Hey Magic people! Did you ever get a kids’ magic kit when you were young? Maybe you’re still young, or you’re still wowing the neighbourhood with the kit. Some of those kits are lavish things, with a slick wand and a fold-up top hat and some real metal rings. And some are a bunch of plastic and foamy bits and stupid mechanics like some sort of double-faced card.
Oh double-faced cards. So awkward. Which Ace of Spades is supposed to be the front? Stuff like that keeps magicians up at night.
I imagine those kinds of magicians struggle with Magic the Gathering’s appropriation of some of their stuff. We definitely cross over on some terms: we stuff our cards up our sleeves, too, and professional stage Magic is played on Twitch. It must make internet searches so complicated. And now we’ve legitimized something they’d prefer nobody talked about in the double-faced cards. Another ace? You must be crazy!
So I’m not talking about double-faced cards. I’m going to pretend the Landspells aren’t super awesome for a little while. To help the magicians. And I’m not going to talk about the modal lands, which are mechanically potent, if not exciting. For the magicians. Which leaves me with single-faced cards only to get excited about from Zendikar Rising. If there’s one thing I know, it’s that magicians love top 10 lists.
10. Feed the Swarm. Was your card a black card? Perhaps a useful tool of a card, like a garden spade in a garden. This card is a really cool tool, and it’s one of black’s best answers to the powerful enchantments that proliferate in Commander. Being a cool tool is a good club to be in. It’s a nod to how far Zendikar has risen that Feed the Swarm isn’t an Eldrazi reference. I could probably fill half this list with black utility cards like powerful exiler Shadows’ Verdict, super edict Soul Shatter, edict cleric Demon’s Disciple, +1/+1 counter payoffs Skyclave Shadowcat and Oblivion’s Hunger, and intriguing commons Blood Price, Marauding Blight-Priest, and Nimana Skydancer, but I wouldn’t be able to fill the other half with red cards. Consider me heartless.
9. Skyclave Relic. Watch me turn this perfectly ordinary card into three cards. The real mystery is how two physical objects that are clearly cards are not cards at all! They’re tokens! Magic! The baseline is a useful mana rock, and triple the mana output while making tokens is amazing. Watch me resolve these triggers! And just try and punch these tokens hard in the stomach! You can’t. They’re indestructible. Speaking of turning cards into other cards that you can tap for mana, take a look at Roiling Regrowth and Vastwood Surge. They are pure sorcery!
8. Charix, the Raging Isle. I’m thinking of your number. It’s 17. How did I know? Perhaps I saw you playing a Phenax, God of Deception deck earlier and I knew you’d want to mill someone for that many. Maybe I saw you when you were touring the Islands. Maybe it’s that CMC I know you love. Numbers like those get in your head, and make your mind easy for me to read. I know you love crabs and mill and I think you’ll also enjoy Ruin Crab and Lullmage’s Domination. Just thinking about the possibilities of this is fun, and you will like this post, subscribe to the blog, and recommend it to friends.
7. Akiri, Fearless Voyager. Ready for a good rope trick? This is the one where the new Boros Commander ropes you in, and you build the deck, and then you go to play it and realize that Simic is the good colour combination. But what if that rope is finally tied to a respectable card draw engine? Akiri is the perfect assistant to show off the ins and outs of attaching and unattaching (but not reattaching), and cutting ropes that later prove to be indestructible. We know it’s a trick, and that it’s all about the equipment, but can we figure it out in time before we get duped? I think this might be really good, and if you love some good use of apparatus, check out Fireblade Charger and Thieving Skydiver. The Charger can dish out some serious damage, and the Skydiver can steal liberally. I think the Skydiver’s ability to steal Lightning Greaves and attach them is a mechanic I want to test in my ninja deck. Tuktuk Rubblefort is a nice budget option for Akiri and other Commanders to enable that all-important combat step, too.
6. Felidar Retreat. Some magicians like doves, some like fluffy bunnies, but the modern magician kicks it up a notch with Cat Beasts. Siegfried and the late Roy would agree wholeheartedly. The modern magician also likes to pull something out of the hat and have it buff all the doves and bunnies, when there’s enough Cat Beasts. If that’s possible. Do we need any more assurance that getting a 2/2 for playing a land is good other than Field of the Dead? Are Cats and Beasts tribes on the rise? Do tokens and +1/+1 counters have any synergy anywhere? Can we fit a half dozen Cat Beasts into the pockets in the lining of my jacket? Those and other questions will be answered. Like, is Valakut Exploration an even better Landfall enchantment than this? Probably. It seems excellent. And there’s a lot to be said about common card Spitfire Lagac, which can generate a ton of damage. Even Kazandu Stomper might find it’s way into some Landfall magician’s menagerie.
5. Murasa Sproutling. Where would magicians be without Abracadabra and Alakazam? Not the pokemon, the verbalized expressions of the arcane that make their illusions just that much more impressive. Those words, and things like billows of smoke, lighting effects and music all kick up the actual illusions a notch. In Commander, kicker has been a bit of an illusion. We have one clear cut Commander option in Hallar, the Firefletcher from Dominaria, and a possible one in newcomer Verazol, the Split Current. Murasa Sproutling wants to be the first card on those lists, as a fundamental kicker enabler. Cards like this make the illusion that much more real. I’d be remiss to mention the strange and unusual Myriad Construct. With some practice using it, it could be excellent, and find a place in a large variety of performances.
4. Relic Vial. Being a magician can’t be all hard work. There must be time set aside to party. It’s now established that we party with one Cleric, one Warrior, one Wizard, one Rogue and a three drink-minimum. Velvet ropes everywhere (see Akiri). When drinking with that Cleric friend, bringing your Relic Vial along is pretty potent. Instant speed sacrifice outlets that draw cards are strong, even with a 2 mana activation, and when you’re at the Cleric party, all your sacrifices and hard work pay off. There are plenty of Clerics around, and more are coming with every set. This also subtly leans into white, which is where most of those Clerics are, and where card draw is in short supply. Speaking of party, Spoils of Adventure looks solid as instant speed card draw, Rockslide Sorcerer is a great utility Wizard, and Farsight Adept‘s ability to draw yourself and an opponent a card can be an interesting friend-maker. On theme with party for sure.
3. Relic Robber. Does anyone in the audience have a hundred dollar bill, or expensive watch or piece of jewelry? This time, I don’t want to take it and make it look like I’ve had it destroyed to your horror. This time I want to give something to you. Generosity in Magic is a huge risk, although Zedruu the Greathearted has turned it into an art form. While this isn’t really for Zedruu, it’s for the players with that mentality. Does anyone in the audience play with Dingus Staff? Furnace of Rath? Does anyone in the audience love turning jank like this card into some sort of killing engine? Don’t get up, stay where you are. Authorities are coming for you now.
2. Zareth San, the Trickster. I probably should have put this guy at number three. San is three in Japanese, and is a subtle reference to the Ninjas that Zareth San wants to be. I guess he’s like a ‘rogue’ ninja. …Yikes. Need some ninja editing there, or just drop a few smoke pellets and escape. Sure I can. Magicians can appreciate the smoke pellets and cringe-worthy wordplay. Not theirs, their competitors’. Those tricksters. So anyways, this could be a popular Commander for Rogue tribal despite needing to be in your hand to function best, and yes, it seems to be another cool card for the ninja deck to consider. Maybe it’s best to look at this card as something to pair with double strike, and use the pseudo-Ninjitsu ability for value with self bounce cards and ETB Rogues. I like that a little digging into the potential here is already getting my wheels spinning.
1. Iridescent Hornbeetle. I’d like you to look above you, and see the envelope from earlier. Remember how I wrote down my prediction for number one on this list, sealed it in the envelope, and used pulleys to suspend it over the audience for the duration of the Top 10 list. I’m going to lower the envelope, and tear it open. Of course, as I wrote earlier, ‘Green uncommon insect, insane token generator.’ How could it have been anything else. It’s each counter. Each counter. I can see the Hydras nodding, and some sneks applauding. Daghatar the Adamant over there has a tear in his eye. I’d like to take a bow and thank Pir, Imaginative Rascal, Hardened Scales, Doubling Season and all the many, many, heavily played green cards that dump +1/+1 counters all over everything for all the insects. I’m just going to go to endstep now.
But wait, there’s an encore to this show! A few other thoughts on a few other cards. Hagra Constrictor is going to get a tryout in my 0-power Nethroi deck. Many of my creatures are +1/+1 fanciers, and Menace is a pretty big deal.
Is Scourge of the Skyclaves good? So hard to say. Unlikely in Commander, as 7 mana for halving the lives isn’t great, and the demon is very likely to die regardless. In Modern? Is there some sort of strategy like Death’s Shadow, using Street Wraith, Shock/Fetchlands, and maybe burning the opponent at the same time? I hope I don’t open one of these.
Roiling Vortex might have some game in Commander, but is this mostly designed to hose Paradoxical Outcome decks and free Vintage spells in general?
The first card I’d stuff into an Orah, Skyclave Hierophant deck is Valiant Changeling.
I’m sure someone can turn Ardent Electromancer into an infinite combo. If there’s a legit Party deck out there, this might be involved in how it wins.
Zendikar drops this week, in just a few days. There is a possibility of product delays, that I hope don’t affect your area. I know it’s tough to wait, when so many of the cards seem so magical, but we can get there.
Learning Magic, both kinds, is partly an exercise in patience. Lots of cards to shuffle, and tricks to master. Zendikar is going to add to the fun in a big way, even if you don’t want to party with Rogues and Clerics. Thanks for reading! Your life matters! Black Lives Matter!