And here we have blue, with the same ratings system as usual:
5.0: Multi-format All-Star (and undoubtedly worth too much money). [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card]. [card]Tarmogoyf[/card].
4.0: Format staple. [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card]. [card]Preordain[/card].
3.5: Good in multiple archetypes, but not a format staple. [card]Raging Ravine[/card]. [card]Lotus Cobra[/card].
3.0: Archetype staple. [card]Spell Pierce[/card]. [card]Goblin Guide[/card].
2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. [card]Rampant Growth[/card]. [card]Khalni Heart Expedition[/card].
2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. [card]Celestial Purge[/card]. (Bear in mind that many cards fall into this category, although explanation of why is obviously important)
1.0 It has seen play once. [card]One with Nothing[/card]. (I believe it was tech vs Owling Mine, although fairly suspicious tech at that.)
5.0: I will always play this card. Period.
4.5: I will almost always play this card, regardless of what else I get.
4.0: I will strongly consider playing this as the only card of its color.
3.5: I feel a strong pull into this card’s color.
3.0: This card makes me want to play this color. (Given that I’m playing that color, I will play this card 100% of the time.)
2.5: Several cards of this power level start to pull me into this color. If playing that color, I essentially always play these. (Given that I’m playing that color, I will play this card 90% of the time.)
2.0: If I’m playing this color, I usually play these. (70%)
1.5: This card will make the cut into the main deck about half the times I play this color. (50%)
1.0: I feel bad when this card is in my main deck. (30%)
0.5: There are situations where I might sideboard this into my deck, but I’ll never start it. (10%)
0.0: I will never put this card into my deck (main deck or after sideboarding). (0%).
It’s been a long while since [card]Man-o’-War[/card] was Standard playable, and adding a second blue to his cost makes him even less adeptable to current times.
This card is a real beating. It was awesome in M11, and then they made the format way more aggressive and added a number of good Auras, elevating Aether Adept to basically removal status. I would advise you not to pass this very often.
This still isn’t very alluring.
It takes some support, but if you have some decent blockers, Alluring Siren is awesome. It also picks off all the Phantom guys with ease (and I may have played [card]Phantasmal Dragon[/card] into one in our second draft), and in general just does a lot more than it looks like. If you are very aggressive, it can even make them hit you even if you have no blockers, forcing them into a racing situation, and it pretty much negates a [card]Gideon’s Lawkeeper[/card].
Ah, the old Amphin Anklebiter, since a 2/4 is certainly not cutting any throats.
As sad as it is, you really will play this way more often than you cut it. Blue just needs bodies, and this is actually a reasonably sized one. I was surprisingly impressed by the work this guy did, even if he did more blocking than throat-cutting.
There have been Constructed decks in the history of Magic that would have had trouble with this, but those times are fleeting, and have long since passed.
The [card]Sacred Wolf[/card] of the skies is much better than the original, since it can evade most of the idiots that want to trade with it. It also kills them very rapidly once you throw an Aura on it, since you can basically build your own Sphinx of Jwar Isle. If you have no Auras, it still is fine, but once you pick up an order of Wings here I’d actively look for things to enhance them.
I’m azure as I can be that this will never see Constructed play, though it more than makes up for it in Limited.
Pssh, who cares if the format is fast? Not this powerful Wizard, that’s for sure. If you get the Mage early, you can definitely draft around her, since she will provide you with a never-ending stream of gas if she survives. Even in aggressive decks, she is a must-kill threat, since any board stall instantly makes you a massive favorite. I think going UB with the intention of loading up on [card]Gravedigger[/card]s, [card]Disentomb[/card]s, [card]Wring Flesh[/card], and as many [card]Doom Blade[/card]s as you have the fortune to come across seems like a good plan. Cards like Wring Flesh go a long way towards letting you stabilize, and the Raise Dead effects let you bring back Azure Mage if something untoward were to befall her.
Cards that cost five or more really have to tower above the competition, and this guy most definitely doesn’t. I was trying to think if he saw play last time he was around, but he wasn’t ringing any bells as far as I know.
The showstopper himself, Belltower Sphinx shuts down most offenses, and even when he dies he usually punishes them by milling them for a bunch. He might not quite be [card]Air Elemental[/card], but he really isn’t far behind, and I wouldn’t even mind splashing him if it came down to it.
I guess it’s fine to have this always floating around, since U/x decks often play one or two if the format warrants it. Still, I don’t think anyone has ever been excited to put this in their deck.
In a heavy blue deck, I’m always going to start at least one Cancel, though I don’t mind sideboarding it out a reasonable percentage of the time. Even in aggressive decks, Cancel goes a long way against the expensive bombs that seem to populate every Limited format nowadays, and I really like having access to a few counters.
It’s like a ride at an amusement park: Do not ride the Chasm Drake if you have over 40 cards in your deck.
When he attacks, he is a giant beating, but the fact that he costs five and doesn’t block all that well is a pretty big pitfall. I’ve definitely had to trade him off for a random Hill Giant in just the few matches I’ve played already, and I suspect that will be a common occurrence. Don’t get me wrong; Chasm Drake is a early pick and a good card, but it isn’t insanely better than something like [card]Assault Griffin[/card] much of the time.
The days when just having the Merfolk creature type gave you an easy in have passed; did you know that [card]Merfolk of the Pearl Trident[/card] was played in the Top 8 of Worlds (and made the finals even)?
I’m pretty unhappy about running Coral Merfolk, though if you give me enough Aether Adepts I might just have to.
I’d like to think that Standard has evolved past the point where this is playable (and I have played it before), but you never know. Without [card]Bloodbraid Elf[/card] to really punish [card]Jace Beleren[/card], I suspect Jace is going to trump Divination in any deck that wants this sort of effect.
You don’t have to be an oracle to predict that I like this card. I do foresee it being way worse than what we had in M11, but it still is the kind of card that makes your draws consistent and gives you power in the late game. As aggressive as the format may be, Divination is still a card every blue deck is going to play.
[draft]Djinn of Wishes[/draft]
Djinn of Wishes
I was going to say “I wish I had something better to say here”, but then I’d only have two left, and it seems like kind of a waste.
If you’ve never wished for [card]Jace, Memory Adept[/card] (which I did numerous times at the prerelease, mainphase of course), you haven’t lived. This guy is obviously insane without the ability, and the ability certainly isn’t bad.
I like having this around, and anticipate playing it in most of my blue sideboards. Flashfreeze is the kind of sideboard card that always feels good to have, but never is abusive in the slightest.
This isn’t quite as good as [card]Celestial Purge[/card], since it is usually just going to be a slightly better Mana Leak, but I still would rather have access to it than not.
I would say “when pigs fly”, but then someone would go ahead and cast this on a [card]Brindle Boar[/card], and then where would I be?
This actually has some limited application, now that Phantom monsters are everywhere. Bring it in and use it to kill a Bear or a Dragon or whatever, but only if they have 3+ Phantoms and you have nothing better that targets.
I don’t often play cards like this, but when I do, I prefer Frost Breath. Stay frosty, my friends.
The first Breath is a pretty easy inclusion, but you really have to be sure you are beatdown before playing multiples. This might not be [card]Blinding Beam[/card], though it’s close, and Blinding Beam was an absolute beating. I’ve already seen this end games, and even defensively it buys you a significant amount of time.
[card]Consecrated Sphinx[/card] and [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card] are both way too good right now, which kind of leaves Frost Titan out in the cold. I’m not sure what deck would rather run Frostie, though maybe some UG [card]Acidic Slime[/card] / [card]Frost Titan[/card] brew could be viable (Conley would know more than I would).
Unlike most of the Titans, if this dies you don’t end up being up a card, but it still will crush them if it lives. At GP Portland last year, Matt Nass’ opponent ran two spells into his Frost Titan, tapping out each time, which is probably more than you can expect from the average Titan.
Oh look, another horrible card. Still, bad cards are necessary, so I don’t harbor any resentment about WotC making them.
I actually want one Serpent in almost every blue deck, since it is just too large. It blocks well all the time, and often gets to attack around the time you want to start attacking. Even in aggressive blue decks, you need guys like this to stop their offense while you fly over with Hexproof dudes.
If you want this effect (and for your sake I hope you don’t), [card]Narcolepsy[/card] probably is just better. Without the drawback it would be marginal, and the weakness to targeted effects is just the icing on the cage.
I’d much rather leave the Cage in the sideboard and bring it in against decks that appear weak to it, since against some decks it will be almost a complete blank. Most of the uncommon Mages own it pretty badly, as does equipment, Alluring Siren, Gideon’s Lawkeeper, and more.
[draft]Jace, Memory Adept[/draft]
Jace, Memory Adept
Oh boy, a new Planeswalker. Let’s take a look, shall we?
The biggest issue here is the casting cost; Planeswalkers that cost five have to be really busted in order to be good, and so far only Gideon has managed that feat. The abilities here aren’t bad, but in order to fully get value from Jace, you need the second ability to be relevant. You can mill either player, which opens up the possibility of some [card]Vengevine[/card] action, though it feels like that deck is missing another graveyard card in order to really work.
[card]Visions of Beyond[/card] is another possibility, since one shot from Jace should activate any and all Visions, which can then find you more Jaces or maybe Archive Traps. Still, mill decks basically just don’t work, and Jace won’t solve that problem.
I think that Innistrad might hold the key to unlocking Jace’s potential, since once you can get milling yourself to be a viable strategy, Jace becomes quite good. Until then, I’d rather just pay two mana less and get a Beleren, and save my expensive slots for stuff like Consecrated Sphinx.
I had the pleasure of playing with Jace at the prerelease, and he sure led to some fond memories. Turn four Jace, mill you 10, untap, mill 10, dead was a common line of play; unless they had a pump spell or some kind of burn, that was game. Even when I couldn’t afford to just 0 him, the +1 ability was also very good, and easily ran away with the game in a few turns. First you draw enough gas to stabilize, then you mill 10 them until they die. I never got close to the ultimate, though I imagine that is also a viable plan. Either way, Jace is about as busted as [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card], and is probably better in M12 than the Mind Sculptor was in Zendikar.
Unless your opponent stumbles across a sudden windfall of cards, I’m not sure exactly what Jace’s Archivist is supposed to do for you.
This has a very powerful effect. If you can empty your hand faster than your opponent, this can be a sick draw engine, and at the very least change how they play. Alternately, if you are trying to mill them out, you can just keep cycling when your hand is full, and it puts them on a very fast clock, especially if you have Jace’s Erasure out. The two aspects combine to make a card that I would always play, even if some games he will just be a Grey Ogre.
Jace really needs to step up his game here. Chandra has a [card chandra’s pheonix]Pheonix[/card], Sorin has a powerful [card sorin’s thirst]Thirst[/card], and Jace has…this. At least they could have called this Jace’s Eraser, and have the art be Jace holding a giant eraser instead.
This is quite obviously an all-or-nothing card. You don’t just play Jace’s Erasure’s in a random deck, and you will rarely play just one or two. If you are going to go for it, go big. Whether that is good or not remains to be seen. It was horrible in M11, but the addition of Merfolk Mesmerist is huge, and might just make mill a viable strategy. Still, even if that is the case, Jace’s Erasure definitely takes a back seat to the Mesmerist.
This is obviously the missing half of the [card]Benalish Veteran[/card]/[card]Levitation[/card] deck, much like the classic team of Stoneforge Mystic/Jace, the Mind Sculptor. I don’t know if that joke will fly, but I might as well go for it.
It takes a mighty odd blue deck before this becomes good, and usually that means blue-green. Four mana and a card is a lot, and you need to get plenty of value out of it for it to be worth it. I’d say you would want at least seven guys that really want flight, and probably more in order to actively want Levitation in the deck.
[draft]Lord of the Unreal[/draft]
Lord of the Unreal
Good lord, this guy is unreal bad. If multiples could combine to hexproof themselves, that would be one thing, but I’m not going to play a bunch of horrible creatures just to enable a mediocre lord. I would say his power is illusory, but he isn’t fooling anyone.
I’d play this guy any time I had a couple Phantoms, and if you can pick up enough Bears, he is actually worth drafting around. I had five Bears in my first draft deck, along with this guy, though it didn’t work out so well. Part of that was because I also had 3 [card]Jace’s Erasure[/card]s and 3 [card]Merfolk Mesmerist[/card]s, or as PV put it, 6 [card isamaru, hound of konda]Isamarus[/card] and 6 [card]Millstone[/card]s, the cornerstone of a successful draft strategy.
Yep, this still defines Standard. Leak is good, and will remain so for the entirety of its legality, or at least until people stop wanting to play with sweet cards that cost a bunch of mana (which is never).
The first two Leaks are awesome, but the third is actually a leak. You don’t want to be stuck with too many of them lategame, and once your (competent) opponent knows you have multiple, they can and will strand them in your hand if they have the option.
The temptation to make comparisons to old cards aside, I’m not sure what this really does. There aren’t many decks that have the number of artifacts necessary to make this good, and the only one I can really think of (Tezzeret) will just kill the Thief. It is a powerful card, but until artifacts become as common as creatures, I just don’t think it’s going to do the job. Playability is also ten tenths of the law, and this guy just doesn’t have it.
In draft I wouldn’t be very happy to start the Master, but he is quite a solid sideboard cards. Taking their [card]Crumbling Colossus[/card] can just steal games, and even nabbing an equipment can be pretty swingy. In sealed, I’d definitely play him maindeck, since everyone is going to have at least one or two good artifacts to take.
Right now he takes a backseat to [card]Enclave Cryptologist[/card], but Merfolk Looter’s day will come once Innistrad is out (or at least I hope, because Looter being good sounds awesome).
The format speeding up took Looter from being unbeatable to just being insanely good. It is impossible to get flooded with an active Looter, and even if you are behind on board, as long as you have removal to draw into, you should be fine. If you can stay alive for just a few turns, Looter should easily let you win the game.
If I saw a Constructed playable here, don’t you think I would have remembered?
It doesn’t take much to get a minor mill theme going, and unlike Jace’s Erasure, Mesmerist actually can just win the game. She’s also a creature that can attack or block, even if she isn’t a very impressive one. As long as you can pick a couple up, they become playable, but I wouldn’t run just one, and I would avoid them in aggro decks.
[card]Volition Reins[/card] being able to steal Planeswalkers is pretty much the death knell to Mind Control’s hope of seeing Standard play.
Don’t mind if I do! This is one of the best cards in the set, and there are only a handful of rares I’d take over it, such as all the Planewalkers but Chandra, all the Titans but Primeval, and maybe a few others that I want to play with first. Mind Control is really one of the defining cards in the format, and you really shouldn’t pass it.
You want to know how to draw an unbound amount of cards? Cast [card]Consecrated Sphinx[/card].
This card is insanely powerful, but you can’t actually play it unless you have a way to get rid of it. If you do have a [card]Demystify[/card] or [card]Acidic Slime[/card] or whatever, go for it, but otherwise it is just going to end up decking you way too often. I suppose if you are super aggressive, it might work, but even then you don’t want a random six-drop.
I’d like to live in a world where Negate is playable, but that doesn’t seem likely right now. Too many of the threats are creatures, and the decks you want counterspells most against have plenty of guys you just have to counter, negating any chance of this seeing play. I don’t want to call it completely unplayable, because it isn’t, but now is not the time.
In sealed I’m always going to start this, but in draft it’s going to be about half the time. It misses pretty hard against some decks, and nothing is worse than leaving Negate mana up and having them just cast creature after creature. It’s definitely a lategame card, though one that is really excellent against some decks. Having some for your board is never the worst idea.
Bear with me here as I try to explain why this isn’t good:
I think you get the idea.
I’m actually not too unhappy with this card. Trying to draft the all bears deck aside, the card is not unreasonable. A 2/2 is going to die to most things anyway, and it’s so cheap that you are almost always going to win on the mana trade regardless. As long as they don’t have Gideon’s Lawkeeper or Alluring Siren, just jam those bears in there and go to town.
This review is already dragon on long enough, so I’m going to save breath here. I don’t think I mist anything anyway.
I’m fairly sure this card is good, but I wouldn’t take it over Aether Adept or Merfolk Looter, so 3 it is. When it works, it feels ridiculously unfair, but a reasonable percentage of the time it is just going to die. Still, a dragon is a dragon is a dragon, so I wouldn’t mind picking this pretty early.
At two mana, I can definitely imagine this seeing Constructed play, possibly in some sort of UG deck. Fauna Shaman, Vengevine, Acidic Slime, and Solemn all seem pretty sweet, and it might not be unheard of to even get Birthing Pod in there somewhere. Either way, two mana is low enough that I’d be on the lookout for places to put this, since it is costed quite competitively.
This has quite a bit of utility, especially since you can and will copy guys like Gravedigger, Aether Adept, and if you are lucky, Acidic Slime. Even if you don’t have a good ETB guy to copy, just making the biggest thing on the battlefield and hoping to mise is a respectable plan as well.
Preordain leaving standard is a portent of rough times ahead, because Ponder is infinitely worse, especially once the fetchlands rotate. I have visions of blue decks without awesome deck smoothing, and I predict that will end poorly for me. Ponder does open up some possibilities, and for the time that Ponder and Preordain are both legal, [card]Pyromancer Ascension[/card] might actually be good again.
This is where the rating system is a little off. I’m almost always going to play Ponder, but I don’t think it’s all that great. Without a shuffle effect it can lead to some pretty awkward spots, like when you see Doom Blade and two lands in the midgame, but as long as you are playing 8 or more Islands, it’s pretty free. It does have minor combos with Jace’s Erasure (mill them!) and Merfolk Mesmerist (mill yourself!), but past that it’s just basically filler.
Now that [card]Blightning[/card] is gone, any hope of Redirecting for value is gone as well.
In Sealed it seems fine to maindeck this, but I usually won’t in draft. It is dead a little too often for my tastes, and unless you know they have some specific targets (with targets), it isn’t worth leaving the mana up every turn.
It sucks that the puns to be made about blue are so much worse than white. I guess horses and griffins are just that much funnier than drakes and sphinxes. Hopefully that trend stops winding down as I go through the colors.
Sometimes you will really need a blocker, and draw this, at which point you will just be force to drake it when they attack. On the other hand, sometimes this will just hit them for 12 in the air, and I think the second scenario is a little more likely. The curve of turn three Drake, turn four Amphin Cutthroat is actually quite good, and at least the Cutthroats won’t be hard to pick up.
[draft]Sphinx of Uthuun[/draft]
Sphinx of Uthuun
Cut me a break here. What exactly am I going to do with the word “Uthuun”. Sheesh.
Fact: 6/6 fliers are awesome in Limited, especially ones that have sick abilities attached.
Fiction: Seven mana is too much for this format. If you have this, you can most certainly draft in such a way that you will survive long enough to play it (and win soon thereafter).
I think it’s time for a new mythic in this slot, since I don’t believe this has ever been cast in recorded history. It is part of the famed turn one Emrakul solution though, as put together by Bing Luke, Marshall Sutcliffe, and myself (after Gavin Verhey challenged us to solve it). Assuming perfect draws, how do you turn one [card emrakul, the aeons torn]Emrakul[/card] in Standard?
This is actually a fine sideboard card against the mill deck…and that’s about it. Pick it up if it’s free, but please don’t try it under any other circumstances.
[draft]Turn to Frog[/draft]
Turn to Frog
I hope I’m not toadally wrong, but this just seems unplayable to me. Just play Doom Blade instead of hopping through hoops to try and kill things.
Much like [card]Diminish[/card], this has some applications but is never great. The presence of Bloodthirst also makes it much worse, since the counters stay on the guy, leading to situations where all you did is change their 3/3 Berserker into a 3/3 Frog. Hooray!
What I said about Turn to Frog applies here too. Now that we have real manafixing, Blue decks can always play a color with real removal instead of trying to stay mono-blue and playing awful pseudo-removal.
Much like Aether Adept, Unsummon is a huge winner here. It both enables and fights Bloodthirst, it destroys Auras pretty handily, and it just helps out in fast games. I’d always play one, and probably two for that matter, though three might be pushing it.
[draft]Visions of Beyond[/draft]
Visions of Beyond
I said quite a bit about this card in my preview, and I don’t have a ton to add. I do think this is powerful enough to build around, and the two main avenues are going to be mill decks with Jace/Archive trap or self-milling decks with Vengevine and Hedron Crab. Whether either is good is yet to be seen, but I like the incentives we have here.
The only reason to play this is if you are a mill deck, since otherwise it is just an actual blank. It triggers Jace’s Erasure, and works well with Mesmerist, though most of the time it will just be cycling.
Top 5 Blue Commons
5. [card]Skywinder Drake[/card]
4. [card]Aven Fleetwing[/card]
3. [card]Chasm Drake[/card]
2. [card]Aether Adept[/card]
1. [card]Merfolk Looter[/card]
Much like the white section, the last three cards are pretty interchangeable, depending on your curve and/or access to beneficial Auras. The top two cards are both awesome, and I doubt I’d really take any of the other cards over them, barring some very specific requirements. Blue also seems pretty deep, though if the format is as fast at it seems, a lot of blue’s good cards are worse than they look, which doesn’t bode well. I still like Divination, Cancel, and such things, but I’m willing to believe that they just aren’t great.
Tomorrow I tackle Black!
Sample hand: From the cube deck that wrapter drafted on Sunday:
Student of warfare
jace, the mind sculptor