Here’s the rating system I’ll be using, though you won’t see any “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’re looking for my Limited reviews, I did those separately:
And make sure to brush up on Constructed with my white and blue review.
This is a powerful card and an agent for good, though the amount of actual play it sees could vary wildly. If enough of the field is running graveyard synergies, this is a great answer. If Dredge and other such decks aren’t huge, this won’t be needed, but either way it’s a strong enough effect that it deserves a decent score. Eating their entire graveyard when it enters the battlefield is already good, and getting a few more bites depending on how many enchantments you play is an awesome bonus.
I was always a big fan of Tidehollow Sculler, though I missed most of Mesmeric Fiend’s tenure in Standard. We are a little discard-flooded right now, what with Duress and Thoughtseize, but having another strong option is not the worst, and there are some decks that value having 1/1 creatures (say, Dredge), so Brain Maggot is going to see play. It’s also very punishing for decks that can’t kill 1/1’s, which makes it an interesting sideboard card.
As Owen pointed out in his spotlight article, Dictate of Erebos is a powerful card that can easily dominate games. The trick is finding a deck where you get five mana’s worth of value out of this, which means you need a substantial number of creatures that die easily and often. I used Grave Pact to good effect in Black-White Tokens back at Worlds 2008, though it was out of the sideboard. The reason for that, and part of why I think Dictate of Erebos feels like more of a sideboard card to me, is that it really shines in creature-based matchups that aren’t extremely fast. Given that I just ruled out many of the current decks in Standard, I don’t know that this format is one where I’d want to start with Dictate of Erebos in my maindeck. Luckily, you don’t need to do anything really strange to build around it, as all it asks is a mass of creatures and a reasonable expectation that they will die, which often just means combat.
I like how giant this is, and how it can repeatedly ping your opponent’s side. As a sideboard card against 1-toughness creatures, it seems solid, especially given the extra value that casting Underworld Connections and Erebos bring. It is unfortunate that the decks you want this against don’t always give you the luxury of getting to five mana, but it still may be a good way to really slam the nail in the coffin if you get to that point.
I hope this card is good, and not just because of the awesome name. I like the idea of setting up a Plague Wind, and giving black a Damnation, even a six mana one, could be a big deal. How good this card ends up being will partially be determined by how many of the common creatures it misses, because when you are paying six mana you can’t afford to miss almost ever. That might be too big a hurdle, but we shall see.
All it takes is one Minotaur not being a 2/3 and all hell breaks loose. I think this guy is going to make a solid impact on Standard, as Mono-Black Aggro was already good and this is the perfect card for it. As I said in my Limited review, this is a 1-drop 2/1, a strong way to buff a guy in play, and a way to make your opponent unable to block. Those combine to make a very flexible and powerful card.
While the card at its base level is certainly not as good as gold (I’d say bronze at best), if there are enough incentives to build an inspired deck, this does become a repeatable way to gun down your opponent’s creature and profit while doing so. Springleaf Drum, your time is now!
I like the power level here. Mono-Black gets another good tool, though the deck is becoming a bit of a glutton for punishment, given how many of its cards have severe drawbacks. Still, it doesn’t take very many turns of smashing for five before all the extra cards in the world won’t help your opponent. This is a card that will vary in value based on the quantity and quality of removal spells in the format, as the drawback does come into play if everyone can kill it. If there are a lot of Mono-Blue and RG Monsters decks running around that can’t, it will be more than happy to devour them. If you are playing against all Esper and Mono-Black decks, that seems a bit sketchier.
Instant-speed 5/5’s are interesting, but the deck where this seems most natural, Dredge, has little interest in this. Nighthowler and Jarad both don’t synergize with Ritual, as they are 0/0 and 2/2 respectively, so this will need to find a deck that wants a midrange threat and can routinely dump large creatures into the bin.
I really believe in this card. It’s powerful, flexible, and answers many of the cards Mono-Black has had problems with. It is expensive, but having mana sinks can be very nice, and paying 7-10 mana for this does yield excellent results. This is not a card you want as a 4-of, but seems like an awesome 2-3 of to make sure all your bases are covered. It’s a pretty simple spell, so there isn’t much to say other than that it kills things dead, and does so well.
While Desecration Demon is hanging around, it might be hard for this to get a toehold (or whatever the leech equivalent is), but a potentially large creature at low mana cost is worth considering. It does kind of suck that this requires you to play all Swamps, with room for Mutavaults but not Temples, since that is a large cost. It may be worth paying that cost once Mono-Black really needs a great finisher, even if that time isn’t now.
One of my worst fears is getting hit by Mindslaver, and this is a cheaper way to get the same effect. It is in a similar category as Wit’s End, which is to say that it’s a potential trump against non-Counterspell control decks. More things have to go right for this to be awesome than something like Rakdos’s Return, but a card this powerful is something you should at least be aware of.
Top 3 Black Cards
Black made out quite well in Journey into Nyx, with a number of other solid playables besides the Top 3. Mono-Black Aggro fared the best, but the control decks still got some new toys, and overall black is doing a good job of rounding out its bases. It’s got good threats, answers to just about everything, and a nice selection of discard spells to choose from.
This is a great addition to red’s threat portfolio, and one worthy of throwing a party. It offers a solid threat for red decks across all formats, as the kind of decks that want this don’t need it do trigger more than once or twice to be worth it, and it will often trigger more than that. It’s not completely irrelevant that it will Shock its controller for a bunch, but if you are playing this, that presumably won’t bother you nearly as much as your opponent. It’s funny that adding legs to a card like Blood Moon is a big drawback, but adding legs to Pyrostatic Pillar just enhances what the card is trying to accomplish (and it makes perfect sense that it is different for these two very different cards).
Threaten in one form or another has been legal forever, and always sees some amount of play. This is one of the most powerful Threatens we’ve ever seen, because not only does it have exactly the same base functionality, it doubles up once you hit six mana. As I mentioned in my Limited review, double Threaten can often be much better than twice as good as one Threaten, and the decks that want this will put it to good use. The time might not be right for a Threaten effect at all (it’s fairly bad against Elspeth or Aetherling, for example), but when Threaten is good, this card is awesome.
Even though Magma Spray isn’t a new addition to the format where it’s needed most (Modern), it’s still a nice tool to have. Gunning down Xathrid Necromancer, Chandra’s Phoenix, and Voice of Resurgence for just one mana is powerful, and the biggest limitation on Magma Spray is finding a controllish deck that also plays red mana. Even if such a deck doesn’t emerge (which is unlikely), Magma Spray is still a good sideboard option for red decks, since they do have to pay attention to these sorts of creatures.
Unlike Gnarled Scarhide, this is an underdog to see play, all because of the extra mana in its cost. It’s still an interesting offering because of the hasty +2/+2 option that leaves a 2/2 in its wake, but I’m wary that it will actually make the cut.
I’m going to need to think about this one a little more.
Hopefully I’m being prophetic when I say this is good, but given the power level here, that doesn’t seem like a huge stretch. It is a little unfortunate that paying mana to pump this makes it less likely you will be able to play the cards it reveals, but I think you will be happy enough with the ton of damage it deals. Plus, decks that make use of this will naturally have a low curve, which makes it more likely they will get value from the extra cards, all of which combines to a very strong addition to the format. Rubblebelt Maka seems like the most obvious card to pair with this, but I’m sure more good combos will emerge, and the opportunity to hit for multiple extra cards with no help is already enough to make this awesome. I’m not usually a big fan of red beatdown, but this draws enough extra cards that I could definitely be in.
This expensive enough that I’ve mostly abandoned it to Limited, but it’s worth mentioning as a way for red decks to kill Master of Waves (and all his ilk).
In spite of how narrow this seems, it might actually have some promise. Not doming players is disappointing, but you can still build this into a red Swords to Plowshares without much work. My natural inclination is to put this in a Blue-Red control deck as a way to handle giant monsters, and depending on what else you’d want in the deck, it could be a good fit.
I’m not sure what we are Twinflaming, but there’s gotta be something good, right?
Top 3 Red Cards
3. Magma Spray
Red got some great aggressive cards, which is no surprise. At least Magma Spray is also a good control card, and Prophetic Flamespeaker can lead to a more comboish red beatdown deck, which is cool. Eidolon is just the most powerful with the least amount of work, and has the most cross-format appeal. Red mages should be happy with this haul, especially given how many restrictions there are on red beatdown cards (the biggest being that they must be very cheap). I even think Harness by Force is one of the most threatening sideboard cards we’ve seen in a while, and it’s sure to swing many games against decks that rely on huge creatures.
I’ll be wrapping up my set reviews with green and the rest, which will be coming shortly!