Eventide Previews: Rock on

You see, the title is a pun.
The first official Eventide previews are coming up, and two of the cards are potentials for inclusion in Rock builds. Here you go:
As the article points out, this is a 4/4 for 4 mana, which is already pretty good in black, and solidly in Rock critter territory. However, I really, really like the added bonus of being able to knock of creatures if Ashling comes through unblocked. This can really halt an opponent’s offense, as they suddenly find themselves unable to play the tempo game with you, because they’ll lose their creatures on the crack back from you.
…and, of course, in Extended you can use Shizo to get Ashling through, free and clear.
On the other hand, we have this critter:
Classic Rock builds relied on Spiritmonger, a 6/6 for 5 mana, Regeneration, and a vampire-like tendency to get bigger. Eventide brings us in its place a 5/5 for 5 mana, with Trample, and the ability to regenerate twice, each time growing in the process. Not bad — but is it better than the Pro-black, 4/4, growing goodness that is Chameleon Colossus?

This week in PTQing for Berlin

Three more PTQ top eights appeared this week, although apparently after Mike Flores’ most recent Swimming with Sharks column. He covers “one and a half” of them in his column, but there was some interesting material in the remaining builds that he didn’t have a chance to address.
As always, you can read the collected decklists here.
The most notable trend from the top eights is the lack of Kithkin, and the concomitant lack of maindeck countermeasures against Kithkin. In this most recent batch of PTQs, we see people preferentially putting their mass removal into the sideboard. This feels like a hopeful thing to me, as I find that having to account for a lot of Kithkin opposition really skews my prospective decklists. That said, this is exactly the kind of metagame thing that can swing back and forth week to week — after all, if too many people decide not to bother really stopping Kithkin, it suddenly becomes a tremendously good deck. Again.
In the extended, I take a look at three decks that caught my eye. We have Utility Horde, featuring a collection of useful creatures riding on a wave of Faerie Rogues from the Blossom, Primal Elementals featuring a ton of elementals and four Primal Commands in the maindeck, and Elf Party, an Elf deck that features many non-Elf party guests.

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Turning lands into stuff

The MTG Salvation Eventide Spoiler just picked up ten new cards from Mana Rouge, including this one:
My first-glance response was “One-mana discard!”
Then I, you know, read it. One-mana untargeted discard means that you’re just trading a card from your hand to peel the worst card from their hand. That’s not intrinsically exciting, although similar cards have see use in discard-heavy decks such as the recent TarmoRack.
The keyword ability adds something interesting, though. Retrace lets you toss a card in hand, pay the spell’s normal cost, and replay it. At first, I thought to myself, “Oh, it’s Flashback with a card cost.” Then a realized that you can do this over and over again. Suddenly, Raven’s Crime might not suck. It’s still untargeted, which is not the most exciting thing ever, but if you’re playing a deck that doesn’t need to stretch its mana base out to get things done in the last game, it lets you just convert all those dead late-game land draws into something actually useful.
I’ll be on the lookout for other Retrace cards in the coming previews. So far, we have this one and Call the Skybreaker, a blue-red hybrid spell that generates 5/5 flyers. I must admit I’m still more excited about Raven’s Crime, and the possibility of a late-game machine-gunning of your opponent’s hand once you’ve drawn all the lands you need.

PTQ Berlin 2008 – The first wave of faeries and hobbits

Wizards has posted the first set of decklists from the 2008 Berlin PTQ season. Click here for the decklist page, and click here for Mike Flores’ analysis of the results to date. So far, Faeries and Kithkin are the most abundant among top eight participants, but wins have gone to Merfolk, Faeries, and a five-color control deck (note that Mike doesn’t yet cover all the wins listed in the results).
The full top eight lists reveal some interesting deck choices that Flores didn’t touch on, included in the extended entry.

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Creatureless cycle control in Lorwyn

I think I proposed this or something like it as a joke to SSO when we were attending PT Hollywood. Basically, “throw one of each cycle in” and go from there. In practice, I went for the restrained form of that approach, as I’ve only thrown in three cycles — the planeswalkers, the commands, and the hybrid lands.
This tests surprisingly well against Kithkin and Faeries. No, that’s not a recommendation to play it at a PTQ.
It does create hilarious game states, though.
Full list in the extended.

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PTQ Berlin: Urchin Blossom

Looking through the top eights of the first two PTQs for Berlin 2008, we see mainly familiar archetypes, including a flood of faeries — four in the first one, five in the second. One interesting choice from the second PTQ is Nicolas Rolf’s mono-black control build, which uses many of the best black cards, and attempts to leverage the Tendrils-like power of Corrupt into success. More in the extended entry.

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The top eights from Hollywood — PTQ season starters

Although Wizards is lagging a bit on this count (as far as I can tell), Star City Games has the top eights from both PTQs that took place at PT Hollywood. I’ve already talked a bit about what I played against in the first PTQ, and gave a more detailed accounting of my performance in the second PTQ. I didn’t stick around for either top eight, so although I heard a bit about each one the day after, this is the first chance I’ve had to actually look at the decks.
Click here for the first top eight
Click here for the second top eight

Duel Decks — Planeswalker smackdown

Wizards just announced a new “Duel Deck” product featuring Jace Beleren versus Chandra Nalaar (with the snappy name Duel Decks: Jace vs. Chandra). The last one was Elves versus Goblins; this time it’s more or less control versus burn.
Notice that it’s not Garruk versus Liliana. Or, really, Garruk versus anyone.
The product will contain two sixty-card decks, alternate foils (ugh*) of Chandra and Jace, and four other cards with new art.
*’Ugh’ because I dislike foils. They bend, they’re not as attractive as normal cards, and I don’t feel like littering my deck with enough of them to avoid a penalty for marked cards.

Some new school in your oldschool

Two new articles have gone up on the Magic site with some announcements of note.
First, this article tells us that the following things are happening with the next block:

  • Set sizes are dropping, with a 249-card core set, and two 145-card expansions
  • A fourth rarity level is coming in, with the name “Mythic Rare” (coming in at 1 Mythic Rare in 8 Rares)
  • Boosters will now contain a basic land

I’m confident people are already freaking out about Mythic Rares. To this I saw, well, whatever. It wasn’t a problem in Mechwarrior, and, as Mark Rosewater points out in the second article I’m going to mention, the meaning of “rare” is quite variable across sets. A “Mythic Rare” in a large set would be equivalent to any old random Rare in the current Tenth Edition, for example. As Mark tells us, having four rarity levels is now expected in TCGs (or, more broadly, in TXGs of any kind — Star Wars minis has four rarities). Or, to put it another way, all those kids leveling up from Naruto or crossing over from WoW think Magic is weird ’cause it only has three rarities.
My sole complaint might be the name. “Mythic” Rare? Really? Star Wars has Rare and Very Rare, which I prefer as terms, although the ideal would be to have a new term that doesn’t include a word from one of the extent terms. The thesaurus is no help here, offering words like “sporadic.”
“I’ll trade you two rares and an uncommon for that awesome sporadic you just pulled.”
Mark also previews a new planeswalker from Alara, by way of showing off the Mythic Rare expansion symbol (which seems to be a sort of rich, orange-gold color):
Multicolored planeswalker — seems like a natural progression. I’m not fond of the art, although it’s apropros for the color spread.