Other War of the Spark Reviews
Retired and inducted into the Limited Hall of Fame: Pack Rat. Umezawa’s Jitte. The Scarab God.
5.0: The best of the best. (Niv-Mizzet, Parun. Skarrgan Hellkite. Ethereal Absolution.)
4.5: Incredible bomb, but not unbeatable. (Thief of Sanity. Judith, the Scourge Diva. Experimental Frenzy.)
4.0: Good rare or top-tier uncommon. (Gate Colossus. Mortify. Biomancer’s Familiar.)
3.5: Top-tier common or solid uncommon. (Blade Juggler. Skewer the Critics. Skyknight Legionnaire.)
3.0: Good playable that basically always makes the cut. (Sauroform Hybrid. Watcher in the Mist. Wojek Bodyguard.)
2.5: Solid playable that rarely gets cut. (Ornery Goblin. Syndicate Messenger. Plague Wight.)
2.0: Good filler, but sometimes gets cut. (Radical Idea. Noxious Groodion. Ghor-Clan Wrecker.)
1.5: Filler. Gets cut about half the time. (Wall of Mist. Axebane Beast.)
1.0: Bad filler. Gets cut most of the time. (Feral Maaka. Knight of Sorrows. Prying Eyes.)
0.5: Very low-end playables and sideboard material. (Expose to Daylight. Persistent Petitioners.)
0.0: Completely unplayable. (Font of Agonies. One with Nothing.)
Ajani, the Greathearted
Ajani is a ridiculous card when ahead or at parity, but does suffer from needing a lot of creatures to truly be great. He won’t protect you when you don’t have a good squad, and that leads to some situations where he doesn’t quite live up to his full bomb status. That said, he’s still awesome, and better than any common or uncommon. I’d look to draft G/W Proliferate, and Ajani will be unbeatable in any of your good draws.
While I still don’t love edict effects in Limited because your opponent’s worst creature is often quite bad, this being able to pick off planeswalkers does help. The opponent will rarely have multiple planeswalkers in play, and a card that can hit a walker or creature does offer a lot of flexibility. Plus, sometimes you may actually want to kill an artifact, and this does that too.
Hydra into planeswalker is very hard to beat (I can verify, losing to that exact sequence in the Mythic Invitational), and this starts out as a burly 4/4. Trample helps a ton here too, and in a deck with 3+ planeswalkers this is an absurd card.
Casualties of War
The casting cost here is a doozy, which does make me hesitant to take this early. The rating is predicated on you already being black-green, and I wouldn’t hesitate to take one of the better commons over Casualties when you don’t know your colors yet. Once casting this isn’t an issue, it does do a lot of work, often taking out three cards (creature, land, and planeswalker being the most common). In some matchups it may even do more, though I’ve yet to see the fabled five-for-one.
Limited: 1.5 // 3.0
Cruel Celebrant is passable in any creature-heavy deck, but doesn’t become a high priority until you really commit to the B/W sacrifice deck. This plus Spark Reaper, Teyo, and Lazotep Reavers is an effective combination, and I have enjoyed when that deck comes together.
Even if the casting cost is a little tricky, Deathsprout is not only in the right colors for tricky costs, but it helps cast other cards once you resolve it. I love this card in the B/G deck that splashes 2-3 other colors, and don’t mind starting with it from pack one. Killing any creature at instant speed is huge, and this fixes your mana quite nicely.
Despark is less good than it initially looked, but good enough to always play in B/W. I like it a little less than the good commons, as it misses more often than you might think, but it’s always nice to have as a backstop against ridiculous bombs (unless those bombs are God-Eternals, or Finales, or…).
Domri, Anarch of Bolas
Domri does a lot of work for just 3 mana. First of all, you can often find a profitable fight to pick, especially with your creatures getting +1/+0. Even if you have to trade, you didn’t really spend a card on Domri (assuming you can protect him), so it’s still even on cards to have your 3/3 trade up for their 4/4. Domri also ramps you, and eventually builds up enough loyalty to fight again, so he’s not a one-and-done.
Domri is dangerous early, and can snowball easily, while also being relevant late. That’s a lot for 3 mana, and makes Domri a great card even if the average case isn’t that much more than just a 3 mana fight card.
Domri’s Ambush is a solid removal spell, and note that it isn’t a fight, it’s a punch, so their creature doesn’t hit back. This is great in red-green but not quite worth splashing, making it land about where good common removal does.
I usually main deck Dovin’s Veto in this format, thanks to all the planeswalkers, but I don’t hesitate to side it out if the opponent doesn’t have a lot of targets.
Dreadhorde Butcher gets out of control if you land it early, and even late game it’s a Footlight Fiend at the very least. That’s a solid playable, though not something that would put me into black-red early.
This Guardmage may be Elite, but blue-white tends not to be. I do like that this is easily splashable, and powerful enough to be worth it. This delivers a solid card-and-a-half worth of value, and is good at basically any stage in the game, so seeing one pick five or six does bias me towards U/W, even if that isn’t where I’d like to start.
Enter the God-Eternals
Enter the God-Eternals does it all. It slices (a creature), it dices (their deck), and it leaves you with a 4/4 plus 4 life. That’s a ton of value, and well worth 5 mana. This is the perfect card when you’re behind, while also being awesome when you’re ahead, and is something I’d definitely try to splash in any blue deck.
Feather, the Redeemed
Feather is less splashable, since a ton of her value is in being a cheap 3/4 flyer. She has some neat combos with various red and white commons too, making her both a powerful card in her own right as well as a rewarding build-around.
I love Gleaming Overseer. A 1/4 plus a 1/1 is already good value, and this often pumps your amass token into something respectable. At that point, having hexproof and menace means that you’re rewarded for piling on tokens, and U/B is very good at doing so. This is great no matter how you use it, and enables both a sacrifice theme and a go-big amass theme.
As heartwarming as this may be, Boros is aggressive enough that this effect doesn’t quite fit. It is powerful, as replacing itself means you aren’t losing card advantage, and cycling your hand and gaining 4-5 life is a sweet effect, so I’d be inclined to run this in any midrange or control deck where the colors work out.
Once you are firmly in the G/W proliferate deck, Huatli’s Raptor is awesome. You don’t actually want to drop it on turn 2 most of the time, as it’s at its most clever when you play it on turn 5 along side other proliferate or +1/+1 counter effects.
Invade the City
Limited: 1.0 // 2.0
In a heavy U/R spells deck, Invade the City sometimes is better than Relentless Advance, and that’s a pretty low bar. I don’t much like this as a build-around, and while I will begrudgingly play it if I’m at 15+ spells, it’s definitely not an early pick.
I love when the 2-color card perfectly encapsulates that color pair’s strategy, and Leyline Prowler gets high marks on that metric. It enables 5-color GB, providing mana fixing, ramp, and a good body for brawling. This is great on turn 3 and still good on turn 7, making it exactly what these ramp decks need.
Living Twister is a nightmare to play against. You have to play as if the opponent is always holding a handful of Shocks, because they basically are, and that makes double-blocking or even deciding what to play extremely difficult. It’s also tough enough that many cards can’t take it down, meaning it’s definitely sticking around and making things difficult. This is worth taking early and worth splashing, and does particularly well with card draw, as it efficiently converts resources for you.
Mayhem Devil falls into the Huatli’s Raptor bucket—it’s great in its color pair, but not worth splashing. It enables sacrifice decks nicely, and even punishes the opponent for sacrificing, but isn’t something I want to commit to in the first couple picks.
I love Merfolk Skydiver. All by itself, it’s a 2/2 flyer for 2 that grows itself, and the ceiling is much higher than that. It crushes in proliferate-heavy decks while being great in any deck, which is a card I like starting with. It’s also worth splashing if you’re really going deep on proliferate, as the effect is powerful even in the late game.
We aren’t quite on the topic of Constructed, though it’s clear at this point that Neoform delivers there (mostly Griselbrands, piping hot to your door). In Limited, I’d only play this if I had a really tight curve, a lot of sacrifice fodder, and some really good hits. That’s not going to be often, though I saw Josh Utter-Leyton draft a pretty sweet Simic Proliferate deck that sacrificed Iron Bully to go get some powerful 4-drops.
Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God
Limited without being greedy: 3.0
Bolas is an obscenely powerful card, but also a very difficult card to cast. I don’t recommend slamming Bolas and diving headfirst into Grixis, but if you see Bolas after taking a few black cards, it is possible to cast. You want to be heavy black, with blue and red as splashes, and prioritize fixers. Being able to -3 to kill anything and +1 to draw a card plus tax them for a card is awesome, and sometimes this even hijacks the abilities of other planeswalkers (though there aren’t many that do it better than Bolas). The power here is worth it, and fixing does make it possible, but you likely should keep yourself open to begin with, and only move into Bolas territory if you see him a little later.
Style Points: 5.0
Niv is just a little too hard to realistically cast, as all five colors is quite the ask. I would need 5+ multicolor fixers to even attempt this, and even then, it’s a hard-to-cast 6/6 flyer that may draw you a card. That’s a lot of effort for not a huge payoff—save this one for showing off.
Oath of Kaya
Pledge of Unity
All Pledge of Unity requires to be good is a creature-heavy deck, as permanent mass pump with life gain attached is great. Once you add in a few ways to proliferate, Pledge becomes one of the best cards in your deck, and is exactly what G/W is looking for.
Ral, Storm Conduit
Ral has blown me away. I first thought he would be just OK, but the combination of super high loyalty and a really powerful -2 has me convinced. You do want 5+ spells in your deck to really take advantage of Ral, and once you do he becomes a bomb. He also pings other planeswalkers nicely, and doubling up on any bounce or removal spell keeps him well-protected.
Ral’s Outburst gives you a nice bit of card advantage attached to your removal spell, and is a card I’d take early, never cut, and even splash for. Note that if the target is removed (bounced, sacrificed, etc), you don’t draw the card, so if you need the card then you should point this at the opponent’s face.
Roalesk, Apex Hybrid
Roalesk really is the gift that keeps on giving. Not only do you get a 5 mana 4/5 flying, trample, but you get two +1/+1 counters immediately and a double proliferate upon exit. That’s an insane amount of stats for 5 mana, and Roalesk is just ridiculous as a result. It’s basically a flying Verdurous Gearhulk, which is high praise indeed.
The grade on Role Reversal is undoubtedly much higher than many people would expect, especially given how mediocre cards like Switcheroo tended to be. There are a few things going on that make this a great card:
- It’s cheap—3 mana is not a lot to invest.
- Amass gives you a lot of 1/1 junkers to trade to the opponent.
- There are a lot of decks that look to buff their creatures, and often have one enormous threat in play.
- Swapping planeswalkers is very powerful, especially if you have one that is almost used up and doesn’t have a plus ability.
Add all that together and Role Reversal becomes a great card, and one well worth enabling. I’d try to have some amass and a few planeswalkers to really maximize it, though I’ve yet to find a U/R deck that doesn’t want it.
The Rioters are a strong threat, even if they do need a little help. Note that if they are the biggest creature, they will look at their own power, so pump spells do play here. I like Rioters in any creature-heavy R/G deck, but am generally not looking to splash them.
This rating is predicated on you drafting a controlling deck, and often one thats 3+ colors. That’s where Solar Blaze really shines, as it doesn’t fit all that well in an aggressive R/W deck. You can also attack into bigger creatures before playing this, and note that any deathtouch creature kills itself no matter what.
Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord
Sorin is a beast. He has a ton of loyalty, gives you a ton of life due to his passive, and can pick off opposing planeswalkers nicely. He also lets you spend his loyalty well, bringing back all sorts of creatures over the course of the game. I’ve been very impressed by Sorin, and wouldn’t hesitate to splash him.
Soul Diviner is a bit of a build-around, but due to the makeup of the set, it doesn’t take a whole lot of work to do so. It’ll be great in your average U/B deck, as it takes counters off amass tokens as well as planeswalkers, and at 2/3 for 2, can even brawl well.
Storrev, Devkarin Lich
Storrev has actually underperformed for me a little, largely thanks to the tricky casting cost. So much of Storrev’s value is in slamming him early, and on turn 6+ he gets dealt with by commons like Invading Manticore or Kiora’s Dambreaker. That said, this is still a hyper-efficient beater that can draw you cards when it connects, so I’m still taking Storrev early.
Tamiyo, Collector of Tales
Tamiyo is another card that’s better than she looks. She brings back any card with her -3, and if you can protect her, the +1 will eventually hit. The first place to start is naming any card you have multiples of, but if you need a specific card to survive, or win the game, feel free to name that instead. Her passive is also a nice one, and I’ve seen Toll of the Invasion get bricked hard by Tamiyo before.
Teferi, Time Raveler
Teferi is essentially an Arrester’s Admonition with upside, which is pretty sweet. Thanks to proliferate, you can often get a second bounce out of Teferi, at which point he did a ton of work for you, and even if it’s just one bounce + you save a few life, he did only cost 3 mana. It’s also nice not having to worry about combat tricks, thanks to his passive, and sometimes you even get to play a sweet sorcery at instant speed.
Tenth District Legionnaire
The rating here goes up a little bit once you are already in Boros Aggro, especially if you have a couple combat tricks. I wouldn’t want to start with this, because it is pretty narrow, but it’s powerful once you are going down that road.
Time Wipe is really sweet. Wrath + Rescue is a cute combo, and it’s absurd how much better a sweeper gets when you don’t have to telegraph it. Your opponent won’t know it’s coming, given that you get to play out your best creature still, and the tables turn rather quickly once the board gets wiped. This card is great and easily worth splashing.
Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves
Tolsimir delivers to you, as long as what you ordered is an extremely angry Wolf. He puts a ton of stats into play, and eats a 2/2 or trades for a 3/3, all of which is great. You can choose not to fight as well, which occasionally comes up.
Smother + Unsummon is a fine combination, but I’m not jumping into U/B early just because of this. I like picking this up mid-pack, as it isn’t a bomb uncommon or a gold card worth committing to.
Widespread Brutality is very similar to Time Wipe, and effective for many of the same reasons. This even lets you attack right away with the creature you keep, assuming you already have an amass token out, and you can sometimes maneuver things so this doesn’t kill your biggest creatures. Of course, sometimes you won’t be able to kill your opponent’s biggest creatures either, which is a risk you take.
Angrath, Captain of Chaos
Angrath is a menacing card, both in form and function. Making a 2/2 (or buffing an amass token) is a good -2, and giving your squad menace makes killing opposing planeswalkers very easy. Angrath is at his best in aggressive decks, but is still a totally fine defensive card, and gets bonus points for being hybrid (as all of this cycle does).
Ashiok, Dream Render
I really like Ashiok in some matchups, or in a deck that does a good job defending itself. I wouldn’t just jam Ashiok in any random deck, because it doesn’t affect the board at all.
Dovin, Hand of Control
I’ve got to hand it to Dovin—he does a really good Icy Manipulator impression. I especially like Dovin with proliferate and other planeswalkers to protect, as you do need to be doing something in order to gain an advantage from Dovin. Plus, his passive sometimes really messes the opponent up, and overall Dovin provides more than enough value to make the cut.
Huatli, the Sun’s Heart
Limited: 1.0 // 3.0
Huatli is a nice build-around, and really goes off with Charity Extractor. You often won’t want to even use the -3, and she survives pretty well with 7 loyalty. I like her in B/W decks the most, though I’ve seen G/W be able to use her well enough.
Kaya, Bane of the Dead
Kaya is one of the cards I most want to first pick, due to her combination of power (high) and flexibility (very high). Hybrid mana means that Kaya can be played in any color combination that includes white or black, and given that she picks off two creatures, is a card I want in any deck. She even cuts through Lazotep Plating, a mistake I’ve seen many people make. I get asked Draft picks on Twitter frequently, and my most common answer is “take the Kaya”.
Kiora, Behemoth Beckoner
Limited: 1.5 // 3.5
Kiora is basically a green card, given how few blue creatures are large enough to get you that extra card. She is fantastic as long as you have 5+ ways to trigger her, as she starts with a lot of loyalty and generates a good bit of extra mana (bonus points for combining her with New Horizons).
Nahiri, Storm of Stone
Nahiri is rock solid, and good in both aggressive and defensive decks. Giving all your creatures first strike is an excellent way to push in attacks, and killing tapped creatures helps defend you nicely. She is a great combo with Law Rune Enforcer too, so keep that in mind.
Saheeli, Sublime Artificer
In a spell-heavy U/R deck, Saheeli is great. She won’t close out a game by herself, but she gives you a ton of ground blockers, and her -2 can let you hit for extra damage if you have something big in play. I like Saheeli with 9+ ways to trigger her, and bonus points if some of those are card draw, to keep the spells flowing.
Samut, Tyrant Smasher
Samut is only good when you are pressuring the opponent, though she does perform well in that spot. I’d look to be R/G with large monsters, and treat Samut as a temporary speed boost.
Vraska, Swarm’s Eminence
Vraska is another card I find myself first-picking frequently. Making two 1/1 super deathtouchers is great for 4 mana, and with proliferate you may even get a third sometimes. She also punishes the opponent for not blocking your 1/1s, and given her hybrid cost, can show up basically anywhere.
Karn, the Great Creator
Limited: 1.0 // 2.0
Karn is a weird one. The best use I can imagine for him is to have a God-Pharaoh’s Statue and a Saheeli’s Silverwing in the board, making Karn a bizarre sort of Divination. I’m not sure how feasible that is, but you’ll likely be able to pick up all the pieces on the cheap.
Ugin, the Ineffable
Ugin nabs a coveted perfect score thanks to being colorless. This goes in any deck, and is the safest/best first pick in the set. The combination of abilities is excellent, with both the -3 and +1 being good in just about any situation. The fact that the 2/2s draw you cards when they die is a nice cherry on top, and I’ve found that Ugin delivers.
I think Ugin’s Conjurant might be the most underrated card in the set. People read the drawback of taking damage as permanent -1/-1 and think the card is crap, when it’s anything but. First of all, it’s an X spell where X is good at any number (though four or five is the sweet spot), making it flexible. It can be a 3-drop if you have an expensive hand or a 7-drop if you’re flooding out. It also works very well with proliferate, and the ability does prevent damage, so it’s immune to deathtouch. All that added together makes this a great early pick and a card I’m happy with in any deck.
Limited: 1.0 // 3.0
In a normal 2-color deck, this is crap. It’s too expensive and doesn’t affect the board until way too late. In a 3+ color deck, especially one with some expensive bombs, it becomes a strong enabler, though I tend to prefer the Mana Geode.
The Statue is way too expensive to be good, though the effect is so miserable that it’s surely by design. I can see siding this in against someone with a lot of expensive cards, and there is the Karn combo I talked about earlier, but you should be able to pick this up for free most drafts.
Limited: 2.5 // 3.0
I like Guild Globe, and am happy playing it in 2-color decks if they have a lot of double mana costs. It also triggers cards like Spellgorger Weird, and overall has a pretty low opportunity cost. In a 3+ color deck it becomes even better, and those decks will nab these as soon as they can.
Iron Bully takes a little work to be good. In a deck with heavy proliferate it can be quite menacing, but it’s otherwise too expensive for what you get.
Limited: 2.0 // 3.0
Like the other fixers, I wouldn’t really look to play Mana Geode in a 2-color deck, but it shines once you are getting a little more wild.
I really dislike Prismite. It’s expensive fixing, a mediocre body, and good at basically no point in the game.
The Silverwing gets a bad rap. Don’t get me wrong, the card isn’t great, but it can attack planeswalkers well enough. I’d play this if I really needed a flyer, and leave it at home if you don’t.
All of the lands are somewhat similar in that they are strong playables that don’t count against your spell slots. Blast Zone does a good job of punishing the opponent for having too many cards of the same cost, and can also scare them into playing out their hand differently than they’d want to. Note that this is one of the few cards in the set where the opponent may choose to proliferate onto it, so don’t be caught unawares if they do.
I don’t think my mana can ever get good enough to justify playing Emergence Zone. The effect is just too minor to give up a colored source.
Limited: 1.0 // 3.0
Gateway Plaza is mediocre in 2-color decks and great in 3+ color decks, just like previous cards. Having your land cost 2 mana is rough, so it’s only worth it if you’re really going deep.
You’d need a lot of planeswalkers before this becomes better than a basic land, and ideally they span 3+ colors as well.
Karn’s Bastion has a very powerful effect, and can win a game from a stalemate quite easily. Almost any deck will want this, and in a heavy proliferate deck, it’s nearly a bomb.
Mobilized District is a nice way to get value from a land, and often worth playing as the 18th land. It taps for mana until you need it to trade off, and can even pressure the opponent if you have a land-heavy draw.
Whew. The journey was longer than anticipated, but we did get to the end. Thanks for bearing with me, and I’ll be back soon with Constructed!