Dragon's Maze Exclusive Preview: Legion's Initiative

Feature Article from Frank Lepore
Frank Lepore
4/15/2013 11:02:00 AM
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Dragon's Maze spoiler season is in full swing and today TCGplayer has their own preview card to spoil you with. As the guilds begin to slowly break apart, the Boros Legion remains tight-knit and ready to strike back against the threat of our dragon overlord, Niv-Mizzet.

Dragons. Why they gotta get so rowdy and build mazes and all that nonsense? Don't they know that's rude? Ain't nobody got time for that.

The card I'm about to show you is kind of a doozy. Let's do that thing that I do where I reveal part of the card, then a little more, then a little more, and those of you who want to, you can just skip down to the bottom and see it all immediately (which I assume you have probably done by now), and those of you that want the content, well, you can read and enjoy.

Let's start with the title and casting cost:

Okay, so we're clearly a Boros card. If it wasn't given away by the name, the casting cost would...ah, you get how Magic cards work. This is a fairly cheap casting cost, so let's see what we get for two mana.

A mythic Enchantment. Interesting. There are very few mythic enchantments, and the few that exist are often very expensive: Descent into Madness, Cast Through Time, Omniscience, Maelstrom Nexus...need I go on? In fact the only mythic Enchantment that was completely constructed playable and didn't require us to specifically build around it was Angelic Destiny. And even that cost twice as much. So I guess I have the privilege of showcasing the cheapest mythic enchantment ever printed. Awesome!

So now that we've got the bases covered of what the history of mythic Enchantments actually entails, what does the card actually do?


No, seriously. Wow. Giant Adephage this is not. (No offense, bug guy.) (Did I just say “bug” guy? I meant big guy. This is awkward.)

It took me a long time to actually digest what this card does, and believe you me it does a tremendous amount. This card is insanely deep and I had a really hard time wrapping my head around it; in fact I still think there are a ton of applications that I'm going to be overlooking. You see, exiling all of your creatures, then returning them to play...during combat...with haste...this is a brand new effect that has never been printed in Magic before as far as I know. Every other “exile your creatures” effect has returned them to play at the end of the turn typically; never during the thick of the turn, and never in time to attack again, and never with the haste needed to attack again! This means we're opening a brand new can of worms as far as interactions go.

It was as if Glory of Warfare and Ghostway had a baby...and the baby was less expensive...and a little more versatile...but it had the milkman's eyes.

So what does this card actually do?

Well, the default is going to be pumping your creatures. While you might not always need it, it makes sure your Olivia Voldaren and your Huntmaster of the Fells are doing a tad more damage. Your Boros Reckoner is going to be a 4/4. Your Geist of Saint Traft is a 2/3. Your Restoration Angels are 3/5s. And while this card has an awkward synergy with Assemble the Legion tokens (some might say a non-synergy), forcing you to remove them from the game forever if you activate the ability, when you aren't busy exiling them they're all 2/2s. This is huge and actually acts like Intangible Virtue five through eight for your tokens, if that does anything for you. Sure, when you activate the ability it removes all your tokens, but Intangible Virtue doesn't even have a second mode, so don't use that part of the card, and pretend it's a Crusade effect!

This is actually a common pitfall players make, and I've gone over it before. If a player doesn't get to utilize 100% of the value of a card, if say they only get about 80% of the value, they'll be reluctant to use a card, even if the card is as good, or better, than an existing card. One of the most recent cards I can think of, let's say, is Angel of Glory's Rise. A lot of people looked at the card and said, “hey, this would be great against Zombies. If Zombies pops up then Angel of Glory's Rise could see some play in decks with a bunch of humans.” This logic, of course, completely overlooks the power of the second ability on it's own! The problem being that, unless they were able to both wipe the Earth of Zombies and return a bunch of humans to play, the card wasn't that good and wouldn't live up to its potential. They have this weird feeling like they're paying too much for the card if they don't utilize every ability, and that's incorrect.

As we can see from the Human Reanimator lists that were dominant for a brief time, as long as a deck can utilize at least one specific function of a card, we shouldn't feel bad if the deck can't use all the functions of that card. The reason I'm mentioning this, if it wasn't clear, is that we shouldn't feel bad about using Legion's Initiative as a red and white Honor of the Pure if that's what our deck needs. And if we built a deck with only tokens that can never utilize the second ability? Who cares! Pretend it isn't there and enjoy the next iteration of Honor of the Pure for your 1/1 tokens!

In addition to a creature buff though the card does indeed have a second ability. Legion's Initiative is basically an onboard Counterspell as well. Not only does this card let you get around any removal and board sweepers at instant speed, it also let's you cast your own without wiping your board.

“Exile my guys during my main phase. Cast Supreme Verdict. Enter combat. Bring my guys back. Attack with all my guys.”

Sweet blockers, bro.

While Boros Charm does an awesome job at getting around Supreme Verdict, and Restoration Angel does an awesome job at getting around targeted removal, Legion's Initiative gets around targeted removal, and both Supreme Verdict and Terminus...and Bonfire of the Damned. And Mutilate. An- well, you get the point.

I'm sure I don't have to tell you how favorably this card interacts with enters-the-battlefield abilities, but seeing how the point of this article is to articulate the massive potential of the preview card, I'm going to anyway. For example, how about we exile my Thragtusk, my Huntmaster of the Fells, and my Restoration Angel. An ideal board state? Maybe, but not an altogether uncommon one I would wager.

Thragtusk makes a 3/3, then comes back and gains me five life. Huntmaster makes me a 2/2 and gains me two life. The Restoration Angel then blinks the Thragtusk again (or the Huntmaster of the Fells, if you want to attack with the Thragtusk instead), making a second 3/3 token, gaining me five more life, then the Restoration Angel and the Huntmaster of the Fells can still deal six damage with haste. It's like a blink deluxe!

For those not keeping track I gained 12 life, and ended up with 18 power on the board. While this might seem like overkill, let's remember that we don't have to use it all willy nilly. We don't just have to pop it because we can. We can actually wait to use it until our creatures are threatened, as an insurance policy. In that case, instead of us simply being greedy and over committing, we're actually getting a tremendous amount of value from saving our creatures.

Let's take a look at some of the awesome enters-the-battlefield triggers that we have to work with in Standard right now (and don't even get me started on Modern):

- Acidic Slime
- Augur of Bolas
- Angel of Glory's Rise
- Angel of Serenity
- Borderland Ranger
- Restoration Angel
- Centaur Healer
- Champion of Lambholt (seems good when every creature is going to add a counter immediately)
- Champion of the Parish (with haste no less!)
- Elvish Visionary
- Geist-Honored Monk
- Huntmaster of the Fells
- Prime Speaker Zegana
- Snapcaster Mage
- Thragtusk
- Thundermaw Hellkite
- Zealous Conscripts

And that's just the popular ones! If you have a Trostani, Selesnya's Voice in play and you blink your team, you're set to gain a ton of life, especially when part of your team will be getting +0/+1.

Now, you might be asking yourself why Legion's Initiative has to exile itself. Why can't it just go to the graveyard? Well, basically, if we have a card like Sun Titan or Auramancer in play, we can essentially go “infinite” with this card since whenever they enter the battlefield you're going to be able to get back the Legion's Initiative, sometimes putting it directly into play. That's kind of powerful so Wizards made the safe play and removed that thing from the game. “Exiled” as the kids say.

Where can I see this card fitting in? Well, certainly I can see a powerful Naya deck utilizing it to great effect, the same way Restoration Angel is used. While Restoration Angel can save a creature from one piece of removal, it's still weak against a sweeper. Legion's Initiative is not, and it also guarantees that you're going to have both attackers or blockers when the combat phase rolls around since the creatures come back at beginning of the next combat, whichever player's that might be.

I want to leave you with one more thing to consider: very rarely are bad mythic rares printed that cost less than four mana. There have been maybe three notable exceptions: Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded, Helvault, and Skaab Ruinator. Do they make them? Sure. But it isn't often. Ordinarily, if a mythic has a very unique ability and isn't too expensive, it's going to have some very powerful applications, and this ability is quite unique.

The thing I love about Legion's Initiative is how new it feels. Even after racking my brain over this card for the past week, I still feel like there is a ton left to discover about our enchanting friend. I get the strange feeling that I'm missing an entire application to this card that someone is going to break wide open and I can't wait for them to do it. Personally, though, I'll be happy when my curve goes something like turn two Legion's Initiative, turn three Boros Reckoner, turn four Tajic, Blade of the Legion, and turn five Thundermaw Hellkite. That's 18 very-hard-to-get-rid-of damage.

I'm excited to hear what you guys think about the card and what ideas you can come up with, so be sure and let me know your opinions below! Thanks for reading and I'll catch you later this week!

Frank Lepore
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