Pardon the sudden radio silence, the lab explosion from that latest Alchemy experiment was quite…something, wasn’t it? We come to you now with the results of our devilish experiment, condensed down to our most fascinating scientific discoveries! Not mere hypotheses, but practiced data on impactful cards!
Now before I go into this card, let me make one thing clear. This guy will never, “Eber” replace the adorable Adorned Pouncer. Fortunately, most decks that want to play my favorite Cat will be happy to slot in the Captain too. A 1/1 with double strike on its own isn’t exactly a great threat, but with even just a single point of extra power from something like Luminarch Aspirant your two drop can start bashing face . Still, we want some extra utility to go with that body (sorry Fencing Ace). Making your opponents’ cards cost more the turn they’re drawn will usually only be a minor inconvenience to them, but it does limit their options, making it always be at least a little relevant. Making your own cards cheaper, however, is excellent. Decks that want this already play a lot of two drops, and this card will open up your options and allow you to develop multiple threats in a turn or have spare mana to hold up things like Fight as One. This is good for White Aggro, and great for decks with Aura or Equipment synergies.
Running this in a deck with Storm’s Wrath is a great recipe for a sad Aggro player. That’s right, this can give any card lifelink. Faceless Haven? Slap some lifelink on that land. Lightning Bolt? Nice one mana Lightning Helix. Command the Dreadhorde? Choosing is hard, just grab everything. So which of these applications are actually good? The most reliable and straightforward are in Boros Midrange or Control decks. Giving burn spells or any of the various Chandras lifelink is great for stabilizing against aggressive decks, not to mention the actual 3/3 lifelink body. Potential combo applications are too convoluted right now, and unfortunately for Cow Tech fans this card has mana value three, but keep your eyes out in the future for cards that can abuse this effect.
That’s not a knife, this is a knife. And this is a knife, and that is a knife, and oh god stop it’s too many knives. If you’re not familiar, Utility Knife is a simple Equipment that grants +1/+1 and attaches to a creature on ETB (enter the battlefield). That means this card already comes in with 3/3 worth of stats on its own, which is an on-rate start. Then, if you have any more Humans, it can start handing out knives like an overeager door-to-door salesman. And I haven’t even mentioned how these knives can go on any of your creatures. Now that’s what I call utility! This card joins Thalia’s Lieutenant as one of the best Tribal payoffs for Humans, and even fits into other archetypes like Aggro or Equipment decks as long as they have a critical mass of Humans, which they often already do.
A four mana 3/3 vigilance isn’t much, but fortunately our dear Captain will also collect some company when she comes into play. Collected Company is incredibly powerful in many 60 card formats, but has never made much of a splash in Gladiator because in singleton it’s difficult to build a deck with the density of creatures needed to reliably get the value you want out of it, and it isn’t worth building around it when it’s only one of the hundred cards in your deck. Inquisitor Captain, on the other hand, is incredibly easy to make work in Gladiator. Every White Aggro or Midrange deck will have well upwards of 20 creatures with mana value three or less, so you don’t even need to change your deck for this card to get going. It also can’t whiff, well, unless you get incredibly unlucky and get Stonecoil Serpent and Mikaeus, the Lunarch. If this card gets just about any three drop or a good number of two drops it will be well worth the mana you spent on it. The cast from hand wording does prevent repeated value with blink or reanimation spells, which will be relevant in some decks. Despite this, this card sees play in almost every white creature deck.
Much like Wolves, everyone knows that proselytizers travel in packs. When you play this two mana 3/1 it will put another into your hand, so you can play it as many times in a turn as you can afford. It also taps a creature when it comes into play, so you can use it to remove multiple annoying blockers for a turn. And as for the copy you discard at the end of your turn? Well, let me introduce you to my good friend Lurrus of the Dream-Den. Not enough for you? How about if I tell you this is part of a straightforward infinite combo? With Paradox Engine and any combination of nonland permanents that tap for at least two mana you can cast this an infinite number of times for infinite creatures, and infinite mana if you gain at least three mana per cast. This is great in both Aggro and Paradox Combo decks.
Geistchanneler will be a powerful addition to Simic Extra Turns decks that are built around abusing Time Warp with Regrowth effects. The perpetual cost reduction remains after Time Warp goes into the graveyard and returns to your hand. Making Time Warp only 1UU is the closest we will ever get to having an actual Time Walk in Gladiator and I am excited to see it in action! Geistchanneler could also possibly see play in Storm decks where there are a lot of four mana draw twos like Unexpected Windfall. For these reasons, Geistchanneler has been popping up in various Combo decks in the format.
Important note: Predatory Sludge does not need to be on the battlefield when the chosen permanent is put into the graveyard to create another Sludge. This makes an already good card (a 3/3 with menace and a flexible casting cost) amazing. The fact that it can choose any permanent allows you to choose planeswalkers, enchantments, artifacts, or even lands. This provides a ton of opportunity, for example, cards like Ifnir Deadlands and Hashep Oasis are effectively shut off by the Sludge unless your opponent wants to give you a creature. The wording uses choose instead of target, meaning that the ability gets around hexproof, and provides your opponent no window to respond once the Sludge has entered the battlefield. And if the chosen card hits the graveyard, you get a new Sludge, providing more value and the opportunity for even more of the Oozes. The inevitability the card generates cannot be understated, and it is being played in Black-based Midrange and Aggro.
Come crawling faster (faster) // Obey your master (master) // Your life burns faster (faster) // Obey your // Master! Master! Okay, Metallica aside, Puppet Raiser is a card you’ll only play in slower creature-based strategies. The ability to trade in your graveyard for relevant threats with menace is potent, mitigated by the poor stats you get. If your opponent has no instant speed removal, it usually draws you another card, and over time builds an incredible amount of card advantage. Being a Zombie also means it’ll see play in Zombie Tribal, turning your early Zombies into progressively more dangerous creatures. Puppet Raiser sees play in decks like The Rock and more value-based Midrange lists.
How I wish I were a fly on the wall at the design meeting for this card, because I would love to find out what schmuck decided that giving a creature +3/+0 Perpetually was a reasonable thing to do. Sap Vitality is incredible removal, clearing troublesome creatures and planeswalkers, and would see play in our format just for that. However, the +3/+0 bonus dramatically increases this card’s power, ensuring that it will see play in almost every mono-black deck in the format. While some archetypes like Control will see less consistent benefit from the creature buff, others can make some backbreaking plays with it. A 6/3 Rankle, Master of Pranks is terrifying. Due to the nature of Perpetual, creatures that come back from the graveyard still keep the bonus to their power, making for terrifying recursive threats when applied to cards like Scrapheap Scrounger. As an instant, decks like Dimir Tempo can hold up their mana for either a flash threat or this card, and at four mana can clear a creature while playing a 5/1 Brineborn Cutthroat or the like. The restrictive cost can be troublesome for certain decks, but the power of this card is tempting for two color decks.
In case you missed it, the “when you cast your next instant or sorcery” clause does not say “this turn.” This means you can use Blast during your opponent’s turn, untap, cast a cheap spell, and have the most flexibility of which card you want to play from exile. The first effect of this card, Shock, is overcosted at two mana but the Anticipate-like second part makes it well worth it. I expect it to see play across the range of archetypes, yes, even Control. I know that the impulse nature of the card makes it less appealing to Control decks but Expressive Iteration got over that hurdle and I think Electrostatic Blast does the same.
Rahilda, Wanted Cutthroat
Breaking news! Last seen in my Boros Aggro list, Rahilda is wanted in multiple red aggressive decks across the format. Be advised, she is armed with first strike and two power, and will generate card advantage if given the chance. If you see her on your opponents’ battlefield it is strongly recommended that you cast spells on your turn, as she is known to transform into a double striking Wolf. If you have any information on Rahilda or her partner in crime, Robber of the Rich, please contact us so that these dangerous two-drops can be brought to justice.
Say, opponent, that’s a nice Faceless Haven you’ve got there. It’d be a shame if it was on fire…We’ve got a handful of red four mana 4/4 Dragons at this point, and Town-Razer Tyrant is likely the best of them. Even beyond the numerous creature lands that see play in all kinds of decks, there are plenty of other pesky utility lands that this shuts down, from Hashep Oasis to Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin. If you don’t have any juicy targets available, it’s still plenty irritating to make one of your opponent’s dual lands deal two to them every turn. The non-basic restriction does mean you could end up without a target, but even mono-color decks will often have at least one viable target. This is a great pick for red Midrange decks and Aggro lists in the market for a four drop.
Hopefully, you don’t become part of their collection! With an on-rate body, evasion, and two relevant creature types, this card is off to a great start. But the ETB is what really makes this card exciting. When it or another creature you control dies, they become part of its collection as a Clue token. The way this is worded means that while tokens gain the ability, they cannot produce a Clue since they cannot be shuffled into their owner’s library. Clues provide a great source of card advantage in the late game when you have extra mana and also help when flooding. This card is a staple for any green creature strategy, especially those that sacrifice their own creatures.
This Wolf is a harbinger of your opponent’s defeat! Whether this comes down on turn four or later in the game, it immediately has a huge impact thanks to trample, haste, and four (or more) power. Also of note is that this is not the only playable Foretell card in green, as we also have Battle Mammoth, so it won’t necessarily be obvious what card you have when you Foretell this spell. What really excites me about this card is that green got yet another creature with haste, making aggressive green decks faster and faster.
A literal “bite” spell, this rewards your creature for going on a diet. The smaller of a creature you kill, the larger of a buff you grant. Perpetually buffing any creature is great, although this works especially well with cards like Syr Faren, the Hengehammer and Resilient Khenra that want to have a higher power. The fact that this doesn’t require creatures to fight makes it more powerful, as after “biting” your creature can still attack safely. This is a staple green removal spell that sees the most play in Mono-Green and Gruul aggressive strategies.
What a cute puppy! It may not look like much, but when its friend comes to play you won’t be smiling anymore. This card effectively has two power for the cost of one mana, something that Aggro decks love. The lifegain is nice, but the three counters it provides your next creature are to die for. Trample is something many aggressive creatures can benefit from, and having vigilance and the extra counter allow it to become a serious obstacle to the opponent’s early aggression. This card slots into nearly every green creature deck, as it is a powerful one drop, something Gladiator as a format is lacking a critical density of in green.
Gitrog, Horror of Zhava
The Frog demands tribute! Gitrog is a call back to Desecration Demon, exchanging a worse keyword for a better sacrifice trigger. Seeking a land can hit nonbasics, meaning in lands matter decks you can get better fixing or utility lands at random. Giving every land you control the ability to be sacrificed for a card is enticing, however the color-intense cost makes this difficult to do. Last, the benefit given by this card’s large stats is greatly reduced by the fact that the opponent can sacrifice a creature to nullify it as an attacker and blocker. This card will not help stabilize against Aggro and will never be around for the important combats in other matchups. Still, this card is very good against decks that run fewer creatures and if tribute is not paid it deals a massive amount of damage.
Colorless and Lands
Key to the Archive
A four mana rock that taps for two in any combination of colors provides excellent ramp for a slower strategy. Key to the Archive packs a powerful 15 card spellbook too, all of which are castable with this mana rock. Notably, the spellbook contains seven removal spells, Counterspell, Day of Judgment, and Demonic Tutor, so although the Key is a slow play, you’re likely to be rewarded for it with a valuable card. If you draft an off-color card, there is a risk that if the Key is removed you won’t be able to cast it, but I don’t think that is a likely scenario. It’s more likely that an aggressive deck swarms over you if you’re taking a turn off to play this. However, this card is strictly better than Firemind’s Vessel, so it is a nice upgrade for Paradox Engine decks, or just added redundancy. Below are all the spells in Key to the Archive’s spellbook.
This two mana 1/1 may seem small, but it’s real potential comes as a combo piece. When combined with Paradox Engine and mana dorks and/or rocks that produce at least three mana, you’ll net one mana every time you cast Ominous Traveler, allowing you to build up a hand full of cards from its spellbook. So just what’s in this 15-card spellbook? Rather than boring you with all of them, I’ll mention the cards key to the combo which you will want to draft. First off, 13 of the 15 cards cost three or less mana, making it easy to cast them even though you’re only netting one mana at a time. The cards are split into four tribal packages: Vampires, Werewolves, Spirits, and Zombies. Dominating Vampire is the most important, since you can use it to give your own creatures haste and steal your opponent’s creatures. Vampire Socialite can be used to make your board of Vampires larger, and Falkenrath Pit Fighter can be used to draw your whole deck. If you wanted, you could use Shipwreck Sifters to put your deck in the graveyard, but that’s not the main line. So with infinite mana, a large board of infinitely large Vampires all with haste, you’ll easily dominate the game. Outside of this Combo deck, however, Ominous Traveler does not see play, since in a Tribal deck you might not be able to draft the right creature type and in Midrange decks there are better mana sinks.
This land is a cross between the Temple and Thriving land cycles (Temple of Malady and Thriving Isle for example.) It always taps for the mana color you choose, but the difference is that on the play it enters tapped and scrys one, and on the draw it either does that or enters untapped. The Temples are one of the worst dual land cycles in Gladiator, but I think this card is slightly better since it can be any of the colors you need and sometimes enters untapped. You should not play this outside of three color or more decks that already run Thriving lands, or possibly a Dimir Pact list that needs more unique lands.
I am an avid Gladiator player who wants to support the community! I’ve been playing Magic since 2007, and Gladiator since Season One of the AM League. My favorite Gladiator deck is Green Aggro.
A Magic: The Gathering player since Guilds of Ravnica. Plays primarily the fan format Gladiator at a competitive level. Writer for the Gladiator blog
Long before Elle tapped her first plains, a teacher made the mistake of telling her she could write. Now you must bear witness to the consequences.
I’m a passionate Magic player who plays a lot of Gladiator and Limited! I’ve been playing since Kamigawa block and have been a loyal blue mage for the majority of that time. My favorite decks are UW Control or UB Tempo!
Writer and Editor for the Gladiator Blog and perpetual Green-Black Aggro player. He has a tendency to get distracted by random digressions about food, especially pizza. Don’t get him started on why you should be playing Witherbloom Command.
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