The next (and final) set in the Shards of Alara block comes out in just a few weeks, which means it’s time for previews. Today we’ve got Bituminous Blast, a nasty black/red creature removal spell that features a new mechanic: Cascade.
Alara Reborn comes out on April 30, with the prerelease tournaments the weekend prior. The set’s theme is based on the idea that the shards of the world, each of which focused on a particular color combination, are coming together to form a new world. As a result, this set is composed entirely of multicolor cards. It’s going to make booster drafts and sealed deck tournaments really interesting.
That brings us to Bituminous Blast. At first, it looks overcosted. Five mana for four damage? And you can’t even use it for direct damage? That’s weak. But we have to take a closer look at the Cascade effect.
For one thing, that’s a surprising amount of rules text. Still, it’s a fairly straightforward effect. Play a spell, then draw until you pull a spell that costs less and play it for free. Then shuffle the pile of drawn cards and put them on the bottom of your library.
What strikes me here is how carefully they designed this to minimize abuse. The cards don’t go to your graveyard, so you can’t use it to feed graveyard decks. The cards go to the bottom of the library in random order, so you can’t use it to perfectly stack your deck.
So what can you do with it? If you build a deck with mostly low casting cost spells (sort of like this one), then any time you fire off the Bituminous Blast, you nail a creature for four damage and get a free spell in the process. For instance (and I’m naming old cards that aren’t Standard legal, but bear with me, I’m old-school), let’s say you grabbed a Balduvian Horde or a Pillage. Now you just paid five mana to deal four damage and drop a 5/5, or deal four damage and destroy a land. That’s card advantage (not as much in the case of the Horde, but still) and it’s deck acceleration.
Another way to use Cascade is as a tutor (that is, a card that lets you search through your library for a particular card). We can assume there will be Cascade cards with a low casting cost, say two mana. If there are only a few cards in your deck that cost one mana, and you really want to find them, then you can fire off a Cascade card, get whatever effect it provides, then cycle through your deck until you get the other card you want. This obviously won’t work with Bituminous Blast…I mean, you could, but good luck playing a deck that only has a few cards that cost less than five mana. But the concept is valid.
One last point – it’s called Cascade for a reason. If the second card you grab has Cascade, go for a third, and so on. If the cards line up just right (and there are certainly plenty of cards to help make it happen), you could cast three or four spells for the price of one. Consulting the Alara Reborn Orb of Insight reveals that there will probably be 12 Cascade cards in the set.
All multicolored cards. I’m really looking forward to this prerelease.