Here’s the rating system I’ll be using, though I won’t be reviewing “1s” today.
5.0: Multi-format all-star. (Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Tarmogoyf. Snapcaster Mage. Judge’s Familar)
4.0: Format staple. (Sphinx’s Revelation. Supreme Verdict. Thoughtseize. Pack Rat)
3.5: Good in multiple archetypes and formats, but not a staple. (Geist of Saint Traft. Nightveil Specter)
3.0: Archetype staple. (Underworld Connections. Thassa, God of the Sea)
2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. (Rapid Hybridization. Divination)
2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. Naturalize. (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 debated palming this off onto the Mardu review, but it really is a Jeskai card, so here we are. The combination of effects here is powerful, but needs a deck that wants both sides in order for this to be good. That pretty much means a race situation, where preventing damage helps you survive and dealing damage is actually relevant, which narrows things down to the sideboard of an aggressive deck. They have to be attacking or targeting you directly for this to work, so siding it in against control decks doesn’t make a ton of sense. I like the idea of making Polukranos punch its controller out of a Boros aggro deck, and even the existence of this card could force people to play differently.
The main use for this will be to enable wacky combos, where untapping creatures generates mana and this lets you cycle through your deck. Using it as an Anthem or Overrun kind of effect seems could also work, though most things involving this seem fairly contrived in general. It’s definitely possible that there is a really broken deck with this, but decks like that tend to be great or horrendous, and we shall soon see which it is.
This doesn’t have quite the raw power of Abzan Charm, but it does a few things that combine well. Out of a Jeskai control deck, it plays the part of creature removal and planeswalker removal, which makes it a lot more versatile than it looks. It’s actually very similar to Azorius Charm, as the third mode is good in the same situations. Sadly, costing an extra colored mana and not drawing a card makes this a lot less powerful, but it still seems good enough to see play. Solving multiple problems at once is a good place to be, and having a swingy and situational third mode is a solid bonus on top of that.
Mantis Rider is exactly the kind of card that lives or dies based on what removal sees play (both literally and figuratively). It’s not cheap enough to shrug off 1-for-1 removal at low cost (if they spend 2 mana to kill your 1 drop, you aren’t unhappy; once it costs 3, that changes significantly) and it’s not expensive enough to deliver the power of a Polukranos, where it’s worth the risk of getting killed immediately. It is efficient enough to be good for its cost, and if it isn’t dying immediately it can deliver a beatdown and block all sorts of 2-power creatures. If everyone is jamming Lightning Strikes, Anger of the Gods, and Bile Blight, I’d avoid this. If there are more Hero’s Downfalls, Silence the Believers, and End Hostilities, this becomes a much more attractive option. There’s also the matter of mana, and finding a deck that is all 3 colors while wanting to beat down, or at least somewhat beatdown in the case of a low-curve midrange deck.
Master the Way
Five mana to draw a card and deal 5 is not that bad a deal, and this can even do more than that if you set it up right. There are worse ways to kill cards like Nissa or Chandra, and if UR control decks need to contain planeswalkers I could see this seeing some play. It’s expensive and a sorcery, so that definitely makes it tougher, but it’s possible.
Narset, Enlightened Master
I’ve long since learned to review every card with hexproof that seems even quasi-reasonable, as it’s just that powerful of a mechanic. Narset won’t be used the way most hexproof creatures are, but she still provides an almost unkillable threat in the lategame, a threat with the potential to draw a few cards and generate a bunch of mana. She even blocks very well as soon as she comes out, which increases the chances you survive dramatically. You need a deck full of Master the Ways and the like to make her good, which does border on (or cross the border) on being clunky, so if there’s a way to make her pay off while being a playable deck without her that will be the trick.
There are plenty of clever things you can do with this, and it’s a pretty sweet card in general. Copying a planeswalker sounds pretty good, though it’s usually not great to be the second planeswalker to the party. It’s better than it used to be, certainly, but playing the second Sarkhan or Chandra isn’t insane. It is pretty nice to play the second Nissa, as you can often just kill theirs immediately, and the second Elspeth is at least decent. Being able to Clone creatures is obviously part of the card too, and adding together all the things this can do makes it sound at least worth trying. It might be sideboard material against a deck with a lot of targets, and might just be something like a Chord of Calling target in a blue/green deck. It’s too bad it doesn’t let you double up on your own planeswalker, but that’s probably for the best.
Dig Through Time
I want this to be good and I’m going to spend a lot of time digging to make that happen, but it’s still an 8-mana spell to begin with. Between this and Treasure Cruise, I’m a little more optimistic about this. Instant speed is way better than sorcery, and look at seven choose two is almost always better than just draw three, especially at the point in the game where these spells will get cast. It’s not quite Sphinx’s Revelation when it comes to closing out games, so I more envision this in a deck that fills its graveyard while digging to a specific card or combination, and uses that to win the game.
Cheap situational counterspells are always good sideboard options, and this could definitely see play in an aggro-control style of deck.
Embodiment of Spring
Ramp spells are always worth looking at, even ones that are the embodiment of mediocrity. An 0/3 at least blocks pretty well, so if this ends up being a three-mana Rampant Growth that gains you 2-4 life, it could be good enough.
Like Seeker of the Way, this gives you a reason to go down the prowess route and rewards you well for doing so, but unlike Seeker, this is kind of puny to begin with. I wonder if prowess cards in general were too good during initial testing, as they all seem smaller for their cost than I would have guessed.
Pearl Lake Ancient
Between this and Surrak Dragonclaw, counterspells are just taking a beating. That has the ripple effect of making cards like this less good, as they become a victim of their own success. This is still a giant flash beater that is hard to kill, though prowess is essentially flavor text on a non-evasive creature of this size. I’d be happy if I got to play this, as it looks incredibly cool, but it would take a very specific metagame to do so. It may find a home in the sideboard, as it is very hard for a control deck to beat.
I’m much more likely to use my delve slots on cards like Dig Through Time, but if there’s an aggro deck that dumps a lot of cards into the bin, this could be kind of cool. When cheap, it’s a good tempo play, though it doesn’t play all that well in multiples.
I would have to be very sure about my deck before I put this in my sideboard over Negate, but the payoff is definitely there. Countering a spell for one mana is just a whole other level of efficiency, and makes the plan of playing beaters and leaving mana up way more realistic. It’s also naturally great against 5+ mana cards, and even the mere existence of this will change how people play (giving blue aggro/midrange decks an advantage even if they aren’t playing it).
I suspect Dig Through Time has made Treasure Cruise nearly obsolete, but Treasure Cruise is more splashable and is better raw card draw, so there’s a chance it sees some play.
Top 5 Blue/Jeskai Cards
Me putting Dig Through Time first is more a measure of what I want to have happen than what actually will happen, though I do think it’s a very viable card. Blue didn’t get any windmill slam cards this time around, at least not compared to white, though a lot of its cards have high potential (Dig and Ascendancy are the best examples of that). Blue is tricky, and tricky cards tend to be harder to evaluate, so things will be much clearer in a few weeks.