Karrthus also costs a lot and is extremely ramp dependent. If you’re not packing sixteen-plus ramp sources then goodbye gameplan.
Kolaghan’s having none of that. A mana cost of five doesn’t mean you need to ramp so hard. She fits into right into the curve alongside some of the more business-end dragons like Thundermaw and Hellkite Charger. It’s just feral dragon beats all night long.
You can check out my Kolaghan deck here.
This card is frankly ridiculous. Anybody who says otherwise clearly doesn’t play Magic. It makes your army less of an expendable force and more like your own Blockbuster Video. Just rent and play what you want over and over again!
The card advantage generated by a recurring Raise Dead is just insane. In many ways it’s more powerful than drawing a card. You can grind people out with Shriekmaw and Fleshbag Marauder. Expand your empire with Burnished Hart. Bring back creatures with stupid death effects and conduct more sacrifices than the Aztecs ever did!
It is my philosophy that if you’re playing black, run a decent amount of creatures and can afford the mana, something is really not right in the head with you if you don’t play Palace Siege.
Of course Palace Siege has a second mode, something that drains life or something. Choosing it is a theoretically plausible option, but so is wearing a turtleneck with a gold chain on a first date.
For a long time ‘card advantage’ in red meant crispy-frying two creatures with one burn spell. But over the last few years red cards that have been printed that provide it in other ways. The thing is they often work differently to anything other colours might have.
Outpost Siege is the purest example of that. Rather than drawing an extra card, it gives you a ‘now or never free stuff!’ option. It’s like a watching an infomercial every upkeep.
The ability first appeared on Chandra, Pyromaster but it wasn’t until Outpost Siege that it appeared without a built-in removal magnet. I love it because it heightens the decisions you need to make during gameplay – all the while giving you a bucket of free cards.
Like a couple other cards on this list, it wasn’t an instant attraction but rather a love that grew over time. It’s now in every red deck that I have a spare copy for. Hell, I never thought I’d enjoy infomercials so much!
Oh and did you know Outpost Siege has a second mode that surprisingly doesn’t suck? Yeah that’s right! Subscribe to Option 1 now and we’ll give you a second free!
Use it when playing Prossh.
Realistically, there could only be one choice this year. Or should I say five.
The euphoria over seeing another cycle of legendary dragons getting printed was too much to bear. And it happened not once last year, but twice.
The original cycle, such as Kolaghan above, were fantastic and pushed players to play with lots of dragons. The second cycle, the Dragonlords, was even better. Gameplay-wise each one was a force to be reckoned with.
But for me the real fascination was with the characters, and seeing them grow up and take over the world.
The ‘dragon overlord’ has been a fantasy trope ever since Dungeons & Dragons. This here is Magic’s surest homage to that trope. Yeah we’ve seen legendary dragon lords before, but they always came with impression they just piss-farted around breathing fire and stuff. Barring Nicol Bolas there was nothing about building empires or being worshipped by legions of humanoid serfs. The story these cards told was even better than the gameplay they provided.
But the lynchpin that really sealed the deal was seeing ‘Elder Dragon’ in the type line.
Back when I was a little kid I’d only ever heard rumours of creatures bigger than 6/6. I had no idea that gold cards were even a thing as internet spoilers didn’t exist. Hell, the internet didn’t even exist!
Then in what must’ve been my eleventh or twelfth booster pack I cracked Arcades Sabboth. It was the first card that truly made my jaw drop. I fell in love with the Elder Dragons.
I tried desperately to make them work in all sorts of decks for years, usually by way of Zirilan of the Claw. I was very early adopter of Commander back when it was called Elder Dragon Highlander and the first EDH decks I built were all based around the original Elder Dragons. For a long time I didn’t feel right playing EDH any other way.
In many ways the Elder Dragons kickstarted my obsession with dragons and in turn, Magic. Seeing the words ‘Elder Dragon’ printed again was very nostalgic for me. It brought back all the golden years of childhood.
Oh and I like Silumgar and Kolaghan the best.
THAT’S IT THEN
So that concludes it for last year’s shenanigans. There’s not quite so many dragons this year, but them demons are looking pretty good…