Previous Set Reviews:
Time to wrap up the reviews. All I've got left are the cards with lots of colors or no colors, after which I'll take a look at the top 10 commons of the set. Let's get to it!
5.0: The best of the best. (Pack Rat. Umezawa's Jitte. Wingmate Roc)
4.5: Incredible bomb, but not unbeatable. (Butcher of the Horde. Savage Knuckleblade. Crater's Claws)
4.0: Good rare or top tier uncommon. (Triplicate Spirits. End Hostilities. Necropolis Fiend)
3.5: Top tier common or solid uncommon. (Lightning Strike. Woolly Loxodon. Suspension Field)
3.0: Good playable that basically always makes the cut. (Debilitating Injury. Mardu Hordechief. Flesh to Dust)
2.5: Solid playable that rarely gets cut. (Glacial Stalker. Bitter Revelation. Hunt the Weak)
2.0: Good filler, but sometimes gets cut. (Dragonscale Boon. Defiant Strike. Cancel)
1.5: Filler. Gets cut about half the time. (Scout the Borders. Aeronaut Tinkerer. Ranger's Guile)
1.0: Bad filler. Gets cut most of the time. (Tusked Colossodon. Bronze Sable. Oppressive Rays)
0.5: Very low-end playables and sideboard material. (Naturalize. Feed the Clan. Congregate)
0.0: Completely unplayable. (Search the City. Pyxis of Pandemonium)
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
First things first: Ugin costs 8, and 8 is A LOT. Every mana above 6 represents more than a full turn, and going from 7 to 8 is a bigger jump than going from 6 to 7 (which is already a big one). In order to even reliably hit 8 mana before the game ends, you will want to make a deck that has good defense, and at least a few ways of drawing extra cards, because adding an 8-drop to a normal deck just won't work.
That's the bad news.
The good news is that if you do cast Ugin, he does a turn of work. The +2 can pick off most creatures, leaving you with a 9-loyalty planeswalker, and the -X can either wipe the board or wipe just their board, if you happen to have the creature with the highest mana cost out. It doesn't hit morphs, which can be an upside or downside, but because you know Ugin is coming you can trade off your creature or choose not to flip up your morphs.
Most games I'd assume Ugin starts by using the -X, then switches to the +2 to wipe up any remaining resistance. The ultimate is cute, but like most planeswalker ultimates, doesn't affect the power level of the card a whole lot. If you are in a position to do this, the other two abilities have likely already won you the game.
Ultimately, Ugin is not the kind of card you can just take and play. You have to draft a controlling deck, and have plenty of ways to make sure you hit 8 mana. The reward is there if you do, but such a challenge is not for the weak-spirited. I also have to point out that Ugin's rating reflects his power level and cost, but because of the special circumstances of costing 8, don't take this to mean that every deck wants him.
Atarka, World Render
As much as I warn against 7-drops that don't have an immediate impact in the case of removal, the potential to deal 12 points of damage a turn renders such warnings useless. Atarka just attacks for too much damage, and is a big enough threat that I'm willing to take the risk of having her bounced or killed because the payoff is so high if she does get to hit.
Also, none of the tribal Dragon nonsense matters on these cards. Even if you somehow have two Dragons in your deck, having both out is already way too lucky to count on.
A cunning way to make me give a card a high grade is to put the text “draw a card” on it, and this card does just that. It's a slightly expensive 2-for-1, but I like instants in this set, and it does what prowess decks want. It's not worth going out of your way to splash, but if you are in these colors you should play it.
Dromoka, the Eternal
A 5/5 flier for five is a completely different animal than most of the Dragons we've seen (I guess if Dragons are animals, it's technically the exact same kind of animal, but whatever). The bonus of bolstering 2 on attack is also a big deal, and everything this card has going for it is excellent.
This card provides significant material value, and there's really no way for your opponent to get around that. They can pass on attacking for fear of an Ambush, but you just get to cast it end of turn, making it hard to ever lose out.
Sometimes you don't hit a real creature, in which case this is just a solid card, but when you do hit something the card becomes excellent. Make sure to keep this in mind when debating an alpha strike, as it is common and good enough to always get played.
That Grim Contest is an instant does make it better than Hunt the Weak, but the multicolor cost keeps it in the same rating range. Using toughness is more a novelty than anything else, though it will lead to interesting decisions and some uneven fights. Archers' Parapet has a few things going for it in this set, and if you can get enough of them it may be worth prioritizing.
The harsh part about this card is that it is at its worst when you are losing on board (barring a stalled board where you are dying to evasion creatures). That aside, it's a great card, as it can kill creatures in the midgame and your opponent in the lategame, all while giving you a nice life boost. Watch out for removal in response, and don't be afraid to overkill creatures just in case.
Kolaghan, the Storm's Fury
Despite the name looking like the written form of someone clearing their throat, Kolaghan is a beating. Just casting it is awesome, and it doesn't even need any friends to be a huge threat. The dash option is exceedingly relevant, and this is probably the card you want to draw most from turn five on. Once the game gets to the point where you have a lot of mana, you may also just want to dash it out every turn, as you get a bonus turn of attacks, and if the game ever stalls you can just cast it instead.
Ojutai, Soul of Winter
The 7-mana Dragons are less impressive than the 5-mana ones, but they are still rare Dragons, and rare Dragons are great. Ojutai is an imposing blocker, clocks them for 5 a turn, and essentially locks down two attackers, by virtue of having vigilance.
Silumgar, the Drifting Death
An unkillable 3/7 flier is impressive enough, and this one casts the small version of Marsh Casualties every time it attacks. This legendary creature lives up to its grandiose name, and is not a card I would greatly consider passing.
The power level is here to justify a higher rating, but War Flare really does need a deck full of creatures to live up to that power level. It's nice that this gets them coming or going, as you can untap your creatures to block if they declined to do so themselves, or you can just cast it to deal 6 extra damage and have the blockers at the ready that way.
It's also a toughness boost, so unlike Trumpet Blast it can do more than lead to extra trades, and don't be afraid to cast this to win one combat and deal 2 extra damage if the game isn't looking like it will lead to a stall. The range here is a little wider than Trumpet Blast. They are both great in the same deck, but I'd play War Flare in any deck with a fair amount of creatures.
Top 5 Multicolor Dragons
(I only put these in order because it felt wrong to not make a Top 5 list of some kind at the end of a section).
Goblin Boom Keg
Paying four to deal 3 is already suspect, and this is one step below sorcery speed to boot. It gives the opponent a turn to prepare, whether that means bolstering or flipping up morphs, and overall is not a card I ever want to play.
People tend to see equipment as a never-ending font of card advantage, but the sharp truth is that high equip costs are very punishing. If you spend 6 mana to equip this and the creature gets bounced or killed, you are down a significant amount of value. I'd rather just be flipping morphs, and the free equip on legendary creatures does not change my opinion on that.
It is a reasonable card for a very slow and grindy matchup, and it does get better with a lot of lifelink. As long as you get one hit in, you have bought yourself enough time to use the sword later.
Hewed Stone Retainers
I keep imagining turns with this that involve fully delved Hooting Mandrills or cards like Defiant Strike, and even just casting this on turn five or six with a normal creature is good. It's a stone blank topdeck, and decks with no 1- or 2-drops aren't really interested in this, but the power level is here to justify some work.
Pilgrim of the Fires
Investing 7 mana into a creature with no evasion and only 4 toughness does not get me fired up, especially with cards like Throttle and Arrow Storm flying around. First strike does at least mean it is a fierce combatant, but I don't plan on finding out how fierce, at least not firsthand.
Scroll of the Masters
You can keep scrolling now that you've seen the grade, but I'll elaborate for those interested in mastering the format. Paying this much mana and these many setup costs for a temporary bonus is not the way to win games. Everything I said about equipment is doubly true here, as this doesn't even start as a card that does anything. Prowess decks want efficient cards, not cards like this, and non-prowess decks won't even dream of playing this.
The upside of having a 4/5 out on turn four is high enough to risk losing a creature or being unable to cast this, and it is pretty easy to just draft a bunch of morphs and be mostly safe. Later in the game this does get much worse, but you can often engineer trades in order to play this safely, and worst comes to worst, just sacrifice a random 2/1 or something.
Top 5 Artifacts
And Ugin's Construct wins in a landslide!
These haven't changed significantly since Khans. If anything, they got a little worse, as 2-color decks are more draftable, but either way I wasn't looking to first-pick these.
Crucible of the Spirit Dragon
If you somehow get four Dragons and are only playing two colors, you should probably play this just for the story. Otherwise, don't.
Top 10 Commons in Fate Reforged
One of the interesting things about doing set reviews is seeing how your evaluations change, and here I found myself adjusting some of the commons just days later. After doing the Limited Resources set review with Marshall (check it out here if you have five hours to spare) I came out with different thoughts on some of the cards. Specifically, I think I had Lotus Path Djinn too low and Sultai Emissary too high, though we will see how everything shakes out once we've had more time with the set.
Sandsteppe Outcast wins the day, as an easy 2-for-1 is not something I can pass up. It's just too efficient, and I think it'll perform very well at low cost. Reach of Shadows is next, as unconditional removal is also very important. It goes down a lot after that, but one interesting thing to note is that there is one red card, and zero green cards here. I obviously could be wrong, but even if some of my judgments are off, that's still a really big gap between the red and green commons and those of other colors. That means fewer people will start red or green, as you pretty much have to open an uncommon or rare to do so, and it should be interesting finding out what the color balance looks like.
Next week I'll start the Constructed reviews, and until then, enjoy the prerelease! I'm likely picking Jeskai, but I'll let fate decide.