Tag Archives: collectible cards

New M:TG Abilities, part 2: Gatecrash

gatecrash The very latest Magic set (as of February 1st), Gatecrash features five more new keyword abilities, one for each of its featured dual-color guilds. As we examine these, you might just find another one you want to fit into your deck–there are some REALLY interesting ones here!

Ability Keyword

Associated Guild

Rules Text

More Info

Battalion boroslegion
Boros Legion
This mechanic means slightly different things on every card, but it always activates when the battalion-bearing creature and at least two others are attacking at the same time. Battalion @ MTGSalvation Wiki
Cipher housedimir
House Dimir
702.97a Cipher appears on some instants and sorceries. It represents two static abilities, one that functions while the spell is on the stack and one that functions while the card with cipher is in the exile zone. “Cipher” means “If this spell is represented by a card, you may exile this card encoded on a creature you control” and “As long as this card is encoded on that creature, that creature has ‘Whenever this creature deals combat damage to a player, you may copy this card and you may cast the copy without paying its mana cost.'”

702.97b The term “encoded” describes the relationship between the card with cipher while in the exile zone and the creature chosen when the spell represented by that card resolves.

702.97c The card with cipher remains encoded on the chosen creature as long as the card with cipher remains exiled and the creature remains on the battlefield. The card remains encoded on that object even if it changes controller or stops being a creature, as long as it remains on the battlefield.

Cipher @ MTGSalvation Wiki
Bloodrush gruulclans
Gruul Clans
Allows players to discard creature cards in order to give an attacking creature a temporary power/toughness boost equal to the power and toughness of the discarded creature card. Bloodrush @ MTGSalvation Wiki
Extort orzhovsyndicate
Orzhov Syndicate
702.99a Extort is a triggered ability. “Extort” means “Whenever you cast a spell, you may pay 1 black or white mana. If you do, each opponent loses 1 life and you gain life equal to the total life lost this way.”

702.99b If a permanent has multiple instances of extort, each triggers separately.

Extort @ MTGSalvation Wiki
Evolve simic_combine
Simic Combine
702.98a Evolve is a triggered ability. “Evolve” means “Whenever a creature enters the battlefield under your control, if that creature’s power is greater than this creature’s power and/or that creature’s toughness is greater than this creature’s toughness, put a +1/+1 counter on this creature.”

702.99b If a creature has multiple instances of evolve, each triggers separately.

Evolve @ MTGSalvation Wiki

Which Ability is Right for You?

  • If you love playing creature-heavy decks (especially with lots of weenie creatures) and attacking all out every turn, Battalion is your new favorite ability.
  • If you like to put extra abilities on creatures, but hate how easily Enchant Creature cards are destroyed in-game, you will DEFINITELY want to try Cipher.
  • If you always end up with one creature out on the field and three or four in your hand unable to be played (due to mana problems, etc.), Bloodrush will work wonders for you.
  • If you already have a Black/White deck, or if you’ve always been intrigued by the color combo, you’ll want to start gathering Extort cards–it’s pretty much exactly how Black/White has always worked, with a little more punch. (And it’s HILARIOUS in group games!)
  • If you don’t like ending up late-game with a bunch of 1/1s sitting helplessly alongside your beefy attacker, having a few creatures with the Evolve ability will help your deck ramp up in strength as turns go by.

Return to Ravnica: New Awesomeness in a Familiar Setting

Ravnica’s back with a new attitude in Magic: the Gathering’s newest block; this first set, called Return to Ravnica, features new mechanics (such as Overload), awesome creatures (like a one-drop Lifelink Cat and a creature-bouncing Bird), and plenty of spells to breathe new life into old decks.

This is only a small cross-section of what RtR has to offer, and all of these are cards I’d actually play–my personal focus is primarily on life-gain, creatures, and the colors of White and Green in general. But as with our first trip to Ravnica back in 2005, there’s something for everyone in this grand cityscape, and definitely something to please all MTG players!

Mono-Color Goodies


A one-drop Lifelink creature? AND it’s a Cat? AWESOME!

Two-drop double-striker…in white?! Can I have, like, 16 of these?

OK, now THIS is going in my White Enchantments deck.

Where have you been all my (gaming) life?!


The effect for 1 blue early-game is great–and the Overload cost gives you a late-game option, too!

This would be a hilarious card to Overload on late-game against a bunch of pumped-up tokens… xD


For 4 mana, a great little creature that keeps you from decking out as well as keeping your life points safe while it’s on the field.

A cute little rat that can make a player ditch if you so choose–great for a Rat deck, or any Black deck that needs a little hand control.


Imagine paying two mana to get rid of an army of 1/1 tokens…mwahaha.

Pay 1 mana to Oxidize, or pay 5 to get rid of my boyfriend’s entire Jinxed Choker deck. Sure, why not? (And the flavor text is LOL, too.)


Fog the attack, AND have something to block with next turn, all for 2 mana. OKAY!

Good to play even for 2 mana early-game, when you just NEED mana that bad. Mid- to late-game, however…shenanigans. 😀

Awww yeah. Great for any deck that needs mana sources on other people’s turns…or if you just want to be free to Fog an attack.

Multi-Colored Awesomeness

All three options on this card are great for 2 mana. It’s like a Swiss Army knife for your deck.

Definitely getting this for my Green/White deck.

There’s a subtle option here–either place one counter each on two different creatures, or load one creature up with both counters. Nice!

While this is a little expensive, you do get a huge bonus for it–+3/+3 instead of the +1/+1 that Glorious Anthem and other such enchantments give.

So I get to bounce a creature back to my hand, saving it from lethal damage, AND I gain 2 life, all for 2 mana? WOOT!

7 life for 1 green and 1 white mana. I’ll take it. 😀

I like the first option best for 2 mana–a great way to pump up a little creature so it can punch through some defenses.

Creature control in the form of a 3/3 Bird, all for 4 mana. Not bad! Might need to add this to my Bird Soldier deck!

For 4 mana, a life-gain source AND a token source. AND it’s a Dryad. WANT. Want want want for my Green/White. 😀

This is absolutely hilarious. Just 3 mana gets you this stompy thing, and the populate ability is just thrown in there? AWESOME.

Great for building up token-heavy decks, or even just for generating creatures to block with if you have a token to start it off.

Combine Naturalize/Disenchant and a little populate action for the same cost, and it’s playable for White AND Green. A win-win!

Favorite New Basic-Land Art

Love the sunset-lit cityscape.

I like the hints of a misty rainbow on this Island.

Dank and dark, but with a few slivers and points of light scattered about.

Lots of emphasis on the skylines and steep mountainside cityscape.

Like a well-maintained tree garden, and yet…just a little wilder than that.

To view all the cards in this set, visit the Wizards.com RtR visual spoiler, where all these card images originally came from. Happy playing! 😀

Life Gain…It’s Not Just a Stall Tactic Anymore!

In my other posts on Magic the Gathering and casual gaming versus competitive gaming, I’ve often touched on the fact that there are many ways to play a game like Magic. Many competitive strategies involve lots of aggression or opponent control, and certainly these are faster ways to win than the style I’m about to describe. But just because a strategy doesn’t win quickly doesn’t mean it’s not worth looking at.

Life-gain in M:TG has often been characterized as nothing but a stall tactic, a way to keep yourself in the game while you build up slowly over turns. But choosing to keep your life total high can be much more important. The following are 3 ways you can use life-gain in your own decks: as a stabilizer, as opponent deterrent, and even–GASP!–a win condition!

Dipping Your Toe Into Life-Gain: Life-Gain as Stabilizer

Most times, life-gain is the net that opens below you as you fall from the tightrope. Many of the instant life-gain spells (see a fairly complete list here) give you the ability to partially or fully recover from a hit on your opponent’s turn, leaving you open to gain more life on your turn. (Remember, you have to live through the damage your opponent has dealt to you before you can gain the life off the instant spell.)

This kind of life-gain can be fitted into your existing strategy without making your deck too life-gain-based–it adds just a touch of resiliency. If you find that your super-aggressive deck isn’t staying around long enough when games go beyond 5 or 6 turns, you can put in a bit of life-gain (often combined with other control-based game effects like removing a creature or land, countering a spell, etc). Also, if your control or combo deck is having trouble staying stable in the first few turns before it can really build up, life-gain can give you a little cushion against high-damage decks while you’re searching up your combo pieces.

Partial Devotion to Life-Gain: Life-Gain as Opponent Deterrent

Sometimes, though, life-gain can be a way to discourage your opponent from attacking, especially in a group game. If all you’re doing is gaining life, and no damage your opponent deals really sticks, then they are likely to go for an easier target, or instead just build up their own strategy and leave you alone. Even in a one-on-one game, a good bit of life-gain can work as a mind game on your opponent, making them despair of ever taking your life total down permanently.

You don’t have to have tons of life-gain cards to make this work–just a playset each of Life Burst and Rest for the Weary can be enough for some decks, as well as some good lifelink creatures to block with. With a partial devotion to life-gain, there will be enough life-gain to shield you AND to keep your opponent guessing about how hard they’ll have to hit you for any damage to stick!

Total Devotion to Life-Gain: Life-Gain as Win Condition

Now, when I think of the concept of life-gain as a win condition, two cards come to mind: Test of Endurance and Felidar Sovereign. Both of these cards have a “You win if your life total is at or above this level at the beginning of your upkeep;” one is an enchantment, one is a creature. It is an unusual way to win, but it is actually quite effective; I have a deck based around Test of Endurance, visible here, which incorporates both damage prevention and steady life-gain off of everything one can possibly gain life off.

Building a deck like this means that you’re largely hunkering down and waiting to win–you’re not going to be doing a whole lot to the other player, unless you choose to use Lifelink creatures to do combat damage, or unless you build in a bit of opponent control into your own deck. Since I’m a more reactive, defensive player, I like this hunkered-down style of playing–the other person gets to play what they want, and they can TRY to attack me, but it’s not going to do much good, since I can bounce back pretty easily from any hit.


If you’ve never tried life-gain before, remember that you don’t have to devote 40 out of 60 cards to gaining life–you can add as few as 8 to give your deck a little more rebound from the depths of single-digit life totals. And it’s definitely not a weak strategy; indeed, if used correctly, it can blindside your opponent and bring you an unexpected win!