5.0: The best of the best. (Pack Rat. Umezawa’s Jitte. Wingmate Roc.)
4.5: Incredible bomb, but not unbeatable. (Butcher of the Horde. Savage Knuckleblade. Crater’s Claws.)
4.0: Good rare or top-tier uncommon. (Triplicate Spirits. End Hostilities. Necropolis Fiend.)
3.5: Top-tier common or solid uncommon. (Lightning Strike. Woolly Loxodon. Suspension Field.)
3.0: Good playable that basically always makes the cut. (Debilitating Injury. Mardu Hordechief. Flesh to Dust.)
2.5: Solid playable that rarely gets cut. (Glacial Stalker. Bitter Revelation. Hunt the Weak.)
2.0: Good filler, but sometimes gets cut. (Dragonscale Boon. Defiant Strike. Cancel.)
1.5: Filler. Gets cut about half the time. (Scout the Borders. Aeronaut Tinkerer. Ranger’s Guile.)
1.0: Bad filler. Gets cut most of the time. (Tusked Colossodon. Bronze Sable. Oppressive Rays.)
0.5: Very low-end playables and sideboard material. (Naturalize. Feed the Clan. Congregate.)
0.0: Completely unplayable. (Search the City. Pyxis of Pandemonium.)
Other Dragons of Tarkir Set Reviews
This is a piece of carp in most decks, but every now and then you are going to have a control deck that’s fishing for blockers.
Anticipate is the kind of card you are never cutting in a base-blue deck, and it gets even better if you have prowess (to shortcut things, I’m using “prowess” to refer to all the Ojutai cards that trigger off playing noncreature spells as well). I don’t anticipate being unhappy whenever I have this, though aggressive decks may not want too many 2-mana cards that don’t add to the board. Still, this smooths out your draws, finds your good cards, and fights both mana screw and mana flood efficiently.
Hexproof is one of the better abilities to pair with flying, and what I said about Shieldhide Dragon applies here as well. Cards you can play on 3 that are powerful in the late game are often better than they look, as the whole really is better than the sum of its parts. You don’t have to treat this with much care when you play it early, but eventually the bell will toll for your opponent if it doesn’t end up dying.
Unless you are blessed with the ability to know what’s on top of your opponent’s deck, casting this doesn’t seem like a very exciting play. The later the game goes, the more likely your opponent is to have something worth trying to downgrade, but targeting a 4-drop with this isn’t even necessarily good. Getting to do it twice helps, as you get a second shot if the first one turned up something threatening, but this seems a little more risky than I like my removal to be. Like Reality Shift, it’s a reasonable sideboard card against bombs, and like Reality Shift, I don’t want this in most of my main decks.
I’m not against expensive spells, but 9 mana is on another level completely. Ugin ended up being one of the best cards in the format, so I don’t want to dismiss this out of hand, even if I’m suspicious that casting a 9-drop is going to be realistic for most decks. If you do cast this, it’s incredible, as you at the very least have a board equal to your opponent’s, and likely much better. If you can build a control deck with a lot of card draw, this is a legitimate path to victory but such a deck is not going to be the common case. You literally need half the lands in your deck, and that’s quite a challenge. I hope that decks like this are draftable, in which case this might be a bit of a sleeper, and I will do my best to investigate once the set is out.
5 mana seems like a lot to keep up on the opponent’s turn, though hopefully the way the format plays out contradicts my first impressions. This does synergize with a deck full of instant tricks, so I’m holding out hope that it’s at least playable. I wouldn’t want many, but one sounds like the perfect number to keep the opponent on their toes.
Dance of the Skywise
As far as combat tricks go, this dances an interesting line. It gives flying, which is good, and can be up to +4/+3, but often will be closer to +1/+1 or +2/+2. It doesn’t help when your creature is medium or large, which definitely limits it, so it’s best in a deck full of small creatures. Those are the decks that want combat tricks, so that lines up well, it’s just unfortunate that this has a relatively low ceiling in terms of how much of a bonus it can grant. It does a good enough job of sniping opposing fliers or sneaking in damage, and I think you will end up playing it around half the times you draft it, as the rating reflects.
We have finally found a morph I won’t just windmill slam, as the top bit of rules text leaves this a bit lacking as a finisher. The joke is that you get to attack with it face down and flip it, and it is a funny joke, but it only gets laughs (or damage) the first time. After that, your Woolly Loxodon of the Sea has to stay back, and that reduces the value it brings to the table. Blocking and flipping this has the same problems, and while I’m not unhappy to play this card, I want my big drops to actually close out the game.
Four is a lot of cards, and I’ll take any opportunity to draw such a large number. Paying 6 mana is a small cost to do so, and this is a good start to any control or midrange deck. Even if this is a format with good aggro decks, it’s easy enough to build a deck that can trade and cast finishers if the finishers are this high quality, and placing this at the top of your curve in a faster deck is still fine (if not quite as exciting). Every now and then it’s uncounterable too, for whatever that’s worth.
A 2/3 unblockable for 2 would be amazing, and in some decks this isn’t that far from that. That isn’t every deck, but the fact that this is a good defender and a good way to get 6+ damage in makes me pretty happy taking it. I suspect decks with lots of spells in them won’t be that elusive, at least not for me, and that spells good things for a card like this.
Encase in Ice
Like most of this cycle of sideboard cards, Encase in Ice is solidly above replacement once you have the chance to board it in, and once again I’d recommend taking it above filler-level playables.
3 points of toughness and hexproof should be enough to save a creature from just about anything that’s trying to kill it, so the main question when it comes to this card is if you have creatures worth saving. If the answer is “yes,” the first Glint is going to be a good addition, even if it isn’t the most aggressive trick. Spell-heavy decks that have a few key prowess creatures want this, though I’m less excited about it in an aggressive deck with a lot of replaceable creatures. In either case, tricks that pump power are a little more premium, so don’t prioritize this too highly.
I wonder if this card would perform better if it couldn’t be hardcast. It clearly would be strictly worse, but the number of times people are going to cast this turn one when you really shouldn’t do that is high enough that I suspect it would be. As a 3-drop, this card is great. You get to play it as a 2/2, trade it if you desire, and paying U to make it unblockable forever is easy to fit into a curve.
In general, and this goes for all the exploit cards, I’d start by looking at the card as a spell, assuming you sacrifice it to itself. Most aren’t going to be very efficient at that rate, but it’s a baseline more than anything else. The second thing to look at is how big the creature is, as some of them are just efficient bodies for their cost. If either half passes the test, the card is likely very good, but most are going to be somewhere in the middle. Even if neither option (the creature sacrificing itself or the creature sacrificing nothing) is great, getting to do either or sacrifice another creature gives you a solid set of choices. A card that’s partially an overcosted spell, partially an overcosted creature, and a good deal once you sacrifice a chump does add up to a good card overall.
As for Gurmag Drowner, it is only exciting when you are sacrificing a low-value creature, as many exploit cards tend to be. The modes of 4-mana Forbidden Alchemy and 4-mana 2/4 are both passable, making this a good addition to most decks.
A Dragon that’s hard to kill and locks down their Dragon is a rare prize indeed. There is no reason to ever consider passing this, barring a pack with a foil (and even then, there aren’t many cards that are beating this).
Besides being what happens when you only go to the gym sporadically, this card gets to test how bad a Mind Control is before you would cut it in Limited. My suspicion is that this card is good, though not nearly at the same level as actual Mind Control. First of all, you get to nab a blocker and attack, but after that it gets interesting. If the opponent just has a 6-drop in hand, this will sometimes even be better than Mind Control, as it will lock them out of playing bigger creatures temporarily. Even if they do have something bad to play, you don’t have to let it get killed off, and you can let Illusory Gains sit on the battlefield annoying them, forcing the cycle to repeat itself. They are forced to alternate casting good creatures and bad ones, which will be annoying at worst and sometimes impossible.
Between the impact this has the turn you play it and the juggling it forces the opponent to do, Illusory Gains looks like it will provide real value. Plus, with exploit running around, you can still just sacrifice whatever you end up with and get an easy 2-for-1 (or if you are very cunning, play a cheap exploit card the turn you take their biggest thing).
Learn from the Past
If I’ve learned anything, it’s that cards like Cranial Archive are largely unplayable in all but the sweetest of decks, and I assume this is no exception. If you draft the awesome control deck with no win conditions, go nuts, but leave this out otherwise.
A creature that you can’t cast until you’ve played a big spell is about as situational as it gets, but I could see running this in a deck full of good 4- and 5-mana spells. That’s not going to be most decks, and even then it might not be what you want, though it’s worth noting that this doesn’t have to hit the opponent to trigger. Any combat damage will do, though Living Lore needs to survive to have the ability do anything. The flavor on this card is outstanding, and for that reason alone I feel duty-bound to at least try it.
I wouldn’t look at this card as something you want to play on your own creature since it will rarely be used in such a manner. It is mainly a strange form of Pacifism, as it does shut down most creatures from attacking (though blocking is still fair game). Every now and then you might have a creature with a good enough enter-the-battlefield trigger that it’s worth risking the 2-for-1 to run this, but I’d mostly stick to using this as a defensive measure in a control deck.
A solid megamorph that draws you an extra card is always welcome, even if there isn’t much incentive to ever cast this face up. When they have an x/3 that you need to block right away is really the only time, and that won’t be a common case. It’s fine to play this in a deck with only a few spells to bring back, as it’s a late-game play and this is playable as a 3-drop that gets a little bigger.
Thirst for creatures is interesting in a color that expressly wants noncreature spells, so this will be draw-3 discard-2 a good amount of the time. That isn’t bad, and even if you only pitch a creature half the time, this is a card I’m happy to play. Not every deck wants to spend 4 mana adding nothing to the board, so despite my innate love for this kind of card, it isn’t an auto-play.
I’m a pretty big fan of Negate in Limited. It’s a great sideboard card, and often ends up being a solid maindeck one as well. The tricky part is that some formats don’t lend themselves to maindecking this card, but there are enough expensive spells and combat tricks that I’m leaning toward starting this most of the time. It’s a good answer to rebound, and when this is good, it’s REALLY good. I would always maindeck up to two in Sealed, and maybe even three, and place a high priority on picking these up for my sideboard in draft.
A 3/1 flier for 4 is already a good deal, and getting the ability to cast it on turn three and make it a 4/2 makes this awesome. Every deck wants these and there’s really no harm in having as many as you can get.
This is more aggressive than Crippling Chill, which makes it better in the decks that are really beating down and worse in the decks that aren’t. It’s a beating to lock down their only blocker and smash, with them knowing that the next creature they play is also getting locked down. That you don’t draw a card makes this very mediocre outside of attacking decks, so don’t play this for value. I wonder if Owen Turtenwald is going to love this card as much as he loves Will of the Naga.
4 points of power and toughness in the air is certainly worth 5 mana, even if the second half comes a turn later. As with all 5-drops, you can max out quickly on cards of this cost, especially given that this takes a turn to really get rolling. This also interacts well against removal, even if it does get stopped by a 2/3 flier. Ojutai’s Summons looks like an early pick to me, unless the format is much faster and/or more hostile to 2/2s than it initially seems.
I’d love to give this a 3.5, which should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with how I like to play. I’ll restrain myself and give it a strong 3.0 instead, given that it’s excellent value and should never be cut, though it isn’t exactly earth-shattering either. Good 2-drops like this are few and far between, so I’d recommend picking up as many of these as you can. Eventually you have to pick cards that do things, but I try and avoid that when possible.
Profaner of the Dead
Awkward wording aside, this is a powerful card. You end up down a card, but at the cost of a creature you can potentially bounce your opponent’s entire board. It’s a great way to make use of large defensive creatures, and bouncing two or three creatures is often worth trading a card off. It is situational, but cards with impact this big are few and far between.
In a deck with a lot of megamorphs and manifest, this is passable, but don’t be deceived into thinking it’s a reliable mana accelerator. It’s a wall that sometimes lets you flip your 7-drop megamorphs a turn ahead of schedule, which is solid but not exciting. I’d want 6+ good ways to use this mana, and ideally more like 8-9 before I would be happy playing this.
Reduce in Stature
I have experience with this, going from Platinum to Silver in one short year. That has helped me evaluate this card more fully, and I approve of including it in your deck. It’s a kill spell, and will do the job most of the time. Like Pacifism, this does get weaker against exploit, something I forgot to mention in my review yesterday.
This isn’t going to be cast for its triple-blue cost most of the time, which is more than fine. Shorecrasher Elemental is a hard-to-kill 4/4 that can swap its power and toughness around at will, and when you do cast it for three mana it will feel like you got away with something. This isn’t an absurd bomb by any stretch, mainly because it has no evasion, but it’s still a resilient threat that gives you a lot of good things to do with your mana.
I’m not in love with the idea of sorcery-speed bounce, and you don’t get any edge by sacrificing other creatures so you can keep a 0/4. If your opponent has a lot of Auras and bolster, this gets a little more appealing, but that’s about the only time I’d look to play this.
Sight Beyond Sight
Like Mystic Meditation, this does a fine job of making sure you don’t run out of gas. This is a little bit stronger because it double triggers prowess, though it will get cut in most of the same situations Meditation does. If you are heavy on action and don’t have enough early drops, Sleight Beyond Sight won’t help you, but it should make your deck more often than not.
Silumgar Sorcerer is awesome. It’s an efficient flier that you can play at the end of their turn, a Remove Soul, and if you have a worse creature, both at once. This is the kind of exploit card I like, where either half is good and the combination is great. Plus, the natural curve of Palace Familiar into this seems unbeatable, and that’s without worrying about a second color.
Since this is an uncommon, there will be a lot of games where playing spells is risky, and I foresee a lot of passing the turn with no plays in my future. It usually won’t take long to figure out if this is their face-down creature, as there are only so many turns where your opponent can pass with 5 mana up and not do anything. Like other megamorphs, there’s just so little cost to include this in your deck, and it will nab enough spells to easily justify its spot.
Force Spike for UU is definitely not good enough, so you need a couple Dragons before this becomes playable. Once you have two, I think it is active enough of the time, as it will counter spells without the Dragon bonus, but you need it once the first five or six turns have passed. It’s a reasonable sideboard card against things like Ugin, but in general I’d steer clear of playing this without Dragons.
Limited: 4.5 (in my head), 2.0 actual
A turbo-Goblinslide is exactly what I’m looking for, and unlike Goblinslide, this makes creatures that are actually good. This is slow, but it’s truly an engine that can power an entire deck, and I’d be very happy playing this in any deck with 10+ spells in it. It’s clearly the kind of card that’s either unplayable or good, depending on your deck composition, so you should know when you want this (and it’s probably not worth slamming too early, regardless of what I may or may not do in future draft videos).
No matter what you do with this card, you are going to profit. If it’s in your opening hand, it’s perfectly reasonable to run it out turn two, and if you draw it any later, face-down it is. I wouldn’t quite dance for joy if I opened this, but I’d be reasonably satisfied.
Dealing 8+ damage over two turns is not bad, so this card strikes me as a good way to finish games if you are aggressive. Controlling decks don’t want this, so make sure you are committed to attacking your opponent’s life total before including this.
I’m going to skip the “what’s updraft?” jokes, but not out of any sense of restraint. I’m just saving them for live events, when I will constantly be asking my friends that question. The card is good too. Not as good as the joke, but good. It’s a solid blocker and can peck in for small amounts of damage once the board is stable. That’s not bad for 3 mana, and I will play this in all but the most aggressive decks.
Maybe I’m being too optimistic, but I can’t help but think how awesome it would be to cast this on their 5-drop and swing, after which you get to do the same again next turn. It’s hard to avoid getting less than 2-3 mana’s worth of an advantage, which I think is enough to make up for the card loss. If you aren’t an attacking deck, this is way worse, which is something I’ve said about a lot of cards in this set so far.
Mulldrifter he is not, but he gets closer than most cards I call Mulldrifter. Your opponent is going to do anything in their power to avoid trading with the Scholar, and this is possibly the best card to exploit in the set. That’s more than worth 4-mana, and it’s hard for your opponent to avoid getting at least 2-for-1’d, if not 3-for-1’d.
After a parade of bad Looters, getting a good one is quite welcome. This has the stats to trade in combat, doesn’t charge you much to loot, and can even go off in the late game (as well as having semi-vigilance early). There really aren’t any downsides here, making this an excellent card.
Top 5 Blue Commons
Blue has a lot of great commons, and many of the ones that didn’t make the list are still quite good. The aggro/control divide isn’t quite as stark as in white, as many of these cards are just powerful enough to be good in either deck. That, combined with the more narrow cards, means that blue is looking deep and refreshing, like a mountain stream. I sure plan on wading in as soon as I can.
Edit: Because of precedent, I just assumed Zephyr Scribe was uncommon. It should rightfully take its place as the top common, bumping the others down appropriately. – LSV