Previous Core Set 2019 Reviews
Let’s take a look at the grading scale, with the usual caveat that what I write about the card is more relevant, as there are many factors that aren’t reflected in a card’s grade.
5.0: Multi-format all-star. (Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Tarmogoyf. Snapcaster Mage.)
4.0: Format staple. (Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. Collected Company. Remand.)
3.5: Good in multiple archetypes and formats, but not a staple. (Jace Beleren. Radiant Flames. Shambling Vent.)
3.0: Archetype staple. (Jace, Architect of Thought. Zulaport Cutthroat. Explosive Vegetation.)
2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. (Jace, Memory Adept. Anticipate. Transgress the Mind.)
2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. (Jace, the Living Guildpact. Naturalize. Duress.) 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.)
I like having access to Anticipate, though I don’t foresee playing a ton of copies while Censor is legal. In fact, Censor seems criminally underplayed, and I’m going to hijack Anticipate’s review to talk about how you should probably be playing more of them.
While I doubt this will pioneer new decks, any token-maker, especially in blue, gets a second look. Blue doesn’t often get 2-for-1 creatures, and this is cheap enough that it might fly. You’d need a very specific deck, but it’s worth keeping this one in your back pocket.
A Spirit aggro deck has more than a ghost of a chance in this format, and this has more upsides than drawbacks. Yes, it dies to any spell, but what in Constructed will target this and not kill it? A 2/2 unblockable for 2 is not bad, and this can help force through extra damage with its activated ability later. I see some potential here, as faint and translucent as it is.
All set reviewing is some amount of divination, so when I’m reviewing a Divination it feels quite apt. This tends to see niche play, depending on the state of card draw and counterspells in Standard, and right now I think it’ll be on the low end of where it could land. Torrential Gearhulk pushes you pretty hard to play instants, and the counterspells are good enough that tapping out for Divination is a little less appealing (to others). This is still a great way to hit land drops in control decks, but the time may not be right.
This isn’t a new addition, thanks to Amonkhet, but it’s still a good piece of the puzzle for any blue control deck (and decks like U/B Midrange). The wealth of 2-mana counters available means that each one gets played a little less, but Essence Scatter is still a great option.
While this is no Reflector Mage (and I’m thankful for that), it’s still got game. 3 mana is a solid deal, and midrange/tempo blue decks will be glad for the extra action. It combines nicely with The Scarab God and God-Pharaoh’s Gift, and if there’s a deck that cares about the body and the effect, this is priced to move.
I feel I should mention this because it’s similar to cards that have been good, i.e., Toolcraft Exemplar. Sadly, after being a 1-drop that cares about artifacts, the similarity mostly ends, as +1/+0 is not nearly enough power to make this worth building around.
Clones are neat, and the good ones tend to see a decent amount of Constructed play (Phantasmal Image and Vizier of Many Faces spring to mind). But a big part of their power is copying opposing creatures, and not being able to do that makes Mirror Image an eternal runner-up, at best.
Merfolk hasn’t been good for a while, so throwing them a bone is pretty neat. This is a disruptive 1-drop that fights against reanimator strategies nicely, and is especially relevant in older formats. In Standard, it can stop Rekindling Phoenix from returning, but that’s likely not enough, especially because 1-drop Merfolk aren’t all that useful. Once we go back to formats where Merfolk is (kind of) a deck, things get a lot more interesting. It is unfortunate that it doesn’t fight Aether Vial, as the opponent can just elect not to put the creature into play, and at best it delays Sneak Attack. Still, it’s a powerful sideboard option on a body those decks already want to play.
After my 1-star review of Azure Mage, which I ended up playing at U.S. Nationals two weeks later, I’m a little gun-shy on panning this. Luckily, I do think it’s a plausible sideboard card, and I like the idea of this in blue control decks that want a cheap early play that they can leave mana up for later.
This saw marginal play before in Mono-Blue Devotion, but the lack of Thassa is not a good omen. I doubt this makes it, unless you really want a 1/3 for 2.
Omniscience is a key part of various Show and Tell decks in older formats. Printing it in M19 doesn’t change that, but I don’t want to disrespect such a powerful card.
One with the Machine
If you can reliably draw 4+ cards off this, it’s going to be very good. But that is asking for you to untap with a large(ish) artifact in play, and I’m not taking that for granted. Card draw that requires a board presence goes counter to the strength of the mechanic, as it is no longer good for rebuilding or smoothing out draws.
I mostly see this as a sideboard card for slow matchups, because tapping out for a 5-drop that doesn’t affect the board is a risky maneuver otherwise. It will grind the opponent down, and drawing more than one extra card per turn is a solid reward. I suspect Standard is a little too fast right now, and this losing out to Teferi is a bummer (the same can be said about a ton of interesting cards).
Sai, Master Thopterist
I’d love it if Sai ends up being great. He is a big incentive to run a ton of artifacts, and those kinds of decks are often quite fun to play. If you can trigger Sai twice the turn you play him, and multiple times each subsequent turn, he’s a powerful engine, and even eats his own Thopters to keep the artifact train rolling. This will show up across a variety of formats, even if it’s in some niche roles.
As someone who played Ensoul Artifact at a Pro Tour, I do have a soft spot for making artifacts into 5/5s, but adding 1 mana to the cost is a tough sell. It feels like the artifact-based deck is almost there, and threats like this are part of the equation. When this works, you get two bodies for the price of one, but the vulnerability to removal is high, especially compared to Ensoul, because they can just kill this instead of the 5/5.
A 3-mana Spirit lord didn’t do the trick, so will a sale at 2 mana get people to buy it? It is powerful, and there are a couple of other solid Spirits to go alongside this. The removal is pretty good in Standard right now, so relying on this may not cut it, but having a tribe of all flyers makes for a solid backup plan.
If Omenspeaker doesn’t make it, maybe this might, since defensive blue 2-drops see play every now and then. This has the nice upside of looting when you don’t need it to block, and depending on what aggro decks look like, this could provide some good defense.
Tezzeret, Artifice Master
I really didn’t need another reason to justify playing Glint-Nest Crane, but Tezzeret does seem like he’s got potential. He defends himself both with Thopters and a high loyalty, and drawing multiple cards is a very good planeswalker ability. There are a lot of artifact incentives in Standard right now, and Tezzeret might be the 5-drop an artifact deck wants. Synergy decks have a rough go of it against all the removal, and in particular Chainwhirler (see ya, Thopters), but massive loyalty and drawing two cards a turn is a real upside.
Top 3 Blue Cards
Excluding reprints, these are the cards that excite me most out of blue. They are heavily contingent on artifacts being good, but you’re talking to the guy who jammed Karn and Scrap Trawler at the last Pro Tour. I also like Exclusion Mage, as it pushes a tempo-based strategy and provides solid value in any midrange deck.
Blue didn’t get anything that knocks my socks off, but hopefully it will open the door for a new archetype.