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By: Cheater Hater, Vincent Borchardt
Aug 24 2016 12:00pm
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Welcome back to the Modern Flashback Series! Hopefully the hovers work more-consistently than they did in the last article. Other than that, the main discussions are around Eternal Masters 1.5—I mean Conspiracy: Take the Crown. Yes, Conspiracy 2 is somehow just as value-packed as Eternal Masters, even before you consider the proliferation of new Eternal playables like Recruiter of the Guard, Sanctum Prelate, and Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast (and that's ignoring the new mechanics—sure, comboing Illusion of Choice with Council's Judgment might be a little cute, but I fully expect Monarch to show up in Constructed, even if it's just Throne of the High City in Lands). Of course, the problem is that Conspiracy: Take the Crown is not releasing on Magic Online, and while cards from the set will be released on MTGO, we still have no idea when or how (though I suspect it'll be paired with the "design your own cube" contest that was just announced). I have a lot more to say about this, but I'm saving it until either we find out what the plans for the set on MTGO are (in which case I'll write a normal Designing Reprint Sets article soon afterward) or my Magic 2011 article (where I have a lot of space—seriously, that article's only about a thousand words and the strategy content is mostly done). But until then, I'm still here with my Flashback Reviews—I even got featured on Channel Fireball's roundup last week! Now on to Worldwake.
When Zendikar was hyped up as the “land set”, it touched on most aspects of lands, from lands with abilities, to ways to get lands, to abilities that cared about lands. However, there was one aspect of lands that was noticeably missing: lands that turn into creatures. These creature lands had originally debuted in Tempest with Stalking Stones, but were popularized in Urza's Legacy with Treetop Village and friends. However, unlike in some cases, the absence of creature lands in Zendikar was intentional, as “the land comes alive” became a major theme in Worldwake. The creature land sub-theme stretches through all the rarities, with a cycle of power land auras (the Zendikons) at common, Dread Statuary and Vastwood Animist at uncommon, and a cycle of allied-colored creature lands at rare.

Before we get into the mechanics, just a note about Worldwake's reputation through Constructed. Yes, Worldwake is one of the most powerful sets in Modern having Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Stoneforge Mystic, and the best overall cycle of taplands ever printed, along with other cards like Searing Blaze, Eye of Ugin, and Groundswell will do that, but Constructed quality and Limited quality aren't the same thing. Worldwake is slightly weaker than Zendikar for Limited (all the super-powerful stuff is either high-rarity or relies on fetchlands for easy instant-speed Landfall), but more importantly it's slower, if for no other reason than there being one fewer pack of Steppe Lynxes and Plated Geopedes. We'll get into the details when we cover the colors, but for now, onto the mechanics.

Voyager Drake Gnarlid Pack Apex Hawks

The main change mechanics-wise in Worldwake is that Kicker has been replaced by its relative Multikicker. This is one of the reasons why the combined format is slightly slower than triple-Zendikar: cards like Lightkeeper of Emeria, Deathforge Shaman, and Voyager Drake have great Multikicker effects on creatures that already efficient. At common the Multikicker effects are less dramatic, but the cycle of Multikicker counter creatures are all reasonable, especially when most are reasonable at the base level like Gnarlid Pack and Apex Hawks

Hedron Rover Groundswell Ruin Ghost
As I mentioned above, the Landfall creatures aren't nearly as aggressive, with Hedron Rover being the only creature with a +2/+2 Landfall boost though (Calcite Snapper can be aggressive in the right situations). However, the real innovation is that Landfall appears on a cycle of common Instants, where it serves as a condition (yes or no) rather than a trigger. In practice, that means these Instants play more like Sorceries (with the exception of Groundswell) unless you have shenanigans like Ruin Ghost, which is one of the best ways to get “infinite” Landfall for cheap (while being a card that only makes sense in Zendikar).
Join the Ranks Stone Idol Trap Ruthless Cullblade
Returning Mechanics:

Unfortunately, not much is done with the other mechanics from Zendikar. Allies haven't gone through any mechanical changes, but while Constructed cares the most about Hada Freeblade for curve-filling purposes, the most interesting ones for Limited are Join the Ranks (which is the only source of instant-speed Ally triggers) and Halimar Excavator which is similar to (Hedron Crab, but much better—it has decent stats, it works with Allies you've already drafted, and you're more likely to get multiples). There are six Traps, but while Stone Idol Trap (one of my personal favorite cards) innovates by having a scaling cost reduction, the other five are just an uncommon cycle of enemy hate cards. Still, that's better than the Quests, of which only four exist and none are close to Limited-playable. Finally, the sub-themes for each of the colors (like Equipment for white or “bloodied” for black) still exist, but are only barely supported (Kitesail Apprentice for white, Ruthless Cullblade for black, for example).

Before we get to the colors, let's check where the color pairs are after triple-Zendikar:
White/Blue: Fliers/Equipment
Blue/Black: Control
Black/Red: Aggressive, tons of removal
Red/Green: Landfall, but possibly color-heavy
Green/White: Disjointed (Allies and Landfall), but high card quality
White/Black: Drain, but something is missing
Blue/Red: Tempo
Black/Green: Slow and grindy, which is bad here
Red/White: Pure aggression, but everyone wants it
Green/Blue: Slow Landfall, but has enough defense to survive
Fledgling Griffin Iona's Judgment Kor Firewalker Refraction Trap
Commons Uncommons
The common creatures in white continue the aggressive trend, with Apex Hawks, Marsh Threader and Fledgling Griffin all quality early creatures. Iona's Judgment is also playable, as the slow unconditional removal that white rarely gets fits well in this slower format. At common the cards are slightly more defensive, as Perimeter Captain is a good counter to all the aggressive creatures (and probably maindeckable), Kor Firewalker being a fine two-drop that just wins against red, and Lightkeeper of Emeria both attacking and blocking well while being a great mana sink in the late game. Refraction Trap is also good, even if the trap clause is mostly meaningless (this will be used to win combat more than it “redirects” a burn spell).
Aether Tradewinds Voyager Drake Tideforce Elemental Vapor Snare
Commons Uncommons

Blue's commons are surprisingly boring—Surrakar Banisher is fine (as an expensive clunky Man-o'-War it is still a Man-o'-War), Aether Tradewinds is good (as you can either save your creatures or gain extra Landfall triggers), and I've talked about Calcite Snapper and Halimar Excavator already. However, every uncommon other than Spell Contortion is very strong (and even that isn't completely awful). Starting with the creatures, Sejiri Merfolk is a great two-drop (even if it's functionally a gold card), Horizon Drake and Voyager Drake are both cheap three-power fliers with upside (though Horizon Drake's protection is more likely to annoy you when you attempt to Sejiri Steppe it rather than endlessly block a Zendikon), and Tideforce Elemental is a tapper with upside (both the Landfall and the untap ability). However, the spells are even better, as while Permafrost Trap is just a Frost Breath variant (good in an aggressive format), Vapor Snare is an easier-to-cast Mind Control with the upside of giving you infinite Landfall triggers.

Bojuka Brigand Jagwasp Swarm Urge to Feed Nemesis Trap
Commons Uncommons
Black's commons feel like they're pulling in two separate directions. On one hand, Pulse Tracker and Bojuka Brigand continue the aggressive trend, while Ruthless Cullblade provides a reasonable payoff. On the other hand, Jagwasp Swarm is one of black's most efficient french vanilla fliers ever, while Dead Reckoning looks great in any deck that wants to go more than a couple turns. However, Black's uncommons are much simpler, as while the creatures are fine, the trio of removal spells Smother, Urge to Feed, and Nemesis Trap are all top-quality.
Akoum Battlesinger Crusher Zendikon Cunning Sparkmage Searing Blaze
Commons Uncommons
Red continues the Haste trend started in Zendikar, with Akoum Battlesinger pushing the aggressive Ally deck into overdrive, Skitter of Lizards allowing an aggressive deck to scale, Crusher Zendikon having virtual Haste if you put it on a land you didn't just play (MTGO should tell you that now, so be careful with all your Zendikons) and Cunning Sparkmage contending for best non-rare in the set (as a pinger would already be good in this environment before it was given Haste). Searing Blaze is also a very aggressive burn spell, and even the version without Landfall isn't awful. However, there isn't much else that really fits the aggressive strategies, with cards like Grotag Thrasher and Claws of Valakut wanting a slower deck. In fact, cards like Quest for the Goblin Lord, Rumbling Aftershocks (which should not have cost five mana), and Bull Rush are mostly unplayable, something we haven't really seen so far in Worldwake. Then again, red really needed a downgrade after it dominated triple-Zendikar limited so much, especially now that the slower format makes cards like Spire Barrage more viable.
Explore Graypelt Hunter Leatherback Baloth Bestial Menace
Commons Uncommons
Green's commons are defined by the ramp, as both Arbor Elf and Explore are very powerful ways to get to the large spells. However, there isn't anything else that's spectacular—sure, Graypelt Hunter and Vastwood Zendikon are good cards, but decent creatures shouldn't be a surprise for green. At uncommon, while Leatherback Baloth is supposed to be the superstar, it's worse than it looks unless you managed to get that mono-green deck I talked about in my Zendikar review, as in a two-color deck it's probably closer to a turn 5 play, and Thornhide Wolves was never that exciting. Instead, the bomb you should be looking for is Bestial Menace, which provides six power for five mana while stabilizing the ground.
Khalni Garden Quicksand Pilgrim's Eye Hedron Rover
Commons Uncommons
The common colorless cards are surprisingly good: the spell lands are much better than Zendikar all but (Bojuka Bog are not only playable but good), Quicksand is surprisingly good removal that doesn't cost a card, Pilgrim's Eye is a good fixer, Walking Atlas ramps and provides instant-speed Landfall triggers, Hedron Rover is a good creature, and even Kitesail provides evasion at a price that isn't awful. The uncommons are only slightly worse, as Everflowing Chalice and Dread Statuary more than make up for the pure inefficiency of Razor Boomerang (which shockingly wasn't completely awful—pingers are really good in this format).
Now to the archetypes. While the ten color pairs are still around, there have been some changes at the edges. While the mono-green deck I talked about in my Zendikar review still exists as an dream deck, mono red is more reasonable now that the format is slower (and Claws of Valakut is a great common enabler for that deck). There is also a cycle of allied-colored-aligned cards (the Sejiri Merfolk cycle) that is the first real push towards particular color pairs outside of the Refuges, but again, that's just one uncommon and should be a slight influence at best. On to the archetypes!
Strangely, white gets all the fliers this time, while blue is left behind at common. I guess that leaves it in about the same place as Zendikar, though I assume it's hurt by the main common Equipment giving Flying (and thus being redundant in UW Fliers).
The control strategy is better in a slower format, and cards like Calcite Snapper and Mysteries of the Deep fit well here. Halimar Excavator could work here, except that black has almost no good Allies to pair with it (especially in a controlling strategy).
There's slightly less good removal in Worldwake (at least at common), but the creatures are a lot better—in particular BR Allies doesn't seem awful, as most are geared towards an aggressive strategy now.
Landfall has really taken a hit, at least in the repeatable sense—Cosi's Ravager and Snapping Creeper aren't the cards you build your deck around. Multikicker would be a good mechanic for ramp, but while the counter creatures are fine, all the payoffs are rare and mythic in these colors (there are no uncommon green Multikicker cards), so you're taking a gamble if you rely on that.
The card quality remains high (especially now that white has fliers), and the weakening of Landfall slants the combination towards aggression. Allies are also good, though the lack of a common white Ally other than Join the Ranks hurts.
There is nothing here—even the “drain” strategy doesn't exist anymore. Again, the card quality isn't awful, but there isn't a strategy to follow.
Somehow blue got even more bounce in Worldwake, and that make the tempo strategy even better. The creatures are slightly worse (and red's decline in overall card quality hurts as well), but Zendikar can make up for those minor weaknesses.
Again, control gets better in a slower format, but there just isn't any synergy to exploit. I want to Dead Reckoning one of green's big creatures, but there's no way to enable that other than creatures dying.
White's creatures get slightly better, but that doesn't make up for the decline in removal or in red overall. Still, this archetype needed a downgrade, and it's still certainly playable.
Blue continues to get defensive cards, but unfortunately blue doesn't have many Multikicker cards to take advantage of the ramp. I still think this is better than it looks, especially since the payoffs are still in Zendikar.
That was fun—hopefully you can open some money rares over the whole block! This is actually the end of an era, as this is the last small set that will be placed at the end of a block, rather than the beginning (as how drafts are done now). But wait, you may ask, isn't there still another set in the Zendikar block? Yes, but it's another large set drafted by itself, just like Shadowmoor (but without a small set). Join us next time when the Eldrazi arrive for the first time (back before they ruined all your favorite planes) and completely upend how you draft with Rise of the Eldrazi.
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Well, the hover situation is by Cheater Hater at Wed, 08/24/2016 - 22:46
Cheater Hater's picture

Well, the hover situation is better than last week--no )) or (( errors, and there aren't any spaces around the cards. However, there are a couple mismatched long hovers (Calcite Snapper under Landfall, Hedron Crab under Returning Mechanics, Bojuka Bog under Colorless/Land)--is this more bugs in the script, or did my kind editor fix all the other problems? There are also a couple of edge cases, both under Blue--Aether Tradewinds doesn't hover but the link still works, while Man-o'-War neither hovers nor links (it links to a capital "O", which redirects to the home page).

I hope this doesn't come across as too picky--I'm just trying to improve the script, and the best way to do so is point out where it's messing up, and let the people who know the script try to improve it :)

no not picky at all, I got a by JXClaytor at Thu, 08/25/2016 - 02:05
JXClaytor's picture

no not picky at all, I got a new version of the tool earlier this week because of last weeks.

I am script dumb and can't fix things myself, Xger does all of that thankfully. There was an issue with ( (cardname) sentence (cardname) (cardname) ). I cleaned those errors up and at least got links to the cards this week.

I intentionally added those by Cheater Hater at Thu, 08/25/2016 - 14:46
Cheater Hater's picture

I intentionally added those spaces since you said you were doing them manually in the last article--apparently I don't need to do that now?

The goal is that you write by xger at Thu, 08/25/2016 - 22:47
xger's picture

The goal is that you write articles without having to think about any of this. Of course, we 14000 cards and English being what it is, it can be quite difficult to account for this. So, you should be able to write ((lightning bolt) does 3) without problem. While I try to check the results in every article, it is helpful when people point out the errors.

For specific responses:
Man-o-war: This will be fixed. It'll be added to a long list of 'words' that aren't capitalized.
Aether tradewinds: This has to do with the AE symbol being terrible. With that particular card, the store page is Aether while the picture is AEther. I can get that fixed though.
As for the mismatch, I'm working on that problem. It's related to the (( issue, but its more complicated than I anticipated. Hopefully I can resolve it soon. EDIT: Turns out I cannot replicate it. When I put those lines as just text through the script, it works fine. I would need what originally was written exactly, in case my recreation is incorrect.