Alara Reborn purchases

It’s that time (well, it’s after that time now), and I’ve picked up my initial offering of Alara Reborn cards. As I’ve discussed elsewhere, I always buy a full common and uncommon playset, since it’s cheaper and easier than trying to figure out which of the commons or uncommons I may actually need. The real meat, then, is in the rares (mythic or otherwise), where I need to actually think about what I’m picking up.
Here are my choices this time around, with reasons.
Maelstrom Pulse – The chase rare of the set, this is a clear utility gimme, especially as it plays directly into the kind of decks I like (and truly, into everything from the midrange to full-on control). Despite the anti-hype of this being “not Vindicate,” Pulse is a solid card that solves many in-play problems, and the “echo” effect is super-handy in today’s token-ridden Standard. I’m also potentially looking forward to Wishing for one of these in Extended, if some form of Glittering Wishboard actually works in the next Extended season. I picked up four Pulses.
Thought Hemorrhage – I’m a sucker for Cranial Extraction, and this is basically that with slightly less forgiving colors. It’s not strictly necessary for most of the matchups in the current Standard, although I imagine that I might side some in against Five-Color Control to rip out the major threats before they can resolve (for example, taking out both copies of Cruel Ultimatum). Notably, to keep with the thought above, you can Glittering Wish for Thought Hemorrhage as well, meaning you can actually have an Extraction effect in your wishboard. Nice, right? I picked up four of these, although I suspect I won’t run four unless some new archetype really requires it.
Lavalanche – I am fascinated by the idea of Lavalanche as a finisher in a Jund ramp or aggro deck. In a ramp deck, it could be present in two or three copies, ready to both sweep the board (the ramp deck can hit six mana pretty quickly, making this a one-sided Firespout) or to just act as a combined Wrath and win condition. In an aggro build, this might be present in, say, two copies, to blow through blockers and burn the face of the opponent after your initial aggro buildup. For example, I’ve been thinking of splashing a little red into a conventional Elves build to let it run two copies of this for that purpose. I picked up three Lavalanches.
Spellbreaker Behemoth – I’ve already stuffed this dude into an aggro deck (that’s even available in Spanish). I’m not sure whether the time has come yet for fatty-based aggro again, but the Behemoth is a solid card choice that can resolve through any countermagic and that can walk around a lot of the common removal spells (the mass removal at any rate). It’s solid, and I think it’ll find a place in the current Standard. I picked up four of these guys.
Identity Crisis – It’s Wit’s End for one mana less, with the bonus of Tormod’s Crypting your opponent at the same time. Also, it’s even better than Wit’s End, because it RFGs their hand. Damn. That’s good. I see this as mostly a sideboard card for taking down slow-moving control decks, but it’s an awesome sideboard card in that role (and hey, it resolves a turn earlier than Ultimatum). I picked up three of these, as I don’t foresee running four.
That’s it for now. I’ve given some thought to picking up other rares in the set, but these are my early choices and the ones I expect to build on the most with my early designs (that is, in combination with the commons and uncommons).

A trace of ramp

Trace of Abundance initially seemed like a very exciting card, right up until I remembered a key bit of wording. Let’s take a look…
The upside
Shroud, man, shroud.
One of the significant downsides of Fertile Ground is that it converts the enchanted land into a super-high-value target. Destroy it and you gain card and tempo advantage; bounce it and you gain tempo advantage and get to trade your bounce card for a card, instead of merely trading your bounce card for tempo. It is, in a word, painful. Nonetheless, ramp archetypes since the release of Lorwyn have relied heavily on Fertile Ground. Trace can replace Fertile Ground with a color-appropriate enchantment that keeps its enchanted land safe, preventing 2-for-1s and tempo-for-1s.
The downside
This is where my reverie ended, as I suddenly recalled that Garruk targets. Fertile Ground is favored over other ramp methods (e.g. Rampant Growth) because of the synergy between Ground and Garruk. Since Trace has Shroud rather than semi-Shroud (aka Troll ability), it blocks Garruk, which is unfortunate.
The outcome
I think the net effect of Shroud on Trace is to keep it out of many Standard ramp decks, since they benefit so much from the presence of Garruk. That said, there’s extensive deck design space to use this sucker in Block, and if you happen to want to build a Garruk-less ramp deck, Trace is a good choice.

Alara Reborn in Gatherer

Alara Reborn is available in Gatherer now. If you’re not doing something else (e.g. being in the wedding party for your good friend, which is what I’ll be up to tomorrow) you can hit up a prerelease and check out the cards in person. Whether you can make it or not, you can check out the cards that way I’m doing right now by clicking here.

I would splash red for that

Over at the usual venue, we have an ostensible Alara Reborn spoiler for a fantastic card:
Sorcery Rare
Choose target player. Name a nonland card. That player reveals his or her hand. Exsanguination deals 3 damage for each card with that name in that player’s hand to that player. Remove cards with that name from that player’s graveyard, hand and library. That player then shuffles his/her library.
I’m a huge fan of ripping cards from every place a player can hide them. I love that I get to have Cranial Extraction in my sideboard in the current Extended, and when I was concentrating on Standard a couple months back, I kept wishing I could have Extractions there.
The damage on this card is kind of incidental to me, although nice-ish. But I’m really looking forward to being able to denude someone of their key win condition (consider, for example, that this hits well before Cruel Ultimatum).
Assuming this is an accurate spoiler, this card should be a fun addition to the upcoming Standard PTQ season.