Today we have blue, which despite being awesome in Limited, falls a little flat in Constructed. Mana Leak is insane, but there aren’t a whole lot of other interesting cards (though there are certainly some with potential). At least Vintage gets something cool!
As usual, the grading system is as follows:
2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. Celestial Purge. (Bear in mind that many cards fall into this “maybe” category, although explanation of why 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.)
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%)
While interesting enough to not be immediately rejected, I don’t think a slightly harder to cast Man-o’-War is going to be awesome in Constructed. What creatures are you looking to bounce right now? Ranger of Eos? Bloodbraid Elf? Vengevine? If all the higher end creatures are bad targets, you are left with guys that cost 3 or less, which makes the Adept much lower value. If you aren’t getting a mana advantage out of the deal, it is pretty poor, since a random 2/2 isn’t really worth a card. It is nice that she can bounce something like a Birds and trigger Vengevine, but that still doesn’t make up for her general lack of power.
Adept is definitely not cuttable, though this format might not be fast enough for her to be as absurd as the original. The faster your deck is, the better she gets, since if the games are fast enough, bounce is almost as good as removal. Even in a slow deck, she can help you stabilize, and is a good card all around.
Good help is so hard to find.
Losing to Lightning Bolt and other 3-damage effects is annoying, but the tapping ability more than makes it for it (when compared to Air Elemental, obviously). Air Servant dominates the skies and is great even if they don’t have fliers, which makes it absurd if they do. Not many cards can beat Baneslayer Angel, but this one can.
Much like a year ago, there is still nothing alluring about playing this.
In a controllish deck with some decent blockers, like the 5/5 Serpent, Siren can do some good work. Picking off their guys and making combat awkward is fairly powerful for just two mana. On the other hand, if your deck is planning on racing them with fliers, Siren is going to basically be a blank, and most blue decks seem to fall into the latter camp.
I don’t really know what a Cancrix is, and have no desire to find out. You would think something with futuristic armor would be better then a 2/5, but I guess not.
I don’t actually feel too bad about playing this, since if I really need a ground blocker that bad, my deck is probably pretty sweet. Cancrix isn’t going to win any MVP awards, but it sure can hold off random 4/4’s so your Cloud Elementals can kill them.
Cute, but not quite good enough. Scry 3 isn’t quite drawing a card, and the addition of flying doesn’t cover it, so this is a little worse than Elvish Visionary. It is blue, which is always good, but I don’t see a place for this.
The better your deck is, the better this gets, and it is fine to begin with. As has been said many times, this is infinitely better than the always-depressing Sage Owl, and I look forward to scrying with this many times.
This isn’t good enough for Constructed, that’s for zure.
There is no limit to how many Azure Drakes I would play, since it blocks and attacks with equal efficiency. When you drop Assault Griffin, you may bash for more, but you usually won’t be able to block and survive. The Drake comes out, probably blanks their next attack, and then either starts bashing for two or holds the fort while Cloud Elementals do the dirty work.
Call to Mind
When I look at this, the only deck that comes to mind is Pyromancer Ascension. With a few Call to Minds, it is very easy to power up Ascension, though that wasn’t usually the problem with the deck. Even though Call to Mind basically guarantees that you will flip Ascension, I don’t know if it speeds you up enough to make the deck worthwhile. Past combo shenanigans, I doubt Call to Mind will really make an impact.
Despite the low rating, I think I will be pretty happy when I have cause to play this. I figure that the only times I will play this are when my deck has a bunch of awesome spells, in which case Call to Mind will be solid. Most decks are not going to play this, so it shouldn’t really go early. I would say that you want like two-three good targets and two-three mediocre ones before this makes the cut (good meaning removal or Foresee, mediocre meaning Unsummon, Mana Leak, and Negate).
Cancel is still chugging along, picking up work here and there. Nobody has ever been excited to play Cancel in their deck, but sometimes is the right card for the job. Deprive is going to seriously eat into Cancel’s market share, though some decks will play both.
The format is slow enough for Cancel to be a solid playable, and is even quite good in some matchups. Some decks will cut it, particularly the very aggressive UW ones, but I expect to play it the vast majority of the time I draft it. The bombs in M11 are particularly insane, so counterspells in general are important to have.
This will range from solid to insane, and usually closer to insane. It is hard for Clone to be actually bad, since that means they have nothing good in play, in which case you can usually wait, and when it copies a Titan or something the payoff is huge.
Rishadan Airship had three power and it was playable for a while. Cloud Elemental doesn’t and isn’t.
Not being able to block much isn’t that big a deal on your evasion guy, and this particular evasion guy beats most other cheap fliers in a battle. There’s a reason I always use Cloud Elemental as the example when I talk about blue beating down; he is the go-to guy when you want to drop a flier and bash.
This puts me in a bit of a conundrum. I like the card, and want it to be good, but I just don’t think it can compete with the current crop of 4-drops. At what point would you rather cast this than Jace, Bloodbraid Elf, Vengevine, or Ranger? It dies to everything but Lightning Bolt, and doesn’t even guarantee you a card without some work. It is the most aggressively-costed 4/4 flier we have seen in a while, but I still don’t think it will have a chance to shine until Shards block rotates out.
You aren’t likely to get much of an advantage out of the Sphinx’s special ability, though having a few scry cards does up the chances. That doesn’t really matter, since bashing for four a turn in the air is all you need to accomplish, and thanks to the absurdly low casting cost on this guy, you get to start on turn 5.
Snakeform at least drew a card, which made it worth the effort. Having your removal not be able to kill anything by itself is not what you are looking for in Constructed.
I doubt I will cut this often, but it is possible. If your deck is very creature-light, Diminish isn’t actually great, and some UB control decks could definitely fit into that category. This is definitely good removal for most decks, though sometimes you will have to bite the bullet and “chump” a huge guy in order to Diminish post-combat and guarantee the kill, since they can’t use removal to save their guy at that point.
Much like Celestial Purge, Flashfreeze does its job in an orderly but unexciting fashion. It has started to fall out of favor recently, and now that Mana Leak is back, I suspect that trend will continue.
A fine sideboard card, but nothing more than that. As usual with sideboard cards, take them over marginal playables, since they become quite good when you bring them in.
It pains me, but Foresee just doesn’t have a shot nowadays. It is definitely a better card than Divination, but Divination was at the perfect point in the curve for what the decks that played it wanted to do. I miss the days where I got to play 3 Careful Consideration, 3 Mystical Teachings, 2 Foresee as card draw, with 3 Shadowmage Infiltrators just in case, but 4-drops now have a ridiculously high barrier for entry.
Card draw is awesome in slower formats, and Foresee is no exception. I can foresee myself taking this above similarly-rated cards, though don’t go too overboard. Card draw is only good if you have good cards to draw, so at some point you need to take removal or solid creatures over this sort of thing. Still, Foresee is one of the easiest ways to get ahead in this format, so early in a draft I would take it over most cards.
Would shroud really have been too much to ask for? As is, this Titan doesn’t even net you a whole card when you play it, and its ability doesn’t really protect it by the time you get around to playing it.
Frost Titan is not quite as good as the other Titans, but still is fairly ridiculous. It locks down their best creature every turn, and is a 6/6 to boot. I doubt the semi-shroud ability will be all that relevant, but it is a decent bonus I suppose.
Sea Serpents have always been mediocre in Limited, which doesn’t bode well for their Constructed chances.
Now this is what a serpent should look like! If they are playing blue, it’s absurd, and it is more than fine if they aren’t. It might not be able to attack right away, but it should eventually, and being a 5/5 defender will keep you alive until then. Blue getting a pretty monstrous common creature is awesome, and I expect Harbor Serpent to go quite early.
Narcolepsy has neatly supplanted Ice Cage’s chances in the Constructed arena, since having them Bolt a pumped Putrid Leech is a disaster Narcolepsy avoids. I guess you will have to save your icing for Limited and frat parties.
I would always start with Ice Cage in my deck, though it will often get sideboarded out. Not only is it just naturally worse after board, since they will likely bring in Unholy Strength or whatever, if I see multiple Blinding Mage-type cards I will cut the Cages. Removal is removal, and most of the time this should be fine, but the drawback is worth considering when sideboarding. I also don’t like multiple Cages, since if one is bad, three is terrible, and you set yourself up to get blown out.
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
What is there to say about Jace? He has shown up in every Constructed format but Pauper, and thoroughly dominated the smaller ones (Standard and Block). Now that he is getting reprinted, his price should drop to a somewhat more manageable level, since 90 dollar Standard cards are bad for everyone but those who hoard Jaces. As long as Jace is in Standard, he is going to be worth a ton, and I don’t see him going that low even when he rotates out, since he will have a home everywhere else still.
That’s the review I wanted to write, since I really hoped Jace would get reprinted. Sadly, that isn’t the case, and his price isn’t going anywhere but up. As for the actual review:
Little Jace’s role in the metagame has basically been reduced to fratricide (or is it suicide? I really don’t know), as he mainly shows up to deal with opposing Big Jaces. The only time you have little Jace in your deck, it is as the 5th-6th Jace card, and that means only against other decks playing 3-4 Mind Sculptors. Yes, I suppose he shows up in Turbofog-type decks, but like Vampires, I don’t really count them.
One thing is for sure about Planeswalkers: they change any game they are involved in, Constructed or Limited. As soon as Jace hits the table, the game completely revolves around him, and there are a few directions you can go. You can use him as a Jayemdae Tome and keep all your creatures back, counting on the stream of cards to overpower the opponent and force them into bad attacks. Alternately, you can just +2 him every turn, which doesn’t net you card advantage but does usually blank their attack steps, since if they ever stop attacking Jace you can just –1 him or even build towards milling them. The second option often lets you bash with your creatures, since it is hard for them to race you AND kill Jace at the same time. Either way, Jace is awesome.
When If a mill card that has potential is printed, I will be the first to admit it. This is not that card.
This is clearly not a card that you can just put into a deck, but it certainly has its uses. The most obvious is in a mill strategy, where you combine this, Tome Scour, card draw, and maybe Temple Bell or Traumatize in order to try and deck the opponent. If you have multiple Erasures and Tome Scours, it might work, though any sort of half-measure is likely to end in disaster. The other, and more realistic use of Jace’s Erasure is as a sideboard card in the control vs. control matchup. If both of you have a ton of removal and are light on win conditions, Erasure might be awesome, especially if both decks have a fair amount of card draw. You probably won’t pick any up, since someone is bound to try and draft the mill deck, but if you can take one late, might as well.
Will Mana Leak + Jace’s Ingenuity make traditional control viable? Probably not, but you can’t blame me for hoping. If such a deck exists, Ingenuity will be a solid 2.5, and let you refill midgame, losing the power of Mind Spring for the option of countering their spell instead of casting your own.
This is usually going to be better than Foresee, but not by much. Normally, scry 2 is much worse than draw 1, but by the time you cast Jace’s Ingenuity, drawing lands is usually not going to be all that important. The instant speed option is also nice but not that relevant, since most of the time you aren’t going to be keeping counter mana up or anything. I hope I have the option between the two, since that means I’m getting an awesome card draw spell!
Leyline of Anticipation
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I don’t anticipate this particular Leyline being good in Constructed. It has the “Leyline problem” of needing many copies to maximize opening hand potential and being weak in multiples, and hardcasting it just does not seem worth it. I get that the ability is powerful, but I don’t see the rewards being worth the drawbacks. If it does see play, it will be in Vintage most likely, since there at least you can do powerful enough things to make the waste of the card irrelevant. I doubt that will happen either, but it is at least more likely than in Standard.
This is in no way worth a card or four mana.
Now this is a card I can get behind. Just the existence of Mana Leak is going to drastically change how Standard plays, since no longer can you assume that your 4+ mana spells are going to resolve most of the time. Mana Leak might not be great against cascade or Vengevines, but it sure is against Ranger, Sovereigns, planeswalkers, and really anything. I imagine that most blue decks are going to want some number of these, and it is a shot in the arm to blue-white control strategies. The impact on Extended is less exciting, since we never really lost Mana Leak, though it will be quite important in that format too (and my inclusion of it in that Faeries list was a pure oversight, not some sort of inside information).
Leak gets dead fairly quickly, but is going to counter anything in the first six turns of the game or so. Even later, it still gets their expensive cards, especially if they don’t play around it. This definitely gets worse in multiples, but one or two is usually going to be decent.
There is no time when this would have been playable.
This is more of a sideboard card than anything else, since the only cards it stops are cards they shouldn’t be playing in the first place. If they are playing a ton of Glory Seekers and whatnot, feel free to bring this in, but you really shouldn’t be playing this main.
Look, it’s like Polymorph but MASSIVE. This is just too unwieldy for actual use, though it not targeting is kind of nice. In order to have a mass of creatures, you are either playing random castable creatures or many ways to make tokens, and both options have drawbacks. If you are playing castable guys, you might Polymorph into more of them, which defeats the purpose. If you aren’t playing castable guys, and just have a bunch of tokens instead, you need to have a number of Big Guys to Polymorph into, and that leads to plenty of awkward draws. Six mana is a lot, also, and all these problems added together make this not good enough.
In Rise draft, this would have been interesting, since it combines well with Spawn tokens, but the closest we get to that in M11 is Squadron Hawk. If you have four Hawks, I guess you could try and make a sick Mass Polymorph deck, but past that it seems pretty suspect.
You aren’t going to draft enough Merfolk to make this worth it unless you randomly pick up six or seven or have a deck really light on playables. If those are the two options, I don’t like your chances in the draft.
I don’t think I am ever going to sideboard this in, but if you end up with a U-based beatdown deck and are playing against another blue deck, this isn’t the worst. I sided in Grayscaled Gharial a fair amount against the mill deck in Ravnica draft, and I suppose this is strictly better.
I have yet to really be impressed with Mind Control, despite trying it in a variety of sideboards. While it is a decent answer to Malakir Bloodwitch, it is so bad against the rest of the Jund deck that it never quite works out for me. Vapor Snare is splashable in decks that really want to answer Baneslayer, since most blue decks don’t care about Baneslayer Angel very much.
It doesn’t get much better than Mind Control. Unanswered, it is at the very least a two-for-one, and since you are taking their best guy, it is often more than that. There are very few cards I would take over Mind Control, and it is the biggest reason to make sure you pick up some random enchantment removal or bounce.
With Mana Leak back, Negate is no longer much of a maindeck card. It is still a fine sideboard card, but Mana Leak just does its job better.
Limited: 2.5 in Sealed, 2.0 in Draft
I normally don’t vary my ratings much for Draft and Sealed, but Negate is much better in Sealed. The format is slower, and most decks will have a number of bombs that you want to stop. In Draft, I don’t mind playing Negate main, but it is much less of a sure thing.
This wouldn’t be remotely playable even without the drawback.
The Beast is a solid blocker, and the drawback isn’t big enough that I would cut it from the main. Like Ice Cage, it is often sided out, but playing one of these is fine.
The Constructed rating on this card is mostly predicated on its Vintage playability, since I think Ponder is going to be better in most decks. If you can’t shuffle, Preordain is better, but shuffles are pretty easy to come by nowadays. In Vintage, Ponder and the like are restricted, so Preordain is the only game in town. I think it will perform well, since it digs rapidly for the awesome cards you get to play in Vintage. Part of the reason that Ponder and Preordain don’t see any play in Standard is that you aren’t finding anything powerful enough to make up for the time wasted in casting these cantrips. In Vintage and Legacy, you are digging for cards like Dark Ritual, Force of Will, Black Lotus, etc., and these cards more than make up for the time lost. In Standard, you have nothing you can find really, so the cards don’t see play.
Don’t let the high rating fool you. While I would never cut Preordain, it isn’t better than most “good” cards, unless your deck is kind of mediocre and you have a few ridiculous bombs. In that case, go nuts!
I tried to make Swerve work in Grixis, and redirect is way more awesome. It gets Blightning real good, and even can retarget Maelstrom Pulse or Terminate, so if you are playing a blue deck with creatures, it seems pretty sweet vs. Jund. It also serves a good purpose in a matchup that involves counter wars, making this a reasonable card to have in your sideboard.
Limited: 2.5 in Sealed, 1.0 in Draft
It seems pretty greedy to start this in draft, but I would definitely play it main in Sealed. It is a sick sideboard card, and should lead to some pretty ridiculous blowouts.
Strictly better than Ophidian, but it has been a long time since Ophidian was remotely good enough. Cards are just too good in all the formats to bother trying to steal games with this.
I would usually play one of these, though it won’t get through all that often. It combines very well with removal, obviously, and even if you don’t have removal, the opponent doesn’t know that. They will often be forced to leave multiple blockers back to avoid getting 2 for 1ed by removal, or they will use their removal on the Scroll Thief. Overall he can perform a bit above his pay grade, even if you can’t really take that much advantage of him. Of course, when you can take advantage of him, with Whispersilk Cloak or Blinding Mage or whatever, he should deliver the game in short order.
I expect people to be as up in arms about my “low” rating of Sleep this time as they were last time, but I haven’t changed my opinion. Sleep is not an auto-include, since if you aren’t pressuring them it really doesn’t do anything. If you are in a race, sure, it’s awesome, but not every game comes down to that. Nothing is more miserable than having cards like this when you need something that affects the board. In some decks it is quite good, but early in the draft I don’t think I would slam this over something like Foresee.
Another set, another interesting reanimator target. The Leviathan is better than [card]Blazing Archon[/card] against a fair segment of the population, though the fact that it fails hard at stopping Merfolk is a definite strike against it. While it does kill faster than Archon, the ease in which some decks get around it is likely going to axe any chances of it being good.
Eight-casting cost spells are always suspect, since fast decks will have too many games where they never get there. This does give you your mana’s worth in value though, since it stops them from attacking as soon as it comes out, and puts them on a really fast clock. Early in the draft this is a high pick, since you can build your deck to survive until eight, but later in the draft you might have too fast a deck to be interested.
Any card this powerful is worth notice, but I think that Time Reversal is dangerously over-hyped. In order for this effect to be good, you have to either use your cards to generate a ton of mana or you have to cast this absurdly early. Since there are very few good rituals in any non-Legacy format, the mana generation part seems difficult to accomplish. It is worth noting that the “all burn spell” strategy is essentially accomplishing the same thing, with your burn attempting to end the game before they can use the extra cards they have been given. Right now it doesn’t look like there are the cards to take advantage of the effect that this offers, and until there are this is probably going to see no real play.
I guess you can side this in against the mill deck, though Jace’s Erasure gets around it pretty well. It doesn’t seem realistic to accumulate enough cheap spells to get a measurable edge out of Time Reversal, so I wouldn’t bother.
Crypt of Agadeem makes this barely playable in theory, but that deck hasn’t seen the light of play in many months, even if you scour all the MTGO decklists.
The mill deck, etc. For the record I never saw the deck succeed in an M10 draft, though it is theoretically there sometimes.
Even the Crypt of Agadeem deck doesn’t want this one!
No, opening this is not a sign you should be drafting the mill deck, even if you think you can wheel the Tome Scour out of the pack.
Every now and then there is a hint that Unsummon might be Constructed playable, but such rumors often prove to be false. Even in the Turboland deck, Unsummon is too much of a lost card to really be worth it.
Exactly one Unsummon is fine to start, with the option of more postboard against removal or enchantment-heavy decks. I suppose if you are very aggressive, multiple Unsummons is passable, but I would be wary of doing so.
Wall of Frost
Every time I look at Wall of Frost, I realize I could just be playing Wall of Denial, since UW is the only deck interested in this sort of effect anyway.
If you want a wall (and blue usually does), this is a good one. It is not quite as effective as it looks, from experience, since even against two creatures they still get damage through every other turn; the inability to actually kill things is annoying. It still does the job, and stops almost every ground creature in the format.
I guess this is the guy that brings Morphling coffee and does his laundry (and even Morphling wouldn’t be good enough in Standard).
blue gets some pretty good groundpounders in this set, with both this and Harbor Serpent locking up the ground really well. Water Servant can block anything and live, or just trade for anything with six or less toughness. Even at 2UU for a 3/4, it would be good, and it is much more than that.
Top 5 Constructed Cards for blue
blue gets a mixed bag here. On the one hand, Mana Leak is one of the best cards in the set for Constructed, if not THE best. On the other hand, blue gets almost nothing else of interest for most formats. Preordain is a good boost for Vintage, but past that there is nothing all that special. Negate will see play, but Jace’s Ingenuity certainly might not, and nobody is ever excited about Cancel. It’s a shame the Titan isn’t cool, since that cycle as a whole is pretty awesome.
Top 5 Commons for Limited
Azure Drake and Foresee are pretty far ahead of the rest, with the last three being interchangeable, depending on the deck. Blue made out really well in Limited, and it looks like one of the strongest colors. Card draw, evasion, counters, and some light removal tend to combine well, and it even has a number of large common creatures.
Join me tomorrow as I take a look at black!