Welcome to my Oath of the Gatewatch Limited Set Review. As usual, there are a few things that inform these ratings:
• The numerical rating is an easy way to get a sense of where the card is, but context is everything. I strongly encourage you to read what I think about the card, why I gave it a certain rating, and what sorts of factors make it better or worse. For example, a card like Mist Intruder is quite good in the right deck, and quite bad in the wrong one. I’ll do my best to describe when and where these cards shine (or don’t), but the rating doesn’t have that subtlety.
• Oath is designed for Two-Headed Giant play. I’ll try and mention when a card has particular relevance there, which usually will be when it targets multiple players or provides benefits to a teammate.
• The ratings scale is below. It gives you an idea of what kinds of cards belong in each ratings group, but is certainly not absolute. I expect the cards I review here to change based on actual gameplay experience, and I’ll be revisiting those that change drastically in a month or so.
5.0: The best of the best. (Citadel Siege. Wingmate Roc. Dragonlord Atarka.)
4.5: Incredible bomb, but not unbeatable. (Tragic Arrogance. Whirler Rogue. Icefall Regent. Hangarback Walker.)
4.0: Good rare or top-tier uncommon. (Abbot of Keral Keep. Jhessian Thief. Ultimate Price.)
3.5: Top-tier common or solid uncommon. (Separatist Voidmage. Fiery Impulse. Epic Confrontation.)
3.0: Good playable that basically always makes the cut. (Deadbridge Shaman. Skyraker Giant. Watercourser.)
2.5: Solid playable that rarely gets cut. (Read the Bones. Silumgar Butcher. Dragon-Scarred Bear.)
2.0: Good filler, but sometimes gets cut. (Throwing Knife. Chandra’s Fury. Artful Maneuver.)
1.5: Filler. Gets cut about half the time. (Vastwood Gorger. Aeronaut Tinkerer. Cobblebrute.)
1.0: Bad filler. Gets cut most of the time. (Thornbow Archer. Deep-Sea Terror. Akroan Jailer.)
0.5: Very low-end playables and sideboard material. (Vandalize. Vine Snare. Congregate.)
0.0: Completely unplayable. (Fascination. Infinite Obliteration.)
Previous Set Reviews
Battle for Zendikar Set Review and Set Redo
Dealing 4 to the opponent isn’t what most decks want, so the power of this card is largely consumed by the first ability. Given the scarcity of awaken spells, I’d be inclined to sideboard this in once I saw a bunch rather than maindeck it. It’s not even that powerful of a sideboard card, so don’t automatically add it against a deck with just two or three ways to awaken.
Even if this always had haste, it wouldn’t be that impressive. I also question the name, given that 2/3s aren’t known for their aggression, and am not sure where exactly this is supposed to fit. I’d play it if I had to fill out my curve or if my deck heavily leaned on devoid synergy, but that’s about it.
You sound a bit more than obligated to hand over your creature, and once you do, this bashes for a ton of damage. If you can pay the colorless, it’s a 5-6 power creature with haste that removes a blocker, and that’s assuming your opponent doesn’t have something gigantic for you to take. A 3/1 haste is also a nice little aggressive beater, and this has the right combination of power and cost to make me interested. It does drop significantly in value if you don’t have colorless, though you have plenty of time to assemble it. This is great in aggressive decks and not great in controlling ones, so keep that in mind when looking at the rating.
The red Eldrazi decks are pretty clearly meant to be aggressive, and this supports that theme. In a deck that wants 2-drops and has colorless mana, this is a good ability, and I’ll take anything that makes my 2-drops playable in the lategame. You do have to meet those conditions to make this good, but once you do, you’ll be happy taking this early. I do also have to mention how bizarre the text is, but I guess that’s on-theme for an Eldrazi.
I’m giving this such a high rating under the assumption that you have 2+ Eldrazi that will trigger the return part, as that’s where the real money is. If you are capable of blowing up the world, this sweeps small creatures early and puts your opponent in a very tough spot afterward. They can’t overcommit or you deal 5 to everything, but if they take too long you will have the time to find and cast a monster. Even if you don’t have any ways to trigger this, it still might change how your opponent plays, and sitting on a face-up wrath that doesn’t cost you a card or any mana is a good place to be. This is a very cool and very powerful card, and one that will reward you greatly if you can take advantage of it.
Maw of Kozilek
Maw of Kozilek has a good set of base stats and a relevant ability. It’s a bit on the defensive side if you don’t have colorless mana, but some red decks want blockers, and when you can activate it even once it deals a lot of damage. I like red getting creatures of this caliber, and appreciate that this is good in both aggressive and defensive decks.
There’s not much to say here. Shockingly, it’s good, though definitely not busted. It can pick off small creatures and a couple medium ones, while triggering cards like Molten Nursery when relevant.
I’m not particularly inspired by this cohort ability. It is nice that it can let you fight getting flooded later, but aggressive decks don’t really want to tap two creatures in order to loot. If you need to fill out your curve or want to up your Ally count, go for it, but I’d seek better.
A 2-mana surge cost is low enough that this will end up being efficient, and 4 damage is enough to kill most of the creatures in the format. It’s certainly no Flame Slash, but we won’t see removal like that at common again (unless the philosophy changes greatly). Casting this at 5 is fine and casting it at 2 is great, so overall I like this card and would recommend picking it early.
As far as tricks go, this is one of the more damaging ones. If you have a lot of high-power creatures, trampling over for 5+ damage seems likely. I still wouldn’t take this too early, because even a strong combat trick has plenty of replacements. I predict that this is a card I will die to many times, as it’s very hard to play around if you don’t have instant-speed removal. When they attack you with multiple creatures, it’s very rare that you’ll have enough toughness to stop all the potential trample damage.
Chandra covers a lot of bases. With fire. If your opponent has a bunch of small-to-medium creatures in play, she sweeps them right up, and lives to tell the tale. If you have to kick things off by using 4 loyalty, Chandra still did her job, and 4RR deal 4 to everything is not a weak card. If you have enough defense to fend off attacks, Chandra’s +1 applies a lot of pressure, and makes her ultimate even more dangerous. Lastly, she can cycle through your deck very quickly, adding an extra card to your hand each time.
That’s a lot of abilities for one card, and Chandra being good when behind, when ahead, and at parity means that she’s just a great card.
This is a solid threat. It nugs the opponent for 2 to kick things off, and a 4/4 trample for 5 is a perfectly respectable creature. There are worse ways to try and finish the game, even if this doesn’t fit into any focused archetypes.
Devour in Flames
I like removal, and I like devouring, so this card is right up my alley. Bouncing a land isn’t even guaranteed to be a drawback, and killing giant creatures is something red usually has trouble with. Try to avoid playing this early, but once you hit 5 or 6 mana you will barely notice that you have to bounce a land.
Embodiment of Fury
I’m in for a 4/3 trample, and there’s a lot more text on this card. This gives you a steady stream of 3/3s, and even gives them trample for value. This offering a potential 7 points of trampling attackers a turn is impressive, and the base stats mean that it’s never going to be bad.
As the name suggests, the main use of this is to expedite other cards, more specifically, ones with surge. It’s like Slip Through Space, in that it’s never going to be terrible, and much like Slip, doesn’t have a huge impact on the game. I don’t mind these cantrips landing at this power level, because it means you are more likely to be able to pick them up when you want them for surge.
Fall of the Titans
If you start by evaluating this card without surge, well, I guess you don’t need me.
If *I* start by evaluating this without surge, I get to a pretty solid card. Three mana for 2 damage, five mana for 4 damage, and seven mana for 6 damage are all good numbers, and offer a lot of flexibility. Cards that are good early and scale very well are exactly what you want, even if the damage here has to be split, so it’s not great against the titans it references. I’m in for this card on its face, and wouldn’t worry much about getting to surge it.
Once you start enabling surge, things get a bit more interesting. You do have to play a cheap spell to get a benefit, but the more mana you have, the more the surge matters. Playing a 1-drop when you have five mana nets you an extra damage (on each target), but imagine waiting until you have seven mana. There, that same 1-mana spell gets you 2 extra damage to each target, which is quite a bit more. I still wouldn’t play Bone Saw to make this work, but picking up 1-mana cantrips is worth it.
2HG: Like Crush of Tentacles, this is the TRUTH in 2HG.
If you don’t have many targets, this is clearly less than a 3.5. A 5-mana 4/4 menace is closer to a 2.5, but the additional text here adds a lot. You don’t need tons of spells before this becomes great, and casting something worth a card out of your graveyard makes this a sick 2-for-1. Take this early, and make sure you have targets, even if they are cards like Expedite.
My beatdown decks will be goblin as many of these up as they can. 3/2 menace is a powerful threat, and it’s not hard to play this on turn 4 alongside a 2-drop. You don’t need to do much besides draft a low curve to make this good, though the value certainly drops once you aren’t aggressive.
Kazuul’s Toll Collector
This is a huge flavor win, though the lack of good equipment certainly takes a toll on the gameplay side. I’d play it if I wanted a 3/2 for 3, and that’s about it.
Oath of Chandra
Press into Service
As usual, Threaten effects are good in aggro and unplayable in control, and this is a fine version of the effect. The joke here is that you take their creature and put a +1/+1 counter on it, which sets up a lethal attack. You probably don’t want to buff their creature if you are planning on giving it back, though having the option to do so makes this a lot more impressive.
I really want this to be good, since it does all the things I love to do: build around an engine card, get rewarded for playing card draw, and accumulate card advantage. It does need to trigger 2 or more times before you really get value, and ideally “or more” means like 4+. Filling your deck full of cantrips sounds like a pretty sweet plan, and I’ll be slamming this at the first opportunity.
My guess is that it’s closer to a 3.0 or 3.5 when you really get there and stone unplayable when you don’t, which makes the rating a little confusing. I’d speculate on it to begin with, because the power is there, and all it asks is that you build a deck that can play multiple spells.
In what has become a common refrain, this card is very good if you are beating down and very bad if you aren’t. The power level is high, and I love the callback to one of the scrappiest cards in original Zendikar. Surge may as well be the casting cost on this, as you’ll be surging it way more than casting it, though you can cast it if needed. It’s a shame it doesn’t work with your teammate’s creatures, but you can’t have it all.
I’ll usually start the first 1-damage effect, and this hitting two creatures makes it a pretty safe bet (which also makes the name a lie). It even has an additional effect, so you get more utility out of it if you are aggressive. I also side cards like this in and out often, depending on what creatures I see.
Tears of Valakut
Plummet is now red, and uncounterable. All right then.
Tyrant of Valakut
Surge doesn’t offer a huge discount, but it does give you a free Lightning Bolt, which is impressive alongside a 5/4 flier. This is the sort of surge card that makes me interested in working for it, so I’d look for cantrips and other 1-drops in order to get this going. If you cast this on turn 6, it seems pretty difficult to lose.
I was all set to give this a 2.0 or so, but then I saw the keyword it has. First strike is a substantial upgrade, and makes Zada’s Commando way more dangerous on either side of combat. The cohort ability is a nice bonus, and means that this will rarely be deadweight, which is all I want from my 2-drops.
Top 5 Red Commons
I like Boulder Salvo as a clear number 1 here. If your deck is too high-curve, it gets a lot worse, but in a deck with a normal number of cheap cards, it’s great. Maw and Reality Hemorrhage are very close, and I could see going either way, though I like both above Commando and Freerunner. Those two are also very close, and I only ranked Commando higher because it’s more consistent—if you can cast it, you are good.
Red is very aggressive, or at least is trying to be, and has a decent amount of 2- and 3-mana beaters. 2-drops may be even more important than normal, as Goblin Freerunner becomes very bad if you can’t play it for the surge cost.
Green is up next. Will the worst color in BFZ emerge victorious in OGW?