Previous Set Reviews
Limited Resources Reviews
5.0: Multi-format all-star. (Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Tarmogoyf. Snapcaster Mage.)
4.0: Format staple. (Siege Rhino. Courser of Kruphix. Remand.)
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. Sandstorm.) 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.)
Look, I like draw 2s more than most, but even I have to admit that this is going a long way to get an extra card. If there’s a control deck that has some awesome Zombies to bring back and highly values instant-speed removal, then I have just the card for it.
If you are spending a bunch of mana to get a card, that card needs to generate enough of an overwhelming advantage or cheat on mana to make up for that, and most tutors are priced such that you have to be doing something pretty busted to make them worth it. This still has that, but with spell mastery can actually be played for value, as spending net 2 mana is really not unreasonable. Spending 5 and getting 3 back is much worse than just costing 2, as it requires you to use the mana immediately, but if you can reliably have spell mastery and cast the spell you get, this may be a nice top-end card in a midrange deck. Alternately, it can go back to the dark side and be used to fetch broken cards like Ad Nauseam in Legacy. In fact, casting this and sacrificing Lion’s Eye Diamond in response makes spell mastery much more likely to be active, and gives you a lot of mana to play with.
I like that this straddles the line between being a tutor for degenerate decks and a value card for slower fair decks, though if I had to guess it will end up being more the first than the second.
If the Elf deck is really struggling for Elves, a 3-mana 2-for-1 is not the worst way to up the Elf count. This trades easily and will often get some real cards in return. I can imagine playing two of these against a control deck and being very happy with however they answer them, though I don’t know if that’s enough to bridge the gap from Limited to Constructed. The thought of facing down Coursers and Siege Rhinos with Shamans is not a pleasant one, so I imagine you’d need plenty of tribal synergy before that becomes a good plan.
I really hope this makes a big impact on Constructed. It’s one of the coolest cards I’ve ever seen, and it’s quite powerful to boot. The power level is definitely balanced by the risk, so you can’t just throw this into any old deck, but in a deck built to utilize it the potential is very high. The cards that I’m most optimistic about using to enable this are Dromoka’s Command, Reclamation Sage, and Disperse. Of these, Command is clearly the best by itself, and it won’t even cost you a whole card to get rid of the Pact. On the other hand, Disperse resets the Pact, and gives you a whole new ride on the demon express. Another kind of interesting way to get rid of this is Tragic Arrogance, though that asks that you have another enchantment around. This, like Command, doesn’t cost nearly a whole card, and can leave you up a ton of cards if things work out. One thing I did run into is that opposing counterspells can be incredibly hard to beat. If you play Demonic Pact, you better believe that your opponent is going to sit on Silumgar’s Scorn and Dissolve to stop whatever you are getting rid of the Pact with, and if you don’t have a Thoughtseize handy, you may just lose.
Looking further out than just Standard, Flickerwisp is a cute way of resetting Pact and not even needing to recast it. I don’t know what kind of BW deck would happily play both cards, but the combination is powerful, and there are plenty of other cards that could get rid of Pact in such a big format.
The offer of 5 cards and 4 life is a tempting one, as it should be, and the person who finds out the best way to accept that offer without paying the ultimate price will be amply rewarded.
Despoiler of Souls
Bloodghast may have spoiled me, but I sure don’t like paying mana or resources to get my aggressive threats back. Actually, I just don’t like playing aggressive threats, but I’ve played against enough Bloodghasts to know that they can be quite good. This offers a very similar threat, with slightly higher power and at reasonably higher cost. Even though this is a more expensive deal than Bloodghast, this is what’s available right now, and cards that come out of the graveyard without any card cost are almost always good. They are just so free to hit off milling effects, and the more cards like this there are the more value you get from cards like Commune with the Gods.
If your mana base can accommodate this, it provides a ton of stats and a couple solid abilities. It sadly doesn’t live through your wraths (assuming they are killing anything), but it is immune to opposing removal as long as you can keep the board clear. The Raise Dead ability is interesting, and is most likely to come up against Den Protector, though Whip of Erebos is a factor as well. I don’t immediately see where this goes and what can cast it, so those questions need to be answered before this lives up to the Titan name.
The main advantage this has over Drown in Sorrow is that it leaves your Elves untouched, so eyeblight look at using it to fight red decks. It’s not likely to catch on anywhere else, especially given that Languish is also an option.
Somehow this picture manages to be grosser than the original version, which is impressive. This effect is a good one to keep in mind, as creatures that double as spells are very flexible. This has combos with all sorts of cards (like Whip of Erebos) and is a good way to deal with hexproof things like Ojutai. Of course, we already have one available right now, but it never hurts to know that this is going to be around for a while.
Taste it, Siege Rhino!
A 4/3 with a good ability that also kills an opposing creature is definitely worth 5 mana, but the games where this misses are ugly indeed. How playable this is will solely depend on how many asymmetrical creatures are running around, with Courser, Den Protector, and Rhino near the top of the list. I like this best as the top of the curve for Elves or as a 5-drop threat in Abzan, though in both cases it can very easily be a sideboard card that comes in when it’s time to hunt Rhinos.
Mana Elves are the best Elves, and this helps make the Elf deck a real thing. In a deck where it casts everything but Collected Company this may even be better than Elvish Mystic, as it lets your crappy Elves attack into their non-crappy blockers. This is about as linear as it gets, and how good it is depends solely on how good the Elf deck is.
The stats here are edging toward Constructed playable, as 4 toughness plus deathtouch is pretty burly. It will often hit for a fair amount of damage, and if there’s a creature-heavy black deck looking for more midrange drops, this could fit the bill.
I don’t want to rule this out completely, but I have to preface this by noting that I have near-infinite disdain for this class of card. Spending a card to maybe make their deck a bit worse is not my idea of a good time, though even I have to admit that there is a time and a place for this.
Things you can do with it: name a card they cannot win without (Primeval Titan in Bloom springs to mind).
Things you absolutely should not do: Name cards for value (Siege Rhino, Ojutai, Whisperwood Elemental). If you are playing this to make their deck worse over a long game, you are losing value. Please do not do this.
Kothophed, Soul Hoarder
6 mana makes it hard to cast this and kill something immediately, so it takes a bit of setup to get this going. If you can play this on a board where your opponent is losing cards (but not too many cards) it’s very strong, and is a Constructed-caliber 6-drop. There’s a fierce competition when it comes to expensive cards, so for this to be good you have to reliably be killing things.
I wouldn’t say that black was languishing in obscurity before this, given that Abzan, Esper, and Mardu are all very good decks, but another great card can’t hurt their chances. This is a very interesting sweeper, and one that really puts your knowledge of the metagame to a test. If you can successfully predict a field full of creatures that die to it, there’s a huge payoff, and balancing how many Cruxes vs. how many Languishes you play is a tough job. Of course, you could just play a bunch of Siege Rhinos of your own, and ignore any of that Esper nonsense. When your wrath doesn’t kill your best creature, you are in good shape, and this does exactly what we all were hoping: make Siege Rhino better.
Languish may actually be a victim of its own success, and if anything keeps it from being common it’s that it punishes 4-toughness creatures so much that they don’t get played as much. This is a card you can play around, and if multiple decks are running it, it puts a lot of pressure on everything else to either play very cheap creatures or giant ones. I don’t mind that direction, even though it does up the Siege Rhino count overall, and at the very least having this around will be an interesting deckbuilding dance.
Liliana, Heretical Healer // Liliana, Defiant Necromancer
As much as I like some of the other flip ‘walkers, Liliana seems a little harder to manage. I like the demonic deal she made more than the planeswalker herself, mostly because figuring out when to flip her and how to get value is very tricky. Getting a 2/2 helps, and a 2/3 lifelink can do some brawling, but the planeswalker side doesn’t get good until a fair amount later in the game. Given that you don’t have much control over when she flips, I’m not quite sold (though she is intrinsically powerful enough that I’m not willing to call her unplayable).
Reanimating something for 5 mana is closer than most people think, so it’s possible that the extra counters will push this into the playable range. Hitting both graveyards helps, and there are enough awesome creatures around that this could see some niche play.
Priest of the Blood Rite
I like how much power this puts onto the board, and that it’s spread out over two bodies. Granted, the Priest itself is a bit of a liability, but it at least prevents the opponent from attacking on the ground, and opens the door for all sorts of shenanigans like Whip of Erebos, bounce spells, or more. This is a very powerful card, and if you can turn the 2/2 with a drawback into an upside, it can really be the rite card for the job. Even straight up this card is worth considering, and there are so many cards that combo with it.
Read the Bones
My respect for Read and (Reid) is very high after watching how they play this last year, and I’m glad we are going to get a lot more time with them on top of the game. In grindy matchups, there’s no better card, and spreading around good card draw to other colors just means that more people can have a good time.
Sorcery speed makes this a bit suspicious, but if you need a 2-drop that doesn’t cost double-black, it can kill anything the opponent plays in the first three, maybe even four, turns. I hope we can do better than this these days, though this has a real shot of filling out removal slots in a deck that needs them.
You need to reliably get 2 Zombies for this to be a good card, which means a graveyard-based deck full of milling cards. It’s a cute engine to include, and it’s one of many new cards that combo quite well with Whip of Erebos. Are we going to see a resurgence of Whip-based decks, or are these plans all too ambitious to actually work?
Top 5 Black Cards
4. Demonic Pact
Black got some awesome combo cards, and if even one of them makes it to the big time I’ll be pretty happy. It also picks up a great sweeper, a good midrange creature, and ensures that Read the Bones sticks around for another year (which I didn’t put on the Top 5 list because it’s a reprint). Between these buildarounds and the possibility of an Elf deck, I’m excited to see where Standard heads over the next couple weeks.
[Editor’s Note: This article mistakenly claimed that Gilt-Leaf Winnower could kill other copies of Gilt-Leaf Winnower.]