If you missed the Limited Reviews, I've got you covered:
Before I go in to black and red (who doesn’t like a 2 for 1), I want to talk about the rating system. I have to admit, the ratings explanation don’t fit all that well with how I actually use the ratings, and after some comments to that effect from the /r/magicTCG subreddit (and some good discussion there), I’ve decided to update them. The actual numbers aren’t changing, and all the new ratings will be backwards compatible with old reviews. A “3” now is basically the same as it was a year ago, but I’m just going to redo the descriptions associated with said numbers. Here we go!
5.0: The best of the best. ([card]Pack Rat[/card], [card]Umezawa’s Jitte[/card], [card]Gideon Jura[/card])
4.5: Incredible bomb, but not unbeatable. ([card]Polukranos, World Eater[/card]. [card]Hypersonic Dragon[/card].)
4.0: Good rare or top tier uncommon. ([card]Phalanx Leader[/card]. [card]Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage[/card]. [card]Chaos Imps[/card])
3.5: Top tier common or solid uncommon. ([card]Lightning Strike[/card]. [card]Nimbus Naiad[/card]. [card]Dreg Mangler[/card])
3.0: Good playable that basically always makes the cut. ([card]Leafcrown Dryad[/card]. [card]Essence Scatter[/card].)
2.5: Solid playable that rarely gets cut. ([card]Borderland Minotaur[/card]. [card]Dead Reveler[/card]).
2.0: Good filler, but sometimes gets cut. ([card]Savage Surge[/card]. [card]Omenspeaker[/card]. [card]Armory Guard[/card]).
1.5: Filler. Gets cut about half the time. ([card]Pillarfield Ox[/card]. [card]Tenement Crasher[/card]).
1.0: Bad filler. Gets cut most of the time. ([card]Lost in the Labyrinth[/card]. [card]Pay No Heed[/card]).
0.5: Very low-end playables and sideboard material. ([card]Survey the Wreckage[/card]. [card]Celestial Purge[/card].)
0.0: Completely unplayable. ([card]Search the City[/card]. [card]Pyxis of Pandemonium[/card]).
[draft]Archetype of Finality[/draft]
Dropping this and swinging for the fences doesn't give you quite the sense of finality that [card]Archetype of Imagination[/card] provides, but it does at least guarantee that your creatures all trade 1-for-1. Of all the Archetypes, this is the one that opens you up to the biggest risk of a 2-for-1, because deathtouch by nature implies that you are matching up your small creatures against their big ones.
I don't see what's so heroic about making them discard a card, and as it turns out, that ability isn't very exciting either. Sometimes you will snipe their last card, or get some value off of [card]Scourgemark[/card]s, but for the most part I'd only play this if my curve was in dire need of help.
Is the white/black [card]Asphyxiate[/card]-[card]Excoriate[/card] deck just unbeatable?!? Nice job, Wizards.
Besides always killing vigilance creatures, this helps you establish a stranglehold on the game while you're ahead and makes sure nothing new shows up while you are behind. What it doesn't do is stop the creature that's been bashing you every turn, so make sure you have a good mix of removal if you have the option to diversify.
I'm sure I'll have plenty to say about this card once I get to the Constructed review, but for now just be satisfied that this is a strong removal spell that is more likely to double up on the opponent's creatures than kill any of yours (though you should be aware that it's a risk).
[draft]Black Oak of Odunos[/draft]
I tend to like defensive decks, and loved drafting UB when it was just Theros, so [card]Black Oak of Odunos[/card] appeals to me. It's an oakcellent defender and adds to the ever-important black devotion count, but never being able to attack does limit how often you will want to play it.
[draft]Champion of Stray Souls[/draft]
More like Champion of Excessive Stray Mana. This does eventually win you the game, but it takes a million mana, a lot of extra creatures, and more time than you will normally be able to spare. Mythics are normally what you want to see in Limited, but that's certainly a tendency rather than a rule.
[draft]Claim of Erebos[/draft]
Erebos claimed you would crush your opponents once you purchased his powerful Aura (for only 10 easy payments of 1B), but the reality is that you spent a lot of time and resources for nothing. Unless your deck is incredibly aggressive, full of inspire creatures, or has five Gray Merchants, I'd pass on this.
[draft]Drown in Sorrow[/draft]
This format isn't infested with small creatures, but a cheap sweeper is always worth picking up. Given the size of many of the threats you can expect to face, I'd recommend against getting greedy. If this can kill one of their good creatures, just pull the trigger, enjoy the scry, and move on.
[draft]Eater of Hope[/draft]
Having 4 toughness instead of 5 is all that keeps this from being a 4.0, but dying to [card]Lash of the Whip[/card] and [card]Rage of Purphoros[/card] is a real thing (with the anti-regen clause on Rage coming into play for the first time). It still is a 6-power flier that can protect itself from other removal spells, and from time to time it will devour your opponent's best creature. It is an expensive meal, but it isn't uncommon that their best creature is better than your two worst.
Straight -1/-1 effects are always pretty hit or miss, and this format seems like more of a miss. Eye Gouge does kill [card]Akroan Skyguard[/card] and [card]Phalanx Leader[/card], but it can't even kill the [card]Llanowar Elf[/card] of the format ([card]Voyaging Satyr[/card]), and most of the other heroic creatures have 2 toughness. It does murder Cyclopeseseses (I think that's the plural form) with ease, making it an excellent sideboard card. I'll also have to check with Ben Stark, since he still hasn't responded to the Facebook post where I asked him the question, but two of these should be able to kill anything with two eyes.
I like 3/4s for four, and I like my opponent losing a life per turn, so I see nothing wrong with this. It even punishes mages such as myself for daring to cast [card]Divination[/card], but that is unlikely to stop me.
Seven mana is a lot, especially considering the fact that you need a good target to hit the graveyard to even have an opportunity to cast this. It does turn whatever you bring back into the T-1000 version, barring some unfortunate exile shenanigans, but there's so much bounce in this set that I'm not counting on that sticking. In the Gray Merchant control deck, you might as well run this, but it's tempting fate for most decks to rely on such a conditional and hard to cast seven-drop. Also, because it is an option, I'd usually try and ambush a creature instead of getting value off of the scry clause.
For a second I was worried they'd printed the second coming of [card]Umezawa's Jitte[/card], but then I noticed the drawback.
I give this a low editorial score out of sympathy for those who will have to make sure this is spelled correctly, as it rarely will be. It's no Vendillion Clique or Teetering Peeks, but strange words like “Pseudamma” have a way of being wrong despite the author's best efforts.
As for gameplay, I like it. The evasion plays perfectly with inspire, and there are many matchups where you will be able to make as many Zombies as you have turns. It's funny that despite black being so good in this format, the good black decks are so black-heavy that you don't often see more than a couple black drafters at a table.
If you need a warm body, or more accurately, just a body, let this drift into your draft deck. The death trigger even can be an advantage, as [card]March of the Returned[/card] can be quite good with a little work.
Unconditional removal that also fixes your mana and ramps you is as good as gold, so I'd recommend grabbing as many of these as possible. I just can't wait to count this as a colored source for a splash, at least until Ben calls me stupid and makes me cut the off-color [card]Divination[/card]s.
I was pretty high on cantrip enchantments after [card]Stratus Walk[/card], but we are back to [card]Scourgemark[/card] territory here. The extra mana transforms this from curve-filling awesomeness to just a medium-strong heroic enabler, though heroic enabler now also really means inspire enabler. Either way, playing one of these is fine in a normal deck, but only the decks with good synergies are going to want multiples.
[draft]Herald of Torment[/draft]
This is an aggressive flier when cast and a beating of an Aura when bestowed, which combine into an overall awesome card. Pinging you for one a turn is annoying, but there are so few games where this is in play that you aren't able to outrace it, so I'm not too worried.
Reprinting [card]Myr Enforcer[/card]? I mean, [card]Pack Rat[/card] is practically [card]Arcbound Ravager[/card], [card Gray Merchant of Asphodel]Gray Merchant[/card] is definitely [card]Disciple of the Vault[/card] and [card]Underworld Connections[/card] is basically [card]Skullclamp[/card], so why not print Myr Enforcer to go with them?
Ok, maybe this isn't the second coming of Affinity, but it's still a fine Limited card. If you are casting this for five mana, it's passable, and it becomes a good deal at four or less. If you've drafted a good black deck, that shouldn't be too much of a stretch.
I like it when reprints make sense in the context of the new set, and with both heroic and inspire in Born of the Gods, this gets two bites at the apple. If you have neither of those mechanics in your deck, [card]Necrobite[/card] is considerably less exciting, but still a decent combat trick.
It may not look very exciting, but even a 2/1 vanilla bestow creature has an unholy amount of strength when you consider how versatile it is.
[draft]Odunos River Trawler[/draft]
If you have five or more good bestow creatures, first make sure you aren't Lucky Shahar Shenhar. After you've established that, trawl your card pool for as many copies of these as you can get your hands on. Even with three or four bestow creatures I'd run this, as it rewards you handsomely when it works. Having access to white mana is fairly minor, as the enters the battlefield ability is what you are really after, but it can't hurt.
I wouldn't go nuts over this, simply because drawing an extra card isn't worth a ton of effort. Tapping three mana is my preferred method, not figuring out complex ways to get a 2/2 tapped so it can inspire some extra draw steps. This even makes you pay life for the privilege of extra cards, which could even lead to games where you can't attack with Pain Seer for fear of dying. Don't get me wrong; Pain Seer is a 2/2 for 2 with a good upside, but it's not nearly as interesting in Limited as it will be in Constructed.
While I like drawing extra cards, my main fear with this is that it suffers from the Goldilocks problem (if Goldilocks dealt with various amounts of blood instead of delicious porridge). Sometimes, it won't draw enough. If you have nothing in play, or even B or BB, Sanguimancy isn't very strong. Other times, it'll draw way too much. Building a black devotion deck only to be unable to cast Sanguimancy because you can't afford to draw (and lose) seven seems like a disaster. The sweet spot is 3-5 in most games, and I don't know how consistently you can get your board to reflect that and have the time to cast a 5-mana spell that doesn't affect the board and makes you more likely to die. The range on this just seems very wide, and even though there are numbers where it's awesome, not very many decks are going to be able to hit them on a consistent basis.
[draft]Servant of Tymaret[/draft]
Despite a hefty regeneration cost, this serves its purpose very well. It's a 3-point life swing whenever it attacks + untaps, it's a decent blocker early and a very good blocker late (once it isn't difficult to afford to regenerate it). I like this much more than Ashiok's Adept for the coveted 3-mana 1/3 slot.
Much like [card]Siren of the Fanged Coast[/card], [card]Shrike Harpy[/card] has a lot of fail states because it depends on the opponent having a decent creature in play. It's a fine deal if it works, but it's annoying that you can't just slam your 5-mana flier whenever you want.
If you aren't aggressive, you aren't going to get much of a return from this. It doesn't have good stats, is a little pricey, and getting in for 2 life isn't as good as actual evasion. It's hard to make a bestow card I don't want to play, and this might be the only one I can see myself leaving out.
[draft]Warchanter of Mogis[/draft]
One solid attack is all it takes and Warchanter becomes a 3/3 intimidate, but for five mana that still isn't very impressive. The slight upside of getting to target other creatures doesn't make up for that first risky attack, and overall I'd be happier when I don't have to play this (though there are matchups where it makes a good sideboard card).
[draft]Weight of the Underworld[/draft]
As far as expensive sorcery-speed removal spells go, this is pretty middle of the road. I'm not enchanted by the idea of paying three extra mana to get an additional -1/-0 when comparing this to [card]Dead Weight[/card], but not every card can be awesome. This not killing bestowed creatures is annoying, but at least it sticks around and makes them puny. It's actually kind of interesting on some of them, since making a bestowed creature into a 0/2 and then not killing it does let you deal with the Aura without having to deal with the actual bestow card.
Top 3 Black Commons
Black continues with the conditional removal, though [card]Asphyxiate[/card] is pretty close to just being normal removal. The vanilla Eidolon cycle continues to be good, though I'd accept the black one being referred to as chocolate. Lastly, [card]Weight of the Underworld[/card] barely beats [card]Servant of Tymaret[/card] for the third place slot, though both are reasonable.
Today is a special [card]Badlands[/card] version of my set review, as we go directly into red. I want these to be available before the prerelease, so let's make haste and take a first strike at the red cards!
Because this threatens to be a vanilla 3/2 for five in a deck low on targeting effects, I can't in good conscience give it a very high rating, but the effect is powerful enough that some decks will be quite happy to pick one or two of these up. This is one of the best heroic triggers we've seen, so having this be the top of your curve in a RW deck is pretty awesome.
[draft]Archetype of Aggression[/draft]
This rightfully is the most aggressively-costed Archetype, along with the most vanilla. Giving your creatures trample is more of a rich get richer sorta deal, since it only really matters on already-impressive creatures, so this is mostly just a 3/2 for three with a minor upside. It's fine, but not exciting.
[draft]Bolt of Keranos[/draft]
Never before has there been a set that punishes sorcery removal more than the all-Aura set, but three mana for 3 damage is still a good equation. [card]Bolt of Keranos[/card] is a lot weaker than [card]Lightning Strike[/card] and a lot better than any other red common.
[draft]Cyclops of One-Eyed Pass[/draft]
I wonder how they got the name of the pass this guy guards? Because of devotion, this is a slightly better [card]Cobblebrute[/card], which isn't really saying a whole lot. If you have good Auras that can make this survive or good removal to clear out blockers, I'm much more inclined to run this. Remember to beware of [card]Eye Gouge[/card]!
I like this a little more than most of the tap enchantments, just because looting is a strong ability to have. [card]Epiphany Storm[/card] is cheap enough to make inspire work and the ability is useful enough that you basically get your card back if you can discard some truly useless garbage.
This synergizes well with [card]Dragon Mantle[/card], even if it looks like they are fighting for the same space. The reason it's great to have both is that they both heavily reward you for playing a ton of Mountains, which means that the mono-red dream lives on. Even in a 2-color deck, if you have 9+ Mountains I'd never cut this, just because of how often you can trade up and get value from it.
[draft]Fall of the Hammer[/draft]
Did someone say Hammer Time? Oh wait, that was me, every single time I cast this spell. While you can't kill your opponent like with [card]Soul's Fire[/card], it isn't hard to use this as a solid piece of removal, and it fits perfectly into the [card]firebreathing [/card] deck. As with any card like this, beware opposing removal spells to avoid the full blowouts. There's also the possibility of double-triggering heroic, so keep an eye out for that too.
The rating on this is a little conservative, but that's solely due to the mana cost. There is just such a big risk in first-picking a triple-colored card, and many sealed decks that run this will end up not casting it until much later than in the game. Once you have a deck that can reliably cast this (11+ Mountains), it's a very good card, and one you are very happy to have.
Cowards can't block Warriors, or very angry Gods, apparently. If you have good reasons to target your own creatures, as many decks tend to do, this is a good way to accomplish that. A 3/4 [card]Two-Headed Cerberus[/card] is a fearsome thought indeed, and when you are about to kill them you can spend six mana to make sure it gets through.
Unlike many of the other tribute creatures, Flame-Wreathed Phoenix demands tribute regardless of what the opponent is doing. They may get to choose whichever mode is worse, but both are sick enough that you are getting a great deal for your mana.
Felhide Spiritbinder is burly enough to survive all but the most fearsome combats, after which you get to smash for a ton on the next turn. That doesn’t even count copying something with a enter the battlefield ability, which is sure to crush your opponent’s spirit with ease. I like the inspire creatures that don’t require help to become tapped and a 3/4 certainly qualifies.
I suspect that all the ridiculous fliers with four toughness are designed as such in order to give players more common outs to them, something I fully support. If this does survive, your opponent probably won’t, because you have the option of making their team unable to block, killing something, and hitting them for at least five on top of all that.
This would be pretty suspect in most formats, but considering how many Auras are available (and how many of them give Firebreathing), I don’t think it’s impetuous to suggest that most aggressive red decks play this. Don’t go chasing the deck if it isn’t there, but be aware that you should end up with a deck that supports this more often than not.
The 2/3 for three is never exciting, but kragmatic drafters know that sometimes it’s necessary. Getting a bonus +2/+0 makes this quite a bit better than your normal Hurloon Minotaur, since 2/3’s are mostly weak because they don’t deal enough damage, not because they are incapable of surviving.
You really need three creatures in play to make this worth casting, which puts it a tad far towards the situational side of things. It’s got a really powerful high end, so I won’t fault you for picking it up and trying to draft a ton of cheap creatures, but be aware that some decks won’t even want to play this.
Nyxborn Rollicker is deceptively strong, which is really a testament to how good bestow is. Red is much more interested in this sort of thing than black, which is why I like this more than Spiteful Returned. Between Dragon Breath, Everflame Eidolon, and heroic, there are plenty of uses for Nyxborn Rollicker (despite the absurd name).
[draft]Oracle of Bones[/draft]
I really like how interesting this is. It’s the only tribute card that uses hidden information, which means that the opponent doesn’t automatically know which choice is best. If they let you cast a spell for free and you run out a Sip of Hemlock or something, that’s awesome, and their alternative is to give you a 5/3 with haste. Way more often than not your opponent is going to let you play the free spell, so draft accordingly (and be happy with a 3/1 haste for four, which isn’t a terrible deal).
Five damage to the face is one of the tribute effects that’s most likely to be dead, so make sure you are aggressive if you are running this. If you care about the five damage, this is a fair deal, if not a giant beating.
[draft]Pinnacle of Rage[/draft]
Again with the sorceries! Pinnacle of Rage is going to vary wildly in quality, ranging from mediocre in some matchups to absurd in others, but it’s worth it. The low end is still playable, and the high end is awesome enough to justify the cost.
2/1’s for two are decent filler for aggressive red decks, which are otherwise known as red decks. Every now and then you will snipe an artifact and feel very pleased with yourself.
[draft]Rise to the Challenge[/draft]
There is less room for non-creature non-removal spells in this format than most, simply because of how many very good Auras are floating around. Rise to the Challenge is a fine card, but will usually take backseat to the other options in this format, though it’s a good backup plan if you don’t grab enough Auras.
This is a classic the rich get richer card. In your five Lightning Strike deck, fire away, but in the real world you will rarely have enough burn to justify this. It doesn’t even provide card advantage, just turns all your burn spells into [card]Searing Blazes[/card].
I wouldn’t nyx the idea of playing this, even if it isn’t very big. Haste means that you can sneak it in most of the time, netting you at least one free Elemental for your trouble.
Unless the creature makeup of the format has changed drastically, I would rather not maindeck this. I’ve been scouring the set for 1-toughness creatures, and even though a few stand out, there aren’t enough. It’s a great sideboard card, so try and pick one up if you can.
Shock plus Lava Spike all in one is not something you are sad to have in your Limited deck, though it is much more powerful in Constructed. I can’t imagine a red deck where I wouldn’t want this, but it’s no Lightning Strike (thought it is better than Bolt of Keranos).
[draft]Stormcaller of Keranos[/draft]
I wouldn’t want to play this unless I could activate it, though sometimes you are just that hard up for creatures to give Firebreathing. In a blue/red deck, it’s pretty sweet, and does a good job of giving you some lategame punch.
Both halves of this are gigantic enough that you will end up happy under all but the most hopeless circumstances, so as long as you avoid Eye Gouge you are good.
I’d rather just have a Firebreathing. This might look similar, but it’s so bad when you are behind, whereas something like Dragon Mantle can let you turn horrific mana flood into a victory without much trouble.
[draft]Whims of the Fates[/draft]
Limited: 1-5, at random
Just roll a die and see how lucky you are. That’s how good this is. It punishes people with more permanents, but even if your opponent has a ton out, they can just hedge. I really want to run the two empty pile gambit, but doubt I’ll cast this card unless I’m just goofing off.
Top Three Red Commons
3. [card]Kragma Butcher[/card]
2. [card]Fall of the Hammer[/card]
1. [card]Bolt of Keranos[/card]
Red getting two decent common burn spells in a small set is exciting, and I like a lot of the midrange creatures as well. Kragma Butcher, Nyxborn Rollicker, Pharagax Giant, and Impetuous Sunchaser are all of reasonable quality, which is something red normally doesn’t get.
Tomorrow I’m going to wrap up with Green, artifacts, multicolor, and lands (as long as I’m not entranced by cube drafts and Mirrodin-Darksteel-5th Dawn queues).