BISMARCK, N.D. (KXNET) — Over the course of our time on Rath, we’ve encountered powerful beasts, hidden gems, and incredibly detailed landscapes. As fun as this exploration has been, it’s time to leave and continue our quest, much as the characters in the storyline seek to do during Exodus — the final set in Magic’s Tempest Block, and the fourth entry into the beloved Weatherlight Saga overall.
Despite their difficult journey, over the course of both Tempest and Stronghold, the crew of the Weatherlight was not only able to recover their beloved Captain Sisay, but also the pieces of the Legacy Weapon needed to stop the invasion of the monstrous Phyrexian army. Now, all that’s left to do is to escape the plane of Rath once and for all– and while the cruel Volrath and his lieutenant Greven il-Vec have their eye on the party, a joint attack by an army of Elves and Human tribes (united by Gerrard during the trip to the artificial Plane) forces them to fight a war on two fronts. This is not to say that there are no troubles for our heroes, however: Ertai, a crew member of the skyship, has his own struggles when it comes to opening their portal home, and their noble ally Crovax has been growing more vicious and power-hungry by the day.
Due to a lack of new mechanics, there isn’t too much left to say about this Plane. Before we leave the artificial world, however, there are still a few surprises to be discovered on Rath — including some of Magic’s most beloved Enchantments. This week, we’re wrapping up the Tempest Block by taking a look at the five most expensive cards of its last set, using average values taken from pricing site MTGGoldfish. Feel free to read on, but be prepared to leave as soon as possible — you don’t want to be left here on your own, unless you’re partial to becoming Sliver bait.
Hate is a powerful force in our world, and by no means a good one. All sorts of horrific decisions have been caused by some form of hatred or another — including war, crime, and oppressive laws to name a few. In the case of Magic, though, Hatred can actually be a good thing… at least, as far as this card is concerned.
Hatred, put simply, allows one to pour their Life into a creature’s attack. For every Life point a player pays for the effect, the Creature targeted by the effect gains one power. In many games, especially those in Commander Format (where players start with 40 Life), this seems like an odd choice — but as many players can tell you, there are other ways to win via damage in Commander without needing to take all of it. A player can also only take 21 points of damage from a Commander creature at once (Commander Damage) before losing the game, regardless of the Life that they may have left, meaning that even paying a low amount with Hatred can be enough to secure a Commander Damage win in decks that focus on equipping and buffing their leader. This is especially the case with creatures who possess the Double Strike ability, as the Hatred Power boost applies to both hits. Even without taking the Commander into account, though, there are still plenty of uses for the card: improving even a weaker creature with Infect can be a great way to stealthily eliminate an opponent for a relatively low cost (9 Life at the most if the creature already has Infect). The card also sees play alongside cards that care about the amount of life a player has lost in the turn — Greven, Predator Captain effectively gains the same boost as whichever creature Hatred enchants (including himself), Willowdusk, Essence Seer can give a creature permanent counters equal to the Power increase, and Rowan, Scion of War can greatly reduce the cost of any other Red and Black spells you play in the turn after even a lesser amount of Life paid. The versatility of Hatred is undoubtedly immense, but the card still sees many issues that prevent it from being a key combination piece in many decks: The fact that it is an Instant (and a very high-cost one at that) means that players will generally only have one chance to use the effect per game, and many opponents will immediately recognize an attempt to win with the card and counter or block if they are able. This risk carries a high reward, though, and as such, Hatred fits perfectly into “all-or-nothing” battle strategies — most commonly the Red/Black “Rakdos” decks focused on rushing down opponents with combat and direct damage.
Even with its niche use, when compared to some of the other cards on this list, Hatred strikes a fair balance between price and effectiveness, making it an excellent opener to any list of both expensive and powerful cards. Hate may not be the best thing for the planet Earth or America, but here on Rath, it seems to be perfectly fine — though like any negative emotion, we would highly recommend making sure you (and your wallet) are safe and protected before letting this feeling out.
Previously in the column, we have discussed cards that are banned in some game formats — Earthcraft, for instance, cannot be played in Legacy format due to its synergy with Squirrel Nest and the very likely possibility of drawing it immediately. Due to the deckbuilding limitations of Commander format, however, the only cards that tend to be banned in it (aside from those that are generally prohibited from being used at all) are those that are simply blatantly overpowered given the combo-focused nature of the gameplay style (such as Griselbrand, Paradox Engine, or Golos, Tireless Pilgrim). Recurring Nightmare is one of these cards, and when looking at the card, it’s easy to see why.
Recurring Nightmare allows a player to repeatedly bring a creature back from the Graveyard at the cost of a different creature, provided they re-cast Recurring Nightmare the next time they decide to do it again. As one could expect, this is an extremely powerful effect — especially when combined with a card later on the list that allows a player to quickly discard expensive Creatures (the most popular of these in 1998 was Spirit of the Night). This would then allow them to use Nightmare and effectively exchange an extremely weak Creature for a tremendous one very early into the game, effectively creating Magic’s first true ‘Reanimator’ strategy. Unlike popular Graveyard revival cards like Reanimate or Victimize, however, the fact that Nightmare is an Enchantment would allow players to take advantage of this every turn, as long as they had the Creature chaff and Mana to spare. As the years go by, though, both the addition of more ways to dump valuable creatures in the Graveyard (Entomb, Buried Alive, etc.) and many Creatures that make Spirit of the Night look laughable in comparison have only made this strategy even more powerful. When combined with a deck focused on sending expensive Creatures to the Graveyard and those that can come back to sacrifice themselves over and over again to Nightmare (this column is a large fan of Reassembling Skeleton), it’s no wonder that the card is incredibly powerful, and indeed well-deserving of its ban.
As effective and well worth the price as this effect is, we would love to tell you that it is a perfect addition to any Commander deck. The problem here is that under the rules of the game, one is simply not allowed to do so. Despite this, Nightmare serves as a very interesting and effective card, and one worth picking up for any fan of the Weatherlight Saga or Magic’s most powerful and peculiar banned cards. If you’re searching for a way to reanimate your powerful creatures, you will have to look elsewhere — but with Commanders like Meren of Clan Nel Toth available at all times, this is hardly a problem in modern gameplay.
#3: Mind Over Matter
The color of Blue is one that usually brings to mind the concepts of brainpower, forethought, and careful planning in order to alter the world. This is best viewed in Blue’s incredibly powerful Enchantments which can drastically tip the entire game in one’s favor (especially the likes of Omniscience, Rhystic Study, and Back to Basics). In the case of Mind Over Matter, such manipulation can be enough to bend the entire battlefield to one’s will — as long as they have enough mental strength to do so constantly, of course.
Mind Over Matter’s ability is quite simple — discard a card to tap or untap something on the field — but as we have learned from previous cards on the list, simplicity is by no means a bad thing. Being able to choose the perfect target can result in a tremendous number of different effects — ranging from re-activating useful Lands like Gaea’s Cradle or creating new Mana sources using Urza, Powerstone Prodigy. It’s also worth noting that Mind over Matter can be used to help tap key opponent cards before they activate — which results in the shutting down of key Lands, slowing down of opponent strategies, and removal of problematic creatures from combat. It can become even more effective when combined with cards that allow players to draw more (meaning more cards can be tapped every turn) — a card like Jin-Gitaxas, Core Augur, for instance, can allow a player complete control of the entire board every turn. In recent times, this is even more useful with the introduction of cards like Hylda of the Icy Crown, Solitary Sanctuary, and Sharae of Numbing Depths, all of whom reward the player for constantly tapping down opposing Creatures. Where the card shines the most, however, is in decks that tend to win through having no cards in their deck — as tapping and untapping cards like Azami, Lady of Scrolls and Arcanis the Omnipotent allow the card to endlessly pay their own cost, which lets the Player deck themselves out and drop Laboratory Maniac or Thassa’s Oracle to steal the win.
Old Enchantments like Mind Over Matter are a bizarre mixed bag when it comes to the history of Magic: The Gathering — while some tend to be fairly mediocre or weak, there are many others (including the World Enchantments from Legends and many in this week’s column) that have both stood the test of time and only become more effective as new cards are released. Although Mind Over Matter is not the most famous of these cards, it is one that has a strong degree of notoriety — and perhaps as more strategies that focus on altering tapped or untapped states begin to emerge, it will rise in both price and fame.
If a player were to pick a single color of Magic that is generally seen as drastically overpowered in quite a few aspects, there is a good chance that they would choose Green. For a strategy that primarily focuses on ‘might makes right’, it seems rather strange that this supposedly no-frills strategy would have so many advantages. However, the color’s absurd abilities to summon huge waves of creatures, generate massive amounts of Mana, and put together incredible lines of combinations (especially the likes of Hermit Druid, who is synonymous with game-winning competitive strategies) make it easy to believe that the forces of nature tend to see more love than many other strategies. A perfect example of this is Survival of the Fittest — which, in addition to having some of Magic’s most visceral artwork, is often seen as one of its most universally useful cards as well.
There is little to say about Survival of the Fittest that cannot be clearly seen on its card, but at the same time, so much that can be done. In addition to allowing a player to trade any Creature in hand they don’t want for one that they do, Survival is also an excellent way to discard Creatures to the Graveyard for the sole purpose of being reanimated through cheaper means later in the game, and was the second half of the first truly ridiculous ‘Reanimator’ strategy brought up back in Recurring Nightmare’s entry. While Nightmare was banned for its incredible potential, however, the same cannot be said for Survival of the Fittest — which continues to serve the same purpose in not only Reanimation decks, but really any deck that includes any Green cards or Creatures in general. The ability to search for any Creature and immediately place it in your hand is impressive in any deck (especially combo-focused strategies where the right Creature can set off a game-winning series of events), and it’s no wonder that it continues to be the ‘gold standard’ for combination pieces even among more modern fare.
Despite its absurd cost, Survival of the Fittest is the most-played card on this list as a catch-all ‘Staple’ card for any Green deck for its immense amount of utility — and as such, it tends to be one of the first that players hope to take their decks to the next level will seek out.
#1: City of Traitors
Despite being a mostly artificial plane, there are plenty of surprising sights to see throughout Rath. One of these is the City of Traitors — a small, haunting city that is considered to be the last refuge for any criminals or traitors to their tribes who now serve Volrath. For them, it is a grim town without laws, hope, or cheer… but for Magic players, it is simply a unique Land with an interesting ability tailored to fast-paced play styles.
At first, there are both obvious drawbacks and obvious advantages to City of Traitors that can be clearly seen, although neither of them particularly warrants its tremendous price tag (especially when compared to Survival of the Fittest). Gaining two Colorless Mana for a turn is nice, but losing the Land immediately after playing another is certainly not — and even if one does recycle the card by using Crucible of Worlds or Ramunap Excavator, the fact that it often needs to be sacrificed and revived in this way can slow down any other plans a player may have for Graveyard recursion. As a result of this, City tends not to see much play in most formats. However, the speed at which it provides two Colorless Mana makes it a perfect fit for the often incredibly pricey decks found in Legacy or Competitive EDH format, which intend on winning as quickly as possible (usually in the first two to three turns), and as such, tend not to care for the long-term effects of losing their Land. This places it in a similar boat with cards like Lion’s Eye Diamond — a card that has also seen a major price spike solely due to its use in more fast-paced game modes.
While City is far from the best Land possible for the cost — especially when compared to the likes of both the valuable cards from earlier sets and those we will encounter further on down the road — it is still one that is worthy of its price tag (mostly due to its position on the Reserved List), at least at competitive tables. If a player must have a Land that taps for two Colorless Mana and has a fairly strong budget, we would suggest the classic Ancient Tomb instead, which keeps its price manageable due to frequent reprints — but those who absolutely need the extra Mana for their high-stakes, high-speed matches may want to consider turning on their wallet in order to venture into the City of Traitors themselves.
The Tempest Block may be over, but the Weatherlight Saga is just beginning. Next week, our journey continues with Urza’s Block, and Urza’s Saga in particular– where we’ll catch up with an old friend, learn more about Dominaria’s past, and discover cards that are even more valuable than those from the last few sets. Our One-Day ND Destination columns may have ended, but rest assured– there are still many multiversal adventures to come!
What are your favorite cards from this set? Do you have any fond memories of the Tempest Block, or Exodus in particular? And how much Life would you be willing to pay for an extremely satisfying moment of Hatred? Be sure to let us know on our Facebook pages!