Double Masters Preview
Double Masters is right around the corner and we are excited to show you our official preview card given to us by Wizards of the Coast.
First seen ten years ago, this card filled a useful role in green as a functional cantrip but mostly saw niche play due to the existing meta and better options in other colors. As it tends to happen, the introduction of newer sets and formats would bring this card more visibility, eventually becoming a staple in Pauper and even a consideration for banning in Modern due to it being a four-of staple in numerous decks. In fact, it was in such demand that the price topped $5.00 (USD) before Masters 25 cut its price in half, and Mystery Boosters finally got the price back down below $1.00.
Have you guessed the card yet? If not, let me (re)introduce you to...
When first printed, Ancient Stirrings was quite useful, but not nearly as remarkable as it is today. The Zendikar block offered many good uses for a card which let you dig for colorless cards. After all, by the time Rise of the Eldrazi had come out, there was no shortage of colorless cards. Zendikar introduced fetchlands to help color fixing and deck thinning, Worldwake followed this up with a cycle of creature lands. Finally, we were introduced to the Eldrazi in their eponymous set, bringing with it numerous colorless creatures, as well as colorless Eldrazi spells like All Is Dust and Eldrazi Conscription. If you were running an Eldrazi deck you had to get pretty unlucky to not get something off of Ancient Stirrings, and even other decks that didn't skimp on lands would still have a high percentage of finding something as well.
Following the Zendikar block was the Scars of Mirrodin block, introducing us to many powerful artifacts and artifact creatures, as well as a colorless planeswalker, Karn Liberated. Ancient Stirrings got potentially better in Standard, but the meta was mostly too fast for expensive Eldrazi and was being dominated by the likes of Valakut, Cawblade, and Blue-Black control, among others.
May of 2011 brought a huge announcement: the birth of a new eternal format called Modern. Suddenly, Ancient Stirrings had exciting new cards it could grab: the trio of lands dubbed Urzatron (Urza's Mine, Urza's Power Plant, and Urza's Tower). However, the initial decklists for this new format focused more on cards like Blazing Shoal and Splinter Twin. In the following years there was a slow trickle of colorless cards such as Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and Walking Ballista, which strengthened Ancient Stirrings as a card which could smooth out your land drops early on, and then later in the game dig for a finisher or control piece. Combining this flexibility with the banning of stronger cantrips such as Preordain and Ponder, Ancient Stirrings found itself finally in the spotlight. In the last couple of years it has seen play in Lantern Control, Krark-Clan Ironworks, Red-Green Eldrazi, Mono-green Tron, Hardened Scales Affinity, and Amulet Titan. In these lists, Ancient Stirrings became better than any other draw spell because it enabled you to search a full five cards deep, and curved with the flow of the game for land early and finishers late. In the below Ironworks list from GP Vegas, for instance, Ancient Stirrings shined as a way to smooth out your mana in the early game, with additional targets of Mox Opal or Chromatic Star (which itself would get you a little deeper into your deck). Then, as the game progressed, it was a game winning digger that found your Krark-Clan Ironworks, Scrap Trawler, or Pyrite Spellbomb.
4 Ancient Stirrings
3 Chromatic Sphere
4 Chromatic Star
3 Engineered Explosives
4 Ichor Wellspring
4 Krark-Clan Ironworks
4 Mind Stone
4 Mox Opal
2 Pyrite Spellbomb
The Pauper format loses a lot of the finishers and control elements that Ancient Stirrings has access to in the Modern decklists, but because the Urzatron lands are all commons the archetype is still widely played and Ancient Stirrings shows up in green lists that dig for these lands and an Ulamog's Crusher to quickly close out games. In the below Pauper Tron list, over half the deck can be grabbed with an Ancient Stirrings, offering not only the early and late uses as above, but everything in between as well.
In Commander its usefulness is somewhat less consistent, but still just as effective in the right build, showing up in over 500 decks on EDHREC. Ancient Stirrings can be right at home in decks with high land counts such as Azusa, Lost but Seeking, decks that run a large number of artifacts like Glissa, the Traitor, or Eldrazi builds like Animar, Soul of Elements or Xenagos, God of Revels. Even outside of specifically wanting to find a colorless card, simply being able to look at the top five cards makes this card better than many other variants with similar effect. In a generic Commander deck running 36 lands, casting this on your first turn gives you a 90% chance of seeing a land, which can help smooth out clunky opening hands. Adding a handful of cheap mana rocks and you can give yourself a 95% chance to find some more mana with what would be an otherwise weak opening hand.
Ancient Stirrings' usefulness is heavily dependent on your deck, however, and there are alternative cards that can have other benefits your deck might want more. Commune with Dinosaurs lets you look at five cards but only gets lands or dinosaurs. Oath of Nissa only goes three deep but offers more flexibility in what it can search for. And Mulch is limited to lands but puts the other cards into your graveyard, which might work better in your deck. But in the builds that are more reliant upon artifacts than creatures nothing comes close to competing with it.
We are most of the way through Double Masters spoilers (as of writing this) and it is shaping up to be an amazing set to draft and play in Limited. If you haven't yet played Tron in Modern, you'll get to fight everyone else trying to draft it in Limited since the Urza lands are reprinted as commons. There appears to be a heavy artifact theme as well as many nonbasic lands, which means there will be no shortage of cards to get off Ancient Stirrings. Looking through our Double Masters full preview list page, some of the spicier colorless cards we have seen so far include: the Urza's cycle of lands, Karn Liberated, Wurmcoil Engine, Blightsteel Colossus, Chrome Mox, Cranial Plating, Mana Crypt, Mox Opal, Pyrite Spellbomb (which can combo with Auriok Salvagers), Sword of Fire and Ice, Walking Ballista, Academy Ruins, and Dark Depths — or its other half: Thespian's Stage. We will have to wait for the full spoiler to be released, but seeing the lands and Ancient Stirrings all printed as commons means that it's probably going to be a safe draft pick that might pay off big dividends later on in the draft.
On behalf of the rest of the staff, I want to again thank Wizards for giving us this preview card. If you weren't familiar with the history behind Ancient Stirrings or passed it over in the past, I hope this dive into its history and potential will make you reconsider using it in some of our decks. And if you are running it outside of established decklists, let me know in the comments!