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2011 Core Set Initial Thoughts

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Welcome to Doubling Season's 2011 Core Set partial spoiler review.  Around two weeks before a set comes out, we do a roundup of all the recently previewed cards to give you an idea of where the set may be heading.  We'll do a full review when the complete set is revealed, so these are just first impressions.  Context is everything, so valuations and ideas can change quickly.  We'll be using GatheringMagic's Spoiler for reference, and in most cases, only discussing the rares.  There are obviously a few uncommons that bear discussion, which we'll do at the end.

First on the list is Wild Evocation, this red bombshell.  While I doubt this will see Tier 1 play, namely due to the fact that it gives the opponent first action, it will crush at EDH tables.  Financially it is of little note, but I'll be sure to get a foil copy for EDH.

Next up, from our French friends, Brittle Effigy, a 5-mana, no questions-asked removal spell.  The best part is that it's colorless and not a spell.  It also basically an instant, since you can cast it with spare mana and then just activate whenever's convenient.  It solves creatures with Protection, handles Bloodghast and Vengevine, and is a great general catch-all against creature-based shenanigans.  I see this being a pretty popular card.  Jon disagrees on the Effigy, citing the fact that it doesn't really stack up against Path or Condemn, or even Oblivion Ring.  While he doesn't think it's positioned to reach above $5, I'm confident that giving non-White colors a way to handle Bloodghast and Vengevine will help this card's value tremendously.

This is mildly exciting as a Trinket Mage target in Legacy, since the Mage is not in Extended anymore. In that application it will see play as a 1-2 of. This will also see play in EDH, in colors that don't support Exile-specific removal.  Scars of Mirrodin could bring a lot more synergy, so expect to see this card around $4+.

Deflect is a role-player type card, in that it won't be a staple, but it could prove useful as a sideboard card.  It'll be a Tier 4 kind of rare - not bulk, but not "established" either.  Platinum Angel is back, and almost no one cares.  She's not really worth much, nor in demand.  Serra Ascendant, however, is a very interesting little card.  While lifegain is usually "bad", she can be an efficient, easy-to-protect finisher in a control deck.  Trying to use her in aggro will end in tears.  It's also just one more reason that Ranger of Eos is nuts.  Serra Ascendant complements Perimeter Captain and Wall of Omens perfectly, and quickly makes Soul Warden and Co.  look like legitimate threats.  If these start out cheap, which they will, I'm going to want a few.

Leyline of Punishment is not too exciting, but will have its uses.  My prediction is that LLoP will end up in the $2 range until it becomes a staple sideboard card, which may or may not even happen.  Everlasting Torment had its day, though.  Jon disagrees with me here, citing that it allows red decks to contemplate racing Baneslayer Angel, Kitchen Finks, Knight of Meadowgrain and lets Earthquake and Co. kill Kor Firewalker.  Jon puts this higher than $2, and given his rationale, he may very well win out on this one!

Cyclops Gladiator is a powerful card, giving ridiculous value each time he swings.  The triple Red cost will preclude him from most decks that run non-red spells, and he doesn't seem "fast" enough for mono red decks.  It's been a long time since "Big Red" was a good deck idea, but he may yet find a home.  I wouldn't be too excited, though.

Nantuko Freakn' Shade is back.  What?  Really?  I didn't even know this was in the discussion, but clearly it was.  Because it's here.  The implications of this are really unknown, but people looking to build a mono-Black control deck should start here, or with Dark Tutelage.  He'll be $5+ with ease, but if he doesn't find a home, his value could drop.  Jon mentions that popular love for this card combined with excellent synergy with Nirkana Revenant could push the price close to double digits.

Vengeful Archon is another card that I'm auto-including in any EDH deck that can cast him.  He's probably irrelevant for Standard or Extended, but he's a bomb in Limited if your deck can survive to 7 mana.  Low-end rare.

Fauna Shaman is certainly interesting.  A 2/1 for 1G with G,T: Survival of the Fittest seems very strong indeed.  The key to using her effectively is to just enjoy the extra value you get from your 2/1, rather than building a deck that relies on her ability.  She's clearly amazing with Vengevine, Bloodghast, Grim Discovery, and cards of that ilk.  The $10 price tag might be correct for Fauna Sauna, but only if she finds a home in a Tier 1 deck.  That seems likely.

I wanted to get Medina's input on Fauna Shaman, and he said the following:  $10 is too much for this card. It's not Survival of the Fittest. I could see this being played in a Reanimator-style deck or a combo deck that relies on creatures to combo off.  The deck that comes to mind is Combo Elves in Extended.  Grabbing a Regal Force or Ranger of Eos seems legit! The problem is that it doesn't impact the board when it hits, it takes a turn to get it active and you only get one activation per turn. Yes, it interacts with Vengevine but that will just make Vengevine more expensive; not this card.

I'm Anticipating this Leyline won't see any competitive play, but will be popular at 100-card tables around the country. Jon loves this card, saying "Martial Coups and Baneslayers with Flash seems really good." Getting in play on turn 1 is back-breaking, but some decks won't want to dedicate slots to a luxury card such as this.

Demon of Death's Gate is cute with tokens, but how many black token producers are there these days?  You're hardly going to run him in Extended just so you can feed Faerie Rogue tokens into his maw, but in the Fae mirror match, it's worth noting that he can be cast for "free" with tokens while leaving up mana to counter.  Temple Bell, on the other hand, will be very popular with casual players, but still not too exciting to the tournament scene.  Howling Mine was the basis of some awful decks, but at least with the Bell you can control when people draw.  Should be similar to Mine pricing.  The fact that Temple Bell requires no mana to activate means that Mind over Matter and Temple Bell make for a lot of cards drawn, and quickly.  This will effect Mind over Matter's price before it will effect the Bell's.

Phylactery Lich is a great effect, and might see some play.  It might be scarier going into an artifact block, so if they end up cheap, snap them up.  It's speculative but a 5/5 that only dies when your worst artifact does seems very powerful.  Mike Flores compared the card to Phyrexian Negator, and the comparison is probably apt.  It requires a very specific deck, but Scars of Mirrodin will likely provide that deck.  Don't be surprised if it sees absolutely no play before then, but be prepared to snap them up once SOM hits.  Angelic Arbiter is for EDH and EDH alone, but it can definitely win you a draft.   Mitotic Slime is a great card but at 5 mana, it doesn't do enough for Standard decks to play it.  It will be a sub-$5 card.  Elvish Archdruid is back, and if Imperious Perfect is back, we'll have ourselves a scary elf deck.  Elves also look great in Extended.

Grave Titan is one of the best of the cycle.  10 power of guys for 4BB is a heck of a deal, and he keeps on producing if he sticks around.  I'm not sure what deck runs him, but he's expensive if he finds a home.  The green version, Primeval Titan, seems to be the best.  That level of mana ramp is totally insane, and green should have no trouble casting this guy on turn 3 with Joraga Treespeaker and Lotus Cobra.  Frost Titan is mediocre, and probably won't see much play anywhere.  His ability can be nice, but it's rarely that scary compared to the rest.   Inferno Titan is nice, but 3 damage isn't all that much.  Red decks probably can do better with 6 mana.  Sun Titan seems scary, and could be a very good card in many decks.  He's the prerelease foil so he'll stay at a normal price.  Jon's eagle eye has spotted that the Lorwyn tribal Giant land, which produces red and white mana, can help cast these Titans.  This will probably not be relevant, but it's our job to make you aware!  Also, he is excited to fetch a pair of Tectonic Edges with Primeval Titan (as am I).

Gaea's Revenge is an over-hyped piece of crap, and his 5 toughness really drills home the point that he's terrible.  Overwhelming Stampede is just worse than Overrun, but it will have to suffice for the decks that want this effect.  Beastmaster Ascension is probably just better.  Time Reversal is another over-hyped card, but it might have good reason.  It says "Draw Seven".  Who knows what deck will use it, but it's not a $25-$30 card.  These Timetwister clones always start expensive and never live up to the hype.  I'd short this now if I had the means.

Steel Overseer is my sleeper pick of the set so far.  This guy just seems insane in so many situations, so I'm going to buy them aggressively.  I think they should be $6+.  Hoarding Dragon is adorable in mechanic, and totally useless.  Knight Exemplar has some uses, bearing in mind the Knights of the following:  Reliquary, White Orchid, Stillmoon, Meadowgrain, Kinsbaile Cavalier, not to mention all-stars like Rafiq of the Many, Student of Warfare, Wilt-Leaf Liege, as well as all the Changelings.  I'm not saying it's Tier 1, I'm saying that I'm not the only person who's DYING to try the deck.  As such, I can see Knight Exemplar being popular and $5+.  It's possible that once people realize the Knight Deck sucks, it just falls to Dauntless Escort price range.

Conundrum Sphinx is exciting to me because he's a 4/4 flier for 4!  Also, I love cheeky guessing game shenanigans in my Magic matches.  Barf.  I really hate cards like this, don't see the point, but I imagine someone somewhere is going just wild over this thing.  Good for them.  They can scour my dollar box for one!  The interaction between Jace/Halimar Depths type effects is not to be ignored  Obstinate Baloth on the other hand, rather excites me for all the right reasons.  He's a great answer to Jund decks, but he may not be enough.  We have a better 4-Drop: Vengevine.  Regardless, someone will use him somewhere and he'll have value.  Just not more than $5 or so.

Baneslayer Angel is back, which will depress her value for about 3 months.  Then it's probably back up to $45+ again.  This happens because of an influx of sealed product being opened.  Captivating Vampire isn't that good, since 5 Vampires is not a trivial board position.  The loss of Vampire Nocturnus killed the already-awful Vampires deck, but these will be at least $6 for casual vampire lovers.  Necrotic Plague goes in every Teysa, Orzhov Scion EDH deck, including mine.  That's about the extent of it.  Ancient Hellkite is a generic large dragon, and does nothing out of the ordinary.  Treat him like every other generic large dragon.

Birds of Paradise are back, along with Garruk Wildspeaker.  This changes very little, as these were expected and confirmed.  The same is true for the Core Set Dual Lands, which are very powerful and very good.  Everything reprinted gets cheaper, so there's not much to talk about.  Same goes for Day of Judgment and Triskelion.  Trike will probably see some love when Scars hits, but Day of Judgment is just going to lose some value and keep being awesome.

More recently spoiled, Mystifying Maze is a clear attempt to revive Maze of Ith.  Some people view the activated ability's cost as onerous, but to be honest, 4 mana makes this card fair.  Given that Maze can be found easily via Expedition Map (or Primeval Titan...), it will have a lot of utility.  Doesn't seem to be a chase rare, as it won't be played as a 4-of in any deck.  Leyline of Vitality is pretty underwhelming, as +0/+1 and Soul Warden never really ended games.  Destructive Force is a reprint of Wildfire, with 1 added to each effect.  Wildfire was 4 land, 4 damage to creatures, 6 mana, and Force is just +1 to Wildfire.  With the return of Voltaic Key, is there going to be a Grim Monolith style artifact in Scars to power the old Wildfire type decks?

Mass Polymorph will probably have some sort of absurd combo tied in with it, but it won't be a Tier 1 staple, and will thus remain cheap.  Sword of Vegeance looks like yet another reason to stock up on Stoneforge Mystic.  That suite of abilities is absolutely absurd, and reasonably priced.  The lack of Lifelink will keep Basilisk Collar relevant, but the fact that there are likely more awesome equipment coming in Scars will make Stoneforge Mystic a strong pick-up.  Sword will probably hover around $5, since it's unlikely a deck will run more than 2. Reverberate is just Twincast in Red, and changes very little.

As promised, there are a handful of relevant, import non-rare cards in the set.  Elixir of Immortality is cheap lifegain with a relevant ability, but will probably only see play in EDH, where it will be a star.  Voltaic Key has the chance to be ridiculous with Scars of Mirrodin, but I trust them to be responsible with such a bombastic reprint.  It's a cheap quality artifact, and as Michael J Flores predicts, those will be the key to using Phylactery Lich effectively.  Thus, Voltaic Key could be a clutch performer and will likely be a power Uncommon.  Autumn's Veil will be a very good card to have in Legacy decks, but I'll leave it to Doug and Jon to discuss the majority of Legacy implications.  The foils will be worth about twice as much as normal, if not more, since it's just an uncommon.  Jon notes that Counterbalance ignores Autumn's Veil, and Xantid Swarm is often just better.

All in all, M11 looks like a real blockbuster of a core set.  It's clearly indicative of the direction WotC is taking with the core sets.  They're bringing in a lot of old cards, or similar reprints thereof.  In addition, they're bringing up the complexity level a great deal by adding Scry, bringing up the power level with equipment like Sword of Beat Your Face, and they're clearly designing cards with EDH in mind.  Let's face it; no one is playing Elixir of Immortality in their Jund decks.  The 2011 Core Set is going to be a great product and will ideally continue the trend of reacquiring old players.  I know that I'll be cracking at least a case to stock up the singles for my store.  Once the set settles down, we'll do an EV analysis to discuss the viability of cracking packs for profit.  The main criteria is the mean value of the rares, rather than the Mythics, so we will wait until the full spoiler is revealed.  Enjoy the rest of spoiler season!

Kelly Reid has been playing Magic since Revised Edition, when his first purchase was a starter deck and a Scrye magazine.  He threw away the magazine and kept the price guide.  Years later, he founded Quiet Speculation, the first website dedicated to the financial side of Magic: The Gathering.  Preferring to leave strategy to the professionals, Kelly writes about potential sleepers, undervalued cards, and trends as well as covering a wide breadth of theory articles.

Kelly's work has been published across the Internet, including Star City Games,The Starkington Post, ManaNation, MTGO Academy and soon, Blackborder.com.  He has appeared on the Top 8 Magic podcast, the Yo! MTG Taps podcast, and Evan Erwin's Magic Show in addition to having his decks featured on MagicTheGathering.com.  As editor and content manager of Doubling Season, Kelly will be covering a wide variety of topics.  His main competitive format is Standard, and he prefers to leave the Eternal formats to Doug and Jonathan.

Kelly Reid

Founder & Product Manager

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