Exclusive M11 Preview — Elixir of Immortality

Magic: the Gathering’s new core set comes out in just a few weeks. M11 carries on a new Magic tradition — 50 percent new cards in core sets. Here’s one of them, a tasty beverage that can breath new life into a rundown deck.

Elixir of Immortality is a handy artifact to have around. When you set it off, not only does it recycle your entire graveyard back into your library (including itself), it also gives you five free life. Not bad for a minor mana investment.

Of course, this is not a card that’s going to set the world on fire, but it’s one of my favorite types of Magic cards. It’s a utility card. It accomplishes something useful in the game in certain situations. The lifegain is just gravy, but the real reason people will play this is to save themselves from running out of cards or having their graveyards irrevocably destroyed.

The most obvious use, of course, is as a modern day [card]Feldon’s Cane[/card]. If your opponent’s strategy is to use cards like [card]Hedron Crab[/card] or [card]Mind Funeral[/card] to run you out of cards, then the Elixir can save your butt in the late game.

There are more insidious ways that your graveyard can hurt you. Take [card]Haunting Echoes[/card]. If you have Elixir of Immortality in play, your opponent basically can not hit you with Echoes, since you can just set off the Elixir in response and dump your graveyard back into your library. The same play works against [card]Relic of Progenitus[/card] and [card]Suffer the Past[/card]. In those cases, you probably have something in your library that you want to keep there, like some creatures with Unearth ([card]Hell’s Thunder[/card], for instance), a bunch of instants and sorceries to power your [card]Pyromancer Ascension[/card], or $160 worth of [card]Vengevine[/card]. In those cases, it’s not the best thing in the world for your graveyard to end up back in your library, but it’s far far better than having it exiled completely.

In constructed formats, this card might see use in sideboards. It depends if there are strategies that depend heavily on the graveyard, and if graveyard destroying countermeasures then become common. Elixir of Immortality could become a tool in that kind of strategic arms race.

In sealed or draft formats, this is not a bad card (especially if Wizards’ four-pack, 30-card deck sealed format gets big). I wouldn’t draft it early, but don’t overlook its usefulness. The lifegain alone could be important, but restocking your library could be an excellent move. Let’s say you’ve only managed to draft four decent creature removal cards, and you’ve churned through three of them in the early game. Your chances of drawing the fourth one aren’t huge. Activate the Elixir and mix those removal spells back into your library so you can draw and play them all over again. Alternately, your sealed deck might revolve around one or two big bomb creatures. What happens when you play them and your opponent manages to kill them right away? Elixir gives them a chance to return.

This is a nice example of top-down design. If you’ve been watching other M11 spoilers, you’ve noticed a lot of cards like this, where the design came from an overall concept, then had rules text fitted to it. My favorite examples so far as Phylactery Lich and Mitotic Slime. They work wonderfully as Magic cards, but you can tell they started out with someone saying, “What would an Elixir of Immortality do in a Magic game? What would a classic D&D Lich be like in Magic?”

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