Previous Set Reviews
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. 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.)
Alhammarret, High Arbiter
The ability and stats on this are more than worth the high cost. Alhammarret protects himself by stopping the opponent from casting removal, and if they don’t have a spell in hand, can name the biggest threat left. Plus, if you play this and the opponent doesn’t have any cards in hand, you have a 5/5 flier and they have nothing they can cast. That is usually a good sign. It doesn’t take much to sell me on a 7-drop, but even an impartial arbiter would give this one a high grade.
Anchor to the Aether
I always like this sort of effect, which I suppose is a form of anchoring. Even if I’m predisposed to favor cards that toss opposing creatures back, I think there’s a case to be made for this one. You aren’t losing cards and you are usually up a bit on mana, and you even get to scry. All that together makes for a very solid card, and one I won’t mind having multiples of, especially in a format full of renowned creatures you can reset.
Far be it from me to give Divination a low rating, but Catalog is no Divination. You can’t count on controlling artifacts, and paying 3 mana for this effect when you don’t have an artifact isn’t worth it. It’s playable in a deck with an artifact theme, and some controlling decks that want spell mastery may run it, but I wouldn’t get excited about this.
A 1/2 flier plus a 1/1 flier is actually a solid deal. Just splitting your card into two parts makes it more resilient to removal, and gives you cool synergies that involve artifacts and/or bounce spells. This helps block well when you are behind, so I’m a fan even if you aren’t doing anything fancy.
Bone to Ash
Keeping 4 mana up in the midgame is a significant cost, especially when you are playing against somebody who is willing to play around this card. It does get you a nice 2-for-1, and I thought Contradict was generally underrated, so I’d consider playing this. It’s fairly strong in the late game, and if you can draft a control deck that has multiple ways to use mana at instant speed, Bone to Ash will play a key role when it comes to winning the card advantage war. This is also the type of card that can be excellent after sideboarding, because there are some decks that are boned if you just save this for their finishers.
If you have this in your opening hand, it serves as a perfectly good curve filler from about turn 3 to turn 6. Later in the game, it becomes more likely that the opponent can just pay for it, but it also becomes more likely that it starts to scry. Scry 2 is valuable, and I’ll take the calculated risk that this is dead when that is factored in. A card that will basically always work early, sometimes work late, and give you a scry bonus seems like it meets the definition of “decent playable” to me. It is worth noting that effects like this are always worse in multiples, and you really don’t want to end up with too many.
Clash of Wills
This may not be premier removal, but the flexibility it offers makes it a card you are always going to run. It’s a 2-mana counter for most of the early turns of the game, but unlike Calculated Dismissal, this doesn’t turn off in the late game. Sure, you might need to leave 7 mana up, but getting a counterspell that works early for cheap and still functions later on is an effect every blue deck will run.
The extra mana saved over Suppression Bonds is a big deal, and that bumps Claustrophobia up a bit. It’s also important to note that midcombat enchantment destruction doesn’t set you up to get 2-for-1’d, because the creature is still going to be tapped. Claustrophobia is just good, efficient removal, and the only drawback is that it costs multiple blue mana, which I don’t expect to be that big a deal in a 2-color format.
I am capable of being quite optimistic, but even I can’t really see what putting this card in your deck accomplishes. Even if you for some reason had a deck full of Disperses, that plan sounds very ambitious. Being forced to end the turn is a huge drawback, and casting this card late in the game will make things spiral out of control. I guess maybe a deck with all 1-drops could use this to refill, but what happens if you don’t draw it?
Blue often gets these giant sea serpents that can only attack under certain conditions, which in this case is threshold (literally). That’s not an impossible condition to meet, and having this as a good blocker plus finisher is something a lot of my blue decks are going to want. You probably just want one, but that first one adds some good depth to your deck.
Disciple of the Ring
It takes a little work to make Disciple of the Ring live up to her full potential, but once you put in that work, she shines. Having her in play with even just a couple spells in your graveyard makes life very hard for your opponent, enough so that I’m getting annoyed just thinking about being that opponent. You have Spell Pierce on demand, you can tap or untap creatures at will (making it impossible for your opponent to attack with anything that’s smaller than your biggest creature), and even tangling with the Disciple is difficult. If you pick up a Disciple early, there’s a huge reward for drafting a bunch of spells, and even if you get her late, playing 5-7 spells in your deck is still solid.
The slower the format, the less desirable straight-up bounce effects are, and this format looks like it’s fast enough. Plus, the ability to reset renowned or bounce your own creatures that are wearing Claustrophobia or Suppression Bonds makes the first copy playable more often than not.
There are certainly matchups where this could be strong, but the base-level effect of bouncing everything at sorcery speed is not appealing. If you can be confident you will have the most expensive creature in play, that’s something, but not enough to make up for the times when that isn’t the case. That your opponent gets to replay their creatures first makes this especially egregious, and I’d avoid this unless you really have a brew in mind.
Ah yes, the minor mill theme that often shows up in core sets. Dreadwaters wasn’t good enough in the fairly underpowered format that was Avacyn Restored, and I’d be surprised if things were any different now. I do love trying to draft these decks, but they usually end up dreadfully bad.
Getting a card back is nice, but the fact that you are always down on the first Faerie makes me suspicious. Add to that the likelihood of drawing two at the same time and you have a card that isn’t likely to pan out all that often. The cool thing is that if you do get four or more of these, they are actually great, as 1/1 fliers are impressive in multiples. The fact that this is bad enough alone makes the odds of getting lots of them better, and I can’t wait to lose to the six Miscreant deck.
Harbinger of the Tides
It is a little funny that this doesn’t get to bounce a creature when you are the only aggressor, which is typically where Man-o’-Wars shine, but the effect here is still powerful enough to turn the tide. In any sort of racing game this is excellent, and it plays very well defensively to boot. Having the option of flashing this in lets you set up all sorts of blowouts, and running this plus a 3-drop out on turn five just sounds absurd.
Don’t let the similarity to other weak cards with similar effects fool you: Hydrolash is a very real card. It isn’t as expensive as Blinding Spray and it doesn’t cost a card like Hydrosurge or Hysterical Blindness, making it the right balance between all these costs and effects. You can often pick up a free card when they attack a 3/3 into your 3/3, and the potential for blowouts is high. Any combat involving three or more creatures is likely to turn out very well for you, and the cost of including this in your deck is not very high. A card that can easily be a 2-for-1, can enable huge swings, and can even cycle for 3 mana is a very solid card.
Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
The funny thing about Jace is that he might be better in Limited if he couldn’t flip. An 0/2 Looter for 2 is quite good, and Jace gets to be that for a few turns if you play him early. Then, things change:
Jace, Telepath Unbound
Planeswalker Jace’s effectiveness depends entirely on how many spells you have in your deck. The +1 ability is decent at protecting him, but to really be great, you need at least six or seven good spells to replay. If you can loot, flip, and cast a removal spell immediately, you at the very least get a 1-for-1 if the opponent kills Jace (and a slight card quality edge from the loot). The front of Jace is strong enough that I’d be willing to always play him, assuming you have at least a few spells, and the high end on this card is pretty great.
I’d love nothing more than to draft a deck that uses Jace’s Sanctum to efficiently play a ton of spells and uses them to scry into more, but that doesn’t seem like the usual case. Given enough draw spells and removal, this could be an engine, though don’t take this as an endorsement: the card is not likely to see much play.
Now this is a way to steal a game. Jhessian Thief offers a ton of upside at very low cost, and puts the opponent into a pretty awkward spot. I already liked this card when it didn’t have prowess, and prowess is the perfect ability to let this win the fights it’s bound to get into. Your opponent basically has to block, so drafting a bunch of value spells is going to work out well, and you can even just play sorceries precombat and force the opponent to either chump or let you draw a card. Not every deck will maximize the Thief’s value, but if you draft her early, it isn’t hard to make sure your deck does.
I like my 1/3s like I like my Disenchants: in my sideboard, to be boarded in begrudgingly.
It’s an odd combination of abilities and stats, but I’d likely play this as a 1/4 flash for three without the rest of the text. That text can lead to blowouts when you steal a Giant Growth or beneficial Aura, but more often than not it’s either going to not matter or re-target a removal spell that’s hitting one of your good creatures. Still, all that flexibility at this low of a cost is worth it.
I’m leaning toward maindecking one of these in draft, and am definitely going to in Sealed. There are a bunch of expensive removal spells (white, black, and red all have good removal spells that cost 4 or more mana), and it seems likely Negate will end up trading for something good. It’s also an excellent sideboard card, one of the best, and I want to have access to up to two in every draft.
Multiple -x/-0 effects should be interesting for combat, though I like this one less than Hydrolash. Barrier is expensive enough that it’s not all that likely that you are getting a card out of the deal. More often it will just block two attackers the turn it comes out, and one every turn thereafter. That’s decent for a defensive deck, but not quite high enough impact to be great, and certainly not what aggressive decks want.
Not only is this a sideboard card, it’s an extremely narrow one at that. I do like the idea of essentially retargeting a Nightsnare, but that sort of meddling is unlikely to actually work. Leave this one to Constructed.
The stats-to-cost ratio here is a little worse than Lotus Path Djinn, though that still leaves plenty of room for this to be playable. Blocking as a 3/3 and attacking for 4-5 damage a turn is pretty good for your 5-drop flier, and I wouldn’t mind playing one or two of these as my high-end in a deck with lots of spells.
If your intention is to attack your opponent, this scrappy little guy will do the trick. The Drake can even block every now and then, and overall delivers exactly what you assume: a decent evasive attacker that’s pretty low on the defensive scale.
Ah, I get it, it enables spell mastery! If you want a 2/1 for 2, go nuts.
Send to Sleep
I’d rather just pay the extra mana and make sure my Frost Breath always works, but you work with what you’ve got. If you don’t have spell mastery, this card is way too mediocre, and any deck where it’s usually active is not going to have the creature count this really wants. Every now and then you will draft a 10-spell tempo deck that wants this effect, but otherwise you should send this back.
4 mana may seem like a lot when compared to similar creatures from past sets, even very recent ones, though that’s just more of that anchoring I was talking about. This is a fine card at a fair cost, and you will always play it. It might not be as exciting as paying an extra mana for flying like we did with Aven Surveyor, but it’s still a card you should take highly. Aggro decks take advantage of this effect better than control decks, even if control decks are still going to play this for sure.
Back in Theros Block, this ended up being an all-star in control or midrange decks, and I expect nothing less this time around. Aggro decks still don’t want it, though I’d want to be sure I was very aggressive before turning this kind of value down (hint: I will not be that aggressive).
As a 1-of, cards that require graveyard fodder are usually pretty good (delve is a recent example of this). Goliath does need two creatures specifically, so you at least need to have 14+ creatures in your deck in order to fuel it, though looting effects and cards like Screeching Skaab can help as well. If you can cast this, it’s gigantic, and there aren’t many creatures that can stand up to it in a fight.
With a name this badass, I gave this a 4.0 rating before reading the rest. Shockingly, it did not change. You don’t name a card Soulblade Djinn if it doesn’t mean business, and this lives up to its moniker. It’s a good-sized flier by itself, and every spell makes your whole team ready to bash. You don’t even need a lot of spells to make this great, though that certainly doesn’t hurt.
Given enough Dreadwaters, Sphinx’s Tutelage could be part of a nice mill deck. I’m still skeptical that it comes together all that often, but it does have a nice sense of inevitability against decks that can’t kill you very rapidly. The loot effect is nice here too, though not enough to make this playable if you aren’t getting value from the milling part.
The last time we saw this, it was in the context of heroic, and was a fairly high pick as a result. Renown doesn’t give you quite the same incentive, but it’s still a reason to take Stratus Walk, and it isn’t like this is a bad card to begin with. If you don’t have a ton of creatures, I could see cutting this, but would run it in almost every normal deck. Getting to give a creature flying at no card cost is nice, and worst comes to worst you can use this on their creature to make it worse at blocking.
Talent of the Telepath
Given how few spells most Limited decks run, and how many of those spells are situational, it doesn’t take a talented reviewer to note that this is not a maindeck card. I’m skeptical of siding this in all that often, but if they have a ton of good spells and you are going to have spell mastery most of the time, it could do some work. It also does mill, which has some minor extra relevance.
Thopter Spy Network
Limited: 1.0 // 3.5
The variance on this card is high, but the payoff is worth it. If you can reliably trigger it for the first time, you are likely to keep doing so, and it’s incredible when it’s working. I would take this early and try to draft around it, and would always play it if I had 6+ ways to trigger it (and you might even be able to get away with less).
A 2/2 flier that draws you a card is great, and this is even sleightly better than that. This was a high pick in Innistrad block Limited, and remains so here.
Turn to Frog
It turns out that this is still a solid combat trick, and isn’t likely to be much more exciting than the last time we saw it. It is nice having a way to kill big creatures, and be sure to double- or triple-block them in order to play around removal spells (though that does play into counterspells, so keep that in mind too).
Cards like this are the bread and butter of Limited decks, or perhaps the bread and water (as in they will keep you alive, but you will not enjoy it). I’m playing this more often than not, as it offers a decent size and good flexibility while filling out the curve.
4 mana for two 1/1 fliers would already be playable, and this gives you that, plus a 2/2, plus the extra ability to get damage through (and note that you can use it immediately too). This is a great card, and one of the premier uncommons of the set.
If you can put together a few ways to target opposing creatures without killing or bouncing them, Willbreaker will very much live up to its name. Ideally you aren’t spending whole cards, and are just using repeatable effects like Anointer of Champions or even Akroan Jailer (or Whirler Rogue, if you are very lucky). It only takes a few such cards before Willbreaker is good enough, though it is definitely not playable without help.
Top 5 Blue Commons
5. Stratus Walk
4. Aspiring Aeronaut
3. Ringwarden Owl
2. Separatist Voidmage
Blue did not fare too badly. A good removal spell, a good bounce creature, and a bunch of solid fliers is near the high end of what blue can expect. Combine that with some solid uncommons and a couple counterspells and I’m sold.