NJ’s Alara Reborn Capsule Review

Posted on Monday, April 27th, 2009 by NicotineJones
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Posted in ALR contest entry, mtg, strategy

The usual disclaimers: I don’t play MTG anymore, I haven’t shuffled up in years, and I’m mostly out of touch with the modern metagames. Every one of these I do is a little less useful than the one before it.

If this isn’t your kind of thing, you shouldn’t bother, but if it is and you do and you want to comment/agree/disagree/expand/ask me to expand on something, I make an effort to read and respond to everything in the discussion thread.

I only evaluate cards in the context of constructed play, and I only talk about cards that I think have a shot at seeing play in block, standard, or extended. If I don’t talk about a card, it’s because I don’t think that it’s constructed caliber.

This set is on the whole quite weak, but I think that block is likely to be a varied metagame and that a bunch of these cards fit in at the block level.

Ardent Plea – 1WU

Enchantment (Uncommon)

Exalted

Cascade

For this and for several of the other cheaper cascade spells, you’re not playing it because you want the spell effect; you’re playing it because you want to tutor for something and have built your deck such that cascade gets you one particular effect. Giving up everything with a CMC of 1 or 2, other than your cascade target, is a huge sacrifice in some formats and almost no sacrifice at all in other formats. In a format with this many CIPT lands, it’s less expensive than it might otherwise be so that’s something.

Similarly, the quality of the targets varies by format. If this is getting a Balance effect, then it’s very strong; in the past you might have been willing to mess with your deck enough to guarantee Skullclamp or Jitte or Grim Monolith. Right now, I guess you can go get Bitterblossom and that isn’t bad, but I don’t think it’s enough to make you swear off all other cheap spells, even if you can fill in with stuff like Shriekmaw.

Specific to Ardent Plea, I can see this getting play if a) 3 drops aren’t much better than 2 drops and b) you have a curve that has a billion 2s and no real 3s. I don’t think that’s the case right now but it has been at a number of times in the past.

Ethercaste Knight – WU

Artifact Creature – Human Knight (Common)

Exalted

1/3

If there’s a million billion Pyroclasms in the format, ok, maybe.

Fieldmist Borderpost – 1WU

Artifact (Common)

You may pay {1} and return a basic land you control to its owner’s hand rather than pay Fieldmist Borderpost’s mana cost.

Fieldmist Borderpost comes into play tapped.

{T}: Add {W} or {U} to your mana pool.

These basically suck for constructed unless you can get some additional added utility out of the fact that they’re a multicolored artifact. Would it have killed them to make it not CIPT if you paid the actual mana cost, or to let you bounce nonbasics?

Meddling Mage – WU

Creature – Human Wizard (Rare)

As Meddling Mage comes into play, name a nonland card.

The named card can’t be played.

“This violent wasteland is an indictment of its people. These cowards lack the will to oppose disorder.”

2/2

Hey, Pikula is still good! What do you know. This will see play all over the place, just like it always has.

Sovereigns of Lost Alara – 4WU

Creature – Spirit (Rare)

Exalted (Whenever a creature you control attacks alone, that creature gets +1/+1 until end of turn.)

Whenever a creature you control attacks alone, you may search your library for an Aura card that could enchant that creature, put it into play attached to that creature, then shuffle your library.

4/5

You’re going to need some kind of redundant tutor effect to make this worth building around, but 6 mana for a guy who swings next turn as an 8/9 flier that makes people drop their hand is potentially pretty good. This is especially true since he has sort-of-haste. On the minus side, you have to put bad cards in your deck to make him happy and he’s expensive, so yeah probably not so much.

Brainbite – 2UB

Sorcery (Common)

Target opponent reveals his or her hand. You choose a card from it. That player discards that card.

Draw a card.

If everyone’s swapping 6+cc haymakers then stuff like this starts to look almost attractive. Almost.

Mind Funeral – 1UB

Sorcery (Uncommon)

Target opponent reveals cards from the top of his or her library until four land cards are revealed. That player puts all cards revealed this way into his or her graveyard.

#26/145

This is going to reliably put a *lot* of cards in the yard, although you need something else to actually deck people. Maybe you have card interactions that want you to do that or maybe decking gets to a critical mass.

Mistvein Borderpost – 1UB

Artifact (Common)

You may pay {1} and return a basic land you control to its owner’s hand rather than pay Mistvein Borderpost’s mana cost.

Mistvein Borderpost comes into play tapped.

{T}: Add {U} or {B} to your mana pool.

See previous Borderpost comments.

Anathemancer – 1BR

Creature – Zombie Wizard (Uncommon)

When Anathemancer comes into play, it deals damage to target player equal to the number of nonbasic lands that player controls.

Unearth {5}{B}{R}

2/2

One of the few game-changers in the set, Anathemancer gives an actual disincentive to running 26 nonbasics. It’s *still* not a great pressure creature if it’s doing less than ~4 damage for you on the way in, and you’re probably not unearthing it, but it may mean that life is a bigger issue in control on control rumbles than it would otherwise be.

Deathbringer Thoctar – 4BR

Creature – Zombie Beast (Rare)

Whenever another creature is put into a graveyard from play, you may put a +1/+1 counter on Deathbringer Thoctar.

Remove a +1/+1 counter from Deathbringer Thoctar: Deathbringer Thoctar deals 1 damage to target creature or player.

3/3

Murders token creatures and I guess that’s a big deal right now. Really wanted to have devour. Probably too expensive but may fill an important niche anyway.

Demonic Dread – 1BR

Sorcery (Common)

Cascade

Target creature can’t block this turn.

Probably the weakest of the cheap cascade spells, since you need a target for it.

Terminate – BR

Instant (Common)

Destroy target creature. It can’t be regenerated.

You can’t do this for any cheaper. Will see play everywhere except possibly extended, and even there it’s a strong contender.

Thought Hemorrhage – 2BR

Sorcery (Rare)

Name a nonland card. Target player reveals his or her hand. Thought Hemorrhage deals 3 damage to that player for each card with that name revealed this way. Search that player’s graveyard, hand, and library for all cards with that name and remove them from the game. Then that player shuffles his or her library.

Not as good as people are going to think it is, but it’ll see play in exactly the same situations that Cranial correctly saw play. The damage isn’t a total red herring– planeswalkers– but it’s pretty much irrelevant. You have to be able to put a major dent into someone’s strategy for Extracting them to be a good plan, just like always.

Veinfire Borderpost – 1BR

Artifact (Common)

You may pay {1} and return a basic land you control to its owner’s hand rather than pay Veinfire Borderpost’s mana cost.

Veinfire Borderpost comes into play tapped.

{T}: Add {B} or {R} to your mana pool.

Supra.

Bloodbraid Elf – 2RG

Creature – Elf Berserker (Uncommon)

Haste

Cascade (When you play this spell, remove cards from the top of your library from the game until you reveal a nonland card that costs less. You may play it without paying its mana cost. Put the removed cards on the bottom in a random order.)

3/2

The best of the cascade spells by a fair margin. You can play this productively in an aggro deck; even if you’re just hitting burn, it’s still plenty fine.

Dragon Broodmother – 2RRRG

Creature – Dragon (Mythic Rare)

Flying

At the beginning of each upkeep, put a 1/1 red and green Dragon creature token with flying and devour 2 into play. (As the token comes into play, you may sacrifice any number of creatures. It comes into play with twice that many +1/+1 counters on it.)

4/4

Not as good as Broodmate but still might see play. Broodmate is real good and maybe you want 5 of them.

Firewild Borderpost – 1RG

Artifact (Common)

You may pay {1} and return a basic land you control to its owner’s hand rather than pay Firewild Borderpost’s mana cost.

Firewild Borderpost comes into play tapped.

{T}: Add {R} or {G} to your mana pool.

Once more with feeling!

Predatory Advantage – 3RG

Enchantment (Rare)

At the end of each opponent’s turn, if that player didn’t play a creature spell this turn, put a 2/2 green Lizard creature token into play.

Predatory Advantage will crank out creatures on a very regular basis, and the creatures are a nontrivial size. This is a fine way to leverage time into a win, although it’s totally outclassed by stuff like Bitterblossom and may be straight outsized in block.

Spellbreaker Behemoth – 1RGG

Creature – Beast (Rare)

Spellbreaker Behemoth can’t be countered.

Creature spells you control with power 5 or greater can’t be countered.

5/5

The stats get you are a reasonably good deal. Not sure there’s enough countermagic floating around to justify playing him right now, but that doesn’t mean that there won’t be at some point in the future.

Vengeful Rebirth – 4RG

Sorcery (Uncommon)

Return target card from your graveyard to your hand. If you return a nonland card to your hand this way, Vengeful Rebirth deals damage equal to that card’s converted mana cost to target creature or player.

Remove Vengeful Rebirth from the game.

I actually like this guy a lot, since it provides two turns worth of action in a lategame situation. It is, however, slow as shit, and its value as removal is very much contingent on opposing threats being cards you can kill with single-target burn. Not sure that’s true right now.

Violent Outburst – 1RG

Instant (Common)

Cascade

Creatures you control get +1/+0 until end of turn.

I don’t think this is good enough to see play for its effect+cascade, so it’s probably limited to uses that abuse Cascade. It is, however, instant and does not require a target, so in a vacuum it’s the strongest of the 3-cc cascade spells.

Vithian Renegades – 1RG

Creature – Human Shaman (Uncommon)

When Vithian Renegades comes into play, destroy target artifact.

3/2

Sure yeah whatever. An extra point of power on Uktabiridian Shamrangutan isn’t going to change anybody’s life, but its predecessors were good enough to see play and so is this.

Captured Sunlight – 2GW

Sorcery (Common)

Cascade

You gain 4 life.

Bloodbraid Elf is an aggro effect, and it goes in a deck that has a bunch of cards you can flip that do something useful no matter what the board situation may be– creatures and burn. This is a controlling effect. Controlling decks tend to play a combination of removal and resource-gathering spells at their low drops. Removal is conditional; resource-gathering is not. If you’re in a situation where your opponent just played a threat and you flip a resource card, then this is a misspent turn; ditto if your opponent does not have a threat and you do flip removal.

If your deck has a bunch of Rampant Growths at the low slots, then Captured Sunlight may be a great deal; if you need those slots to play Path to Exile and Oblivion Ring, then not so much.

Dauntless Escort – 1GW

Creature – Rhox Soldier (Rare)

Sacrifice Dauntless Escort: Creatures you control are indestructible this turn.

3/3

No big deal here, but in a sweeper-heavy environment– or just in an environment where lots of guys are banging into lots and lots of other guys– Escort might see some play. 3/3 for 3 mana isn’t totally tragic anyway.

Knotvine Paladin – GW

Creature – Human Knight (Rare)

Whenever Knotvine Paladin attacks, it gets +1/+1 until end of turn for each untapped creature you control.

2/2

Knotty is regularly going to swing as a very large dude, and he has synergy with Elspeth and especially with Ajani Not-Vengeant. I think that there are probably too many other good options, but it may be that the lure of flopping down Procession or the like after Knotvine is just too strong.

Mycoid Shepherd – 1GGW

Creature – Fungus (Rare)

Whenever Mycoid Shepherd or another creature you control with power 5 or greater is put into a graveyard from play, you may gain 5 life.

5/4

Backloading the life gain is significantly worse than frontloading it, and I think you basically never get to trigger Shepherd off of another creature’s death, but it’s pretty big and the lifegain is substantial. This is so, so not Loxodon Hierarch, though.

Qasali Pridemage – GW

Creature – Cat Wizard (Common)

Exalted

{1}, Sacrifice Qasali Pridemage: Destroy target artifact or enchantment.

2/2

An excellent package. 2 mana for a 2/2 exalted seems reasonable, even without a built-in Naturalize. I think that zapping enchantments may turn out to be a bigger bonus than it has been in the past.

Reborn Hope – GW

Sorcery (Uncommon)

Return target multicolored card from your graveyard to your hand.

Regrowth is kind of unexciting unless you’re doing something abusive with it.

Wildfield Borderpost – 1GW

Artifact (Common)

You may pay {1} and return a basic land you control to its owner’s hand rather than pay Wildfield Borderpost’s mana cost.

Wildfield Borderpost comes into play tapped.

{T}: Add {G} or {W} to your mana pool.

Again and again.

Identity Crisis – 2WWBB

Sorcery (Rare)

Remove all cards in target player’s hand and graveyard from the game.

Any control mirror needs to be prepared for this; it is a game-winner. I think it’s costed just outside the range where aggro and even midrange decks will be able to play it comfortably.

Tainted Sigil – 1WB

Artifact (Uncommon)

{T}, Sacrifice Tainted Sigil: You gain life equal to the total life lost by all players this turn. (Damage causes loss of life.)

Sigils corrupted by outsiders do not lose their power, only their purity.

If there’s something awesome you can do by paying a bunch of life, then this is compelling; otherwise not so.

Zealous Persecution – WB

Instant (Uncommon)

Until end of turn, creatures you control get +1/+1 and creatures target opponent controls get -1/-1.

This is totally unremarkable unless you are playing a bunch of little tiny dorks yourself and are also expecting to fight against other people who are playing a bunch of little tiny dorks. However, my understanding is that that statement defines a good chunk of the present standard metagame, so pencil the ol’ ZP in.

Double Negative – UUR

Instant (Uncommon)

Counter up to two target spells.

Other than Cascade, I don’t think you get this to fire, but countermagic is expensive anyway so maybe somebody wants this.

Lord of Extinction – 3BG

Creature – Elemental (Mythic Rare)

Lord of Extinction’s power and toughness are each equal to the number of cards in all graveyards.

*/*

Lord of Extinction is the new Sutured Ghoul, if anybody ever wants a Sutured Ghoul again.

Maelstrom Pulse – 1BG

Sorcery (Rare)

Destroy target nonland permanent and all permanents with the same name as that permanent.

On reflection, I think this is slightly worse than Vindicate, but Vindicate was really good and being able to take out tokens or randomly 2-for-1 some guy is useful too. This should see play in standard and in block, although probably not in extended.

Putrid Leech – BG

Creature – Leech (Common)

Pay 2 life: Putrid Leech gets +2/+2 until end of turn. Play this ability only once each turn.

2/2

Beats up everything else that costs less then 4 mana, and lots of things that cost more. I can see this sneaking in somewhere.

Cerodon Yearling – RW

Creature – Beast (Common)

Vigilance, haste

2/2

Vigilance mostly sucks here, but two mana for a 2/2 haste is a reasonable deal and might squeak it in. Haste is very good.

Lorescale Coatl – 1GU

Creature – Snake (Uncommon)

Whenever you draw a card, you may put a +1/+1 counter on Lorescale Coatl.

2/2

Gets very respectably-sized quickly. Not sure being big is enough, but if it is then the Coatl is a contender. Bonus points for being easy to cast off of a Hierarch. I’m not sure that it’s worth trying to dick around with card draw to make the Brain Snake bigger, but rather you can simply appreciate him for the big growing hunk of p/t that he is.

Vedalken Heretic – GU

Creature – Vedalken Rogue (Rare)

Whenever Vedalken Heretic deals damage to an opponent, you may draw a card.

1/1

I think the time of the Phid has just plain passed us by.

Sphinx of the Steel Wind – 5WUB

Artifact Creature – Sphinx (Mythic Rare)

Flying, first strike, vigilance, lifelink, protection from red and from green

No one has properly answered her favorite riddle: “Why should I spare your life?”

6/6

Unless you’re cheating her out, I think there are better uses for your mana, but if you’re cheating anything out this is a decent contender.

Thraximundar – 4UBR

Legendary Creature – Zombie Assassin (Mythic Rare)

Haste

Whenever Thraximundar attacks, defending player sacrifices a creature.

Whenever a player sacrifices a creature, you may put a +1/+1 counter on Thraximundar.

6/6

So is this. Thrax is probably trump if there’s a reanimator mirror sometime in the future.

Dragon Appeasement – 3BRG

Enchantment (Uncommon)

Skip your draw step.

Whenever you sacrifice a creature, you may draw a card.

To be useful this has to be abusive, and I think it’s too expensive to be abused.

Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund – 4BRG

Legendary Creature – Dragon (Mythic Rare)

Flying, haste

When Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund comes into play, gain control of all Dragon creatures in play and untap them.

Dragon creatures you control have haste.

7/7

Obviously, this is a strong answer to your opponent’s Broodmate. Outside of that– and that might be a really big deal in block– I’m not sure you want it at all.

Lavalanche – XBRG

Sorcery (Rare)

Lavalanche deals X damage to target player and each creature he or she controls.

Alara’s burning blood cannot be contained by mere earth and stone.

The upside of this is that it does considerable damage to your opponent, and there’s enough incidental burn floating around between Ultimatums and Regrowthbolt and Banefire that accidentally doming somebody is a perfectly reasonable way to win a fight. The downside is that it’s super expensive. I suspect that it sees plenty of play in midrange decks and up, but I don’t think you can support it unless you’re planning on casting it for at least 3-4 and that means you better have 26+ mana sources.

Finest Hour – 2GWU

Enchantment (Rare)

Exalted

Whenever a creature you control attacks alone, if its the first combat phase of the turn, untap that creature. After this phase, there is an additional combat phase.

This card is freaking amazing when it goes off. Rafiq into Finest Hour, with no other enhancement whatsoever, does 24 points of damage. Other exalted dudes get somewhat less impressive but still great results. I think this might be a reasonable two-of, since it adds a commendable burst, but a lot has to go right for it to function at peak efficiency.

Flurry of Wings – GWU

Instant (Uncommon)

Put X 1/1 white Bird Soldier creature tokens with flying into play, where X is the number of attacking creatures.

This is a fog, typically, in the worst case. That matters because Fog is a card that you never want to put in your deck, but that you often want to have in your hand. That said, you need to get 3 guys out of this to be happy with it as a creature generator, and since a lot of the time you’re not getting 3 guys you have to expect 4 some of the time. I don’t think that happens often enough for this to make the grade.

Jenara, Asura of War – GWU

Legendary Creature – Angel (Mythic Rare)

Flying

{1}{W}: Put a +1/+1 counter on Jenara, Asura of War.

Wounded soldiers looked up, grateful for her appearance. But she passed over them, her eyes firmly on their foe.

3/3

Tidy little package. I think Jenara isn’t an all-star but does provide a useful dimension against a lot of people; she’s quite hard to kill with toughness based removal, can brawl effectively early, and in the late game can become big enough to fight with anybody. Her legendary status probably means you won’t want a full boat.

Wargate – XGWU

Sorcery (Rare)

Search your library for a permanent card with converted mana cost X or less and put it into play. Then shuffle your library.

I think Wargate has a shot. It’s bad at doing everything it does, but versatility is sometimes useful too.

Maelstrom Nexus – WUBRG

Enchantment (Mythic Rare)

The first spell you play each turn has cascade.

Nexus is Future Sight on crack. I think this is probably the most important new card in the set for the control wars. Once you land this, you’re just in an amazing position in terms of accruing resource advantage; you’ll be getting Capsules all over the place, removal for free, et cetera, et cetera.

Esper Stormblade – {wb}U

Artifact Creature – Vedalken Wizard (Common)

As long as you control another multicolored permanent, Esper Stormblade gets +1/+1 and has flying.

2/1

One of the more promising dudes like this. There’s a nice critical mass of good two-color dorks on both the WUB and the GWU axes.

Trace of Abundance – {rw}G

Enchantment – Aura (Common)

Enchant land

Enchanted land has shroud.

Whenever enchanted land is tapped for mana, you may add one mana of any color to your mana pool.

It’s basically Fertile Ground except that it’s not as good at manafixing. Fertile Ground is good enough, and this may be good enough too if you don’t want your resource acceleration to be dependent on creatures.

 
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