t's the early days of the new base set, and players are changing gears from the balancing act of Ravnica mana bases to a Limited environment that emphasizes the game's fundamentals. Here are a few cards that have more influence on the game than might be apparent at first glance.
For Magic 2014, white traded out its Doom Blade for a new twist on Diabolic Edict. But where the original always caught your opponent's worst creature, this one is a lot sneakier. Does your opponent only has one creature that can block fliers? How sad for them. Are a pair of 3/3s attacking into your Angelic Wall while Steelform Sliver keeps his 2/2 home? Not a problem at all. You can even play it in the phase after combat damage but before the end of combat, turning a sole survivor into just one more casualty. It completely rewrites the script for combat.
The big leg up it has on Divine Verdict is the mana cost. Holding up four mana to meddle with your opponent's attack means doing very little on your own turn. Celestial Flare's discounted cost lets you build your board while keeping it at the ready. It also means your opponent will have to take it into consideration more often. Even the threat of it may wind up saving you some damage. Just be careful with your mana. Double-white is a heavy commitment, so draft with that in mind.
Good ol' creepy stitch-mouth. Back in Innistrad draft this little gem gave your blue-based graveyard deck ample time to set up for a devastating endgame. Here in M14 you're more likely to see flier-based decks use it as a big tempo play. And you just can't beat the price. Following up a Warden of Evos Isle with this and a Charging Griffin will probably put you on the fast track to Victory Town (of which you will soon be made honorary Mayor).
It also plays nicely into the set's enchantment sub-theme. If you're playing white, Auramancer will punish an opponent trying to save some damage by chump blocking with their useless creature. If you're playing black, then Blightcaster is your best friend. Just try not to do a little dance when you two-for-one your opponent. Judges frown on that sort of thing.
The thing you have to understand about this guy is, his chair is very comfortable, and he's not about to get up if it's not worth his while.
Two important things here. The first is that four power worth of first strike is what scientists call "a lot," so that the Warlord fights very well against this set's creatures. Even all-star uncommons like Serra Angel and Sengir Vampire have to give him respect. And often, the threat is just as effective as the ability itself. Nobody's going to trade off their best creatures for whatever you have lying around to sacrifice. Remember that if your opponent is attacking into him, it's more likely that they have something than that they've just forgotten.
Secondly, the sacrifice deck is very real. The Warlord is happy to join up with Blood Bairn to ensure that your Acts of Treason are always removal with big upside. They also play very well with Dark Prophesy and Xathrid Necromancer.
Now, everyone knows that you can't attack through an enemy creature, but what this little 2/1 presupposes is... maybe you can? Once again we're talking tempo, and Shorty here lets you push through damage while growing your forces. A 2/1 might not be the most exciting body, but even if he's outclassed he's happy to join an attack as a sacrifice, being eaten so that other creatures can go unblocked. You've got to admire his team spirit. All this goes well with a game plan that ends on Lava Axe. In a race situation he can be even better, stunning the one blocker that your opponent needs to keep your horde at bay.
It's hard to resist living the dream. Anyone who drafted a stack of Timberpack Wolves back in Magic 2013 will be happy to tell you just how sweet it can be. It might seem that a great Sliver deck is easier to accomplish, but don't fool yourself. Your deck lives and dies by its commons, and all the first strike or vigilance in the world will not an army make. You're going to need these guys, and you're going to have to take them highly because other green decks will be happy to take one late just as a 2/2.
The other thing to watch out for is the potential for cascading blowouts. You know the sort of thing. You're making what looks like a deadly attack, but then one of your Predatory Slivers gets hit with a Doom Blade and your opponent can block profitably. You lose another Predatory Sliver. Without that backbone of boost your plays are weaker from that point on, and your opponent's naturally bigger creatures walk all over you. Don't be that guy. Treat your hive with care.