As I write this, there are 167 of 249 M13 cards spoiled, and that's over half the set. Base sets rarely have brainbustingly-intense rares in them (Baneslayer excepted), but there's enough to get excited about at this point. There's also enough to be honest about in terms of holding off on purchasing. There will be much more M13 discussion in the coming weeks leading up to release, and this is an early edition with thoughts on what we have seen so far. I am hesitant to attach prices this early in the game and here is why: almost all pre-orders this early in are overpriced. Pre-ordering is one of the worst ways to get good deals. We consistently remind our readers that not every card is a Jace and you'll lose money on most of them. That said, there's a lot to discuss on playability and trade value, so that's what we're going to focus on.
|+1: Put a +1/+1 counter on up to one target creature.
-3: Target creature gains flying and double strike until end of turn.
-8: Put X 2/2 cats onto the battlefield, where X is your life total.
|Illus. D. Alexander Gregory #1/249
Planeswalkers generate a lot of hype and people can get swept up into them. I remember Kelly flipping out on Tibalt when it was published and subsequently buying a lot of them. Ajani is better than Tibalt, but I don't know if this guy is play-worthy. A Planeswalker has to either protect itself by making a token or bouncing a dude or otherwise, it needs a very specific ability and the right home. The original Ajani was like the latter; its +1/+1 ability was super-powered in token decks at the time.
This Ajani cannot pump your team, nor can he protect himself well - his loyalty-bumping doesn't take him too far out of swing range from an opponent. The thing that I really dig about him is that his ultimate is really, really strong. I don't think he's good enough to spend five turns ramping into it, but it's good.
I don't see Ajani getting 4-of play. He does make Cats, though, which means he'll be casually popular. I am not confident about him in Standard.
Knight of Glory
|Creature - Human Knight
|Protection from black
|"I will uphold the law, and no manner of foe will stop me."
|Illus. Peter Mohrbacher #21/249
This knight, and its black counterpart, are going to get people thinking. Protection from Black is a meaningful ability as it blanks a lot of removal. Protection from White will be important since Lingering Souls will still be around. Remember that we have an enemy-colored B/W land and Terramorphic Expanse to smooth draws out, too. I could see people attempting all-exalted B/W decks. I mostly see Knight of Glory being important with U/W Sword decks, since they plan to just get in with one guy anyway. Exalted doesn't do much more than is plainly visible right now because there are few really good blockers in the format. You don't need to amp up your Goyf to get past an opposing one or power over a Wall of Roots.
I expect that this knight and the black version will each be a dollar at the very least. These are the kind of cards that get people excited.
|Counter target creature spell.
Essence Scatter is a reprint and a fairly boring reprint, at that. It's worth pennies. However, We haven't seen it since M10. This is a two-mana hard counter and this card has been the backbone of some very good control decks in Standard. I'm sort of surprised that we're seeing it again. With Snapcaster Mage, a control deck can keep creatures down for a very long time.
If Snapcaster goes nowhere on June 20 - if it remains unbanned for the Standard season - it will go up in value because Essence Scatter makes decks like UB Control ever more powerful. There are other cards that Essence Scatter will affect and I'm not smart enough to identify them right now, but know that cards like this can have a warping effect on the prices of the rest of Standard.
|Planeswalker - Liliana
|+1: Search your library for a Swamp card, reveal it, and put it into your hand. Then shuffle your library.
-3: Target creature gets +X/+X or -X/-X until end of turn, where X is the number of Swamps you control.
-6: You get an emblem with "Swamps you control have ': Add to your mana pools.'"
|Illus. D. Alexander Gregory #47/249
Nobody has any illusions that Liliana is going to be a break-out tournament star like her 1BB version, but this is still a hype-worthy card. A large number of players just collect casually. They love this kind of card. They love Lake of the Dead, they love Extraplanar Lens and they love Exsanguinate. I don't think Liliana is going to drop below $10-15 for a long time, even if she sees no tournament play. Casual players will want four. She has a great growing effect and she conveniently kills herself if you want to play another on the next turn. Again, I have no tournament goals for this planeswalker, but she will be great trading fodder for a long time.
|Creature - Vampire
|Play with the top card of your library revealed.
As long as the top card of your library is black, Vampire Nocturnus and other Vampire creatures you control get +2/+1 and have flying.
|"Your life will set with the sun."
|Illus. Raymond Swanland #113/249
Let's be really clear about this guy - he's not going to see any increase in value over time. He was a sometimes-playable card in the Vampires deck while in print and there are fewer things like Fetchlands to give him an extra shot at hitting black cards. Sure, you've got Terramorphic Expanse and Liliana to give shuffles and you've got Vampire Nighthawk, but there are few good Vampires around these days. You can use Blood Artist, but he's not that aggressive. You don't have Bloodghasts to keep the fight coming any more. I'd be inclined to buy a bunch of these at bargain prices right now and trade them away at the pre-release for more valuable cards.
|Legendary Creature - Goblin Warrior
|: Put X 1/1 red Goblin creatures onto the battlefield, where X is the number of Goblins you control.
|"He displays a perverse charisma fueled by avarice. Highly dangerous. Recommend civil sanctions."
-Agmand Sarv, Azorius hussar
|Illus. Karl Kopinski #138/249
What kind of Goblin wants to tap instead of charging headlong into war?!? Krenko is going to be chase-level because people just love to double up! At four mana, he's not too pricey for a top-end mana curve in a Goblin deck. The downside is that there just are no good Goblins to play him with in Standard. We have to look to Ravnica for goblins. Seriously, Innistrad has a lot of things, but Goblins it lacks. I can see people massively over-valuing their Krenkos at the prereleases - if you get one, get rid of it to someone for a good price. This guy is going to be a general in a lot of Commander decks, too. You just can't keep a good Goblin down.
|Creature - Beast
|When Thragtusk enters the battlefield, you gain 5 life.
When Thragtusk leaves the battlefield, put a 3/3 green Beast creature token onto the battlefield.
|"Always carry two spears."
-Mokgar, Kalonian hunter
|Illus. Nils Hamm #197/249
This guy is an entire Jund deck in one card. This is a terrifying green card. Five mana is a lot, but it's unconditional beef and lifegain. Remember how good Loxodon Hierarch was. Remember how good Timely Reinforcements was, and that card made you play to its conditions. Thragtusk requires no elements to meet, nor does it ask for two colors. This doesn't even ask for two green mana! That should be scary in itself, since you can run this in decks with light green requirements. When Thragtusk gets Vapor Snagged, he leaves a 3/3 and gains you five more life when he comes down again. He brings you right back into the game from whatever position you were in. it's great in multiples. If there's a sleeper card in the set, this is it. It's hard to imagine a lot of decks coming back from two of these resolving. Stock up on Essence Scatters.
|, : Target player puts the top X cards from his or her library into his or her graveyard.
|It counts down your last few moments of sanity.
|Illus. Charles Urbach #216/249
Mill decks have pretty much always been bad and this card requires you to put about 45 mana into it before it takes out the opponent. It does not benefit from playing multiples. However, it's a repeatable source of milling. If there's a milling deck to be had, it probably runs 2-3 of these. I bring this up not because I think this card will be worth anything, but just to point out that Wizards is going to keep pushing this milling mechanic on us.
|Cathedral of War enters the battlefield tapped.Exalted: Add to your mana pool.
|Illus. Kekai Kotaki #221/249
We'll end on this fascinating card. Cathedral of War is a card that you'll want four of in your aggressive deck, but you're already making room for Cavern of Souls. Aggressive decks cannot stand to have things come into play tapped, but if you're angling for some mid-rangey kind of deck, this might have a home. Playing this to make Vampire Nighthawk bigger looks nice. It's kind of a free toss-in if you weren't going to play another color anyway, but again - coming into play tapped really hampers this thing. Contested War Zone could survive having an awful clause because it did something immediately. I don't know how much extra damage you'll get out of these, but it probably will not be worth the downside of slower lands. I expect the demand and value of this card to taper off.
That's it for this week of M13 discussion. Stay tuned for more as we get a better idea of what the upcoming summer Standard environment is going to look like.
Until next week,