Well, it's that time again. The set is spoiled, everyone is talking about the new cards, and I get to wrack my brain for the
bestworst puns about all the new cards. While other people worry about how “good” cards are, I just want to know what their names rhyme with or reference (ok, I also worry about how good they are, but let's be honest: that's secondary).
Before I start, let me update you on Running the Gauntlet. I've had a particularly nasty sore throat for the last couple days, so I haven't recorded the aggro Valakut matchups, but they will be coming shortly. Many apologies, and I hope the Legacy videos Matt Nass and I are doing will help cover until then!
As usual, I'm going to use the same ratings scales as previous reviews, though I'd like to talk about the Limited section a little. Since I decided to use the pointing system used by Wizards' R&D, I do have to explain how our approaches differ. Where the ratings scale says “I'll always play this” or “I'll play this as the only card of this color”, don't take that too strictly. While you might always play Prismatic Lens or Ichor Wellspring, they certainly aren't 5.0's. I like the numerical values, and will explain for every card why I gave it a certain rating, so don't just look at the number and move on. Alright, let's get to some cards!
2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. Celestial Purge. (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%).
Constructed: 1.0 (2.5 post rotation)
How did this manage to sneak into the White review? Oh well, I guess now's a good a time as any. Karn has a lot of big numbers on him, but the most important is the seven that he costs. Right now, that just doesn't work. I don't want to cop out and say that everything gets better once the next rotation happen, since that can be applied to almost any card, but in this case, it's very true. While Jace, Spell Pierce, Stoneforge Mystic, and Mana Leak dominate the format, the odds of you surviving to land a Karn and having him resolve/be good enough is just too low. The same can be said about most expensive cards, but at least here you have a good payoff when he does work. If you can exile their only attacker right away, they are going to have to use multiple cards to kill him, and once you start +4ing him he grows out of reach very rapidly. I like expensive game-enders, and I expect to see Karn ending (and then restarting, and then promptly ending) many games in the future.
Though conveniently present in the first pack you see, Karn still fits into any and every deck. I was always happy to first pick Spine of Ish Sah and build around it, and Karn is basically that minus all the work. Even as just double Vindicate, he would be sick, and he's so much more than that. Killing Karn is very difficult, especially if you have any defense at all, and he's a machine once he's in play. I would imagine the most common lines will be the following:
If they have one creature, exile it, get up, and do a victory lap. The game is yours!
If they have multiple guys and you have sufficient blockers, kill their best guy. They better have removal or they are dead.
If they have multiple guys and you don't have blockers, but their power doesn't add up to 10, +4 Karn. Not the ideal situation, but still decent.
If they have a bunch of guys you can't stop, 10+ power, kill their best guy and use Karn to gain a few life. You sound behind; try and do better next time.
Karn has plenty of options, but it should be pretty easy to see when to Vindicate and when to +4. Don't pass Karn. I think he's the best card in the set, despite costing seven. A reusable Vindicate that threatens to ultimate in two turns and is extremely difficult to kill…yeah, that sounds like a bomb to me.
Ok, on to the actual white cards!
Despite this being an affordable and solid ability, cards like this haven't seen a whole lot of play lately. Vines of Vastwood and Brave the Elements are both solid spells, yet solely defensive measures don't tend to be all that impressive. Giving this effect to any color is interesting, and will further contribute to the “you are never safe” mentality that Phyrexian mana encourages quite well. I'm not in a hurry to jam this in any deck right now, but I anticipate this being the centerpiece to some real nice Standard blowouts.
These Phyrexian mana cards sure make color-based pick orders pretty tough. I would almost always play this if I had it, though it will definitely sit on the sidelines in creature-light decks. Countering any removal or surviving any combat for one mana is sweet, and when it comes from a non-white deck could even be considered a blessing in disguise.
I don't think these survive the Titan test, not by a long shot (the Titan test being: is this 6-drop a Titan? No? Replace it with a Titan).
I've played worse than a 4/6 vanilla for six, and the upside here is quite high. The perfect counter to the David Ochoa invitational card, and yet another reason to pick up Living Weapons.
I wouldn't say that this is the blade, but it is kind of splicy. Getting two guys and four power for three mana really isn't the worst, and I'm a fan of any card that tangles with Doom Blade and comes out ahead. Not too far ahead, mind you, but if you have equipment lying around, the artificer can do some damage. I really would not mind playing some of these in Caw-blade, since they seem good against both aggro and control. This even (kind of) passes the Jace test! If they bounce the Golem, you can smack Jace for one, which means that any equipment or even something like Mortarpod puts you back on the map. Stoneforging for Mortarpod on turn four after they went Jace bounce Golem puts you in a pretty solid spot, especially given that they have resolved a Jace. I'd look for this to show up in a variety of decks.
This is a beatdown. All the Golem-makers are solid Limited cards, and this is one of the best of the bunch. Better stock up on those Golem tokens!
Perimeter Captain hasn't been seeing much love lately, and he's twice the wall this is. You'd have to be insane to try and play this in Constructed.
I like defensive guys more than most, and I'm not really sold here. It's fine, but it doesn't do that much against a bunch of 2-power guys, and some decks can ignore it entirely. I'd start it in most decks, but don't be afraid to sideboard it out if they have a lot of fliers or too many 2-power guys.
Chancellor of the Annex
As cool as a cycle of pseudo-Leyline dudes is, I don't think they are going to make any waves in Constructed. While the effect of having in your opener is good, they are all basically the worst as actual cards, which means you are kind of breaking even in the best case, and drawing a ton of bricks in the worst case. That doesn't sound so hot, does it? That isn't that bad, anyways, since imagine if these guys had actually been good. Everyone would be playing a bunch, and whoever drew more would have a huge advantage.
As for this one specifically: countering their first spell or delaying their 2-drop until turn three is one of the better Chancellor effects, but the infinite-costed guy is too unwieldy to make it worth it. Plus, Sphere of Resistance on a 7-drop isn't really even that sweet.
I wouldn't call this a windmill slam, but it is definitely playable, and the benefit you get from drawing it in your opener is sweet. For the first time, you actually want to see a 7-drop in your grip!
I have trouble seeing this in any deck that doesn't involve Ancient Den and its friends, which leads us to Legacy. Affinity decks already touch white from time to time, and if they really need a creature removal spell, this is better than Swords (hint: they usually won't). The mono-white metalcraft decks in Scars Block/Standard might look to Dispatch threats, but it will be a little less reliable, as well as weakening the overall engine if too many are played.
I'm gonna need at least 14 artifacts before I consider this, and even then it is pretty risky. Powered up, it's solid, but without metalcraft it does almost nothing, and I don't like to play cards like that. By the time you can use it, the fact that it costs one isn't all that important, so you are waiting around for “just” a removal spell, which isn't the biggest payoff in the world. I already was unimpressed by metalcraft, though this does make it a little more interesting.
I'm pretty sure I'm giving this due respect by calling it unplayable, since this is the sort of card that looks like it could be awesome but really is a trap. Spending 2 mana to short them a mana just isn't a great deal, since most decks should just play a good card instead. Making it so they can't play Stoneforge Mystic on turn two when you are on the play is way worse than, you know, just PLAYING YOUR OWN. Also, imagine drawing this on turn 5 randomly. Yeah…
This is actually pretty respectable in Limited, since your deck isn't always going to have anything good to play, and it could randomly mise them pretty hard. If they don't have a drop on turn two or three (or even four, if you are playing against me and I kept something like 5 land + 2 Sky Eel School), playing this can be a blowout. Even being ahead on the board and making it so they can't play new blockers is sick, and cycling for two mana makes it not a horrible draw at any time. This is going to be a frustrating card to lose to, and lose to it I shall.
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
The Crovax ability is powerful enough to take a second look, and this is sure a hell of a beating in board stalls, but this is Constructed we are talking about. Elesh isn't stone unplayable mostly because of Block (which should be a sweet format), though I wouldn't be in a hurry to play her (it?) outside.
And you thought Massacre Wurm was good! I'll gladly trade the lose 2 life trigger for a permanent +2/+2, and that's without taking into consideration the fact that the -2/-2 sticks around forever. Yeah, beating this card isn't going to be very possible.
It's been a while since Desert Twister was good enough, even with Meddling Mage attached. If this was cheaper, it might actually be the fabled answer to Jace, but at six mana they have Brainstormed twice, bounced your guy, cast Stoneforge Mystic, won the lottery, eaten a sandwich, and still have time to casually Spell Pierce it. If it was four mana, on the other hand…
On the other hand, Desert Twister has always been a fine Limited card, even though the Imprint ability isn't that likely to
come in to playenter the battlefield. This is never going to win an efficiency award, but excluding unconditional removal has never been a good strategy in Limited.
This isn't the most aggressive of removal, since they can still block, though being able to move it around makes up for that somewhat. If you are trying to beat down on the ground, this isn't an auto-pick, so bear in mind that all removal isn't created equal.
No longer can PV say that WW has no reach! Now it has a tiny bit of reach! Inquiring minds want to know if that makes it a deck, but the answer is still “not really”. Shocking them is decent, and if this was red it would be quite good, but WW nowadays is all about setting up equipment, not actually beating them down in chunks of two. On the flip side, gaining two is kind of handy, but WW is always good against beatdown decks anyway, since it has so few good sideboard options that 4 Kor Firewalkers find their way in every time.
Neither side of this is particularly powerful, though a guy who did just one for WW would still be fine. Giving you the option obviously makes it much more interesting, and I can't see cutting this from any of my heavy white decks (though I avoid drafting those decks like the plague).
When you put this in your Constructed deck, you've already lost.
If you are drafting the oft-maligned white infect deck, this is the purrfect card, and even if you aren't, it still blocks quite well. The super aggressive non-infect decks will cat-egorically decline to pick him, but it should get played most of the time otherwise.
Sadly, when they converted this from good to bad, they forgot to also convert it from unplayable to playable.
While the name doesn't lend itself to as many jokes as Giant Cockroach, that's all this really is. Usually playable and never exciting is about as accurate as it gets.
Free spells are always worth taking seriously, and I think this is going to impact Constructed severely. Oh wait, this isn't Mental Misstep, this is a Limited-only combat trick. Next!
And not a great Limited trick, at that. It does kill Plague Stinger dead, but you aren't even going to want this in your maindeck, since it's pretty marrow in application.
In order to truly master Constructed, all you have to do is compare this and Blade Splicer and realize that paying a mana for +1/+1 is not the way to win with 60-card decks.
A four mana 4/4 plus a 1/1 plus a small bonus to your other Golems is a steal at this price. I wouldn't count on getting other Golems, so just take your undercosted 4/4 and be happy.
People seem to like this, and I have norn idea why. It looks like Propaganda, but is actually much, much worse. Even if they have access to white mana, they can easily just pay 2 life, which is not likely to be a meaningful cost. If you want the Propaganda effect, you aren't beating them down, so life is a resource, and if you are beating them down, why do you want Propaganda? It looks like you can lock them out, what with it requiring white mana, but sadly that isn't the case. It does have the distinction of being the second best Annex, after well, Annex.
For this to be good, a lot of things have to come together perfectly. First off, you can't be a poison deck, though that seems pretty obvious. Second, you have to be somewhat aggressive, or the problem I outlined above comes into play. Third, they have to be both aggressive and not playing white. Yeah, don't play this.
Feeling low (on life)? Just get a Phyrexian facelift, and you are good to go for at least another few turns! Jokes (and faces) aside, I kinda like this card. 2W gain 10 life is definitely worth considering against red, though you wouldn't want to play too many, since they don't exactly stack well. As a 1 or 2-of, and Kor Firewalker isn't an option for some reason, I'll be trying this out. Also, for what it's worth, this protects you indefinitely against Tendrils of Agony, though at 2W there are a ton of options that do that but better.
Clearly horrible against Infect, this has a little merit against super aggressive non-infect, aka the white deck. Still, you have to be pretty sure you are the better endgame deck, since most Limited decks aren't THAT biased towards the lategame, particularly if you are throwing away a card on lifegain. Use it with caution, and rarely.
That rating is aggressive, just like the card itself. A 2 mana guy who can really brawl and is an artifact is worth paying attention to, especially one who can go into any deck. The most obvious fit is in Mono-White metalcraft, since it can even cast him without losing life, but he really could go into any artifact-based deck. Also, I can't help but think that this is a guy made out of toilets, what with the Porcelain and all…
See, here's an example of a card I would always play (except possibly in the nut infect deck), but it still doesn't get a 4 or higher. It's better than solid, but it isn't broken, and I wouldn't take it over a removal spell or the like.
On pure power level, this isn't the most exciting card in the set, but remember, the word of the day is “value”. Right now is a good time to play equipment, and the Paladin conveniently enough triggers when equipment enters the battlefield instead of just when you play it, so Stoneforge Mystic might, just might, work insanely well with it. Combine that with filthy new cards like Batterskull and you are well on your way to a pretty sweet deck, either with a metalcraft theme (Signal Pest, Memnite, etc) or just a normal WW deck. Taking advantage of the secondary metalcraft ability is interesting too, and can lead to equipped Swords on turn three, which can easily steel games.
You really only need to draw one card to make this guy decent, and two to make him sweet. Once you hit three, you are just getting out of control. Cheap equipment is easy to get late, and while I wouldn't recommend you pack your deck full of garbage in the hopes of cycling it, you can draft with the Paladin in mind.
Remember the Fallen
Remember when this was called Grim Discovery and got more relevant card types, yet was still unplayable in Constructed?
There are so few opportunities for 2 for 1's in this set, and when I see a card that not only offers a 2 for 1, but guarantees they will both be spells, I leap at the chance to pick it up. This isn't a card you really want too many of, but one, maybe two, should give your deck some nice lategame punch. I am assuming you have some good artifacts, since otherwise the value of this falls greatly.
Wow, the abilities get worse and the mana cost goes up? My sensors detect an unplayable.
I just can't get away from a 2 for 1, even if the second card is just a 1/1. This is the least exciting Splicer for white, yet it still works as well as advertised. Five is way more than four, so don't load up on these, but try and pick up one.
Finally, they printed an answer to Valakut! How are they going to win now? Oh right, by killing the Angel (or ignoring it), and getting multiple Valakuts into play. My hopes and dreams, shattered.
The text on this could say “When a land enters the battlefield, your opponent gets to slap you in the face” and it would still be good, since it's a 3/3 flying creature. In all formats save Zendikar, that carries weight. As it turns out, the ability is actually very good, and this should go quite early.
C'mon, another Wrapter card and still no Constructed playables. Oh well, there's always next time.
Three toughness on an infect guy is significant, as anyone who has played against Cystbearer can attest to. I wouldn't hesitate to play this in both infect and non-infect, since it stops most attacks and kills reasonably fast on its own.
Soul Sisters aside, Soul Warden for two mana isn't exactly playable, and adding Blood Seeker to that doesn't stitch up that problem very well.
This isn't Zendikar draft (a fact for which I give many thanks), and aggressive life-swingy cards aren't quite as insane. Still, if either side of the matchup is very aggressive, this has merit, and that will occur often enough to make this a reasonably addition to most decks.
I'd like to report that this is terrible, though I have the feeling that isn't going to be very surprising.
The amount of life you would have to gain for this to be reasonable means that the board is ridiculously cluttered, in which case you don't need lifegain as much as a finisher.
Top 5 White Commons
This is a pretty reasonable set of commons, though it does suck that the best common is also going to get sniped by every other color. To be fair, white gets to do that with other colors too, but Porcelain Legionnaire is better than most of the Phyrexian mana cards, so it doesn't quite balance out. White infect might have gathered enough steam, though I'm still skeptical, seeing as how pack 3 doesn't help it in the slightest.
Top 5 White Cards for Constructed
This is actually a pretty nice set of cards. Paladin, Legionnaire, and Splicer all look like they will either fit into existing decks or demand the creation of new ones, and all have the right mix of power, synergy, and affordability. Will they topple the Caw-blade monopoly on Standard? Probably not, but at least Blade Splicer might fit in, and Puresteel Paladin could lead to a non-Jace version of Stoneforge decks (which sadly is probably just going to be worse than a deck with Jace). Either way, I like the direction white is taking, both for current Standard and for post-rotation Standard.
Tomorrow I tackle Blue!