As usual, the ratings are as follows:
2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. Naturalize. (Bear in mind that many cards fall into this category, although explanation of why 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%)
As usual, I caution you to both look at the rating and read the comments, since even cards rated the same might have very different evaluations. Enjoy!
Archon of the Triumvirate
Though this text box is interesting, if I’m paying seven mana for a flier, I’m just casting Angel of Serenity. The existence of Angel is going to detain many potential finishers from ever getting off the ground, and this is one of them.
Does this being of the Triumvirate mean that they had to combine three Templars to make it? Either way, if this successfully attacks, the game is probably over. The trick, of course, is getting to that point. A 7-drop with no innate protection or EtB effect isn’t the most reliable, even if the attack trigger is good enough to outweigh most of that. As expensive finishers go, this is not a bad one, but is still worse than something like Detention Sphere unless you desperately need a game-ender.
One of the most consistently underrated qualities of cards is flexibility. Some of the best Constructed cards in history have made it on the back of how flexible they are, because being useful in almost every situation is insanely powerful. A good example of this is Fire/Ice—combining two basically unplayable cards gave us a card that’s seen play in a ton of different decks across every format it was legal.
Charms tap into the same concept, where stapling together a bunch of situational effects that are individually unimpressive can result in a very powerful card. Azorius Charm does that, containing both literally cycling and an extremely narrow lifelink clause, along with a more generically useful tempo play. All those added together do get there for me, and I will be trying this in various tempo/control decks. Using it as a cycling bounce spell that can randomly gain you 5-10 life is pretty sweet. Of all the Charms, this might be the one that best exemplifies how three minor effects can combine into a good card.
For more on this (and other) Charms, check out PV’s article on the full cycle.
The lifelink mode is potentially super-powerful, and a 2-mana Repel is certainly something to be excited about. I guess you could also cycle this for two, but unless you are missing a land drop or something equally dire, I wouldn’t recommend it.
My favorite part about this card by far is the clause that specifically stops me from doing what I did with three Oblivion Rings, a move immortalized by the talented Nate Holt (of Walking the Planes fame):
I’m going to go ahead and claim at a least a little responsibility for that clause. As for the rest of the card, it’s also good. Oblivion Ring is already a staple, and adding the ability to hit multiples goes a long way, especially given the power level of the new planeswalkers. Beating double Jace has never been easier.
The mana cost is obviously the most restrictive thing about this card, but if you have access to blue and white, it does have a significant advantage over O-Ring, and I expect to see a fair amount of O-Rings.
Unconditional removal is never something to lightly pass, and the occasional 2-for-1 isn’t out of the question here. As usual, beware of random enchantment removal blowing you out, but that should be rare enough that this will just be a Vindicate. Oh, and much like with Maelstrom Pulse, be sure to not accidentally send your own things to detention if they share names with enemy permanents.
The difference between this and Vapor Snag is dramatic. At double the mana cost, and with a much less aggressive side effect, even doubling the life change doesn’t really rescue this. Snapcaster may need targets badly enough to run it, but it really won’t fill the same spot that Vapor Snag used to. It is more interesting as a defensive option, but even then, it is competing against the much more versatile Azorius Charm, and at the exact same mana cost to boot.
While I wouldn’t go overboard with bounce spells, the first one or two are usually pretty good. This helps fast decks pressure the opponent, and gaining life in a race isn’t irrelevant. It also helps slow decks stabilize, with the life being even more relevant there. I guess if you somehow draft a midrange deck that doesn’t actually win the late game, this isn’t great. Don’t draft midrange decks that don’t win the lategame.
Fall of the Gavel
You may be surprised at this, but I kind of like this card. Yes, it is very expensive, and yes, five mana counters are generally not what you are looking for against the decks that 5 life is the best against, but the effect here is fairly powerful. I’m not saying the card is great, just that it provides an effect pretty close to the cost, and is exactly the kind of thing that can help a very slow control deck stabilize.
The 5 life can offset the damage you take when you spend your entire turn countering something, and counterspells being generally bad can make the few counters that show up better. People stop playing around them, play more giant things that are vulnerable to counters, and so on. Don’t judge this until you try it.
This strikes me more as a sideboard card than a maindeck card, unless the format is sufficiently awesome/glacially slow. If you have to, it’s probably fine to run it, but in most matchups it doesn’t seem too exciting.
As long as I stay vigilant, cards like this will not fool anyone into thinking they are Constructed-worthy.
The odds that you ambush something are pretty reasonable, though they will certainly go down as the format continues. At the prerelease, this guy’s gotta be pretty awesome. Even if more people play around it than not, this still is a decent body at a decent price.
Isperia, Supreme Judge
I don’t want to judge this too harshly, but I’m sure it’s no surprise that I’m not extremely impressed. After all, the opponent can simply not attack, and most removal spells are still going to get rid of this. 4 toughness makes this especially vulnerable, what with Mizzium Mortars being one of the best removal spells available. The last Sphinx we had was significantly more powerful, let’s just leave it at that.
Giant fliers that punish them for attempting to race are just about exactly what you want in Limited. Isperia’s ability is as close to an EtB effect as you get, and if they don’t kill it immediately, things start to go pretty badly for them.
3 power for three mana isn’t too bad, and as I covered in the white review, detaining something is pretty reasonable. This having flying makes it much more of a real threat than the other detain guys I’ve reviewed so far, since it does something even after the detainment period is over. It is no Geist of Saint Traft, but might provide good backup.
Even if this card had zero text, it would be a solid playable, and letting you knock a guy out for a full turn cycle is considerably more than zero. Great on offense, still good on defense, this is a card that any deck will want.
New Prahv Guildmage
I've learned not to underestimate the power of utility bears, even ones with fairly expensive abilities. Providing a reasonable source of evasion in the early to midgame, this Guildmage does combo quite well with Geist of Saint Traft. Later, it can jump your whole team, which is sweet, or even detain a permanent (not just creature) or two. If there is a tempo deck that wants a 2/2 with the first ability, even the expensive second ability is sure to be relevant.
Not only does this provide a huge threat by making all your guys fly, it can even go toe to toe with most bombs and come out on top. Granted, spending five a turn to lock down one card isn't that efficient, but if you can kill them in the meantime, it should work. This also comes out on turn two and battles, just like all the other guildmage, an often-overlooked part of their charm.
Getting +5/+5 and drawing an extra card every turn is pretty righteous—losing two cards and a ton of mana to a single removal spell is not. Having to wait a turn to get a card out of this makes it way too vulnerable, and as cool as it would be to get super Empyrial Armor going, I can say with all authority that you really shouldn’t try.
Not only does this make a guy huge, it quite obviously feeds on itself. Drawing an extra card every turn is already fairly powerful, and adding a significant power and toughness bonus is more than enough to make me overlook the inherent risk present in Auras.
If this was a combo with Snapcaster Mage, it could really roc their world. As is, it’s just a decently-sized flier with a minorly disruptive ability. It still might do something in the right matchup, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.
Phantom Monsters are sick, and Phantom Monsters that significantly set the opponent back every attack are even sicker. Take this early and attack often.
It might not be a revelation, but I really like drawing cards. I played more than my fair share of Blue Sun’s Zeniths, and this has some definite advantages. While it is worse as a finisher, and certainly against control, the fact that it gains you a ton of life makes it way better in the matchups that Blue Sun’s was bad in. That is definitely more important, and if the result is that you have to find some other way to win the game, I’m sure 7 life and 7 cards will probably get you there.
It’s also kind of funny that this benefits from counterspells being bad by resolving more often, but is also hurt by decks that play it leaving mana up and not being able to do much with it. It also provides a strong reason to actually get Rewind into a deck, and I hope to gain much life off this card over the next two years.
I don’t care how fast this format actually is, if I open this, I’m making it work. I’ll play as many Walls as I can, anything to let me survive until I hit seven or eight mana (or more)! Drawing a bunch of cards and gaining a bunch of life is the perfect combination, since the life buys you the time to leverage all of the extra cards. This may well be one of the most fun cards in the set, at least for me.
And we have another winner! Being confident that Wrath will resolve is huge, and leads to a degree of planning that is impossible in current Standard. The anti-counter clause doesn’t even need to come up all that often to be extremely important, because no longer do you have to contort your plays to account for a potential counterspell.
You aren’t even paying anything extra for the ability, since you were planning on playing Sphinx’s Revelation in your control deck anyways, right?
As much as I go on about how I don’t love Wraths in Limited (and I don’t), this Wrath costing four is pretty significant. The expensive Wraths are especially bad, but ones like this that can be cast in a timely manner retain much of their power. It isn’t that suspicious to have no two- or three-drop, unlike if this cost six, and being able to pull the trigger at any time is certainly worth something.
First of all, filibuster counters are awesome. I never thought I’d see the day when they were a thing, and I have to admit that I love them. That being said, winning with this card doesn’t seem very realistic. If you can put them into a position where they can’t damage you for five turns in a row and can’t kill a creature, you could have won with a random Hill Giant. I guess this might be some bizarre sideboard card against a Prison-type deck that can’t remove it or attack you, but that seems like a real stretch.
This card is actually pretty sweet. I mainly like the game plan of winning by making sure nothing happens, since that’s kind of my base plan anyways, the real upside here is that a 3/5 for 5 is close enough to playable that you are barely paying for the ability. Even in Innistrad, Shuhei never met a Thraben Purebloods he didn’t like, and this card’s significantly better than that.
While this may appear to be a strictly better Cursecatcher, most veterans of a set as recent as Lorwyn can tell you that it isn’t. Cursecatcher is one of the few creatures in Magic where creature type actually matters, and that’s accounted for a bulk of the play it’s seen. Still, if you are familiar with value, you can easily see the potential of a 1/1 flier with this ability. If a tempo deck in either of these colors exists, this is certainly worthy of consideration, and I wouldn’t be completely surprised if some white decks in older formats at least tried this out.
I wouldn’t recommend most decks play this; not only is a 1/1 flier fairly irrelevant on its own, the ability really isn’t that strong in Limited. The opponent can usually just play a creature instead, and in the worst-case scenario they wait a few turns on casting their critical spell. The usual caveat involving flying creatures and scavenge applies but that isn’t going to come up all that often.
This guy’s got soul, but isn’t not nearly tough enough to be a soldier. Even if he cost two, Leonin Skyknight hasn’t busted up Constructed for a while, and three is AT LEAST 50% more than two.
Ah, hybrid, where this is basically worse than any equal card at 1WW, 1UW, or 1UU. Still, it has the flexibility to be any of the three, and UW decks are always going to be happy to play this.
The multicolor/hybrid cards are all fairly powerful, the multicolor ones especially. They require more commitment than monocolor cards, but are mostly better picks once you are reasonably confident you are going to be that pair.
Azorius also got a huge boost in Constructed, with Sphinx’s Revelation and Supreme Verdict providing a ton of incentive for a UW control deck. Detention Sphere is also a nice pickup, and the three combined likely put Azorius near the top of the list in terms of quality gained in Return to Ravnica.
Next up I’ll be tackling blue, followed by Izzet!