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Alara Reborn is here!

April 26, 2009

I’m have just come back from the prerelease and I will now share with you some reflections I have from the set. But first a little summary from the prerelease itself. I went down with a little disappointing 3-2 record. I had a fairly solid with naya deck that touched black for Broodmate Dragon. And of course the black splash came to haunt me as I were eliminated from the tournament with Broodmate Dragon in hand with no way of casting it. To be fair, my manabase was not the best and that was my fear when I registered the deck.

Anyhow, what do I think of Alara Reborn? For starters I want to talk about the Cascade mechanic. On paper Cascade looks like as a mechanic that is potentially completely bonkers and everyone I talked to Saturday morning were jammering around with the fear/hope of playing Enlistment Wurm, Bituminous Blast or Bloodbraid Elf and getting another beast or flipping a removal spell. Much like Clash turned out, it’s much fairer then it is looks on paper. As much as I saw players playing Enlistment Wurm and flipping up an O-Ring or something like that, I saw folks flipping borderposts. And that’s whats makes Cascade actually pretty fair in limited. People will play their Obelisks and borderposts, and that will decrease they value of a big cascade spell. To really max out what you can of cascade, you really need to set your deck up for it.

Moving on to the new cards, to start off, Maelstrom Pulse and Meddling Mage are overrated. Don’t get me wrong, they are good cards and will most certaintly see a lot of play but in my opinion people are freaking out about these card for no reason. ManuelB talked about this a bit in his article on SCG last weekand I completely agree. Compare Oblivion Ring to Maelstrom Pulse. O-Ring is easier to cast and gets around persist and similar effects while Maelstrom Pulse doesn’t randomly now and then gets Naturalize or bounce with Cryptic Command and the new pseudo-Vindicate can eliminate multiple tokens in one sweep. So with that said, you see my point? 5cc might play a couple if it was an instant, but 5cc doesn’t battle with O-Ring so I don’t see why that deck would play Maelstrom Pulse. GB Elf decks will probably thou be happy to play some copies since the pulse can deal with apposing tokens, which is a big problem for that deck. Moving on to Meddling Mage. Last time Meddling Mage was legal in non-eternal formats it got some play in block constructed, almost zero play in Standard when it was legal and occasionally played in extended. And except for maybe Reveillark (more on that soon) I don’t see why it will be different this time. I’m fairly certain that people will play him in block because of the limited card pool and there are a couple cards in block that really stands out from the rest (the planeswalkers for example). For Standard at this point with regionals and what nod in the distance, except for Reveillark I don’t see him (or her?) making the cut. Tidehollow Sculler is in my opinion a better card in general. Sculler takes an actual threat out instead of playing guessing games (thou’ they work pretty good together…) and the decks in Standard has multiple kinds of removal so it won’t be an issue that Meddling Mage will shut down apposing removal efficiently. That’s just my two cents in that matter…

Moving on, there is a card that I think people has been a bit harsh on, more exactly Lavalanche. When I have been looking around the forums of the Internet I have read people writing that it’s “a bad sweeper” or it’s “worse than Banefire”. That’s the wrong way of seeing the card I think. I would rather compare it with cards such as Assault/Battery or Invoke the Firemind. It’s not that efficient at doing any specific part but it’s the fact it can do both that makes the card good. I think the problem thou’ with Lavalanche is that it needs a deck that can use it for great value. For example 5cc won’t play this, but it seems really good in my opinion in a Jund Ramp deck for example. It can be Volcanic Fallout 5-6 in a deck like that and it won’t sit in your hand doing nothing for the majority of the game like Banefire. Lord of Extinction is kinda of cool, but it will have to wait for Bitterawsome and Spectral Procession to leave Standard before that card can do something relevant. Mike Flores has been talking very highly about this card and I can’t deny that this little bad boy gets big really quickly. Something to watch out for in the future.

Anathemancer (i.e. Price of Progress-dude) and Bloodbraid Elf seems really interesting for Standard too. Finally we get some non-basic land hate in Standard again (you don’t count Fulminator Mage) and this bad boy seems really great in my opinion. The unearth cost is a bit high, but boy imagine when you can unearth this fella against 5cc (and they can’t counter it, whops!). Just pure gravy. Bloodbraid Elf can generate some really absurd turn fours for a red-green deck. Turn 4 Bloodbraid, flipping Ram Gang? Flipping Volcanic Fallout and then smash for 3? Seems really strong in my eyes.

The final two cards I want to talk about is first Qasali Pridemage. That guy is bonkers for many reason already known and that guy will see play in many formats for a long time be sure. Finally I want to throw a couple of words in for Thought Hemorrhage. In general, I’m not a huge fan of these effects. I mean there a times where Cranial Extraction or Extirpate is just back-breaking, but that are often limited to strange conditions (Kamigawa Block Constructed) or combo decks that works around a card or two. Thought Hemorrhage is very similar to Cranial Extraction with the difference being that it cost R instead of a colorless and you get a Blood Oath-ish effect attached to it. Is it good? Is it playable? Is it jank? It’s a good question and I’m haven’t really decided at this point what I think of this card. Do you see the card as a Blood Oath with a bonus or do you see the card as a Cranial Extraction with a little damage dealing bonus? I don’t think option 1 is viable for a 4 mana sorcery so that leaves the second option. Then the question that follows, is there cards in Standard and/or Block that you really care about? Cruel Ultimatum? Reveillark? Maybe. I guess the jury is still out on this card and the following couple of month will show of the card is good.

To sum this up, Alara Reborn seems like a cool set and it has certainly cards that will rock up the meta game in many formats. I really enjoyed the prerelease and I’m expecting a lot of fun from this set in construced. That’s was all I had for this time. Until next time…

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