Previous Set Reviews
There’s a lot going on in this set, and how all the pieces interlock makes it somewhat complicated to review. Vehicles, Energy, and more all rely on other cards in order to get full value, but I’ll try and factor that in as much as possible during the reviews.
I also want to mention, as usual, that the description of the card’s value is more important than the grade. The grade is a guideline, but the explanation will give you context, so use both when reading the review.
Let’s get to it!
Here’s the grading scale we will be using:
Retired and inducted into the Limited Hall of Fame: Pack Rat. Umezawa's Jitte.
5.0: The best of the best. (Archangel Avacyn. Sorin, Grim Nemesis.)
4.5: Incredible bomb, but not unbeatable. (The Gitrog Monster. Descend Upon the Sinful. Jace, Unraveller of Secrets. Avacyn’s Judgment.)
4.0: Good rare or top-tier uncommon. (Burn from Within. Devil’s Playground. Elusive Tormentor.)
3.5: Top-tier common or solid uncommon. (Duskwatch Recruiter. Breakneck Rider. Fiery Temper.)
3.0: Good playable that basically always makes the cut. (Graf Mole. Dauntless Cathar. Niblis of Dusk.)
2.5: Solid playable that rarely gets cut. (Nephalia Moondrakes. Stormrider Spirit. Reduce to Ashes.)
2.0: Good filler, but sometimes gets cut. (Expose Evil. Inspiring Captain. Lamplighter of Selhoff.)
1.5: Filler. Gets cut about half the time. (Fork in the Road. Convicted Killer. Militant Inquisitor.)
1.0: Bad filler. Gets cut most of the time. (Moldgraf Scavenger. Vampire Noble. Seagraf Skaab.)
0.5: Very low-end playables and sideboard material. (Invasive Surgery. Ethereal Guidance. Open the Armory.)
0.0: Completely unplayable. (Harness the Storm. Vessel of Volatility.)
Power-shrinking seems to be where blue gets a lot of its removal these days, and Aether Meltdown is a solid example. It will do a good job trading for a medium or small creature, and the 2 energy you get are not hard to find a use for.
This sounds great to me in theory, and I suspect it will hold up in practice. It’s a 1/3 that comes with three scrys attached, and you can even spend its energy in other places (or spend other energy scrying). That’s awesome, and this is going to be one of the better blue commons. I could see bumping it up to a 3.5, depending on how often blue decks end up caring about energy.
This wasn’t spectacular last time we saw it, but there’s a lot going on in Kaladesh that makes me interested in doing some trading. First of all, bouncing your own cards with ETB abilities is going to be easier, given how many there are. Second, bouncing crewed Vehicles or potential crew can wreak havoc on attacking and blocking plans, making midcombat bounce more valuable than it would be otherwise. I wouldn’t look to play this without combos, but it shouldn’t be too hard to find some.
In some games, this will be a 7-mana 6/6 flier that eats a removal spell. In others, it will completely dominate the game. It plays very nicely with other energy cards, and if you can get to 8 energy before playing this then you have an absurd bomb on your hands. It’s still a little too vulnerable to get a true bomb rating, but it’s close.
I wouldn’t reject this out of hand, but it’s not a card I’m likely to start in Draft. I will in Sealed, as the odds that your opponent has a couple good artifacts go way up, but it is too likely to be dead in Draft. It leads to a significant mana advantage when it works, but that’s not worth the risk of it doing nothing.
Well then, it looks like Mind Control is back. By itself, this steals any creature or artifact with cost 4 or less, which is absurd. I’d windmill slam this even if I knew it was going to be the only energy card I’d draft, because that effect is just too good. You are up a card and mana (paying 5 to steal a 4-drop is still highly mana efficient, because whatever card the 4 trades for is going to cost more than 1).
Once you start adding other energy cards to the mix, this gets even more absurd, not that it needs it.
In a land of Servos and Thopters, 2/1s for 2 look even worse than usual (and I’ve never been the biggest fan). I’d mostly avoid, with the caveat that sometimes you need to do something before turn 4.
The value of this is mostly predicated on how much you want a 3-mana counterspell. My assumption is that you aren’t going to want it every time, even with an interesting rider. The additional cost can be both drawback or advantage, though I’d lean toward it being an advantage in most decks and at most stages of the game. This isn’t that hard a thread to follow—do you want a 3-mana counter, and do you have synergies with bounce? If the answer to both is yes, play this card.
In a dramatic twist, a card that doesn’t add any stats, replace itself, or do anything but untap your permanents is not a good card. Do not play this.
Era of Innovation
There are so many build-arounds in this set, leading to a lot of 1.0/X ratings. We truly are in the best possible era, as build-arounds are what I live for in Draft. This one looks solid to me, providing you with a steady stream of energy and a way to sink it, which artifact/artificer heavy decks will be glad to make use of. This is also unplayable in tons of decks, but good enough that I wouldn’t hate to move in early on it.
I prefer experimental aviators, myself.
Second-rate Aviators aside, this is a solid card. It provides 2/5 worth of flying stats, which is good for 5 mana, and the 0/3 combos perfectly with the various bounce and flicker effects. It also ups your artifact count, and is hard to combat with a removal spell.
Would you loot? What if you had to pay 4 mana for the privilege, even with a counterspell attached? In general, I’m going to say no, as leaving 4 mana up is just too punishing if they don’t play into it. This is a good sideboard card, and seems solid in Sealed.
I like the look of this. I have an affinity for solid finishers, and this is a great way for a blue deck to close out a game. You will often cast this for 5 mana, at which point it’s a great deal, and you have outs to pay even less. The unblockable ability is a nice bonus too, and will be relevant more than you might think.
Glimmer of Genius
I’m in for everything about this card. Scry 2 + draw 2 is very close to a draw 3/4, depending on the stage of the game (once lands become worth 0, this is much closer to draw 4). Getting 2 energy makes this a great deal, and it being an instant is just icing on the already-delicious cake.
With only six artifacts in your deck, you are still 50/50 to see one or more with this. That’s a very good deal, and it shouldn’t be hard to end up with more than six artifacts. I’m a fan of this, and will be drafting it aggressively.
With a name like Hightide Hermit, I expected you to be able to remove energy counters to make your Islands tap for extra blue mana, but no such luck. As is, Hightide Hermit is a passable card if you don’t have other energy cards, and gets upgraded to solid once you do. This is more of an energy creator than an energy sink, as a 4/4 that gets to attack isn’t the most exciting.
The upside on this is high enough that I’m willing to risk the times when I keep mana up for it and am not presented with a good target. The key here is that it is a 4-mana unconditional counter at worst, so if you leave this up you can counter a creature or whatever the opponent plays on their turn. If they happen to play a removal spell, you utterly destroy them, and there’s even the chance that you want to copy their (or your) spell, though that’s going to be the least-used mode. It’s also disgusting if you attack and your opponent plays a trick or removal spell midcombat, as your mana is naturally going to be untapped.
This loses some value once the opponent knows about it, but the high end is so high that it’s a good card overall.
By itself, this is a fine card. A 2/3 for 3 with a one-shot tap or untap ability is decent. It gets more interesting in an energy deck, but overall isn’t dependent on that nor does it really change all that much.
I don’t know why, but this name is very funny to me. The card is also pretty good, though the 3.0 rating is a bit deceptive—not every deck will play this, because of how bad a blocker it is, but it’s easily a 3.0 on power level. As long as you are moderately aggressive, Skywhale is your best bud, so make sure that you care about attacking before playing it. I also wouldn’t have guessed that the Skywhale is a paragon of aggression, but here we are.
Despite Sleep Paralysis being unexciting, you did always play this, and Malfunction is Sleep Paralysis with a slight upside. I’m all for choosing function over form, and this will do well despite feeling clunky.
In the average deck, this is unplayable trash. In a deck with 10+ spells it’s a huge game, and worth building around. I’m going to start out the format by picking it early, but it’s possible that such decks just aren’t a real thing. If you see this later in the draft, you should have a pretty good idea if it’s what your deck wants (and the answer will normally be “no”).
Minister of Inquiries
Milling is not a supported theme in this set, so Minister has a long road ahead of him. He doesn’t make that much energy, and even if your deck can generate a ton of energy, if you mill the opponent four times then this dies, you often will have accomplished nothing besides wasting time and energy.
It doesn’t take much for a card to earn its stripes, and drawing a card on ETB is plenty. This is on the higher end of the curve, but I’d still take and play multiples.
Padeem, Consul of Innovation
I’m going to deem this great, mainly because it’s not hard to make it a personal Howling Mine. A 4-mana 1/4 is only one mana more than average, and if you seek out 4-5 mana artifacts you should easily crush the competition. Hexproof is even a nice little bonus, meaning the opponent has to remove a 4-toughness creature before they can mess with the rest of your stuff.
Look, I like Divination more than most, but this is a lot of hoops to jump through to draw a couple cards. I get that it saves your creatures, and can re-trigger ETB effects, but resetting your board to draw a couple cards seems like more trouble than it’s worth. I’m going to pass on this.
The odds that this goes dead are a little high for my taste, as 2 mana is not a lot once the game gets past turn 5 or 6. Once you factor in that it misses on artifacts, it looks even worse, and despite 2-mana counters being the good kind, this isn’t revolutionary by any stretch.
Given that there will almost always be an artifact in play, this card is great. Copying the best creature and the best artifact is well worth 6 mana, and even if you miss and just get a creature, it’s not the end of the world. If you draft this, try and bias toward picking up some good artifacts, and try to avoid trading off if it’s looking like you can set this up.
Select for Inspection
Upon further inspection, I kind of like this card. It can’t bounce a blocker, which makes it less good in tempo decks (what is tempo, anyway?), but it’s still a solid combat trick. Scry 1 is a nice little bonus, and makes it better in the kinds of decks that aren’t usually interested in bounce. It’s neat that this is worse in decks that normally want bounce and better in the ones that don’t, and I suspect it will play well.
You clearly can’t just play this in any deck (unless you are a very bad negotiator), but in a deck full of Servos it will thrive. The effect is insanely powerful, so if you can reliably pull it off, it’s a fantastic card.
Between Gambits and Ambition, Tezzeret draws a lot of cards. A planeswalker after my own heart indeed. 5 mana to draw three and discard one is passable in decks that want slow card draw, and the bonus of not having to discard is meaningful (though how good this is relies more on what your deck is trying to do than whether you have artifacts or not). This at common makes me think a control deck is possible, even if aggro decks aren’t likely to play this.
This is the kind of 1-drop I can get behind. Seriously, it’s going to protect me with its giant shell. The Turtle enables other energy cards, or becomes a 1/4 for 1 (that is tapped for a turn), which are both good deals. If you end up with a deck that doesn’t use energy otherwise and doesn’t want blockers, this is cuttable, but most blue decks will want it.
Torrential Gearhulk doesn’t ask much of you. Play a few instants, get to 6 mana, and profit. I’d play this as a giant Ambush Viper (I guess that isn’t a great comparison, because Gearhulk is very good) even in a deck without spells, and once you get to 4+ instants you really get to make it rain. You don’t need to go out of your way to enable this, but it’s a good tiebreaker when you are deciding between an instant and a non-instant.
This Vedalken may not be a genius, but it’s still playable. In a deck with 5+ spells, this does what you want, and is decent filler even with fewer spells (threat of activation makes it a hard card to block).
A Hill Giant that takes to the sky when you play an artifact sounds passable on offense and medium on defense. It’s playable if you need another creature, and goes up in value slightly if you are both aggressive and have a decent amount of artifacts. I’d rather not wing it, but every now and then you are caught unprepared.
The cost-to-stats ratio here has always been solid in Limited, and will continue to be so. It’s a tad better in aggressive decks, but a fine playable no matter what your strategy is (though not the most exciting of cards).
Top 5 Blue Commons
5. Wind Drake
Blue is lacking in the common department. I like the overall energy synergies (and think the blue energy build-arounds are more appealing than the artifact ones), but the power level of the commons is pretty low. Aether Theorist is the one I’m most excited for, with the rest all being passable additions to your deck. There just aren’t very many blue commons I’d be excited to first-pick, which is not a good sign.