Today I get to wrap up the odds and ends of M13, covering artifacts, lands, and gold Dragon planeswalker legends. I’ve been very happy with M13 so far, so let’s get to the rest, and see what we’ve got. First, a recap of the ratings:
5.0: Multi-format All-Star (and undoubtedly worth too much money). [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card]. [card]Tarmogoyf[/card].
4.0: Format staple. [card]Mana Leak[/card]. [card]Moorland Haunt[/card].
3.5: Good in multiple archetypes, but not a format staple. [card]Inkmoth Nexus[/card]. [card]Primeval Titan[/card]. [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card].
3.0: Archetype staple. [card]Gut Shot[/card]. [card]Tempered Steel[/card].
2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. [card]Think Twice[/card]. [card]Curse of Death’s Hold[/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%)
As usual, I caution you to both look at the rating and read the comments, since even cards rated the same might have very different evaluations. Enjoy!
[draft]Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker[/draft]
Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker
The last time Señor Bolas showed up, he had the unfortunate luck of having to compete against [card]Cruel Ultimatum[/card]. Any deck interested in a horrendously expensive Grixis finisher defaulted to Cruel, not leaving much room for Magic’s main villain.
This time around, there is no Cruel, though [card]Karn Liberated[/card] is surprisingly similar. The race is much closer between Karn and Bolas, and it wouldn’t even be out of the question for the two to coexist. Karn is cheaper—but Bolas steals creatures instead of killing them, which is a huge upgrade. The time may not be quite right for Bolas yet; but Karn has seen plenty of play, and there is going to be a time when Standard’s power-level drops significantly, at which point Nicol Bolas might rear his head.
He costs eight mana and three different colors to play, yet Nicol Bolas is still a huge bomb. His unwieldy casting cost does make him a build-around, rather than a card you just toss into any deck, but it’s worth it. If you pick this up early, you definitely have the proper incentive to build a slow Grixis control deck, since losing a game where you resolve Bolas doesn’t happen very often.
I’ve played this card before, and at a Pro Tour no less. It was a “sweet” sideboard card for the RG Snow Control mirror, and was certainly powerful. The main use for this is when you expect a ton of creatures on both sides, since that way you are making use of all or nearly all of the abilities. Casting a 7-mana [card]Fervor[/card] isn’t very efficient, but a 7-mana Fervor that makes all your guys unblockable and unkillable is a completely different animal.
This may be a 7-drop that has no power and toughness, but it makes your creatures into absolute beasts. It is by far the best in green decks, both because they ramp and because they have all sorts of large non-flying creatures, but I’m probably taking this no matter what colors I am. As long as you have any kind of board presence, this should crush them—and if they happen to be black and/or red, you don’t even lose to removal.
There was a time where [card]Tempered Steel[/card] would be all over this guy, seeing as how the deck played [card]Vector Asp[/card]. I fear that time has passed, and one-mana 1/1’s with a marginal (or in Vector Asp’s case, nonexistent) ability no longer cut it.
If you have the time to wind this up, it gets pretty big at a fairly low cost. If you curve out perfectly, maybe it doesn’t really fit, and drawing it off the top is pretty bad—but it’s still got a ton of potential.
[draft]Clock of Omens[/draft]
Clock of Omens
It’s probably a good omen that they chose to reprint this instead of something like [card]Krark-Clan Ironworks[/card]. Keeping the combo cards at this level is likely much better for the game; the people who want to do sweet things can do them, but they aren’t anywhere near oppressive.
If you play this, you’re gonna get clocked.
[draft]Door to Nothingness[/draft]
Door to Nothingness
Speaking of sweet combo cards…
I’m not going to say that this does absolutely nothing, but I’m having trouble putting together the situation where you’d rather have this than some other finisher. If you want to win in a sweet way, stick to something great, like [card]Battle of Wits[/card].
Ruling this out completely seems unnecessary; some draft, somewhere, there will be a deck that is all five colors, has a ton of removal, and needs a good way to win the game. It will lose more games than it wins, just because deranged people the world over will try to make it work, myself included.
[draft]Elixir of Immortality[/draft]
Elixir of Immortality
As long as [card]Trinket Mage[/card] is hanging around, this will continue to see some amount of play. It’s never been insane, but it does what it’s supposed to do well enough.
This is mostly a sideboard card against the mill deck, with minor applications against very aggressive decks as well. The sweetest reason to play this is to recycle your infinite card draw, but you really need to have a ton of card draw to pull this off. Without [card]Foresee[/card], I’m not sure how possible that is.
[draft]Gem of Becoming[/draft]
Gem of Becoming
It’s becoming more and more difficult to justify playing such slow card advantage when actual efficient cards exist. Every now and then, you find a gem or two, but this is only a gem in the literal sense.
The circumstances when you play this are on the narrow side, although it is quite powerful in the right deck. It clearly fits best into slow 3-color decks, with a slight possibility of being used in decks that are two of the colors and have expensive spells. It might even be worth running like one Island in your B/R deck to maximize the gem, assuming you are already interested in it.
Just going off history, Lotus cards have all been quite good. Gilded Lotus was quite the reasonable [card]Tinker[/card] target last time it was around, and it does an awesome job of enabling really ridiculous things. If you are looking to go deep with [card]Genesis Wave[/card], Gilded Lotus almost assuredly has a place, and I know of at least one Elder Dragon Planeswalker End Boss that might be interested. It is a little bit awkward that your five-drop is an enabler for your “real” cards, seeing as how five is often the top of a curve for a deck—but if you’re gonna go big, go big.
Once you cast Gilded Lotus, the world is your oyster. I wouldn’t plan on playing this in every deck, so make sure you have enough action to make use of the boundless amounts of mana at your disposal. Firebreathers are good, big things are good, and card draw does a pretty good job as well. Turn five Lotus into three-drop is awesome; and if you have any kind of follow-up, you should be in good shape.
It’s been many moons since this was part of a tier 1 deck. I do have to recognize the contributions it made as part of Brian Weissman’s The Deck, and how sweet Beta Jayemdae Tomes look, even if those days are long past.
This is a legitimate win condition, but requires a good amount of work on your part. You really do have to build a specific deck to fully utilize this; you can’t just throw the book at them and expect it to work. If you can successfully stall out the game, a few turns of Toming should crush them.
Swords being insane make this not kite good enough; it’s a tough sail trying to include this over something that gives protection from multiple colors and huge bonuses.
If you are trying to lay a beatdown and have large non-flying things, this is the card for you. It certainly doesn’t fit into every deck, but the power-level is high enough that many decks will want it. In green decks particularly, I wouldn’t be ashamed to take this very early.
Well, this is three cards in one. That’s something, right? Of course, the fact that each and every one is unclayable kills its chances, so back to the drawing board it is.
No matter which you choose, you aren’t getting a great deal, or a terrible one. Three mediocre deals in one is pretty solid, and being this adaptable makes it always playable (if never super-exciting).
[draft]Ring of Evos Isle[/draft]
Ring of Evos Isle
Needing to pay mana every turn really kills this, since you can’t just throw this on a guy and forget about it. For the same amount of mana that this costs, you can just play and equip a Sword instead (and I get that the Swords are absurd, but this is the world that equipment has to compete in, at least for now).
Limited: 1.5 off-color, 3.5 on-color
I see this more as a sideboard card against removal than a sick main deck card, unless you have a ton of blue creatures. If more than half of your guys are blue, this becomes really sweet, offering a cheap [card]Dragon’s Blood[/card], plus a substantial effect. This is also one of the Rings in this cycle that I wouldn’t mind playing in an off-color deck, unlike a few of the others.
[draft]Ring of Kalonia[/draft]
Ring of Kalonia
The ability here isn’t really close to what you are looking for in Constructed, and growing by one a turn doesn’t ring any bells either.
The rating on this card is completely predicated on your deck being full of green creatures, because this Ring is unplayable otherwise. Building a giant trampler is pretty sweet, and when this card is on, it’s really on.
[draft]Ring of Thune[/draft]
Ring of Thune
Thune we will see what Standard looks like without Swords, but I fear that even then this won’t be even close to playable.
Much like the [card]Ring of Kalonia[/card], this is strictly for heavy white decks. Vigilance is cool, but not that cool.
[draft]Ring of Valkas[/draft]
Ring of Valkas
I don’t think I’m being hasty when I say that this doesn’t have a great shot at seeing Constructed play. It’s more competitive than most of the cycle, seeing as how it’s basically [card]Fervor[/card] that grows your guys (at a higher mana cost); but it still seems a bit underpowered.
Again, I would advise against running this without a good complement of red creatures. Once you have met that threshold (seven or more), it seems pretty good, and haste is among the better things to grant even the non-red guys in your deck.
[draft]Ring of Xathrid[/draft]
Ring of Xathrid
I was hoping that there would be one ring to rule them all, but seeing as how this is the last one, that hope was in vain.
This is another of the rings that I could see playing in an off-color deck, mainly out of the sideboard. Regeneration is powerful, and in some matchups, it can do a ton of work.
[draft]Sands of Delirium[/draft]
Sands of Delirium
To the great disappointment of delirious milling fans the world over, this just doesn’t cut it. When milling has been good, it’s been because you are getting insane output per mana spent ([card]Sanity Grinding[/card], for example). Paying 1:1 is just not efficient enough.
This kills them fairly quickly in a mostly unstoppable way. You will have to build a defense that can protect you for a number of turns, but once you do, this is one of the best ways to actually finish off the game. Even in normal decks, having this as an alternate win condition seems awesome.
[draft]Staff of Nin[/draft]
Staff of Nin
I’ve heard this described as a planeswalker, and that’s pretty accurate. Drawing an extra card and pinging for one every turn is certainly not bad, and they don’t even have the option of attacking it. It does die to artifact removal, but many decks don’t play any, so that isn’t a dealbreaker. It looks like the list of finishers for control decks might have a new addition, and nothing sounds better than killing them with this—even if you are racing against getting decked.
Now this is a [card]Jayemdae Tome[/card]. A few turns of this and you will have run away with the game handily, and all it takes is six mana. There aren’t many cards I’d take over this, and I’m not even sure any of those cards are uncommon or common.
Can you imagine blocking a [card]Wolfir Silverheart[/card] with this? What about just casting [card]Slagstorm[/card] after [card]Slagstorm[/card]? I’m not saying that such scenarios are likely, but Stuffy Doll was a bit player in Constructed last time it was around, albeit with [card]Skred[/card] as a partner in crime. I suspect this doesn’t get there this time, but who can resist the allure of the Stuffy Doll?
The main drawback to the Doll is its weakness to fliers, but it sure does punish ground guys well enough. Some decks just won’t be able to win if you play this, even if there are a number of common answers.
Sure, I’ll take another graveyard hoser. This is likely to be exiled to Eternal formats, but there’s no harm in having it around for Standard just in case.
I really doubt that you should ever side this in, but I’m sure there are situations where it’s conceivable.
Cards for life, life for Goats, Goats for artifacts, and artifacts for cards? What is this, Settlers of Cataan?
The only cards you get “for free” here are Goats, at one life each, and potentially artifacts, at one Goat each. Neither of those things are great deals, unless you happen to have some really broken artifacts. Discarding a card to gain 4 life isn’t horrendous in a race—but in a race, I’d rather just have this be a real card instead of a Trading Post.
[draft]Cathedral of War[/draft]
Cathedral of War
Giving up your land drop for a turn is rough, even if you do get +1/+1 permanently as a result. Still, the biggest cost is probably that this taps for colorless, even if that does broaden the range of decks that could potentially play it. Most of the aggressive decks right now are mono-color or have heavy color requirements (Mono-Green, Zombies, RG), so I don’t see where this fits exactly. Spell-lands like this tend to work better in control, but control decks clearly don’t want this effect.
Unless you have some 3+ color concoction, this won’t affect your manabase so much that you will leave it out, and most decks are going to be very happy to have this.
Dragonskull Summit, Drowned Catacomb, Glacial Fortress, Rootbound Crag, Sunpetal Grove, and Evolving Wilds
The dual lands plus Evolving Wilds are nice to have around, and will continue to let us cast our spells in Standard. Hooray spells!
These are always nice to have, but rarely critical. If you are really brewing a masterpiece, you might take one of these over a good playable, but most of the time they are late additions rather than early picks. For example, you’d have to be insane to first pick a land, say, Drowned Catacomb.
If your mono-red deck needs a little bit more action, I guess this could do the trick. Waiting three turns to get to attack is mildly unfortunate, but at least it does give you a 4/4 at a fairly low opportunity cost. It is hard to compete with the [card kessig wolf run]Wolf Run[/card] splash, but this could actually give it a run for its money.
This is sweet. I’m a sucker for free cards, and a land just turning into a 4/4 eventually is a hellion of a deal. If you are red, this is definitely a high pick.
Top 10 Cards for Constructed
10. [card]Battle of Wits[/card]
9. [card]Vampire Nighthawk[/card]
8. [card]Sublime Archangel[/card]
7. [card]Ajani, Caller of the Pride[/card]
6. [card]Talrand, Sky Summoner[/card]
5. [card]Essence Scatter[/card]
1. [card]Thundermaw Hellkite[/card]
I left some recent reprints off the list, though Duress was legitimately gone for a while. There are certainly some exciting cards here, proving that it doesn’t take Titans for a Core Set to impact Constructed. I do see this as a Core Set that is dialing back the overall power-level of the format, such that we won’t see the full extent of the new cards until cards like [card]Mana Leak[/card], [card]Ponder[/card], and [card]Primeval Titan[/card] do us all a favor and rotate out. No matter what kind of deck you are trying to build, there are plenty of sweet places to start, and I’m looking forward to trying a number of the cards on this list.
Enjoy the cube and IPA drafts this week, as I end my (unintentional) hiatus from videos, and wish me luck at the Modern Grand Prix this weekend!