Many families share Christmas on not just one day, but over many days throughout the holiday season. My family has our Christmas normally on the 25th at our own homes, but everyone knows that the 26th is the day we all get together at my mom’s house. Today, just like the 26th for my family, is the second day of presents. For us competitive Magic players, our presents are spoilers from the new set, and we got a couple more this week!
Last week, I broke down what I considered the most prominent cards that had been spoiled from the set so far and my opinion of their financial future. Some of the main points I made in that article were that the two Ajani planeswalkers were drastically similar to one another and curiosity about whether the Tezzerets would follow that same pattern. Imagine my surprise when I saw Tezzeret the Schemer spoiled this week! I was ecstatic, at least until I read the card. Let’s break down this planeswalker and see if the sum of the abilities make him greater than the seemingly weak individual abilities on their own.
Tezzeret the Schemer
Tezzeret the Schemer costs 2BU and starts with five loyalty. Just like with creatures, planeswalkers with loyalty greater than or equal to their starting mana cost are generally powerful. Maybe I should say potentially powerful, because this fact alone doesn’t make them good.
+1: Create a colorless artifact token named Etherium Cell with “Tap, Sacrifice this artifact: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool.
To summarize, Tezz’s +1 is to give you a Lotus Petal. This seems nearly identical to an ability like Sarkhan Unbroken’s +1 that just adds a mana for a turn. The difference is that Tezzeret creates an artifact permanent that can stick around for a later turn; you don’t have to utilize the artifact right away. When spelled out like that, it makes it seem much more powerful, especially once we realize there’s a lot we could do with this artifact. We could tap it with another for damage if we had Ghirapur Aether Grid on the battlefield, or use it to help us take an extra turn with Time Sieve, and we could also -2 Daretti, Scrap Savant to bring back a powerful artifact tool from our graveyard. Because our mana from this +1 sticks around if we don’t need it immediately, it opens up a lot of possibilities that wouldn’t normally exist.
-2: Target creature gets +x/-x where x is the number of artifacts you control.
With this -2, Tezz gets an ability that he will be able to protect himself with as long as you have played some artifacts in advance. If we’re playing this ‘walker on curve, the maximum number we could likely give is +3/-3 though. What’s more likely is that we would be able to do +2/-2. With the rate of creatures we’re dealing with in Standard, that might be enough to reliably take out the threats you’re facing. After all, +2/-2 can kill Grim Flayer, Toolcraft Exemplar, and Selfless Spirit. The artifacts that you make with the +1 ability can be used to fuel this ability as well, so that’s a nice little synergy.
Just like with Liliana of the Dark Realms, Tezzeret the Schemer’s -2 can be beneficial and not just because it can help kill your opponents’ creatures. You can just as easily use this ability to buff your own creature. It seems likely that you might have Torrential Gearhulk in a deck with new Tezzeret, and that guy can get pumped up a lot before he dies to the minus side of the ability. The majority of the time you will likely use this effect on your opponents’ creatures, but the hidden option of pumping your own dude can bring you some surprise wins from out of nowhere when it’s least expected.
-7: You get an emblem with “At the beginning of combat on your turn, target artifact you control becomes an artifact creature with base power and toughness 5/5.
I think a lot of the appeal of Tezzeret comes from his ultimate ability. Just like with Nahiri, the Harbinger, Tezz ultimates the third turn he’s in play. A quick ultimate makes any planeswalker a potent threat. The golems that you make each turn don’t go away once your turn is over either. You get to keep and amass your golem army. The first turn with your emblem may seem underwhelming, but the second and third turns of making a new 5/5 will start to showcase the game closing power this ability has.
Tezzeret the Schemer has started off in preorders with a price of around $16. Every site doesn’t have their numbers listed for this card yet because it’s so new, but most stores should follow with where eBay presales have set the numbers for the card. I’m not sure this combination of abilities deserves a price tag this high, and I think it will drop quickly down towards the $10 range. This version of Tezzeret seems more in the vein of the last two planeswalkers, Saheeli Rai and Dovin Baan. I doubt he will drop as low as the two of those did, though.
Oath of Ajani
Next up is a card that’s part of a cycle from another block, Oath of Ajani, but maybe we will keep adding to this cycle as we visit other planes. I’m surprised they continued this mechanic into Aether Revolt, but I’m also excited because this is one of my favorite card designs from the past couple of years. Most planeswalkers are cool super heroes that travel the multiverse saving the galaxy. Some are evil super villains that cause the problems that need to be fixed, but there are a lot of epic things happening in the Magic galaxy thanks to what the planeswalkers are doing in the story. If planeswalkers are so great, then making them better is definitely a powerful thing to do. One of my Standard decks right now focuses on this concept as its primary objective.
All of the Oaths have unique abilities that enhance what each planeswalker can do. Oath of Ajani is no different in that regard. The first part of the enchantment is the same as Ajani Goldemane’s ability to put a +1/+1 counter on your whole team. This pump effect can dramatically change how the game is played, especially if you have a lot of guys that can get buffed.
There are two different ways the Oaths have been set up so far. They all have an enters the battlefield ability but also some have a static ability that affects future planeswalkers, like Oath of Nissa, while the others in the cycle have an end-of-turn trigger like Oath of Liliana that goes off if you’ve played a planeswalker that turn. Ajani’s Oath functions similarly to Nissa’s in that they both help you cast your future planeswalkers. Instead of helping fix the mana like Nissa’s, though, Ajani’s Oath reduces the cost of your future ‘walkers by one.
These two abilities don’t exactly work together well. This oath only costs two mana, but I doubt you’d actually benefit much from casting it on turn two. The most you could get out of it is one +1/+1 counter and that’s only if you’ve played a guy. Initially I was fooled by liking both of these abilities, but I think in practice, this enchantment will be awkward instead of helpful. If the buff ability had been an end-of-turn trigger for one of your creatures, then we’d be in business, but needing to play this on turn two to help reduce the cost of your expensive planeswalkers will leave the first ability with no text. If we want this power-increasing ability, we could just play a card like Collective Effort and be much better off with other options than reducing the cost of our future spells. The same goes for the mana-reduction ability. If our goal is to deploy our cards quicker, then we should be utilizing a different card for this purpose like Servant of the Conduit.
At first glance, Oath of Ajani looks great, but the combination of abilities don’t work well together. Because of this as well as the price trajectory of the other Oaths, I think it’s all but certain that this multi-colored enchantment will fall quickly after release. I’d expect to see this in the $1.50 or bulk range shortly after release.
Battle at the Bridge
This may seem out of character for me, but I am extremely excited about Battle at the Bridge! Why you might ask, would I be excited about a seemingly small upgrade to Death Wind? I’m so glad you asked! In addition to the life gain added to the Death Wind -X/-X ability, we have to be looking at the improvise key word ability on this card. And yes, gaining a little life from your removal spell is nice, but the real power behind this card is this stealthy new ability.
Hidden within the text of improvise is a lot of power. From my perspective, improvise seems like a toned down version of affinity for artifacts. Instead of your artifacts just reducing the cost and being able to tap for mana on a card like Frogmite, we get a more balanced mechanic. Cards like Woodweaver's Puzzleknot or any vehicle you don’t plan on attacking with can boost the mana investment on Battle at the Bridge or any card with improvise.
Improvise may not be the most potent ability we’ve seen, but any ability that lets you boost your mana in potentially significant ways is worth considering. I doubt that Battle at the Bridge will blow anyone out with its power level, but it could be a solid role player in the format if black gets paired with some artifacts. I’m more excited to see the other cards with this ability, though. There could be some really powerful lines of play depending on what cards actually get to use improvise.
A medium card like this shouldn’t surprise you with its low price tag. After dealing with preorder prices for a while, you should start to get a good feel for what cards should be priced at. It helps if you have to price your own cards as well, like updating your inventory based on the ebb and flow of card values. Battle at the Bridge is sitting at just above bulk right now, and I wouldn’t be looking for it to break out of that mold anytime soon. This card is definitely not of the caliber of Ruinous Path and that card itself is barely above bulk right now.
If I had to guess, I’d say that tons of players are pumped about Dark Intimations. Cruel Ultimatum is one of the most well-known finishers for its time dominating Llorwyn/Shards Standard with its crazy Vivid land mana bases. Dark Intimations does a great dark imitation of Cruel Ultimatum. Here’s a breakdown of what the differences are on these two lengthy text box cards.
Target opponent sacrifices a creature vs. Each opponent sacrifices a creature or planeswalker
On the first ability, we actually get an upgrade. Most of the other abilities are downgrades but Dark Intimations allows us to get rid of planeswalkers now as well as butchering multiple opponents in Commander.
Discards three cards vs. Discards a card
Here’s where we start to see our mana discount pulling the power level down. Making your opponent discard a card is still strong, but certainly not as powerful as the pseudo Mind Twist that Cruel Ultimatum can basically end the game with.
Loses 5 life, then gain 5 life vs. An additional loyalty counter on a Bolas planeswalker spell (if you have already cast this spell)
These two aren’t really similar at all, but both are powerful. I’d probably take the life swing because it helps you stabilize the game state, but that’s without knowing the potentially new Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker we could be seeing from this set. How exciting is it that the epic Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker should be showing up on this plane to wreak havoc?! I think I might be more pumped about that potential than this card itself, but this card is great so far too.
Return a creature card from your graveyard to your hand vs. Returning a creature or planeswalker from your graveyard to your hand
These two line up pretty well and we get our second upgrade. For five mana we sure are getting a lot of value.
Draw three cards vs. Draw a card
Obviously drawing three cards is much better, as are most of the abilities on Cruel Ultimatum, but we also need to focus on the mana cost reduction as a huge bonus as well.
The Ultimatum cycle all cost seven mana with their mana costs being double, triple, and double of those three colors. In that block, the mana was perfect as long as you accepted all your lands coming into play tapped. With less than perfect mana, like in every other format, we couldn’t handle cards with mana costs like that. Thankfully, Dark Intimations only costs five mana and only one of each of the Grixis colors is in that cost. So, not only do we get to knock off two mana from the total cost, but the final cost itself is extremely more manageable than it was previously.
eBay has this card as bulk right now, but I think there could be a breakout new deck with Aether Revolt featuring this as part of its primary strategy. I’d stock up on any copies you can get your hands on – the cost doesn’t get lower than bulk. I may even preorder a play set or two and sit on them. Assuming some of the Inventions are expensive, there will be a ton of product opened, but that doesn’t mean this card couldn’t go up in price. I think Dark Intimations has the makings of a great spec target.
Scrap Trawler is a hard one to pin down for competitive play. On the surface it seems great. You have a reasonable threat as a 3/2 for three mana with a relevant ability. How often will you have another artifact in your graveyard to return, though? I don’t think the mana cost restriction on your target is relevant because at minimum we have Smuggler's Copter to return, as well as the potential Heart of Kiran provides. My gut tells me this looks like a sideboard card for Copter decks as long as they’re playing some other artifacts to regrow.
Some players are putting their money where their mouth is on Scrap Trawler. With its future uncertain, buyers are keeping the price steady on this artifact creature at around $2. With no immediate impact, look for this rare to drop down more in price, but if an artifact-centered deck pops up utilizing Trawler in the maindeck, it could go up a bit more. Unless you need this immediately, I’d stay away from preorders on this card. I think it’s more likely to go down than up.
Yahenni's Expertise has quite a unique text box. Post rotation we’ve been missing the Languish effect in Standard, and it seems like Wizards is moving more towards black for the four-mana wrath effect based on reducing toughness. I think this is a great direction, because it forces us to build better decks and not just play the four-mana wrath because it’s another version of Wrath of God. Another version of Languish is great, because then deck builders can react and maybe run more four-toughness creatures in their decks or add a pump spell to grow larger than what the card is decreasing. Cards like this make the format more diverse while also providing a necessary utility.
Yahenni's Expertise also has another potent side to it. We don’t just have a new Languish; we also have a new Bloodbraid Elf, a new spell mastery part of Dark Petition, or whatever comparison you consider most apt for this new card. The broken side of the story is that you get to cast two spells for the price of one, and that is always bursting with power creep. The opposing side is that you won’t always have a cheap card you can or want to cast, so if you include this sweeper, you need to be okay casting -3/-3 to the board for four mana without always getting extra value.
This black wrath effect seems to be following the same price model that Languish did. Right now preorders have this placed around the $5.50 mark. If history repeats itself, then we should see a spike on this card once it proves itself in Standard. Aether Revolt already seems be giving us the tools for a control deck to emerge in the format. Control is an archetype that has been noticeably absent from the format as of late, and I think we need a deck to fill this role in order to balance the format out. We can’t just let the same decks continue to dominate the format, and I think Aether Revolt will help us start controlling the flow of games once again.
Trophy Mage tutors for exactly and only a three-cost artifact. What artifact fits this description that we would actually want to tutor for? If the card read "three or less," we’d be in the business of doing broken things, but instead we have a more restrictive Trinket Mage variant. Looking over our current potential targets, the only potentials I came up with are Scrap Trawler, Chief of the Foundry, Filigree Familiar, Foundry Inspector, Electrostatic Pummeler and Cultivator's Caravan. All of those cards are reasonable constructed cards, but none of them are powerful enough to warrant a tutor so we can cast them a turn late. There are much better things we can be doing with our mana.
In Commander, we have may more possibilities, and we could use this new tutor to set up tons of combos with cards like Ashnod's Alter, fix our mana with Chromatic Lantern, or just put some pressure on with Sword of War and Peace or any of the swords.
I’m excited about this card for Commander, but I’m hesitant about Trophy Mage's Standard potential. What I would keep my eyes open for are foils. This seems like the perfect card to have an unreasonable discrepancy between the normal printings price and the foils.
Standard Finance Updates
This week I was planning to break down the financial trends of Standard as a big portion of this article, if not the entire thing. The trends are clear, but there isn’t a lot to say about what’s happening. Just like you’d imagine, the majority of cards in Standard continue to fall in price. We know this is due to the excess of packs being opened in search of Masterpiece Series cards. Since this rarity is now a permanent part of the game, I expect this trend to continue so that there are a handful of cards in each set worth looking for, but not more than that. These are things that shouldn’t be surprising, but sometimes it’s nice to have some conformation to what we think will happen.
Despite the trends, there will always be a couple cards that spike or fluctuate in price. This week I was surprised by a couple cards that I changed in my inventory. Bunches of Standard singles went down in price, but most only by a small percentage. Let’s focus on the two that made significant gains. The two cards I’m talking about are Panharmonicon and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. Pahnarmonicaon bumped up to $5 and Ulamog is on his way back up a little as well.
That’s everything I have for you today. Are there any other trends you guys are seeing? What’s going on with Magic finance in your area? Also, let me know what you think of the spoilers above as well. I think there are some promising new cards from Aether Revolt. Hopefully they shake up the metagame and give it a fresh new look.
Until next time,
Unleash the Aether Revolt Force!
MtgJedi on Twitter