5.0: Multi-format All-Star (and undoubtedly worth too much money). [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card]. [card]Tarmogoyf[/card].
4.0: Format staple. [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card]. [card]Thragtusk[/card].
3.5: Good in multiple archetypes, but not a format staple. [card]Avacyn’s Pilgrim[/card]. [card]Restoration Angel[/card]. [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card].
3.0: Archetype staple. [card]Farseek[/card]. [card]Gravecrawler[/card].
2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. [card]Think Twice[/card]. [card]Curse of Death’s Hold[/card].
2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. [card]Naturalize[/card]. (Bear in mind that many cards fall into this category, although an explanation is obviously important.)
1.0: It has seen play once. [card]One with Nothing[/card]. (I believe it was tech vs. Owling Mine, although fairly suspicious tech at that.)
5.0: I will always play this card. Period.
4.5: I will almost always play this card, regardless of what else I get.
4.0: I will strongly consider playing this as the only card of its color.
3.5: I feel a strong pull into this card’s color.
3.0: This card makes me want to play this color. (Given that I’m playing that color, I will play this card 100% of the time.)
2.5: Several cards of this power level start to pull me into this color. If playing that color, I essentially always play these. (Given that I’m playing that color, I will play this card 90% of the time.)
2.0: If I’m playing this color, I usually play these. (70%)
1.5: This card will make the cut into the main deck about half the times I play this color. (50%)
1.0: I feel bad when this card is in my main deck. (30%)
0.5: There are situations where I might sideboard this into my deck, but I’ll never start it. (10%)
0.0: I will never put this card into my deck (main deck or after sideboarding). (0%)
I can’t think of a better way to kick off a review of blue cards than to review the bluest card of them all. I have high hopes for [card]Aetherling[/card], and hope that I have plenty of opportunities to cast [card]Aetherling[/card] with 15 lands in play. As a long-game finisher, it’s hard to do better. This dies to basically basically nothing, up to and including Wraths, brawls with most creatures successfully, and even clocks the opponent for massive amounts of damage. Of course, to do all that, it does require a hefty sum of mana, but the decks that will want Aetherling shouldn’t have a big problem with that.
Wanting to play this on seven mana does naturally limit how many you can play, and even how many decks are actually built to take advantage of it. I foresee it mostly as a 1-2-of in [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card] decks, if they exist after this set (spoiler: they do). I also find it kind of funny how much more insanely powerful this is than [card]Morphling[/card], yet how much less it’s going to dominate the formats it’s legal in than [card]Morphling[/card] did.
The only downside to this is the casting cost, which is plentiful both in color and quantity. It’s an incredible threat and defender, susceptible only to getting outnumbered and losing the race. Wanting 3+ blue mana does make this a tough splash, but if you are lucky enough to open [card]Aetherling[/card], just make sure you end up blue.
The interesting part about this card is that it can untap multiple permanents, possibly up to four in the turn you first cast it. That demonstrates some hidden combo potential, though exactly what I couldn’t tell you.
[card]Hands of Binding[/card] embarrasses this in Limited on every turn but the first, since tapping their creatures postcombat is not generally considered effective. Giving your team vigilance of sorts is not much of a consolation prize.
If this was my only way out of the maze, I’d just stay lost.
This is getting closer, at least. A 3/5 flier for six isn’t great, but it’s mostly playable, and if it can act as [card]Wonder[/card] for a good number of creatures you should probably run it.
Hey, I noticed you liked [card]Mana Leak[/card]? Would you mind paying double and getting two of them?
I can’t imagine playing this other than out of the board against an opponent with multiple absurd bombs. Paying four for what is still a situational counterspell is really not a good plan otherwise (and is of debatable wisdom even if they do have those bombs).
The best way for your record to become a [card]Murmuring Phantasm[/card] is to play [card]Murmuring Phantasm[/card].
Unless you are very aggressive, this is a pretty solid 2-drop. It blocks almost anything your opponents will toss at you, at least until the late game, and gives you something to do on your second turn. These do get worse in multiples, because once one is bad they all become bad, but the first couple are often going to be good.
Opal Lake Gatekeepers
[draft]opal lake gatekeepers[/draft]
I reviewed the entire Gatekeeper cycle in the White/Azorius/Orzhov review, found here.
Unlike [card]Sensory Deprivation[/card], [card]Runner’s Bane[/card] handles utility creatures, shutting them down effectively. In a world short on removal, this might hit enough creatures to be in the running. It is kind of unfortunate that it leaves them in play, since locking down a [card]Boros Reckoner[/card] with this doesn’t stop you from dying to the subsequent [card]Blasphemous Act[/card].
Removal is removal, and this is surprisingly close to “premium.” Tapping the creature immediately goes a long way—between that and stopping the target from blocking, this is much more impressive than the aforementioned [card]Sensory Deprivation[/card].
This only lasting until end of turn means you have a doctor who doesn’t care very much, not that making it permanent would have drastically changed its play value. Until something like [card]Choke[/card] or [card]Boil[/card] gets reprinted (which is never), switching colors and land types is not likely to be worth a card.
I guess you can combine this plus a removal spell to kill a Blood Baron…
As usual, blue’s clues are more plentiful, which is why I think Dimir will win the race. As for Constructed, I really hope it’s awesome. Creatures are so insanely good these days that I realize it’ll be tough, but uncovering the right mix of spells for a control deck seems really sweet. Playing something like 2 [card]Aetherling[/card]s, 3 [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card]s, 3 [card]Augur of Bolas[/card], 28 land, and 24 spells sounds like a dream to me.
You have to go pretty deep to make this a good one in Limited. I always hope to do so, but am skeptical that it’s going to be right.
It’s the end of the blue section, and I’m too winded to describe why this isn’t playable in Constructed.
Ah, good old [card]Wind Drake[/card]. The value of this card rarely varies format to format, and I can’t imagine it’s too far off here. Sometimes it’s better than other times, but not usually by a whole lot.
Breaking // Entering
Not only does this provide [card]Glimpse the Unthinkable[/card] numbers 5-8, [card]Reanimate[/card] with haste is not an effect to be dismissed. There are so many monstrous creatures running around these days, and haste makes something like [card]Griselbrand[/card] insane. Normally, the Griseldad gets passed up in favor of [card]Angel of Serenity[/card] or [card]Craterhoof Behemoth[/card] because of immediate impact, so it will be interesting to see what happens now that he can attack right away. The fact that Breaking // Entering is both a reanimate spell and an enabler is very powerful, and by far the most interesting part about the card. I’m also mildly amused by how filthy many of the split card names can be, depending on how you interpret them.
A big point in this card’s favor is that it can pull creatures from either graveyard. One of the biggest risks with reanimation spells is being stuck without a target, and that’s much less likely with ones that aren’t restricted to your own
Far // Away
This is far and away the most obvious pun to make, and I’m ready and willing to do so. The card is also awesome, providing two powerful and synergistic effects. I’m happy paying one more mana for [card]Devour Flesh[/card] in order to get the option to [card]Unsummon[/card] on the side, especially since casting both together is so good. You probably can’t play just these or you risk getting choked at 3 mana for removal, but a couple seems great in any UB deck.
Edicts are not historically as good in Limited as Constructed, just because boards get cluttered with garbage so easily, but the addition of [card]Unsummon[/card] makes this incredibly good. Besides removing two of their guys, you can just bounce your own creature in response to removal and pick up a free card on the way. The black half is also playable by itself, though not incredibly exciting.
Haunter of Nightveil
[draft]haunter of nightveil[/draft]
Much like your opponent’s creatures, this lacks power.
Getting haunted by this seems very annoying, which is a good indicator of its power level. It’s reasonably large already, and shrinking their entire team, even by just 1, is significant. [card]Thunderstaff[/card] was always underrated in Mirrodin, and [card]Haunter of Nightveil[/card] seems a reasonable amount better.
Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker
[draft]mirko vosk, mind drinker[/draft]
I wouldn’t mind if Dimir got a sweet champion from time to time, though I guess [card]Aetherling[/card] fits the bill. Mirko is cool, but takes way too many hits to kill the opponent, and at five mana is just out of his league when it comes to Constructed.
A 2/4 when it comes to creature combat, Mirko actually wins the game in two or three hits. That’s a fast enough clock to make him an implicit threat, and he isn’t the easiest to block or kill either.
The power level of this card is very high, but has a narrow range. When it’s good, it’s insane, providing one of the biggest card advantage swings possible. Playing this in response is better than [card]misdirection[/card] on an [card]Ancestral Recall[/card], and nobody in history has won after that. It also can stomp on [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card] pretty hard. Imagine, if you will, playing this when your opponent +0s Jace. They draw zero, put two back, and lose their Jace to Notion Thief—all while you draw three.
Granted, that’s a somewhat ambitious scenario, given that it has to occur in Legacy or Vintage, but that it’s possible is intriguing. I could see [card]Notion Thief[/card] as a potential playable in a BUG deck with [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card]s, just because of how big a beating he is against so much of the format.
As for Standard, I’m not sure how you cast [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card] into 2UB anymore. I guess you probably have to, but I’m going to have nightmares of [card]Notion Thief[/card] every time I tap out for a Revelation, and sometimes they will come true. The fact that it’s a 3/1 flash makes it potentially more than just a sideboard card, though its role remains to be seen. It’s brutal against card draw and planeswalkers, but less so against random creatures. Just the presence of this will drastically change how games play out, even if it doesn’t end up a format staple.
I can’t fathom not playing this, but don’t expect it to draw me a ton of extra cards. It’s an incredible blowout if it ever does, and even as just a 3/1 flash it has a decent amount of utility.
I’ve played my fair share of [card]Divination[/card]s before (though I am obliged to point out that Patrick Chapin actually played literal [card]Divination[/card] at the last Pro Tour), and this is substantially better. Filling up your graveyard draws you extra cards off [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] and flashback, which might be just the nudge this needs to see some play. There is a lot of competition for card draw/cycling slots these days ([card]Augur of Bolas[/card], [card]Think Twice[/card], [card]Thought Scour[/card], [card]Azorius Charm[/card]), so I wouldn’t plan on this seeing a ton of play, though it’s definitely worth careful consideration.
I’ve never met a [card]Divination[/card] I didn’t like, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise when I pilfer all of these. I’m guessing you should mostly mill the opponent, unless one of the two of you has scavenge cards to worry about.
Until I get a lobotomy, I’m going to be suspicious of this class of card. This one at least lets you reap some value, even if it’s expensive enough that you probably won’t be able to go too deep. Revelation mirrors have so many sick options already, and this is just another potential late game card to consider. If you can resolve it for six or seven mana, it should be pretty good, but that’s a big “if.”
This is basically just a [card]Mind Warp[/card] (the pop-up is handy for the 90% of people who have never heard of such a card). It’s too slow in the dark, but some matchups are slow enough to justify it.
The parade of removal continues. This does a fantastic job early in the game, and even later can reliably kill 2-3 toughness creatures. I think this is the removal spell Esper was looking for, and am excited to try a couple out. This isn’t powerful enough to warp the metagame, and if you ever do this mid-combat and get [card]Ghor-Clan Rampager[/card]’d in response, you probably just die.
[card]Warped Physique[/card] is premium removal by anyone’s definition, and sure to be a very high pick. Instant-speed kill is always highly desirable, and it isn’t hard to get just about anything with this. It is annoying that it now gives you a reason to sandbag lands, so keep that in mind if you have any of these in your deck.
This might land in the right place as a Constructed sideboard card. It blocks a decent amount of creatures ([card]Flinthoof Boar[/card], [card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/card], [card]Loxodon Smiter[/card], [card]Huntmaster of the Fells[/card], [card]Thragtusk[/card], [card]Craterhoof Behemoth[/card]), and when it’s time to beat down it’s unblockable. It’s powerful enough to be worth thinking about, and if there is an aggressive deck that can cast it, it might be quite good.
I really like this card for Limited. It’s a 2/1 for 2 that randomly hoses their team and is unblockable. As I said before, protection is even better than normal in a gold set, and it’s normally very good.
Blast of Genius
[draft]Blast of Genius[/draft]
This design is genius. All the parts of the card work well together, and it’s a blast regardless of how you use it. Sometimes you are going to have to point this at something and hope to draw an expensive card, and sometimes you cast it not caring about the damage. The most likely way this sees play is in a deck that wants to dump large things into the bin, especially since it kills the opponent’s biggest threat while doing so. We’ve got a lot of expensive reanimation-ish cards floating around (this, [card]Obzedat’s Aid[/card], [card]Breaking // Entering[/card]), and there might be a way to combine some number of them into an effective engine.
Card advantage plus removal? Sign me up! This is good to play, good to splash, and a nice early pick. Discarding an expensive card may have more of a cost in Limited than Standard, but this will still be awesome.
Catch // Release
Both halves of this card hose planeswalkers pretty badly, and both are powerful. Release is the more controllish half, and the one most likely to make the card playable. Using it as a giant global [card]Innocent Blood[/card] seems like a solid plan, especially if you can somewhat reliably cast both halves, reaping a fairly large benefit in the process. The whole deal is expensive enough that I wouldn’t recommend playing a bunch of these, but if you need a way to answer planeswalkers, this is certainly it. It also does a decent number on [card]Thragtusk[/card], assuming you can get to nine mana.
At six mana, the effect isn’t spectacular, and at three mana, it’s playable but not great. It really starts to get exciting at nine mana, so I wouldn’t play this unless I could cast both halves, with an exception only if you are incredibly aggressive. It’s just too hard to break the symmetry without hitting nine mana, which seems like a lot to ask. It is pretty good out of the sideboard against the less-common permanent types (artifact, enchantment, planeswalker), so keep that in mind.
Who doesn’t want to turn their army into a squadron of Dragons? If there is a UR deck that reliably ends up with a bunch of creatures, this is an awesome way to break board stalls. It’s also an instant, opening the door for a variety of cool tricks.
I overshot [card]Biomass Mutation[/card] by a fair amount, but I think this has some key differences. The format isn’t quite as fast, despite still looking faster than I’d like. It gives your team flying, and it’s useful as a combat trick even in the early game. The last one is the most relevant, making this more of a split card than most [card]Overrun[/card] effects, and exactly what you want out of your late game finisher.
Charging us four mana for this certainly makes it easy to switch this out for a card that’s actually efficient.
I like [card]Dancing Scimitar[/card] already, so adding a pretty big upside makes this a win in my book.
Goblin Test Pilot
[draft]Goblin Test Pilot[/draft]
I sure hope not…
Bust out the dice, it’s time to get rolling. The best use for this seems to be in the token matchup where your opponent reliably has more creatures than you. Your investment isn’t huge, so as long as you are favored to hit something on their side, I think this works out well enough. I will admit that I hate the idea of this card less than I used to—just because the randomness is more in your face doesn’t make it that much worse than a normal card.
Melek, Izzet Paragon
[draft]Melek, Izzet Paragon[/draft]
Untapping with this seems awesome, but that doesn’t make Melek unique among six-drops. I think I’d rather just go with Niv-Mizzet, since he at least is a 5/5 flier, and almost as awesome if he survives.
You don’t need that many spells to make Melek sweet, though the rating is predicated on getting him/her/it early and drafting accordingly. Once you hit 10+ spells, Melek seems pretty awesome, even if a bit expensive.
[card]Calcite Snapper[/card] never really made it to the big leagues, and Ol’ Snappy seems more powerful than the Cyclops. Not having shroud makes its chances abruptly decay, and they weren’t high to begin with. [card]Kiln Fiend[/card] was cheap, at least, and still only sees play in completely all-in, mono-red decks.
I like walls, and walls that eat creatures for free if you happen to have a spell are pretty nice. This even goes above and beyond, smacking the opponent for 4 if you choose to cast spells on your turn.
Turn // Burn
Split cards are so cool. This is two effects, neither of which are all that close to playable on their own, yet the combination seems like it will see a good amount of play. Killing things like [card]Thragtusk[/card] and [card]Angel of Serenity[/card] that usually punish you for doing so is awesome, and getting the ability on a 2-drop burn spell makes this still relevant in the early game. I’d be shocked if this didn’t show up at least as a 1-2 of in most UR decks.
Getting [card]Shock[/card], [card]Humble[/card], and [card]Terminate[/card] all in the same card makes for a great Limited removal spell, and an easy way to get a nice 2-for-1.
Top Blue Cards
This one’s pretty easy. Not only is this the card I want to play with the most, it’s also the most powerful. I expect good things out of Aetherling.
Limited: [card]Runner’s Bane[/card]
As bad a rap as removal auras normally get, I think this is the real deal. It looks like good removal to me.
Top Dimir Cards
3. [card]Warped Physique[/card]
2. [card]Notion Thief[/card]
1. [card]Far // Away[/card]
There are a ton of good removal spells in this set, and Dimir picked up more than its fair share. It also got the most devastating answer to [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card] in the set, even if [card]Sire of Insanity[/card] and [card]Voice of Resurgence[/card] are more powerful.
Limited: [card]Far // Away[/card]
[card]Jilt[/card] is back, and has switched colors on us. Jilt was always amazing, and I expect the same of Far // Away.
Top Izzet Cards
3. [card]Blast of Genius[/card]
2. [card]Catch // Release[/card]
1. [card]Turn // Burn[/card]
Split cards reign supreme, as the cheap removal spell and the expensive utility spell both end up on top. Blast is the most speculative of the three, but certainly the sweetest.
Limited: [card]Turn // Burn[/card]
I really wanted to put [card]Blast of Genius[/card] here, but Turn // Burn is just too cheap and too powerful to leave out. The fact that it’s good at both two and five mana puts it far ahead of Blast of Genius, even if I do really want to draw 3 cards.
Tomorrow I move on to black, with Golgari and Rakdos alongside it!