Now that I’m (mostly) done with Limited Fate Reforged reviews, it’s time to move on to Constructed. You can find the Limited reviews here:
I also did the Limited Resources review of every common and uncommon in the set with Marshall Sutcliffe, which you can listen to here (rares and mythics are coming next week).
For Constructed, things work slightly differently. First of all, I don’t review every card in the set, just the ones I think have Constructed applications. If I missed a card you think is awesome, feel free to post it in the comments or ask me about it on Twitter. I try to evaluate cards without using best-case scenario mentality (I gotta start using LR slang, right?), but I’ve certainly missed cards in the past, and if you can think of a good reason a card could be great, I would like to hear it.
The ratings scale I use is also a bit different, with different meanings for each number. That scale looks like so:
5.0: Multi-format all-star. (Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Tarmogoyf. Snapcaster Mage. Dack Fayden.)
4.0: Format staple. (Siege Rhino. Courser of Kruphix. Delver of Secrets.)
3.5: Good in multiple archetypes and formats, but not a staple. (Stormbreath Dragon. Seeker of the Way.)
3.0: Archetype staple. (Chained to the Rocks. Sidisi, Brood Tyrant.)
2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. (Perilous Vault. Heir of the Wilds.)
2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. (Naturalize. Savage Knuckleblade.) 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.)
With that, let’s take a look at some cards.
The power level of cards is high enough nowadays that I doubt this will really be good enough, but there is some merit to casting this on turn two against a mono-red deck. Not being able to block Rabblemaster is my biggest concern, so if you can answer that and just want a way to not die to Foundry Street Denizen, this could be your guy. Plus, I’m arashinaly fond of life gain, so I had to at least mention it.
Paying four mana to lock down their best creature is something I may be interested in. This gets to change to whatever the current best creature is, and can play the Icy Manipulator to End Hostilities‘ Wrath of God. If that combo was good enough in 1993, surely it is good enough now? As much as that isn’t true, I do like the potential of this as a control card. Stopping a creature right away is a huge upgrade from Martial Law, which saw no play.
Of course, there’s another mode too. In the UW Control deck I’m thinking of, this mode may as well not exist, but there’s nothing stopping you from playing this in one of the various Siege Rhino decks. There, you can decide if you want to take control or be proactive, and making your Siege Rhinos giant goes a long way in getting your opponent dead.
Daghatar the Adamant
Daghatar is a 4/4 for four, which is slightly below rate, and to make up for that he can change the stats of your creatures whenever you have mana available. The activated ability has to be what sells the card, and it does seem a little too expensive here. Daghatar does make combat a nightmare for your opponent, but three mana is a lot to keep up, and if you play Daghatar and he dies to a removal spell, you didn’t get any sort of edge.
Honor’s Reward may look like just a combat trick, but it’s bolstered by a good chunk of life gain. Incidental life gain has proven itself valuable time and time again in Constructed, so any card with a plausible other ability is worth looking at. I don’t think the life gain and the combat trick aspect overlap well against any matchup, which makes it less likely this is good, so I’m waiting for the life gain card that has enough anti-aggro appeal that it’s worth sideboard space.
On its face, this is not a card you would assume is Constructed playable, but it’s a potential combo card, and as such is worth mentioning. I don’t know what bizarre combination of cards would make this sweet, but it can’t hurt to be aware of a cheap way to recur value creatures (that is a creature itself).
Unlike in Limited, this is weaker than Cloudform, as removal is much more prevalent. What you want to do with Lightform is manifest a creature that’s cheap and effective to flip up, with Hooded Hydra sounding like the best option in Standard (more on this from Travis Woo, tonight). It’s probably not good enough to just spin the wheel, though this could be an interesting addition to a green/white deck in that role. Is it time to bring back Hammer Time, one of the finest decks that Paul and I ever built? Probably not, no, but Lightform isn’t card disadvantage, and if you have enough hits in your deck, it could be pretty sweet.
1-drops are at a record low right now, but Woe-Reaper may be one of the cards that changes that. Enters-the-battlefield tapped lands are such a crucial part of most mana bases, and they fight with 1-drops when it comes to deck composition. Woe-Reaper is powerful, efficient, and gives a deck full of Warriors a way to hate on graveyard decks for free. The life gain isn’t bad either, and both aspects make this a good addition to any deck that wants 2/1s for 1. Of course, whether such a deck exists is yet to be seen.
Mastery of the Unseen
While paying 4 mana for a 2/2 may not strike you as powerful enough, there may be unseen applications for this card. I’m mostly interested in it as a sideboard card for attrition matchups, particularly in a deck with actual creatures to manifest and with no other enchantments, so that this won’t get hit by incidental Erases and the like.
This card snowballs incredibly quickly. Each subsequent spell lets you hit the opponent for more and more damage, and makes your board presence that much more difficult to deal with. The obvious comparison is Young Pyromancer, which has gone on to dominate both Modern and Vintage, but there are some key differences. In older formats, I still prefer Pyromancer because of the lower mana cost and better color, but in Standard I could see Monastery Mentor making way more of an impact than Pyromancer ever did.
White is incredibly good right now, and there is already a deck that plays cards like Defiant Strike, Gods Willing, and likely now Valorous Stance. Additionally, the tokens having prowess makes up for the extra cost, as Standard games are slower and less tight on mana than games in older formats. Besides trying this in UW Heroic, combining Monastery Mentor and Chained to the Rocks could be good, especially with the access you would then have to cheap red burn spells.
Monastery Mentor is a powerful card, and there are a lot of bonuses to making tokens in Standard right now, so I would expect it to see a good amount of play.
It may not be Hordeling Outburst, but three mana for a 2/1 and a 1/1 flier is a deal that some decks may be interested in. If you just want creatures in play, this may be a step above your next option, though Brimaz probably has something to say about it.
Soulfire Grand Master
This card is awesome. First off, it’s a 2/2 lifelink for 2, which is not that far below what I’d expect to get for 2 mana. Second, it makes all your Lightning Strikes and Stoke the Flames into huge life swings, which gives you plenty of time to take advantage of the third awesome ability that Soulfire Grand Master offers. Paying 4 mana to buy back a spell is a very good way to get value in a long game, and synergizes very nicely with everything else the Grand Master does.
It is important to note that the spell has to resolve to get it back, so a counterspell or removing the spell’s target (in the case of single-target spells) would stop it. If you are worried about that, just Stoke your opponent directly instead of targeting their creatures, which is likely what you want to do anyway.
I think you want to be able to use both the spell lifelink and buyback abilities if you play this card, which makes a red/white deck the natural fit. The burn spells are awesome, and Stoke in particular works very well with the buyback ability by sometimes costing zero actual mana to cast.
Spell-based decks get some nice additions between this and Monastery Mentor, and I’m interested in seeing where that goes. I like the idea of casting a 1-mana Treasure Cruise, returning it to my hand, and putting a 1/1 token into play.
My stance on this is that it’s awesome, and has a legitimate shot at being one of the best non-Tasigur card in the set (spoilers). Valorous Stance is a removal spell that doubles as a way to save your creature, and does either at a very efficient cost. One of the biggest drawbacks to removal spells is that they can be dead when you want to apply pressure, but Valorous Stance helps in exactly that situation by keeping your threats alive against cards like Hero’s Downfall and End Hostilities.
The only drawback to Stance is that it misses most 2-drops and Goblin Rabblemaster, so you can’t rely on just Valorous Stance in a deck that wants removal (though a deck like UW Heroic can easily play this as the only removal spell). As such, it may not be a consistent 4-of—two or three copies give you plenty of this effect. This may even be good enough to put in control decks that don’t have creatures of their own, which shows how powerful this card is, and how often it is going to show up.
Top 5 White Cards
White got some awesome new cards. Both Mentor and Grand Master are great build-arounds, and I love when a lot of the powerful cards rely on synergy rather than just rate. It leads to interesting decks, and that’s always a plus. On the other side of things, Valorous Stance is very flexible and powerful without being demanding, which is also needed to make sure every deck has access to good tools and answer cards. Stance is both, and I expect it to show up in many places. Woe-Reaper and Citadel Siege are good for aggressive and controlling decks respectively, and it’s always good to have more options, especially for underrepresented archetypes (like 1-drop aggro).
Next up is blue, which has the next Stoneforge Mystic…