Apologies for the delay on the latter half of the Set Reviews—the Mythic Championship occurring the same week as the set release made it really hard to get everything done while still doing my due diligence for MC testing. This is a somewhat unique occurrence, as far as I can tell, and if it happens again I’ll try and plan for it better. In any case, let’s get to the reviews!
Other War of the Spark Reviews
White | Blue | Black | Green | Golds, Artifacts, and Lands
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.)
It takes a little work to make Ahn-Crop Invader perform at full potential, but in red-black sacrifice or red-white aggro this is a beater. You do have to avoid going all-in when the opponent has mana untapped, but it can usually get in for solid damage without having to be fed. I also wish this was bad so I could call it the Ahn-Crap Invader, but it’s way too good to deserve that moniker.
Blindblast occupies a weird spot. It’s not an intrinsically powerful card, but in the right deck it does a good job checking some boxes. It can pick off small creatures, but there aren’t tons of those that really matter (amass tokens aren’t exactly must-kills), and removing blockers doesn’t matter as much as just drawing a card and being a spell. The decks that want this are mostly the spells-matter decks, though aggressive decks can play this if needed. The grade reflects how often you cut the card, even if I never feel too bad about playing this because it replaces itself.
Limited: 1.5 // 3.0
In a deck with a lot of 4-power creatures, Bolt Bend is a very strong spell. Sure, it may not have many targets in the opposing deck but when you do land it, it completely destroys the opponent. Making a removal spell hit their own creature for 1 mana is an incredible swing, and worth sometimes having a dead card in hand. This is a card that highly relies on the opponent’s deck, so side it out aggressively if you don’t see any targets.
Bond of Passion
At 6 mana, Bond is a pricey number, even if it kills planeswalkers quite effectively. It’s a little too expensive to reliably be part of the sacrifice-themed deck, so I’d mostly look to use this as a curve-topper in aggressive decks.
It’s not hard to pick up 7-8 noncreature spells, at which point this becomes a solid addition. Once you get above 10, Burning Prophet is great, and in both cases it benefits from the lack of good 2-drops in the set.
There’s no shortage of 5+ drops, as usual, so I wouldn’t describe this one as off the chain. If you need an expensive card, I’d keep an eye out for this, but it’s rarely a priority.
Chandra, Fire Artisan
Chandra is a brutal play when you’re ahead, and can even turn the tables when you’re behind, depending on the situation. The most common sequence is that you play her, +1, and she gets attacked for a couple points next turn. You then get to untap with her in play and protect her from there, leaving you with a powerful card draw machine. Note that you can play lands off her ability, so you usually want to use it first thing each turn. Her passive ability is great too, as she punishes the opponent hard for attacking her, and can take down opposing planeswalkers easily. Chandra is a great card, and one I’ll take early if I’m lucky enough to have the option.
The first Pyrohelix is pretty good, but these aren’t great in multiples, as they run out of targets quickly. This format doesn’t revolve around small creatures, so it’s not unthinkable that you’d side this out if the opponent is light on targets.
The difference between 2 and 3 damage is big, and Chandra’s Triumph is a great piece of removal. It does the job you want, and does it efficiently.
This scales up pretty quickly once you hit 7 spells, and at 13+ it essentially becomes a Flametongue Kavu. That’s a good build-around if I’ve ever seen one, and makes Cyclops Electromancer worth speculating on early.
Demolish is in every set and not once have I sided it in.
Limited: 1.0 // 3.0
Red-black and red-blue both enable the sacrifice deck well enough, largely thanks to amass. Note that this can eat planeswalkers too, and devouring one with 1 loyalty that’s just sitting there can be effective. I’m a little lower on Devouring Hellion than I would be if the removal in this set wasn’t so good, and I’d usually recommend against going all-in early.
Sometimes this goes up in value quite a bit, as it can really go nuts with pump spells or cards like Stealth Mission. If you have no ways to pump it or 1-drop spells, it’s nothing special, but most aggressive decks will find ways to use Dreadhorde Arcanist.
Dreadhorde Twins isn’t bad, though it needs support to make it better than a red Call the Cavalry. The best place for this is a deck with Heartfire or other sacrifice cards, a heavy amass deck, or ideally both.
Finale of Promise
This is a promising build-around, and it’s basically a blue-red gold card. If you’ve got a healthy mix of instants and sorceries, this really delivers, and it triggers cards like Spellgorger Weird three times. That’s a lot of action, and Finale of Promise is one of the better reasons to be in the spells deck in the first place.
When I say this format is short on good 2-drops, that doesn’t mean Goblin Assailant goes up in value. In fact, this is part of why the format is short on good 2-drops, as this certainly is not one.
Goblin Assault Team
I’ve ended up playing Grim Initiate a lot more often than I thought I would. It provides just enough value between sacrifice cards and amass synergies, and I like this in most R/B or U/R decks (less so in R/W or R/G, though it can be passable there sometimes).
Limited: 2.0 // 3.0
In a deck with 3-4 good fodder cards, Heartfire is an excellent removal spell (or finisher). Most decks will want this, and some decks will really want it, as it pairs excellently with amass, Tibalt, and Tibalt’s Rager.
Honor the God-Pharaoh
I like how good the commons are in WAR. It’s not like Honor the God-Pharaoh is something special, but adding amass to Tormenting Voice really goes a long way. I’ve liked it in most red decks, especially those that care about spells and having creatures to sacrifice (which as you can see, is a lot of the space for red).
Ilharg, the Raze-Boar
The worst God-Eternal is still great. Ilharg is enormous, attacks for a ton of trampling damage, and can bring friends along for the ride. This is well-suited to take out your opponent in a few short attacks, and even kings have been known to fall to the Raze-Boar. Note that the creature this puts in doesn’t return until EOT, so you may want to just cast it if you have a lot of mana and don’t care about attacking immediately.
This is replaceable but powerful, and if you need a finisher, it doesn’t sting to have to play this. The cycle of 6-drops at common makes each individual one low-priority, as you want 1-2 cards of that cost at most.
Jaya, Venerated Firemage
Jaya is a beating. Getting two Shocks plus a good passive (which makes your creatures deal more damage in combat, mind you) is a great deal for 5 mana. Jaya is a powerful splash, though she’s at her best in a heavy-red deck. She’s also very good with Chandra’s Pyrohelix, as it deals 2 damage to two targets (or 3 to one) with her passive around.
You can’t go wrong with Jaya’s Greeting, and it’s certainly the best red common. It takes out most creatures that cost 4 or less, and even nets you a scry while you’re at it.
Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin
Krenko gets out of control really quickly. If you play him early, he is a must-answer, and if you have one removal spell the opponent may just die to the Goblin hoard. He also scales really nicely with pump spells (any Goblin Stealth Missions?), and even later in the game it’s a card you have to watch out for. He gets high marks for the runaway potential, and is a card I’d be happy to take early.
I’m not a big fan of Mizzium Tank. In a spell-heavy deck, it’s still worse than Spellgorger Weird, though it’s an acceptable payoff. In a deck without a lot of spells, it’s nigh-unplayable, leaving it in the mediocre build-around camp.
Every now and then, a spell deck that is lacking in spells will play this, but it’s a marginal card at best. Of all cards to call the stoneblade, this is not what I would have picked.
Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion
Neheb is huge, hits for a lot of damage, and can let you cycle through all of your bad cards. That’s a great deal for 4 mana, and not one I’m going to pass up.
KRONCH! This card is both funny and good, and does a great job in any aggressive deck. Note that it can block without any help, so don’t go attacking into any Kronches, wild or not.
Like Nahiri’s Stoneblades, I’d save Samut’s Sprint for a spells-matter deck, though you can also play it in a very aggressive deck in a pinch.
Sarkhan, the Masterless
Sarkhan gives you a 4/4 Dragon at the very worst, and his other abilities are definitely relevant too. He stops x/1s from attacking, can let your planeswalkers alpha strike, and eventually makes a second Dragon if the game somehow lasts long enough. Sarkhan is one of the bigger bombs in the set, and I’d recommend slamming him if that’s an option.
The best use for Sarkhan’s Catharsis is to side it in against planeswalkers, though an extremely aggressive deck may just want it as a finisher. As cathartic as it may feel, killing a planeswalker they’ve already used isn’t all that great, but you do need to get Ugin or Liliana off the board somehow.
Spellgorger Weird is awesome in this set. It’s very well-supported and goes in the best red archetype. I’d take this early and often, and it’s not crazy to take this over Jaya’s Greeting once you are firmly in U/R spells.
Tibalt, Rakish Instigator
Tibalt is a little too good for my tastes. Making two 1/1 Devils is a fantastic deal for 3 mana, though not so good that I’d call it a deal with the devil. Proliferate sometimes stretches that to three Devils, and these sacrifice to Heartfire perfectly (as does Tibalt). This is great in any red deck save the most aggressive ones, and especially good in R/B sacrifice.
The pump ability really sells Tibalt’s Rager, as it allows it to trade up easily in the late game. This is another great creature to sacrifice, and another reason red’s themes are reinforced so well.
This is a very powerful common, especially compared to something like Summit Prowler. That said, it doesn’t fit super well into some of the red decks, so I bench it more often than I thought I would. Format considerations matter, and Turret Ogre doesn’t play well with sacrifice or spells, red’s two biggest themes.
Top 5 Red Commons
Red has two big themes, and both come through nicely. Red also has a lot of generically good cards, and can even be a strong part of a beatdown deck, making it both flexible and powerful. That’s a great place to be, and drafting red tends to work out well.