BISMARCK, N.D. (KXNET) — The Mirage War may be over, but there’s still one more set left in the latest block to be featured in KX’s Magic: The Gathering column. Strangely enough, though, the Mirage Block ends not with a tidy conclusion, but with the introduction to a much larger story arc. Before delving further to discuss the cards themselves, it’s important that we have the context behind this new set — as it is what will shape a tremendous number of booster packs to be reviewed over the coming months.

The history leading up to this week’s set is long and in-depth, and begins with a man named Yawgmoth: a medical genius from the ancient Thran Empire (the very same group that unintentionally spurred the events of Antiquities), who was exiled due to his cruelty and fanatical pursuit of knowledge. After being called back to the Empire’s capital city of Halcyon to deal with an urgent medical case, he discovered a disease known as phthisis, which was caused by the power stones that the Thran used to charge their hyper-advanced civilization. For his work in discovering the disease and using an antidote to quell a rebellion of infected individuals who were exiled to live under the power stone hub, Yawgmoth was made an honorary member of Halcyon’s council, and made laws that both regulated public health and removed his enemies from the city. Further riots (particularly one that occurred after Yawgmoth was revealed to have diluted an antidote he gave to exiles) only served to bolster his control over both the public and Halcyon’s elite guard.

Just as Yawgmoth’s victory over a third and final riot was being celebrated, however, the festivities were interrupted by the appearance of a strange coalition consisting of races from across the continent that Yawgmoth cruelly “experimented” on (most notably with the use of poisons and plagues) during his exile. The delegation declared open war against Yagmoth and all of his allies, and the mad physician responded by forcefully taking over the city. While the odds seemed against him, Yawgmoth had several advantages over his opponent — including an entire world at his disposal.

In between the last riot and this war, Yawgmoth had made an unusual friend: a Planeswalker named Dyfed, who he convinced to join him in the hunt for a Plane to transform into a paradise of his own design. The duo eventually settled on a location, and created a permanent portal from Dominaria to their find — Phyrexia, an abandoned plane of living machines and glistening, corrupting oil. In addition to fusing himself with the Plane’s core (thus becoming the equivalent of a God in the world), Yawgmoth began treating patients of phthisis on his new Plane — where they were treated in a way that not only cured their sickness, but caused them to evolve into more monstrous and advanced beings in the process. This army of mutated warriors, alongside Halcyon’s elite guard and mighty powerstone-fueled weapons known as Stonechargers capable of leveling cities, was enough to weather any onslaught, and Yawgmoth was able to hold his ground, eventually killing Dyfed (who became horrified at what Phyrexia had become) in the process.

However, things would quickly take a turn for the worse for the physician — the operators of the Null Moon (a device that Yawgmoth used to protect Halcyon from his own superweapons) sacrificed their lives to disable the machine and launch it into the sky, allowing the entire army of Stonechargers to drop their payloads directly onto the city. Yawgmoth and the remaining residents of Halcyon then ran to Phyrexia, and while he originally planned to return to Dominaria quickly, his former ally (and possibly lover) closed the portal between worlds to keep Yawgmoth away from the Plane forever.

Unfortunately, this permanent expulsion was not to be. During the war between Urza and Mishra, the powerstones sealing the portal were disturbed. This led to his empire wreaking major havoc upon the plane once again, blending into both sides and replacing Mishra with a Phyrexian duplicate. This plan was eventually forced back after Urza’s Sylex Blast leveled Dominaria and unintentionally created the Shard of Twelve Worlds, which once again protected Dominaria from Yawgmoth. Eventually, though, the Shard was destroyed during the casting of the World Spell (which we saw back in Alliances) — both freeing the Plane from its sweeping Ice Age and opening it up for Yawgmoth’s return.

In preparation for just such an event, however, Urza created a series of artifacts known as The Legacy. When put together, these devices would create a weapon with enough power to obliterate the dark force once and for all. At the center of this weapon was the sky-faring ship Weatherlight, which played a major part in the fate of Jamuraa during the Mirage War. Unforutnately, its captain, Sisay, has gone missing since we last met her in Visions — meaning it’s up to the ship’s meager remaining crew (including captain-by-default Gerrard Capashen, Minotaur first mate Tahngarth, and Goblin cabin boy Squee) to rescue her and collect the Legacy pieces if Dominaria is to have a chance at survival.

The Weatherlight Block — and more specifically, this week’s set — marks the start of what is arguably the most famous and beloved story arc of the entire MTG franchise (commonly known as The Weatherlight Saga), and while the block itself featured no new mechanics, the story at hand was more than enough to bring players back into the sway following what was generally seen as a bizarre time in the game’s history. However, there’s still plenty of time to discuss the voyages of the skyship Weatherlight in future columns — so it’s time to head over to the main attraction and get to ranking. We hunted down the top five most expensive cards from Weatherlight using average prices from MTGGoldsifh for this week’s article — and while we can’t guarantee they’ll be able to repel Yawgmoth’s invasion, a few of them have certainly left a Legacy of their own.

#5: Peacekeeper

Attacking is always fun, but not everyone likes to be attacked — and so many players avoid being the target of their opponents as much as possible. This is the idea behind what are known as ‘Pillow Fort’ strategies — decks that focus entirely on defending themselves before seizing victory with the likes of Approach of the Second Sun (or Divine Intervention, if they don’t mind losing their friends). While Pillow Forts generally use a huge array of taxes and penalties to prevent opponents from taking action against them, sometimes, these amount to very little — but as Peacekeeper proves, sometimes a little bit of human diplomacy is all that is needed to smooth over table-wide conflicts.

Although Peacekeeper may not be as one-sided as Pillow Fort cards like Ghostly Prison or Moat, she is in many ways better because of her all-encompassing nature: Green decks usually churn out absurd amounts of Mana to go with their huge Creatures, meaning they can easily pay the cost of Prison or Propaganda, and although Moat is undoubtedly powerful and similar, there’s nothing saying other Decks can’t just use creatures with Flying to bypass it entirely (including Demons, Dragons, Faeries, and ironically, White’s own Angels). This card balances these ideas and prevents the game from becoming too one-sided by simply preventing anyone from declaring an attack, while at the same time slowing down the White player — allowing opponents and the player alike to build up their strategies. It’s also worth noting that the White player can choose to not pay the cost whenever they desire, allowing them to perfectly time her disappearance and follow up with a massive strike. Decks that enjoy stalling for time or seek to win through alternative win conditions will definitely enjoy having Peacekeeper around even more — as long as they can prevent her from being crushed through forced combat, targeted destruction, or having her Toughness lowered, that is.

As far as attack negation cards go, having a card like this which simply stops all assaults can be a give-and-take, and its price is a clear example of that: similar to the balance Peacekeeper strikes between one-sidedness and general power, her price is fair, but not overblown. The card is definitely worth her weight, however, and a strong pick for any stall deck.

#4: Winding Canyons

Curiously enough, while Mirage and Visions were notable for not including any particularly pricey Lands in their list of most expensive cards, the trend appears to resume in Weatherlight. This week’s list features not one, not two, but three Lands — which, technically speaking, is enough to both continue the streak of Lands ranking highly and fill the void left by the previous two sets. Winding Canyons may not be the priciest of these entries, but as far as our columnist is considered, it’s quite possibly the most useful.

While the Mana effect of Winding Canyons is nothing special (simply providing a Colorless Mana), this card is particularly notable for its secondary ability — which gives every Creature in the player’s hand the equivalent of Flash (which means it can be played any time). Being able to instantly play Creatures on anyone’s turn is nothing to scoff at, especially when there are many that can quickly turn the tide of battle or interrupt combination plays when they enter the battlefield. Being able to perform these abilities at completely unexpected times (such as playing Sunblast Angel after an opponent taps their creatures to attack, Ravenous Chupacabra to quickly remove an important Creature from the boards, or Avenger of Zendikar to immediately create an army in a can) gives a player a clever way to use their hand during an opponent’s turn. Most annoyingly, the Land’s effect can also be used to play hampering cards such as Drannith Magistrate directly in response to opponent effects — thus removing the only drawbacks that they face when compared to other Stax pieces like Opposition Agent and Aven Mindcensor. Even without taking into account unexpected plays that directly affect foes, playing a Creature using your excess Mana on someone else’s turn can serve as a great way to clean out your hand, and ensure that you can immediately start attacking with a Creature and using any tap effects it might have instantly once your turn comes. The fact that paying Winding Canyons’ surprisingly low cost lets a player cast as many Creatures as they can at Instant speed can also be incredibly helpful for strategies that run many low-cost fighters or Mana Dorks — who can begin to use their combat and ramping effects as soon as your turn comes.

There are plenty of fun ways to utilize Winding Canyons, and a majority of them depend on how exactly you choose to play Magic. Blue, Black, and Red players can take the opportunity to flash in deadly surprises or clever combat tricks, White can use Instant speed to play powerful defenders or limiting Stax cards at the perfect time, and Green always appreciates the ability to drop another gigantic Creature on the board. It may not be a necessary inclusion in many decks, but Canyons can be an incredibly powerful (albeit somewhat expensive) asset in strategies that love to unleash Creature chaos at the most unexpected times. Whether or not it’s necessary in your strategy, though, it’s certainly our favorite card in this week’s collection.

#3: Lotus Vale

Entries into Magic’s ‘Lotus’ series have gone down in history as some of Magic’s most famous and iconic cards. Even disregarding the infamous patriarch of the Lotus family (which is often referred to as the greatest and most expensive Magic card ever made), cards like Jeweled Lotus, Lotus Petal, and Gilded Lotus are excellent ways to create extra Mana quickly — and even the weaker entries such as Timeless Lotus, Nyx Lotus, or Lotus Blossom have their uses. With so many of these odd plants around in the Multiverse, though, it leads one to wonder… where exactly do the Lotuses come from? With the release of Lotus Vale, it appears we have an answer.

By sacrificing two Lands, Lotus Vale allows you to add three Mana of any one color to your pool. This is effective on its own, and lets a player sacrifice the Lands or excess colored Mana they do not need to create the ones they do. Much like the Guild Bounce Lands (including Orzhov Basilica and Gruul Turf), it’s nice that Lands that have already been used can be sacrificed to put Lotus Vale into play — although, similarly, it also means that Lotus Vale comes in tapped. Still, the card serves as a great way to get the color of Mana you need the most at any given time, and it’s even more effective if you combine it with cards like Splendid Reclamation or Crucible of Worlds to get the sacrificed Lands back from the Graveyard.

Lotus cards, as a whole, tend to be both powerful and valuable, and Lotus Vale, while lacking the explosive power of Black Lotus or Jewled Lotus, does serve as a decent way to both get the Mana you need and convert Lands that may not be ideal into better colors. As long as one steers clear of Blood Moon, this is a great way to sort your Lands into the colors you need — and although the price does seem a tad high, it pales in comparison to the number two spot on this list.

#2: Scorched Ruins

One of the most peculiar things about writing this column, we note, is that despite Lands being some of the most expensive cards in the game, there is actually very little to say about many of them. While it made sense to go into detail about what makes the likes of Mishra’s Workshop or Library of Alexandria so unique and powerful, many pricier Lands are simply there because they are effective at proving Mana — and while there are some exceptions like Winding Canyons, often, we struggle to find anything else to say other than that they are, indeed, “Good Lands.” Scorched Ruins, while expensive, is just that.

Scorched Ruins is extremely similar to Lotus Vale in that it forces players to destroy their own Lands in order to play it — but here, it replaces the colored aspect with an extra Colorless Mana. While sacrificing two untapped Lands is still somewhat expensive, the extra two per turn can be incredibly useful, especially if you combine it with Land revivers like Ramunap Excavator or the aforementioned Crucible of Worlds to bring the bulldozed territory back. It also serves as a great way to power out more expensive Colorless cards, and can be used to pay the non-color costs of spells much earlier than normal. At the same time, however, it unfortunately faces a roadblock in that it requires players to sacrifice untapped lands instead of any like Lotus Field, but this is slightly redeemed by the fact that it comes in untapped. This… is about it for this entry.

At first, we were actually hoping that the running joke of a Land always being featured in the top five continued throughout the history of Magic… however, as time has passed, we ironically find ourselves hoping that this is not the case, solely to ensure we have things to talk about. Scorched Ruins is by no means a bad card, but it is a straightforward one that poses somewhat of a struggle for our columnist — both in terms of going into much detail about its use and why exactly one should spend $90 on it unless they are an extremely hardcore player.

#1: Null Rod

As we’ve discussed in the past, certain cards or abilities throughout the history of Magic have only gotten more useful over time. What was once observed as a relatively mediocre and extremely niche card can suddenly become a true threat. This is the case with cards like Lion’s Eye Diamond, Phyrexian Dreadnought, and now, Null Rod– which, aside from having some of the best flavor text on any Magic card, also possesses an effect that is not only unique, but has the potential to win games all by itself.

Null Rod’s effect is extremely simple: it prevents players from activating the effects of Artifacts of any kind, including Artifact Creatures. This means that no Mana Rocks can be used, no gear can be Equipped onto a creature, and any non-Creature Artifact with an effect that needs to be specifically triggered (including Food, Clue, and Treasure Tokens) is almost completely disabled. During the time this set was released, this was a very situational effect — but in Magic’s Commander format, which relies heavily on the use of Artifacts and Mana Rocks to gather enough resources, it takes on an entirely different level of power. Against the many Artifact-focused strategies that rely on activating their effects, Null Rod can effectively shut down entire decks single-handedly, rendering them completely unable to interact with the table or utilize any tactics other than just attacking and blocking with creatures. Without proper removal cards, this can be frighteningly strong, and needless to say, even high-power Artifact decks become nervous when a Null Rod may be present.

There’s no doubt that Null Rod is indeed a powerful card, but the massive cost no doubt turns many away. This often means that players seeking the effect will instead look to Collector Ouphe, a small, low-Mana creature that not only boasts the same effect, but a much cheaper price tag thanks to frequent reprints and the useful ability to be fetched by the likes of Invasion of Ikoria or Green Sun’s Zenith. For most players in need of this ability, the cost difference alone would be enough to recommend Ouphe instead — but if you truly do have nothing to lose, consider picking up Null Rod and ensuring you have “nothing” to gain as well.

Despite this week’s column discussing Weatherlight coming to an end, our time aboard the ship has most certainly not — The Weatherlight plot continues for another four blocks following this set, with a grand total of twelve packs that cover the events of the story arc. You won’t be flying solo, however: KX’s digital columnist will be with you all the way as we discuss this thrilling fantasy tale… as well as all of the expensive cards that were introduced in it.

What are your favorite cards from Weatherlight? Are you excited to see how the story progresses? Do you know how to pronounce ‘Yawgmoth’ properly, unlike our columnist? Be sure to let us know!