Five Point Fonts

Posted in Limited Information on April 16, 2014

By Marshall Sutcliffe

Marshall came back to Magic after discovering Limited and never looked back. He hosts the Limited Resources podcast and does Grand Prix and Pro Tour video commentary.

Ever since the first preview cards from Theros, we have known that enchantments matter in this world. This has expressed itself in different ways, but as we have continued down the hero's path, we have seen it more and more often. Enchantments are traditionally the most difficult type of permanent to deal with in Limited. In this block, we have been given many enchantment-destruction tools.

But lately, we have seen a new mechanic—constellation—that rewards us for playing enchantments in a new way. When an enchantment enters the battlefield on our side of the table, we get a bonus of some sort. While there are plenty of good cards with "enchantment" in the type line, there's always room for more.

Generally speaking, enchantments are permanents that stick around and affect the board. But sometimes they act more like spells, and this is the case with the cycle of preview cards I have for you this week. The casting cost implications of these cards gets interesting as well, but we'll discuss that after you get a look at the cards themselves.

Font of Fertility

Many readers will be familiar with this card:

Font of Fertility is a lot like Rampant Growth. It has the same effect, for a similar cost.

First, let's talk about that effect. Font of Fertility offers two benefits. It ramps your mana, increasing your land count ahead of the normal one per turn. This has obvious implications to the game, as you can cast your four-mana spells a turn ahead of your opponent, and so on. The second effect is that it fixes the colors of mana you have available. This is great if you are splashing a color, or if your color requirements are otherwise demanding.

This effect is powerful. The downside, of course, lies in the loss of tempo you have to sustain to cast a card like this.

Losing tempo in this case means that you use up some of your mana in the early game to cast it. This mana could be spent on a creature or removal spell, or basically anything that affects the board. Is it worth it? In the right deck, an effect like this can be great, and well worth it.

But this card is more than just a Rampant Growth–style effect. It's also an enchantment. While the picture isn't fully formed yet as to exactly how much this will matter, we have seen enough constellation cards to know that it's something to consider as we look forward.

One other nice thing about this font is that you can play it on turn one—when you will often have nothing better to do anyway—and then activate it on turn two. This essentially turns it into Rampant Growth, a fine card for Limited. Failing that, you can simply cast it for 1 ManaGreen ManaGreen Mana.

Font of Vigor

Ah yes, lifegain, we meet again. I have often been on my soapbox about pure lifegain spells in Limited. To put it concisely: I don't like them.

It's a common mistake among beginner players to overvalue their life total. In reality, your life total is just another resource you use to help get you to the result you want. While gaining life in a game of Magic can be a powerful effect, it's rarely good enough to warrant an entire card that does nothing else.

When I wrote about the value of a card in Magic, I tried to hammer home the principle of opportunity cost. In the case of Font of Vigor, we have a solid example of this principle. Don't focus on the effect the card gives you; focus on the fact that it takes an entire card to give it to you. What is the Font replacing that could be better?

For most games, a simple creature will outperform a card like Font of Vigor. That said, 7 life is a lot. What kind of deck wants a Font of Vigor? I'm not sure, but if you could find a way to recur the Font a few times, it may creep slightly higher up the list.

Overall, I don't expect this Font to see much play, but I hope to be proven wrong here.

Font of Ire

Here we get to revisit a different card, printed recently in Magic 2014:

Font of Ire is interesting in that it's a Lava Axe–type effect, but not quite the same thing, as you either have to pay six mana for your Axe or let it be an onboard spell that your opponent gets to consider with every play he or she makes. If the worst-case scenario is that you pay 4 ManaRed ManaRed Mana for your 5 damage, that's not too bad. If you find a convenient place to cast Font of Ire for its relatively cheap casting cost of just 1 ManaRed Mana, you can enter the installment plan mentioned below and be on your way to using most of your mana every turn.

The big question: Is this card good? It will be playable in some decks, but it won't be a high pick. This type of effect can be a great way to give your aggressive red-based deck the reach it needs to finish off the opponent after a quick start. (Reach, in this case, refers to the ability to finish off an opponent's life total with burn spells, and doesn't have anything to do with blocking fliers.)

The key thing to look out for with Font of Ire (and all of the fonts, really) is the ability to get value from the fact that it's an enchantment.

Font of Fortunes

What is your favorite thing to do in a game of Magic? Mine is returning my opponent's permanents to his or her hand. But many of you will have answered an activity that scores very highly on my personal list as well: drawing cards!

Font of Fortunes is a reasonable card-draw outlet for Theros Block Limited, but isn't an exciting one unless you can get some extra value from the fact that it's an enchantment. We already have Divination in this block, and it costs a full blue mana less for the exact same effect.

The installment plan helps this card out a lot, as you can cast it on turn two and then keep developing your board until you find the two free mana to crack it and draw your cards. This gets particularly nice if you have a way to recur it from the graveyard.

Font of Return

Speaking of drawing cards, Font of Return can get you three creatures in one fell swoop. Not bad at all. Of course, the setup cost on this card is higher than that of Font of Fortunes. Not only does this font not affect the board the turn you cast it, it may never affect the game in a meaningful way once you do.

That's a tough pill to swallow, as it's unacceptable to have cards in your deck that often do just nothing at all. This card just needs a little nudge to get it from nothing status up to three-for-one status. If you can run some self-mill cards in your deck to help Font of Return along, I can see it being the lynchpin for a nice attrition-based deck in this format.

To really go off in the mid- to late-game portion of the match, try targeting one of these with your Font of Return:

Yikes! If you wanted cards, now you got 'em. The main idea being that you play and activate the Font, get back one of the above-named cards (as well as two friends), and then use its enters-the-battlefield effect to grab your Font back from the 'yard. It's hard to imagine a scenario where you make this play happen in the mid- to late game and don't win from there.

If that's the upside for this card, what is the downside? Mainly just that it doesn't affect the board. You use up a card, and you don't really do much for a while until there is at least one creature in your graveyard. Even when you do get your 'yard properly stocked with targets, it's a big four-mana commitment to get them back. This will often preclude casting one of them in the same turn—a notable downside.

Font of Return is slow and conditional, but ultimately, the ability to effectively draw three cards earns some attention. In controlling decks that look to trade creatures early, this may be a reasonable inclusion.

Font of Return | Art by Daarken

Down Payment

Each Font has its own strengths and weaknesses. We will have to play with them and see how they interact with the rest of Journey into Nyx, but they all share one thing in common: the installment plan.

The installment plan is nice. It's one of many things that makes bestow a great Limited mechanic. What is it, exactly? It's basically the ability to pay for a spell in installments, meaning you pay some of the mana for it on one turn, and the rest on another. This has interesting implications on the game.

First and foremost, it's a big advantage to be able to do this. It lets you curve out more effectively and gives you more options once your Font is on the board. It also messes with the opponent, since he or she knows the effect could be coming at any moment.

Since most of these Fonts are analogs for other cards we have seen in the past, the really interesting part will be how different they are in a format where enchantments matter.

Until next week!


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