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Vintage 101: It's Devastation Time!

Bring on the Devistation!

The spoilers for Hour of Devastation, the much-anticipated sequel to Amonkhet, have started to trickle in. So far we've seen some a few interesting cards, and some pretty amazing invocations as well. Let's take a look at a few! 

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Magus of the Crucible

Sometimes the high-quality of newly-printed Magic cards makes me feel like a grumpy old man! Back in my day we had spells OR creatures, they weren't always both! The spells were awesome and broken back then. We had Lightning Bolt and Ancestral Recall as opposed to the Shocks and Divinations that contemporary Magic players are forced to play with.

Our creatures weren't nearly as good on average as they are now though. Shivan Dragon was amazing to us back then, as was Juzamn Djinn and Lord of the Pit, Also, throughout the early days of Magic we didn't have creatures with "spell abilities" stapled to them, If we flash forward into the Modern era of card design then we start to see creatures that are basically spells with a body attached. Our first Hour of Devastation card we're going to look at continues on with this theme of "spell creatures". 

Technically Ramunap Excavator is a creature with the static ability of an artifact attached to it, but you get the point. This creature could have been part of the "Magus" cycle if it had been released along side the original cycle. The ability that the Excavator is borrowing comes from a highly-playable artifact, Crucible of Worlds

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There are many examples of powerful abilities from non-creature cards being added to creatures to create format-defining staples. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is a Thorn of Amethyst with legs, Phyrexian Revoker is (basically) a Pithing Needle with a body. The inverse is also true though. Magus of the Wheel and Magus of the Will are both modeled after cards that are restricted in Vintage and banned in Legacy, yet they see no play in either format. Which category will Ramunap Excavator fall into? Only time will tell, but let's break the card down and try to evaluate it anyway. 

  • Converted Mana Cost

Ramunap Excavator and Crucible of Worlds both have the same converted mana cost, so that is a positive sign. The one green mana in the Excavators casting cost isn't very prohibitive, but it's important to remember that the decks currently running Crucible of Worlds aren't playing any green sources at all. 

The three mana that Crucible costs is trivial for the deck that plays the card the most, Mishra's Workshop prison. Workshop mana can't pay for a Ramunap Excavator and that is a significant strike against it. The other deck that typically runs Crucible is Landstill. The mana base of a Landstill deck is sturdy, but they don't typically run green, 

  • Fragility

As a creature Ramunap Excavator is easier to destroy than Crucible of Worlds. Now that creatures are at the forefront of the Vintage format people are generally using a fair amount of creature removal in their main deck. Even though Workshop Prison is a tier one strategy in Vintage most artifact removal is found in people's sideboards. If the deck you're building is hinging upon the recursion of Wasteland then Crucible of Worlds is a safer bet. 

  • Utility

This is the category where Ramunap Excavator really shines. Crucible of Worlds has one thing it can do and that's it. Excavator can attack and block and drawing more than one copy still provides some benefit. If you're "flooding out" by drawing multiple copies you can at least add another creature to your side of the battlefield. 

Crucible of Worlds is useless without a land in your graveyard. Ramunap Excavator provides at least some value regardless of what is in your graveyard. If this card does end up being Vintage-playable, then this will be the reason why. 

What Kind of Deck Wants Ramunap Excavator?

Sultai-colored Landstill might want Ramunap Excavator because it can meet the color requirements and the deck was playing Crucible of Worlds already. Landstill decks are light on creatures (except for creaturelands) so trading in some number of Crucibles for Excavators might be beneficial. 

I could also see Ramunap Excavator being playable in a Hatebears shell. These creature-based aggro-prison strategies could benefit greatly from the Crucible effect, and the decks can't afford to play many non-creature cards. Playing Excavator lets the Hatebears deck stay aggressive and keep up the pressure while adding an important control strategy. 

I found a Junk Hatebears list played by Stephen Meade and I slotted in two Excavators. Meade's deck had been running two copies of Renegade Rallier and that was a perfect spot to try swapping in Ramunap Excavator. Both cards are used to recur Wastelands, but the Excavator can do so repeatedly and lock someone out. 


Yet Another Synonym for Damage

Abrade -  a*brade;  (1) To scrape or wear away through friction. (2) A new red Instant from Hour of Devastation

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Abrade is the latest in a long line of red spells. Direct damage and artifact destruction are two of the trademarks of the crimson mage, and this card offers the versatility to do both! Both of the modes of this spell are reasonably priced, although they're not the absolute cheapest at what they do. Still, being able to kill creatures or artifacts with the same two-mana spell is pretty amazing. 

Any time that Wizards of the Coast prints main-deck quality artifact removal people should take notice. I think that this is one of those cases. This spell has utility against Mentor decks, Workshops, White Eldrazi, Hatebears, Merfolk, and even some combo decks (taking out a Time Vault might save your life!). If you're someone who collects all Vintage-playable cards then you'll definitely want to get four of these. 

Just to be clear I am not saying that Abrade will definitely see a ton of play or replace any existing cards, but it does have that potential. There are many cards that do part of what Abrade does in a more efficient fashion, but few cards have as much versatility as Abrade does. 


Weatherlight, Visions, and Mirage Mirror

I've seen a fair amount of discussion about the latest take on the "clone" card archetype. Mirage Mirror is a very interesting approach to this type of card, and as an artifact it jumps out to me as "potentially interesting". 

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Mirage Mirror is neat because it combos with at least a few Vintage cards. Most notably Time Vault and Mirage Mirror will give you infinite turns. I don't think that paying five mana for this effect is viable in a format with Voltaic Key, but it's really cool card nonetheless. 

 Mirage Mirror also has the same interaction with Dark Depths that Thespian's Stage does. Again, paying five mana for this ability seems silly when we've been able to perform the combo more cheaply for a long time. 

Will Mirage Mirror See Play?

I'm going to go out on a limb here and declare that this card just won't be good enough to see any Vintage play, but I'd love to be proven wrong. I think that it's a really novel take on an old idea, so perhaps there's still some amazing combo waiting to be discovered. 


The Last Reckoning of Bontu

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Bontu's Last Reckoning is the latest "Wrath" effect to be printed (or "Verdict" effect for the newer players out there). A three-mana board sweeper has the potential to be Vintage playable, so there could be room for this card in the format. 

Right now people tend to play Toxic Deluge if they want a three mana Wrath of God. Deluge is great because it can kill just about anything, including cards that are indestructible. The downside of course is that Toxic Deluge can do a number on your life total. If you've ever had to fire off a Toxic Deluge against an opponent's army of Eldrazi creatures you know what I'm talking about. 

Wrath of Bontu won't cost you a bunch of life, but it will "exert" all of your lands for a turn. Spending your next turn with all of your lands tapped is a significant drawback, but it might be worth it in the right situations. 

Will Bontu's Last Reckoning See Play?

I could see Bontu's Last Reckoning replacing Toxic Deluge in a combo deck sideboard, but that's about it. Most control decks in need of a Wrath could afford to play Toxic Deluge or another spell entirely.


Bad Boy Bolas!

Nicol Bolas has been one of my favorite characters and cards ever since I started playing Magic. The original Elder Dragon Legends were bad by today's standard, but they were amazing and iconic back in their heyday. Eventually Bolas became a planeswalker, and now he's getting a new planeswalker card in Hour of Devastation


The abilities on the new Bolas are amazing. Unfortunately the casting cost is equally stupefying. For seven mana you get the ultimate control deck planeswalker, starting with seven loyalty.


  • [+2]: Target opponent exiles cards from the top of his or her library until he or she exiles a nonland card. Until end of turn, you may cast that card without paying its mana cost.


  • [+1]: Each opponent exiles two cards from his or her hand.


  • [-4]: Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh deals 7 damage to target opponent or creature an opponent controls.                                                                                                                                           
  • [-12]: Exile each nonland permanent your opponents control.

The first ability ramps up Bolas' loyalty in a hurry. Against the right deck this ability could net you a very powerful card, so this ability can be card advantage in some situations.

The second ability is a mini-Mind Twist, and it builds loyalty as well. In a control mirror very few opponents will be able to handle exiling two cards from their hand each turn. 

The third ability can kill creatures, or hit your opponent for a third of their starting life total, or it can be used to kill a planeswalker via damage redirection. This is a versatile and powerful ability. It takes four loyalty counters to do this, but by using the +2 ability a few times you can do this repeatedly. I imagine there could be games where you simply win by hitting someone for the final points of damage using this ability. 

Nicol Bolas's ultimate is devastating (as in Hour of Devastation devastating).You're probably not going to activate this ability very often, but it's nearly impossible for an opponent to come back from this when you do manage to ultimate Bolas. 

Will Nicol Bolas See Play in Vintage? 

I'm afraid that the chances of this card seeing play in Vintage are very low. I wish that it would see play because it is the coolest planeswalker I've seen since Jace, the Mind Sculptor, but wishes and reality are often incongruent. 

If the new Bolas does manage to see some Vintage play, it will probably be in a deck with full moxen, Tolarian Academy, and Mana Drain. A deck with these traits has a decent chance of putting together seven mana in a reasonable timeframe. There is at least one deck that meets that criteria, Grixis Thieves. Let's take a look at a magical Christmas land deck list! 

I'm not confident that Bolas will break into Vintage with an appearance in a Grixis Thieves shell. However, if someone does manage to cash an event with such a deck I promise that I will include that deck in a future article. I really want to see someone Mana Drain a Force of Will and end up casting Nicol Bolas, God Pharaoh on their next turn! 


That's all the time I have for this week, I'll see you in seven days! You can find me on Twitter, TMD, or Magic Online @Islandswamp 

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