Here’s the rating system I’ll be using, though you won’t see any “1s” today.
5.0: Multi-format All-Star (Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Tarmogoyf. Snapcaster Mage. Judge’s Familar)
4.0: Format staple. (Sphinx’s Revelation. Supreme Verdict. Thoughtseize. Pack Rat)
3.5: Good in multiple archetypes and formats, but not a staple. (Geist of Saint Traft. Nightveil Specter)
3.0: Archetype staple. (Underworld Connections. Thassa, God of the Sea)
2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. (Rapid Hybridization. Divination)
2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. Naturalize. (Bear in mind that many cards fall into this category, although an explanation 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.)
If you’re looking for my Limited reviews, I did those separately:
While hexproof decks are certainly going to start with Gladecover Scout, they will likely end up Bassara Tower Archer. Adding another cheap hexproof creature to the mix hits the target right on the bullseye for that deck, and this towers over all the alternatives.
This isn’t particularly efficient at 3, but it’s very swingy at 6, and overall it’s a card worth consdering if all the UW decks are overloading on Detention Sphere and Banishing Light. Not killing Gods probably puts this behind Unravel the Aether, but this slot is exactly where you can get edge if you read the metagame correctly.
Five mana is a big initial investment, but Mana Flare is a powerful enough effect that you shouldn’t dismiss this out of hand. Flash is very strong on this sort of card, and the possibility of dropping this end of turn and untapping and going off with something huge is a thing. I don’t know if it’s enough of a thing to justify running a 5-mana spell that requires a turn and can backfire, but adding getting you to 10-12 mana on turn six is powerful enough to take note of.
Even though this is a 4-mana Verduran Enchantress, what sets this apart (aside from 2 extra points of power, which do matter) is that it triggers immediately. Even if this gets killed right away, you still 2 for 1’ed the opponent, and if they don’t kill it, presumably you get to go very deep. Add to that all the creatures that also happen to be enchantments and you might have yourself the makings of a deck.
Except for decks that very much care about enchantments, this is likely too inefficient to make most lists. It clashes with Temples, which almost every deck already wants to play, and costs too much mana to really be classified as good ramp unless it’s played exactly on turn one. I like having more ramp options in the format, but this is not going to be one of my go-to ones.
I feel like there are enough Elvish Mystic options between Mystic, Sylvan Caryatid, and Kiora’s Follower that this lags behind, but a mono-green deck may deerly want to attack for 2 at some point.
The third mana on this likely kills it, but the dream is enchanting enough that it will get tried. Dredge decks already play a lot of enchantments, and seeing six cards is a decent payoff. I do think that the mana cost and the work needed don’t quite match up, but I’ve been wrong before (once, maybe).
Mulldrifter hit the gym, apparently. This is a possible source of card advantage for a Forest-heavy deck, though five mana is enough that the competition is incredibly fierce. Getting free creatures is a big game, though, and this can chain quite nicely.
By itself, this card isn’t super interesting, but it can combine well with anything that cares about creatures dying. It gives you a cheap and profitable way to trigger things like Dictate of Erebos, and is of a size that makes it a reasonable blocker against plenty of aggressive decks.
It doesn’t take a tactical genius to make this card awesome, as you basically just need to cast it and tap all your creatures, at which point all of their creatures die. This is a very powerful tool so that mono-green decks can fight (literally and figuratively) against cards like Master of Waves and matchups that involve a ton of creatures. It isn’t great against removal decks or control, so it strikes me as a sideboard card or low-number maindeck card, but make no mistakes about its power level.
Each new set dredges up a few more graveyard synergies, and this is one of the most exciting ones from Journey into Nyx. In a very dedicated deck, this represents a ton of damage, and its cost is cheap enough that it could easily be worth building around. It also fits hand in hand with Kruphix’s Insight, which is another powerful engine card if all the incentives line up perfectly.
Top 3 Green Cards
Green got a couple of strong build-arounds this set, all of which might fit into the same enchantment-based deck, but the most exciting card is Setessan Tactics, which gives green a ton of play in the removal department. The ability to just wipe your opponent’s team for 5 mana seems absurd, and as long as enough matchups lend themselves to such an effect, green should be happy.
I like that if you have creatures in play, Ajani gives you 3-power worth of haste, and if you don’t have creatures in play, Ajani finds them. That gives him a reasonable shot of protecting himself, and starting with 5 loyalty helps make that even more likely. Gaining 100 life is obviously not what Ajani decks tend to primarily want, but that will be relevant every now and then, and overall I like what Ajani is doing. He certainly seems better in aggressive decks, even with the Impulse ability, but I wouldn’t fault midrange decks for exploring his uses as well.
Athreos does face stiff competition in Xathrid Necromancer, but they might both be part of the same White Weenie/Human engine. I do think that this isn’t a God you want 4 copies of, but I’m excited about the idea of one or two going in BW Humans (which is already flooded with 3 drops, unfortunately). Be warned that your deck really needs to be aggressive to make Athreos’s ability punishing, so sticking him in random midrange decks is not going to pass.
It doesn’t seem inconcievable that this fits in a UB midrange/control deck, and it’s mostly predicated on how good a blocker Disciple happens to be. If blocking 2-power creatures is valuable, and your deck naturally has a good mix of cards at most costs, I wouldn’t fault you for playing this.
Five mana likely pushes this festively colored bird out of serious consideration, but a 6/6 flier with Flash is at least worth mentioning. It is still great in Limited!
White Weenie is flooded with plausible Gods, as Iroas also seems like he could lead the charge. I do think that White Weenie has enough strong attackers that Iroas is less needed, but making attacking automatic is a nice ability to have. Any deck that tries to fight you with blockers will likely lose to Iroas, though the same can’t be said about removal-heavy decks.
I may be ambitious on rating the Gods, but their power level can’t be denied. Whether they each find appropriate homes is the bigger question, and Keranos seems like one of the easiest to place. All he asks for is a controllish UR deck, which is not that difficult to find, and unlike the more linear, aggressive Gods, Keranos is a good fit in all sorts of different control decks.
It feels like Dictate of Karametra is where you want to be if you are going big, but Kruphix is at least somewhat interesting in control matchups. The fact that he doesn’t do anything on his own and dies to Detention Sphere/Banishing Light makes me less enamored, but stockpiling mana is at least powerful in slow matchups that involve counterspells.
This is a classic case of flexibility making up for raw power. Nyx Weaver doesn’t do anything particularly well, but enough of its different abilities are useful enough that it might see play. It’s an enchantment and a creature, for decks that care about such types, it fills your graveyard, and it can provide a powerful amount of card selection later in the game. I feel like this is going to pop up in more decks than you might think at first glance.
Pharika is both good in graveyard decks and good against them, which casts a fairly wide net. She isn’t so good that you are just going to randomly play her without doing at least a little enabling, but if you can consistently fill your graveyard, Pharika offers you a solid reward. Giving your opponents 1/1 deathtouch Snakes is annoying, but likely less annoying than whatever else they were going to do with the creature she just ate.
I don’t think this trumps RG’s other good finishers, but 8-power worth of haste (more if you have global pump effects) could be a rollicking good time.
Coinsmith is an enchantment, a human, and a 2-drop that stacks up well in multiples. There may be something here, given how many boxes this checks off (and how good it can be later in the game).
Artifacts and Lands
This is the lone artifact (of 5) to have strong Constructed implications, but it makes up for it by being very strong. The combo with Master of Waves is the most obvious (if they kill Master, Hall keeps the tokens alive), but there is much more to Hall than just that. Giving any color access to a Glorious Anthem is hugely powerful, and I think we are going to see a lot of this card over the next two years. It being legendary does complicate things, as you can’t just jam four and go all in, but it’s still worth building around.
While people overestimated how bad the drawback was when City of Brass and Juzam Djinn got printed, I think we have overcorrected in the 20 years since. I’ve seen Mana Confluences pop up in all sorts of decks where they shouldn’t (basically anything but aggro), and please do not put this in your Limited decks except under extreme circumstances. I do think this is a very powerful card, and will see a lot of Constructed play, but hitting the right balance can be tough. I like that it enables 2-color aggro decks, and fights the good fight against all the Temple decks in the format.
Now that we have all the temples, there’s no excuse for not playing the appropriate ones, and no color combination is left out. Temples, as always, do incentivize slow decks, but even the moderately fast decks are interested in their particular temple.
Journey into Nyx Top 10
9. Keranos, God of Storms
8. Hypnotic Siren
7. Ajani, Mentor of Heroes
5. Eidolon of Great Revel
4. Mana Confluence
3. Banishing Light
2. Silence the Believers
1. Prophetic Flamespeaker
Banishing Light is the easiest card to name, in terms of guaranteed immediate and future impact, but Prophetic Flamespeaker and Silence the Believers both have a higher potential impact (especially Flamespeaker, which could just end up being absurd). Journey into Nyx is going to make a very solid impact, especially considering that it’s the last expansion and a small set, which have the highest barrier to entry. Mana Confluence makes 2-color aggro much better, there are a ton of new removal spells and many new threats and potential build-arounds. Graveyard decks got a big boost, and all the big decks from previous Standard got some additions as well. I’ve been enjoying Block Constructed so far, and expect Standard to be a fun format over the coming months.