Previous Set Reviews
There’s a lot going on in this set, and how all the pieces interlock makes it somewhat complicated to review. Vehicles, Energy, and more all rely on other cards in order to get full value, but I’ll try and factor that in as much as possible during the reviews.
I also want to mention, as usual, that the description of the card’s value is more important than the grade. The grade is a guideline, but the explanation will give you context, so use both when reading the review.
Let’s get to it!
Here’s the grading scale we will be using:
Retired and inducted into the Limited Hall of Fame: Pack Rat. Umezawa's Jitte.
5.0: The best of the best. (Archangel Avacyn. Sorin, Grim Nemesis.)
4.5: Incredible bomb, but not unbeatable. (The Gitrog Monster. Descend Upon the Sinful. Jace, Unraveller of Secrets. Avacyn’s Judgment.)
4.0: Good rare or top-tier uncommon. (Burn from Within. Devil’s Playground. Elusive Tormentor.)
3.5: Top-tier common or solid uncommon. (Duskwatch Recruiter. Breakneck Rider. Fiery Temper.)
3.0: Good playable that basically always makes the cut. (Graf Mole. Dauntless Cathar. Niblis of Dusk.)
2.5: Solid playable that rarely gets cut. (Nephalia Moondrakes. Stormrider Spirit. Reduce to Ashes.)
2.0: Good filler, but sometimes gets cut. (Expose Evil. Inspiring Captain. Lamplighter of Selhoff.)
1.5: Filler. Gets cut about half the time. (Fork in the Road. Convicted Killer. Militant Inquisitor.)
1.0: Bad filler. Gets cut most of the time. (Moldgraf Scavenger. Vampire Noble. Seagraf Skaab.)
0.5: Very low-end playables and sideboard material. (Invasive Surgery. Ethereal Guidance. Open the Armory.)
0.0: Completely unplayable. (Harness the Storm. Vessel of Volatility.)
A pinger with two shots still does most everything you want a pinger to do, and this is a lot more than that. It provides a significant chunk of energy for your other cards, and if you can get a bunch of reliable energy sources going, can torch the opponent out very quickly. Everything about this card is great.
Boggart Ram-Gang is back, and it’s (mostly) easier to cast. I’m in. The stats-to-cost ratio here is great, and you should take and play this.
Built to Smash
Only targeting attackers limits this, but it does the job in an aggressive deck. Casting this on a large Vehicle will indeed be a smashing, and it’s hard to imagine not winning most combats where this comes out.
My initial reaction is that this is better than Tormenting Voice, because your second-worst card is more often than not worse than a random card from your deck. That won’t always be the case, but it’s close either way. Tormenting Voice with zero combos (see: Dragons of Tarkir) was filler more than anything, and that’s about where Hug is going to land. Check back when it comes to Constructed, though—this card does some work there.
Chandra, Torch of Defiance
I don’t think this is going to be a tough nut to crack. Chandra is going to dominate any game she’s played, and even if you play her when behind, she can take out a 4/4 and gain some life. If you can successfully protect her, she will run away with things, and all that for only 4 mana.
Flexibility + power for only 2 mana? Sign me up.
This is a kind of strange ability, but "strange" doesn’t mean "bad." Most Limited decks are going to deal roughly 5-6 damage by flipping three cards (according to my estimates of a normal curve), making this a 6-mana 6/6 that Lava Axes the opponent. I’m assuming you won’t draw cards very often, but even so, this is a great card.
I’m not excited about paying 4 mana to kill an artifact, and sweetening the pot by letting me target lands isn’t convincing me to run this. By all means, side it in if you get demolished by some sick Vehicle game one, but don’t maindeck it.
Deal 3-4 damage and make your hand better on average sounds like a great card to me. There will be situations where you don’t have enough cards in hand to make this good, or your hand has a powerful 6-drop you don’t want to discard, but they will be rare.
It seems pretty easy to pick up a 2-for-1 with this, and worst comes to worst, you get to nug your opponent for 2. I’m in.
Lunarch Mantle this is not, and Lunarch Mantle is a controversial card. This just doesn’t do enough to warrant the risk you are taking by painting a giant target on one of your creatures.
It might be shocking how high a grade I’m giving this, but I value the combination of things it brings to the table. Not only is it 2 mana for an instant-speed deal 3, it can also enable other energy cards at a good rate or siphon off energy to deal a bunch more damage. That’s a lot of action for not a lot of mana, and exactly what I’m looking for.
Threatens occupy a strange spot. They can be build-arounds, though this set doesn’t appear to support that much. That leaves Hijack as a niche card for aggressive decks, as you can’t play this in a midrange or control deck and expect it to perform. If you can steal a big blocker and kill the opponent, Hijack will be great—fail in that and it’s a dead card.
Incendiary Sabotage is a strange one. It’s a powerful effect with a strict requirement to cast, making it far from an auto-include. It’s worth trying to enable, and picking up Puzzleknots or fabricate cards helps, as you should be able to maneuver this into providing a sizeable advantage. In the right deck, this is worth a lot, and in the wrong deck it’s uncastable.
As a commenter on an earlier review pointed out, this will forever be known as Nerd Ape. That’s the most interesting thing about it, as it’s a marginal playable in most decks, really needing the bonus before it becomes a card of note (and not being more than just good even then).
By itself, this is worth 8 damage, and it puts the opponent in a tough spot. They can refuse to trade for it, hoping you’ll run out of energy, which can backfire if you follow it up with an energy creator or two. The rating drops substantially if your deck isn’t aggressive and you have no ways to make energy, but meet either of those conditions and you have a real card on your hands.
Either you have a ton of artifacts in your deck, meaning that by playing this you are paying a decent amount of life for something worth less than 4 mana on average, or you have very few, so casting this kills you. I’m not interested in either scenario.
This is clearly a beatdown card, and a good one at that. Setting up good attacks at least twice is worth the risk of having 2 toughness, and the energy cost is low enough that any other energy card will open the door for multiple extra attacks.
Pia may not be as powerful as her daughter, but she’s still pretty strong. A 2/2 plus a 1/1 flier is already good, and Pia has multiple abilities that both work with that Thopter and stay relevant even after it’s gone. You don’t have to go deep into artifacts to make Pia good, though she does get a bit better if you do.
This guy looks a little too pleased with himself. Despite that, I still am willing to give him a good grade, as he will play out well in a deck with even 5+ artifacts. You aren’t paying much for the ability, and getting just one rummage out of the deal should put you ahead of the game.
Thermo-Alchemist this is not. I just don’t see decks having enough artifacts to really go off with this, and a 1/3 that has to attack to deal damage is so much worse than a pinger.
If you have room in your deck, this sort of card is never bad, but it’s also never really worth prioritizing. It’s air, and unless you are super aggressive, not going to be an important component.
As a 1-drop, this is anemic, and as an artifact removal spell, it’s ruinously expensive. Still, the combination is flexible, and if you have to play this, it isn’t the end of the world. I’d still prefer to sideboard this in, unless the format is more artifact dominated than it looks.
I’d bump this up a full grade if you can enable it most turns, but it’s not something I’m drooling over in most decks.
A Dragon that’s castable on turn 4 and great on turn 10? I’m in.
Spark of Creativity
This is an interesting card. You can mitigate the randomness here by only targeting creatures with toughness low enough that you can play any card that fails to kill them. For example, if you have four lands in play (and haven’t played a land yet), targeting a 4/4 will either kill it or reveal something that costs 3 or less. This isn’t foolproof, as you could hit a pump spell or some other situational card, but it does mean that you can almost always get a card out of this. That seems reasonable to me, even if it’s not a very reliable way to kill anything.
A 2/1 haste is a nice little beater, and giving Vehicles haste makes your opponent worry about getting hit by a freight train at any point. You don’t need Vehicles for this to be playable, though clearly you have incentive to pick some up.
I’m not a huge fan of the “when tapped” creatures in this set (Night Market Lookout being the other). The combo with Vehicles just isn’t enough of a driving force to get me to play medium-rate creatures, though this is at least passable based on stats alone. Play this if you need a 3-drop, maybe over something else if you have 3+ Vehicles, but don’t treat it like a build-around.
Not all energy cards are high on synergy, and Spontaneous Artist does just fine on its own. A 4-mana 3/3 haste is a good deal, and having additional combos is just a bonus.
Start Your Engines
I predict that I will not be starting very many engines. Sorcery-speed +2/+0 is just not appealing, and I’d rather just play a creature that can crew Vehicles every turn instead of a card that might just be dead. Still, I also predict that I will die to three Vehicles powered by this at least once.
It doesn’t seem too hard to get this to attack as a 4/4 multiple times per game, though I wouldn’t expect it to be a 6/6 all that often. Bear in mind that it’s +2/+2 per instance of gaining energy, even if you are gaining multiples at the same time.
Terror of the Fairgrounds
My newfound love for Hulking Devil aside, 5/2 is just really terrible stats. This trades down for basically anything, and is rarely going to get through.
A solid collection of stats and an ability that plays well with or without other cards. I’m into it.
Not the most exciting card, but not one I’d be ashamed to play either. Wayward Giant requires more chumping than just a Servo, and is big enough to survive most combats. I also hear “carry on my wayward giant” every time I see this.
Zzzzzt. You should take this and play it, even if you have zero artifacts in your deck. If you have more than zero, congrats, you made a good card even better.
Top 5 Red Commons
Red has some good ones, but it drops off quickly (as red is wont to do). Welding Sparks and Pyrohelix are high-quality removal, and Grubs and Artist are both solid creatures, making red pretty well-rounded. These cards all work well in every type of deck, so red isn’t pigeonholed into beatdown this time around.