5.0: Multi-format all-star. (Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Tarmogoyf. Snapcaster Mage.)
4.0: Format staple. (Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. Siege Rhino. Remand.)
3.5: Good in multiple archetypes and formats, but not a staple. (Jace Beleren. Seeker of the Way. Hordeling Outburst.)
3.0: Archetype staple. (Jace, Architect of Thought. Deathmist Raptor. Dromoka’s Command.)
2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. (Jace, Memory Adept. Tragic Arrogance. Dragon Fodder.)
2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. (Jace, the Living Guildpact. Naturalize. Duress.) 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.)
The funniest combo with this has to be Sakura-Tribe Elder, as you get to put every single Plains in your deck directly into play. The most likely way this sees play is as an 8-drop in a white-based control deck, as you can play this plus Plains (or better yet, Windswept Heath for the double trigger), and present multiple giant threats at once. Emeria Shepherd getting back Ugin sounds great, assuming you can get Ugin into your graveyard to start with, and even Shepherd into Ojutai or a planeswalker is pretty threatening. The power level is here, even if the card costs a lot, and there’s a chance this is a sideboard option in attrition-heavy matchups. The biggest risk with Shepherd is that you draw this without another big threat, or that you draw too many expensive cards, so this seems more like a 1-2 of than a staple build-around.
There are two ways Envoy sees play, though they overlap a fair amount. The first is if a White Weenie deck exists, and wants 2/1s for 1. That’s pretty simple, though that deck hasn’t quite gotten there the last couple years. The more likely scenario is that there is some kind of aggressive Allies deck around (the aggressive part being the overlap between the themes). Expedition Envoy triggers all your Allies for only 1 mana, and can get 4-6 points of damage in early, which is important if you are trying to beat down. Most of the Allies will rise or fall as a group, so how good this is largely depends on whether the Ally theme is real.
I like having access to this in Constructed, even if it won’t see tons of play. A creature that aggressive decks can run out early while still using it to kill the cards they care about is a good tool to have.
Paying 6 mana for a creature that dies to a removal spell without recourse is not usually the way to go in Constructed, but 6 toughness plus lifelink makes this worth looking at. There may be matchups where this is unstoppable, and the alternate win condition part is basically free.
I don’t have high hopes for a creature with such low power, but you are getting 6 points of toughness for only 2 mana. That’s not the worst deal I’ve ever heard.
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
The combination of an Anthem that the opponent can’t ever kill and a stream of 2/2s is very appealing, and every now and then Gideon even gets to walk over and smash for 5 (or 6). Gideon will be the most threatening in a deck full of creatures in order to really take advantage of the Anthem effect, but making a 2/2 every turn is strong enough that even some control decks will take notice. Gideon is powerful, aggressively costed, and will make an impact on Standard (while still potentially being good in decks like BW Tokens in Modern).
Given that Celestial Flare has seen some play, I expect this to be worth a try. It doesn’t kill big creatures, but it does kill the creature of your choice, and 4 damage is enough to handle most. Damage plus needing the creature to be attacking or blocking might be one too many conditions, but cheap removal is scarce in this format.
Hero of Goma Fada
This reminds me of Frontline Medic (without the tortuous anti-Sphinx’s Revelation clause), in that it lets you just attack with everything without fear of anything going wrong. There are matchups where that’s a powerful ability, and this is a potential finisher for the Ally deck.
Don’t mind me, I’m just your friendly neighborhood Ally. If the deck takes off, it might take this for a whirl, but its creature type is about the only way this sees play.
Lantern Scout, on the other hand, can lead to big enough swings that I’d be interesting in trying it as an anti-red option in a deck full of creatures. If you can get 3-6 life off of this, it’s fantastic, and getting 10+ is a real possibility.
I wanted to shine a light on this, even though I’m afraid that Lantern Scout is going to steal its thunder. Ondu Rising is another way to give your whole team lifelink, though it costs a fair bit more mana if you want the full effect. I do like that it can be cast for only 2 mana if needed, but getting a 3/2 for 3 is generally a better deal than a 4/4 for 5, even if the 4/4 has haste (at which point it even costs 6).
End Hostilities has some real competition here, and unless opposing awaken cards are a huge concern, I like Outburst much more. The option to play this for 8 mana and get a 4/4 is a very powerful one, and it even combos with cards like Ruinous Path or other copies of itself. I could see End Hostilities getting the nod to kill awakened lands, or playing a mix, but in the absence of specific metagame considerations, Planar Outburst is the best white wrath around.
White is getting a ton of hits here, though if you read my Limited reviews, that’s not a huge surprise. Like Gideon and Planar Outburst, Quarantine Field is the nuts in Limited and quite good in Constructed. Killing any permanent for 4 mana or any two for 6 mana (and even more in the late game) is no joke, and this is both powerful and flexible as a result. 8-drops that do something earlier in the game are awesome inclusions to any control and some midrange decks, but Quarantine Field may be so awesome that it becomes a victim of its own success. The main problem is that if you spend 6+ mana on this and it gets hit by Dromoka’s Command or Utter End, or any enchantment removal spell, you probably lose the game on the spot. Your opponent gets back multiple exiled permanents, usually at an inopportune time, and you traded your tons of mana for their 2-4 mana. That’s not an acceptable deal, and I could see Quarantine Field spending months on the sidelines as a result. Maindeckable enchantment removal in the form of the cards I mentioned is a real problem, and the vulnerability of Quarantine Field is what’s keeping it from being absurd. A sorcery that exiled multiple permanents forever would be a huge reason to play white, and even though Quarantine Field offers that in some matchups, the time may not be right for it.
One of the biggest ways to get rewarded for proper metagame prediction in Standard will be to figure out when Quarantine Field is good, because if you can go to a tournament and have your Fields be safe, it’s going to turn out well for you.
Stasis Snare suffers from many of the same vulnerabilities as Quarantine Field, but costing only 3 mana means that the blowout potential is much lower. There are also not as many good instant-speed removal spells these days, so Stasis Snare + other good white cards could spell a return of blue/white control instead of the recent trend toward blue/black.
One of the neat things about converge in Constructed is that you can assume it’s always just on for the full amount. The mana-fixing is present to build a 5-color deck, and as such, converge is at its best. Of course, even the best-case scenario doesn’t automatically make these cards great, but at least casting them isn’t a huge challenge. Unified Front making four 1/1s is still not quite good enough unless you care about making Allies, at which point you are talking about a lot of triggers. Not too many of the Allies reward you for multi-triggering in the same turn, so figuring out a 4-5 color Ally deck that also wants to stack up triggers is the challenge. If that challenge is met, this is the kind of enabling card that will see play in the deck.
Top 3 White Cards
White gets some great cards this set. Gideon is a powerful addition to aggro, midrange, and control alike, as well as having a fairly unique effect when you instantly ultimate him. Planar Outburst and Quarantine Field both push white back toward being a control color, with Stasis Snare not landing far behind. White is a force to be reckoned with in this new format, and that’s without even accounting for what all the Ally synergies may bring.