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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Jul 26 2013 2:28pm
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> summary <

 Here we are: It's that time of the year again, when the new core set is released upon us and Standard hits its 8-set zenith for the next three months.  Hard to believe an entire year already passed since when I wrote my first Tribal Evaluation for Magic 2013, Scars of Mirrodin was still in Standard, and we didn't return to Ravnica yet (but we knew we would, as we now know Ancient Greece homages are coming.)

 Magic 2014's tagline is "Ignite your spark". (Dude, I've been a planeswalker since circa 1994, so how about you don't worry about my spark and focus on creating a Chandra version that doesn't disappoint instead, which you still haven't? I get that your marketing department loves her because they see the value in putting a flaming, sassy redhead in the promo material, but is it really so hard to design a good monored planeswalker? You did it just once out of SIX attempts, and it was almost the only one NOT named Chandra. End of rant.) Generally speaking, M14 seems to bring with it a definite nostalgia feel, given the various "blasts from the past" we got. First there's the new Sliver age that (somehow questionably) descended upon us. But you can go even further back, if you consider that this is the first core set in a while that features such Alpha classics as Serra Angel, Sengir Vampire and Shivan Dragon, who weren't seen together since 10th Edition. And after its brief vacation, even Giant Spider is back, despite nobody really clamoring for its return. Plus, we get the second Cockatrice ever! A direct follow up to Alpha! Also absolutely unrequested and unnecessary! But still theoretically cool, I guess. Same goes for the fourth Whale, as the last time they bother featuring a marine colossus that doesn't dwell in the deep sea abysses was in Urza's Saga.

 But enough with the reprints: Let's see, once again, which new, constructed-relevant (or history-relevant) cards with Power and Toughness are going to populate this new addition to the Magic pool (thanks to a set that will remain mostly known as the one that brought us the Indestructible keyword and the customizable sideboard size, while replacing Legendary with "Haven't we met before?"); also, how good or bad they are, according to their sub-types. As always, we'll proceed alphabetically by tribe, but the full list from descending number of new additions is available in the summary at the end.

 Magic 2014 Infodump


Angel: +2

 

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 As the Angelpedia easily proves, a new mythic Angel is often something to keep an eye on, and in this sense Archangel of Thune certainly doesn't disappoint. She comes in the 5 CMC range (what I call Virtues), which is an overcrowded territory, the historical Serra Angel's domain, then Baneslayer Angel's undisputed fief. And it's with the latter that this new girl should be compared, because they're both midrange heavy beaters that aren't particularly resilient or defensive (they lack any protection and vigilance) but double as lifegaining engines to recover any gap with the opponent and then make it larger and larger in your favor. I'd say Baneslayer is more suitable to deck strategies that emphasize a few, strong finishers, while Archangel of Thune is at her best when she's able to turn fellow creatures from her side into serious, unexpected threats, achieving inevitability in numbers (as she essentially gives a free Gavony Township activation at each successful attack). As such, she's probably not going as much in Angel tribal decks, as is in deck where she's welcomed by a flight of Birds of Paradise. Vorthos note: the hyperrealistic art by James Ryman (who already portrayed a couple Angels like Lightkeeper of Emeria and Angel of Glory's Rise) is particularly sweet, and deserves a good close-up. For once, the otherworldly beauty of a female Angel doesn't translate into unlikely scantily clad outfits (you know which one I'm thinking about), and I find it refreshing. (While we're on the subject, kudos to Igor Kieryluk for saying this about his Linvala: "People seem to like this one a lot and I have no  idea why. I mean, it's not the worst I've done but it's certainly not the best. Mostly naked, hot chicks sell, eh?").

 The same can be said for Seraph of the Sword, which is however the only good thing you can say about her, as a 4 CMC Angel should do better than just surviving combat damage while inviting Lightning Bolts.


Beast: +3

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 The M14 new Beasts are mostly vanilla stuff, for whatever reason. This one, while still being vanilla, is interesting enough in that it brings to Beast the Watchwolf paradigma: a  3/3 for 2 mana is something that aggro decks really like to have available at any given time. I'm sure it will be played in Standard, and in aggressive Beast decks. The most relevant new Beast card, however, is strangely enough (or not) an Elf Shaman.


Bird: +2

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 Mana reduction is never going to go unnoticed, and in the case of this Bird, it's attached to a decent cost/body ratio. The discount only applies to creature with flying, but that's like saying every creature in a Bird deck, while at the same time allowing far wider applications outside the tribal arena. You can hardly argue against the idea of building an all-flyers deck. If you'll do, you might want to start with this one, as a bridge towards heavier calibers.


Cat: +2

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 This rare Cat is also the only Soldier in the set. It represents a sub-theme that runs across M14: enchantments matter. Admittedly, it's sort of a light theme, possibly the backbone for something more structured that will come in Theros. For now we only have this one, Blightcaster, and the truly terrible Oath of the Ancient Wood (plus a bunch of other old and new enchantments, twice the M13 amount.) But I have to say, Ajani's Chosen isn't half bad: a decent midrange body that combos nicely with things like Rancor. Actually, it even gives new life to auras that don't come back, as you can put them directly on the newly created token, thusly negating any 2-for-1 ambition of the opponent. Good potential.


Cleric: +4

  

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 So, the Clerics get their own Fiend Hunter. That's probably good for Cleric decks, more or less irrelevant otherwise, as Fiend Hunter defends better and brings back stolen creatures. Elsewhere, they get a lifegaining 1-drop, which is of course very old news for a Cleric, but in this case the lifegaining steadily happens regardless of what you play next. Yeah, it's still not going to replace Soul Warden or Soul's Attendant in a Soul Sisters build. The black one is curious, in that it's the first non-Rat creature to be allowed to ignore the "4 copies" rule. You keep playing these ladies in overly dramatic poses, then you sacrifice six of them (which aren't few, I'll let you do the math to find out how many turns it requires, even in a deck with, say, 40 of them and 15 lands) to fetch this big dude. Is it a deck? Well, it surely is a casual deck. Is it a fun casual deck? Heh.


Cockatrice: +1

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 At last, it's here! A new Cockatrice! We have been waiting for almost 20 years! Well, I wasn't, actually. Honestly, Cockatrice is a pretty stupid creature type. A cockatrice is "essentially a two-legged dragon with a rooster's head", states Wikipedia. As I said, pretty stupid. It's a very narrow monster from medieval bestiaries. I fail to understand why both Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering bothered to include it since their beginnings over thousands of different options. There's one at the Belvedere Castle in Central Park, apparently, so maybe that's the reason. Anyway, the old one was a bad flyer for 5 mana. The new one is even worse: they substantially color-shifted it, codified its deathtouch-like ability, and took away 2 full points of toughness in exchange for 1 colorless mana. Really, it beats me why there was one in Alpha, and even more why there's a new one here. But I'm sure there are lots of Cockatrice fans that are celebrating this historical event.


Demon: +1

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 Let's forget the silly Cleric shenanigans that come attached to this Demon (who apparently really likes to feast on his priestesses.) Because all in all, he's pretty fantastic. He's a 5-mana big flyer that kills a creature (but not himself!) when hits the battlefield. Yeah, there's a little downside, which the crazy priestesses were supposed to solve: if you don't have 6 creatures in the graveyard, the Shadowborn Demon might die before you even get to attack with him (there's possibly a minor point of interest in this, in case you're orchestrating a recursion of the ETB effect.) This probably means it's not the right choice for a Demon deck, but if your deck just happens to feature plenty of self-milling, or a steady flux of expendable creatures, he may really be your guy.


Dragon: +2

 

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 Low-cost Dragons are beginning to become a thing. After the highly acclaimed Thundermaw Hellkite (which I'm proud to say was among my top choices from M13, back when people were still not entirely sold on it), now we get a new mythic Dragon for 5 mana. Well, it's not another Thudermaw, unfortunately. It's a decent mythic, and definitely something you'll put a playset of in any Dragon deck, but apart from that, it's just a 4/4 flyer with firebreathing that does 1 damage upon entering the battlefield. Don't get me wrong, it's still not bad, especially because the next copy will do 2 damage, and so on (and you can always combine it with Thundermaw for more carnage.) But it's clunkier and less justified in a deck that doesn't feature 20 Dragons. It also requires a heavy red presence, given the 3 colored mana.

 Speaking of comparisons, Dragon Egg is nothing else that Roc Egg for Dragons, which makes it tribally more relevant, but that's it. The loss of 1 point of Toughness is no big deal, since you want it to chump block and die anyway, but I might actually like better a 3/3 rather than a 2/2 with firebreathing, unless we're talking again of a mainly red deck.


Druid: +1

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 Does this one look a little familiar to you? That's right, for mysterious reasons, we're getting a functional reprint of Llanowar Elves. It's good to finally say goodbye to the terrible, terrible art of Fyndhorn Elves, I guess (my eyes, that hurts!). Unless you really want to play 12 copies of the same card. Or 16, if you count the slightly different Arbor Elf. Will it prove to be important in Elf decks? I'm not sure, the options are still so many, I doubt they'll need all these 1-drops. So, it's still baffling to me why this even exists at all. Yeah, M14 is full of baffling things

 Anyway, it's the only new Druid, for that matter. And one of only two new Elves, the other being a Shaman that plays into the old relationship (nostalgia factor again?) between Elves and Beasts.


Elemental: +3

  

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 And here's another side of the nostalgia feeling: color-hating. Right when you thought they mostly got rid of it, here they come several instances of that very ancient way of creating cards that you might want to put in your sideboard, but in the end you don't because they're too narrow. Unless they're really, really good or the meta calls for it, like in the case of the relatively recent Great Sable Stag. Elementals get one of them in the form of something that might be actually close to the Stag, as Mindsparker (possibly thanks to being a rare) is a 3/2 first strike for 3, which could already justify its presence, even in a maindeck. The bonus hatred affects white and blue non-permanents, which become damage-taxed. It's not going to do a lot per se, but coupled with an aggressive burn strategy, it might amount to something.

 Other than that, I only mention the evidently Limited filler Regathan Firecat to note that there's a tendency to give red Elementals the form of Cats (there's 6 of them) and Hounds (which are 5, plus a couple Boars), for some inexplicable reason. What does the fire element has to do with these animal forms? Unknown. Finally, Woodborn Behemoth is potentially a 8/8 trampler for 5. Yeah, if you have 8 lands in play. Moving on.


Fish: +1

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 Fish are hot lately! Is there a secret plan in Magic R&D to turn them into a good tribe? Well, this one, which is also an Illusion and has Jace's stamp of approval, certainly qualifies as a good creature, as in 1v1 matches it does what Diluvian Primordial does, for 1 mana less (the body is consequently slightly reduced.) Clearly, it's even more situational than the Primordial, borderline random (after all, with the latter, you can actively wait for the right instant or sorcery to actually be in the graveyard.) In Commander decks, it obviously can't hold a candle to the Primordial. And 6 mana for a 4/4, well... Did I say "good"? Let's rephrase it as "decent".


Fungus: +1

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 The ability is nice, sort of a landfall comeback. The casting cost is grossly overpriced, though. If it had to be common, and therefore not a 1/1 for 1, I would have actually liked it better as a 0/6. Still, Fungi aren't frequently seen in sets that don't heavily feature them, so there's that.


Giant: +1

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 The flavor of a Giant stomping on a puny creature is perfectly conveyed. And the ETB effect is actually strong and more often than not useful. 7 mana, though? C'mon.


Goblin: +1

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 Hello, lonely straightforward Goblin rare of M14. You come with a good ability that Goblin/RDW decks might love, just as much as they'll love your cost and those 2 points of power. Not sure if they'll play you massively, but you can keep your hopes up.


Golem: +1

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 The first Golem we get since SOM block and... I'm sorry, but the fact that I need to wait for an attack before this thing starts being something more than a giant wall shouldn't translate into a reduced casting cost? How do 7 mana for something that at some point might turn out to be a 7/7 trampler qualify as a rare? I get that it's colorless mana, but this is Magic 2014, not Magic 1994.


Human: +14

  

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 Here we are, those dang Humans. I should try and calculate how many more blocks we have left before the Humans will amount to 99.99% of all the creatures in the game. The current growth rate says we will get there at some point. Anyway, in this batch there were 4 Wizards, 3 Clerics, 2 Knights, 1 Warrior, 1 Rogue, 1 Shaman, 1 Scout... and 1 Human-Human, for once. The other ones, where relevant, have been covered in the other subtype's paragraph. As for Imposing Sovereign, it's a partial Kismet on a stick, but cheap and battle worthy. Might it see occasional play in some hatebear/white weenie/maverick kind of decks?


Hydra: +2

 

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 And Hydra won the prize for best supported tribe in M14! Seriously, it's already hard to imagine how to find new design space for something usually so specific and restricted as creatures with X/X bodies (modern templating uses 0/0, which is mightily relevant for cards like Mirrorweave.) While occasionally Hydras can have different setups (like Phyrexian Hydra, or Phytohydra, and of course Progenitus), the more typical form is "pay X, get X". That's what Vastwood Hydra does, for instance. In these cases, it's just a matter of finding new associated abilities to maximize the value of the counters, i.e. of the fact that your creature might well be infinitely large. Vastwood solves the problem with sort of an enhanced modular mechanic, which is nice enough (even situationally, it's a form of insurance against non-exiling spot removal.) Only, we just got Savageborn Hydra in Dragon's Maze, whose double strike was certainly more alluring. Here comes the mythic Kalonian Hydra, then. The main point of comparison for this one has to be Primordial Hydra. Let's do some math. You spend 5 mana on Primordial Hydra, you get a 3/3. But no, you don't want to do that to see it immediately bolted, so you spend 6 and get a 4/4 instead. Which is what Kalonian Hydra gives you for 5. Next turn's upkeep, Primordial is an 8/8. Kalonian needs to wait for the combat phase to become that big, but it has already trample, which Primordial still hasn't. Plus, it all happened one turn earlier, since you had to pay 5 mana rather than 6. So, just for this, Kalonian Hydra might be said to be strictly better than Primordial Hydra (unless you count on the opponent having a 4-damage instant and failing to use it in your upkeep, which I feel pretty safe to dismiss as a not very frequent scenario.)

 But wait, this was just for looking at the two Hydras as the only creatures on your side of the battlefield. But Kalonian Hydra isn't selfish: it doubles ALL the counters on ALL your creatures, even the ones that didn't attack. That can become pretty nuts pretty soon. In fact, I posit that Kalonian Hydra is a "Type 3 fattie". As I wrote in my article about colossal fatties (the new introduction to the revised Colossopedia), something that of course applies to every creature, or even every permanent, that you spend a consistent amount of resources to put on the battlefield, there are 3 main "good" categories of them, depending on what their defining characteristic is: Type 1: Resilience; Type 2: Immediate Impact; Type 3: Inevitability. Type 1 defines the fatties that you feel safe to spend resources on because they're hard to remove (Inkwell Leviathan, Blightsteel Colossus); Type 2 defines those that already provided some effect when hitting the battlefield, so you're fine even with them being immediately killed (Terastodon, Craterhoof Behemoth; and Type 3 comprises the fatties that if not removed, will be a fast clock against your opponent, by either causing lethal damage or taking over the game until it's too late for the opponent to come back. The 3 types are ordered as a decreasing scale, meaning that Type 1 has a classification priority over Type 2, and both of them over Type 3, where you'll find only creatures that provide inevitability but are somehow easy to remove. And the Hydras perfectly fit into that category. More so, I dare to say they're their most accomplished example of it: You fail to neutralize Kalonian Hydra for a few turns, you lose the game. Simple as that.


Knight: +2

 

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 More color hating for the Knights, and also lots of lifelink, which isn't that usual for them. Both these new members are somehow decent, Dawnstrike Paladin only considering the Pauper field (and even in that case, just mildly), with Fiendslayer Paladin giving yet another strong option to white weenie builds. First strike + lifelink isn't the worst combination in the world, isn't it? And he's protected from Lightning Bolt and Doom Blade (as well as Lightning Helix and Abrupt Decay.) Might see play.


Merfolk: +1

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 This Merfolk would be a pretty great surrogate for blue removal, if it wasn't part of the color-hating cycle of M14 (which, might be worth noting, is strictly focused on the enemy pairs.) As it is, I don't know if this will be considered for Merfolk sideboards (where such a thing even exists, but Merfolk is one of the more transversal tribal builds, showing up pretty much in every format), or ignored altogether. The art is gorgeous, though. John Severin Brassell is a newcomer among the MTG artists (before this, he only did Wind Drake in DGM), but he looks promising.


Minotaur: +2

 

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 Two dead Minotaurs coming up. The concept is interesting if not new (it reminds me of one of my issues: Zombies — and actually Vampires too, and any other corporeal undead — without another creature type should have the Human creature type.) The execution: vanilla filler. Oh well.


Ogre: +1

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 Make no mistake, this is an "all your creatures have haste" kind of guy (as of course having haste in the following turn means nothing), and those are always useful. It costs less than Urabrask (and, unlike Madrush Cyclops, doesn't require 3 different colors), its body is decent if not great, and it comes with a neat bonus aggression for those midrange red decks that still like to pack some punch.


Salamander: +1

  

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 This little dude (the 7th Salamander ever printed) is actually part of a 3-piece set with Bogbrew Witch and Bubbling Cauldron. They like to do these kinds of things for casual players and Timmys (well, some of them at least, since I'm Timmy enough and still never felt any compulsion to play with things like the Empires artifacts.) The actual cards aren't terrible. The witch (which is Human but would have been more flavorful as a Hag) fetches her witchcraft-related tools, throws the salamander in the cauldron, killing a 4-powered enemy, doing 4 damage to the opponent, and providing 4 life for you. The cauldron itself is a solid sacrifice outlet, that could have been great without the mana activation. The salamander, well, is mostly harmless.


Shaman: +2

 

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 "Instants and sorceries matter" is really trendy these days. I'm usually not too excited to see this mechanic, as I'm more of a permanent lover, but Young Pyromancer combines it with token generation (like Talrand, Sky Summoner last year), and I'm definitely a fan of token generation, especially the 0-cost variety. The Pyromancer is also a 2/1 for 2 mana, so I can see monored or Izzet decks really loving it. Advocate of the Beast, as already noted, is the latest in a series of Elves that function as Beasts' little helpers: Wirewood Savage, Totem Speaker. The Advocate is worse than the former, better than the latter, still probably not good enough.


Skeleton: +1

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 Okay, this guy's name is a nod to Tenacious D, right?


Sphinx: +1

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 Mmm, overcosted much? Very low power, very slow card-drawing, very situational if you aim to draw more than just 1 card. In a world where Consecrated Sphinx (but even just Sphinx of Magosi) exists, this is about as underwhelming as they get. I'd dare to say, even more underwhelming than Sphinx Ambassador, and that's one of the worst mythics ever.


Vampire: +2

 

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 Vampires celebrate their 100th printed member, and they do it in a very understated way, as these two are just run-of-the-mill sacrifice outlets. Blood Bairn is actually a strictly worse functional reprint of Vampire Aristocrat, given that now they apparently decided that creatures can't be sacrificed to themselves, at least in the core sets where everything is aimed at new players and therefore simplified.


Warrior: +5

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 The Warriors get one Ogre, one Skeleton, one Vampire, one Zombie, and this Human. Which is a very complicate and clunky way to get a looter.


Whale: +1

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 We waited 15 years since Urza's Saga in order to get a new Whale, but at least it's a nice one, as far as vaguely playable big creatures go. The flavor is right: Islandwalk, check; moderately big but not Leviathan-big, check; swallows people whole until you manage to kill it and free them, check; Romantic aesthetic, check (that's actually a great piece of art by Adam Paquette.) That mechanic is sweet enough. Too bad it doesn't start as an ETB effect, Frost Titan-like.


Wizard: +6

   

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 Bird and Merfolk apart, what the latest Wizards have to offer is: a "casual shenanigan" witch; a semi-decent "enchantments matter" guy; an almost functional reprint of Rotlung Reanimator (it's now about Humans rather than Clerics, which make it wider, but the Zombie tokens come tapped); and Elite Arcanist, who's a sort of enhanced Isochron Scepter on a stick. This makes him very scary, because, true, he's very frail and at 4 mana isn't certainly fast. But he can cast Searing Wind! Or Summoning Trap! Or Spelljack! Or Time Stop! Over and over again! But yeah, he'll mostly cast the same stuff the Scepter casts.


Wolf: +1

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 Yet another in the cycle of enemy-colors-hating creatures, this Wolf with its weird, cartoonish art might be just the best one, as it gets the closest to, and in some respect even beats Great Sable Stag. As a 3/3 with hexproof for 3 it's legitimate main deck material, and where the Stag would also be able to block its adversely colored foes, or attack past them, Witchstalker gets bigger and bigger instead. I think it's the color-hating card most likely to see play in the upcoming Standard season.


Wurm: +1

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 This Wurm is really relevant for Wurms, as at worst is their Grizzly Bears, and they needed it. If you manage to cast it after a massive lifegain (say, Pelakka Wurm), it becomes a big threat for just 2 mana, in an interesting reverse of the bloodthirst mechanic. In normal builds and circumstances, it still could be able to be dropped as a 4/4 pretty easily, coming after something like Kitchen Finks, up to a 7/7 if you have mana enough after Thragtusk. It's far from essential, of course, but it's versatile enough to be worth a mention. I don't know what the mechanic is supposed to represent, though (the Wurm grows bigger as you become healthier? Is it empathically linked to you?), and its flavor text and name seem to refer to a creature with devour instead.


Zombie: +5

  

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 The two dearly departed Minotaurs are part of a group of 5 mostly unimpressive Zombies that I'm listing here just because. Gnawing Zombie is nothing more than a bad sacrifice outlet. Lifebane Zombie would be great if wasn't for the color-hating clause; it's actually still a semi-playable card as it is. And Liliana's Reaver is half non-evasive Specter-like discarder, half token generator, with a good power, and deathtouch. I don't know, maybe it's just because, let's be honest, M14 doesn't have a great lot of hugely exciting creatures, but I'm going to call this "solid". There, I did it.


THE SLIVERS STRIKE BACK!

Sliver: +14

   

   

  

  

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 The Slivers are back! Everyone talks about them, more or less angrily. Honestly, they deserved their own section because they're the biggest tribe in the set (as big as Human! Now, that's impressive!), but there's not much to say about the actual cards, as M14 is a core set, so they couldn't introduce new mechanics. As a result, the new Slivers are just functional reprints of old Slivers, with some tweaks here and there. Here's the full summary:

  • Battle Sliver originates from Bonesplitter Sliver (changes: +1/+1, 1 mana more)
  • Blur Sliver originates from Heart Sliver (changes: +1/+1, 1 mana more)
  • Striking Sliver more directly originates from Talon Sliver (changes: 1 mana less, color-shifted from white)
  • Groundshaker Sliver more directly originates from Battering Sliver (changes: +1/+1, 1 mana more, color-shifted from red)
  • Manaweft Sliver originates from Gemhide Sliver
  • Megantic Sliver originates from Might Sliver (changes: +1/+1, 1 mana more, enhanced bonus)
  • Predatory Sliver originates from Muscle Sliver
  • Bonescythe Sliver originates from Fury Sliver (changes: -1/-1, 2 mana less, color-shifted from red)
  • Sentinel Sliver originates from Synchronous Sliver (changes: -1/-1, 3 mana less, color-shifted from blue)
  • Steelform Sliver originates from Plated Sliver (changes: +1/+1, 2 mana more)
  • Galerider Sliver more directly originates from Winged Sliver (changes: 1 mana less)
  • Syphon Sliver originates from Essence Sliver (changes: -1/-1, 1 mana less, color-shifted from white)
  • Sliver Construct originates from Metallic Sliver (changes: +1/+1, 2 mana more) 

 The only original one is Thorncaster Sliver, which is also one of the most powerful, since a Raid Bombardment-style mechanic (see also Rage Forger) is usually not allowed to hit creatures as well. The most signnificant change is Sentinel Sliver giving vigilance for 3 mana less than Synchronous Sliver, which admittedly was a bit overcosted (and also odd-colored in blue.) The new Slivers are mostly in Naya colors, to allow for Limited decks to be built around strong commons and uncommons. Blue and black are only represented by one rare each.

 About the mechanical and flavor changes, Mark Rosewater explains the reasons for the former here (essentially: it's a matter of complexity reduction), while Doug Beyer talks about the visual design here (essentially: they needed to be clearly different from the old ones, and Slivers evolve by definition anyway.)

 Much has been said about this, but I won't lie: while I was a bit upset myself at the beginning, now I don't care too much. The mechanical change a) makes sense even from a conceptual point of view (if two group of Slivers are fighting each other, they clearly aren't from the same hive, therefore can't share their skills with their enemies), and b) only matters in mirror matches, and you don't play Sliver mirror matches every day (although now that they'll be in Standard for a while, it might happen.) As for the imagery, well, I like the old visual style better, but most of the new ones have interesting art. All in all, the greater consequence of this new Sliver brood, and the only reason why I might have been happier with the decision to make them a new tribe entirely (which was on the table at some point, as MaRo recalls), is that now the Sliver tribal deck is more powerful than ever, with a grand total of 12 "fast lords" (Muscle Sliver, Sinew Sliver, Predatory Sliver) over just two colors. Not being a huge fan of this kind of linear buildings, it concerns me a little bit.


SUMMARY

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BEST IN SHOW

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WHAT REALLY MATTERS

Ooze: +0

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 Let's not fool ourselves: we might well scratch all of the above, because THIS is the one creature M14 will be remembered for, and weirdly enough, it's a reprint, although of a very particular kind. Previously appeared only in the Commander precon decks, which vastly limited its general exposure and playability (now it's even in Modern, guys!), not to mention price-related access, Scavenging Ooze is sort of a wicked mix of Withered Wretch and Tarmogoyf, with some occasional lifegaining thrown in the mix as a bonus. It combines hitting power and insane tactical values in a neat, bear-like package, which makes it insanely playable even in main deck. It's by far the best creature in the set and what all the cool kids will play in Standard for the next 15 months. Grab a set asap, because things might get hot soon.


THE ONE WHO CALLS

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 The fourth Garruk is also the slowest, yet the most inherently Timmylicious: repeated Dramatic Entrance! An emblem with which you can fetch Emrakul with an Elf! And the +1 ability is a very appropriate Lead the Stampede, which gives this big Garruk more strategic value. Still, it's not the most versatile version of our beloved macho survivalist, as the Caller of Beasts can't guarantee to be able to defend himself, and for 6 mana he needs to be sure to be effective, which means he's more of a build-around-me card that he seems. But we could look at him in another way, ignore the ultimate (as you often do), and just -3 him upon arrival to drop that Thragtusk you have in hand. Sure, you might have cast Thragtusk just as well with those 6 mana you spent on Garruk, but this way you end up with a planeswalker (hopefully) defended by a big creature and ready to start digging for more. He needs to be used properly and wisely, as it's the case for almost all the incarnations of Garruk (with the possible exception of Garruk, Primal Hunter, but only because 90% of the times he's played as just a come-and-go card-drawing sorcery.) You look at him, you see a crazy body-builder who lives in the woods, but there's actually a brain behind the creepy mask.

11 Comments

Good job Kuma presenting all by slug360 at Fri, 07/26/2013 - 19:05
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Good job Kuma presenting all the new m14 creatures and giving your opinion on them. Also from what I know, in Theros I think it is going to have a few enchantments or a mecanic around them. And btw how can you not like fyndhorn elves art! it is awesome, seriously :D

Glad you liked it! (And hey, by Kumagoro42 at Sat, 07/27/2013 - 02:51
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Glad you liked it! (And hey, Canito!)

Fyndhorn Elves' art is the stuff nightmares are made of.

The Elves by Dawwy at Sat, 07/27/2013 - 06:57
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The reason isn't mysterious at all - they want neutrally named elf to reprint not only in core sets but in expert expansions too. Llanowar is too specific for them.

I'm sorry, you're wrong. Core by Kumagoro42 at Sat, 07/27/2013 - 12:29
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I'm sorry, you're wrong (EDIT: I later got it what you meant, see at the bottom. I'll just leave all this research because it's interesting :)

Core sets don't have "neutral" settings. There's plenty of references to places in the multiverse in core set cards. In fact, it's been said that a specific core set can have a few planes as a setting, whereas a block is clearly set in one plane only and tells a specific story.

Looking at M14, it seems that the main setting is the plane of Shandalar.

We have references to several place in Shandalar: Evos Isle (Warden of Evos Isle), the forest of Kalonia (Kalonian Hydra, Kalonian Tusker, flavor texts of Voracious Wurm and Giant Spider), the plains of Thune (Archangel of Thune, flavor text of Bonescythe Sliver), the mountain of Valkas (Scourge of Valkas), the swamp of Xathrid (Xathrid Necromancer).

But we also have a mention of Benalia (Capashen Knight), that just like Llanowar is in the plane of Dominaria. Same goes for Shiv (Shivan Dragon, Shiv's Embrace) and Krosa (Brindle Boar).

Dismiss into Dream references Tazeem, which is a continent in Zendikar. Into the Wilds references Mul Daya, also in Zendikar.
Vastwood Hydra: Vastwood is once again, a place in Zendikar.

Nephalia Seakite: Nephalia is in Innistrad.

Darksteel Forge, Darksteel Ingot: the darksteel is found only on Mirrodin. The Forge also comes with a quote by Elesh Norn.

Elixir of Immortality has a quote by Baron Sengir!

And those are just the references I was able to identify. Others I can't tell where they came from, like Mistral Isle, the Northern Verge, Calla Dale or Goma Fada.

EDIT: Okay, got it, you were saying that they wanted a generic mana elf to reprint it everywhere. Like, in a hypothetical Return to Alara, they couldn't put Llanowar Elves or Fyndhorn Elves there, but they can reprint Elvish Mystic. Makes sense.

They've stated before that by caliban17 at Sat, 07/27/2013 - 15:26
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They've stated before that they intend to replace all "multiple creatures represented by one card" with singulars.

That's why the Elves (and Grizzly Bears before them) had to go - just to get rid of the "s" on the end. Seriously, that is the actual given reason. Neutral flavor's just a bonus that they do with a lot of core-set conversions.

What about Birds of Paradise? by Kumagoro42 at Sat, 07/27/2013 - 15:43
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What about Birds of Paradise?

See also, on this very set, Goblin Diplomats.
And pretty much half the Devils they printed in Innistrad.

I think it's a bit more by longtimegone at Sat, 07/27/2013 - 18:18
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I think it's a bit more complicated than that. They clearly aren't looking to get rid of all cards that represent multiple creatures, as there are examples of this all over the most recent block, such as Basilica Guards and Clinging Anemones.

You'll note that Goblin Diplomats includes a pair of goblins in the art. The 4 devils in Innistrad also depict multiple creatures in the art. The same is true of all the recent cards with plural names.

Birds of paradise is trickier. The original did depict a group of birds, but the other versions are a single bird. I wouldn't be surprised to see the card reprinted, but I'd expect the new art to include more than one bird.

The way I've heard it, what they are trying not to do is have a plural name with only one creature in the art. For some creatures, this creates flavor issues, for example, how can even as few as two elves seem like 1/1 together?

They had a Llanowar Elves by Kumagoro42 at Sun, 07/28/2013 - 05:23
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They had a Llanowar Elves with multiple Elves (7th Edition), then they reprinted it in M10 through M12 and it was back to a new art with just one elf.

I think everybody here is trying to be the one who knows better, but the truth is that we're grasping at straws. Ask Rosewater via Twitter maybe, he might give an answer at some point (and if this answer has already been given, please provide a link to it to settle the issue).

It's probably true that they prefer card names and art to match, but probably untrue that this is anything more than an afterthought for them when designing a card or a set.

As for the flavor of Power and Toughness, I think 1/1 shouldn't be necessarily see as indicating a single individual. They're not "lives". It's an assessment of that card's ability in dealing and resisting damage. A group of many harmless old men is a 0/1, as it tooks just one professional soldier to kill them all. For the same reason, I've no problem with Hill Giant or a War Mammoth being 3/3 (the power creep of creatures since then has of course a part in that), because they might be big, but they can't fight, so a reasonable able human-sized warrior can easily manage to dodge their attack and kill them, which is something lores and fiction often describe.

geeez kuma, how do you know by slug360 at Sun, 07/28/2013 - 19:57
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geeez kuma, how do you know all this stuff?? it is crazy xD

MTG Salvation Wiki is the by Kumagoro42 at Mon, 07/29/2013 - 05:05
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MTG Salvation Wiki is the answer. :)
There's everything in there, even background stuff.

I don't follow novels or any kind of story, but I like to know how the general background of the game works, the multiverse and so. Which, admittedly, is just the most convenient background for this kind of game: there are infinite (?) planes, each with its one "theme", and a bunch of planeswalkers that travel back and forth for whatever reason, mostly because they like to. Like, Jace went to Ravnica recently essentially on vacation! (Ravnica is probably the Las Vegas of planeswalkers).

This is really nice. I want by TennieCamp at Sat, 08/17/2013 - 23:19
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This is really nice. I want to master this all. Good job on this by the way. - Gregory J. Daniels DDS