Welcome 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. One difference with this Core Set review is that I’ll be omitting reprints, unless I think they are particularly relevant or interesting. 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.
Here are my other 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%)
If I were Ajani, I’d have chosen more powerful minions. The prospect of a bunch of free kittens is kind of neat, but needing your 4-mana 3/3 to survive and have a hand full of enchantments requires too many things to go right. Sigil of the Empty Throne is more what I’d be looking for here (and I played that card in a Grand Prix, once).
Hill Giants are always playable in Limited to begin with, and with the minor enchantment theme in the set I wouldn’t be surprised to pick up a free card or two from this. It isn’t a high pick, but has a good range, with “playable” being on the low end (which isn’t a terrible place to be).
This does nothing on its own and requires you to gain multiple turns of life to get even decent value, so I’m judging it accordingly.
You only need to trigger this every time you draw it for it to be a good deal, so in a deck that can gain life reliably, I could see using this as a finisher. Most decks won’t be able to do so, and should rightfully leave it on the sidelines.
Archangel of Thune
While the Archangel is no Baneslayer (it needs protection from Demons and Dragons to compete in this Standard environment), the effect here is powerful enough to be worth trying. A flying Glorious Anthem that gains you an increasing amount of life each turn is worth investigating. I suspect it needed to cost one less and be a little smaller to fill the same role as Sublime Archangel or other midrange beaters, but I’m willing to test it out at five, perhaps out of the sideboard for creature matchups.
There isn’t a whole lot that beats this. Yes, it can die to removal, which might keep this out of the truly elite class of bombs, but past that it’s insane in every way you are looking for out of a Limited bomb. It gains life, improves your board position every turn, and is a threat all by its lonesome.
Banisher Priest has slightly more aggressive stats than Fiend Hunter, but lost the timing loophole that allowed for permanent removal. No longer does removing Banisher Priest in response exile the target permanently, which is definitely for the best. Explaining that timing trick to players who didn’t understand always felt to them like you were just abusing the rules, and making the card much cleaner helps. It does reduce the power level, as does the opponent-only clause (no more Angel of Glory’s Rise infinite loops), but I still think it’s a solid piece of removal, or at least as solid as white is going to get.
Faceless Butcher has always been awesome, and this does not disappoint. Funnily enough, I just did an Odyssey-Odyssey-Torment draft, and Butcher was cast repeatedly, to great effect. Every time I draft white, I’m just going to pray that I open Banisher Priest.
Technically this is a reprint, but since it hasn’t been around for awhile, I guess I’ll review it. Luckily for me, it’s a blessing in disguise that it isn’t remotely Constructed playable.
In a mono-white deck, I’ll allow it, but not otherwise.
If there is a Sliver deck in Constructed (which hasn’t happened since the days of Crystalline Sliver and Force of Will), double strike your team for four mana is a reasonable deal. I also think that making new Slivers only affect your team is the lesser of two evils, just because of how much better it plays.
This isn’t the worst by itself, and I can’t imagine that will be the normal use case. I’d move in on Bonescythe Sliver given a sliver of a chance, and look forward to doing exactly that.
Double-white is not an insignificant cost, but killing hexproof creatures is something I can get behind. I’d definitely look for this to appear in some main decks and many sideboards among the spell-heavy blue/white decks.
I like that this is cheap enough that it’s hard to play around, unlike many other combat-only removal spells. It doesn’t matter that much if your opponent doesn’t swing, because you didn’t have to skip a turn, unlike Second Thoughts or Neck Snap.
If you are charging four mana for a 2/2 flier, it better have a much more impressive ability than +1/+1 while attacking.
The main strike against this is the casting cost, since it has quite a reasonable combination of abilities. This would be quite the Vampire Nighthawk if it cost three.
While I don’t really like paying five mana for a 2/4, vigilance plus lifelink goes a long way. It’s pretty hard to attack into this, and you will get plenty of free attacks in, especially if you can threaten a trick. I’d imagine that most 5+ drops are fairly interchangeable, so don’t prioritize them, but this is one of the (lawful) good guys.
I once again invoke the principle of “does nothing by itself and costs a million mana” to explain why this gets a 1. I like the idea of a creature-stall tiebreaker, but there are better ways to accomplish that.
There are some formats where this would be barely castable (Zendikar, Gatecrash), but Core Sets are rarely that fast. This looks like a pretty good finisher to me, though you do actually have to have creatures out, so you can’t be too far behind or it will do nothing. That’s the main thing that keeps it from being one of the complete windmill slams of the format. I will note that the power level is still through the roof, so some decks will want it as a finisher even if it’s the same rating as a more consistent removal spell or the like.
The rare color-hoser cycle is a beating this time around, and Fiendslayer Paladin is one of the prime examples. This goes a long way towards crushing most Burning-Tree Emissary decks, Moating their whole team and being invincible to any removal spell. Ghor-Clan Rampager is its biggest weakness, but past that it is going to do a great job defending you from the horrible horde of red creatures (and the occasional Zombie as well, if that becomes more of a thing). Plus, if you have a fast enough start, you can just clock the opponent, and not even sweat the Rampager.
Fiendslayer Paladin is a great deal before you even consider the resistance to red and black spells, so you can’t really go wrong taking this.
Hive no idea if the Sliver deck is good, but this looks like a potential piece (or two) of it.
I like when enablers come in at this power level. Non-Sliver decks won’t really want this, which opens the door for the Sliver decks to pick up most of the Stirrings and get there on synergy.
Curving out into this can be a beating against a creature-based defense, though it is a little lackluster against a grip of removal spells. Depending on how the format breaks, this will either be imposing or ineffective (or a potential sideboard card).
There isn’t much better to play on turn two in an aggressive deck, but it falls off a little later in the game, and isn’t great in control. I will address the elephant in the room, and admit that this is no Loxodon Gatekeeper.
Master of Diversion
He has mastered diversion, but until he masters costing two mana, he’s not going to come off the bench.
White certainly has a lot of good beatdown-only cards, and this is one of them. I’m actually looking forward to it, as I really enjoyed drafting UW beats in M11 Limited. The power level here is high enough that you’d play this in midrange as well, but pure control isn’t really interested.
Path of Bravery
You have to be pretty brave to try running this in a world of Bonfires and Supreme Verdicts, but I could see this being an option for a token deck, especially out of the board. It is funny that you want this mostly against decks that attack your life total, but gaining 3 or 4 and becoming a Crusade is interesting, at the very least.
You have to have a lot of creatures to make this a possibility, and other life gain spells don’t hurt either. I feel like this is a card people will overrate, so don’t expect to see it late.
Pay No Heed
Pay no heed to this, I’m only reviewing it for Limited (though it did appear once before, in Torment).
While this is a marginal trick, I like cards like this existing. They make Limited play well, adding dimensions to what you have to play around, and are great out of the sideboard in the right matchups (this one in particular is good against Giant Growths).
I like that many of the Slivers are cheap and reasonably-sized, but unless the X-Men deck gets really big, I’d leave this one out.
It’s really hard to go wrong with a Grizzly Bear (I still remember saying how bad Silvercoat Lion was in M11, and then going on to first-pick it in the Pro Tour), and this even has a pretty reasonable upside. It isn’t a Sliver engine, just a 2-drop Sliver that gets you paid off for drafting the high-impact Slivers.
Seraph of the Sword
That’ll do pig, that’ll do. This is amazing no matter which way you slice it, or more accurately, which way it slices your opponent.
He’s got soul, that’s undisputable, but he’s going to need a bit more than soul (and a sweet beard) to see Constructed play.
It’s a trap! This has my vote for most-played card that doesn’t quite do enough, just because it looks so appealing. I like it as a sideboard card against an aggressive deck, particularly one with a bunch of 2/1s, but as a maindeck card it really needs to do more than just gain one a turn. The life gain payoff cards are all rare too, so that isn’t often going to be an excuse to run this.
Apparently sinew beats steel, which I wouldn’t have guessed. A point of toughness is not the incentive I need to Sliver it up in Constructed, especially since this doesn’t even protect you from sweepers.
A Hurloon Minotaur by itself, Steelform Sliver needs a few friends before I’m happy running him. That being said, I’ve run my fair share of Riot Devils, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this sneaks its way in most of my decks.
I’m not really enchanted by the prospect of paying six mana for abilities that wouldn’t even make this great if they came for free. There’s no chance this horns its way into Constructed.
Once you’ve played your six-drop, if you then have a million mana, you get a kind of big life swing. I guess I can buy that, at least some of the time.
Top 5 White Commons
Pacifism is once again undefeated for the title of “Best White Common,” which should come as no surprise. Celestial Flare is cheap enough that I think it gets the nod over the next couple aggressive cards, with Master and Griffin both being fairly better than the Sliver. Master seems like the highest power level card when it works, though a little less consistent than the 3-power attacker that the Griffin gives you. Either way, it looks like white wants to be attacking early and often.
Top 5 Constructed Cards
White got an eclectic mix of cards here. Fiendslayer Paladin is an excellent sideboard card and potential maindeck card, Celestial Flare offers an interesting removal option, and Banisher Priest is another piece of removal for aggressive decks. Both Imposing Sovereign and Bonescythe Sliver are more for niche decks than anything else, and even though Slivers is not likely to hit, it’s a possibility.