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Scars of Mirrodin Set Review – Blue

If not for Trinket Mage, I would be very depressed about the state of blue, since the rest of the offerings are somewhat suspect. Grand Architect and Riddlesmith look like they combine well with Trinket Mage for some sort of tricky blue artifact deck, but past that there isn’t much. Volition Reins does offer a good answer to planeswalkers, though a good counterspell wouldn’t have hurt. I guess I shouldn’t be too greedy; after all, we did just get Mana Leak!

As usual, the ratings scales are as follows:

Constructed

5.0: Multi-format All-Star. Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Tarmogoyf.

4.0: Format staple. Vengevine. Mana Leak.

3.5: Good in multiple archetypes, but not a format staple. Raging Ravine. Lotus Cobra.

3.0: Archetype staple. Cultivate. Goblin Guide.

2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. Rampant Growth. Khalni Heart Expedition.

2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. Celestial Purge. (Bear in mind that many cards fall into this category, although explanation of why is obviously important)

1.0 It has seen play once. One with Nothing. (I believe it was tech vs Owling Mine, although fairly suspicious tech at that.)

Limited

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%)

Argent Sphinx
argent sphinx

Constructed: 1.0

Again with the 4 mana 4/3 fliers. The ability isn’t bad, but the amount of work it takes to get it active just isn’t worth it. They could have just printed this without the metalcraft clause as an upgraded Rainbow Efreet, though that may have been a little too good. As is, it definitely is on the side of not playable. If you have all these sweet artifacts out, what are you trying to accomplish with a 4/3?

Limited: 4.0

Blinking itself is worse than shroud, and a 4/3 is somehow worse than a 4/4, giving Indomitable Angel the lead. And by lead, I mean both are easy first picks, since four power fliers for four with good, relevant abilities are what you want to open.

Bonds of Quicksilver
bonds of quicksilver

Constructed: 1.0

It isn’t difficult to quickly dismiss this one, especially once you realize you could cast Jace for the same amount of mana.

Limited: 2.5

Giving this flash is decent, but not a huge upgrade. It does let you not waste your turn when they have an untapped dude, but you will probably end up playing this mainphase most of the time anyway. Let’s just say that upgrading to Mystic Restraints is more than worth paying the extra blue mana, even if Bonds will make the cut most of the time.

Darkslick Drake
Darkslick Drake

Constructed: 1.0

I bet this guy thinks he’s pretty slick, what with the extra card draw and all. I was mildly excited when I thought he was a blue [card]Elvish Visionary[/card], but he is sadly not.

Limited: 3.0

Fighting Drake was always a beast, and upgrading him to an Aven Fisher only makes him more awesome. The extra card is certainly relevant, and even makes chumping with him not feel so bad, if the situation warrants it. Fliers like this make me optimistic about drafting a non-themed UW deck, since the pure power level is high enough to carry games. UW Fliers has always been awesome, and even fancy themes like infect and metalcraft won’t necessarily change that.

Disperse
Disperse

Constructed: 1.0

For those of you wondering what “strictly better” means, let me introduce you to Into the Roil.

Limited: 2.5

I wouldn’t necessarily play all my copies of Disperse, but I would almost always play the first one. This format is shaping up to be pretty fast, and an unconditional bounce spell goes a long way in fast games. The addition of equipment makes it especially relevant, since you cost them a ton of mana by bouncing an equipped dude. You also get to reset your infected guys, which adds just enough versatility to make this good. It does suffer from the problem of being a non-artifact spell, which is a serious drawback in some decks, since you are playing enough random do-nothing artifacts that your colored spells all need to be creatures or straight up removal.

Dissipation Field
Dissipation Field

Constructed: 1.0

I remember when this card was called No Mercy, and was still abysmally bad. My overall excitement for this set is dissipating rapidly, and cards like this are the cause.

Limited: 1.0

The circumstances it takes for this to be awesome are just so narrow that I wouldn’t suggest playing it. Bouncing a permanent is most certainly not killing it, and you don’t want to make a plan based on them bashing you. If you drop this on turn three or four, it might be mildly annoying, but it still won’t necessarily be gamebreaking, and drawing it later just seems so terrible. Plus, I can just imagine a Putrefax getting in multiple times because of this…

Grand Architect
Grand Architect

Constructed: 2.5

Any card that instantly taps for 2/3 of its mana cost is worth looking at (assuming that cost isn’t something absurd like 8), and having a minor Crusade ability doesn’t hurt. Powering out Masticores and Wurmcoil Engines is pretty sweet, and the Architect has a few good support cards in Riddlesmith and Trinket Mage. Accelerating into a t4 Wurmcoil or Core with regen mana up by itself is definitely interesting, and playing Architect and immediately casting a 2-drop is pretty sweet too.

Limited: 4.0

This guy can lead to some pretty busted starts, and the pump ability is grand too. A 1/3 Crusade that also taps for multiple mana gives you value in almost every situation; early it accelerates you, and late it pumps all your guys. Worst comes to worst, it still is a creature itself. You don’t even really need to build a deck around him; you will naturally be playing a bunch of artifacts most of the time anyway. Get in there, Razorfield Thresher!

Halt Order
Halt Order

Constructed: 1.0

A narrow Exclude isn’t what the doctor ordered, so I would halt any plans of including it. If artifacts are going to be big, they are usually going to be cheap, and I don’t see most decks having the space or inclination to try and sideboard such a marginal card.

Limited: 3.0

You might sideboard this out in some matchups, but I would always start it. It’s pretty hard not to get value, and worst comes to worst you counter a random spellbomb for the quick 2 for 1.

Inexorable Tide
Inexorable Tide

Constructed: 1.0

As inexorable as the tide is the printing of the 5+ mana enchantment that mimics the set’s keyword. Much like Maelstrom Nexus, Cast Through Time, and others, Inexorable Tide is destined to languish in the reservoir of unplayable rares. If this were a financial column of sorts, I might point out the similarities to Doubling Season or whatever, but this isn’t, so uh, forget I just said that.

Limited: 1.0-3.0

Unlike previous versions, I actually think Inexorable Tide might be good enough. Proliferate is a strong mechanic, and in the right deck it can be pretty degenerate. The most awkward thing is the color, since BG Infect is the deck where this would shine, so UU makes that impossible. If you manage to have a UG or UB Infect deck, I could definitely see the Tide rising in value. When each spell you play shrinks their guys and deals them 2 damage, it sure sounds a lot better.

Lumengrid Drake
Lumengrid Drake

Constructed: 1.0

Blah blah blah if this did its thing even without metalcraft it wouldn’t be good enough. Jace has done a number on four mana spells; how can you justify tapping 4 mana, some of it blue, and NOT casting Jace (not that the Drake would have been good enough even without Jace existing, but my point stands). I know every time I cast not Jace I wish I was casting Jace.

Limited: 3.0

In the unlikely event that you are never triggering the metalcraft, you are still in the market for a 2/2 flier for four. The most viable non-metalcraft blue deck happens to be the classic U/x fliers deck, and it turns out that the Drake fits in perfectly. I wouldn’t expect to bounce things on turn four very often, but he makes a pretty awesome lategame play.

Neurok Invisimancer
Neurok Invisimancer

Constructed: 1.0

Word doesn’t like this cardname at all, and neither do I. Turning dudes invisible is all well and good, but any card that references “blocking” is like an auto-fail in Constructed.

Limited: 3.0

I will gladly trade a point of toughness on my Phantom Warrior for pseudo-haste. I wasn’t planning on blocking anyway, so getting in an extra couple damage is pretty nice. You might think this is good with infect, but if you are planning to infect them, the 2/1 unblockable part of the card doesn’t do much, which kind of negates the value you get.

Plated Seastrider
Plated Seastrider

Constructed: 1.0

Kraken Hatchling has been dangerously close to playable for a while now, but doubling the cost for an extra power isn’t taking any strides towards playable. Plus, blocking Wild Nacatl is no longer high on my list of priorities, so I don’t anticipate Striding anytime soon.

Limited: 1.0

Tim Aten probably won’t feel bad when he plays this, but the rest of you should. Infect and equipment both severely reduce the efficacy of this as a blocker, and besides blocking (and occasionally striding), what is a Plated Seastrider good for?

Quicksilver Gargantuan
Quicksilver Gargantuan

Constructed: 1.0

For seven mana, I better get not only a copy of a creature, but a hot cup of coffee and a fresh croissant. Since I don’t see breakfast forthcoming, I would suggest avoiding this; to do otherwise would be a gargantuan mistake.

Limited: 2.5

Make no mistake; seven is a gargantuan number (too easy, I know, but what am I without my puns?). I wouldn’t play this every single time, but if you have a somewhat controllish deck it isn’t unreasonable to get to seven mana. Once it hits play it usually is awesome, since it is almost always just better than the best creature on the board.

Riddlesmith
Riddlesmith

Constructed: 2.5

Riddle me this: what costs 2 mana, looks like it sucks, but might actually be decent? Ok, maybe “looks like it sucks” is overstating the case, but Riddlesmith doesn’t scream Constructed playable on first glance. He is often going to be a package deal with the Architect, and can also make good use of random Ornithopters or Memnites in a Trinket Mage combo or beatdown deck.

Limited: 3.0

If you only trigger him once, you still probably got almost a card’s worth of value, depending on what you pitch. He is one of the easiest ways to get to metalcraft, assuming you have an artifact to start cycling, and unlike a normal looter, he might bash for two (when hes not breaking windows or stealing things).

Scrapdiver Serpent
Scrapdiver Serpent

Constructed: 1.0

If only there was an easy play on this name that could fully express how bad he is in Constructed. Oh well.

Limited: 1.5

Paying seven mana for a 5/5 that probably is unblockable is quite different from paying seven mana for the best creature on the board, and the disparity in rating easily reflects that. Amazing!

Screeching Silcaw
Screeching Silcaw

Constructed: 1.0

Let’s try adjusting these stats and seeing what happens. Halve the mana cost, take away the necessity for metalcraft, and hell, even up the milling to six. Would that be broken? Yeah, it might be, but it isn’t even a guarantee. Now, once you add in any of the real stats, you are left with a screeching pile of garbage.

Limited: 0.5

Having one mill card completely out of the blue seems odd to me. Having a card that doesn’t interact well with basically every other card in your deck (save for additional copies of itself) is not the way to win games. The only use I can see for this is going for the Triple Crown. For those wondering what that is, it’s when you have them dead to damage, milling, and poison at the same time. On MTGO, you can even have them run out of time too, which is just complete dominance. Of course, if you succeed in getting people dead with poison and the Silcaw at the same time as damage, I expect many of them to also coincidentally run out of time…

Shape Anew
Shape Anew

Constructed: 1.0

If only the Eldrazi were artifacts, then we would have something to talk about. Since they aren’t, I’m not sure what card is worth going to the trouble of getting this to work.

Limited: 0.5

Again, the variance on this card makes it too much of a crapshoot. I can maybe see siding it in against something like a [card]Molten-Tail Masticore[/card], but you would have to be in pretty bad shape to try something like that.

Sky-Eel School
Sky-Eel School

Constructed: 1.0

If you are really worried about getting decked, I suppose you could run this instead of Sphinx of Lost Truths. You will also save yourself the trouble of worrying about where the match slips go when you win, and whether you will have time to make your early dinner reservation.

Limited: 3.0

I like this one a little better than the Darkslick Drake, though if you curve is top-heavy you might have to take the cheaper card. Either way you have nothing to complain about, since you will soon be schooling your opponents with your awesome fliers.

Steady Progress
Steady Progress

Constructed: 2.0

Besides the Pyromancer Ascension possibility I mentioned in my earlier article, Steady Progress can also potentially get you way more than three mana’s worth of value. I wouldn’t plan on untapping with a planeswalker in play, since that is usually a good sign either way, but if you can load up on enough interesting stuff it might be possible to make enough progress with this. A Pyromancer deck with Jace (which is probably the best build anyway) is probably the best bet, since there aren’t many other high-value cards that use counters. Surprising them with Rachet Bomb is cute, but for one more mana, why don’t you just play Wrath of God?

Limited: 2.0

It doesn’t take much for me to play this in my deck. One good synergy and one mediocre one is probably enough, and I suspect that even the one good one will be plenty. Cantripping is awesome, and gives you a ton of leeway. Most blue decks won’t be infecting, but something like Trigon of Corruption is incentive enough for you to make progress.

Stoic Rebuttal
Stoic Rebuttal

Constructed: 2.5

Rebuttal is an actual strict upgrade to Cancel, even if you don’t have artifacts in your deck. By casting Cancel, you are telling them you don’t have artifacts, and by playing Rebuttal you aren’t giving up any information, and might actually trick them into assuming you have some Rachet Bombs or something. I wouldn’t say that this is ever going to be broken, since a 2 mana counter isn’t that abusive, but it is quite strong in an artifact-heavy deck, and still playable as a Cancel that is approximately 3% cheaper over the long run in a normal UW deck with 3-4 artifacts (note: rebuttals about my cost % estimate will be stoically ignored).

Limited: 1.5

Cancel fluctuates pretty wildly from set to set, and has ranged from almost unplayable (Zendikar, Shards) to awesome (M10, M11, Time Spiral). Scars looks like it will fall more on the Zendikar/Shards side, though if you are consistently getting the discount, that does change things for the better.

Thrummingbird
Thrummingbird

Constructed: 2.0

I don’t see any particular home for the ‘Bird now, but I am loathe to ignore a potentially powerful repeatable effect. It is also one of the only ways to proliferate in the same turn as you cast a planeswalker (at least before you have a ton of leftover mana, of course), though it’ll need more than just that in order to see play.

Limited: 2.5

You don’t need much to make Thrummingbird playable, though you do need something. Once it starts multiplying whatever it is you have going, it gets pretty filthy, and 1/1 fliers generally have a fair amount of utility on their own (at least compared to 1/1 non-fliers, which rarely do anything). Equipment makes small evasion guys much better too, which is something to keep in mind.

Trinket Mage
Trinket Mage

Constructed: 3.5

Now we are talking! Trinket Mage has been one of my favorite cards for a long time, and I am constantly putting it in my Vintage decks (though the fun police, aka the Ocho, always makes me cut it for something actually good). It might not have Sensei’s Divining Top to get, but it will do just fine grabbing black Spellbombs, Memnites, Everflowing Chalices, and even Chimeric Mass. It triggers Vengevine once you play a Memnite, and it is always good value. It doesn’t take too much to get me to add some Mages in, and even something like 2-3 targets probably warrants at least one. Standard is so much less powerful than last time Trinket Mage was around, and I expect it to show up in all sorts of decks. Did I mention it was good value?

Limited: 3.5

Maybe I’m a little biased here, but one halfway decent target and I’m in. Trinket Mage was one of the best 5th Dawn commons (ok, with a little help from Viridian Longbow and Leonin Bola), and even though it isn’t as good in Scars, it still is the easiest 2 for 1 around. Getting a random spellbomb is fine, and often you will have at least one other target. If you are lucky enough to have a Chimeric Mass already, Trinket Mage legitimately becomes a solid first pick, even when we account for my pro-Trinket Mage bias.

Turn Aside
Turn Aside

Constructed: 1.0

There is a whole host of 1-mana conditional counters you can now turn to, though I guess adding another one never hurts. Saving your guys for one mana isn’t usually what blue is interested in doing, and it works pretty badly with planeswalkers (since Bolts are going to target you, not your Jace), so I doubt it’ll really gain much traction. Spell Pierce just does a better job at pretty much everything.

Limited: 0.5

There aren’t nearly enough removal spells in the format for me to maindeck this, though it is a solid sideboard card. If you can, try and pick a few up every draft; it shouldn’t be too difficult, and will turn tough matchups into good ones. Whenever your 13th pick trades for their first pick, you got value.

Twisted Image
Twisted Image

Constructed: 2.0

Not giving this a snap 1.0 might be strange, but it is possible for there to be enough 0-power guys in the format that this becomes live. It might be a twisted way to do so, but it does kill Cunning Sparkmage, and decks with Cunning Sparkmage often contain Birds of Paradise as well. I would say it is more likely that this doesn’t see play than it does, but I’m not ruling it out.

Limited: 2.5

The biggest cost to playing this is the spell slot, since metalcraft is a harsh mistress. In a normal format, this would be an auto-play, since it cycles for one mana and is easy to get a little value from. It only took wrapter getting me once with this for me to respect it, and there are enough 1/x and x/1 guys for me to like it. It also kills any guy that is reduced to 0 power because of infect, which will come up reasonably often.

Vault Skyward
Vault Skyward

Constructed: 1.0

Coming soon in From the Vault: Unplayables.

Limited: 0.5

If you are playing blue and this is your best way to deal with fliers, I think you have a problem. Untapping the guy for potential ambushes is still just way too sketchy for me to want to play this.

Vedalken Certarch
Vedalken Certarch

Constructed: 1.0

I don’t know what a certarch is, but I’m going to assume it’s Vedalken for “unfit for Constructed work.”

Limited: 1.0-3.0

This is one of the swingy metalcraft cards, since it goes from being a stone blank to a board dominating card just like that. Only the actual metalcraft decks are going to play this, so it should go mid-pack, though this is the kind of card that metalcraft is built for. Phil Yam turboed this out by playing double Myr into Accorder’s Shield, and I found my land locked down on turn 3, which was quite the Yambush.

Volition Reins
Volition Reins

Constructed: 3.0

Somehow I keep missing this when I talk about UW not having answers to planeswalkers, even though the mana cost is pretty hefty. Superior to Confiscate in almost any deck interested in it, Volition Reins is certainly powerful enough to justify paying six mana. UW decks are already clogged at the high end, but this is definitely a contender. Taking planeswalkers is clearly the most exciting use, but stealing Titans will do just fine.

Limited: 4.5

Yes, the scale I’m using breaks down when it comes to cards with triple-colored mana costs, but bear with it. I like the scale beyond that, and it is the one WotC uses, so it feels like the best option. Anyways, Confiscate is still broken in Limited, and stealing sick artifacts is particularly relevant in this set. There are a few maindeckable enchantment removal spells, which is unfortunate, though that doesn’t make this any less a ridiculous bomb.

Top 5 Blue Cards for Constructed

5. Stoic Rebuttal
4. Riddlesmith
3. Grand Architect
2. Volition Reins
1. Trinket Mage

Trinket Mage is the clear winner here, and the card that will see more play than probably the rest of the list put together. Even UW Control might be interested in collecting a few Trinkets, though Sea Gate Oracle probably gets the nod. Volition Reins is another saucy lategame card, and is also the only other card that is a lock to see play (well, Rebuttal will, but isn’t much of an upgrade over Cancel). Architect and Riddlesmith are both speculative, but certainly are better than the rest of the slim pickings blue (and Scars) seems to offer.

Top 5 Commons for Limited

5. Vedalken Certarch
4. Lumengrid Drake
3. Neurok Invisimancer
2. Darkslick Drake
1. Sky-Eel School

The top blue commons are mostly fliers; what are the odds? Certarch can certainly move up in the order in the right deck, though the top 2 cards are pretty hard to beat. Blue seems solid, and one of the colors with the least potential for gimmicky decks; drafting a “normal” deck will be par for the course.

That’s it for today; join me tomorrow as I tackle black!

LSV

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