Here’s the rating system I’ll be using, though I won’t be reviewing “1s” today.
5.0: Multi-format all-star. (Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Tarmogoyf. Snapcaster Mage. Judge’s Familar)
4.0: Format staple. (Sphinx’s Revelation. Supreme Verdict. Thoughtseize. Pack Rat)
3.5: Good in multiple archetypes and formats, but not a staple. (Geist of Saint Traft. Nightveil Specter)
3.0: Archetype staple. (Underworld Connections. Thassa, God of the Sea)
2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. (Rapid Hybridization. Divination)
2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. Naturalize. (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.)
If you missed any of the previous Constructed reviews, check them out:
If you’re looking for my Limited reviews, I did those separately:
Ancient Silverback: 1.0
Back to Nature
It’s good to have this back. This destroys constellation decks, puts a real damper on hexproof, and can even be brutal against control decks that play too many Detention Spheres and Banishing Lights. I really like the idea of siding one of these against those decks, and would only play more than that if hexproof/constellation are a big issue.
Chord of Calling
I have had a long and fruitful business relationship with Chord of Calling, so it’s no surprise that I think the card is great. From fetching Arcanis back in 2007 to grabbing Kitchen Finks just a few weeks ago, I’ve cast my fair share of Chords (some more fair than others). The card plays incredibly well, and adds a huge amount of power and flexibility to any deck full of creatures, though it is at a very reasonable cost. I’m interested to see how this fares without Wall of Roots, a Chord mainstay, but am hopeful that there are enough good green creatures running around to really power a Chord deck. Grabbing bullets is a big part of the power, and having specific combinations of creatures is another important aspect. If there’s a deck that plays enough creatures, wants specific ones in play, and has enough of a toolbox, Chord will be a natural fit.
We are in a removal-heavy Standard environment, so it’s possible this has to wait until the format has a bit fewer Supreme Verdicts and Doom Blades, but I would not dismiss the power and flexibility Chord has demonstrated over the last eight years of its existence.
The 1-drop mana elf was good, is good, and will remain good until something very strange happens. That is all.
While I don’t really think this has much of a shot, I do like the idea of turboing out a whole herd of 3/3’s. You are probably better off just casting Chord of Calling, but this is a powerful(ish) card.
Mutagenic Growth is seeing some good play in Modern right now, and likely was underplayed while it was in Standard. Gather Courage is a reasonable amount worse, but still has the potential to be a free ambush, and that sort of blowout should at least be considered.
I really like Genesis Hydra. Staying hydrated is very important, and this gives you all the action you can ask for, even scaling based on how much mana you have. The minimum I’d be comfortable casting this at is around 3, depending on your deck, but once you hit X=4 and above, the card becomes awesome. The free card you get is uncounterable, making this a rare beast indeed: an expensive card that’s good against counterspells. It’s also very powerful, and is exactly the sort of thing green devotion wants to sink its massive amounts of mana into. Between Chord and this, green has some interesting X-factors to play around with.
Blocking a 2/2 is already pretty reasonable, and this puts a beating on anything bigger than that. I wouldn’t be looking to maindeck this, but it seems like it can sting ground-based creature decks pretty badly.
In a deck with Chord of Calling, this is practically free (or something to that effect). I actually do like how much this stabilizes the board, and how many cards it can trade for, so I’m optimistic about this seeing play as a good high-end card. Green keeps racking up the expensive cards, and while clearly it can’t play all of them, I’ll bee damned if some number of these heavy hitters don’t see play.
It’s not likely that this beats the other expensive green options, especially given that it requires you to play all Forests (not a huge sacrifice right now, but once the shocklands rotate that becomes a higher cost). I do like that it puts out a pair of giant monsters, though the fact that they are just straight-up vanilla is a little less exciting.
Disciple of Bolas did not see a ton of play, though it did see some, and this mostly seems like a weaker version of that card. Not gaining life is unfortunate, and not having Thragtusk to sac is really unfortunate, though I do like the combo with Kalonian Twingrove. In general, a card that requires you to have a giant monster in play before doing something is a little sketchy, though cards that can draw you 6+ cards at once are always worth considering.
Living Totem: 1.0
This is a natural sideboard card, though I think I’d much rather have Back to Nature right now.
Netcaster Spider: 1.0
While the obvious comparison to Nissa is Koth, I think there are a few big differences. The first is that the creatures are permanent, which makes Nissa a much more board-impacting card, and one that can quickly snowball out of control. Nissa also provides more mana, and mana which is much more likely to be useful, as many of the decks that played Koth didn’t really want or need a ton of extra mana.
Overall, Nissa checks off all the “good planeswalker” boxes but one, which is that she costs more than four mana. She does protect herself, she has a big board presence, and she provides a card’s worth of value every turn she sits in play. She also leads to incredibly explosive turns, and Nissa into 4-drop followed by casting an enormous Genesis Hydra just seems awesome. I have high hopes for Nissa, and really think green won in a big way in M15 (an advantage that will truly come to bear once Lifebane Zombie finally rotates out).
While this is expensive and slow, if you plant one or two of these in your sideboard, you might be able to grind out a Mono-Black Devotion deck. It’s a little ambitious, but it’s possible.
There aren’t enough flying creatures running around (flying around) to really warrant this, but sometimes you just have to kill Stormbreath Dragon or Archangel of Thune.
There are a lot of good ways to protect your creatures right now, and this at least offers a cheap enough one that it’s good to keep it in mind. You have to be playing creatures you care a lot about protecting, and this doesn’t stop Wraths, so it’s fairly narrow.
Between Standard and Modern, Reclamation Sage is going to see a solid amount of play. It’s just a great value creature, and at a cost that is so affordable. I like having powerful answers like this available, and look forward to green reclaiming the upper hand (again, something that’s much more likely to occur once green’s bane has rotated out).
While I don’t think there’s a combo deck waiting to happen, Restock is a powerful draw engine for the right deck. It requires a lot of good cheap spells to really get value, and provides a potential avenue for green card advantage. I do like that it costs five and a lot of the awesome green cards start at six or above, though it’s unfortunate that you can’t really turbo out Restock and get full value.
Satyr Wayfinder, finding a way to fill your graveyard since Born of the Gods. The card has more utility than I first thought, and has continued to do good work in the service of graveyard-based decks.
Soul of Zendikar
Much like the other Souls, Soul of Zendikar seems like it provides the right amount of value necessary to see play in Standard. Reach is actually a pretty good ability on a 6/6, and once you have a 6/6 that will win any board stall, it gets even better. Lifebane Zombie lays a real beating on this, but I like it nonetheless, and think that it provides green with another good way to fight removal. The expensive card slot is getting very full, so it will be interesting to see how the different green decks each choose to end the game.
This is both efficient and powerful, and even manages to be good on turn one and turn ten. That’s a winner in my book, at least until Temple Garden is no longer in Standard.
Wall of Mulch
The format has gotten mulch more powerful since this last saw Standard, but it’s still a decent roadblock that can be cashed in for value later. I doubt you really want to spend too much time on cards like this, though it is nice if your anti-aggro 2-drop cycles against control.
Yisan, the Wanderer Bard
I suspect this takes a little too long to get going, though I like the ability. Slowly getting better and better creatures is sweet, and building a Yisan deck with a good curve sounds like an awesome exercise, if one that gets ended pretty quickly by a Doom Blade or Lightning Strike.
Garruk, Apex Predator
You can blame my obsession with Karn if you’d like, but I’m predisposed to like cards like this. Garruk looks like a 7-drop to end all 7-drops, and if I like anything, it’s going over the top. Garruk eats any and all competition, with only his casting cost truly holding him back. That’s a risk I’m willing to take, and I like having the option of going huge in any black or green deck, based on how easy it is to splash in current Standard. If you suspect your opponent can kill this with one card, you still get to destroy their best permanent, and a few turns of Garruk should leave you far enough ahead to easily win the game.
Getting five different colors of mana out is no joke, but at least this doesn’t die to much once you get there. It’s a cool card, and maybe Sliver Hive makes Slivers into a Tier 2 deck, but that’s about the best they can hope for.
Haunted Plate Mail
Andrew Cuneo’s predilection for finishing games with absurd win conditions aside, this is a somewhat legitimate card. I’ve never seen fit to actually end up using it, but I can’t blame anyone for trying. In a creatureless deck, this plays well with Wrath, is of reasonable size, and can protect your planeswalkers from Mutavaults.
Obelisk of Urd
The dream is to cast Master of Waves and tap six elementals to cast this. That isn’t the worst dream I’ve heard, and I can see this effect being powerful enough to build around.
Ornithopter: 1.0 (Sorry)
I don’t love the idea of my sweeper costing 9 mana or taking two turns, but this requires one of those two things to be true. This does kill everything, and can be played in any color, so it would be perilous to completely dismiss it. I can see this leading to some insane blowouts, especially if it’s not played very much, as taking the opponent by surprise with this sounds awesome.
Revoker is a powerful card, and given how prevalent Planeswalkers are, it could see some serious play. It’s a shame that this can’t stop Underworld Connections or Mutavault, and that might significantly actually impact how much play this sees.
Scuttling Doom Engine
As was pointed out to me on Twitter, this is the ultimate Elspeth killer. It can’t be blocked by tokens, and when it dies it takes Elspeth with it. Unfortunately, Elspeth often comes packing Detention Spheres or Banishing Lights, which do answer this with ease. Another reason to mention this is that it is a huge artifact to power out with Chief Engineer, which is not completely unreasonable.
Shield of the Avatar: 1.0
Soul of New Phyrexia
Chief Engineer is really this Soul’s only hope, as I can’t see paying this much mana for a 6/6 that then slowly protects your permanents. Flashing it back to stop a Wrath is kind of cool, but still doesn’t lead to the permanent source of advantage the other Souls provide.
The Chain Veil
Despite an awesome and incredibly clever nickname (The Cheon Veil), this is not a card I’d recommend using. I mention it because of how epic and powerful it looks, with gameplay that doesn’t quite match. There are a lot of ways to ultimate planeswalkers ahead of schedule now, so that’s a thing, but at eight mana and the very real possibility of just dying to this, I’ll stick with Ajani Steadfast.
Enemy-Colored Pain Lands
Giving aggro decks an alternative to Temples is awesome, and the painlands will either make new decks possible or make existing ones much better. I like formats with good mana, and I like formats where there isn’t a ton of pressure to be either aggro or control, but incentives for both. I doubt 2-color control decks will really want a ton of these, but I could see playing a couple, which at the very least makes it easier to justify Mutavault.
While I’m still not sold on there really being an artifact deck in Standard, having access to the most indestructible of all the lands is pretty nice. Having a card that counts for artifact synergies at very low deckbuilding cost (and zero casting cost) does make a lot of engines work that otherwise wouldn’t.
Having this around never hurts, though I bet that the Temples are using up almost all the tapland equity at the moment.
Until Mutavault leaves, there’s basically no room for any other colorless lands. Once it does, though, the floodgates will open, and I can definitely see this being a solid addition to control decks if the mana works out.
The biggest chance this sees play is actually in conjunction with Mutavault, which is pretty funny. That doesn’t actually seem horrible, and Urza’s Factory also looked overcosted (but was insane). It’s easy to lose sight of how powerful it is to have kill conditions that function as lands, though Mutavault has probably taught that lesson pretty well recently.
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Urborg is an incredibly powerful card, and even though we aren’t swamped with too many cards like Tendrils of Corruption, the actual card Corrupt is legal. More importantly, playing one Urborg is nearly free (the downside being that it can help your opponent), and can help fix Mutavault-related mana problems. It really can’t be understated how powerful this is; at very low cost, it can provide a huge benefit, making the cost-benefit ratio one of the highest in the format.
Also, it’s another reason Mono-Black gets better. Hooray!
Top 10 Cards I’m Excited About
I decided to make a new list here at the end. Instead of the 10 best cards (which you can likely deduce from the ratings), I’m just going to list the 10 cards I like best for deckbuilding purposes. These are the cards I want to try, and the cards I hope end up being awesome. They are also all cards I think have real potential, and will shake things up in Standard (unlike something like Sign in Blood, which is undoubtedly going to get played a lot but just promotes the same decks that are already good).
9. Spirit Bonds
The top of the list makes sense, given my past exploits, and the list as a whole has a lot of green cards on it. Maybe it’s time for Forests to be Tier 1 again, a place they’ve barely occupied in the past year (RG Monsters is the closest, and I rarely though it was a better choice than Mono-Black or Mono-Blue). Time to warm up those Coursers of Kruphix and Elvish Mystics. There are some other cool things on the list, and hopefully at least some of the sweet cards in M15 end up finding their place in Standard. It may be a case of waiting until Khans, but I’d like PT Portland to display some new hotness, if that’s possible.