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: The best of the best. (Siege-Gang Commander. Lyra Dawnbringer. Icy Manipulator.)
4.5: Incredible bomb, but not unbeatable. (Fight with Fire. In Bolas’s Clutches. Josu Vess, Lich Knight.)
4.0: Good rare or top-tier uncommon. (Cast Down. Slimefoot the Stowaway. Adeliz, the Cinder Wind.)
3.5: Top-tier common or solid uncommon. (Eviscerate. Shivan Fire. Cloudreader Sphinx.)
3.0: Good playable that basically always makes the cut. (Blink of an Eye. Llanowar Elves. Jousting Lance.)
2.5: Solid playable that rarely gets cut. (Windgrace Acolyte. Opt. Grow from the Ashes.)
2.0: Good filler, but sometimes gets cut. (Keldon Raider. Vodalian Arcanist. Dark Bargain.)
1.5: Filler. Gets cut about half the time. (Ghitu Lavarunner. Knight of New Benalia. Corrosive Ooze.)
1.0: Bad filler. Gets cut most of the time. (Cabal Evangel. Aesthir Glider. Arbor Armament.)
0.5: Very low-end playables and sideboard material. (Skirk Prospector. Unwind. Dub.)
0.0: Completely unplayable. (Shield of the Realm. Board the Weatherlight. One with Nothing.)
Aegis of the Heavens
There’s not a huge functional difference between +1/+3 and +1/+7. Either way, your creature is probably going to live and you’re not making it hit a whole lot harder. This is a marginal combat trick with some flashy numbers.
Limited: 2.0 // 3.5
By virtue of being a 3/3 for 4, you can’t go too wrong with this. I’d play it if I had any artifact creatures at all, and once you get to 3+ it becomes one of the better cards in your deck.
Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants
Ajani continues the rich tradition of his bloodline by being great when ahead and mediocre when behind. If you are already pressuring the opponent, this will almost assuredly win you the game. If they are ahead on board or have a flyer you can’t stop, this buys you some life and distributes some counters. I’d always play this, but would bias toward aggro and cheap creatures to really maximize it.
Ajani’s Last Stand
This card is interesting. In a creature-heavy deck, it will be a 4/4 flyer for 4 with a small delay, which is something I’m into. It’s especially great if you curve into it, and if you can play this on 4 after deploying a couple of creatures. On the flip side, it’s a really bad topdeck and quite mediocre in creature-light decks, so I wouldn’t prioritize it but will be happy when it makes the cut. It’s also a beating against discard, making it a sick sideboard card against anyone attacking you in that manner.
Limited: 3.0 // 3.5
There’s enough incidental life gain in the set that I think this is baseline just a good playable. In a deck with recurring life gain, it becomes a reliable big threat, which is a lot for just 2 mana.
Limited: 1.0 // 3.0
Ajani’s Welcome is anything but that, but in a heavy life gain deck it can be a source of constant triggers for your payoffs. This is a card I predict gets overplayed, and I can already feel it wearing out its welcome from here.
Angel of the Dawn
If this core set plays like they usually do, a 3/3 flyer for 5 is already fine, and the mass pump + vigilance is the cherry on top of an already-delicious sundae. Take this, play it, and try to be a curve-out white deck to make it the best it can be (I’ve said that a lot and we are still on “A”, so take note).
A 2-drop that has utility later in the game is a delight, and there’s a reason I always grade these highly—you need some number of early plays in any deck just to be functional, but the cost is that you draw them later. With cards like this, that cost is mitigated, and you aren’t sad when you get to drill something on turn 7.
I doubt the second clause will come up much, but extra flexibility is nice. A 5-mana Wrath of God in a straightforward format is a card I’m pretty happy about, even if I don’t think it’s a bomb. It does pair nicely with life gain, as you can stall the opponent and make them over commit, and I would play this in any white deck, as even aggressive ones can fall behind.
The statline on this makes me hesitant to play it outside of a life gain deck, though it makes a pretty nice sideboard card against some aggro decks. It just doesn’t hit hard enough, so you really need to care about the lifelink for it to be worth it.
Not only is this great in a life gain deck, it’s not bad in a normal deck either. It comes up a little short in aggro, but most control decks will be happy to run this as a defensive measure. You want to have a decent number of creatures, as gaining 3+ life is where you want this to land.
This is basically Call the Cavalry, though slightly better because you can bounce this or get it back from the graveyard (Goofus bounces his own token—Gallant bounces the Cavalry for maximum value). This is a good addition to any white deck, and only starts to lose some luster once your 4-drop slot is full.
Herald of Faith
Herald of Faith is a beating. Half-lifelink is still plenty, and a 4/3 flyer is no joke.
Oblivion Ring for 4 mana is still a highly-desirable Limited card. Handling anything is huge, and this does so easily (also, that Minotaur looks like it’s going to lead with “despite all my rage…”).
Limited: 1.0 // 3.0
When this is good, it’s great, but most decks will leave it on the sidelines. Aggressive decks with 17+ creatures want this effect, and basically nobody else does.
Invoke the Divine
Now that we aren’t in Dominaria (or are we? I’m not sure where the core set even lives), maindecking artifact/enchantment kill doesn’t seem right. This is a great sideboard card, and likely maindeckable in Sealed, but not where I’d want to be in Draft.
In some extremely isolated circumstances, your opponent has 4+ cards that cost 1 mana, and maybe this is a sideboard card. Given that this is a rare, that seems highly unlikely to ever line up.
Knight of the Tusk
I asked one of the most successful Team Limited competitors of our time (Andrew Baeckstrom) about this card, and all he said was, “thicc.” I guess that just about sums it up. If you need something expensive, here you are, and it’s even a Knight to boot.
I really hope this ends up being bad. If Auras have gotten so playable that a vanilla +2/+2 gets there, we are not living in a world I’m happy about. The inherent risk of card disadvantage when you put this on a creature is not worth the upside, and I’m going to operate under the assumption that this format has enough removal that this won’t cut it.
This, on the other hand, does work out quite nicely. There’s nothing like getting a free token to make up for that risk, and Knightly Valor also gives vigilance alongside that. It’s a little weird seeing this and a 2/2 that makes a Knight, but Knights are a theme of the set.
Lena, Selfless Champion
A 6-drop that more than doubles your team is a large threat, and she even can sacrifice herself to protect your team in the event of a disaster. Lena really rewards going hard on assembling an army, and is far from the last card to push that strategy. It is funny that the Selfless Spirit protects your board better than the Selfless Champion—who’s the real MVP there?
I like this less as an attacker and more as a recurring source of life gain. It can sit there and gain 1 a turn once it has some friends, and there are plenty of cards that pay you off when it does that.
White has some nice token makers this time around. Leonin Warleader is a 4/4 for 4 that comes with some nice backup when it attacks, and plays perfectly with combat tricks and mass pump spells while also enabling life gain payoffs. This is one of the few cats I’d actually like, since everyone knows that dogs are vastly superior.
Loxodon Line Breaker
Do you need stats? If yes, sign on the dotted line.
At no point will this common slot not be the best, and Luminous Bonds is firmly where it was the last time we saw it (in the lead).
Make a Stand
Limited: 1.0 // 3.0
This is effectively Inspired Charge, but it trades a point of power for infinite toughness. That’s not as good a deal as it sounds, given the goal of these cards, but either one of these will usually do the trick.
Mentor of the Meek
It’s very hard to lose if this survives, and the cost is low enough that you aren’t taking a huge risk when you play it. It should change your Draft order to maximize its value, but most white decks will be happy picking this up, even in pack 3. Note that it works quite well with token-making cards, as you don’t need to cast the creatures.
I think I called this medium leap last time I saw it, but even if I did, I’m running it back.
Limited: 1.5 // 3.0
Much like Augur of Bolas, this will give you a lot of information about the bottom of your library. It seems easy enough to get 8+ targets into your deck, as power 2 or less is simpler than cost 2 or less, and at that point this is a fine deal.
I like this in control decks even if it never attacks, and beatdown decks once you have 4+ Auras or Equipment that you were planning on playing anyway. Don’t use this to justify playing bad Auras, but do use good Auras/Equipment as a justification for playing this.
When you want to beat down, you won’t be turning down 3 power for 2 mana.
This overperformed in Dominaria, and this looks to be a lower-powered format, which makes the Courser even better. It will often be the best thing going on, and that’s high praise for a card that only costs 3 mana.
I wonder if this is remorseful about how much better it is in Constructed than Limited. Even if you discount the sacrifice ability, this is still a 2/1 flyer for 2, which is a fine deal.
A big part of power level is opportunity cost—what am I giving up or risking when I play this card? When the card in question is a 3/3 flyer for 3, the answer is “nothing,” and that’s what pushes this from a 4.5 to 5.0.
This card is absurd, and you should slam it every time you see it in pack 1. In pack 2, strongly consider switching, and in pack 3, start counting how many cards you’ll be short if you switch to white.
If you end up in the life-gain-matters synergy deck, this is a fine addition. If you don’t, only play this if you’re very short cards.
Limited: why me?
Honestly, this card is probably a 1.5—if you have a few ways to pump it, and are an aggressive deck, you could do worse. I’m not getting on my soapbox here because there is a difference between a 1/1 and a 1/2, and I suspect that I’ll end up playing this card.
If you’re the life gain deck, bump this up a notch, and also factor in that it’s got some extra value against red. If the format ends up being very fast, this also could be great, as it does gain you a lot of life if the opponent has to spend a spell on it.
In an aggressive deck, this may edge toward a 3.5, as it’s very hard to block. Between this and Pegasus Courser, white beatdown has some all-stars.
This is a clean and elegant answer to the now-banned energy deck in Standard, or something. In Limited, this will play as a 1/4 for 2, and every now and then will knock some counters off an Ajani’s Pridemate.
Aggressive decks aren’t very interested in vengeance, as they are more proactive than that. Control decks will play this, though having to get hit by something before killing it is a real drawback. This gets worse in multiples as a result, though the combo of this and Star-Crowned Stag is real, and may make this sick in aggro decks that have two Stags.
Limited: 3.5 // 4.0
By itself, this is a substantial threat. Once you add in 3+ other Knights, it becomes extremely powerful, and worth building around. +1/+1 and double strike is a lot of damage, and remember that the double strike ability applies to Valiant Knight as well.
Top 5 White Commons
The top 3 white commons are all awesome. I wouldn’t be surprised if Courser ends up as the best one, and in aggro decks, it well could be. I’d start by taking Bonds, but I’m curious to revisit this in a couple of weeks. The commons fall off pretty hard after Gallant Cavalry, but overall white has some nice standouts.