Seriously though, the core set is Magic's time to shine at its most flavorful and fun, with straightforward concepts representing what magical fantasy is all about. Just check out Mark Rosewater's preview card from Monday. A giant, feisty, and blue-defying Elemental of massive force! Or how about Hoarding Dragon, from the quickly expanding Visual Spoiler? This dragon hoards its treasures and defends them to the death. I can't be the only one who caught a whiff of Smaug there.
Perhaps the flagship cycle of the set, the five Titans are unique monsters who trigger whenever they enter the battlefield or attack. They're all in the Visual Spoiler, and I can't wait to get my words on them after the set is released. In fact, I'm thinking the same thing about a bunch of Johnnytastic cards from Magic 2011.
For now, though, we'll segue into my preview card. My card for today is interesting in that it comes off as fresh and exciting (which it very much is), but it also harkens back to some cards of old. I know your mouse pointer is trembling with anticipation, even before the column started. What do I mean?
If you're like me, your brain just experienced slight spasms of nostalgia and excitement. Leyline of Anticipation is a card I've wanted to see in modern Magic for a while now: an updated Vedalken Orrery.
Of course, one of the most immediate details of Leyline of Anticipation should be its name and corresponding ability. Unbeknownst to some (I'm sure) there were a quintet of Leylines printed in early 2006, in a set called Guildpact. These cards were an interesting cycle of enchantments that, if you had a stroke of luck, could be on the battlefield before the game even began! Leyline of Anticipation continues this trend, and it isn't merely a strain of nostalgia. I can infer that we might have another cycle of rares in Magic 2011!
The card I mentioned earlier, Vedalken Orrery, is easily another ancestor to Leyline of Anticipation. The Orrery (which was, eerily, previewed back in 2004 by then House of Cards maniac Mark Gottlieb) has always been a card I can count on. As an artifact, providing flash to all my nonland cards could now go in any of my decks! Well, with Leyline of Anticipation, you might be restricted to blue, but you never had the Orrery on the battlefield by turn one, did you?
Let's quickly go over some of the benefits of flash, if they're not inherently obvious. Casting a creature spell at the end of your opponent's turn eliminates an entire turn window for your opponent to destroy it. And, doing so will allow you to attack with it immediately on your next turn (like any other creature) without waiting through your opponent's turn (unlike any other creature without flash).
Sorceries are always bound to your turn for a reason, as they might prove too ridiculous as instants. Leyline of Anticipation can let things get just that ridiculous. Thoughtseize, Duress, Inquisition of Kozilek, or any other discard spell is crazy with flash. Land destruction is as well (though it'll draw some stares). Even land search (a la Rampant Growth and friends) can provide utility.
Another key aspect of flashing spells is the ability to dodge countermagic, if any. Normally, your opponent will just counter your spell on your turn. But, when you wait until the end of your opponent's turn, you cause a blue player to think, "Counter? Or play the rest of my deck?" More often than not, giving all your spells flash will provide a huge advantage.
Here's some simple decks with Leyline of Anticipation. First, a Standard legal beatdown deck. This follows what I mentioned about flashy creatures being able to dodge removal and countermagic. A flashed turn one Noble Hierarch into a turn two flashing Leatherback Baloth is far scarier than their non-flashing counterparts. Renegade Doppelganger loves playing alongside flashy creatures. If you attack with it as a 0/1, you could dupe your opponent into blocking it, and then flash in Leatherback Baloth to crush the blocker. The Doppelganger also has great synergy with the M11 Titans, with or without flash. Cast a Frost Titan, and you'll super-tap something. Attack with your Doppelganger'd Frost Titan, and you'll super-tap something again! Now substitute in Primeval Titan to gain lots of land.
A flashed Crystallization in response to an opponent's pump spell will exile the creature instead of Giant Growthing it. Lorescale Coatl, meanwhile, is one of those "kill it now" cards that gets tricky to defend if it has flash.
Now, you could really build any deck with Leyline of Anticipation and have fun flashing things in and out. But I'd like to take things one step wackier, and throw conventional plans upside-down. Topsy Turvy, as the expression goes.
"Because Topsy Turvy doesn't reverse the order of steps within phases, a three-card combo of it, Opalescence, and Mistmeadow Witch should be able to create a single endless turn, going forward and backward forever." This got me very excited, and I instantly started building a deck around the combo. Right in the middle of my brainstorming, I learned that I was to be previewing Leyline of Anticipation. Ding ding ding! Not only will the Leyline itself become a 4/4 guy, but it also has direct synergy with Topsy Turvy. Watch this.
With the Leyline out (through the opening hand or not), cast Topsy Turvy during your end step. Since the ending phase is now the first phase of a turn, after your cleanup step (when damage is removed from creatures, you discard down to your maximum hand size, and "until end of turn" effects end), you'll have a "postcombat" main phase. During your draw step (which is now the last step of your turn, coming as it does at the end of the beginning phase) return the Unhinged enchantment to your hand with Vedalken Mastermind. You'll get another main phase, another combat phase (more on this later), yet another main phase, and then you're back in your end step and you can flash out Topsy Turvy Again. You basically have infinite turns!
So now we have two three-card combos: The first one (from the Card of the Day blurb) and Leyline of Anticipation + Topsy Turvy + Vedalken Mastermind. The last piece of the puzzle is a win condition, which is in this case is any unblockable creature. Think about it. Since in both combos you'll get infinite combat phases, you should be able to swing for the victory. This is similar to the Hellkite Charger + Bear Umbra combo from a couple weeks ago, except this one involves upside-down Beebles. Win.
Flickerwisp offers redundancy with Mistmeadow Witch and is amazing with flash and the Mastermind pulling strings. Sleeping Potion is underused, cheap, and great with flash, so I gave it a slot. Hada Spy Patrol is a neat, underused leveler that works fine as a finisher, and Jodah's Avengerdoes great work as well.
Tune in next week, and I hope you're all still trembling in anticipation for the whole set! I know I am. Make sure to get to a Prerelease Event on July 10-11!