Previous HOU Set Reviews
Let’s take a look at the grading scale, with the usual caveat that what I write about the card is more relevant, as there are many factors that aren’t reflected in a card’s grade.
Retired and inducted into the Limited Hall of Fame: Pack Rat. Umezawa’s Jitte.
5.0: The best of the best. (Noxious Gearhulk. Verduous Gearhulk. Aethersphere Harvester.)
4.5: Incredible bomb, but not unbeatable. (Untethered Express. Herald of Anguish. Whirlermaker.)
4.0: Good rare or top-tier uncommon. (Renegade Freighter. Winding Constrictor. Thopter Arrest.)
3.5: Top-tier common or solid uncommon. (Welding Sparks. Prophetic Prism. Aether Chaser. Daring Demolition.)
3.0: Good playable that basically always makes the cut. (Dawnfeather Eagle. Scrounging Bandar. Dhund Operative.)
2.5: Solid playable that rarely gets cut. (Wayward Giant. Leave in the Dust. Countless Gears Renegade.)
2.0: Good filler, but sometimes gets cut. (Bastion Mastodon. Implement of Malice. Highspire Infusion.)
1.5: Filler. Gets cut about half the time. (Renegade’s Getaway. Reservoir Walker. Watchful Automaton.)
1.0: Bad filler. Gets cut most of the time. (Ironclad Revolutionary. Precise Strike.)
0.5: Very low-end playables and sideboard material. (Take Down. Natural Obsolecence.)
0.0: Completely unplayable. (Secret Salvage. Lost Legacy. Gonti’s Machinations. Other complicated black cards.)
When this is good, it’ll be very good. If you can attack for 3 reliably, it’s an awesome early play, and later in the game it can buy back whatever your best removal spell was (at the cost of a draw step). You don’t have to be fully dedicated to spells to make this playable, but it does become closer to a 3.5 once you have 10 or more in your deck.
The Locust God
Not only is this an absurd bomb, but it’s also nigh-unkillable. It is a huge flyer that creates an army, and even peels through your deck while it’s at it. All right then.
Nicol Bolas, God-Pharoah
Limited: 1.0 // 3.5
If you can cast Nicol Bolas, he is awesome, with the “if” part being the rub. I’d like to think this is a viable dream, and that first-picking Bolas can work out, but there is a real chance that it’s not a good strategy to try to cast a 3-color 7-drop. The abilities are powerful enough that it seems worth it, and I’m sure going to try.
This grade might be ambitious, but Obelisk Spider seems like a house. It’s a tough blocker, weakens anything it comes into contact with, and can drain the opponent multiple times over the course of the game (either via its own ability or any other -1/-1 counter card). I might be high on this card, but it looks like it brickwalls enough other cards while having an effect on the entire game, and deserves a premium rating as a result.
Resolute Survivors is a beating. It attacks effectively on its own, and can easily get 3-4 exert triggers without going to great lengths to build around it. It’s a natural fit in R/W Aggro, and has stats that make it playable in any deck, aggressive or not.
A lot of games are going to revolve around this card, as I know I’ll feel like I’m losing whenever my opponent has it in play. I honestly wanted to give it a 4.0, but that might be pushing it even for me. It’s a cheap flyer that can block 2/2s and gives you the ability to win any long game, and the 2 life from its ability really does help you stabilize. I’m probably taking this every time I see it, and I hoopoe to see it often.
Samut, the Tested
I’m going to play this whenever I’m red-green, but ignore the mythic symbol for a second and realize it’s not all that busted. It only does 2 damage, and doesn’t have too high a loyalty, so it’s far from a bomb.
The Scarab God
Another unkillable God, and another 5.0. The Scarab God is huge, builds an army, and is extremely hard to deal with. Don’t pass this card.
The Scorpion God
Or this one, which is also just unbelievable. These Gods do not mess around, and are all windmill-slam first picks.
This is an excellent reason to draft Zombies, and does a good job on its own. It makes it hard for your opponent to block or race, punishing control and aggro decks alike.
Farm // Table
Consign // Oblivion
I don’t mind 2-mana bounce effects, and getting a Mind Rot option on the back end makes this solid. I would want to be blue-black to really make use of it, though it’s still playable without Oblivion.
Claim // Fame
Limited decks just don’t have enough cheap creatures to make this worthwhile. Stick to putting this in your Modern Death’s Shadow decks (until Shadow gets banned).
Struggle // Survive
Not only do you not need to be playing green for this to be good, it’s not even clear how often you’d even cast Survive. This is just a premium removal spell, which is enough for me.
Appeal // Authority
In a green-white beatdown deck, this threatens to push through a ton of damage. Outside of exactly that archetype, I wouldn’t play it.
Leave // Chance
This is too expensive for what it offers, as turning a bunch of permanents into new cards is not worth 6 mana total. It’s also a mediocre way of saving your own creatures, and overall isn’t a card I’m going to take my chances with.
Reason // Believe
Blue for scry 3 is close to being playable, though still not quite enough. Add a cantrip back half that sometimes cheats on mana, and I would be willing to try this. It’s a bit dicey, but sometimes it’ll be a decent card filtering mechanism that ends up costing not much mana.
Grind // Dust
Refuse // Cooperate
If blue-red is indeed aggressive, this could be pretty strong. Nugging the opponent for 4 or 5 damage when they play a spell and then coming back later to copy something like Unsummon is a beating, and I could see this ending a lot of games. It does require an aggressive deck, but is good once you’re there.
Driven // Despair
If you can reliably get two creatures through, this is a big swing in cards. It takes a bit of setup and doesn’t impact the board, but is powerful when it does work.
Limited: 1.0 // 2.5
Making all your cycling cards into cantrips (since you get to cycle them and then play them) is cute, and this does get value when it comes down late since your graveyard is stocked. This is likely too slow, but I’m sure interested in seeing how it plays out.
Crook of Condemnation
Save this one for Constructed as well. There’s no amount of eternalize that would lead me to board this in.
Dagger of the Worthy
Some decks won’t mind paying a bit of mana to upgrade their dorky creatures, and this punishes the opponent whether they block or not. It’s a bit slow, so make sure you don’t have too many other mana sinks if you are looking to play this.
This is a build-around, insofar as it’s a 7-mana spell that requires a stocked graveyard. If you can swing that, this is powerful enough to take over a game, and acts like a mini-Sandwurm Convergence, which is appealing.
The stats here are paltry, and the ability isn’t one you really want to pay for. Play this if you need a creature, but that’s it.
If you want a 4/4 for 5, you’ve got one. It’s sometimes going to come out a turn early, thanks to 1-mana cycling, and in decks with 3-4 cyclers that cost 1, I’d upgrade this a few notches.
I suspect this is not a Manalith format, though if 3-color control decks are legit, Manalith can help them. Don’t play this in 2-color decks, and especially don’t play this unless you have a good amount of 6+ drops.
I don’t like the idea of paying mana for this over and over, but it is undeniably powerful in a long game. On balance I think it’ll be mediocre, with high notes here and there as the board state permits.
This seems like a plausible way to avoid running out of gas, and I can see this being useful even in aggro as your top end. It’s cheap enough that it feels like it can slot in on turns where you don’t have much going on, and eventually scrying is still a decent use of the card.
Most 2-color decks won’t want this, but 3-color decks or decks lacking in low drops will appreciate the mana consistency it brings.
Wall of Forgotten Pharaohs
0/4s don’t block particularly well in this set, and being able to maybe ping for 1 is not a huge upside.
These are all worth picking above midrange playables, and I’d play 2-3 without batting an eye. Protection from mana flood is so good, and these are better than you think.
Crypt of the Eternals
This is largely a worse Painted Bluffs, and I already didn’t love that card.
Dunes of the Dead
If you have multiple of the sacrifice Deserts and a good mana base this is playable, but otherwise it’s just a dead card.
If you can afford the mana inconsistency, this is a powerful land to have in play. It protects your creatures from removal, and can provide a good long-game advantage.
These are all pretty good, as the cost of running them is extremely low. Two standouts are Ifnir Deadlands, which is a half a grade higher than the rest, and Ipnu Rivulet, which is a full grade lower. They all provide a way to get Deserts into your graveyard, and they all have reasonable effects on the game.
You aren’t very likely to activate this, much less more than once. If you have a bunch of enablers it is good, but that won’t happen very often.
The main reason to play this is if you just want a Desert, because the actual text on this is not very impactful.
This gives you a Desert and decent mana-fixing in a deck with a lot of low-drop creatures. You could certainly do worse, though I’m not that likely to play it if I don’t care about Deserts.