Welcome back to my Magic 2014 set review! To wrap up, I'll look at each artifact and land card and analyze it for both Constructed and Limited, and for good measure, I’ll occasionally throw in an extremely clever joke.
Here are my previous Magic 2014 reviews, for reference:
Here’s the ratings system I’ll be using:
2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. Naturalize. (Bear in mind that many cards fall into this category, although an explanation is obviously important.)
1.0: It has seen play once. One with Nothing. (I believe it was tech vs. Owling Mine, although fairly suspicious tech at that.)
5.0: I will always play this card. Period.
4.5: I will almost always play this card, regardless of what else I get.
4.0: I will strongly consider playing this as the only card of its color.
3.5: I feel a strong pull into this card’s color.
3.0: This card makes me want to play this color. (Given that I’m playing that color, I will play this card 100% of the time.)
2.5: Several cards of this power level start to pull me into this color. If playing that color, I essentially always play these. (Given that I’m playing that color, I will play this card 90% of the time.)
2.0: If I’m playing this color, I usually play these. (70%)
1.5: This card will make the cut into the main deck about half the times I play this color. (50%)
1.0: I feel bad when this card is in my main deck. (30%)
0.5: There are situations where I might sideboard this into my deck, but I’ll never start it. (10%)
0.0: I will never put this card into my deck (main deck or after sideboarding). (0%)
According to my research, people in the comments seemed to dislike when I used previous reviews, so here we are. This is still not a card for Constructed.
While there are circumstances where I can imagine playing this, I’d like to avoid them as much as possible. If you have a bunch of high-power creatures with 1 toughness, Shield can force your opponent to trade for them with multiple creatures, or at least big creatures. Unlike in Scars of Mirrodin, there is no metalcraft to give you a reason to play Accorder’s Shield, so I’d recommend you don’t.
Like I said in my reviews of Bogbrew Witch and Festering Newt (or as people seem to be calling them, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe), I hope that this is a workable combo. I suspect it won’t be, but gaining 4 life a turn is an actual thing. It’s actually possible that Bubbling Cauldron can do enough work on its own to justify inclusion. It only costs two, and paying one and a creature to gain 4 life is not the worst, even if you are playing 0 Witches or Newts. A deck full of Lingering Souls and Elves might not mind brewing up some life against mono-red.
Unless you are going straight C.S. Lewis, Bubbling Cauldron is more of a sideboard card than anything else. It does have sweet lifegain applications, so there are also combo decks you can draft where this becomes a nice one.
EDH ramifications aside, I don’t think this is going to see a whole lot of play. It’s a powerful card, with a casting cost that reflects that.
There is no reason for this to ever be in your deck. It costs a million and does nothing.
It’s unlikely that your mana artifacts will come under so much attack that this ends up being better than Chromatic Lantern, but it is possible. Signets aren’t coming back anytime soon, and in that world, Darksteel Ingot remains firmly in the playable pile.
The average 2-color deck does not want Darksteel Ingot, but who wants to draft that deck? The decks that do want Ingot really want it, and those decks range from 3+ color decks to decks with somewhat awkward curves. I’m well-acquainted with both.
Door of Destinies
There are so many Anthem effects in print right now, enough that the Door’s Destiny is to remain unplayed.
You really need a ton of one creature type to make this worthwhile, and that isn’t going to happen all that often. Luckily, when you are going deep on a particular tribe, the odds are good that nobody else is looking to open this door.
Elixir of Immortality
As long as Trinket Mage is hanging around, this will continue to see some amount of play. It’s never been insane, but it does what it’s supposed to do well enough.
This is mostly a sideboard card against the mill deck, with minor applications against very aggressive decks as well. The sweetest reason to play this is to recycle your infinite card draw, but you really need to have a ton of card draw to pull this off. Without Foresee, I’m not sure how possible that is.
Fireshrieker is simultaneously good and overrated. It’s clearly a powerful card, and one that I think you should play often, but it’s also not a bomb. In decks with all 2/2s, it’s OK to cut it, and so far it seems like people treat it like an auto-include.
Guardian of the Ages
Wait, the 7-drop 7/7 has a drawback? It’s been ages since a rate that tame was considered good, and this is several special abilities short of even being considered.
A 7-drop that doesn’t really pressure the opponent kind of defeats the purpose. Granted, it makes it very hard for your opponent to attack you, but giving them the option to avoid doing so until they draw a removal spell is pretty awkward. It’s a sweet story, so I just wish the card was a little stronger.
Haunted Plate Mail
I think this has more than a ghost of a chance of seeing play. It dodges removal and plays very well with Supreme Verdict, letting control choose when to expose their creature to removal. It’s also cool that you can stack multiple Plate Mails, just activating each one in response to the others. A 4/4 for four might be a little behind the curve these days, but this is an interesting option.
Haunted Plate Mail is a perfect fit for the creature-light controlling decks, providing a large creature at low cost. Equipping it is also very effective, turning any creature into a knightmare for your opponent. It isn’t part of a great aggressive curve, so I could see focused aggro decks choosing not to run this, but that will be extremely rare.
Nephalia Drownyard is the stones. Millstone, while literally being a stone, is not. Drownyard was free in every sense of the word, and let you play a win condition without costing a cardslot. If that wasn’t enough, it even milled for three!
If you are really hard-up for a way to end the game, you can do worse than Millstone. Not very many decks need to stoop to this level, but some certainly do. Winning with Millstone is just such a grind, and it does absolutely nothing to defend you. It’s basically Lava Spike—there is no impact up until the point you actually win the game. I do like it quite a bit as a sideboard card, particularly against the kind of decks that would have been tempted to play it. Playing a turn four Millstone and going deep can definitely outrace the all-removal deck (though it does power up their Archaeomancers).
Writing about Millstone reminds me of a more general point. Understanding the value of marginal/situational cards is a huge strength in Limited. Everyone knows how good Chandra’s Outrage and Doom Blade are, so knowing when it’s appropriate to pick and play the fringe cards can give you a significant amount of value. In this case, picking up a late Millstone as a sideboard plan against the very slow control decks can completely change the game, and force them to actually try and kill you, which isn’t always the easiest. I’m always on the lookout for opportunities (and Opportunities), and love going deep on sideboarding. Bringing in 3-5 cards can completely swing a matchup, and if those are less-played cards, the opponent is unlikely to predict or play around them.
This fits Flames of the Firebrand like a glove, but besides that interaction there isn’t much that jumps out at me. The ability here is quite powerful, I just can’t see paying five mana to improve your later plays without affecting the board.
If you have so many burn spells that this would be awesome, congrats! Your deck is amazing, and probably doesn’t need Pyromancer’s Gauntlet. That won’t stop me from trying this in the 7+ burn spell deck, as long as at least one of those spells is a Flames.
Ratchet Bomb always hovered around sideboards, and while I feel like it cost me a Top 8 at Pro Tour Paris by not just being Oust, its return is something to note. With tokens a driving force in the Standard metagame, looking to Ratchet Bomb for assistance seems very reasonable.
I like this more as a sideboard card in Limited as well. Against decks with mostly 3+ casting cost cards, it’s such a horrendous topdeck that I’d prefer to leave it out of the main deck. It does the job against fast decks, and does offer an answer to annoying enchantments/artifacts, all of which are signs it should be kept in the board.
Ring of Three Wishes
First of all, this gets an A+ for flavor. I wish all cards could be as awesome. Secondly, it actually has some minor Constructed implications. Big mana decks occasionally use Planar Portal, and Ring of Three Wishes is just a superior version, if that’s the sort of effect you are wishing for.
My optimal deck is one that can take advantage of Ring of Three Wishes, but that deck isn’t easy to get. You basically need 8+ removal spells, a good suite of defensive creatures, and at least one real finisher. That makes Ring a bit narrow, but cards that cost 10 mana before they do anything tend to be narrow at best.
Rod of Ruin
If you don’t spare the Rod, you will spoil your deck.
I’ve been reasonably impressed with Rod of Ruin so far. You certainly shouldn’t maindeck it all that often, but in a slow deck it can provide a good amount of late game control (as well as a kill condition in a pinch). It’s also a very good sideboard card, and can dominate some matchups.
I can’t construct a scenario where I would want this, even in the all-Sliver deck (if that exists).
Unlike Venser’s Sliver, siding this in against Sliver decks isn’t the most effective. Sliver Construct isn’t the best card, but can fill out your curve, and if you have even a couple good Slivers it is a fine addition. In the actual Sliver deck this becomes a high pick, and one you aren’t competing for.
Of all the countless cycles of lucky charms, dating all the way back to Alpha, Dragon’s Horn was the only one that really emerged as playable. That hasn’t changed with the new additions to the staff.
I just can’t do it. Even in the most aggressive of matchups, and even if your deck is mono-colored, you’ve got to be able to do better than this. I will admit that it might be right a very, very small percentage of the time to side one of these in, but it is far better to let one hundred guilty staves go free than side in the one innocent one.
Cards like this have never really resonated with me. Luckily, Magic is whichever game you want it to be, so I’ll leave it to others to figure out how to break this. It is costed at such a rate that I can imagine it happening, unlike some cards in this space.
If you have 5+ sick triggers to copy, go for it. Making multiple Angels with Angelic Accord seems like a big enough game to try going off with Strionic Resonator, as long as you’re aware that you’ll end up with a ton of cards in your deck that don’t do anything by themselves.
This still does a lot of cool stuff. As before, I feel like it’s goat to be too slow, but would be happy to be proved wrong. I’m always reminded of the Squandered Resources flavor text when I look at Trading Post, because that’s what it feels like happens when you are “going off.”
On the other hand, Limited lends itself well to durdling, and Trading Post certainly has that going for it. Artifacts are an integral part of the process, so try to pick a few up if you can.
Vial of Poison
You can poison your chances and your opponent’s creatures at the same time!
I’m not a huge fan of the on-board trick that 2-for-1s you most of the time, but sometimes you’ve just gotta kill an 8/8. Siding this in is the most appropriate use (if there is a socially acceptable use for a vial of poison, that is), and if you can combine this with a first-striker at least you don’t lose both your cards.
Value lands are awesome, as I’ve said many times, even at this power level. This isn’t strong enough to encroach on Tectonic Edge’s space in Modern, but will definitely be useful in Standard. Offering a way other than Ghost Quarter to kill Kessig Wolf Run or Gavony Township is very attractive to control decks, and now that Mutavault is back there is additional value in being able to blow up lands. You can also technically do better than Edge if you ramp enough, which will come up occasionally.
If your mana is good and your opponent has a Mutavault, siding this in is fine. Otherwise, it’s a complete waste, even if they have Shimmering Grotto (unless you are mono-colored and they are heavily relying on the Grotto).
Look what tried to sneak in with all the basics. Mutavault is incredibly powerful, and having it around certainly impacts Standard greatly. Along with value lands, I also like incentives to change the way you build decks, and Mutavault is a huge point in favor of mono-color or near-mono decks. It doesn’t have quite as many Tribal implications as it had last time, but even as an additional spell-land in mono-red, it has a very big impact. Having Mutavault around is a big deal, and as the format evolves, it will continue to matter significantly.
Mutavault is awesome value, but isn’t an actual bomb. I’d always play it, and would only hesitate to pick it over good removal or one of the better common creatures. There are even some decks where the mana is an issue, but Mutavault as an 18th land is still quite reasonable. It’s also worth noting that the Sliver deck will actually pick this over most things.
While this saw a minor amount of play last year, the release of shocklands means that it’s grotto go.
Even in a 3-color deck, Grotto can be fairly punishing. Sphere of Resistance is not an effect I like to apply to myself, so my mana has to be pretty bad before I’d stoop to playing it.
Top 10 Constructed Cards
Magic 2014 has some very powerful additions to Constructed, with impact across all formats. Scavenging Ooze and Mutavault are just insanely powerful cards in a vacuum, and both have very relevant contextual abilities to boot. Legacy got a staple in Tidebinder Mage, Modern and Standard got a combo card in the Pyromancer, and Standard picked up a bunch of engines and staples with the rest of the list.
Standard just keeps getting more awesome, and I’m looking forward to playing it over the next few months, though in the short term I’ll be doing coverage. Next week I’ll be in Amsterdam, doing live commentary for the World Championship and the World Magic Cup, and a few weeks after that I’ll be in the booth for Grand Prix Oakland, which is the first Grand Prix run by ChannelFireball. I love doing coverage, and even though I plan on playing a ton of Magic, it’s been awesome getting involved in new aspects of the game.