Welcome to the Gatecrash Set Review! As usual, I’ll be examining each and every card for its uses in both Constructed and Limited, providing commentary and incredible humor as I do so. The scales I’ll be using:
5.0: Multi-format All-Star (and undoubtedly worth too much money). [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card]. [card]Tarmogoyf[/card].
4.0: Format staple. [card]Sphinx's Revelation[/card]. [card]Thragtusk[/card].
3.5: Good in multiple archetypes, but not a format staple. [card]Avacyn's Pilgrim[/card]. [card]Restoration Angel[/card]. [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card].
3.0: Archetype staple. [card]Farseek[/card]. [card]Gravecrawler[/card].
2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. [card]Think Twice[/card]. [card]Curse of Death's Hold[/card].
2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. [card]Naturalize[/card]. (Bear in mind that many cards fall into this category, although an explanation is obviously important.)
1.0: It has seen play once. [card]One with Nothing[/card]. (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%)
For this review, I’m adding another set of criteria. Some people think the best way to respond to my (awesome) puns is a simple letter grade, and even though it is commonly agreed that the grading is too harsh, I left it in the capable paws of Pat Cox (@wildestnacatl on Twitter) to deliver them. Here’s the scale he will be using:
A: Something an extremely clever and good-looking person would say. It is unlikely Luis will ever achieve this grade.
B: A reasonably clever pun that is actually apt to the situation/conversation at hand.
C: Usually groan-worthy, but at least tangentially related to the current situation. Most puns fall into this category.
D: Has nothing to do with anything, and isn’t funny, but can still be understood to be a play on words. Reused puns also receive this grade.
F: These puns make no sense and have no redeeming qualities whatsoever.
It’s pretty hard to outmaneuver your opponents if your deck is full of cards like this.
I’d rather air on the side of caution, and tricks like this are generally pretty good. It’s good enough to win most fights, and giving the guy flying lets you not only ambush one of their flyers, but use this as a finisher if need be. Of the 2-mana tricks that give first strike we’ve seen recently, I like this one the best.
It turns out that if you need Edicts for Constructed, stick with the [card diabolic edict]Diabolic[/card] ones.
Removal is removal, and getting to exile an enchantment 5% of the time is a nice little bonus. This is even reasonably splashable, though certainly not exciting.
It’s pretty sweet that this gives your creatures the bonus immediately (the bonus being lifelink the vast majority of the time). It’s a little less sweet that this costs six mana and is just a 4/4, and one without any sort of protection at that.
Not only is this a quite playable card by itself, giving your entire team a useful ability or vigilance every turn is awesome. It’s name is a little deceptive, since it lends itself better to full-on battles than skirmishes, but I’ll let the flavordraft judges determine that one.
I’m not going to assault your intelligence by claiming that this is anything other than proxy fodder for Constructed.
It doesn’t drake a genius to realize that you should be snapping up 3-power flying creatures in Limited.
I think extort (or according to PV, exhort) has at making it into Constructed. Draining for 1 is relevant, and in the control decks this fits best in, adding a mana to the cost of your spells is doable. Playing a cheap extort guy into a bunch of removal is interesting, and could help stabilize against aggressive decks.
If extort does end up being good, stats like this are what you would want in most of the extort decks, so I’m guardedly giving this a 2.
A big part of the reason I picked Orzhov at the prerelease was extort guys like this (the other part being a desire to keep my Dimir affiliation a secret). Hiding behind 1/4s while slowly draining my opponent out is basilica my idea of heaven, and I really like how the mechanic plays. As in Constructed, a 1/4 is pretty ideal, though there are also more aggressive Orzhov decks possible. Extort's mana requirement does naturally throw off your curve and slow the game down, so I favor the controlling version, but life-draining does get more dangerous in an aggro deck.
This may be the best extort card for Constructed, mainly because it synergizes extremely well with Wraths. It’s almost unkillable, especially against the decks you really want it against, and it goes a long way towards stopping the types of creatures that normally give these decks fits (namely, [card thundermaw hellkite]Hellkites[/card], [card]Hellrider[/card]s, and [card falkenrath aristocrat]HellVampires[/card]).
Pun: Do I have to grade puns that aren’t about the card name? Is this even a pun? F
On the flip side, the main ability does almost nothing in a controlling deck in Limited, but is absurd in an aggro deck. This effect is incredibly effective, and almost worth a card by itself, so giving you access to that and extort is very dangerous. I wouldn’t blindly take this, since I don’t yet know how often you end up aggressive in white (Boros obviously helps make this more of a common occurrence), but if you do end up beating down this is awesome.
While this may not be [card]Wild Nacatl[/card]—closer to [card]Ardent Recruit[/card]—it could be part of a good battalion deck. Unlike Ardent Recruit, Boros Elite just asks you to play more of what you already wanted to play, and that gives me hope that you can actually recruit enough low drops to make this work.
I doubt you will be attacking for 3 with this before turn four or five, but in a 18+ creature deck it does exactly what the Boros Legion is looking to do. It’s also cheap, which might matter in a heavy extort deck.
Court Street Denizen
[draft]Court Street Denizen[/draft]
Playing this in Constructed is just courting disaster.
Much like [card]Blind Obedience[/card], this gets way better the more aggressive you are. This does require that you play a lot of white creatures, but given that you meet the two requirements this turns into an incredibly potent piece of disruption.
[card]Accorder Paladin[/card] saw some Constructed play, and I don’t think it’s too daring to suggest that this might as well. It’s not going to be a critical part of any deck, but there are plenty of slots this could fill. 3-power and evasion for two mana is a good deal, even if the evasion isn’t always on.
[card]Brushstrider[/card] is almost always played, and the special ability here is much more powerful. This gets a hit or two in early, then stays back until you can give it the proper amount of lift.
Not only is five a bit too high to pay for this effect, the requirement that you use a land is too burdensome.
[card]Debtor’s Pulpit[/card] may be pricey, but it’s also [card icy manipulator]Icy[/card], and that was always a windmill slam in Limited. I’d take this early, and even splash it—the effect really is that good.
This is not the most thrulling card for Constructed.
If you just consider this a BW gold card, you will do fine. It’s a solid option for any midrange deck, great in control, and not quite stellar in aggro. Most Limited decks fall firmly in the camp of midrange, so this is going to end up being a decent Orzhov card. It is a kind of cool combo with battalion too, as a free attacker that will survive combat.
Many lines have been written about how the two abilities on this card have no real connection, so I’ll just say that it’s a kind of strange design and leave it at that. The more interesting part is how the abilities don’t mechanically interact incredibly well either. For the most part, you want the battalion ability in creature mirrors, but barring Bonfire, there aren’t that many X-spells running around in such matchups. By far the best X-spell to nuke is [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card], and [card]Frontline Medic[/card] runs right into Wrath or spot removal in those matchups.
Still, even though the abilities mesh awkwardly, both are strong enough (particularly the [card]Mana Leak[/card]) that this will be on the front lines a reasonable amount of the time.
Three-mana 3/3s don’t need to have much of a text box to be good, and this is one of the better battalion triggers in the set. It completely negates the drawback of having to attack with small guys in order to trigger it, and it’s not hard to win games where you just get to bash with everything every turn without fear.
Gideon, Champion of Justice
[draft]Gideon, Champion of Justice[/draft]
As much as I liked old Gideon, I feel like the new one won’t be dispensing a ton of justice. He doesn’t really protect himself, and besides attacking, doesn’t actually do anything until he gets to the ultimate. I do like him in aggressive creature decks, but that narrows the range of potential decks significantly. Historically, planeswalkers that can’t protect themselves face an uphill battle, and unlike [card Jace, memory adept]Biggest Jace[/card], Gideon doesn’t kill the opponent in two turns.
Planeswalkers are among the hardest cards to properly gauge, so keep that in mind, but my expectations for Gideon aren’t high. I think he will see some play—solid if you need a good 4-drop, but as far as Gideons (and planeswalkers) go, he’s not a champion.
He suffers from many of the same problems in Limited, but because Limited is so creature-based, he’s still quite good there. Again, he’s best in an aggro deck, because attacking for 6 or 7 is what he does most effectively, though any deck capable of defending him will be interested.
Guardian of the Gateless
[draft]Guardian of the Gateless[/draft]
Oh, this card says “blocking” on it? Let’s just say that cards that trigger off blocking are not generally Constructed powerhouses, and this is no exception.
The classic [card]Aven Windreader[/card] stats have always been good in Limited, so this starts out well. The second ability is definitely a beating, and there are plenty of boards where your opponent won’t be able to send anything for multiple turns. When they finally do amass a strong enough force to overcome the Guardian, they are usually going to lose multiple creatures to it. All told, it’s a decent attacker and amazing defender, and a bargain at five mana.
As scornful as I may be of the Ghost Pants deck (Bant Hexproof, but BenS came up with a vastly superior name), I have to admit that auras are no joke these days. Still, protection from multicolored is narrow enough that this isn’t going to win any awards.
Deck Name: A+
I could see myself siding this in against some absurd all-gold deck, just not maindecking it under any reasonable circumstances.
Hold the Gates
[draft]Hold the Gates[/draft]
Is this what they mean by Gatecrash? I mean, if you have Gates, your guys get to crash...
Hold the phone! A new [card]Overrun[/card] is here! It’s basically the same, with vigilance instead of trample, and +0/+1 or +0/+2 instead of +3/+3. Yep, basically the same.
You could put worse things on a [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card]. It’s no [card]Angelic Destiny[/card], but that card was in a holy different ballgame to begin with.
If your opponent doesn’t have a good removal spell right away, this gets them dead extremely quickly. I can’t imagine this being anything but an early pick, and it even turns into a mini-[card]Teleportal[/card] in the late game, if you get your opponent to a low enough life total without it.
Knight of Obligation
[draft]Knight of Obligation[/draft]
Besides the fact that this isn’t a Constructed playable, I’m obligated to point out the ridiculous flavor text.
Flavor Text: F
This seems like a knightmare to deal with, as it smashes in for a few turns (with vigilance), and then settles back to defend and drain the opponent out.
If this were an instant you might have to watch out for it in fringe decks, but as a sorcery it’s not very close to playable.
Two 2/2s for five is a passable deal, enough so that this will usually make the cut, after which the Knights get to make the cuts.
[card]Duplicant[/card] is back, and he’s always a 4/7 this time around. Luminate Primordial is enough harder to cast that it probably won’t quite duplicant the amount of success the original had, yet it’s still powerful enough to see a reasonable amount of play. It’s not the guy you want to fire the opening salvo with, but it trumps most other big threats the opponent can muster. Plus, as a 4/7, it can shrug off most of the creatures and removal in the format. It does fight (and lose) to [card]Angel of Serenity[/card] for this kind of slot, though there is something to be said for just killing their guy permanently.
Super [card]Flametongue Kavu[/card]? Don’t mind if I do. This kills anything and leaves an enormous body behind, making it easily the second-best Limited card of all time that costs 7-mana and is a 4/7 vigilance.
I haven’t investigated all the possibilities here, but having to jump through multiple hoops (have a big creature, make sure it dies) is murder on this card’s chances.
Again, requiring a high-power creature to begin with makes this sketchy, and when they deal with it via bounce or a non-killing effect, you get blown out.
Nav Squad Commandos
[draft]Nav Squad Commandos[/draft]
If you are trying to navigate Constructed, this is not the way to go.
Limited: 2.0 (3.5 if your name is Shuhei Nakamura)
Shuhei has never met a [card]Thraben Purebloods[/card] that didn’t make his deck, so I imagine he’ll love this. For everyone else, this is a solid filler card with a fairly potent battalion ability, though it does occupy a high spot on the curve.
Even if this were an instant, it wouldn’t be close to Constructed playable—Charging three mana for this effect is just too much. I liked it more when it was an enchantment, even if it did require you to play all artifact creatures.
Now this is an [card]Overrun[/card]. A mini-Overrun, true, and the lack of trample does hurt a bit, but still an Overrun. If only there were a deck that really wanted to attack with a ton of creatures...
Various versions of [card]Blessed Breath[/card] have made it into Constructed, and right now [card]Faith’s Shield[/card] is firmly ensconced in that slot. [card]Shielded Passage[/card] lacks a ton of the functionality that Faith’s Shield has, so until that rotates out, Passage is out of luck.
Combat tricks that don’t increase the creature’s power are fairly sketchy, but this gets a pass because it can also stop direct damage spells. It’s also a pretty good sideboard card.
This smite not be the worst, but all I really want is [card]Condemn[/card].
Not killing evasion creatures is a fairly large drawback, and all that keeps this 1-mana kill spell from being a straight 3.0.
Syndic of Tithes
[draft]Syndic of Tithes[/draft]
While I still like the defensive extort cards more, this may be efficient enough that it sees some niche play. It is unlikely to go into wide syndication, though.
Good in beatdown or control, I expect [card]Syndic of Tithes[/card] to be an early pick in draft.
How cute, it’s the reverse [card]Voice of the Provinces[/card]. Sadly, cuteness doesn’t make a card Constructed playable, or we’d have quite a different format on our hands.
The Angel being the token is definitely worse than the 1/1 being the token, given that you’re now less protected against bounce spells. Still, your own bounce effects get much better, and this is a 4/4 flier plus a 1/1, which makes for a powerful card.
If I had to guess, this Tiger doesn’t look like it’s in a hurry to give anyone life, in Constructed or otherwise.
The stats here are only slightly below par, and the ability is quite useful in a defensive deck. I cat see myself picking it first, but I’ll play it more often than not.
Yet another in what’s becoming a long line of 4-mana 6/6s with a drawback, [card]Alms Beast[/card] trades away flying for one of the mildest disadvantage we’ve seen thus far. It makes the race go in the wrong direction each time it’s chumped—certainly much less bad in Constructed than Limited.
If you can reliably eliminate your opponent’s guys, this really might not be the worst finisher. Still, losing flying does hurt, as there are plenty of aggro decks with flying threats, and you might be beast served by playing something more defensive. It certainly doesn’t help that it’s in the same colors as an actual insane finisher, giving this only a ghost of a chance at success.
All hail the almighty 6/6, who crushes all that stands in his path! Even though this doesn’t race all that well, it’s still a 6/6 for four, and worth quite a bit as a result. It’s very good in any deck, and if you aren’t in a huge hurry to kill them, makes an incredibly large wall.
Pun: Was alm(ighty) meant to be a pun? F
There’s nothing that really beckons me here. Exiling a card or getting a 1/1 are both not quite worth a card or a mana, and unless you desperately are in need of both effects, you can get either one at much lower cost.
If you need cheap cards for extort, you could do worse, but not by much. You can’t even run this out turn one, which is when a 1/1 flier might actually do some damage.
I guess the theme of Aristocrats in Magic is that they sacrifice others to protect themselves, which historically isn’t that inaccurate. However, unlike their nobler and hastier (and undead) brethren, [card]Cartel Aristocrat[/card]s won’t be headlining Constructed decks anytime soon.
For the low price of two mana, you get a hard-to-kill [card]Grizzly Bear[/card] and a sacrifice outlet. I’m not sure how often the second is needed in this set, but the first is almost never out of style. It makes double blocks safer (if they kill the other guy with removal, they can’t kill this at least), it’s a good target for auras, and when the time comes it can often deliver the killing blow.
I like resilient threats, and this takes multiple spells to kill under most circumstances. [card]Terminus[/card] and [card]Merciless Eviction[/card] aside, it’s not easy to handle with just one card, and has a very reasonable power/toughness to casting cost ratio. It is a little annoying that it takes the full amount of mana to re-summon it, but I guess immortality isn’t cheap. Once again, we have a sweet-looking BW finisher that compares badly with its guild leader, which does seem to be in flavor.
Remove the text, and you still have an impressive threat. Make that threat unkillable and you have the makings of a textbook Limited bomb. This will impact the board every time it’s cast, and isn’t stopped by anything as trivial as death.
A swing and a miss.
Two mana is a much more palatable cost than three, but at least [card]Avenging Arrow[/card] had the decency to get the job done. Much like the Arrow, this doesn’t get better in multiples, though the first one is usually easy enough to execute.
Gift of Orzhova
[draft]Gift of Orzhova[/draft]
In this day and age, no aura is too situational to be considered unplayable. If the Ghost Pants deck needs an update, this may well be in it, providing both evasion and lifelink. Plus, then the deck would really be Ghost Pants, with Orzhov providing its fair share of both.
Deck Name: A+
Even if you treat this card as a one-shot deal, it’s fairly solid. It provides a big life swing and a powerful effect, and will end the game quickly if left unchecked. Under most circumstances, the two most common options are going to be to throw this out as soon as possible and try and ride it to victory or hold on to it as long as possible to try and strike the killing blow. The fact that it performs either task well is part of the reason it’s such a valuable gift.
High Priest of Penance
[draft]High Priest of Penance[/draft]
Reverse deathtouch is a kind of neat ability. Instead of having to deal damage, he just has to take it, making him a very good blocker and combining well with all sorts of spells. Besides the high combo potential, I like this card as a way to hold off ground-based aggro decks, though it is somewhat inconvenient that he can’t block either [card]Knight of Infamy[/card] or [card knight of glory]Glory[/card].
Not only does this give you the option of killing whatever killed it, you are allowed to assign a penance to anything the opponent controls (that isn’t a land). That makes this significantly more than just a 1/1 deathtouch, and 1/1 deathtouch is already quite good.
Any card that can potentially return a whole host of creatures from your graveyard is worth investigating. The natural inclination is to pair this with creatures that cost 2 or less mana, letting you curve out with [card]Mulch[/card]es and [card]Grisly Salvage[/card]s into a turn four or five Servitude. You may not even need to go into full combo mode, as casting this to get back 2-3 Elves or other 1-drops is a good deal for just four mana. Either as a value card in a graveyard-centric deck or the driving force in a combo deck, [card]Immortal Servitude[/card] has potential.
It shouldn’t be too hard to get a couple guys back with this, and once you start getting two on a regular basis this becomes very good. It is a little pricey, especially if your costs line up at 4 or more mana, so make sure your curve is on the low end to get full value.
You’d have to be quite the daredevil to try and run this in Constructed.
Pun: A- (What? Daredevil is sweet.)
An aggressive flier with extort is never going to be bad, regardless of which direction your deck is trying to go. It kills their 3/1 fliers on defense and gets in there quickly on offense, draining their lives all the while.
While I tend to be pretty merciless in these reviews, when I give a card a 3 or higher, I really do like it. I’ve grown to respect six-mana Wraths these days, and exiling instead of destroying is worth the premium. Killing planeswalkers is part of what sells me on this card, as the type of decks that want this are often vulnerable to them. Between [card]Supreme Verdict[/card], [card]Terminus[/card], and this, control decks have their pick of sweepers, and I expect the numbers to land at 4 Supreme Verdict and 2-4 of the other two combined.
If this doesn’t impact the board in a positive way, you are probably winning (or at least not losing), and when you need this, you really need it. I don’t expect it to do much other than nuke creatures, but it will on occasion, usually to great success.
Obzedat, Ghost Council
[draft]Obzedat, Ghost Council[/draft]
We are finally here, at the card that embarrasses all the other expensive BW creatures. [card Obzedat, Ghost Council]Obzedat[/card] seems disgusting, draining 2 every turn and dodging all sorcery speed removal. I’d be surprised if this didn’t see a lot of play, both in aggro and control, and expect that dueling Ghost Councils will not be an uncommon sight. I do caution you to beware of forgetting its return trigger, as under the new rules you are allowed to do so, a mistake that will undoubtedly haunt you.
Five mana for this is just absurd, even if there are four colored symbols included. This will not be an easy card to defeat. I fully expect two in my Sealed at Grand Prix Charlotte.
One Thousand Lashes
[draft]One Thousand Lashes[/draft]
That’s a lot of lashes. At least [card]Pillory of the Sleepless[/card] could be fetched up with [card]Tallowisp[/card], and was barely even playable at that. I suspect any copies I open of this card will turn into One Thousand Proxies.
Removal is removal, and it pinging them for a point a turn doesn’t hurt. Well, except them. To them it probably hurts.
[card]Vendetta[/card] is a cool card, and tacking on [card]Rescue[/card] and whatever you want to call the reanimation ability makes this fairly interesting. We are slowly starting to acquire a good number of removal options, so this has competition, but if you can find a deck that wants either of the other two modes, this could be good.
Killing any creature for two mana automatically makes this a high pick, even if it costs some life. Being able to save one of your own guys does add to the flexibility, but my guess is that it will only be used when you are at a low enough life total that the first ability is off the table. Once in a blue moon, you might reanimate something, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.
Purge the Profane
[draft]Purge the Profane[/draft]
Four mana for two cards is a pretty rotten deal, and that’s assuming you don’t mind that it’s multicolored.
I’m not above spending this much to make them discard, and buying myself some time with the 2 life makes it even sweeter. There are worse ways to spend your time and mana.
[card]Sun Titan[/card] this is not. I’m not saying I’d like to see the Titans return anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to start playing with Treasury Thrulls all of a sudden. If it does get to attack, the ability is strong enough that it’s worth considering, though I suspect that the one turn delay will ultimately prove fatal to its chances.
The extort ability is just gravy, as this was already a very strong card in Limited. There are some boards where it might have to hold back, but those boards are the ones where the extort really starts to come in handy, and if this is attacking freely, you can’t possibly be losing.
I must confess that I miss [card]Tidehollow Sculler[/card]—now that card did some work. This does deal with cards a little more permanently, though at a much greater cost (both in mana and life). Extort makes up for it to some degree, and being able to pluck their best card is good enough that this is a real card.
After playing with extort, I’m pretty impressed, so throwing it on an already-solid card makes me quite happy. It’s rare that this won’t nab something, and often at a fairly low life cost.
All of this card’s hopes and dreams are pinned on the combo with [card]Exquisite Blood[/card], which deals infinite damage as long as you can start the chain somehow. Worse combos have seen reasonable success, so I don’t think it’s unrealistic to put some amount of stock in this combo being a Standard threat.
As mana-intensive as guildmages are known to be, [card]Vizkopa Guildmage[/card] does tend to dominate the board if you possess the requisite amount of resources (both in lands and creatures). Come to think of it, that’s a very Orzhov trait.
Top 5 White/Orzhov Commons
5. [card]Angelic Edict[/card]
4. [card]Basilica Guards[/card]
3. [card]Court Street Denizen[/card]
2. [card]Syndic of Tithes[/card]
1. [card]Kingpin’s Pet[/card]
I really like the extort guys, and that, combined with white’s lack of premium removal at common, means that the list is dominated by them. [card]Court Street Denizen[/card] is the one standout of the list, as this is more a Boros card than anything else, but extort plays well with the Boros Legion as well.
Top 5 Cards for Constructed
5. [card]Orzhov Charm[/card]
4. [card]Vizkopa Guildmage[/card]
3. [card]Frontline Medic[/card]
2. [card]Merciless Eviction[/card]
1. [card]Obzedat, Ghost Council[/card]
Orzhov got its fair share of hits here, with a sick finisher and a strong Wrath to complement it. I anticipate listening to the advice of the Ghost Council often over the next year, and performing as many Merciless Evictions as they demand.