Twenty for 2010

Posted in Serious Fun on July 14, 2009

By Kelly Digges

As you might be aware if you've been to the site in the last several weeks, Magic 2010 hit the Prerelease circuit this past weekend. I myself wasn't able to make it out this time due to mismanaged temporal concordance (otherwise known as a scheduling conflict), but I hope those of you who did had a blast.

In all of Magic's history, M10 is a unique beast, a strange mix of old favorites and new hotness that feels, in balance, both exciting and familiar. Although I didn't make it to the Prerelease, I have gotten to play with the set some, and of course I've been poring over the Visual Spoiler for the cards that catch my eye.

And catch they have! In honor of 2010, let's take a look at twenty cards that have tickled my fancy—ten old and ten new.

    Happy Returns

Despite the new cards, Magic 2010 is a core set, and nearly half the set is old favorites from the past. Here are the ten old-timers that brought a smile to my face for one reason or another.

1. Lightning Bolt

Yeah, that feels good. Some of you have no doubt been using old cards all along, but I generally stick to Standard and Extended. I don't remember the last time I cast a Lightning Bolt, but it may not have been in this decade. One untapped Mountain hasn't looked this menacing in a long time.

And while I have some RevisedLightning Bolts dripping with street cred, I think I'd rather sling a four-pack of the new one. The flavor text is the perfect nostalgic touch, and the foil treatment is absolutely gorgeous.

2. Fog

Speaking of single untapped lands being menacing, in this day and age, a Forest up generally threatened Giant Growth, maybe Might of Alara. But in the old days, an untapped Forest, like an untapped Plains for Holy Day, could be the undoing of a whole attack. Use this one wisely.

3. Darksteel Colossus

Hoo boy! One of the iconic multiplayer creatures makes its triumphant, twenty-ton return to Standard. It's nice to have another chance to open the Colossus in packs, and even nicer to know that even if I stick with Extended, I'll be attacking for 11 and shrugging of most removal for many years to come.

4. Whispersilk Cloak

Yes, really! I know it was just in Tenth Edition and isn't quite on a level with some of the other things on this list. But the Cloak turns absolutely any creature into a potential nightmare for your opponents—one they can't block or even target. This one's less about nostalgia value and more about appreciating an overlooked gem.

5. White Knight amp; Black Knight

Whoa! There are two guys I did not expect to see facing each other again. They are just really solid creatures, nothing too fancy. They are, however, Knight creatures, and that makes them subject to a small but relatively powerful set of Knight tribal effects. In white, the big one is Kinsbaile Cavalier; in black, it's Haakon, Stromgald Scourge. I could even try to support both in the same deck, but more likely there would be a white Knight deck and a black Knight deck. And Stillmoon Cavalier would be in both of them.

6. Bogardan Hellkite

Out in Extended, there could still be Dragonstorm decks for this monster to play with. In Standard, I'll be interested to see what sort of impact it has. There are still plenty of ways to cheat it into play, and while eight is a lot, it's certainly not insurmountable. And it's tough to beat a Hellkite flashing in and single-wingedly turning a normal attacking into a route.

7. Fireball

This is another one that hasn't been out too long, but somehow it feels incredible to have it back. It's the classic win condition for infinite (or merely big) mana decks, and the fact that you can split its damage makes it even more interesting in multiplayer. Welcome back, Fireball.

8. Siege-Gang Commander

Yes, Siege-Gang Commander was in Tenth Edition. No, I don't have any special love for it, although historically it has been very, very good. I just want to stress that with the rules changes meaning that you can no longer sacrifice your Goblins with damage on the stack and have them still deal combat damage, this card is ... still very, very good. And now there's Goblin Chieftain, a Goblin lord that gets along with Siege-Gang Commander and its tokens better than Goblin King ever did. Twelve hasty power of Goblins for , and explosive potential besides? Sounds good to me.

9. Time Warp

Taking extra turns is boring if you do it too much, but every once in a while, even just one extra turn can do some amazing things. Since Time Walk does not appear on most people's list of options, this is pretty much the next best thing. And the new art is awesome, too.

10. Stone Giant

I probably won't put Stone Giant in deck (although I might). I love it anyway, and I'm glad to see it back; it's one of those cards that made early Magic so flavorful and enticing. That weird "toughness less than Stone Giant's power" rule is junky-looking, but it's also what sells the flavor—this Giant is throwing your poor hapless creature at the opponent. Before Brion Stoutarm, before Lowland Oaf, before Fling ... there was Stone Giant.

And now that I'm reading it again, since it's based on toughness, you can fling about Ball Lightning (or Thunderblust) with no problem. Bam!

    New Friends

For the first time since the first time, a Magic core set has new cards. Well, since the second time, technically, since Magic's very first set inadvertently omitted Volcanic Island and Circle of Protection: Black, but that's neither here nor there. The point is, this is the biggest influx of new cards we've gotten in a long time that wasn't informed by the mechanics of a set or the flavor of a specific setting. It's ... just ... Magic.

1. Rise from the Grave

Let's start simple. Rise from the Grave can pluck the best dead creature from any graveyard, not just your own, and that's a lot more exciting when there are five or six graveyards than it is where there are only two. But what really makes this shine in my eyes over something like Beacon of Unrest (besides the slightly friendlier mana cost) is that wacky, flav-o-riffic clause that turns the creature you bring back into a black Zombie in addition to whatever else it was.

The color element might be relevant, especially in a mono-black deck, thanks to cards like Ascendant Evincar. But it's this Zombie thing that really intrigues me. In a dedicated Zombie deck, I would aim to never use this on my own creatures—I want your creature to stir in its grave and rise to fight for me as an unholy Zombie Dragon (or Zombie Giant or whatever), with all the tribal benefits I can pile on it. It's fighting for our side now.

2. Great Sable Stag

Maybe blue and black aren't a problem in your neck of the woods. Maybe you don't remember the last time one of your spells was countered, and have never seen a Bitterblossom in person. Good for you! You must have very pleasant friends.

Meanwhile, the rest of us will probably want some Great Sable Stags for our green decks. It's not quite the game-winner in multiplayer that it is in duels, but it will certainly make your local practitioner of the darker arts do a little bit of sweating.

3. The Duals (Glacial Fortress, Drowned Catacomb, Dragonskull Summit, Rootbound Crag, and Sunpetal Grove)

You've probably heard the spiel about how dual lands are good and you should get them, so I'll spare you. What I like about these duals is that they fit best in two-color decks with lots of basic lands, rather than five-color tossed-salad mana bases—in other words, they work well in the kinds of decks I tend to make. The fact that they don't cause life loss certainly helps in multiplayer, where a low life total is blood in the water. They also play very friendly with the Ravnica "shocklands" if you're playing with older cards.

4. Vampire Nocturnus

Although I've opened up very little M10, through some luck and some savvy, I now have access to three Vampire Nocturnuses (Vampires Nocturnus?). Most Vampires are five-cost or more, but M10's Child of Night and Vampire Aristocrat are cheap Vampires that both love the bonus. The Lorwyn changelings can fill in the gaps, and Mephidross Vampire can turn your whole team into blood-sucking fiends. Keep the deck mono-black and toss in some ways to fiddle with the top of your library, and I think you've got yourself a deck.

5. Gargoyle Castle

In the early game in a deck that's not too color-intensive, this is obviously just a land. But later on, if your deck is the sort that likes to sit back and wait, you can do a lot worse than Gargoyle Castle as a back-up plan for something to do with your mana. You can also sometimes surprise people who attack you, forgetting that you can suddenly make a 3/4 flyer. Gargoyles make excellent guards. And if it turns out you need your mana for something else, there's always next turn.

6. Acidic Slime

True, this Ooze isn't as flashy as some things, but Creeping Mold never looked so good. Acidic Slime will almost always bonk something on the way in, and after that it's this obnoxious deathtouchy blocker that hangs about and gets in the way. There's nothing I don't like about this.

7. Indestructibility

I have to give huge props to Indestructibility, Lifelink, and Regenerate for boldly joining the list of cards that just "do what it says on the tin." In particular, this one caught my eye because of my Uril, the MiststalkerElder Dragon Highlander deck, which can't have too many ways to help Uril live through Planar Cleansing as far as I'm concerned. A huge creature that your opponents can't target or destroy is my kind of general.

8. The Soldiers (Veteran Armorsmith, Veteran Swordsmith, Rhox Pikemaster, Captain of the Watch)

Magic 2010 contains a small Soldier subtheme that can combine well with Soldier helpers from the past—or Soldier generators, for that matter. I especially like the way Catapult Squad and Catapult Master go with vigilance. As for Soldier generators ... Captain of the Watch would be a pretty crazy play the turn after Martial Coup for 5 or greater, wouldn't it? Rise of the Hobgoblins is another fine source of Soldiers ... even if they are Goblins.

9. Master of the Wild Hunt

Wow, I love the flavor here. This guy brings a pack of wolves to the table, and then sends the pack to take down opposing creatures. Sure, the target gets to fight back, but even if the pack loses a few members, they'll take down their quarry.

The thing is, the Master's Wolves are a little slow to arrive, so there's something to be said for having a pack pre-planted when he joins the battle. Wolf-Skull Shaman and Wren's Run Packmaster cement the alliance of creature types that end in "lves" when pluralized, and Howl of the Night Pack or Fable of Wolf and Owl are higher-end options for making many Wolves. Tolsimir Wolfblood makes one Wolf many times, giving you a 4/4 to throw at things as often as you need to. Wren's Run Packmaster has a steep price in its champion requirement, but giving all Wolves deathtouch is just totally crazy, letting even a lone Wolf take out nearly anything.

But the biggest Wolf of them all is Chameleon Colossus, which is happy enough to grow to enormous size, step on some opposing creature, and even shrug off the damage if the creature is black. Note that it doesn't matter if your Wolf just came into play that turn; the Master is using a ability, but the Wolves are just getting tapped. Also note that you can do this whenever—even when, say, the Wolves are blocking.

10. Open the Vaults

I can't figure out what to do with this card, but whatever it is, it's going to be crazy. Once upon a time, Replenish was a much-feared card, and I have it in my Uril deck; Open the Vaults is more expensive but also more extensive. The fact that it gets back both artifacts and enchantments could earn this a place in both my Uril deck and my Sharuum deck. The fact that it gets back everybody's artifacts and enchantments, not just mine, should make things interesting. Although now I'm having a vision of March of the Machines, Opalescence, and some way of casting Gather Specimens in the same turn ....

    A Good Year

Oh, was that twenty already? I didn't even get to Protean Hydra, or Elvish Archdruid, or Djinn of Wishes, and of course I already said more than a little about Lurking Predators and Xathrid Demon in my preview articles. As you may have detected, I'm pumped about Magic 2010.

That's not even my top twenty—it's just twenty cards off the top of my head that get me excited. What new cards are you looking forward to trying? What old cards are you happy to see return? And if you went to the Prerelease, do you have any good stories about those cards in action? Let me know!

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