Knight Ally Tokens

I needed some Knight Ally Tokens for my Allied by Oath Battle for Zendikar block deck, and I just recently finished The Riyria Revelations series by Michael J. Sullivan, which offered me some inspiration: Hadrian and Royce tokens!

Token Knight Ally 22aToken Knight Ally 22bToken Knight Ally 22cToken Knight Ally 22d

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Into the Scrapheap? Episode 13 (Mana Walls)

I was updating my Garruk Planeswalker Jousting deck when I came across a card that had a strictly better version:

Vine Trellis Overgrown Battlement

There’s almost no reason to play Vine Trellis anymore, especially since even if you’re looking for another mana producing wall, there are other (better) options available as well (not considering cost, of course):

Sylvan Caryatid

The slightly smaller body is more than compensated for in its Hexproof. And it’s supplying you with ANY color of mana, not just Green. If you do need a bigger body, you might try this:

Wall of Roots

Although this will shrink over time, you do have the immediate option of getting 4 or 5 mana in one fell swoop. If you really need multiple colors of mana and you’re willing to pay a little more, you can also get this:

Axebane Guardian

CONCLUSIONS: All of this renders the Vine Trellis pretty well redundant and inferior. I am officially tossing it into the scrapheap.

For completion’s sake, here are two other narrow-use mana walls:

Tinder Wall Jungle Patrol

Theros Soldier Tokens

Here’s one for the ladies…

I must say that I actually like the official soldier tokens for Theros, especially the red one, but I just can’t resist a Greek-themed set, so I made some of my own too.

Soldier TokenSoldier TokenSoldier Token

 

It’s Hector and Achilles!

Token Soldier Red 11a Token Soldier Red 11b Token Soldier Red 11c Token Soldier White 11a Token Soldier White 11b Token Soldier White 11c

Into the Scrapheap? Episode 12 (White Tappers)

This might be a little different than previous episodes in that I’m not sure anything needs to be completely jettisoned, but it does highlight a problem I’ve commented on before: functional reprints.

I think the beginning of the tradition (W, TAP: tap target creature) goes back to Master Decoy (I know that’s where I saw the ability first).

Master Decoy

It got its first functional reprint in the Invasion set with Benalish Trapper. These two are exactly same, down to creature type. Why, Wizards, why? What did the Master Decoy do to lose your love and confidence?

Benalish Trapper

Yet another functional reprint appeared in the first revamped Core Set, Magic 2010, where Blinding Mage appeared. At least this one was a wizard instead of a soldier, in case that ever mattered, and it didn’t carry the Dominarian-bound designation of Benalish, but again, why not just bring back the Master Decoy—it’s generic enough. And they could have done new art or even just re-used the eighth edition art, which was more serious than the original Foglio art.

Blinding Mage

They have played around with this type of creature a little, and that I don’t mind. Here’ s a more expensive version that in the right circumstances will do more than your average Master Decoy.

Nomad Decoy

Another innovation is the Avacynian Priest who can use colorless mana, but also has a restriction placed on it. That seems reasonable.

Avacynian Priest

They also went a little smaller (as befitting a kithkin), with a 1-drop 1/1, suggesting that the extra mana in the original versions was for the extra toughness.

Goldmeadow Harrier

But then they went and made almost the exact same thing (Human vs. Kithkin), but attached it to the planeswalker Gideon. Really? You couldn’t do anything else with him to spice him up. I guess kithkin don’t fit into every setting, but then again, neither does something associated with Gideon. This is where I start to gripe about their claim to have so many cards in print, when in reality, a lot of them are just the same thing with a name change or other slight twist on a previous version. Lame.

Gideon's Lawkeeper

Instead of an extra toughness for your one mana, you could get flying with a Squall Drifter.

Squall Drifter

Now, the Ballynock Trapper is an interesting take on the trapper. Its a little bigger, doesn’t require mana to do its thing, and can let you do some fun things in the right kind of deck. Of course it’s a bit pricier, but not unreasonable.

Ballynock Trapper

The Whipcorder gets an extra power point for its slightly more mana intensive cost. It also has the morph ability–not sure how great that is on this card, but you never know in Magic.

Whipcorder

I’m not sure the extra potential in Holy Justiciar is worth two extra mana, both to cast and to activate. This only seems useful in Avacyn Restored draft, which no one plays anymore.

Holy Justiciar

Another mana intensive version is Innocence Kami. You still get the classic ability, stapled onto a beefier body (well +1/+1 beefier), with some potential related to its set, but I’m not sure that warrants three extra mana. Maybe I’m wrong, but I won’t be playing this anytime soon.

Innocence Kami

Then there’s the Sunstrike Legionnaire. I’m not sure how to even evaluate this guy, but his ability doesn’t require mana, so maybe in the right deck…

Sunstrike Legionnaire

Then there are the generally worse versions. The only thing going for the Aysen Bureaucrats and the Errant Doomsayers is that there is no mana cost to do the tapping. Everything else is strictly worse for the same casting cost.

Aysen Bureaucrats

Errant Doomsayer

 

CONCLUSIONS: OK, technically nothing here is strictly worse, so nothing needs to be put in the scrapheap, but unless you are making a deck where you want 12-20 “W, tap: tap target creature” creatures, there’s still a lot of chaff here. One more reason not to buy booster packs!

Scars of Mirrodin Values

As a new set rotation looms at the end of the summer, it’s worth taking a look at what I’ve learned about post-rotation values from the last block to rotate out: Scars of Mirrodin. I tracked the value of any card selling for over a dollar at ChannelFireball.com over the last year to see what happens to valuable cards. Channel Fireball is not the cheapest place to buy cards usually, but I find their values are more reasonable than StarCityGames, and it gives me something to compare to the other prices when I buy off of TCGPlayer.com. Obviously, your mileage may vary, but by using a single site that is fairly attuned to the market, I can draw some conclusions.

Scars of Mirrodin

First, let’s look at the real money cards, those over $10:

MOX OPAL

Last summer, as its time in Standard was waning, you could get this for $10, but just before rotation in September it was up to $12. By the end of year, well out of Standard, it was up to $15. It has continued to climb and is now worth $40. Ok. This is a mythic that was originally quite hyped (I sold one for $20 early on), but did not see a lot of Standard play. Now, I believe it is an integral part of the Modern Affinity deck. So, if you waited for this to go down after rotation, you really missed the boat.

WURMCOIL ENGINE

There’s a similar story for Wurmcoil Engine, although not quite so dramatic. This was played in Standard pretty regularly, as well as in some other formats, but was still only $8 last summer. It too rose as rotation neared, to $10 where it stayed until just recently when it started moving up again and is now at $15. So, instead of coming down in price, as we usually expect with rotation, this one has essentially doubled over the past year. Too bad, as I like this card – apparently so do the tournament players, and perhaps some of the richer casual crowd as well.

ELSPETH TIREL

Planeswalkers tend to hold their value and never dip too low even after their time in Standard, but the new Elspeth was down to $8 last summer. Right before and after rotation, it even dropped to $7, and that’s when you should have bought her. Now she’s up to $12, and unless she gets a Core Set reprint someday, I don’t expect that price to come down – how sad.

SWORD OF BODY AND MIND PLATINUM EMPERION BLACKCLEAVE CLIFFS ETCHED CHAMPION VENSER, THE SOJOURNER SKITHIRYX, THE BLIGHT DRAGON ASCETICISM

At the next level, we have four more mythics and three rares in the $5-$10 range, but not all their stories are the same. Only the Sword and Venser are cheaper now than they were last summer ($10 and $6), and Venser got a reprint in a Duel Deck (now $8 and $5). Venser was as low as $4 at one point after rotation. The Platinum Emperion has more than doubled in the past year ($3 to $8), but it only went up slightly after rotation. The Etched Champion has now found a home in a Modern deck, I believe, so it’s steadily climbed from $2 last summer to $3 post-rotation and $6 this summer (wow – that’s a tripling in price). Skithiryx did dip slightly, from $3.50 to $3 after rotation, but is now climbing and is at $6 now. And Asceticism, which I had really hoped would come down, instead held steady and is now climbing, from $3 to $5. Finally, Blackcleave Cliffs has remained relatively stable around the $5 range.

7 of the 14 remaining cards with any real value (i.e. priced over $1) did see a small dip after rotation, although among those, only the dual lands have seen a permanent lower price, with the rest either maintaining their value or increasing slightly over the year.

Mirrodin Besieged

It’s a similar tale with the next set, although fewer cards since the set was smaller.

SWORD OF FEAST AND FAMINE

This Sword did dip after rotation, from $18 at the height of summer Standard to $12, but recently it’s jumped up to $24, so hopefully you got yours already if you wanted one.

TEZZERET, AGENT OF BOLAS

This planeswalker didn’t make much of a splash in Standard, but I think it’s seeing some play in Legacy, and planeswalkers don’t usually dip too low. It was already at it’s lowest last summer, and has only risen since then, to $8 around rotation time, and again recently spiking at $15. Drat – I was really hoping this would dip a couple more dollars, but instead… ouch!

THRUN, THE LAST TROLL

Here’s a clear tournament card that did do a post-rotation dip, from $6 in the summer down to $4 by the end of the year, but now it’s climbed all the way up to $10.

BLIGHTSTEEL COLOSSUS

Likewise with the Blightsteel Colossus: a little dip (from $6 to $5) and now up to $12.

HERO OF BLADEHOLD CONSECRATED SPHINX GREEN SUN'S ZENITH INKMOTH NEXUS DARKSTEEL PLATE MASSACRE WURM

Of this next batch, two have decreased in price since last summer, The Hero of Bladehold ($8 to $6) and the Green Sun’s Zenith ($10 to $5), both of which were solid Standard cards and still see some Modern play, I believe. The Hero even dipped lower right after rotation (to $4). The others basically held steady until hitting a recent price bump – the Consecrated Sphinx dipped (from $6 to $4) briefly and is now spiking at $8; the Inkmoth Nexus hit its low of $4 and hovered nearby until recently hitting $8; The Wurm and the Plate were already at $3 last summer, but have slowly climbed to $5.

Of the remaining 8 valuable cards, they pretty much all saw a very slight dip post-rotation and have held steady from one summer to the next.

Mirrodin Besieged

The third set actually had more value cards than the second set.

KARN LIBERATED

Not only is Karn a beloved planeswalker, but he’s a win condition in a Modern deck, so his price not only did not dip, from its $15 last summer, but has now almost doubled, to $28. My only hope for getting one now is somehow getting a Duel Deck with him in it at MSRP (yeah, right).

BATTERSKULL

A powerful standard card that continues to be played in other formats means no real dip (Ok, it did dip from $8 to $7 briefly) and is now double at $15.

SWORD OF WAR AND PEACE

Here’s one that actually has come down. After rotation it took a big hit, from $20 to $12, although it has recently climbed back to $15.

ELESH NORN, GRAND CENOBITE

I had hoped to collect all the Praetors from this set, but then Elesh Norn became a win condition in some tournament decks. It did go down after rotation, from $15 to $10, but now it’s back to $15. The other praetors have also risen in price, I might add.

PHYREXIAN OBLITERATOR

If you watched the market carefully, then you had your chance at the end of the year. From $12 in the summer, Phyrexian Obliterator went down to $6 in the winter – hopefully you got yours then, because they’re now up to $15.

VORINCLEX, VOICE OF HUNGER SPELLSKITE JIN-GITAXIAS, CORE AUGUR BIRTHING POD SHEOLDRED, WHISPERING ONE

In this next level, all of the cards have seen a slow rise, mostly doubling price over the year, although Spellskite quadrupled, from $2.50 to $10. A couple of these are seeing play in Modern tournaments, but the Praetors must be due to casual appeal.

Conclusion

For the most part, don’t expect valuable cards to lose too much value after rotation, and if you think you’re going to want them, it’s probably better to get them sooner rather than later. It may be that lands do come down after they rotate out of standard, although don’t expect that with the Ravnica duals (it didn’t happen with the Zendikar fetchlands either).

Into the Scrapheap? Episode 11 (Play it again, Sam)

With the return of Archaeomancer in Magic 2014, I was reminded of Call to Mind as a potential card for my Nicol Bolas deck (since I certainly can’t afford something like Snapcaster Mage!), which got me searching for similar cards.

Relearn
The first spell to let you get back an instant or sorcery came in Weatherlight for 1UU.

Call to Mind

Then came a clear upgrade in Magic 2011: In anything except a mono Blue deck, you’d rather have a 2U spell over a 1UU spell, even though the converted mana cost is the same. So, unless you need eight of this effect in your deck, then Relearn has been consigned to the scrapheap.

Mystic Retrieval

More recently, in Dark Ascension, a new option was thrown our way. Pay one more but get a second use out of it if you have red in your deck too.

Archaeomancer

Interestingly, Magic 2013 gave us an even more interesting choice. Essentially for one extra blue mana, you get the spell effect plus a 1/2 Human Wizard (which isn’t shabby considering there is no blue vanilla 1/2 for U even available in the game; the closest thing being a Nivmagus Elemental). So, not strictly an upgrade, but unless you’re trying to turn off people’s Essence Scatter or you really need the spell at the three-drop spot, why not get a creature who can block 1/1s all day long to go with your re-learned spell.

Izzet Chronarch

If you’d like something a little more robust and you’re going the UR route, maybe the Izzet Chronarch could find his way into your deck. Probably not, though. He’s not really that much better than the Archaeomancer, and he costs one more and requires you to play red too.

Mnemonic Wall

If you’re going to spend that much mana, the Mnemonic Wall is probably a more useful option in most decks. It’s not much of a deal, though, as it’s essentially a Wall of Tears plus a Call to Mind, and yet not quite as good.

Nucklavee

As you get to this end of the mana curve, you may want to just go one more to get the significantly beefier Nucklavee: A 4/4 that can net you two cards back from the graveyard for the same price as two Call to Minds is nothing to shake a stick at, although you definitely have to build your deck around this to make sure it’s usually useful.

Conclusion: Bye-bye Relearn and have a seat on the bench Izzet Chronarch.

Into the Scrapheap? Episode 10 (A Farewell Cameo)

The Return to Ravnica block didn’t just make the Invasion Cameos obsolete once, but actually twice. 3 mana for a simple 2-color mana-producing artifact was the old standard:

Seashell Cameo Drake-Skull Cameo Bloodstone Cameo Troll-Horn Cameo Tiger-eye Cameo

Now you get the same thing plus you can turn it into a creature, with the Keyrunes:

Azorius Keyrune Dimir Keyrune Rakdos Keyrune Gruul Keyrune Selesnya Keyrune

Or you get the same thing plus you can turn it into a new card, with the Cluestones:

Azorius Cluestone Dimir Cluestone Rakdos Cluestone Gruul Cluestone Selesnya Cluestone

Not to mention that you get access to all 10 2-color combinations in both of these!

This is a classic example of “strictly better”… which is a little sad, as I’m such a big fan of the Invasion set. At least the art on the cameos is better, IMHO.