I got a chance to play some Magic with friends this weekend who came in from out of town. We rarely get to play together, so most of the decks they play are new to me, so I'm always discovering cards I haven't seen or seeing cards I thought I knew get played in a way I hadn't expected. It is also a chance for me to run crazy casual cards they haven't either. After this weekend, my order list for cards has gone way up! I thought I'd share a few of the interesting cards that came up this weekend, and in honor of the (bi)cycling dual lands, I thought I'd give you a card in each of the allied color pairs. Enjoy!
When Wellspring was printed way back in Mirage, the card was seen as particularly lousy. This was a time when Wizards was actively printing Stone Rain and plenty of other ways to destroy lands. Strip Mine was commonly used. This was a time when no one played with auras since you were inviting the two-for-one. On top of that, why would you want a card that would let you get an extra land, only to give it back to your opponent? Three mana for a single land, in a time of Moxen and Sol Ring seemed like a particularly bad play. Also consider that you don't get the land on your opponents' turns. You are not going to be able to tap it for instants or abilities when you come under threat. During Mirage, so much of what happened was on your opponent's turn that a card that offered nothing during that time displayed another downside.
Think about it now, though. Other than Wasteland, how many ways do your opponents have to destroy land? Almost none. Land are a sacred permanent. Most play groups frown on anyone destroying lands. As far as the downside of the card being an aura, who is going to waste a removal spell to get rid of this card? There are so many better targets in practically every game that the likelihood of anyone willingly using up a card to stop you from borrowing a land – only for your turn, even – seems insane. One of the important parts of Wellspring today is the variety of lands out there to target. While Maze of Ith is mostly pointless, there are so many options of every kind. Lotus Vale, Gaea's Cradle, Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx and all sorts of lands that can net you mana. More important are all the lands that do things beyond adding a mana to your mana pool. Kessig Wolf Run, Gavony Township, Emeria, the Sky Ruin, lands that can become creatures, and so many other options.
Add to all that you are playing multiplayer. More opponents will mean more options. While there is still a chance you get stuck with enchanting just a basic land, the odds are definitely better that you find something better.
When most people see this they imagine a scenario at the end of the game where they play Sealed Fate for eight or 10 mana, locking their opponent out for the rest of the game. While this can happen, and it is joyous when it does, I don't tend to see the card in such a grandiose way. There are several ways for players to shuffle libraries so spending all that mana in the hopes of locking a player out of the any good draws for the rest of the game can be an alluring pipe dream.
I tend to look at the ways to cast X for three or four. If you can do it early enough, you can block out their mana, leaving them chasing their curve the rest of the game. If you cast it midway or late, you can take away a serious threat.
I particularly like using it against players who are running Courser of Kruphix and other cards that let them see the top card of their library, making them great targets for Sealed Fate alongside opponents stacking the top of their library. "You want that card so bad? Let me just exile that and you can start your library manipulation all over again!"
Sealed Fate is less about sealing their fate, and more about you knowing what is coming. You will know many of the cards in their hand for several turns, giving you educated guesses as to when you can safely play your spells, and what they can do. That more complete level of information is very helpful over those few turns and well worth the cost of the card.
I have loved this card since it was printed in Dark Ascension. Most players look at the stats and ignore it because of the seven mana, and I can understand that. Seven mana is not cheap. For that much I want something spectacular that is a game changer, and a 3/5 flying creature just doesn't seem to meet muster.
But I ask you to give this a second look. First off, Drogskol Reaver has double strike, so it is closer to a 6/5 than a 3/5. It also has lifelink, so the life total swing does count. Gaining six life in a round of combat means that a 6/6 creature can hit you unblocked and your life total won't change. Lifelink on a creature this big means something.
The real deal is drawing a card whenever you gain life. On every combat, the Reaver has a chance to gain life during your first strike combat and during the regular combat. You will be drawing not one, but two cards during combat! If the Reaver only lives long enough to block once and attack once, you can still draw four cards due to its ability, and that is assuming you don't have other ways to gain life. Play Sejiri Refuge or Tranquil Cove? Draw a card. Authority of the Consuls looked nice in your pillow fort build, but now you are gaining a life and drawing a card for every creature you play. The extort mechanic draws you cards. Sanctimony can get really crazy in Commander games. Drogskol Reaver can take you a long way.
The deck is pretty straightforward. Kozilek is just there in case someone manages to play so many creatures you are likely to deck yourself. As you work out how much lifegain is too much, you can add to the ramp to get you to Drogskol Reaver even faster!
Deathtouch and first strike are great abilities that go even better together. A creature with one power and these two abilities can take down almost every other creature out there, since it deals damage first and the deathtouch will kill the other creature before it has a chance to even do its damage back. Even when Glissa, the Traitor or Master of Cruelties can't use their abilities, they are still great for blocking. Players recognize how pointless it is to attack into that and tend to send their attacks elsewhere. Now you know about Voracious Cobra.
You likely haven't seen it before, because you won't find it when you search online. Voracious Cobra doesn't technically have deathtouch. If you use it to fight an opposing creature, it simply does two damage. However, when we are talking about combat damage, the Cobra behaves like it has deathtouch. This Invasion card predates deathtouch, so the designers came up with something slightly different, and the card was never errata'd. This means when you search to find creatures with deathtouch and first strike or double strike you don't find the Voracious Cobra, and that is a shame.
This creature wards off opponents from attacking and can often get in for a point of damage on offense. However, don't kid yourself, you are rarely going to turn this thing sideways; the primary purpose for the Cobra is defense.
The Cobra is a card your opponents will hate, since they are usually forced to burn up a removal spell to get rid of it and it is so painful to use a removal spell to kill off a 2/2 creature that does nothing more than mess up combat horribly.
This creature is a bit better known than the other cards on the list, but given Amonkhet and its love of -1/-1 counters, I wanted to include it. Adding counters to permanents has become a theme is practically every set printed now. Creatures have +1/+1 counters all over the place now, and Amonkhet adds to the counter theme with -1/-1 counters. The Knight just says "no" to all of that. While it already has flying to evade most of those creatures, even if there is a creature there to block it, that flyer will likely end up dead or with -1/-1 counters on it due to wither, so it won't block the next turn.
The important part to recognize isn't that Kulrath Knight will likely get through for three points of damage, it is to understand that the creatures affected can't attack or block anything! That opponent who just used Gavony Township to pump all their tokens is now completely defenseless to the Knight, and every other player's creatures too! If your opponents are anything like me and love their +1/+1 counters you won't have much work to do to make them completely helpless. Marchesa and Vorel decks completely roll over to the Knight. Persist and undying creatures are now useless. Your creatures with graft can now make opponents' creatures useless in combat. Forgotten Ancient can target your opponents' creatures if you want. Archfiend of Ifnir renders your opponents' defenses useless – it doesn't take much help to allow you to alpha strike with all your creatures!
I hope you discovered some new cards to cast with your bicycle lands! Kulrath Knight and friends will have your friends reaching across the table, asking, "and what does that do?"