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Dig Through Time — Alara Reborn
This week in Dig Through Time: Alara Reborn! This set ties up the preceding Shards of Alara and Conflux sets in the Alara block. In order to represent the reunification of the five shards of the shattered plane, Alara Reborn is comprised entirely of multicolor cards. This is the first and only set to do this ever.
The set brings back cycling, devour, exalted, and unearth, all of which were present earlier in the block, while introducing us to Yidris, Maelstrom Wielder’s favorite mechanic: cascade.
Now, most of the playable cards that use these mechanics are already used in lots of decks. The thing is, with all that dazzle and shine, it’s easy to overlook cards that don’t have any fancy cast-your-other-cards-for-free text on them. Today, I want to reacquaint you with the little guys you may have missed. Let’s dig in.
You may have heard of the ever-popular Arachnogenesis? Well, clocking in at 165 decks, Flurry of Wings is not that card, but it is half of that card. Similar to Keep Watch, this card gets you a benefit for creatures attacking, whether they’re your own, or someone else’s. This card is great to flash in some surprise blockers, sure, but can also be a great way to go from an empty board, to a full board of flying attackers. Did Rhys the Redeemed just alpha strike at the whole table with an overwhelming number of nontrampling tiny dudes? Well, it looks like he just gave you the win, because now you can block, and take him out on the crack back. If you run Parallel Lives and/or Anointed Procession in conjunction with this card, things can get really disgusting.
Derevi, Empyrial Tactician plays this card the most at 99 decks (maybe taking a cue from Nate Burgess’s Thanksgiving special bird tribal deck?). Apart from that, this card is great in any deck that wants to make tokens. Treva, the Renewer can get lots of extra life out of your white bird soldier tokens. And Tana, the Bloodsower+Ishai, Ojutai Dragonspeaker get to double up on all of their attackers.
Seeing play in 249 decks, Defiler of Souls is a great build-around card that can seriously punish your opponents. Running only multicolor creatures, colorless creatures, or lots of tokens helps you get around the sacrifice trigger, while your opponents are left to sacrifice whatever mono-color creatures they have. The last two options are more practical, but the former is way spicier. Going all in on red/black with cards like Anathemancer, Underworld Cerberus, Lightning Reaver, Fulminator Mage and Army Ants just sounds super fun. There are currently only 95 creatures that are red and black and no other colors, so realistically, you’ll probably end up with a mix of multicolor, token and artifact creatures. If you throw in a few one and done creatures like Liliana’s Specter, Merciless Executioner and Shriekmaw, and you might have a brew hot enough to make your opponents reach for a glass of milk.
Mogis, God of Slaughter plays this card the most at 29 decks, which is in keeping with the punishment theme usually present in a Mogis deck.. This would be great in a Tsabo Tavoc deck, letting you keep your opponents off an extra creature per wheel of the table. Vial Smasher the Fierce would be another awesome commander here, since she can weaponize Defiler of Souls’s high mana cost.
Soulquake, one of the strangest mass-bounce spells in existence, sees play in 75 decks. That’s probably due to its unfortunately high mana cost. Seven is a lot for a sorcery-speed boardwipe, but that’s why Richard Garfield invented green! This card is great in Sultai decks that revolve around creatures. Classics like Yavimaya Elder, Farhaven Elf, Wood Elves, Sakura-Tribe Elder, and Coiling Oracle help to ramp you out, and when it comes time to cast Soulquake, you get to use them all over again.
Vela the Night-Clad plays this card the most at 11 decks. If we add in green we can branch out to Thrasios, Triton Hero+Ikra Shidiqi, the Usurper, or Sidisi, Brood Tyrant. Sidisi, in particular, always has a huge stack of creatures in the graveyard that she wants to recur in some way. Why not bounce your opponents’ boards, and bring all that zombie goodness back to hand, so you can cast all of them for free with Rooftop Storm?
Sages of the Anima is absolutely bonkers, and I have no idea how it sees play in just 196 decks. A 3/4 body for five mana is fine, if a little below curve. But turning Mulldrifter into a card that says “reveal the top six cards of your library, keep all of the creatures you reveal” is fantastic. Since it only works with creatures, you’ll want creature-based sources of card draw like Heartwood Storyteller and Soul of the Harvest. If you’re in Temur colors, and feeling very bold, you can probably draw most of your deck out with Sages and Arjun, the Shifting Flame (can you imagine the value?!). Sages of the Anima also gives you the bonus of not having to worry about milling out, since its ability is a replacement effect that takes the place of card draw.
With an average creature density of almost 50%, Animar, Soul of Elements plays this card the most at 100 decks. Sages is great for a Riku of Two Reflections deck that skews heavily towards creatures. If you built a mostly mono-creature Damia, Sage of Stone deck, you could have a very fat hand each turn – and, hey, Sage tribal could be a thing. Thrasios, Triton Hero would be another excellent commander, given that he’s a draw engine on a stick, at four mana a draw. If you like running 45+ creatures in your Blue/Green decks, you might want to consider Sages of the Anima.
Identity Crisis is a sorcery with a big price tag and a big payoff that sees play in 277 decks. Stapling two very strong effects together can completely shut down a single player. Anyone who likes to draw lots of cards, and use their graveyard as a second hand, will not enjoy being on the receiving end of Identity Crisis, especially if it’s a follow-up to an end-of-turn Evacuation, or Cyclonic Rift. Yikes!
Obzedat, Ghost Council plays this card the most at 31 decks. I like the idea of playing this with a commander that gives us access to green for ramp and recursion, or blue for more control. I might be inclined to play this in Ishai, Ojutai Dragonspeaker+Tymna the Weaver or Ertai, the Corrupted in Esper. In Abzan, I might put this in Anafenza, the Foremost; just the idea of ramping into this on turn four or five and recurring it with Eternal Witness a couple of times sounds really nasty. If you wanted to go for the best of both worlds you could stick this in Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice, or Thrasios, Triton Hero+Tymna the Weaver.
Seeing play in 78 decks, Stun Sniper, is a versatile lockdown piece that plays double duty as a remover of tiny utility creatures. Gideon’s Lawkeeper is basically a strictly worse version of this card, yet sees play in 176 decks. Having a tapper is almost never not relevant. There’s always someone’s Blightsteel Colossus, Prossh, Skyraider of Kher, or Rafiq of the Many threatening to one-shot you. With Stun Sniper you can preemptively tap that big, bad threat down. Or maybe your opponents favor a more subtle playstyle and run creatures like Weathered Wayfarer, Aven Mindcensor, or Blood Artist. Once again, Stun Sniper takes them out, this time a bit more permanently.
Iroas, God of Victory plays this card the most at 10 decks. Since Iroas gives your creatures menace, Stun Sniper removing a blocker can absolutely ruin someone’s chances of surviving an alpha strike. Gisela, Blade of Goldnight would be a great commander for pinger tribal, doubling the damage production of Stun Sniper. The newly released Samut, Voice of Dissent has a thing for creatures that tap, so I could definitely see this card finding a home there.
Fog effects come in a variety of forms, and Intimidation Bolt is a pretty cool one that has a removal effect attached. This card is actually better than a fog, in that it prevents your opponent from attacking that turn, which can be relevant if you’re facing down a horde of Edlrazi led by Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre or a Gray Merchant of Asphodel equipped with Blade of Selves. This is also a great choice if you want to make an Aikido-style (damage and spell redirection) deck, along with the likes of Comeuppance, Boros Fury-Shield, and Wild Ricochet. Also, if you’re running a Sunforger package, Intimidation Bolt does double duty, potentially freeing up another slot in the deck.
Gisela, Blade of Goldnight plays this card the most at 16 decks. Since she gives you twofold the damage output, you have a much higher threshold for the removal portion of this spell. She does halve the damage that you take in general, but again, if you’re facing something with a nasty attack trigger, you want to avoid the combat step altogether. Some other good options for this card would be Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis, Queen Marchesa, or Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest.
Part board wipe, part combat trick, Fight to the Death sees play in 209 decks. This card is great value. You can trade off your worthless chump and token blockers, or, if you get lucky—or have effects like Master Warcraft to help you control combat—this can turn into a one-sided board wipe against your opponents. This is another card that can get mean in a Sunforger package. Though, looping this, and other instants, can draw a lot of hate from your opponents, so be careful.
Aurelia, the Warleader, the master of the extra combat phase, plays this card the most at 19 decks. Running an Avacyn, Angel of Hope in the 99 doesn’t hurt your chances of coming out on top with Fight to the Death. Tana, the Bloodsower+Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder could use their massive token army as an effective catalyst for Fight to the Death, as well. Even Marath, Will of the Wild could use this card really well. Worth considering for tokens, or a deck with unorthodox combat strategies, for sure.
For today’s action segment I want to highlight one of my personal favorite partner commanders, Tymna the Weaver. I know some people aren’t wild about her (I’m looking at you, Nate Burgess), but I, for one, enjoy having Phyrexian Arena as my commander. I’ve decided to pair her with Bruse Tarl, Boorish Herder to help out with our life total, give us some combat shenanigans, and give us access to red. The deck features a little more land than I’d usually run. That’s to sink mana into some of the aikido cards I mentioned when talking about Intimidation Bolt. We’ll be sending opposing damage right back in our opponents’ faces, while bashing them with beaters of our own. I’ll see you again in two weeks! Please be sure to let me know of any cool, underplayed cards that you’re already running your own Tymna and Bruse brew.