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).

Zealotry before Regionals

With the next major event for most of us in the U.S. being Regionals (and with National Qualifiers proceeding apace in other nations), the talk has, of course, been centered on what Alara Reborn will do to the format, with the expectation that we won’t see many full-fledged tests of the format ahead of Regionals.
However, it turns out there was one exceptionally early PTQ for Austin held in Dallas. You can click here to see the results at DeckCheck. So, what do we have?
According to DeckCheck (and TwinFu before that), B/W Tokens was the flavor of the day, with 20 entries, followed by roughly even numbers of Boat BRew, R/B Aggro, and 5-Color Control. The top eight is certainly tokens territory, with three copies of B/W Tokens showing up, along with a Jund ramp deck, one 5-Color Control, one Boat Brew, one Elves, and one U/W Reveillark control deck (not the Mistmeadow version, by the way).
The real question, of course, is what Alara Reborn cards made it into this PTQ, so soon after the official release of the set.
Most predictably, two of the three B/W Tokens decks ran Zealous Persecution. This just seems like such a good fit for the deck. In the mirror or the Boat Brew match up, it’s such a swing (kill your whole team…). Otherwise, it accelerates your deck’s ability to kill. Good all around, and a clear gimme for inclusion in the deck.
All three Tokens decks also swapped out their sideboard Head Games in favor of Identity Crisis, which is just so much more powerful. Again, it seems as if the card was meant to slot into the archetype.
The second-place Jund Ramp deck features a four-of of Maelstrom Pulse, which is not especially surprising, as it’s a very powerful, very versatile card. This deck also ran four Terminates in the sideboard. I’m not sure if I’m excited about Terminate over, say, Terror, but there you go.
In Five-Color Control, we have a random one maindeck Terminate as the sole Reborn card to make an appearance.
The B/G Elves build fairly predictably features the playset of Maelstrom Pulse, as well as a two-of of Lord of Extinction (interestingly, it also has triple Avatar of Might in the side; that’s nothing to do with Alara Reborn, but it is an unexpected choice).
Perhaps most interesting to me is the U/W Lark deck, which features four Fieldmist Borderpost. In the context of a deck with 12 basic lands, a borderpost is effectively a comes-into-play-tapped dual land. However, in this context it also has an interesting interaction with Knight of the White Orchid (which this deck packs as a full playset), in that bouncing your land with the post means you’re likely to be able to capitalize on the Orchid, as even though you maintain the expected number of mana sources, you ratchet back on your actual land drops. That’s pretty sweet.
I expect we’ll see more dramatic impact from Alara Reborn as we go along, but it’s good to see what the early adopters have already done.