One side effect I've noticed of doing only the Limited reviews to begin with is that I tend to write much more. I think that's a good thing, and so far am happy with this division of labor (and assume it will carry over to the Constructed portion as well).
Here's the rating system I'll be using:
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 you missed my other Limited set reviews, check them out:
Let's dive in.
This definitely lives up to its keyword, as it not only is a 2/4, which will naturally survive most attacks, it makes a [card]Wind Drake[/card] each time it does. Having a lot of this cycle of inspire creatures doesn't actually combo, because they are all fairly mana-intensive, but this is one of the best. Not having to do much to make this work is the real clincher, and I'd just about always be happy with a few copies of this in my deck.
In general, I don't think there's an inspire “deck” as much as decks that have some nice inspire synergies, but enough cards like Aerie Worshippers could get me on board. [card]Springleaf Drum[/card] requires a lot of incentives to play, and 4-6 powerful inspire creatures might be enough.
[draft]Arbiter of the Ideal[/draft]
A giant flier that draws extra cards is pretty much my mind's desire in Limited, though it's not ideal that you have to wait two turns in order to get your reward. At six for a 4/5, the price is definitely right, and if this doesn't die you should already be in good shape even before the free cards start rolling in. The fact that you don't have to pay mana for the extra cards is a nice bonus, since who doesn't like a [card]Black Lotus[/card] along with their [card]Divination[/card]?
[draft]Archetype of Imagination[/draft]
Blue isn't short on good fliers this set, which does make this Archetype interesting. It isn't good with those fliers, but it's sure good against them, and like any [card]Levitation[/card]-type effect, wants to be paired with green for maximum liftoff. In the archetypal blue flying deck, you may not always want this, but most decks will be interested as long as they haven't hit their limit of 6-drops yet (I only just recently learned that there is a limit).
[draft]Chorus of the Tides[/draft]
[card]Snapping Drake[/card] has been a Limited staple ever since Ravnica, and it's a rare format indeed where it isn't a solid playable. Chorus of the Tides has a small bonus on top, though I'd recommend against really treating this as a heroic creature in any meaningful way. Sometimes you will target this and get a free scry, but I'd almost never target this over a creature with an actual heroic bonus, and I'd certainly not count this when I'm trying to figure out whether my deck has sufficient enablers.
This is one of the more cryptic cards I've seen lately. Not only does it give your creature protection, but it gives protection from the opponent's creatures, which is a new one. It also untaps your creature, letting you use this as a combat trick or to trigger inspire (or both). It serves a number of different purposes, and besides triggering inspire or letting you win a fight, the most notable is making your creature unblockable. I normally don't like toughness-only tricks, but doubling as a finisher makes this a little more appealing.
All hail the Hypnotist. It's a solid little 2/1 attacker that can make their best blocker into a 0-power wall, and is a fine way to fill out your curve. It's also one of the better midcombat inspire tricks, so if you have some enablers for that, feel free to go deep.
Limited (overall): 3.0
Limited (personal): 4.0
Divination is special enough to draw two ratings (as well as two cards). Realistically, it should end up being about a “3” in this format. Blue decks won't really be cutting it, it will get picked in the first half of the pack, and you are going to be happy with one to three in your deck. Still, I know myself, and I doubt I'll be able to resist the call. [card]Read the Bones[/card] was very good in triple Theros, and even though Divination is less powerful, multiples stack better, and it being in blue lets new color combinations have access to it. I don't think this format is M14, so don't try and draft six Divinations (leave that for me), but nor is it Zendikar. Feel free to draw some cards without being worried about dying on turn four.
Pricey, but effective. I remember Snare being solid in Time Spiral block as a way to draft the super controlling 5-creature blue/black deck, and the preponderance of Auras in this set can't have made it worse. It's definitely not a card you want many of, but the slow controlling decks will be eternally grateful if you can snare at least one.
Milling your opponent out is somewhat unrealistic, but if you have no good win conditions and a bunch of inspire cards, Evanescent Intellect could get the job done.
Triple-blue is a hefty cost, and you don't even get rewarded by devotion (though you do get the mana cost of whatever you are copying, even though it's a token). I'm a little wary of cards that require you to already have something good in play to perform, and this doesn't have the big reward of flashback like [card]Cackling Counterpart[/card] did.
Not only does this make something into an unblockable threat, once that's dealt with it leaves behind the perfect target for future bestow cards. The stats aren't too impressive, so make sure you have creatures with actual power to go along with it.
The ability here is interesting. It's not strictly a drawback by any means, because resetting bestow creatures that are no longer Auras is very strong, but sometimes it does mean that you will have a 4/4 out that just can't attack. If you need a wall, this is fine, and if you have a lot of good enchantments to bounce (cantrip ones are nice) it starts to become exciting.
[draft]Kraken of the Straits[/draft]
While I will rarely leave this out of my quad-Divination decks, not every deck needs a 7-drop (though they all want one). At 6/6, it's hard to block to begin with, especially given that 2/2s and 3/3s can basically never block it. Once you have four or five Islands out, which isn't tough, your opponent has to muster up a creature that can strait up defeat the Kraken by itself.
I like the idea of going off, and Meletis Astronomer definitely encourages you to reach for the stars. You don't even need a ton of enchantments to make him work, seeing as how a 1/3 for two is passable already.
If you end up with a Master of Waves and a Thassa, you shouldn't mind having this in your deck, but past that I'd avoid it. Mindreaver basically has no text, and is a difficult to cast 2/1 for two, which aren't exactly qualities I look for.
UU and 1U are very different on turn two, so this is no [card]Essence Scatter[/card], but it's got enough targets that I'd be happy with this in my deck even if I don't end up casting it until later.
Once again, the vanilla bestow creature provides more than enough value to make the cut. It isn't even bad to cast normally, as a 2/3 for three is a fine creature when you have nothing better to cast.
Now we're talking (or scrying, as it were). Getting to build your own [card]Jayemdae Tome[/card] with scry is definitely worth the risk of getting 2-for-1'd, and if you are clever enough to wait until your opponent is tapped out, you don't even lose cards if they kill the creature on their turn. I can't even imagine how great this is on a creature with inspire, not that you really need it to get value.
As confusing as this may appear, it's actually a fairly strong card. While this is in play, your opponent risks getting any good spell stolen, though that does of course put you in the same spot if you make the switch. Ideally you play this while slightly ahead, forcing your opponent to play something, letting you switch and get further ahead. After that, you hopefully can avoid playing spells of your own, leaving your opponent holding the bag (which in this case is a strange-looking Chimera).
Even a conditional [card]Unsummon[/card] is good in a world of six-mana Auras, and the inspire and heroic combos give this that extra bit of value you should always be looking for. As long as you are aware that a removal spell counters your Unsummon, you should be good to go.
[draft]Siren of the Fanged Coast[/draft]
This one I like less than some of the others, as the tribute condition is way more dependent on your opponent. You can run [card]Ornitharch[/card] out in just about any situation and get a good deal, but Siren of the Fanged Coast lacks bite if the opponent doesn't have a good target to steal. It's an [card]Air Elemental[/card] enough of the time that I'll always run it, but it's much weaker than it may look.
I like [card]Thieving Magpies[/card], though I'm concerned about the glut of blue cards at five mana. It takes discipline not to play all of them, but this is a bad enough blocker that you need to make sure your early game is strong enough that you can afford this. There isn't much you need to do for this to work, since flying takes care of all that, so take these and start drawing some cards.
Stratus Walk replaces itself, provides evasion, and works very well with both heroic and inspire. I wouldn't be surprised if this was one of the best commons for many of the synergistic blue decks, and even the drawback can be put to your advantage. If you have a bunch of groundpounders, send their only blocker to the high skies and get in there!
As with most [card]Frost Breath[/card]-type effects, you really need an aggressive deck to take full advantage. [card]Glimpse the Sun God[/card] is different because it wins the game in a fast race or a stalled board, whereas Sudden Storm loses value as the number of creatures on the board increases.
I'm not a huge fan of this text box. It requires early blue cards to be useful, will often be dead in the late game, and overall just doesn't reward you for being devoted. If you are really heavy blue, go ahead and run this, but don't prioritize it.
Tromokratis is the early front-runner for “strangest card in the set.” It's got semi-hexproof and semi-unblockable, both of which can be manipulated in a variety of ways. I wouldn't be surprised to see this sometimes just sit back when the opponent has untapped mana, and I'm 100% sure that the “unblockable” clause will cause no end of confusion even after months of play. I like that this is huge, protects itself fairly well, and is very difficult to block. It even forces the opponent to keep all their creatures back, at which point you don't give up much by not attacking into a potential combat trick.
I like defensive blue cards, and this provides a solid ground defense at minimal cost. Later in the game, it can go hunting, and I have no doubt that I'll eventually activate this for 11 (16 is a possibility, but probably not a favorite).
Without getting into the massive flavor problems (how does this possibly affect [card]Master of Waves[/card]!?), Whelming Wave is still not overwhelming, though it is a little above underwhelming. As a sorcery, it isn't very easy to get full value, so you need to have some of the protected creature types it mentions or a very low curve. It has some utility against Auras, though bouncing all their creatures only to get attacked by some former bestow creatures isn't great. The effect is at least powerful, and there are some games where it's amazing.
Top Three Blue Commons
1. Stratus Walk
It may seem bold, but I predict that Stratus Walk is going to be picked fairly highly because of how well it enables both heroic and inspire. [card]Dragon Mantle[/card] ended up being something like the second-best red common, and Stratus Walk has many of the same characteristics. I like [card]Retraction Helix[/card] as well, just because the other blue commons are more interchangeable. There are times where you will take [card]Nyxborn Triton[/card], [card]Chorus of the Tides[/card], or [card]Sphinx's Disciple[/card] over both Stratus Walk or Retraction Helix, but all the creatures fill somewhat similar roles. Blue's commons look much better than white's, and I didn't even mention [card]Divination[/card]!
Next up is black, which blight be the most devoted color for the second set in a row.