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Magic: The Gathering – Cracking open a pack of War of the Spark

by Ron Duwell | May 5, 2019May 5, 2019 9:30 am EST

Normally, this is where I write about my Magic: The Gathering War of the Spark pre-release experience, but some memories are best left in the past. We’re going to skip that with this latest expansion. Let’s just say that War of the Spark was not kind to me, and I’m lucky to have escaped with a 1-2 record on the day.

Winning in such a bomb-heavy environment without opening a single bomb is tough work, especially when your opponent has two copies of Liliana, Dreadhorde General, God-Eternal Kefnet, and plays a Jace, Wielder of Memories after you’ve used your two copies of Ashiok, Dream Render to exile their entire library.

Yeah, I’m proud just to have made it to game 3 in that match.

So instead of reliving my nightmares, we’re going to run through a pack of War of the Spark. For what it’s worth, I think the set is a ton of fun, and I can only hope to improve for future Friday Night Magic drafts.

We’ll start the same way any good Magic player starts, which is by sniffing the cards. Nothing like the fresh scent of a pack of Magic.

And we have our commons!

Sky Theater Strix is the kind of card I would like back when prowess was an evergreen ability. Yes, a two-mana 1/2 flying, prowess creature would be quite busted, being able to attack big and survive combat easily against other flyers.

However, just +1/+0 is not quite enough to get it there, where as the +1/+1 prowess would be. I would not take this card highly unless I was already deep in the Blue/Red “spells matter” deck, at which point it could help close out a game.

On a side note, this card is a bit more attractive than it was a week ago since we now know the importance of evasion in this set. Blocking and forcing interaction is huge in War of the Spark, and any two-drop creature with flying should be highly valued.

This card also has one of my favorite flavor texts in the set as well.

This card is not going to get you there unless you are desperate for a spell in a spells heavy deck… like I was when I played it in my pre-release garbage deck.

One damage is not enough to justify three mana, and slipping through an attacker is not how this set was designed to be played. Aggressive decks are somewhat weak here, and if you are playing an aggressive deck, that spot in your deck is better used on a creature rather than this spell.

The only time that would help is if you were going to win the game on the spot, otherwise, it is a dreadful way to waste a turn.

Drawing a card effectively replaces itself, but there are at least four other solid Red direct damage spells I would prioritize over this.

Never play this. As a combat trick, it’s weak. As a defensive card, it doesn’t provide enough power to justify two mana. At best, this will keep your creature alive for an extra turn while blocking an aerial threat.

Not worth a spot in your deck, not worth two mana, not worth anything. These “give creature reach” tricks are generally pretty bad unless you’re paying a single mana for them.

For flavor, this card is awesome. Orzhov doesn’t care if you are fighting for your life or the lives of every person in the city, you still need to pay up!

As a card, it’s fine. No Red spells can kill it, and not many creatures can outright kill it either. Charity Extractor will gain you minimal life back as well, so if you combine this with an Ajani’s Pridemate, you could get some extra value out of the card.

Otherwise, it’s a fine defensive card if you need to drag the game out. Not much else.

The price is heavy on Heartfire, but the damage is real. Two mana for four damage anywhere is big. It can close a game when you’ve done 16 damage to an opponent already, and it can finish off a pesky Planeswalker earlier than you opponent was hoping for.

This is best used to kill a creature by sacrificing a Planeswalker that has used up all but one of its loyalty points. Put that freeloader to some good use and burn away the opposition!

Rock solid mana rock. Five-color nonsense is a possibility in this set, especially if you are Green-based, and a little extra fixing to ensure you can cast your spells is not a bad way to win. The additional scry on this card ensures you’ll get some kind of value out of it.

Pollenbright Druid isn’t only one of my favorite commons in the set but also one of my favorite all-around cards. This does everything you want for two mana in this set. It can be a 2/2 when it comes down on the board, giving you a nice, aggressive curve. A better use for it is to put that +1/+1 counter on an evasive creature or a genuine trample threat, making it be all the more threatening.

Of course, ideally, you’ll want to already have a host of +1/+1 counters on the board, as well as a Planeswalker or two. At that point, you’ll simply shift the entire battlefield in your favor with your Planeswalkers recharged and your army that much more powerful.

At its base, it’s a solid Magic card. At full potential, it’s game- breaking. There aren’t many commons I would build an entire Standard deck around, but this is one of them.

Meh.. no. Not worth it, although I will say I sideboarded this card in when I found out that my opponent was playing Jace and my Ashioks were totally useless. I got him to discard Kefnet at that point, so this otherwise useless card opened up my path to victory.

But that’s not going to happen often. Don’t play this card.

However, Thunder Drake is a card I whole-heartedly recommend! I only won my last game at pre-release because I managed to get this guy up to a 6/7, no lie! My opponent couldn’t even beat it with a Band Together at that point.

Normally, this is an ability we see attached to noncreature spells, but nope. ANYTHING can trigger that +1/+1 counter, even creatures, making it all the more impressive of a common.

That art is rockin’ also.

Essentially a reprint of Lava Axe, I normally would not consider this card. Two anecdotes though: one… it kills Planeswalkers very effectively. Sideboard this in if your opponent has a Planeswalker you need to kill on the spot.

Two, it works very well alongside Heartfire. I had an opponent on the ropes and was ready to end the game the next turn, but Heartfire + Sarkhan’s Catharsis combined for the nine damage that opponent needed to win. Yeah, I wasn’t happy about losing that way… not at all.

Our first uncommon is a sweet one. It’s not overly flashy, but a two-mana 2/3 with vigilance is an exceptionally strong play to make. Takes me back to the days of one of my all-time favorite Green value creatures, Sylvan Advocate.

If played later in the game, it does the same thing Pollenbright Druid does, which is tip the scales in your favor. It powers up your creatures who are already powered up, and it gives your Planeswalkers a much-needed recharge.

I would prioritize Pollenbright Druid over this card in a Draft, but still, the two of them in a single pack would be an instant signal that proliferate is a direction any Sealed deck should be taking.

This is a very cool card. A 2/2 haste for two mana is often guaranteed damage if played on turn-2. However, like we said, aggressive decks are not what this set is about, and building around this card is a taxing challenge that will spread your resources thin. Red and White’s combat tricks simply aren’t strong enough to make this a high priority card.

If played alongside the Boros Mentor cards from Guilds of Ravnica, this is an all-star! In this set… not so much.

Dovin is our Planeswalker of the pack, and yup, he’s excellent. He’s playable against aggressive decks, since he can hold back your opponent’s deadliest creature for five turns. He’s playable against control decks since their spells will be all the more expensive, throwing their curve into disarray.

And yeah, with a casting cost like that, it’s easy to see this in both a White and a Blue deck. So many options, so many ways to play, do many decks to include this in, Dovin is a versatile Planeswalker that can be easily utilized no matter where you end up.

Sorry Pollenrbight Druid! First pick this card if you’re in a draft because our rare in the pack is…

Now, this is an exceptionally powerful card. I mean, you just can’t beat it if you don’t find an answer. It’s impossible!

It’s also fragile, dying to artifact removal. It costs a lot to play, and when your untap the next turn, you need to have four power on the board, which is a lot to ask for. Now, the following turn it will be easy to pilot since your angels can do this job, but by that point, you’re at turn-10, and you might be already dead after sinking so many resources into this card.

If it works… great. But I wouldn’t expect it to work consistently enough to be the bomb you’re looking for.

If this was my first pack of six in my Sealed pool, I already know where I want to be. Pollenbright Druid and Huatli’s Raptor have the powerful proliferate ability attached to them, and Thunder Drake is a creature that easily has +1/+1 counters stacked upon it, ensuring that your proliferate has something to target. Dovin, Hand of Control also fits nicely with it’s Blue/White hybrid mana casting cost, and that Mana Geode easily opens us up for a three-color deck.

A Blue/Green/White deck is clearly our best option at this point. From there, the only other card I would consider is Sky Theater Strix. As an early creature, it’s not bad, especially if we need an evasive body to drop Pollenbright Duid’s counter on. The cheap casting cost also keeps our curve low for when we start piling counters onto our Thunder Drake.

And that’s it, nothing in the pack strikes me as playable. Sorry, Tenth District Legionnaire. Not this time.


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