Welcome back to my set review! If you missed the previous installments, check them out:
Here’s the ratings system I’ll be using:
2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. Azorius Charm.
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%)
It’s nice having cards like this floating around. They aren’t good for every metagame, but when they are good, they can be awesome, usually out of the sideboard. It’s hard to say when or if Annul will be a sweet sideboard card, so just keep it in mind until the format fleshes itself out. One mana is efficient enough that there is reward for correctly figuring out when this is needed.
Much like the other enchantment removal in this set, Annul is a solid maindeck option. Countering a 5+ mana spell for one mana is a huge boost, and worth the risk of having a dead card in your hand for part of the game. Also, like the rest of the cards in this class, don’t be afraid to side this out if you see no targets in game one.
Though I’ve never seen this in play, I’ve already formed an opinion: it’s bad.
Scrying each turn is nice, though not nice enough to make up for the fact that you are playing an aura that doesn’t increase your creature’s stats at all. I would be way more inclined to side this in than maindeck it, because it does play well against removal-light decks.
Artisan of Forms
Not getting enters-the-battlefield triggers is a pretty big disadvantage for a Clone variant, since piggybacking off of cards like Thragtusk (which I won’t miss, by the way) is a big part of their power. What Artisan of Forms does do is jump from creature to creature, never unveiling its final form until the game ends. At only two mana, that’s something worth considering, especially if there are enough cheap enablers.
Threatening to change midcombat makes it very hard for your opponent to attack or block, as Artisan is essentially all creatures at all times. As long as you have just a few ways to transform this, it’s a must-play, mainly because of how powerful it is for a low investment.
Between this and Sylvan Carytid, Standard Hexproof is about to be INSANE.
You aren’t paying that huge a cost for hexproof here, and hexproof is better in this set than most. If you have need of a high drop and have a couple good pairs of pants to put on the Giant, running him is a good idea. I also like siding this in against opponents who are ready to deal with your expensive non-hexproof cards, and just blanking some of their good removal.
Bident of Thassa
This is one way to put a dent into Coastal Piracy. Thassa comes well-equipped, offering both a steady stream of cards and a way to make sure your creatures get through to claim those cards. Curving out into a Bident can lead to some easy victories, though I’m not sure what creature configuration you are going to want to play to make that possible. Judge's Familiar and Cloudfin Raptor are certainly one way to go, along with new Standard all-star Frostburn Weird, all of which ultimately power Master of Waves. If you want to branch into another color, there are pretty good one-drops available in all of them, and Bident of Thassa is powerful enough to drive all sorts of decks.
The biggest disadvantage to Bident of Thassa is that both modes don’t do much unless you have a board presence. That certainly drops it from the top tier of bombs, as it’s not a card that can bring you back from a losing position as often. Of course, if you do have even a half-decent board presence, the Bident is unbelievably good. It makes all your attackers into must-block threats, combines very well with evasion, and lets you crush all their creatures when they are forced to attack into favorable blocks. It’s not a great combo with all huge creatures, so having a good low curve into one or two big things is going to be your best bet.
I’d amend the flavor text to ”Don’t try to ride or play this steed unless you’ve got gills too.”
A 3/2 isn’t that likely to ambush anything, but the creature it untaps certainly can. If you need another creature, you could do worse.
There’s a whole line of cards that are a mana too expensive to see Constructed play, and this can go stand somewhere near the end.
I’m a big fan of Dancing Scimitars, so even if you don’t have white mana, I think this is decent. Blocking two creatures is a nice bonus, though I’m not clear on the flavor. Is it heads, hands, or both that determine how many creatures you can block?
I’ve gotta get crackling on the rest of the set review, so I’m not going to waste much time here.
If you can’t activate this, you probably don’t want it, unless your curve desperately needs a 3-drop. If you can activate this, it’s great, and bridges the gap between early and late game quite well.
Curse of the Swine
All you need to do is read my preview article and you will understand the awesome power of pork.
Curse of the Swine is actually quite strong in Limited. Downgrading your opponent’s creatures is a big game in this set, and Curse of the Swine deals with almost every insane threat in the format, up to and including animated Gods. Giving the opponent a bunch of 2/2s is still a cost, but this is about as good as it gets for blue mass removal.
This dovetails perfectly with the rotation of both Dissipate and flashback, which I’m sure is intentional. Dissipate played very well, and now that there are so few graveyard synergies around, Dissolve is going to play even better. I will miss the awesome RKF art on the Mirage Dissipate, but I’ll get over it. Getting a hard counter plus scry 1 is pushing the upper limits on how good a counterspell can be in this more enlightened age, and I look forward to Dissolving many of my opponent’s spells.
The value of Cancel waxes and wanes from set to set, and I think it’s going to end up near the high end this time around. The addition of scry 1 is a nice bonus, making what would already be a strong card into an awesome one.
As much as I like drawing cards, this is fated to draw approximately zero over the course of its Constructed life.
Not only does this trigger heroic, it’s practically a Divination. I like Divination. In the most dire of circumstances, you can put this on your opponent’s creature, but I’d advise against that.
Gainsay is Andrew Cuneo’s Invitational card (after some kind of combination of Winter Orb and Moat, I’m sure), and it will see plenty of sideboard play in Standard. Stopping Aetherling, Jace, and Sphinx's Revelation with one card is something I’m certainly interested in.
As there was some confusion, just because I’d never maindeck a card doesn’t make it terrible. I give it a low rating in context because I’d never maindeck it, but I’ll usually take good sideboard cards a little higher than mediocre maindeck ones, and Gainsay is a good sideboard card.
Even if it’s gotten much better in Limited, this still has a deathgrip on the lowest possible Constructed rating, tide with many of the other Limited-only cards in the set.
Between bestow and monstrosity, the tide has never been higher and I’m holding on to as many as I can draft. It’s a one for one at its base, so nothing particularly special needs to happen to have it be decent, and it’s trivially easy to either gain mana advantage by bouncing a giant thing, card advantage by bouncing an enchanted thing, or both.
Not only do I not see any Constructed play on its horizon, I’m still disappointed that this isn’t Civilized Scholar. It’s Scholar day in Theros, and somebody left out the best one.
Horizon Scholar is a bit pricey, but worth it. By the time you cast this, scrying lands to the bottom is pretty strong, and a 4/4 flier is always a good thing to have. I would remind everyone that expensive cards get worse the more you have, but since everyone reading this is a Scholar of some kind, there’s no need.
Lost in a Labyrinth
The easiest way to find yourself with a loss in a Constructed tournament is to put this in your deck with the intention of casting it.
While this isn’t Fleeting Distraction (a card that Jacob Wilson took over Silverblade Paladin first pick first pick at Pro Tour Avacyn Restored), it shouldn’t be that hard to get a 1 for 1. The cost is low enough and scry is good enough that I wouldn’t mind running one or two of these, though pay attention to what the creatures are in the matchup. Sometimes your creatures won’t match up well against the opponent’s, and this isn’t worth the slot.
Master of Waves
By saying that this is going to make waves, I have mastered the art of humor and delivered insightful analysis, all at once. Sweet jokes aside, Master of Waves really is good, offering a good amount of power (in both senses of the word) for not a lot of mana. It’s even got protection from red, which is an awesome addition, making it very likely it sees sideboard play in the event that it isn’t maindecked. It takes a little setup to make Master more than just decent, but that doesn’t really require that you play anything too crazy. Jace, Frostburn Weird, Claustrophobia, and Tidebinder Mage all contribute towards devotion, and all of them are solid to good in their own right.
As with any moderately expensive creature, the commonly-played removal is ultimately going to determine just how good it is. Master of Waves dodges a ton of the potentially problematic spells by having protection, but I wouldn’t want to invest four mana in a world overrun with Doom Blades and the like.
You don’t need to get that much out of this to wash your opponent away in a deluge of 2/1’s, making Master strong even if you aren’t super deep into blue. I certainly wouldn’t splash this, but if you are planning on playing a light amount of blue and open this in pack three it shouldn’t be too hard to make it worthwhile.
Besides adding another card to the file of “cards Matt Nass will unsuccessfully try and combo with”, Meletis Charlatan won’t be doing a whole lot. Needing this to survive and having to pay three mana really makes it tough to get value here.
While Hurloon Minotaur might not be the strongest by itself, it’s still a card, and you don’t need to copy many spells before the Charlatan carries his weight. Plus, the opponent won’t know how good this is for you, and likely will kill it so they don’t have to find out.
Every now and then Wall pops up as a 1-of, and it is/was a Pauper all-star, so I supposed it’s earned greater than a 1.
You don’t need a ton of spells before Mnemonic Wall becomes decent, since it’s slow enough that you will have time to draw into a target. I would usually play this with three good targets and two bad ones, with any additional spells making this pack quite the wallop.
Some of the bestow cards are watered down enough that it’s pretty easy to pass on them for Constructed. This is one of them.
This is a very powerful common. Not only does it give any creature +2/+2 and wings, it leaves behind a Wind Drake in the unlikely event that the opponent doesn’t just die. You can even cast it as a Wind Drake, making the “fail” case a perfectly reasonable Limited card to begin with. Modal spells like this play really well, and are a big part of why I’ve liked Theros so far.
Augur of Bolas is back, and this time...no cards are drawn. Well, that’s unfortunate, but not the end of the story. Scrying for 2 is definitely less than a card, and a 1/3 for 1U won’t always be enough to make up for that. In some matchups it certainly does, but I fear that this lacks the maindeck punch that Augur had. The loss of Restoration Angel is a big part of that as well, though that’s probably for the best. I wouldn’t count Omenspeaker out, but nor would I assume she’s going to see as much play as Augur of Bolas did.
I like this a good amount, especially if you have some gifts to bestow on to her. Even if you don’t, it’s likely that she can block a few of your opponent’s creatures profitably. If you miss on both cases, siding her out is a reasonable call.
Ordeal of Thassa
Reviewing all five of these for Constructed is the real ordeal.
It’s been pointed out in the comments of my last review that the heroic creatures synergize well with the Ordeals, as the +1/+1 counters let Ordeals trigger faster. That makes a lot of sense, and I’m now much more inclined to play Ordeals if I’m drafting heroic. I still don’t think they are insane, but that definitely increases the value of Ordeals to closer to a 2.5 or 3.0 if you have a couple ways to combo.
I’m sure it’s got prescient matters to attend to elsewhere, so I’ll just let it go.
Not only is Prescient Chimera slightly bigger than the average 5-mana flier, it gives you a couple free scrys per game as a bonus. I’m in!
I’m going to deliver a prognosis of my own: Prognostic Sphinx is going to be good. Not only does he(?) naturally dodge most of the targeted removal in the format, by discarding a card you can increase that to all of the targeted removal. Scrying for three makes attacking pretty appealing, and between that and the strong defense this provides, we’ve got a winner.
You know what’s better than a bomb? An unkillable bomb. Granted, Prognostic Sphinx won’t completely turn the tide by himself, but he will stop most attacks, and it doesn’t take too many hits before you have the game locked up (assuming you’ve got other good cards in your deck to dig to).
Sea God's Revenge
I thought living well was the best revenge, but if you listen to Thassa, the real best revenge is to capsize a ship with all your enemies on it.
The effect here is powerful enough that I barely even care about the scry 1, though I will take it. Bouncing basically your opponent’s whole board is pretty sweet, and in this set more than most. It seems tough to lose a game where you just play creatures and cast this on turn six.
As we’ll soon sea, this is a lock to see zero play in Constructed.
The base card here is more than fine, even if it can’t always attack, and getting to bash for 8 later in the game is appropriately monstrous.
As near and dear as octopuses (or octopi, depending on how you roll) are to me, I still can’t fathom playing this in Constructed. It’s close, but just a tad too expensive on both sides.
Shipbreaker Kraken is the poster child for busted monstrosity cards, as the activation can and will win you the game immediately. I unsurprisingly chose the Path of Wisdom at the prerelease, and can confirm that every activation of Lorthos Jr. led to an instant win.
I’m keeping my hopes up here, just because of how much value it is to successfully Force Spike a spell and get a scry out of the deal. As underpowered as this might seem, I can definitely see myself playing a miser’s copy. If it’s in your opening hand, it’s gotta be good, right?
In a set filled with so many high-cost spells, I actually like running Stymied Hopes, though I’d advise against running multiples. The second is often much worse than the first, and you especially want to avoid your opponent playing around this in subsequent games. After getting them with it game one, feel free to side it out and ride the fear equity to victory.
Every now and then, Legacy gets tossed a bone, and this time it’s in the form of a swan. Countering all sorts of powerful cards unconditionally is very interesting, and Legacy is filled with decks that don’t care at all if the opponent gets a 2/2 flier. This stops Dream Halls, Sneak Attack, and any spell you could care about, and should fit perfectly into Sneak and Show or Mono-U Omni-Tell.
In Standard, things are a little murkier. There aren’t many matchups where a 2/2 flier isn’t relevant, so you have to make a very strong argument in order to justify this over something like Negate. I don’t see it right now, but sing a sweet enough song and I might come around.
I can't imagine maindecking this, just because of the combination of card and tempo disadvantage it brings to the table. I suppose if you absolutely cannot beat one of their bombs, you can side it in, but it seems like a losing proposition.
Thassa, God of the Sea
Scrying every turn is sweet, and at only three mana, that gets Thassa a good amount of the way towards playable. Her activated ability works very well in the decks that are most primed to provide her with the proper amount of devotion, and once she gets going she should end the game very quickly. Between Thassa and Master of Waves, blue looks like its got some serious payoffs for its devotees.
It is very hard to win a long game against Thassa. Not only does she find what she needs via scrying, any kind of board stall turns into a massacre once she starts making giant creatures unblockable. She’s one of the best gods even as a light splash, and much like all the gods, very good in a devoted enough deck.
The opportunity cost of casting this is pretty high, about one card exactly.
As much as it hurts me to admit it, you can’t always just play six-mana draw 3’s and expect to survive. While I doubt that I will often leave this out, if your deck has enough impactful sixes, sometimes you have to pass on the one that doesn’t affect the board at all.
It makes me a little crabby to know that I’ll never draw cards off this in Constructed.
I like getting free cards, and Thassa’s Emissary is a free card delivery mechanism. At the very least, you should be able to pick up a card the turn you bestow this, and potentially more even if they deal with the enchanted creature. A Hill Giant-Ophidian is also pretty sweet, and a card I would already be happy to play.
Triton Fortune Hunter
If you are fortunate enough to have this survive a turn, you can accomplish some might heroic feats. It’s probably a little too gimmicky to make it into the aggressive white heroic deck, but it combines well enough with Gods Willing that you could potentially make some kind of engine/value deck. Perhaps this and Nivix Cyclops could join forces for the greater good of the underwater alliance...
The stats on this make it clear that it needs support before it sees play, but it doesn’t take a ton of support for that to happen. If I had three spells that could target this for value, I’d run it, and it shouldn’t be hard to pick up more than that.
I’m not letting this steal any more of my time by writing anything else about it.
If you play against the all X/1 deck and desperately need chump blockers, Triton Shorethief has your back.
Despite the fairly massive amount of text, there is something here. In the heroic deck, targeting multiple creatures for one mana is powerful, and Triton Tactics can turn combat around and stop damage-based removal. Altogether, that’s a lot more than a card like this usually offers.
The swings this can provide are big enough that it’s not only a must-play, but an actual strong card. Taking this early seems like a tactically sound play to me.
Even in the Bident of Thassa deck, there are better options. Costing two mana is a snag this little guy isn’t able to overcome.
If you aren’t interested in attacking much, which some decks aren’t, Vaporkin is not for you. Most decks won’t turn down the opportunity to bash for two in the air on turn three, but mine sure will.
At the end of the day, paying two mana for Unsummon is not really what I want to do, but I might just have to. Getting to scry is appealing, and Unsummon is no longer going to be on the table, after all.
As good as Griptide is, Voyage’s End offers all the important parts at half the mana. Yes, putting the creature on top is better than scrying for one, but saving two mana is by far the most relevant. This would be strong in a normal set, and is very strong here.
If you have this in your heroic deck, you are triton too hard.
This is less about the ability and more about the stats, which are certainly passable if you need a low drop. It is kind of funny that the heroic trigger is an aggressive one, and it’s on a 1/4 that is unlikely to cause much trouble on the offense.
Top 5 Blue Commons
Blue's commons are insane, and I had to doublecheck to make sure they were all in fact common. A 3/4 flier with a bonus, a Drake Umbra, and multiple sweet bounce spells all make blue very well suited to play offense or defense, as well as prey on the other decks that rely on auras. Blue seems like a good place to be in Theros.
Top 5 Blue Constructed Cards
The Constructed implications are a little harder to define. Blue does get a good controllish card in Dissolve, and a Legacy card in Swan Song, but past that we have a trio of cards that push for an aggressive to midrange blue deck. That's something we haven't really seen since the Delver deck, and it will be interesting to see how it develops.
Tomorrow I pay tribute to Erebos, God of the Dead!