Marvelous Freaking Drake-o-dactyls

Posted in Serious Fun on June 12, 2012

"Fishes live in the sea, as men do a-land; the great ones eat up the little ones."

I'm not the biggest fan of William Shakespeare, but the man could write—so I've always been told. What I do know is that quote from his work Pericles is exactly the type of power trope today's previews calls for. Let's start with an easy gimme.

Talrand's Invocation | Art by Svetlin Velinov

"What's this?" It's, obviously, a view of hyper-intelligent sea creatures being uplifted into aerial acrobats.


You don't believe me? Did you read the flavor text? It's exactly what it says: smart critters being forced into the sky by this Talrand guy or whatever. Talrand is also some sort of conqueror from under the oceans. So who is he?


While he's not among the Planeswalker elite—as far as I know in any case—he is among some stellar company. This week's previews, including these today and everyone else's this week, are featured as cards available in both Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 and Magic 2013. That's right, it's a double preview day with double the normal preview cards.

This means we've quadrupled the usual amount of awesome. This is only a slice.

    Paddington Bare

I want to get the immediately fun stuff out of the way: June 20, a little over a week from when this gets published, is when Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 releases. While I've enjoyed playing with some friends in the PlayStation Network with Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012, and picked up a copy from Steam for more mobile Magic puzzling, there's a new way to play the Duels line that I'm overly excited about.

Duels 2013 will be available on the Apple iPad as well.

Look, let me be clear: I'm notan Apple aficionado like Mark Rosewater. I rely heavily on my iPhone and enjoy many features of my iPad, but I also find a lot of fault with things Apple does. So take my excitement for what it is: satisfaction with engaging Magic in a digital way that's much closer to how I love it in paper.

What I mean is that the iPad has a unique interface over the other digital mediums for Magic: touch. I will be flicking cards with fingers, just like with paper. I'll be using my hands to draw a card, declare attackers, and cast spells. Clicking a mouse, while efficient, just never felt as awesome as the weight of a deck in my hand. The iPad is a step much closer to that kinesthetic experience than any other computer I've used.

Feast your eyes on Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 for iPad

The benefits I'm excited about aren't just heuristics about hands. One of the things that's been challenging for me is showing the game to others. Between coworkers who aren't familiar, family members who are curious about this game I love so much, and acquaintances who cross my path from time to time, I'd love to have a handy way to show them Magic. Carrying around extra decks at all times just isn't convenient or possible.

My iPad, however, is an easy traveler. From coast to coast, it's roamed with me, whether I'm onto something Magical or not. I've been to the deep woods of my home state, Pennsylvania, and the sunny beaches my wife loves. I've been on road trips and traffic jams. Everywhere I've gone is pretty convenient for an iPad to journey along as well.

I already game quite of bit on the iPad, and Duels 2013 is just going to push that over the top. Like I said, I'm overly excited. Deal with it.

    Under and Over the Sea

With my tangent about the fruity tablet out of the way, I can apologize to those still here with the other preview card for today.

Obviously you forgot about it already.

To recap: He's a watery lord looking to expand his horizons, and he's bringing more than a few friends along for the ride to both Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 and Magic 2013. I'd like you to meet Talrand, Sky Summoner:

The screeching warble of Drakes is a sound I enjoy. Building out wacky decks to make the most of Mr. Sky-Fish Maker was my instant reaction.

Instant. Get it?

Save your groans for the decks.

Talrand's Troubles

Download Arena Decklist

What does Talrand do? Make Drakes. That's clear. To make Drakes we need to cast instant and sorcery spells. This is a deck that will definitely be casting both.

Talrand, Sky Summoner | Art by Svetlin Velinov

In this case I took a two-fold approach:

  1. Defensive and digging spells to...
  2. Find Talrand, then make the most of some spell recursion.

Cards like Silent Departure and Preordain help us stay alive or get down to Talrand. Dragon Fodder and Talrand's Invocation are just chump blockers, and Rite of Replication will probably serve the same.

But once Talrand is around, things get a lot spicier. Think Twice, Desperate Ravings, and Archaeomancer (another new Magic 2013 card) all make those previously cast spells work harder and make Drakes. Runic Repetition resets anything with flashback for a second go around. Compulsion sifts away extra lands, and Izzet Signet helps pull our mana along faster.

It's wacky, weird, and a little out there. So what? While there's definitely room to "improve" things to make the deck hum along as an ultra-efficient Drake-making machine, it's the charm of randomly getting to cast Dragon Fodder and get a blue 2/2 flying Drake along for the ride that makes me happy.

And that blue-red deck is the least of your worries in terms of wildly weird decks. This is going to make some of you downright mad:

Drakes and Turns at Talrand

Download Arena Decklist

Don't look away. You know you can't stop watching the train wreck in motion. I have no doubt that Talrand makes for a fascinating commander, but here it's wackiness that jumped off the deep end. What am I trying to do?

  • Recycle the graveyard. Casting lots of "cantrips" like Brainstorm, Preordain, and Ponder will quickly fill our graveyard with spells we want to cast again. Feldon's Cane, Thran Foundry, and a few other recycling effects will let us dig through our cards again.
  • Cycle the lands. With cards like Attunement, Oona's Grace, and Mental Discipline, we have ways to get lands out of hand for, hopefully, more useful cards. Since we want to power our mana up as much as possible we'll have plenty of juice to do just that.
  • Take extra turns. I normally despise players taking extra turns in Commander. The game already feels slow with all the awesome things everyone wants to do that slowing it down further to selfishly take more turns feels dirty. That's my opinion, anyway. But here, making multiple Drakes through a weird, iterative loop, then taking extra turns to keep looping and start attacking doesn't seem so bad. In fact, as a one-time "Okay, so, here's what I'm doing..." I'm sure it will be hilarious. As an everyday deck option among the same group of friends, I'd pass on playing.
  • Filter cards.Merfolk Looter and its entire family of descendants are easy ways to keep going for what we want without imposing anything threatening. Will they save us from overpowering attacks? No. Will they make our opponents scratch their heads, and likely poke us just for making that happen? Yes. Are we still just going to dig into our library according to plan? Talrand commands it.

Is that all a bit too much? I don't know. What I do know is that the odds are very good when I start to make some Drakes that the game is at a point where it's all but over. Buckets of mana, with oodles of Drakes and a few extra turns, seems like a somewhat novel way to kill opponents.

If, you know, they don't just roll over you first. I'll leave that solution to you to find should you want it.

    Droning Data

Speaking of things that are highly suspect to not always work as desired, last week's poll didn't quite take as intended. So let's rephrase it slightly and run that out again:

Did you hear about Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 before this week?YesNo

This week I'd like to ask something I asked myself:

Will you be building a deck around Talrand, Sky Summoner?YesNo

Join us next week when everything comes up zero and one. See you then!

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