5.0: The best of the best. (Pack Rat. Umezawa’s Jitte. Wingmate Roc.)
4.5: Incredible bomb, but not unbeatable. (Butcher of the Horde. Savage Knuckleblade. Crater’s Claws.)
4.0: Good rare or top-tier uncommon. (Triplicate Spirits. End Hostilities. Necropolis Fiend.)
3.5: Top-tier common or solid uncommon. (Lightning Strike. Woolly Loxodon. Suspension Field.)
3.0: Good playable that basically always makes the cut. (Debilitating Injury. Mardu Hordechief. Flesh to Dust.)
2.5: Solid playable that rarely gets cut. (Glacial Stalker. Bitter Revelation. Hunt the Weak.)
2.0: Good filler, but sometimes gets cut. (Dragonscale Boon. Defiant Strike. Cancel.)
1.5: Filler. Gets cut about half the time. (Scout the Borders. Aeronaut Tinkerer. Ranger’s Guile.)
1.0: Bad filler. Gets cut most of the time. (Tusked Colossodon. Bronze Sable. Oppressive Rays.)
0.5: Very low-end playables and sideboard material. (Naturalize. Feed the Clan. Congregate.)
0.0: Completely unplayable. (Search the City. Pyxis of Pandemonium.)
Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit
Getting a +1/+1 counter every time you play a creature is a fantastic deal, and is made even better when it’s on a creature itself. If you play Anafenza on two and have creatures to play afterwards, the game could just be over. Anafenza isn’t the best topdeck, but even in the late game you should be able to play her and another creature in the same turn, making her a solid rare.
A 2/2 double strike for 3 is a very solid play on its own, especially if you can find room for a couple good pump spells. Adding the Warrior synergy makes this a very powerful card in the right deck, and you are pretty safe taking this early and not worrying too much if the Warriors don’t come out and play. Even if you end up with just a few more Warriors, this is a powerful double-striker first and foremost, and that alone justifies it.
The more aggressive you are, the better this gets, as the second half is about as close to a Lava Axe as white ever sees. The first iteration of this should win you a combat, making it a normal combat trick, and the rebound means you are just getting a bonus attack out of the deal. Some decks don’t want bonus attacks, and those decks aren’t usually that high on combat tricks to begin with, so play this in your aggressive decks and leave it out of the control decks. It’s fine as filler in midrange decks, and given enough prowess-type cards you might play any rebound card, but when I see this card I think of attacking with 2-drops.
As we’ve seen in the last few months, on-color morphs are just about always good (sorry, Ainok Tracker), and I expect megamorphs to be no different in that respect. Sunstriker is a solid 3-mana play face up or face down, and double strike rewards you nicely for spending the time and mana to flip it. This is a good card in any white deck, and gets even better if you have cards like Artful Maneuver.
Bolster 1 is close enough to making this a 3/4 flier, even if the counter sometimes doesn’t go where you’d like it to. Those times are made up for the counter going somewhere even better than the Tactician, and once you look at this as a 3/4, it’s clear that it’s a fine card.
I guess double strike is a theme in this set, which does make it slightly more likely that you’ll play Battle Mastery (given enough double strikers, you will want a bunch of pump spells, making this better). I still would rather not play the card, and will in fact go to great lengths to make that happen. It’s just too much mana for too small a bonus, and is inherent card disadvantage to boot.
Center Soul and Artful Maneuver are surprisingly similar. They are both combat tricks, both rebound for extra damage, and both cost 1W. Center Soul is better at protecting your creatures from bounce and non-damaging removal, but worse at making your 3/3s beat 4/4s. My initial inclination is to say that Center Soul is slightly better, but it depends enough on your creatures (the better the creatures you have the better this gets) and how aggressive you are that most of the time you will have a good idea of which one your deck wants. This does fit into a wider range of decks, just because it’s fine in a creature-light deck that needs to protect a few good ones.
Champion of Arashin
Even if this is a small underdog against most cards that cost three mana, trading 1-for-1 and gaining 3 life mostly makes up for that. This is fairly replaceable, but also a good way to fill out any deck and is made better by combat tricks.
I’m always on the hunt for 1-drops that are good in the late game, and this fits the bill. The protection ability won’t always be live, but a 2/1 for 1 doesn’t need much more to be good, and there are plenty of Dragons roaming around.
Dragon’s Eye Sentry
In the early game, a 2/2 first striker can attack with impunity, making this a decent way to get value. It trails off later, so you may need to pick up a few tricks to force it through once the 3/3s start coming out.
Normally I’m a big fan of tappers, but this feels more like a decoy than the real thing. Stopping fliers is a huge part of why tappers are good, and a 2-mana activation is a very real drawback. I could see wanting one of these in some matchups, but I’m not excited at first glance.
It’s hard to go wrong with a 3/1 for two, and there don’t appear to be too many 1-damage effects running around (though there are a few black cards that punish this).
Echoes of the Kin Tree
I don’t know how slow this format will be yet, but this looks like it will be a bit too slow for draft, and maybe even Sealed. It is annoying to play against, which indicates some level of power, but paying 3 mana for +1/+1 (and not even always where you want it) is not quite where I want to be. There are matchups that will make this look good, but I suspect they will be in the minority.
Removal is removal, and I’ll pay 5 mana to kill a Dragon. The bolster is a nice little bonus, and makes me feel better about spending 5 on this. Cards that cost 5 and are situational do get worse in multiples, so don’t go grabbing too many of these.
If there’s a better example of a sideboard-only card, I’m afraid I’ve forgotten it.
I had to fight my initial inclinations to give this such a high rating, but I think anything less would be glaring error. The bonus this provides is sizable for just one mana, and tapping a creature means that this can easily do 4-5 damage the turn it comes down and an extra 3 or 4 each subsequent turn (letting a 2/2 attack past a 3/3 is worth 3 extra damage, not just the 1 the Aegis directly does). That sounds like an efficient beatdown card to me, and there are a lot of decks that will want as many of these as they can get.
Gleam of Authority
This gives you a powerful effect at a cheap cost, and the only drawback is that you are opening yourself up to getting 2-for-1’d. If that doesn’t happen in the first couple turns, you are probably good to go, as you will have gotten a few +1/+1 counters and multiple hits in with a sizable threat. There is a fair amount of removal in this set, so don’t be afraid to side this out against a deck that has multiple ways to kill or bounce large creatures.
If you need a 2/3 for three, this fills the role, but I’d recommend against trying to build an Aura deck. Sometimes it will line up such that you have this and a couple Auras, and if so, great. Don’t force it, as that way lies card disadvantage (and madness).
Great Teacher’s Decree
There have been a lot of powerful situational cards in white so far, and I think that’s great. Cards like this are awesome when you get to smash with three creatures over two turns, and horrendous when you are behind, so knowing when to include these in your deck and when to cast them is much more interesting than if every card is just good always. White also looks like it wants to attack a lot, in which case I decree this awesome.
Herald of Dromoka
Apparently Dromoka gives her heralds less power than Anafenza, as this is a significant downgrade from the previous version. That said, a 2/2 for two with minor upside is exactly what a deck full of pump spells wants, so this will be a fine pick most of the time. Don’t worry at all about the Warrior synergy—accept it when it’s good, but don’t go out of your way to enable it.
A Flametongue Kavu that you can cast for value on turn 2? I’m in. There’s nothing hidden about how good this card is, and I suggest taking it early and often. It kills the creatures you want to kill, it’s efficient, and it can even be easily splashed.
2/1 is enough worse than 2/2 that I am not excited about playing this, though it doesn’t take too many bolster-type cards before that changes. Once Lightwalker becomes Lightflier, it’s a whole new card, and one that I’d be happy to play. If your deck doesn’t mind playing a 2/1 and has 2-3 bolster effects, this is what you are looking for. If either of those things aren’t true, only play this if you need more cards.
This is a solid card in either mode, and the option to have both is a pretty large bonus. When you have plays on turns four and five, I’d likely play this face up, but if you have no immediate plans for those turns, playing this face down is a good idea.
In decks with 8+ noncreature spells, this is an awesome turn-one play, and it still isn’t the worst topdeck later. I wouldn’t want to play this if I expected to mainly make it bigger by paying three mana, though having that option is a huge part of why this card is good. I’m not likely to first-pick this, but if I see it after I’ve taken a few spells that lead me down the Ojutai path, it should be treated as better than a 2.5.
It slices, it dices, it’s a windmill-slam first pick! At 4/4 for four, you don’t even need spells to make this good, and it isn’t like your opponent is snap-blocking with their own 4/4 when you have a bunch of cards in hand. With spells, this becomes nigh-impossible to race or kill, and that is exactly how bombs are made. Once I have this, I will likely prioritize spells to some degree, even if you don’t need to go super deep for this to be awesome.
Orator of Ojutai
How good this is hinges on one thing, and I bet you can guess what that is. If you don’t have enough of that mysterious thing, this isn’t really worth a slot except against the more aggressive decks, so I’d prefer to have four or so ways to trigger this. It is a good sideboard card, and control decks will likely play it either way, but it doesn’t mesh well with a lot of the aggressive white cards I’m seeing.
2-mana removal spells are back at common, and they mean business. Pacifism is an excellent card in any deck, and it being a common makes it a lot more important to pick up enchantment removal for the sideboard.
As far as 7-mana finishers go, this isn’t the most impressive. It’s a 2-for-1, but it doesn’t create a huge threat unless you’ve already played one and it died. If this is your only top-end, it’s profoundly disappointing, and if you have other good expensive cards, why do you need this?
This is much more a sideboard card than anything else, as I wouldn’t expect most opponents to have more than one target. Once I’ve seen two good ones (and it’s hard for multicolored cards not to be good in this format), I’m in, but that isn’t enough to justify maindecking this.
I’m going to be accumulating so many supplies in my control decks, and very few in the aggressive ones. If you want this, nobody else probably does, and if we are being honest you shouldn’t want this as much as I do. It is a good way to put a game out of reach once you’ve stabilized, but you only have room for so many cards like that.
I can’t imagine ever cutting this in a normal white deck, and that goes for both the controlling and aggressive varieties. It’s close enough to a 3/3 for 3 that I’m happy playing it, and it isn’t hard to craft board states where it’s even slightly better than that already high mark.
Glacial Stalker is back, and this time it charges one less mana to cast it straight up (and is one smaller in exchange).This gives you good incentive to play it face down, so I expect that to be the most common case, and it even combos with cards that care about +1/+1 counters if you have any of those.
Even though this is +2/+2 at the worst, that’s not super impressive for 4 mana, and the minor upside of blessing your other creatures that got bolstered isn’t huge. This is a fine trick if you are short, but I like the common pump spells more than this card.
Secure the Wastes
An army of 1/1s is still an army, and this card gets very frightening at 5+ mana. Sometimes you will have to cast it for a couple Warriors, which may seem like a waste, but that flexibility plus the power of casting it for lots of mana makes this an awesome card (and very splashable).
The megamorph costs on this cycle are steep, but I still think these are going to make your deck almost all the time. You can play it for three mana without much worry, and if it survives to flip up and be monstrous, great. A 4/4 lifelink flier is no joke, and a 3-drop that fills out the top end of your curve is a proven good addition. I wouldn’t worry about trying to draft Dragon tribal, but if that ends up happening it’s a nice bonus.
Suspension Field this is not. Killing small creatures is generally less good than killing big ones, though being worse than Suspension Field still leaves plenty of room to be good, and this is definitely good. I’d rather have Pacifism, but I’m not passing this one very often either.
A 4/4 Glorious Anthem is pretty strong, and this operates close enough to that in the decks that want him. Granted, it’s usually just going to give you the bonus on your turn, but that’s still very powerful, and if you untap with Strongarm Monk, things are probably looking good. It does reward you for having a decent number of creatures, which conflicts with triggering it, but I bet you can figure out a way to balance those two things (14 creatures and 8 spells seems like a solid ratio).
Student of Ojutai
On the defensive side of things, we have Student of Ojutai. I do like playing defense, and sitting back on Student plus card draw and removal is definitely something I’d like to try. Whether that fits with the aggressive bent of some of the other cards isn’t clear yet, though a 2/4 is solid enough that it could be a good way to race even in an aggro deck. Gaining 2-4 life a turn is hard to beat.
I’m not in the habit of turning down 4/3 fliers for 5, and having a very relevant bonus on top of that makes this very good. I foresee informing my opponent who cast a deal-3 on it that they are going to be sad, so make sure you aren’t that person.
Surge of Righteousness
A good sideboard card, but a sideboard card nonetheless. This is strong enough that I’d take it over most 2s or 2.5s if I have enough playables, as it is very good against decks of the colors it hates.
Sometimes you just need a 1/3 flier. Not often, but sometimes. It’s more defensive than most decks want, so don’t go out of your way to acquire it. Also, what’s this supposed to do when something invades its territory? Peck ineffectually?
Top 5 White Commons
The top four commons are good in both aggressive and controlling decks, which is why I would start by valuing them a little bit higher than the more situational cards, but there are plenty of decks that want Glaring Aegis and Artful Maneuver over the random creatures. Likewise, Enduring Victory starts getting better once you become more of a control deck, and the same is true of Student of Ojutai. I like that white has the tools to draft a bunch of different decks, and it should be interesting to figure out which you want to be in during each draft.
Next up is blue, which will round out Ojutai’s offerings until we get to multicolor.
[Editor’s Note: This article originally rated Aven Tactician at 3.0.]