Welcome to my Magic 2015 Set Review! I’ll start by looking at each card for Limited, as the prerelease is coming up this weekend, and next week I’ll dive into my Constructed review.
If you missed white, check it out here:
As usual, here is the ratings system I’ll be using:
Even if you end up with zero artifacts, this is quite playable, and once you have a couple artifacts in your deck, this becomes naut bad at all. Getting in for unexpected damage can be huge, and you are paying very little for the ability to do so.
While this is a huge blowout, five mana is enough that it isn’t the hardest card in the world to play around. I’d expect to get your opponent pretty badly the first time, but for this to get significantly worse after that. Still, getting one creature is solid, and if you ever get two or three, it is very hard for your opponent to come back.
Having your 4-drop be unable to survive blocking a 2-drop is a real disadvantage, but this still attacks for three and is very dangerous in the late game. It’s fine to have some cards like this, cards that trade off early game value for late game utility, but make sure you aren’t overloaded on them. For every Amphin Pathmage, you need a couple of decent brawlers so that your deck is well-rounded.
As bizarre as this card is (and it is very bizarre), it’s also very powerful, and pretty neat to boot. It might not be the best topdeck late in the game, but imagine playing this on turn three and having it survive a few turns. First of all, it becomes a giant threat very quickly, and second of all, it gives you an instant army if it is dealt with (barring bounce and/or non-killing removal). Plus, I like any card which explicitly rewards me for drafting more Divinations.
Unless you want a 2-mana 1/3, which some decks do, there isn’t much more going on here. This is chiefly for Constructed, where it does a lot more cool stuff than it will in most Limited games.
Turning back the clock on any creature is nice, but I don’t think you can afford to pay six for it too many times. I don’t hate the first one of these, but am dubious that you want a ton more than that.
There isn’t much of a barrier to playing this, even if you are deck isn’t super defensive. The stats you get for the cost are just that good a deal, and against some opponents this will play offense and defense all in one card. It’s also a nice little Convoke enabler, and synergies like that go a long way in making cards valuable.
Unless you have other good Slivers to protect, this ability doesn’t really get you anything. Your opponent isn’t likely to want to target your 1/1, and later in the game it isn’t even that big a cost to just pay the extra two.
Once again, looking at a card triggers a memory, this time of watching Matt Nass play at 8-0 in Portland, at the M11 Sealed Grand Prix. Matt had a Frost Titan out, and for three turns in a row, his opponent would target it with effects and be unable to pay, which was pretty incredible. First, it was Mind Control on five mana (countered), then it was Cloud Elemental then Pacifism (countered), then Clone on Matt’s Titan (which does work) followed by targeting Matt’s Titan (countered). That doesn’t really help evaluate this Sliver, but I can’t help but share the story.
I’ve been a fan of 3-mana counters in Limited recently, and particularly in Core Sets. The exile clause isn’t likely to be a big deal, but I’ll take a bonus where I can.
Despite my abiding love for drawing extra cards, I have to honestly state that Divination usually falls between a 1.5 and a 3.0 in Limited, with it generally being better in Sealed than Draft. As it so happens, M14 was very friendly to Divination, though I don’t want to claim the same is true of M15 without getting a number of drafts in. All I can say is that Core Sets tend to be at least somewhat slower than non-Core Sets, and Divination is exactly what you want in slow formats (and exactly what I want in all formats).
Encrust is like the blue Assassinate, because putting it on an untapped creature generally doesn’t work out very well. It’s a reasonable situational removal spell, and is not a card I’d be unhappy to have one of in most of my blue decks.
Not only is this a 1 for 2, it just won’t be castable a good portion of the time. As I said before, stay away from the artifact-based cards if you can help it.
Kor Hookmaster was awesome in Zendikar, though much of that was because of how insanely fast the format was. Still, this could be the missing lynx for a blue aggro deck, and even controllish decks don’t mind playing this to keep the pressure off. I don’t want a ton of Frost Lynxes in my decks, but the first is fine, and if you end up playing two or three it isn’t a catastrophe.
Even a lowly 1/1 for 1 is sideboard material against 2/1’s, though don’t fall prey to the assumption that a 1/1 for 1 passes the vanilla test.
If you don’t happen to be playing Blue-Red, this is going to be a wall often enough, but sometimes control decks want a giant wall. It isn’t exactly sideboard material either, since there is rarely a matchup where it just crushes, but the size is bigger than any other creature blue gets. Don’t prioritize this, as you will likely be able to get one if you want one, and it isn’t a big deal if it doesn’t show up.
Even if you have no other combat tricks, you have to be completely parched for options before tossing this one in.
If you look at this as a 4/4 flier for 5 that requires you to play a 2-drop, it’s still very good, and sometimes you will cheat it into play via a 1-drop on turn four. The advantage you get out of this is in no way illusory, and unless your deck has a hideously high curve, this should be one of your better cards (and there are many reasons not to have a hideously high curve, take it from me).
Into the Void
While this is awesome in a tempo deck, the fact that some decks just can’t take advantage of this swing is why I’m avoiding giving this a 3.0, even if it’s a 3.5 in a fast deck. It isn’t a bad early pick, just be aware that decks that don’t beat down aren’t always in the market for sorcery-speed bounce.
Desperate times require desperate measures, and if you find yourself lacking win conditions this can do the trick. Of course, what kind of self-respecting blue deck doesn’t have better evasion options? The other use for this is postboard against removal-light decks, especially if you have a solid number of creatures with 3 or more power.
Jace, the Living Guildpact
Jace isn’t the end-all be-all this time around, but he’s still solid. If you are ahead, bouncing their biggest creature seems awesome, and if the board is at parity, building up to the ultimate looks very doable. What Jace won’t do is help a ton when you are behind, unless you are facing down just one creature, in which case he still does a solid job. I don’t imagine I’ll be passing Jace at the start, but I wouldn’t be completely shocked if after playing with Jace I end up having a few uncommons higher than him in my pick order.
Five-mana spells that don’t affect the board aren’t usually great, but you do see the part where it says “Draw three cards”, right? Opportunity was the best card in M14, and while I’d rather pay one more for another card, this isn’t far behind. The only thing keeping me from giving it a 4.0 is that this looks like a faster format than M14 (which isn’t saying much, given how slow M14 was).
Jalira, Master Polymorphist
Played fairly, Jalira just slowly upgrades your creatures, and at considerable cost. That isn’t exciting, so let’s move on to the unfair way of using her, which is tokens. There are plenty of cards that make tokens in the set, and once Raise the Alarm turns into multiple bites at the apple, I’m significantly more interested. It’s still slow, but token-making cards are also good at buying time, so it seems like a reasonable plan. I wouldn’t advise doing anything so insane as trying to force the Jalira + all tokens + one giant creature deck, but consciously leaving out small creatures in favor of token spells could be pretty sweet.
Jorubai Murk Lurker
Again I’m assuming this is a Blue-Black gold card, and as such I declare it awesome. A 2/4 for three is great to begin with, and giving any creature lifelink makes it very hard for your opponent to race you. I would not fault you for grabbing this early, and it doesn’t even take a ton of Swamps to make this a good splash.
As far as six-mana cards go, this is on the aggressive side. That’s a little awkward, both because it’s blue (not the most aggressive color) and because it costs six (not the most aggressive casting cost). It is a decent-sized flier, but unless you are beating down, the ability doesn’t do a ton, and this is more suited to a groundpounding aggro deck than a flying one, which is another point of strangeness. Add all these strange things together and you have an interesting card that not many people actually want in their deck.
Master of Predicaments
An Air Elemental with upside is automatically quite good, and the upside here is that it sometimes gives you free Black Lotuses. This isn’t much of a predicament; take the card if you have the opportunity to do so.
I was all set to give this card a pretty high rating, but then I noticed the “creature you control” clause. Being unable to Clone your opponent’s creatures makes this much worse, as it only helps you if you are already have something good in play, which isn’t when you need a lot of help. Being able to return this to your hand is pretty powerful, though, and I’m not going to pretend that the idea of re-triggering ETB effects over and over isn’t appealing to me.
I like this card (and it’s even named after a classic oxymoron), but can definitely see blue decks that will have trouble assembling two creatures. This is powerful enough that you can and should draft it early, at which point you can easily build a deck to take advantage of it. Attacking with two creatures really isn’t that hard, or so I’m told, and drawing an extra card is quite the carrot.
Mind Sculpting the Brazilian team out at the World Magic Cup two years ago was one of the USA’s finest moments, but that still doesn’t make this a good card unless you really go deep.
I don’t hate maindecking one Negate in a slower deck, just because covering your bases is always good, but aggro decks are generally not interested. Negate does shine as a sideboard card, so I would prioritize picking one or two up.
Nimbus of the Isles
Modern Limited has evolved past Aven Windreader, though this is still quite an acceptable card.
Paragon of Gathering Mists
This is worse than the white paragon, even though the activated ability is better. White has multiple good token makers at common, while blue has just Coral Barrier, which although good, doesn’t strike fear and terror into the hearts of its enemies. The activated ability is good enough here that I wouldn’t mind playing this even if I was a little light on blue creatures, assuming I had some good ones which wanted to be tossed into the air.
Peel from Reality
It doesn’t take very many combos before Peel becomes one of your best cards, and it’s flexible enough that the average deck will find it reasonably appeeling.
This card is no joke, even if it literally depicts one. Casting it to win a single fight is already good enough, and there are definitely going to be games where this just wipes out your opponent’s side of the board.
Dodging a removal spell and ending up with a 2/2 flier is a deal I’ll quickly agree to, and you can even just run this out on turn three or four if you have the right draw. At worst, Quickling lets you chump block and save your creature, and all of those scenarios added together equals a flexible and powerful card at the bargain price of two mana.
How far the mighty have fallen. This is no Merfolk Looter, and in fact is closer to Lumengrid Warden than anything else. It’s still playable, and even solid, but looks much worse because of the inevitable comparisons. Sorry, Research Assistant, that’s what you get when you have the temerity to copy one of the greats. I’d basically play this if I wanted a 1/3 blocker, and take the looting ability as a small upside.
Soul of Ravnica
A 6/6 flier will rapidly win you the game if it survives, and a consolation prize of drawing a couple cards if this dies is not insignificant. Soul of Ravnica doesn’t have quite the board-affecting capability of some of the other Souls, but it’s still a great card, and an easy pick. If the format ends up being extremely fast, cards like this do suffer, but we are talking Zendikar levels of speed, not anything from the last year or two.
Statute of Denial
The difference between 3 and 4 mana on a counterspell is enormous, and being able to sometimes loot does not really make up for that. I’d keep this in the board for slower matchups.
Eight mana is still eight mana, and even in slow formats that’s pretty unrealistic. At least this does stop almost everything from attacking you, so if you can survive to hit eight, you will likely survive past that.
Turn to Frog
Blue doesn’t often get good combat tricks, but this is one of them. Making your 1/3 beat their 5/5 in a fight is awesome, and you can even use this to sneak a flier past their flier for the last few points of damage.
I’d avoid sorcery-speed bounce in all but the most aggressive decks, though this is one of the cards which changes value most drastically, depending on what your deck is trying to do. Curving out with one or two of these can easily crush a slow deck, though I wouldn’t go into the draft looking to do that.
Wall of Frost
There’s no better way to keep your opponent’s wildlings at bay, and I’d recommend one of these for any defensive deck.
This might look like an aggressive rating, but Welkin Tern is an aggressive card, and one of the easiest ways to win a game is to play a couple of these. As with many of these cards, the value dramatically changes based on your aggression level, and it doesn’t get much better than this if you are attacking.
Top 5 Blue Commons
1. Welkin Tern
Blue looks a little divided in M15. There are a bunch of good beatdown cards, like bounce spells and fliers, but there are also solid defensive options, counterspells, and card draw. I know which side I’d rather draft, but they honestly both look like they are decently supported. I have the beatdown cards a little higher on the list just because they have such good rates, but I wouldn’t fault you for passing Tern for Divination once you know you aren’t really attacking. Figuring out the best way to draft blue seems like a fun challenge, and one I’ll be diving into soon.