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Twelve Best Cards of 2013


Adam Koska
Adam Koska

About Adam Koska

Adam is an experienced player from the Czech Republic who has a number of high-profile finishes under his belt:

  • 9th at Worlds 2009
  • 9th at Pro Tour Kyoto 2009
  • 45 Lifetime Pro Points
  • Top 32 GP Vienna 2008
  • Top 64 GP Krakow 2007
  • Three times Czech Nationals Top 8

Twelve Best Cards of 2013

Hey everyone and welcome to a new installment of Level up! Christmas holidays are traditionally a relatively calm period in terms of tournament Magic – a time of peace and tranquility, a pause in the Pro season when players can take a break before the pro-circuit resumes again at the beginning of the next year. I’d like to use this opportunity to look back at 2013 and see what were the most memorable cards of this year – cards that had the most profound impact on the tournament scene or the ones that caused the most interesting changes and debates. I’ll divide the article into twelve sections – one for each month – and I’ll try to talk about what was important in each of these months.

January – Deathrite Shaman

Deathrite Shaman was present in the top8s of four out of five GPs that took place in January, which is very impressive, even more so considering that two of the five were limited and the three constructed ones were each in a different format. Deathrite Shaman was in 4 Legacy decks in the top8 of GP Denver, in 3 Modern decks in Bilbao, in Adam Witton’s top8 draft deck and in Brad Nelson’s Standard Pedal to the Metal deck. January was before Gatecrash got released, so the powerful two-colored cards from Return to Ravnica still defined Standard and their presence was felt in other formats as well, which is especially true for Deathrite Shaman.

February – Boros Reckoner

The event of the month in February was definitely Pro Tour Gatecrash and the card that made the biggest waves there was likely Boros Reckoner – half of the decks in the top8 played the angry minotaur and they used the card to fill very different roles. In Eric Froehlich’s deck, Reckoner was simply a good old-fashioned beater which would sometimes take down two creatures in a fight when Domri Rade would tell him to. In Gerry Thompson’s UWR tempo, he would attack, block and sometimes Fireball the opponent when targeted with Harvest Pyre. In the winning Aristocrats deck, piloted by Tom Martell, Boros Reckoner was also mostly attacking for three and blocking, but sometimes, it could also deliver a massive blow when a Blasphemous Act would come around. And finally, Joel Larsson could assemble the killing combo of Reckoner + Azorius Charm, Boros Charm and Izzet Charm to deal infinite damage. It’s rare that a single creature would find so many different purposes and I really liked how it opened so many possibilities in deckbuilding. Also, because of the splash caused by Boros Reckoner, we saw an unusually high number of Pacifisms in some of the top-finishing decks' sideboards.

March – Second Sunrise

Second Sunrise
Mirrodin (Foil)

Standa Cifka won Pro Tour Return to Ravnica with the Second Sunrise deck in October 2012, but not sooner did the namesake card of the deck get banned than after when Nathan Holiday resurrected the archetype and won GP San Diego with it in March 2013. I wanted to highlight the card for a single reason – as far as I can remember, it was the first time that a card was banned not because of how overpowered or oppressive it was, but because of the logistic problems it caused at tournaments where a greater-than-negligible number of players decided to run it. When the Eggs deck goes into extra turns, it can easily spend upwards of ten or fifteen minutes there (even when it’s being played at a very reasonable pace), which then slows down the whole tournament. This is not an issue on Magic Online where there’s no such thing as additional turns, but in real life – especially at GPs and PTQs where there are many players and thus high chances of somebody going to time with Eggs, this can happen and frequently does. A ban of a not overpowered deck in a healthy environment was the solution here, which I think is quite unusual and therefore worth noting.

April – Voice of Resurgence

Dragon’s Maze was released at the end of April and ever since, Voice of Resurgence has been by far the most valuable card of the whole set, also because it’s a third set mythic that many decks want to run in a playset. Voice didn’t turn the Standard format on its ear, but it certainly caused some wrinkles on many control players' foreheads (including my own) and changed the way in which control decks had to approach the format. Not long after its release, Voice managed to win a block constructed Pro Tour (with the help of a few Owls, Wurms and Elephants).

May – Aetherling

Dragon's Maze (Foil)

Although the block constructed Pro Tour Dragon’s Maze in San Diego was not won by a deck featuring Aetherling, the new Morphling on steroids was certainly the biggest, baddest, scariest finisher in the room and basically defined what the control matchups were about. A resolved Aetherling with enough mana to save him from any incoming removal was pretty much always game and this sole fact basically defined how to play with and against control in this format. And control certainly delivered this time, with FIVE players in the top8 being on the Aetherling train. Some people (Makahito Mihara, among others) went so far as to include Debtor's Pulpit – essentially an overpriced Icy Manipulator that only works on creatures – to get rid of the Aetherling menace. Later on, and in more broad formats like Standard, with the introduction of cards like Pithing Needle or Thoughtseize, the range of anti-Aetherling tools certainly increased, but in May 2013 in San Diego, Aetherling was literally unstoppable.

June – Foil Tarmogoyf

June saw four Return to Ravnica block sealed GPs (one of them featuring team competition) and also one special event in Las Vegas, where people could crack Modern Masters packs and try to see if they could make the top64 by posting a record which often guarantees you a top8 slot in a regular GP. But this was not a regular GP by any stretch. Thanks to a concurrence of several factors – a fun and very rare format, the GP being located in a city that’s basically the Mecca of all gamers, or the fact that you pretty much got your entry fee money back as soon as you registered (with only the playmat being worth more than the 50 USD entry fee, not even counting the MM booster packs) the incentives to go were much higher than usual. The downside, of course, was that fighting for pro points and prize money became quite an uphill battle in Vegas. In fact, the chances of doing well enough in order to reach the prize money were so much smaller than usual and the price of the cards you could open was so much higher, that there were cases of people dropping before the deck swap, so that they could keep the cards they opened – something I’ve never heard of anybody even considering in a GP before. A foil Tarmogoyf is therefore proudly the card of the month June.

July - Opportunity

M14 was released in July and people all over the world were cracking packs and trying to find out if the M14 limited format was different from the previous Core Set environments. Turns out that the format was indeed quite specific and soon enough, the consensus reached the point where many drafters were willing to force blue and first pick Opportunity over pretty much all broken rares in other colors. Of course, once the pendulum swung far enough, a space opened for others to exploit this new mania and Raphael Lévy, among others, made good use of how these trends worked and rode the wave of hyped popularity of blue to a top8 finish at GP Prague, forcing white aggro decks all the way. But all in all, we can definitely say that blue was a powerhouse in M14 limited and that opening an Opportunity in your first pack was one of the best things that could happen to you in an M14 draft.

August – Flinthoof Boar

Several major tournaments happened in August 2013 and picking any number of cards that made a splash in these would make perfect sense – Slippery Bogle from Reid Duke’s second place GW auras in Modern, pretty much any card from Shahar Shenhar’s UWR control or Rakdos's Return for all the fans of team France (and I’m sure there are many) who were following the live stream of the World Magic Cup and the epic end of the last game in the finals against Hungary. However, the card that I chose makes a lot of sense to me because of how great of an impact it had on both of these August tournaments: on Worlds as well as on the WMC. Brian Kibler used his innovative R/G aggro deck in the Standard portion of Worlds and since the deck was not only powerful, but also very modest in terms of cards it required (a very useful characteristic when you need to build three Standard decks that don’t overlap at all), only days after the elite invitation-only 16-player tournament, everyone was playing the deck in the World Magic Cup. Flinthoof Boar was an essential part of the deck and even though it had been around in the format for more than a year, it was the trademark of the deck and I think that it deserves the August slot.

September – Thoughtseize

Lorwyn (Foil)
Theros (Foil)

September was the month of Theros, as people across the planet participated in the pre-releases of this set, admired the flavor of the Greek mythology and started to learn what the new abilities and keywords did. Right out of the gates, Thoughtseize was probably the card with the most constructed influence. While some of the more focused mechanics (like devotion) took a bit more time to figure out (we’ll get to that when we talk about the next month), it was clear right away that Thoughtseize was the real deal. And while other Theros cards have risen in popularity and importance since September, Thoughtseize certainly didn’t lose anything of its initial value.

October - Thassa, God of the Sea

Thassa, God of the Sea
Theros (Foil)

October was the month of Pro Tour Theros in Dublin and those who thought they knew what Standard was about before the PT (based on the SCG Open and MTGO results) were certainly in for quite a surprise. Monoblue devotion was the king of the format in Dublin, with Thassa, God of the Sea being its patron and frontline combatant. Since the Pro Tour, the deck proved to be possibly the best deck in Standard and some of the monoblue aficionados like Sam Black or Jeremy Dezani post top eight after top eight with it, proving their expertise with the deck.

November – True-Name Nemesis

True-Name Nemesis

If I was looking purely at Standard, I think I’d have to pick Grey Merchant of Asphodel or – maybe even more likely – Pack Rat as the card of the month in November. But when you look at other formats, you’ll see another card that surfaced in November and caused quite an upheaval there. The format that I’m talking about is Legacy and the card is of course True-Name Nemesis – a card from Commander whose primary function is to make this product more appealing also for players who are not that much interested in playing Commander, but want to be competitive in Legacy. We’ll see if the Nemesis will have a similar fate like Scavenging Ooze, but I don’t think we’ll be seeing a reprint in a Standard-legal format here, since the card is simply too powerful and would probably turn Standard upside down, which is almost what it did to Legacy in November.

December – Stocking Tiger

Merry Christmas everyone! Thanks for reading and see you next time!


Adam Koska

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