The Mana Pool (previews)
Join Brian, Mike, Dirk and Chewie as they discuss all things Magic: The Gathering. Since there are plenty of tournament and strategy podcasts out there, we've decided to focus on the fun of the game in all its many forms, from Prereleases to multiplayer free-for-alls to whatever else we can come up with. Give us a listen!
Back to Nature by Dirk & Chewie
Hello everyone, Chewie here.  My taciturn cohost ​Dirk writes just like he podcasts.  He doesn't say much, but what he does say speaks volumes.  Here's what he wrote when I asked him to do a blog post for this green card:

Definitely a green card with a very old green ability. Very efficient card that can destroy any deck that uses lots of enchantments. I think it would be a very good sideboard card and I think it could see lots of play if the Umbras deck ever takes off. All in all, a very good card that makes me happy to see competitive mass enchantment removal back in green.

I mean really now, what else is there to say?  Sure you could point out that the last time Green had this ability it was a sorcery and cost 3 mana.  You could say that the last time this ability was an instant, it was in white and still cost 3 mana.  No, not Patrician's Scorn, that has nonsense that goes along with it.  I mean the last time a card just said "Destroy all enchantments" and that's it. 

You could say that Tranquility was always just too damned expensive and not quite useful enough.  Back in the day the only thing you really had to worry about was the odd Unholy Strength or Pacifism.  Nowadays you have Oblivion Ring and Journey to Nowhere that you can gleefully destroy to get back your fatty or awesome utility guy or Planeswalker.  That seems pretty freakin' good to me, but why bother saying all that?  It's basically implied already in Dirk's concise statement.

Now, from a Casual Magic standpoint, you can definitely say a few more things.  Dirk didn't say this explicitly because he didn't want us to notice, but a single copy of Back to Nature will completely screw his green enchantment deck.  For that matter, it will utterly destroy my enchantment-heavy Words deck too.  Everyone who plays casually knows someone with a deck that relies on enchantments to the point of being ridiculous.  This card gives us all a cheap way to cripple that player, at instant speed, and for only 2 freakin' mana.  Sounds like a good time to me.  Just don't play it against my Words deck, okay?

Category:Previews -- posted at: 12:00am EST

Gargoyle Sentinel by Brian


Thunder roars unheard above the sounds of the battlefield. Lightning flashes, momentarily illuminating a scene of intense combat through the downpour. The invading army’s captain sat stoically on his mount, keeping his veteran eye on the shadows of movement that told him of his force’s progress against the keep. The battle was going well for him, and the sounds of metal on metal had been gradually decreasing as the defenders were put down. He turned down to the commander of his advance units.

“Has there been word of those that I ordered to proceed into the stronghold?” he asked, slight irritation purposefully showing behind his otherwise flat demeanor. He was not one to be kept waiting, and his troops knew this.

“No sir,” was the reply, the commander respectfully meeting the captain’s eyes, “but the conditions are making reconnaissance nearly impossible. I have no reason to believe that they have met anything but success. There is no one here whom we fear.”

Pleased with the soldier’s earned bravado, the captain returned his gaze to the skirmish. “Order in another two units. I want information of what defenses the inner keep holds, if any.” He laughed. “And I’m soaking wet, and I dislike the sensation. See to it.”

The scouts went forward, following the trail of the first troop around the most pitched fighting and watching for hidden dangers. No enemy combatants waited in ambush, but that only made them the more suspicious. Finally, they found the wall of the keep and began to make their way around. The foremost scout wordlessly commanded the others to stop upon seeing a large shape looming in the darkness, but breathed a sigh of relief when he realized that it was only a statue.

As the troop came forward, the first scout started to move past the statue. As he did so, he saw another shape, or rather a series of shapes. He drew his sword at the sight of the other soldiers, preparing his men to cut them down as they lay resting. They drew near, but at the last moment another bolt of lightning revealed the scene of the first group of scouts. None had survived. The second group stood in shock, certain now of danger but not sure of what to guard against. Above them, the statue stared down.

A few hours later, the captain was alone, watching what he could from his vantage point. The defenders had found a second wind with reinforcements from an unknown source. He needed his men to rally to him, but the continuing storm hampered communication. His men at the keep, the advance parties, were unaccounted for. He believed that this was the reason he was alone, as even his second-in-command feared the captain’s temper at its height.

“Cowards,” he muttered to his steed, “afraid to face my wrath for this failure. Where are they? Alonze, come to me!” he shouted into the darkness. Only at hearing his own bellow did the captain realize just how quiet the scene had become. He heard a sound, like and unlike approaching footsteps, from the direction of the battlefield. He stared at the dark in front of him, willing it to reveal whether it was the forces of the enemy or his own soldiers, but no one was in front of him for some distance. The sound increased in intensity, and suddenly he was snatched off of his horse and lifted impossibly into the air.

He let out a harsh cry, but upon gazing up and seeing his captor, he began to laugh. It was a long, hard laugh, coming out uncontrollably from the man who was so close to victory and now so far from the ground. The sound echoed off of the stone hide of the beast, almost seeming to become louder to his own ears. The captain recognized his opponent’s true forces at last, and knew that his failure had always been inevitable.

Hey there, Mana Pool friends and listeners. This is Brian, he of the rambling. I’m here today to discuss one of the special preview cards we were assigned from Magic 2011 in a bit more depth than we could give on the show. The card, as you should hopefully be able to tell from the narrative above, is Gargoyle Sentinel.

I’m going to first go over the obvious uses and implications of this card, both as a practical matter of analysis and then specific to limited, which is the format where he is likely to see the most play (in my humble opinion). Then, I will attempt to look at some aspects of the card which lend themselves to more interesting application. For more information on the flavor-tasticness of this card, be sure to listen to the review that we give him on the show. I won’t repeat it here, because I think it would really just be repetition of my thoughts I said on the show. Plus, everybody loves the sound of Chewie’s voice, am I right?

First of all, this guy is pretty efficient. A 3/3 body (albeit with defender) for three mana is very solid, usually only found in green. The fact that he is colorless opens him up to all colors, most remarkably for the otherwise creature-weak blue. The fact that he does have defender makes him comparable to Ogre Sentry from Rise of the Eldrazi in red, which costs one less but (1) is color-specific and (2) cannot itself lose defender without help. The end result? Even if he never takes off, the Sentinel is a pretty solid defender for his cost.

He can take off, however, and therein lies the true potential. The Sentinel is made for coming out early and having the beef to hold back the opponent for some time. Don’t underestimate the relatively high power for a defender; the ability to not just block but kill a fair number of attackers is pretty significant. Once the ground is more or less safe, he can join the races by adding his considerable weight to the airborne offensive. The fact that he is an artifact limits some of the removal that can be thrown at him, and protection from artifacts is pretty rare, so there is a good chance he will connect. If things become problematic, just keep him at home until it is most efficient for him to go on the attack. Don’t forget that he can also spread his wings to block an incoming aerial attacker (thanks, Mike!).

In summation, for at least the purposes of sealed or draft, Gargoyle Sentinel is pretty nice. His body is a great way to dissuade the opponent from trying to attack, and his later-game presence is something that the opponent will have to take into consideration at the very least. Heck, even if the opponent has to use a Lightning Bolt to clear him out, that’s a Lightning Bolt they can’t use again! Overall, he seems decidedly solid to fairly strong, depending on how efficient M11’s creatures are and how aggressive the limited format proves to be. I’d strongly consider playing him where possible unless he’s just simply outclassed.

Finally, let’s get a little more interesting. What other uses can Gargoyle Sentinel have? Well, he’s a Gargoyle, so if you’ve been waiting to finish out your Wakestone Gargoyle deck, here you go! Also, he’s an artifact, so he plays nicely with Etherium Sculptor and friends from Esper. Speaking of Esper, try this guy out with Skill Borrower; as long as Gargoyle Sentinel is the top card of your library, you can send your Borrower to the skies. For a version of this combo that does not require you to have the Gargoyle on top of your library, combo with Experiment Kraj. Since we’re focusing on the activated ability here, I feel obliged to mention Training Grounds; this ability gets significantly better when it costs 1 (2 less).

Of course, sometimes even just being a defender has an upside. Check out Vent Sentinel (woo, Sentinels unite!) for some damage and Overgrown Battlement for mana production purposes. Don’t like getting beaten down by your opponents? Get out a Gargoyle Sentinel and wait for your opponent to go to his combat step (preferably with little or no mana open) and cast Mirrorweave or Cytoshape.

That’s about all I can say about Gargoyle Sentinel, a deceptively simple-looking card. Just remember when you’re at the Magic 2011 prerelease or release events, that’s probably not a bird, plane, or Superman up there. Just because it doesn’t look like it can move… doesn’t mean it won’t eat you.

Category:Previews -- posted at: 11:36pm EST

Mana Leak by Mike


You’re going to read and hear comments running the entire length of the spectrum from “best idea ever” to “kill me now” when it comes to this card. I’ll go ahead and let you know now that I’m one of the ones happy to see it.

I like counter-magic, but not in the usual “to crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women” kind of way. I like it because it’s a very versatile class of removal, balanced by the need to apply careful thought in order to use it properly. When a spell worth countering comes around, first of all you have to be ready for it. You have to have the mana up. That means you need to carefully consider how you spend the turn before it, thinking about what benefit any threats you could play would add to your position and how safe you already are against the opponent’s threats currently on the table. Then you have to decide how dangerous the spell is for you. Will it only be a temporary inconvenience or will it set up a long-term problem? What could be following it based on the mana the opponent still has open? I have more fun during a game when I have more interesting choices to make that will really test my skills as a player.

Anyway: about the card. Lots of decks tap out nowadays. In my personal opinion, a play environment is at its worst when there are too many decks that just go on autopilot. Having Mana Leak around forces players to stop and think when there’s 1U up on the other side of the table. Is it there? Is it a bluff? Is it a coincidence? How sad would I be in the long run if this play or series of plays got nullified? Can I trick the opponent into using it now so I can do what I really want later?

Besides the interesting strategic choices it brings to the metagame, Mana Leak is also just a good card. 3 is a lot to leave open at any given time in the early and mid game, so most of the time it’s just a classic Counterspell. Even if the opponent has 3 or more extra mana open, you can use the leverage to screw up a multi-spell play that the current spell is trying to open. But, of course, one of the best and most powerful features of Mana Leak is the minimal colored mana requirement. You can get the ease of play of something like a Negate or Essence Scatter without the targeting restriction that might randomly leave a dead card in your hand. With that versatility, you can also just staple it into an existing deck that wouldn’t mind having it around (I’m envisioning a situation where a removal attempt on your Kiln Fiend turns into something hilarious).

There’s tons more that can be said, but I’ll let you all have a go at it. Please do comment, because we really appreciate all the feedback we get from our audience.

Category:Previews -- posted at: 8:02pm EST