If you missed my previous Limited reviews for Khans, check them out:
I’ll avoid the elephant in the room by not making any (more) elephant in the room jokes, though the image of an elephant sliding down a snow-covered Mountain surely can’t be meant to be taken seriously. It actually is a beating in Limited, though, because if they are able to double block I imagine this will mostly just trade for two smaller creatures. That’s very reasonable for five mana, and if you either have a trick or they don’t have a second blocker, this will run them over in no time.
A bear that makes not-a-bear that’s still called a Bear is a little confusing for those who know bears as 2/2s, but I’ll leave the flavor pronouncements to BenS. As a card this plays pretty well, and gives you about what you paid for. It’s slightly vulnerable to bounce, but also works well with it, and overall is a very respectable card. It’s a little weak for costing three colors, but if your manabase is already built to support it, this fits right in.
I like cards that are good to morph and good to cast, and even more because they are few and far between. Icefeather Aven is an efficient play on turn two and a good thing to morph in the mid to late game, all of which make it a winner in my book.
Having this counter a spell in the early to midgame if you ever don’t have a play is exactly what this kind of finisher needs to round it out. Some decks just want to see their opponents burn, and Mindswipe does that fairly well, so getting the ability to actually trade for a card early makes this playable in a wide range of decks. Many people will cast a spell while winning and regret it, as they watch themselves be charred to death by a giant Mindswipe.
If you are feeling lucky you can run this out as a morph and start bashing with it on turn five, but that exposes it to removal. I suspect against an unknown opponent you’d rather just wait until turn six, given how unstoppable this is, but the fact that you have the option just makes an already-strong card even stronger.
Savage Knuckleblade is the real deal in both Limited and Constructed. It’s awesome on turn three, hard to block at all points, and becomes better and better the longer the game goes on. Its only flaw is that it won’t pull you back into a game where you are very far behind, at least not by itself, but it’s got just about everything else you would want (up to and including some protection from removal).
The Temur common morph is a little more blunt than the others, which doesn’t make it less effective at all. This is a monster whenever you need a monster and a Grey Ogre when you don’t, which is the best kind of monster to have.
I’m not particularly worried about counterspells in Limited, but I do like ambushing random 4/4s, and Surrak does that just fine. Giving the rest of your team trample is a nice little bonus, but most of the card’s power is really in the stats to cost ratio and the fact it has flash. That’s not a bad thing, as I ran the numbers and 6/6 for 5 is very good.
In the right deck, this is insane, but some number of Temur decks might actually take a pass on it. You do want a decent amount of 4+-power creatures and the desire to attack, though usually those two things go hand in hand.
The combo of Mana Leak, +1/+1 and Pit Fight, and a pseudo-Falter is a powerful one. Leaving up counterspell mana and being able to fight if it doesn’t work out is a sick combo, and having a game-ending mode makes this live at pretty much any point in the game. Appropriately enough, this is only really bad when you have no good creatures in play, but even then you might want to Mana Leak something.
A situational counterspell with an awkward mana cost isn’t exactly what I look for in a card, but at least this gives you a nice little bonus if you do land it.
Act of Treason
This is the classic example of a card that is great in some decks and unplayable in many others, so don’t let the rating do all the talking. In an aggressive deck, this is the perfect card to punish the opponent for playing an expensive creature off a 3-color manabase. In a non-aggressive deck, this is the perfect card to leave in your sideboard.
Given that you aren’t ambushing anyone with this and it isn’t all that impressive to cast, this is one of the worst morphs you can end up with. That being said, on-color morphs are still pretty hard to leave on the sidelines.
Granted, in a land full of giant creatures this isn’t <i>quite</i> as insane as it normally is, but it’s still awesome. It always gets a 1 for 1, sometimes gets a 2 for 1, and in some shocking scenarios it gets the full 3 for 1.
Five for four is a fine deal, though it isn’t taking the drafting world by storm. Five for five isn’t really all that much better, and overall this is a solid removal spell that you don’t need to place a huge priority on. It is nice that it can finish games out, so like most burn spells, does a lot better in aggressive decks.
In a twist on most morphs, this usually starts face up and comes back face down, which is a fantastic deal. A 4/1 flier for four is good, it dying into a 2/2 is great, and the fact that with enough mana you get to repeat the cycle is just insane.
Barrage of Boulders
If your opponent has a lot of small creatures, this is obviously good, and if you have decently-sized creatures and expect a board stall, it’s not bad either. Even combining the two scenarios still leaves a lot of games where this isn’t the card you want, so my inclination is to not start this most of the time.
I’m actually not a huge fan of this. As a certified Limited expert (or something), I have concluded that a 1-toughness creature with prowess does not battle well against armies of morphs, which makes this into one of the less-impressive 3-drops in the set. In a dedicated prowess deck, you don’t have a ton of creature slots to waste on creatures that die this easily, and in a non-dedicated prowess deck, this doesn’t do a ton for you.
I don’t know where this trend of Looters with more power and toughness but higher loot costs came from, but I kind of like it. That doesn’t mean this is an auto-play, and in fact, far from it, but it does make Looters as a whole more interesting. If your deck wants to do a lot of blocking and has good cards to dig for, this is the perfect card, but I don’t know how many red/blue decks fit that description.
Paying four for three damage is an acceptable deal, if not an amazing one, but the ability to kill many of the creatures that would be otherwise out of reach makes this better than it looks at first glance. It’s also instant-speed removal, of which you can really never get enough of.
Multiple burn spells that hose specific clans is far and away the most hate I’ve seen in any color so far, but there’s nothing wrong with that. This is less of a bonus than the one on Bring Low, though it’s still a fine way to make sure your opponent’s creatures get dead (and stay gone).
I once again have to register my displeasure of morphs that don’t get a toughness boost when flipped. If your opponent thought combat was acceptable enough to get involved in to begin with, I’d like to at least throw them for a small loop by making my creature more likely to survive. As usual, morphs are still very playable, even the low-end ones.
Blaze +2 is definitely going to leave a crater.
On the creatures that often win combat anyway, you get to really win combat! I do realize that this just needs a 4-power creature to be in play, and you can target other creatures, but that’s still one hoop too many for what will often be an easy path to card disadvantage.
As stylish as these may be, they still cost a lot of mana. Granted, they probably kill the opponent in one or two hits, but they are closer to “very good” than “Limited bomb”. Khans seems like it has a good selection of removal, and that’s their secret weakness.
I knew I was on to something when I forced Cheon to draft Goblinslide in Vintage Masters (that’s Astral Slide plus Goblins, for those who didn’t get a chance to witness the event). If you have enough spells, this can kind of go off, but spell-heavy decks aren’t usually the best suited to make use of a bunch of Goblins.
A 2-drop that has aggressive abilities in the late game is exactly what a beatdown deck is looking for, and red seems like it’s got the makings of a solid beatdown deck. I am a little skeptical of beatdown in a 3-color set, but it’s very possible that you can draft a focused 2-color deck that makes up for the lack of power with speed, and cards like this are probably part of that.
This is good value, and only my fear of playing RR cards stops me from calling it an unqualified success. I have to reiterate how much harder it is to get double-colored cards out in a world where you are playing a ton of 3-color decks.
Howl of the Horde
Unless you have a lot of good, cheap removal, this isn’t really the card you are looking for.
This has all the qualities of Horde Ambusher with a higher upside, and as such it is a more desirable card. That’s just science.
Even in red-white, you are only playing this if you specifically need 2-drops. Some decks <i>really</i> need 2-drops, and this is a fine a one as any, but it’s nothing to leap out of your seat for.
This is best used as a one-time blocker, as treating it like a 4-damage burn spell to the face is much less likely to work out well. By the time you want 4 damage, your opponent can likely block, and using this up early is just throwing away a card in the hope of burning your opponent out. As a blocker, this is an opt-in removal spell, but if your opponent is choosing not to attack that’s probably fine for you as well.
Raid does not seem like it’s that hard to trigger in most decks, and even if you have to send in a creature on a suicide mission to get this to work, you still are getting decent value. Cards like this are what really press your advantage, though it is interesting that they aren’t very good at removing blockers, which prevents raid from snowballing too much.
This is less a mana-fixer than a way to rapidly deploy a bunch of threats, but it still can help you cast a splash card in a pinch. This is a little bit win-more, as it works when you are beating down and have a lot of gas, but a Hill Giant is not the worst fail case.
I don’t love the prowess creatures that aren’t impressive without spells being cast, and a 1/2 is a prime example. Haste does make triggering raid a thing, but in the dedicated prowess deck I think you want creatures with a little more in the way of stats.
Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
It’s funny how the very best cards don’t require a ton of analysis, and Sarkhan certainly demonstrates why: all his abilities are insane, he can help you mount a comeback or crush an enemy that’s on the back foot, and he does so for only five mana. If you have absolutely nothing out and your opponent has multiple creatures (or one creature with 5+ toughness), Sarkhan may not do it all, but he’s good in just about every other situation.
Outside of Mirrodin, Shatter is purely sideboard material.
The 4-mana 4/3 has always been a fine deal, and once again we only have the RR cost to thank for this not appearing in every red deck.
While I would prefer a little toughness before getting into a fight, I can’t argue that this isn’t effective in a prowess deck (or a ferocious deck, for that matter). The name is certainly the best part about the card, but that’s a high bar to clear when you call something “Swift Kick”.
Unless you plan on curving out perfectly, it seems tough to leave this out of your deck. Knowing you could draw two cards at the low, low cost of two mana and a card has to torment you if you do, and I’d say that most red-based decks will be happy to purchase a little bit of flood (or screw) insurance.
Only the most dedicated token deck is going to want this, and the good news for them is that nobody else is likely to snap it up. Triggering prowess only goes so far, and this is not the card you want to use to do so.
You have to be serious about beatdown if this is making the cut, and even then I’d be hesitant (unlike the Dasher himself). There are just so many ways this goes wrong, and losing a card for nothing is the worst scenario I can imagine. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but likely less than you think.
It doesn’t seem hard to make this into a 3/2, even if it has to wait until turn three or four, and it packs quite the punch when boosted. Even if you have to play it as a 2/1, it still walks right by 1/1’s, which is a surprisingly valuable skill, especially in a format with a decent amount of token-making.
Top 5 Red Commons
5. Swift Kick
2. Arrow Storm
1. Bring Low
Red has a lot of situational cards, which leads to a more variable set of ratings. There are a lot of awesome aggressive uncommons, but not that many good ones in the common slot, which makes me wonder if red aggro is actually going to be a thing. Once you start leaning towards three colors you end up diluting your powerful starts with taplands and mana inconsistency, which calls into question the whole plan to begin with. The controllish removal cards still seem like they fit well enough into a 3-color deck, and I like the prospect of using Tormenting Voice to make your draws more consistent. The red Divination has to live up to its name, after all.
I’ll round things out with green and Abzan tomorrow, after which I’ll take a look at the rest of the cards in the set.