Previous Set Reviews
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. 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.)
I’m going to rate all of these cards with the assumption that you are already the colors they are in. Because you are less likely to end up exactly Red/Black (for example) than any specific color, taking a gold Red/Black card over a mono-color card is usually a bad idea when it’s close. However, if you are already committed to a particular pair, then there’s not much of a cost, and that’s how you should consider these.
A 4/3 for four with a good ability is something I’ll always gladly play. This can be much better in some decks, as it does fit in with cards like Act of Treason and Dragon Fodder, so if you are heading that direction this gets a hell of a lot better.
It’s not the end of the world if you cast this and don’t have an enchantment, and I’ll play it any time I have even one way of growing it. I see this ability as more of an upside than an engine, so treat this as a bonus until you are in the full-on enchantment deck (which requires 1-2 of these, Blightcaster, and Auramancer before I’m really interested).
This is bound to be awesome in any game where you cast it. It’s just the right combination of power and versatility, and is a card that would actively push me into this color combination. If you are racing it can tap down their biggest attacker or blocker (which is often the same creature), it can ambush creatures, and it even lets you untap a creature enchanted with Claustrophobia, though it will still get locked down if it ends up tapped again. This card is great, and it’s a big reward for being in these two colors.
Though not as reliably awesome as Bounding Krasis, Citadel Castellan is still very powerful. If you play it early, it’s a huge threat, and combined with any trick or removal spell it can put your opponent very far behind. Even later, it’s not completely outclassed, and all it takes is one window and it becomes a monster.
Four power for three mana is a great deal, and two of it even is dealt as first strike damage. This plays very well with pump spells, and generally fits into what RW tends to do best: attack. This is slightly less powerful than some of the other gold cards, and is less a card pulling me into these colors than a card that’s great if you end up in them.
I don’t know what would possess me to ever pass this, and so far my record is perfect (at 0-0). This just always draws the best card in your graveyard (with some very rare exceptions), making it as close to Eternal Witness as we are going to get, and does so at a very reasonable cost. Cards like this are great as splashes too, because this gets more powerful the longer the game goes, and you aren’t playing it for its efficiency (so you don’t need to play it turn three like you would Iroas’s Champion).
In the artifact deck, this is great. Outside of that, it’s very mediocre. It’s small for its cost, the payoff is not easy to get to, and it’s a gold card on top of all that (ensuring that you won’t be picking it early). The great news is that if you do want it, you will know, and nobody else is taking it from you!
Shaman of the Pack
Even by itself, this is an average-sized creature that pings them for 1. That may not pack the biggest punch, but it’s playable, and most G/B decks will randomly have a few other Elves without even trying. If you are actually at zero, this is cuttable, but most people who draft this will be happy playing it. I also don’t mind this pushing me slightly towards an Elves deck, but it’s not an engine that makes you force Elves or anything like that.
It will not be hard to get 3 points of power out of this in a UW deck, and flash both lets this ambush creatures but also lets you use this as a combat trick. Fliers are great, and I’d prioritize them even more than normal if I had one of these. This even plays very well with Thopters, and this plus Aspiring Aeronaut is a neat little combo.
Zendikar smash! This is a 4/4 for four that usually attacks as a 5/4 right away, and will frequently hit even harder. It requires zero other cards to be good, and is a welcome addition to any G/R deck. This is the sort of thing that would pull me into a color, and if I see this around 4th when I have all red cards or all green cards, I’m likely to take it.
You don’t pay a huge cost when you play this, but its effect is so minor that I’m never going to prioritize it. If you don’t have a ton of 2’s it’s decent, and I do like that it helps up your artifact count in the decks that care about that. It gets better once you have a bunch of renown creatures, so keep that in mind.
Playing this is my dream, but I have a feeling that Archive Trap is more than just a card from Zendikar…
In a dedicated aggro deck, this goes up in value significantly. If you can reliably trigger it and are interested in attacking, it is a 3-power flier for three, and that sort of deal shouldn’t be passed up lightly. In a control or creature-light deck, this is absolutely unplayable.
This is the early frontrunner for most overrated card in the set. It’s not unplayable, exactly, but people love constructing scenarios where it’s great, and I just don’t see it. It’s a marginal card in some aggro decks, and is an artifact for when that matters, but otherwise this is a very low payoff creature that comes with a lot of risk. It can block well, so I can get behind siding this in if your deck is very slow.
Equipment is another category of card that seems to get overrated. This is too much mana for too little effect, and is not even a card I really want in my artifact decks.
Chief of the Foundry
In a deck full of Thopters this is great, and it does fill out the 3-drop slot if you really need that. A 2/3 for 3 can only be so bad, and even though this won’t often be exciting, it’s a fine card that can sometimes overperform. I keep saying this, but a lot of these engine cards aren’t really cards that are inspiring me to draft the decks they enable; they might be good once you are in the deck, but they aren’t pulling me into it.
This card isn’t as good as gold, but you probably will end up playing it a little more than half the time. It is a 4-power flier, and most decks don’t mind adding one of those if they are otherwise short on expensive cards.
A 3/3 for 4 is automatically playable, and it dying into 3 life is a nice way to sweeten the pot. This still isn’t a great card by any stretch, but it sure fills out the curve.
Guardians of Meletis
I always liked siding this in during Theros block, though I’d rarely maindeck it. It’s a decent way to control the board, but the fact that it doesn’t actually do anything counts against it. When you run into the token deck, or a deck with all fliers, this is quite weak, so I prefer to side it in against decks full of 4/4 ground creatures.
Despite the very odd name, this is a fantastic card.
Helm of the Gods
Even in the “enchantment deck” (I use quotation marks to demonstrate that I’m unsure of how good that deck is) this is not remotely playable. It’s too often going to do nothing, and when it works, you maybe get +2/+2?
As sad as it is to say, but the days when this was great have long since passed. The Book is now too slow, by a lot, and you shouldn’t be trying to read it.
I like this card, but I think it could have used a few more 7’s on it. As far as 7-drops that need to attack go, this is a good one. It’s large, it kills a creature when it attacks, and it defends you quite well once it gets rolling. Not every deck wants a 7-drop, but in the decks that do, they can do much worse.
In a deck with expensive cards, this is rock solid. It makes sure you can cast your great spells while getting rid of an annoying creature, all in one card. If you have nothing big, this isn’t great, though it is removal of last resort in a deck otherwise lacking.
Orbs of Warding
Killing someone through an Orbs of Warding sounds agonizing. Everything dealing 1 less damage is way more powerful than it sounds, and this should gain you a fair amount of life over the course of a game. That being said, it’s a purely defensive card that doesn’t deal with anything besides their 1-power creatures, so you have to be very controllish before this is what you want. I do like that it owns the Thopter deck, and drafting Orb control is definitely on my list.
I can think of a lot of colorful words to try and convince you not to play this, but I know some people will despite all that.
Limited: 1.0 // 3.0
The value of the goggles clearly depends on how many red spells you have. If you have 6+, these are great, and at 8+ they are a very hot commodity. With just a couple spells these are marginal at best, and with 0-2 they are basically unplayable. Hooray for contextual ratings!
“Attacks each turn if able” is one of the worst lines of text you can have on a card, and this unfortunately has it. Unless this is going to be a 4/3 the vast majority of the time, this is an unacceptable gamble, so that restricts it to only the most dedicated artifact decks.
This has a few reasons it’s a draw: it fills out your curve, can always be cast on two, and is an artifact. I’m certainly never excited to play this, but I’m not unhappy either.
Sigil of Valor
The amount of work this takes is a bit high for my tastes. It does create a solid threat, so in a deck with a lot of creatures it can represent +3/+3 or greater, but it’s only on attacks and forces you to stay back with the rest of the team. It’s perfect when your plan is to kill the opponent with a 1/1 flier, and a lot less so if you are playing a normal beatdown deck. I wouldn’t touch this in control, and am skeptical of it in most midrange decks too. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for this to be good, which is why I think it isn’t.
Sword of the Animist
Now this is the kind of equipment I like! It’s not great on stats, but getting free lands is sword of good, and if you can put extra lands to good use, this card will do a lot for you. It’s very powerful when working, but you do need to balance your counts of cheap creatures and expensive cards, which is the only reason I don’t think it fits into every deck.
Giving an evasive creature +2/+0 until you need to cash this in to kill something is a solid deal, so I’d throw this into most decks that have enough cheap creatures to carry it.
Unless you really want artifacts in your deck (which isn’t even how the artifact-centric decks are really built anyway), this is not a playable card. It’s just not efficient and not powerful enough to warrant a spot.
In an aggressive tokens deck, this can do some work. I’m a little wary of putting this in anything but the most focused deck, but the effect is powerful enough that it’s worth experimenting with.
You will always play these if you are in the two colors, but I wouldn’t draft them early.
Same goes for Evolving Wilds: play this, but don’t take it early. This isn’t a 3-color format, so you shouldn’t usually need fixing that badly.
Foundry of the Consuls
This, on the other hand, I would take early. Lands that double as spells are always great, and your manabase should be able to accommodate this with ease. It’s a powerful ability later in the game, and offers a lot of free flood protection.
I don’t know what kind of monstrosity wants this, but I’m sure going to find out. If your deck has a ton of expensive spells and few strict mana requirements, this is probably worth trying, though that’s going to be very rare.
Even in controlling decks, this is a legitimate win condition. Decks with multiple double-colored spells might want to avoid this, but I’ll gladly play it in everything else. Just gaining the ability to force through damage out of nowhere is awesome.
That wraps up another exciting Limited set review! Good luck to everyone at the prerelease, and I’ll be back next week with an eye towards Constructed.