Welcome back to my Magic 2014 set review! As before, I’ll take a look at each card and analyze it for both Constructed and Limited, and for good measure, I’ll occasionally throw in an extremely clever joke.
I tried omitting reprints entirely last time, and this time I'm excerpting the relevant points from past reviews. Let us know which method you prefer. At this point, I’ve done nearly 5 years of set reviews, and reviewing Negate for the 3rd or 4th time does not seem necessary.
If you missed any of the other Magic 2014 reviews, check them out!
Here are my previous Magic 2014 reviews, for reference:
Lastly, I didn't want to devote an entire article to my Hall of Fame ballot, so I've included a brief section at the bottom. Click here to jump to the ballot.
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%)
From my Magic 2011 Set Review:
Good help is so hard to find.
Losing to Lightning Bolt and other 3-damage effects is annoying, but the tapping ability more than makes it for it (when compared to Air Elemental, obviously). Air Servant dominates the skies and is great even if they don't have fliers, which makes it absurd if they do[...]
From my Magic 2013 Set Review:
It would make me very happy to cast this in Constructed, and it’s the most aggressively-costed of the various Scriveners so far. At three mana, this would be busted, so hopefully four is the sweet spot. Of course, he’s going to be overshadowed by another similar card that we shall not name (thanks, Tiago!), but them’s the breaks.
As long as you have four or more decent to good targets, this is a sweet card, and once you start pushing 7+, it’s awesome. This being a common is great, and will lead to some pretty durdly draft decks—if I have my way.
Magic 2011 Set Review:
I don't really know what a Cancrix is, and have no desire to find out. You would think something with futuristic armor would be better then a 2/5, but I guess not.
I don't actually feel too bad about playing this, since if I really need a ground blocker that bad, my deck is probably pretty sweet. Cancrix isn't going to win any MVP awards, but it sure can hold off random 4/4s so your [fliers] can kill them.
Magic 2012 Set Review:
I guess it’s fine to have this always floating around, since U/x decks often play one or two if the format warrants it. Still, I don’t think anyone has ever been excited to put this in their deck.
In a heavy-blue deck, I’m always going to start at least one Cancel, though I don’t mind sideboarding it out a reasonable percentage of the time. Even in aggressive decks, Cancel goes a long way against the expensive bombs that seem to populate every Limited format nowadays, and I really like having access to a few counters.
Innistrad Set Review:
The two-mana versions of this threatened to see a little play (Narcolepsy, Curse of Chains), but still never really got there. Adding a mana pretty much leaves this stuck in the closet, but at least it’s good in Limited.
It’s pretty hard to go wrong with this, due to the trigger it has[...] Blue doesn’t often get actual removal, and it’s nice to see some for a change (since blue usually sucks in Limited, or so I’d like you to believe).
While Clone (and Clones in general) certainly lose ground because of the new legend rule, I’ve been happy enough playing Clone just to copy Reanimator’s Thragtusks and Angels of Serenity already. I imagine that Clone will continue to operate as a fringe sideboard card, even if it no longer is a Hero’s Demise.
I’ve long been a fan of Clone in Limited. The only thing better than having the best creature in play is having two of it, and if it happened that your opponent had the best creature, now you are at least tied.
While this might be a colossal failure in Constructed, it gets an A+ grade for flavor. The only way it could be greater is if it was white, as unlikely as that is to happen.
I like getting a 7-drop’s worth of power when I pay seven mana, and this delivers. Swallowing their best creature alive is nothing to scoff at, and makes this a good enough attacker that it only really has islandwalk for flavor reasons.
Magic 2012 Set Review:
The days when just having the Merfolk creature type gave you an easy in have passed; did you know that Merfolk of the Pearl Trident was played in the Top 8 of Worlds (and made the finals even)?
Dismiss into Dream
I don’t mean to just dismiss new cards, but you’ve gotta be dreaming if you think a conditional 7-mana enchantment is going to make waves in Constructed.
While this is expensive and situational, I can actually envision drafting a deck where it does some good work. If you can pick up enough repeatable targeting effects, it’s not unreasonable to build around this and get rewarded for it.
Every now and then, it’s handy to have an unconditional bounce spell lying around. Not often, but enough that it matters that this is in the format.
Fast decks don’t mind using this to press the offense, and slow decks can use it to survive. It’s rarely an all-star, but will also rarely start the match in your sideboard (at least not the first copy).
I just wanted an excuse to link to this awesome match against Jeff Huang. To keep it related, it was a 75-card mirror, and the deck did in fact play Divination. The best part by far is the handshake at 41:45, though the entire match is pretty epic too.
I also wanted to note how great Divination is in Limited. I don’t claim to know the future, but I predict that I play many copies of this card in a draft video or 10.
It’s rare that they print such a cheap Control Magic, even if can’t take uncommonly large creatures. Domestication competed with a slightly higher power level Standard last time it was around, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see it do a little more in this era. It’s a great answer to Boros Reckoner and Voice of Resurgence, and might even be able to snag a Restoration Angel from time to time. It’s also relevant that you can take anything, but only get to keep it if it’s large, so at worst this can make a creature unable to block, or let you take and sacrifice something like a Thragtusk.
Control Magic is Control Magic, and even though this can’t take a huge bomb, it still is a huge bomb.
I’ve had good times with Isochron Scepter, and though this is much easier to kill and twice as expensive, I’m still willing to give it a try. The Silence lock is out there, but I think the more likely use for Elite Arcanist is just as a value card. Playing this in a spell-heavy control deck could pay off, and sideboarding it in against removal-light decks sounds kind of awesome. The ultimate dream is copying Divination, though that goes without saying.
The rating on this one varies wildly. In a deck with a bunch of spells, it’s awesome, and in a spell-light deck, it’s mediocre. Regardless, it’s risky, but if it survives it seems pretty difficult to lose. Copying basically anything and getting to use it every turn is very powerful, unless you are foolish enough to stick a Spell Blast onto the Arcanist.
Magic 2013 Set Review:
Remove Soul is back, and this time it can target Soulless One with no repercussions! It’s even extra effective against Essence of the Wild. Flavordraft considerations aside, it’s nice to have this back, and even nicer that we get a break from Mana Leak.
I’d always play up to two of these, and even a third is still going to be pretty good. It’s no Doom Blade—but it’s still blue’s best removal spell. Two mana instead of three (Cancel etc.) really does make that big of a difference, and it shouldn’t be that hard to snipe their good creatures with this. It even makes being on the draw awesome, since countering their three-drop when you don’t have a two-drop feels real nice.
Magic 2012 Set Review:
I don’t often play cards like this, but when I do, I prefer Frost Breath. Stay frosty, my friends.
The first Breath is a pretty easy inclusion, but you really have to be sure you are beatdown before playing multiples. This might not be Blinding Beam, though it’s close, and Blinding Beam was an absolute beating. I’ve already seen this end games, and even defensively it buys you a significant amount of time.
The power level on this card seems very high. It might be possible that the rest of the Slivers don’t deliver, but a Flying Men that is also a Wonder is very strong. I could regale you with tales of David Ochoa winning Vintage tournaments with Flying Men in his deck (it happened many times), but that was long enough ago that you’ll just have to take my word for it.
It is a little awkward that the vast majority of Slivers aren’t in blue, since that cuts down on the power of this card significantly. Part of the strength of this is curving into it because it’s so cheap, so playing it off a splash, while still good in the Sliver deck, is much less exciting.
Glimpse the Future
I’ve glimpsed the past, and seen how much better Forbidden Alchemy is.
I’d rather divine the future than glimpse it, as it turns out. I’ll still play this card if I’m short on playables or have a bomb that is crucial to find, but it doesn’t seem too strong.
It’s probably a bad sign that this would be wildly unplayable even without the sacrifice clause on it.
It shouldn’t be too hard to get a solid hit in with this, and sometimes they just don’t have a way to target your guys (plus, a good percentage of the time the spell they are using to target with would just kill or bounce your creature anyway). The stats here are compelling enough to make this a decent playable.
Magic 2012 Set Review:
Jace, Memory Adept
Not only do I not mind value, I’m always seeking it, so I’m willing to give this Fish Illusion a decent shot. You really do have to hit with it to make it worth it, which relegates it to the sideboard at best. It’s unfortunate that Sphinx’s Revelation isn’t a great hit, so you are more looking to cast Warleader’s Helix than anything else. I think the time isn’t right for this card, but once the spell selection improves I could see it making a comeback. Until then, go fish.
Even if you miss, you end up with an Air Elemental for six mana, which is a fine deal in Limited. Hitting isn’t impossible, either, so a good portion of the times you cast this it will come with a free card tacked onto it.
Magic 2011 Set Review:
When will the Merfolk learn that instead of spying and observing they should be doing something useful, like pillaging or plundering?
I don't think I am ever going to sideboard this in, but if you end up with a U-based beatdown deck and are playing against another blue deck, this isn't the worst. I sided in Grayscaled Gharial a fair amount against the mill deck in Ravnica draft, and I suppose this is strictly better.
The more important the message, the larger the messenger, and the more unplayable in Constructed. If the message was unimportant enough for a 1-mana 1/1, maybe we’d be draking a second look at this.
It’s pretty hard to go wrong with a 5-mana 3/3 flier, so tacking a card onto it makes this into a mighty fine card indeed.
Magic 2012 Set Review:
In Sealed I’m always going to start this, but in draft it’s going to be about half the time. It misses pretty hard against some decks, and nothing is worse than leaving Negate mana up and having them just cast creature after creature. It’s definitely a late game card, though one that is really excellent against some decks. Having some for your board is never the worst idea.
It feels like this guy just left, and now he’s back in a flash. Sadly, he’s still unplayable.
This might not say “draw a card” as explicitly as Messenger Drake, but don’t be fooled: it secretly does, and not all that rarely. You probably won’t get two cards in the same match, but the first isn’t too hard to pick up against an unwary opponent.
We haven’t had the opportunity to cast this for a while, but it’s probably not a revelation that there are other cards that provide this effect and more at a better cost. Still, not every deck wants to play white mana, so giving non-white decks a chance to draw a lot of cards is pretty cool.
I already love Divination, and this is more than double a Divination (since you don’t have to spend a card on the second Divination). I don’t think I’ll pass this much, right or wrong.
Quicken hasn’t ever made its mark on Constructed, but I like having it around, just for the sweet stories. Who knows? At some point it might do something awesome.
At least it cycles, and every now and then you can get a little value from it. As someone who frequently ends up with not enough playables, I’m loathe to say that a cycler has no value.
I might be stealing from my past review, but this is still not a playable card.
My reason for re-reviewing Scroll Thief rests solely on the majestic wings of the Condor. Trained Condor plus Scroll Thief is such a sick combo that Scroll Thief gets measurably better in Limited, and an actual high pick if you have one or more Condors.
You can sea my review of Concordia Pegasus for more details, but suffice to say that this is not playable.
How playable this is mainly depends on the speed of the format. I played Concordia Pegasus more often than not, and Return to Ravnica wasn’t the fastest format, so I imagine that Seacoast Drake will be a fine role-player. Blocking well early and pecking in for a few points of damage late is perfectly reasonable for a 21st card or so.
Innistrad Set Review:
I’ve been impressed with this thus far, since it basically does what you want it to do. It does leave them with a chump blocker and all, and doesn’t kill huge things, but for one mana (and that mana being blue), it’s still a good deal. I could do without the picture though, for whatever that’s worth.
Paying more mana than my opponent did to counter things doesn’t sound like a blast. The fact that you are always going to be a turn behind, even on the play, means that Spell Blast really doesn’t do what you want and need your counters to do. Counters are even dubious in a world with Voice of Resurgence and Cavern of Souls, so they have to be quite a bit better than this to see play.
I have basically the same qualms in Limited, though I can see myself siding this in if my opponent has spells I anticipate wanting to counter in the late game, especially something like cheap removal.
Tidebinder Mage will certainly impact Legacy, and has a ton of utility in Standard as well. For the reasons I listed in my preview article, I feel like Tarmogoyf, Deathrite Shaman, and Thragtusk are all going to spend a fair amount of time locked down under Tidebinder Mage in the months to come.
This is a little more targeted than most of the color-hoser cycle, as it really is nothing special unless they happen to be red or green. That said, it’s still a 2/2 for 2, albeit a slightly hard to cast one, so I’d always start it (but side it out if it misses).
The power level of Constructed ebbs and flows over time, but never has it been so low as to allow this entry.
I’ve always been a fan of Time Ebb, just because of how cheap it is. It’s annoying card to play against, and I’d always run the first couple. It just fits your curve, trades for a card and likely gains you some mana.
The tome isn’t right for this in Constructed, and even if you scour all the Daily Event deck lists on MTGO, you won’t find any.
I only mention this because it might spawn a fringe mill deck in Limited. That deck has been good in the past, and might be good again.
Unless you can train this to be cheaper, I don’t think it’s giving anything flying.
White has Master of Diversion and blue has Trained Condor. Both are sick aggressive cards, and both make it incredibly hard for your opponents to effectively defend themselves. The Condor is a little better on defense, and more likely to be able to attack, so I’d give it the nod if it comes down to that.
Magic 2011 Set Review:
No, opening this is not a sign you should be drafting the mill deck, even if you think you can wheel the Tome Scour out of the pack.
Magic 2011 Set Review:
Wall of Frost
If you want a wall (and blue usually does), this is a good one. It is not quite as effective as it looks, from experience, since even against two creatures they still get damage through every other turn—the inability to actually kill things is annoying. It still does the job, and stops almost every ground creature in the format.
Warden of Evos Isle
It might be a little ambitious, but the idea of a Skies deck that just overloads on 2-4 mana fliers sounds like it could be interesting. I suspect that Warden really needed to cost two in order to make that possible, but one can dream.
A Wind Drake with a decent upside is always welcome in Limited, and it’s hard to even assemble a blue deck without other fliers if you’re trying (and you shouldn’t be).
I guess this is the guy that brings Morphling coffee and does his laundry (and even Morphling wouldn't be good enough in Standard).
[B]lue gets some pretty good groundpounders in this set, with both this and Harbor Serpent locking up the ground really well. Water Servant can block anything and live, or just trade for anything with six or less toughness. Even at 2UU for a 3/4, it would be good, and it is much more than that.
I like drawing cards more than the next mage, but even I have to bow to reality sometimes (no, really, I do). Paying seven mana for this just isn’t in the cards, regardless of how many cards Lingering Souls might be able to draw you. Actually, I think I just talked myself back into trying this...
This is on the slightly tame side as far as bombs go, but 7 toughness is a lot of toughness. Drawing a card or two the turn it comes down also goes a long way, so I’d probably take this if I had the opportunity (even if there’s an actual Opportunity also in the pack).
You could charge zero mana for this and it still wouldn’t see play.
The interesting tension with cards like this (and Levitation) is always that blue decks already have fliers, a fact certainly not lost on the designers. As with Levitation, there are decks that want this, mostly UG decks, but those are few and far between. You not only need to have enough good ground creatures, you need a lack of other spells, because almost any other board-interacting spells would be preferable. If you’re all out of that, Zephyr Charge can do the trick. It is also a decent sideboard card for either offensive or defensive purposes.
Top 5 Blue Commons
Blue looks insane in this set. Not only are the top 5 commons all fairly strong, there are plenty of good ones that didn’t make the cut. Archaeomancer can easily be the best of all of them, given enough spells, Divination is sweet, Time Ebb does good work, and that still leaves a number of playables. I look forward to drafting blue, and even though its best common is aggressive, the rest fit well into any style of deck.
Top 5 Constructed Cards
Note that Jace is still awesome, but since we all know that, I wanted to take a look at the new cards. Blue got some good ones, and even past the excellent Tidebinder Mage, Opportunity and Domestication both are going to do some solid work. I like the idea of building non-white blue control decks, which was barely an option before, and Domestication really rewards you for knowing exactly what creatures you are going to face in a given event.
Hall of Fame Ballot
Each year, the Hall of Fame ballot has more and more of my contemporaries on it. I now get the chance to vote almost exclusively for players I've interacted with often. I've played against these players in Pro Tours, Grand Prix, team drafts, and even playtesting. It makes me incredibly happy to cast my vote for people I've seen at countless events, and it makes me very sure I'm voting only for players that truly deserve it.
Of course, that isn't to say that I'm only voting for friends of mine, even though some of the people on my ballot happen to be close friends. Nor am I voting for them because they're my friends. All of them have (or exceed) the statistics I feel necessary for Hall of Fame consideration.
I am not going to claim that it’s purely stats, though. As Matt Sperling rightfully pointed out on Facebook, you should either use your best judgment to choose candidates or do it purely by a set of statistics, instead of choosing the people you want and then finding the stats the justify them.
The first thing I look at is Pro Tour Top 8s. The Pro Tour is the pinnacle of the game, and making Top 8 of a Pro Tour is the best demonstration of both dedication and skill possible. Skill because going 75%+ against a field of all of the best players in the game is not an easy feat, and dedication because you not only have to be very good, you also have to catch all the correct breaks. It's certainly possible to make a PT Top 8 by running insanely well, but making 3+ rules that out for the most part.
After PT Top 8s, I think it is useful to look at other PT-related finishes: Top 16s, 32s, and 64s, plus the 3-year median. I don’t put much stock in the straight-up median, because that to some degree punishes both those who chose to play Magic past their best years and those who played before they knew people on the Tour or knew what they were doing. 3-year median does describe how consistently well a player did during their (presumably) best playing years, though it certainly doesn’t tell the whole story.
Non-Pro Tour accomplishments are also important, albeit much less important to me than Pro Tours (it is the Pro Tour Hall of Fame). Grand Prix results, Nationals Top 8s, and Masters finishes are all relevant in terms of getting a sense of a particular player’s mastery.
Unfair or not, me having watched the person play is important, both for how they compose themselves and how well they play. If I’m impressed by their demeanor both at and away from the table, and by the actual plays they make, I can’t help but factor that into my picture of them as a Hall of Fame candidate.
First, here are the players I almost voted for, but ultimately did not:
Shouta is a true master, one of the best I’ve ever faced. Not only does he play incredibly well, he plays incredibly fast. He is also a one of the most innovative deckbuilders out there, finding ways to play 4-color Tezzeret in Scars block, Cryptic Commands and Dorans in Amsterdam, and more. In fact, he has everything I’d need to vote for him except Pro Tour Top 8s. I just cannot vote for someone with 1 PT Top 8, not for the Hall of Fame. I’d be hard-pressed to not vote for Shouta at 3 PT Top 8s.
Willy is another player I very nearly voted for. Not only do I not believe any accusations about him being sketchy (and have said as much in public discussions when it’s come up), I give him a lot of credit for community contributions in a particularly underserved region of the world. He also has 4 Pro Tour Top 8s, which is a very solid number. The part that I cannot get past are his 7 total PT finishes in 24 PTs. That number needs to go up before I can feel good about voting for Willy, and I’m confident that it will.
While I don’t think Guillame’s use of the New Phyrexia spoiler was cheating in the same sense as drawing extra cards, it does make me hesitate to vote for him. It was an advantage, and it is hard to argue that it was fair of him to use that knowledge to begin playtesting early.
Martin suffers from the same problem as Shouta: he has many of the things I look for in a Hall of Famer (highly skilled, good tournament results overall), but with only two PT Top 8s to his name. With just one more PT Top 8, I think Martin has a very good shot. Five Player of the Year Top 10s is also an incredible stat, and one that speaks well to Martin’s consistent finishes.
I have been close to voting for Paul ever since he made his third Pro Tour Top 8. Despite his constant underselling of his skill and results, he really is one of the game’s elite players. I have continually been impressed by his attitude, character, and logical approach to both deck selection and gameplay. Paul is barely out of my top five, and it will not take much more for me to cast a vote for him.
Here are the players I plan on voting for this year:
As I said in Owen’s article, I went from voting for Huey based solely on his stats plus the recommendations of the game’s best to voting for him because of those and a year of playing against him. Watching a player play is the best way I have to judge their playskill, and I wish I had the opportunity to watch every player in contention for the Hall of Fame. It’s all well and good to say somebody is good (and in this case, I did trust Jon and Kai’s judgment), but nothing can replace actually seeing them play. I have watched Huey play, and I truly believe that he is a master, which is not a title I bestow easily. That, plus his very good results, lead me to vote for him.
A lot has been said by and about BenS, most of it hilarious. He’s a man of many interesting theories, but despite all the rather loose debates we’ve had, I cannot argue with his success at Limited. Ben understands draft like very few people I’ve known, and I feel very lucky to be able to talk with him about it on a regular basis. As bad as my drafting can be, imagine how bad it would be if I didn’t have BenS to yell at me (which he does, all the time).
Moving past his drafting skill (and absurdly high Limited win %), Ben is a Pro Tour Champion, with three other Top 8s and 3 Top 16s. He also plays incredibly well. When I first met Ben, in 2010, he talked through his games out loud, and was frequently wrong. At first I was surprised, because I knew about his previous results. Within months, he was no longer rusty, and was suddenly playing on par with all the best players in the world, a level he has maintained ever since.
With four PT Top 8s, including a Worlds win (just ask PV about the Rite of Flame if you are ever bored), and two PT Top 16s, as well as excellent Nationals and Finals finishes, Mihara is not a hard choice for the Hall of Fame. He also has PT Top 8s with both UW Tron and Esper, and I was impressed by how both those decks were built. I admittedly have less experience watching Mihara play than anyone else that I’m voting for, but his results are good enough that I am happy to vote for him.
EFro is one of my closest friends, as is probably obvious. He also happens to have excellent stats, with a very strong 3-year median and five PT Top 16s to go along with his 3 Top 8s. I’ve watched him play enough to know that he’s one of the current best players, if not the actual best. His last Pro Tour season was amazing, and long past due, given his level of play. He has also been a crucial part of Team ChannelFireball, a fact he apparently takes pains to conceal. He is the main reason we played the RG Ramp deck that put Kibler and PV into the finals of PT Dark Ascension, and has done considerable work in bridging the gap between the pre-2003 players and the players of my generation. He might not always present the cheeriest disposition, but I am proud to vote for him for the Hall of Fame.
I’ve voted for Mark in the past, and with 4 Pro Tour Top 8s and a win, I still like my vote. Mark is another player I have a lot of experience with, even if he was moving away from the game as I was getting into it, and I have always been impressed by how well he plays. I also anticipate more results to come, as Mark as recently moved back to San Diego, and is now getting back into the game.
My ballot for 2013 is going to be as follows, unless something significant happens in the next week: