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Battle for Zendikar Limited Set Review – Blue

Previous Reviews – Limited

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Black

*Retired and inducted into the Limited Hall of Fame: Pack Rat. Umezawa’s Jitte.

5.0: The best of the best. (Citadel Siege. Wingmate Roc. Dragonlord Atarka.)
4.5: Incredible bomb, but not unbeatable. (Tragic Arrogance. Whirler Rogue. Icefall Regent. Hangarback Walker.)
4.0: Good rare or top-tier uncommon. (Abbot of Keral Keep. Jhessian Thief. Ultimate Price.)
3.5: Top-tier common or solid uncommon. (Separatist Voidmage. Fiery Impulse. Epic Confrontation.)
3.0: Good playable that basically always makes the cut. (Deadbridge Shaman. Skyraker Giant. Watercourser.)
2.5: Solid playable that rarely gets cut. (Read the Bones. Silumgar Butcher. Dragon-Scarred Bear.)
2.0: Good filler, but sometimes gets cut. (Throwing Knife. Chandra’s Fury. Artful Maneuver.)
1.5: Filler. Gets cut about half the time. (Vastwood Gorger. Aeronaut Tinkerer. Cobblebrute.)
1.0: Bad filler. Gets cut most of the time. (Thornbow Archer. Deep-Sea Terror. Akroan Jailer.)
0.5: Very low-end playables and sideboard material. (Vandalize. Vine Snare. Congregate.)
0.0: Completely unplayable. (Fascination. Infinite Obliteration.)

First, a quick note on 5.0s: I am slightly relaxing what I consider a 5, as reserving it for just the top cards ever in Limited isn’t as useful. Yes, Umezawa’s Jitte and Pack Rat are on another level, but cards like Citadel Siege or Atarka should make the list as well. You are going to see more cards get the highest grade, even though I’m not going so far as to say that the best card in a set automatically gets it. It’s possible for the best card to still not quite get there.

Adverse Conditions

Limited: 2.0

Normally, Frost-Breath-type cards are only good in aggressive decks, but add an Eldrazi Scion into the mix and that all changes. I’m not adverse to playing a card that ramps my mana, can trade for an x/1, and does so while keeping me alive. I still would rather be beating down if I’m including this in my deck, but I think it does enough different things at a good rate that you are more likely to play it than not. Cards that swing a race this drastically are situationally awesome, and getting the Eldrazi Scion goes a long way toward mitigating the cost of drawing this when you aren’t in a race (which is the reason non-aggressive decks tend to avoid this effect).

This is an interesting card, and I’m really curious to see how it plays. I like combining a tempo effect with a ramp/defensive effect, and love that it provides a challenge to evaluate.

Anticipate

Limited: 2.5

Just like in Dragons, Anticipate is going to land in the funny space of rarely getting cut without being super impactful. If you don’t have a crowded 2-drop slot, this is a good addition to your deck, and the slower your deck is the more likely you are to want a card that smooths out your draws. Aggressive decks aren’t quite as interested, and in all cases, Anticipate doesn’t get better in multiples (there are only so many turns you can spend casting cards like this, sadly). Don’t prioritize Anticipate, but be happy to play one most of the time.

Benthic Infiltrator

Limited: 3.0

In the case of Benthic Infiltrator, you are getting a great deal even if you don’t care at all about devoid or ingest. Three mana for a 1/4 isn’t embarrassing, and this being unblockable makes it a fine card by itself. It blocks well, sets up processors nicely, and is the exact way I want to enable these other cards. I like not paying for the privilege of having my process/devoid combos active, and Benthic Infiltrator is one way to accomplish that. Once we get to Mist Intruder we are putting these synergies to the test, but with Benthic Infiltrator it’s a pretty safe bet that you will want to play it even if you don’t have any additional incentives.

Brilliant Spectrum

Limited: 1.0

Far be it from me to turn down a card-draw spell, but requiring this many colors of mana puts this way too far to the right on the spectrum of difficulty. You need to reliably hit 3 and sometimes hit 4 for this to be playable, and reliably hit 4 before it actually becomes good. That will happen from time to time, and I’m sure you will be able to pick one up when it does.

Cloud Manta

Limited: 2.5

This is a good attacker and a mediocre blocker, which leads to a forecast of “almost always play.”

Clutch of Currents

Limited: 3.5

Clutch is aptly-named, as it’s going to be consistently good and often great. Casting it for 1 mana is a valuable option to have, even if casting it for 5 is going to be the most common. A 5-mana 3/3 that bounces a creature is very good, even if that creature is tapped, and if you have 6 mana up you get to attack immediately. This has the combination of power and flexibility that is the hallmark of a strong card, and I look forward to playing with as many as I can get my get my clutches on.

Aside: The presence of haste creatures in colors that normally don’t get them is definitely something you need to keep in mind. All of a sudden, your opponent could be sending a 4/4 or greater your way, and you might want to consider leaving creatures back when you wouldn’t otherwise.

Coastal Discovery

Limited: 2.5

I’ve discovered my new favorite card. Even I can’t argue that 4-mana Divination is good, but 4-mana Divination that also can be cast as a 6-mana 3/3 Mulldrifter is a different story altogether. Granted, the 3/3 (Edit: 4/4, though it doesn’t change the rating – LSV) isn’t purely free, as you give up a land for it, but the value proposition here is real. I don’t think you are going to want a ton of these, but having one in your deck does smooth out bad draws and give you some good late-game punch. I also like the idea of playing 18 lands and a decent amount of good awaken spells, as you can cut down on both mana screw and mana flood alike.

Coralhelm Guide

Limited: 2.5

This is the kind of 2-drop I like. On turn two, it does what you want a 2-drop to do, which is get a couple points in or trade for their early drop. Later, it’s a real threat, and added together you get a card that isn’t bad at any point in the game. Granted, it’s rarely going to be absurd, but in some games this will be the deciding factor, and it could even be the card you most want to draw.

Cryptic Cruiser

Limited: 2.5

It’s not hard to justify including Cruiser in any deck with a few ways to enable it. Unlike the processors that trigger when you play them, this can come out on curve, do what a 3/3 does, and maybe pick up some value later. That’s a lot more appealing to me, and makes me much more likely to try this card.

Dampening Pulse

Limited: 3.5

This card is better than it looks, I guarantee it. Effects that shrink the opposing team by 1 are always surprisingly good, and affect the game drastically. It’s unlikely that they can remove this, so it’s going to sit in play generating value for the rest of the game. Their 2/2s can no longer battle yours, and the same is true up the line, making combat incredibly hard for your opponent. All that incremental value adds up, and what you are left with is a game that is hard for your opponent to win. It even shuts down the Eldrazi Scion swarm decks to boot.

Dispel

Limited: 0.5

I like having this around for Constructed, and I like siding it in in Limited. I’d need to see at least 3 decent targets before I’d bring this in, and I’d prefer 4+.

Drowner of Hope

Limited: 4.0

A 6-mana 5/5 plus two 1/1s would already be a good card, and this has a number of extra abilities on top of that. The 1/1s can produce mana, be sacrificed to tap down creatures, and this can even combine with other Eldrazi Scion generators to provide additional value. Your opponent better hope you don’t follow this up with much, because on its own it’s going to be hard to beat.

Eldrazi Skyspawner

Limited: 3.5

I’m already going to play a 2/1 flier for 3 most of the time, so if you toss in an Eldrazi Scion I am definitely in. This may even spawn an entire archetype, as blue, black, and green have plenty of ways to generate Scions at very low cost. Compare this to a 2/2 flier and you can see how great a deal it is.

Exert Influence

Limited: 3.5

In a normal 2-color deck, this is nothing special. Once you hit 3 colors of mana, it becomes awesome, and at 4 and above it’s nearly unbeatable. The extra rewards are worth exerting your mana base, and this is one of the few cards that really pushes the converge deck. If I see this early, I’m going to look to take it and play it, and it even works very well as a splash. Be aware that sometimes you will miss, and end up in just 2 colors, but the reward when you do get there is quite high.

Guardian of Tazeem

Limited: 4.5

If your opponent can’t kill this, they basically lose the game. It’s got the power level of a classic bomb (huge flier with a very relevant ability), and it only costs 5 mana instead of the normal 6+. As long as you have a steady stream of Islands, it’s impossible to race this, and even if you miss on lands it’s a large and efficient threat.

Halimar Tidecaller

Limited: 2.5

When you miss with this card, you really miss, and in some decks it’s just a vanilla 2/3 for 3. However, there are enough good awaken cards that most decks will end up with a couple targets, at which point this generates a lot of value. The textbox may be strange (imagine seeing this outside of the context of this set), but if you can bring back a spell even half the time this card is great. It also gives your awakened lands flying, which is an extra bit of value on an already-appealing card. The later in the draft, the more information you will have about cards like this, and I’m looking to have at least two and ideally four or more awaken cards before I include this.

Horribly Awry

Limited: 2.5

This isn’t a horrible 2-drop and it will usually find a target at some point, even in the late game. It also enables processors, and overall looks like decent filler to me. It’s annoying if you leave this up and they just cast an awaken spell or expensive creature, and that’s what keeps me from being overly excited at the prospect of playing this. It also gets worse in multiples, as drawing two of these when your opponent isn’t casting creatures is a disaster. It’s interactive enough and cheap enough that I will tend to play the first one.

Incubator Drone

Limited: 3.0

Blue gets some good token generation this time around, with Incubator Drone being another card I’m always happy to play. You don’t even need to be in a deck that specifically wants Scions before this is good, as 3/4 worth of stats and the mana ability make it a fine deal. It’s on the borderline of being a 3.5, but it’s enough worse than the Skyspawner that I’m putting it a step lower.

Mist Intruder

Limited: 1.5

This is one of the hardest cards in the set to evaluate, and how good this ends up being will really speak to how well-supported one of the major themes of the set is. It’s also a case where the rating doesn’t tell the whole story, though I of course would always recommend reading what I write rather than look at just the rating. The people who are going to do that aren’t reading this, of course, so I guess I have free reign to say whatever I want about them, with no penalty. I won’t squander that power just yet, but I’ll keep it in mind.

As for Mist Intruder: My best guess is that you play this around half the time, which is why I gave it a 1.5. When you do play it, it will likely be an important piece of your deck, and when you don’t, it’s because you don’t have any processors or cards that care about colorless creatures. That makes the rating a little deceptive, like I said, because the value is highly variable. I’d love if this card was awesome, and I hope the processor/ingest deck is a real thing. I’m not going to start by first-picking Mist Intruders, though I will take strong processors early and try and pick these up later.

Murk Strider

Limited: 2.5

Speaking of strong processors, Murk Strider is a decent payoff for exiling some of your opponent’s cards. A 3/2 Man-o’-War is a big game, so I’ll happily play this even if it only triggers some of the time. Unlike Mind Raker, for example, this is a processor that has enough of an upside when you get there that I’m willing to risk it not being on when I draw it.

If it’s near the end of the draft and you don’t have any ways to enable it, this is quite mediocre, but early in the draft it looks like a card you can take and end up playing more often than not.

Oracle of Dust

Limited: 2.5

I’m not one to turn down a good 3/5 for 5, especially one that has a good late-game ability. In what’s becoming a theme, I like the processor cards that don’t need to be active early a lot more than those that do. Oracle can sit around and provide a good blocker while you wait to draw an exile enabler, at which point it gives you a useful mana sink and a way to rip through your deck. I like that play pattern, and I’m interested in putting Oracle in most of my blue decks. The fail state on a 3/5 for 5 is also less than a 3/3 for 4, which is another reason this leaves some of the other processors in the dust.

Part the Waterveil

Limited: 2.0

A 6-mana Time Walk is not a card you generally want in your deck. It just doesn’t do enough to justify the times when it is stuck in your hand. However, when that’s just part of the card, and the other part is a 9-mana 6/6 Time Walk, I get a lot more interested. I still don’t think you want to jam this into just any random deck, but a deck with a high land count and a good amount of card draw can make use of it. As long as you are willing to essentially cycle it on 6 mana when you need to, having a finisher this powerful is a big advantage. This is good enough on 9 that I’m willing to take the risk of it being mediocre on 6 (then again, that sort of philosophy has gotten me into trouble before, so take it with a grain of salt).

Prism Array

Limited: 0.5 (or 5.0—who knows)

This may be the most bizarre card in the set, and that’s counting all the strange Eldrazi. Luckily, despite the wide array of options, I’m pretty sure you don’t want this in your deck unless you are able to generate all five colors of mana. An enchantment that lets you tap 2-4 creatures is not good enough, so you need the scry ability to be active before you are interested. This looks like a fun card to build a deck around, and I’m sure I’ll try at some point, but it won’t be because I think it’s the right strategy.

Retreat to Coralhelm

Limited: 1.0

I wouldn’t play an enchantment that let me scry 1 every turn, and this is a fair bit worse than that. Adding the ability to tap blockers or untap defenders is cute, but let’s save those shenanigans for Modern decks with Knight of the Reliquary, shall we?

Roilmage’s Trick

Limited: 2.0

Blue is going deep on shrinking the opponent’s creatures these days, but this is even trickier than the last couple versions. It works even when you are attacking, as it just hits all their creatures, on offense or defense. That’s a good bit of extra value, and even a 2-color deck might end up running this. You don’t have endless spots for cards like this (I like the term “air”), but if you are looking for a fancy situational card, Roilmage’s Trick is for you.

Ruination Guide

Limited: 3.0

Other people seem to be higher on the ingest/devoid cards than I am, but I’ll give Ruination Guide the benefit of the doubt. It makes your other colorless creatures (particularly Eldrazi Scions) a little more dangerous, and if it gets a hit in, can enable processors as well. Taking this early can help guide your draft, and it interacts with enough different cards in the set that it’s unlikely to ruin you. At worst, it’s a 3/2 for 3 with minor upside, and at best it improves the quality of many of your other cards.

Rush of Ice

Limited: 1.5

There’s definitely a limit to how many awaken cards you can comfortably play in your deck. My natural tendency is to read this as a 5-cost 3/3 that taps down a creature, which is close to what it does, but once that 3/3 dies, your subsequent awaken cards have gotten worse. Once you have a couple awaken cards, you shouldn’t be in a hurry to pick up too many more, because you don’t want to be casting these without awaken and you won’t always have the lands around to get the full effect.

I like Rush of Ice less than Clutch or Coastal Discovery, but if I didn’t have either of those, I would look to pick one of these up.

Salvage Drone

Limited: 1.5

1/1s for 1 still aren’t good, but getting to loot almost salvages this. You will want this a little more than you would the average 1/1 (which isn’t saying much), because if it’s in your opening hand you have a good shot of getting an ingest hit in. That (hopefully) sets up a bunch of your other cards, and this does at least let you trade it + a bad card in for a new card. The half-looting plus the ingest make this a card some decks will play, though this is another card on my list of “cards people play way more often than they should”.

Scatter to the Winds

Limited: 3.0

Cancel ranges from mediocre to decent, depending on the speed of the format, and this is a fair amount better than just a Cancel. The format seems conducive to playing a 3-mana counterspell, since the synergy decks and the ramp decks both tend to have expensive cards you want to counter, with only the aggressive Ally decks or landfall decks really punishing you. The awaken on this card rewards you for catching a spell in the late game, even if that’s when counterspells tend to be best anyways.

Spell Shrivel

Limited: 1.5

When drawn in the first six or seven turns, this should counter anything you want to counter. Unfortunately, it falls off a bit after that, adding another layer of risk to an already-situational card type. The upside of exiling is real, so if you care about that part of the card this gets a lot more interesting.

Tide Drifter

Limited: 2.0

Giving a point of toughness to your team isn’t bad, though a 2-mana 0/5 isn’t quite a full card by itself. You should end up with enough affected creatures that you usually run it, but it’s not nearly as exciting as Ruination Guide.

Tightening Coils

Limited: 2.5

Blue usually gets the short end of the bident when it comes to removal, and Tightening Coils is an example of that. What I like most about this card is that it fixed the egregious flavor mistake present on Pin to the Earth, and takes away flying from its victim. It will shut down most creatures well enough, even if they get to block, and you are likely going to be fine playing this as long as your plan isn’t to attack on the ground.

Ugin’s Insight

Limited: 3.5

Even if you don’t scry at all, this is a 5-mana draw 3, and those tend to be pretty good. You will end up getting to scry for a couple at least, and once you are scrying for 4+, this card is just awesome.

Ulamog’s Reclaimer

Limited: 2.0

If you can’t trigger the processor part of this reliably, it’s not worth running, but it’s pretty good once you can. I like the idea of playing this in a controlling ingest deck, and it is kind of cool that your opponent might be putting cards into your graveyard with their own processors. That makes it a little more likely that you have a target, and every little bit counts.

Wave-Wing Elemental

Limited: 2.0

A 5-power flier at common is impressive, even if it is usually only full-sized while it attacks. I definitely don’t want too many 6-drops, but the first Wave-Wing Elemental is a good finisher. Controlling decks aren’t quite as interested as midrange or aggressive decks, because this is only a 3/4 while blocking.

Windrider Patrol

Limited: 3.5

A large flier that gives you a bonus every time you hit them is a win in my book. This may not defend extremely well, like Wave-Wing Elemental, but the cheaper mana cost and the scrys you get make it a lot more appealing.

Top 5 Blue Commons

5. Murk Strider
4. Incubator Drone
3. Benthic Infiltrator
2. Clutch of Currents
1. Eldrazi Skyspawner

Blue has some very nice commons this time around. Eldrazi Skyspawner is amazing no matter what your deck is trying to do, Clutch is very powerful and flexible to boot, and Benthic Infiltrator is a pain-free way to enable many of blue’s themes. I’m a lot more interested in making a blue-based processor/ingest deck than a black one, because blue has the ingest creatures with evasion, as well as better payoff processors. Blue also has multiple bounce spells and tapping spells along with some decent fliers, including both 3- and 5-power fliers at common. It looks like blue is poised to support multiple strong archetypes, and I’m very interested in discovering everything it has to offer.

LSV

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