Adventures In Magic the Gathering: Oath of the Gatewatch Spoilers & Leaks Part 1

Spoiler season is on us again, and that means that we are going to have a hell of a time. Of course, you might be wondering why I would mention spoiler season since the new set, Oath of the Gatewatch isn’t being released for about a little more a month still, and the official spoilers haven’t even started as yet. The reason for that is the huge amount of leaks that have happened in the last couple weeks or so. It is an unprecedented level of information coming out unofficially from Wizards of the Coast, and that is indeed most surprising.

For the winter sets, the spoilers usually start just around the new year, culminating in the prereleases in the middle of January, and then the official release a week later. And usually, we rarely get any leaked spoilers until the official spoilers start. This time though things are very different. The powers-that-be were waiting until the World Magic Cup to start handing out tidbits it seems, but some unscrupulous persons have already seen fit to, well, spoil that. We got several big set mechanics leaks in November, followed by a bunch of legendary creatures last week, and just last night, we had pretty much the entire run down of the Zendikar Expeditions and the new mythics from the set. Mind-boggling all of it. So let’s get down with them.

OathoftheGatewatch

First of all, let’s get down to the official spoilers that came from Wizards of the Coast during the World Magic Cup that was held in Barcelona, Spain this past weekend. A three-day tournament attended by national teams of 4 players each from all over the globe, the 2015 edition saw the crowning of the Italian team as the champions for this coming year, in what was a pretty tense finals match. It was my first time watching the coverage for this, and it was a good time, though after a while watching decks like Esper Control/Dragons, Atarka Red/RG Landfall and Temur Megamorph on camera again and again got boring because a lot of it was just the same matchups just between between different teams. That’s not all that exciting, but I suppose that’s what the Team Unified Standard format does.

Anyway, over the course of the event, the commentators got to unveil a few new cards from the set, which had unfortunately been leaked out in the wild several days before. Here they are.

KozileknWastesThe Eldrazi Titan Kozilek makes an appearance yet again, and this time he looks to be a much-improved version from the last time we saw him and his ilk in Rise of the Eldrazi. Last time, he was simply Kozilek, Butcher of Truth but this time he is Kozilek, the Great Distortion, a much more ominous name I must say. What is remarkable here is that he seems to have a better card-draw trigger this time, in a way that really rewards ramp decks since by the time they cast him and others like him they are close to being empty-handed. He can potentially refill your hand from zero to seven, and that is just the cast trigger, not even a successful resolution. Back-breaking for your opponent. The keyword ability Menace mimics the old “Annihilator 4” trigger on when you attack with him, but is a less-powerful version and also much more palatable at the same time. He is card-draw plus board-wipe in a single package. I kind of really like this version, if I’m honest. The third ability seems a bit more weird to me, but I suppose it matches with the flavour of the card and the lore based around him. It functions well with his first ability and it can also means that should you have another Kozilek, the Great Distortion in hand and your opponent happens to have one as well, you can simply discard your second copy to counter theirs. For free. Interesting bit of counter-magic, and it certainly has a ton more applications.

But the most remarkable thing here is his mana cost, which is 8CC. The diamond-shaped symbols in his mana cost refer to colorless mana costs, and to help cast him, we are getting Wastes mana in the set. This Wastes counts as a basic land but does not have a specific type such as Plains or Island, so it is an interesting way to get around not breaking the system of the color pie. We get a new basic type, but it is not a sixth color, thus preserving the color pie and not breaking cards with the Domain or Converge abilities or what have you. There has been plenty of discussion in various places already, and you are free to check that out. Suffice to say, the new mana symbol refers specifically to colorless mana while the numerical symbols that we have traditionally seen to date refer to generic mana, which can be either colored mana or colorless. Any card that produced colorless mana before, such as the enemy Painlands, they now produce this new mana. There is no difference, just the templating has changed. And unless otherwise specified on the card itself, any card that has a numerical mana symbol in its casting cost, it can be cast with any kind of mana, whether colored or not. So cards like Sol Ring don’t need this new mana to be cast, nothing has changed for them.

Of the two variants showed here, the first is a Kozilek-themed Wastes and the other is Ulamog-themed. Emrakul is no longer on the plane of Zendikar so she/it doesn’t get a variant.

crushoftentaclesCrush of Tentacles is the fourth officially spoiled card from the new set, and once again, it is a mythic. It is actually a bit weird that this card is in Oath of the Gatewatch because just last week, the great beast Lorthos, the Tidemaker was killed off in the lore, fighting off against a returned Kozilek. The greatest octopus legendary beast ever is… dead, and we have a card here that generates octopus tokens! Anyway, this is a board-wipe on the order of the old Perilous Vault from last year’s Magic 2015 core set which did a similar thing except that said permanents were exiled rather than bounced. However, I think that this is still a superior card because it gives you a massive creature in the trade-off, and should you happen to have played another spell the same turn, then it is slightly cheaper. One of the many new finishers that control decks shall be receiving in the new set.

Now, we move on to all the unofficial spoilers, and I’ll talk about them in terms of cycles where appropriate. There have been a ton of unofficial spoilers, and this is worrying in that there’s a damn-certain breach of NDA by someone at Wizards of the Coast and repercussions for said person (or persons) are likely to be very serious. There is a reason that Wizards manages spoilers as it does, and it is all to build a gradual hype for a new set. To take that away means killing some of the interest in the new set and thus potentially harming sales. Also, the schedule makes more sense when you consider that a lot of such cards work in concert with others we have yet to see and we may evaluate them on the wrong basis. So, here’s what all has been leaked out. One thing I’ll mention is that all the new cards are foils, and that’s pretty significant, suggesting that they were all cut from a foil sheet that was destined for… something other than being spoiled on the net.

Nissa_ChandraThese two are the really big ones. We know from the promo art for Oath of the Gatewatch that Chandra, Gideon, Nissa and Jace will come together by the end of the set’s story to defeat the Eldrazi once and for all, as it pertains to their incursion on Zendikar. And it is pretty great to see that the team behind the set has gone for new versions of Nissa and Chandra, as they did with Gideon in Battle For Zendikar, right after we got their “Origins 5” versions. Personally, I see both these cards being really good.

Nissa, Voice of Zendikar is a pretty good card that cares about critical mass of creatures and pumping them up. For decks such as those based on Hardened Scales, that second ability is absolutely boss, and it has some synergy with creatures like Managorger Hydra and Abzan Falconer and Drana, Liberator of Malakir that care about +1/+1 counters in some manner. The plus ability is a bit weird since the token doesn’t seem to have any additional benefit, but I suppose that this is something that will be covered in some more cards that have yet to be revealed. Simple thing is that given how low the loyalty on the planeswalker is, an 0/1 creature isn’t going to do anything really. Any trampler is going to ruin the day. The ultimate is a boss ultimate, and it works well with the lore aspect of how strong Nissa’s connection to Zendikar is. The card-draw is also intriguing in that with both the new planeswalkers we are getting some really strong options, pushing how far the color pie can be worked around.

When it comes to Chandra, Flamecaller I’m even more impressed. She does 6 damage the turn she comes down and demands an answer from the opponent. The only other recent 6-drop planeswalker in Standard was Elspeth, Knight Errant and she saw a ton of competitive play. The new Chandra is similar and she does quite a few things for red that the color either wants to be doing already or she shores up some weakness. With the coming of the next block, Shadows Over Innistrad, we will be losing one of the best sideboard options that red decks have, Outpost Siege, and I think this card can help with that. Whether it sees maindeck play is perhaps debatable, though I think she can give you some good advantage in game 1s, but as a 2-3 sideboard option, she is total value. Her second ability can help you get rid of some really bad hands and then draw you what can potentially be a good hand. It is high variance, but valuable nonetheless. And the ultimate, it can immediately minus to give you a wrath effect. These seem to be everywhere in this block, and this is more on top of that, and is a cute ability as well, but I like it. When you are behind on the board, Chandra, Flamecaller can get you right back in the thick of things and put you well ahead. The only main concern for fast red decks is that she is too slow, coming in on turn 6, but with the general slowing down of the format, I think she could definitely clinch a spot for herself.

LegendaryTrioSay hello to some of our new legendary creatures! The first one is Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim, the second is Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet and the third is Mina and Denn, Wildborn. With creatures, what usually happens is that they are put through a “Vanilla Test” to see if their stats are worth their mana costs, and looking at these, I think they all pass that test, some a big more than others, and some a bit less. And their abilities then really push them over the edge. As with the planeswalkers above, I think that each of these creatures helps you to stabilize on the board and start putting you ahead as well. In Limited, they will of course be absolute bombs, but for Constructed they are a bit more nuanced.

Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim is an early drop that can present a big threat for your opponent, no matter which deck they are playing. It comes down early enough that most opponents won’t have an early answer for it, and it gets better the longer the game goes on and it has both lifegain and removal packed into a neat package. Of course, getting to 30 life or more and then staying around that level is going to be really, really tough for Constructed at least, so that’s something that might hamper the card, but the stats are worth taking a second look.

Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet is fantastic. For starters, it has lifelink, and a good body on it which doesn’t die easy to burn spells. Second, it automatically develops your board the more your opponent loses creatures. Three, you can create a swarm of zombies pretty easily right now and you can use those tokens to make Kalitas even bigger, which already works so well with the natural lifegain he has. You pair this thing up with Drana, Liberator of Malakir, and you can definitely run away with a few games I think. And let’s not forget how easily Kalitas and Ayli work together as well, with the saccing of the tokens for lifegain. And Kalitas can additionally enable your Eldrazi Processors from Battle For Zendikar, which is another plus. Perhaps we shall start to see some black-based eldrazi decks. This could be a nice finisher.

Mina and Denn, Wildborn is a very interesting card. It is a “Legendary Creature – Elf Ally” which has two very relevant abilities. The first says that you can play an additional land on each of your turns. The second says that you can pay a mana cost of 1 red and 1 green to bounce one of your lands and give target creature trample. For the RG Landfall decks, this can be a nice finisher. It can provide you with some extra mana, and you can then use that to make your creatures more threatening in combat. Getting to untap with Mina and Denn is huge. For some creatures that have fallen by the wayside such as Undergrowth Champion and Omnath, Locus of Rage, this card can be a big enabler, not to mention cashing in on multiple Landfall triggers in a turn.

I like all of them, and I’ll certainly play around with them when I get a chance. With the April rotation, I was looking to be GW, but Kalitas and Ayli are the kind of cards that can push me over to the Abzan colors once again. And Mina and Denn look pretty spicy too.

NewLandsNonCyclesThese are some of the new gold lands to be found in the new set. They aren’t part of a cycle I believe as their effects are relatively unique in that regard, and aside from something like the Khans of Tarkir trilands, we haven’t had any gold lands that are part of a cycle.

So, the first of these is pretty interesting. It generates Wastes mana, that is colorless mana for those who may have forgotten, and it can also do some crucial mana-fixing for you, though at a heavy cost. The first one is straightforward enough, but the second one is something that I’m not sure I have grasped as yet. To get the mana we require from cards like this, generally the cost is to pay some portion of life or some such effect. But this one sets you back by one mana. It has generally positive applications for Limited, where sometimes you can really be hurting for the right mana, but in Constructed it looks to be a dud. Not sure yet.

The second one is Blighted Crossroads (or Vicious Crossroads) and it too has two tap mana abilities. The first one simply adds a single colorless mana to your pool. The second one is like the Mana Confluence from Theros block where you pay 1 life to get the right color of mana you want, but then this mana can only be cast for devoid spells. So this is straight-up mana-fixing for Eldrazi decks, especially in Limited decks. Being a rare card, you probably won’t be pulling more than 1 of these unless you also get passed a few, but I think that at the same time it has some Constructed applications. In the worst case, it is a better Mana Confluence because it taps for colorless.

The third one, Holdout Settlement, is something that I feel a lot of ramp decks will go for. Right now, you can’t tap your mana creatures the turn they come down on because they don’t have haste, unless you are playing with Beastcaller Savant. For the late-game where you topdeck a mana dork like Rattleclaw Mystic and feel bad about it in the current format, this card can help you out. Niche play for sure, so it will be interesting to see how it is incorporated in the new format once Oath of the Gatewatch releases.

NewLandCycleUncommonsThese three cards are part of the new cycle of lands that we are getting at the uncommon level. In Battle For Zendikar we had the blighted lands that each had some kind of an effect related to a specific color. These ones are different. They are also slightly worse cards than the Gainlands we had back in Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged, which at least gave you 1 life when they ETB tapped. These don’t do anything.

In order, these are Immense Tranquility, Meandering Stream and Ashen Moorelands. The cycle is obviously not complete here, and we still need to see the UB and RG variants. These are intended for nothing more than Oath of the Gatewatch Sealed Deck or Booster Draft because if you wanted to use these kinds of lands, then you are just better off using their better versions from Khans of Tarkir, such as Blossoming Sands and Tranquil Cove.

OtherLandsMore random lands! The first of these is pretty straightforward. I don’t think much needs to be said here except that there are a fair few colorless lands in the set and they all do different things. It is interesting to see the kind of design space that they have tapped into for these, and I can’t wait to see how they all end up being used. The second one here is Sea Gate Ruins, and it is yet another colorless land that can either give you one colorless mana to use, or you can pay 4 mana (3 mana and tap this land) to draw a card, albeit at the condition that you have no cards in hand. There can be a fair few shenanigans here where you cast your card-draw spell of choice, are empty-handed, and then you activate this to draw one more card. Expensive effect, but certainly with some applications in Constructed. The third one is a mythic rare, and it is utterly bonkers. A chase mythic from the set sure, and it has tons of applications in both Constructed and Limited. Copy your pump spells, copy your Eldrazi Titans, copy your counter spells, copy Siege Rhinos. So much to be said for this.

spiresneedleSpire’s Needle, the most disappointing land from the entire block. Hyperbolic? Perhaps, but also justified. When the spoiler leaks happened last month, this was one of the cards that was leaked, and at the time, it had the second ability where you paid 2RW to turn this into a 4/2 red and white elemental creature that had first strike. A good beater, alternate finisher of sorts, and good stats. But the new spoiler downgrades this into a 2/1 double strike creature, which is just plain bad. With these stats, it dies to every single other manland out there, and trades in the worst way possible. The cost is simply too high for the stats given, and I’m really, really disappointed with how this has turned out, should this be real. Given the foil nature of this card alongwith the other leaked cards, it is more than likely that this version is true, and if it is, then Wizards really dropped the ball on this one.

sphinxofthefinalwordDid control decks need another finisher right now? Especially one with as many impressive stats as this one? While this creature doesn’t quite pass the Vanilla Test, it passes every other test. A 5/5 flyer is already decent at 7 mana, but this one also has hexproof, which is an important ability for creatures right now, and it can’t be countered either, and it makes all your instant and sorcery spells uncounterable. How mind-boggling is that? There are very few cards that control decks ever tap out for, such as Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy or Ugin, the Spirit Dragon or Pearl Lake Ancient, and this one just complements all of them in control decks. This will certainly see some Standard play, and depending how dominating it becomes, every black deck will need to be packing some kind of edict effect such as Foul-Tongue Invocation or Fleshbag Marauder or what have you. That would be the only way to get it off the field other than through combat damage.

kozileksreturn2 damage wrath for 3 mana seems so cute. Especially when it is an instant. But then Wizards went and made this into a monster of a card with instant graveyard recursion. Play something as silly as Breaker of Armies or terrifying as Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger and wipe out your opponent’s board. GG. Another chase mythic in a set that seems to have quite a few of them, which is actually rather detrimental to the format I think. Though that’s a topic for another day.

worldbreakerAnd we come to the final card now. Green based ramp decks have yet another option to brickwall the opponent in the mid-to-late game. 5 power isn’t actually all that bad, but that 7 toughness just makes you want to tear your hair out. There are so many big creatures in Standard right now and getting through them is a real chore. The only thing for aggro decks to do is race the ramp decks, and the control decks have to keep up anti-creature counterspells. It is a rough time. And we are going to be losing the highly efficient spells like Abzan Charm, and Valorous Stance in like 5 months, so we are in desperate need of spells to take these creatures out. Hidden Dragonslayer can only do so much after all. Ultimate Price doesn’t even work against these devoid monsters because they are all colorless creatures and not mono-colored or anything despite the casting costs. Rough times ahead.

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Posted on December 15, 2015, in Gaming, Magic the Gathering and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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