My white review was posted last night, so if you missed that, go check it out.
While there might not be a Treasure Cruise, blue has its fair share of tricky cards this time around, and I can see some good potential in drafting blue-based decks (shocker, I know). Let's take a look at the cards, using our handy ratings scale:
5.0: The best of the best. (Pack Rat. Umezawa's Jitte. Wingmate Roc)
4.5: Incredible bomb, but not unbeatable. (Butcher of the Horde. Savage Knuckleblade. Crater's Claws)
4.0: Good rare or top tier uncommon. (Triplicate Spirits. End Hostilities. Necropolis Fiend)
3.5: Top tier common or solid uncommon. (Lightning Strike. Woolly Loxodon. Suspension Field)
3.0: Good playable that basically always makes the cut. (Debilitating Injury. Mardu Hordechief. Flesh to Dust)
2.5: Solid playable that rarely gets cut. (Glacial Stalker. Bitter Revelation. Hunt the Weak)
2.0: Good filler, but sometimes gets cut. (Dragonscale Boon. Defiant Strike. Cancel)
1.5: Filler. Gets cut about half the time. (Scout the Borders. Aeronaut Tinkerer. Ranger's Guile)
1.0: Bad filler. Gets cut most of the time. (Tusked Colossodon. Bronze Sable. Oppressive Rays)
0.5: Very low-end playables and sideboard material. (Naturalize. Feed the Clan. Congregate)
0.0: Completely unplayable. (Search the City. Pyxis of Pandemonium)
A 5-mana 3/3 flier is fine, but not exciting. A 5-mana 2/2 flier that bounces a creature is better, but still a tad on the slow slide. Combine the two and you have a very respectable card, one that will only get cut if you happen to have an incredible glut of insane 5-drops (and this should be at the top of the list). If you ever have the inclination to cast this as a 3/3, I recommend you survey the battlefield and make completely sure that bouncing a creature isn't the right play, because I think that will be the most common case by far.
I haven't fully formed an opinion over whether this is better than Lightform, but I think there are valid arguments on both sides. Lightform is better when you miss, as a 2/2 flying lifelink does a lot more than a 2/2 flying hexproof, but if you hit something you can flip up, having the safety and time that hexproof provides is very nice. I suspect that Lightform is overall better, but both are very good, and you should probably just draft them when given the opportunity.
Once I have a couple of these enchantments (if I'm ever that lucky), I would prioritize creatures, even if that somewhat clashes with the whole prowess theme. Other manifest cards don't pay you nearly as much for flipping creatures, so I wouldn't get as influenced by them, but the Forms are busted if you do hit a creature.
I have a slight bias toward cards that draw cards, but luckily I am aware of the enhanced ratings I tend to give such cards. I do legitimately think this fits into the spell-heavy decks that are trying to play at instant speed, and playing one 5-mana draw 3 is justifiable even in normal decks. Having to discard one is a bit of a drawback, but it's drawing you enough cards that it shouldn't be too bad, and draw 3 discard 1 is way better than just draw 2 (and I already thought Weave Fate was playable). This format is pretty midrange, with tempo and attrition both deciding many of the games, so a card advantage mechanism like this can be powerful in the right game.
My fascination with card draw only goes so far, and I can't see ever playing this in Limited. Making both players draw a bunch of cards is incredibly risky, as your opponent will get the first crack at playing them when you pass the turn, and milling both players seems unlikely to win the game unless you somehow have a dedicated mill deck. You will be much more prosperous if you assume this is unplayable and go from there, even if it could potentially be a sideboard card against a deck that draws too many cards (which I have been told does exist).
Against most decks, this is a pretty cool card. Almost anything that targets it would kill it anyway, and it isn't like you are losing too much value against cards like Crippling Chill, since they don't get to draw. There are very few creatures that can target it for free, but if your opponent does have one or more of those, definitely side this out. When this trades for a card, it's great, as it's cheap, hits for a ton of damage, and forces your opponent to do something. Often that something costs more mana, and you only need to get so much out of your 2-mana card to justify playing it.
This card seems great, and not only because I like playing the shell game. If you cast this on turn three, it draws and casts a 2/2 for free on turn four. If you cast it later, it still threatens to be unblockable if the board gets cleared, and can get through if you have some combat tricks or removal spells even when it is blockable. Hitting with this is slightly better than drawing a card, especially in a creature-heavy deck, and a 3-mana 2/3 is already reasonable.
The rating on this is contingent on the flying, which conveniently enough works if you put this on a red or white creature. It does a lot of damage out of nowhere, making it great even as a 1-shot, and slamming this on Jeskai Student or Frost Walker on turn three can lead to some very quick games (and/or embarassing situations). As with all Auras, its value highly depends on how much and what kind of removal the opponent has, but this has enough upside that I'd be willing to include it first and reevaluate after seeing what I'm facing.
I've been pretty high on this card's Constructed potential lately (which may or may not be sage advice, depending on how things break), but it's no slouch in Limited either. At the very worst, you get your card back after this soaks up a couple damage, and the normal use case will often be much better than that. Any trick can let this trade up in the early game, and the Jeskai deck is ideally full of cantrips and cheap spells to make this a legitimate threat on defense or offense.
Lotus Path Djinn
I underrated Alabaster Kirin when I reviewed it, and I'm trying a different path for this card. A 2/3 flier is just a lot better in this format than I suspected, and hitting for 3 or threatening better blocks is a nice upside. Flying is also better than usual in this format, as ground stalls can and do happen when both players have a bunch of morphs and the like.
Marang River Prowler
The rating here is a tad deceptive. The power level definitely justifies it, but there are some extremely controlling decks that may leave this out, even if they are a tiny minority. This is great in any deck that wants to attack even if there are zero black or green permanents, and adding those permanents makes it nigh-unkillable.
While I don't mind playing 4/4 fliers for 6, it's a little annoying that the ability here isn't going to hurt your opponent, and may even help them. That means you are going to target yourself most of the time, but in a deck without delve, you basically get a 4/4 flier with a mild drawback, which is a far cry from the rest of the cycle (which are 4/4 fliers with mild upside). That it is a part of a cycle also makes it less valuable, as there are now five different options for your 6-drop slot, and as much as I'd like to admit otherwise, you shouldn't overload that spot.
I keep wanting to call this Misfire Adept, but I guess that's only applicable when you target the wrong creature with its ability. Misfires aside, this is a great card, and if not better than a 4/4 flier for 4, is at least very close to it. There are often turns where it does way more, such as when a flurry of spells launches your whole army into the air or when you surprise block with your Woolly Loxodon, and those turns make up for it not always having flying or being a 4/4. Like the other awesome Jeskai cards, this takes a little work, but it's powerful enough that it really is only a little, as this is quite playable even without a dedicated prowess deck.
It's funny that one mode is much better for Limited and the other for Constructed, with looting being the more Limited-focused mode. Games go longer, players have more mana, and there are vastly less removal and player-targeting spells running around. A loot every turn is worth taking turn three off, and this fuels delve and prowess both. It's not that different from Sultai Ascendancy, but it's way easier to cast and lets you see two new cards a turn, whereas Ascendancy can't draw you a land and a spell in the same exact turn if your hand needs both.
This is an easy sideboard card, as the morph mechanic neutralizes so many of the situations where this would be good. You just aren't countering Snowhorn Rider or Efreet Weaponmaster very often, and powerful cards like that are what you really want to counter. If the opponent has expensive gold cards this could be a good option, but I doubt they will often have so many that it's worth bringing in (I'd need to see at least three or four, and those three or four need to be on the expensive side).
I have nothing but disdain for a counterspell that doesn't work on turn three and may not work in the late game, especially given how much it conflicts with delve. Cancel is where it's at if you want this sort of effect.
This is likely to shift Constructed more than Limited, as a 2/2 creature has a lot more value in Limited, but it's still an interesting trick. I say trick more than removal spell as it really just shrinks their best creature into a 2/2, and some of the time it's actually an upgrade. I'd still run it, just because the best creatures in the opponent's deck are worth downgrading, but it is not great in multiples and it is much worse if your deck doesn't interact favorably with 2/2s (if you are all Canyon Lurkers, for example).
(Also, don't be all Canyon Lurkers. It's not a good look.)
Why focus on what matters when you can Refocus on the creatures that matter? This is never going to be a bad card, as it cycles for two mana at worst, and even in non-prowess decks it lets you ambush your opponent's creatures. In prowess decks, it's exactly what you need, even if it is slightly worse than tapping your opponent's creature (as you tend to be on offense more than defense). Attacking and casting this before damage is a fine play to make, though you do give up ambush potential for extra damage from your prowess triggers.
There are very few artifacts in this format, so you aren't going to get a whole lot of use out of this mana. Luckily, the Weaponsmith is happy to make a Bow for you (for now. Vials come later), which basically makes this the Stoneforge Mystic of Limited. That is taking a few liberties, as the rating indicates, and I'd only run this if I did have a Bow, and it's not a guarantee even then. In a prowess deck, fetching Bow does give you a trigger, and a 1/3 for two is at least a plausible blocker. Both this and Bow are slightly less than a full card, and the combination of the two in one card barely gets there, so don't go nuts over this combo.
Rite of Undoing
I was always a big fan of Peel from Reality, and this is very close to that. You have to delve fully to make it better, but it isn't that hard to get it down to two or three mana, and as the first delve card in your deck it's rarely going to be an issue. This effect isn't usually good until the midgame or later anyways, at which point your graveyard should be stocked.
What I like about this effect is how versatile it is. It can save your creature while getting essentially a free bounce on theirs, it can let you re-trigger ETB effects, and it can get their creature out of the way if needed. Casting it to bounce their creature does make it a bit of a cost to bounce your own, but given all the different situations this is good in, that's a cost I'm willing to pay.
Even without any outside assistance, Sage-Eye Avengers will bounce almost any creature your opponent has, and just one spell is usually enough to pick up the rest (especially if that spell is Defiant Strike). It is an expensive card that has to attack, but it delivers if you can manage to ever send it in.
If you have a reliable way to make bad creatures (besides just casting them, since that says bad things about your deck), this is an interesting value card. Most decks won’t have easy access to tokens, and paying six mana to turn your 2/2 into a 4/4 and their 4/4 into a 2/2 isn’t great, especially when it’s completely foiled by removal. I do like it as a sideboard card against a deck full of huge monsters, and will definitely be playing it in the Goblinslide decks I’m sure to draft.
Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest
This is like a Dragon-Style Twins that costs three mana, which is WAY better. Shu Yun not only bashes for tons of damage, he’s incredibly hard to block, and he threatens to double strike up any of your creatures. Add another card to the pile of “awesome Jeskai cards that really want cantrips,” which makes me think that the cantrips are going to be higher picks than they look.
Even the turbo delve decks don’t want to delve this badly, since a vanilla 2/1 for 2 is pretty close to being down half a card or so. This is playable, but not a keeper if you have any better options.
I love the design on this card, and it’s extremely powerful to boot. Bouncing their 5/5 and playing your own is a huge swing, and this is a format full of gigantic creatures. It costs a lot of mana, but does something impactful right away, and you even have the option of bouncing your own creature in response to removal, which is a sick 2-for-1.
I’m braced for the flood of “but isn’t it Time Walk!!?” comments, so bring them on. I can’t fault anyone for saying as much, but the reality of the situation is that this is a very expensive Time Walk, which makes it much more difficult to use effectively. In order to really get value out of Temporal Trespass, you need a heavy-delve deck, and there are better ways to use your graveyard than this. It will give you an extra attack if you are already in a position to attack, an extra land drop at a point in the game where that doesn’t really matter, and a draw step. That’s not worth the mana and effort it takes to use this, and I think this will be one of the more overrated cards in the set. It’s like how much less broken Treasure Cruise is in Limited compared to Constructed, and this card is much worse than Cruise in Limited.
The only thing keeping Torrent Elemental from being a perfect 5.0 is that it doesn’t win you games where you are really far behind. It does crush any game in which you are attacking, does a good job stabilizing against a normal board, and is even very hard to kill if you have any delve at all. Add to that the easy casting cost and you have a winner. This may well be the best card in the set.
Now this is a punishing bounce spell. It is a little limited in what it can target, but it makes your opponent skip a draw step while also forcing them to recast their creature. A lot of combats are going to end in tears (and re-drawn creatures) because of this card, with any Whisking of flipped morphs breaking games wide open. It doesn’t remove blockers or get cast end of turn, which is all that’s holding it back from being a 3.5, but it’s still a great card.
Will of the Naga
A mini-Icy Blast is still an Icy Blast, and this is a decent candidate for one of your delve cards if those slots aren’t filled. Even if they are, this is the kind of card that isn’t too bad to cast for full cost later in the game, as that’s when it’s most effective. The art is also really awesome, which doesn’t affect its rating but increases its style points.
Write into Being
This is essentially just the same as casting a morph, even more than any other manifest card. It costs three, gives you a 2/2, and because of the selection you have a good shot at it being an actual creature to flip up. The power level of this varies wildly, and the minor card selection doesn’t make up for how poor it can be in a very creature-light deck. In a deck with lots of creatures (especially the rares like Hooded Hydra and Master of Pearls), this becomes very good, and even just hitting a random solid creature is a fine play. This is also a way to play more creatures in a prowess deck, as it pulls double duty there.
Top 5 Blue Commons
In looking at the blue commons, I was surprised to see how close together they are. All of these have the same rating, which makes things a lot more interesting. It means I think they are in a similar band of power level (which of course could be off in one way or another), which means that they are more deck-dependent than something like a “Lightning Strike vs. any other red common” type of situation. I could see taking any of these one of these cards over any of the other four, and which direction your deck is heading will inform that choice.
For example, Refocus and Jeskai Sage want to go in the same deck, and you want to end up with some number of each, not just one of the two. Similarly, Lotus Path Djinn is overall a better card than Jeskai Sage, but I gave the nod to the cheaper card to reflect that you don’t want to use early picks on expensive cards because that limits your options later. Drafting is hard, and these cards are all good but not great, which makes them hard to choose between.
I’d default to taking the two bounce spells first, and again am not entirely sure which order they should be picked in. Both are good tempo plays, and both seem to fit well into any type of blue deck. Blue decks look like they can be controlling or aggressive, again staying on the path of many options, all of which I look forward to exploring.
Make sure to check back tomorrow at 11 a.m. EST for black!