Once again, its set review season! Starting with white, I’ll go over one color a day this week, offering my thoughts, comments, criticisms, and completely serious observations of every card in the set. The ratings I use are as follows:
5.0: Multi-format All-Star. [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card]. [card]Tarmogoyf[/card].
4.0: Format staple. [card]Vengevine[/card]. [card]Mana Leak[/card].
3.5: Good in multiple archetypes, but not a format staple. [card]Raging Ravine[/card]. [card]Lotus Cobra[/card].
3.0: Archetype staple. [card]Cultivate[/card]. [card]Goblin Guide[/card].
2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. [card]Rampant Growth[/card]. [card]Khalni Heart Expedition[/card].
2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. [card]Celestial Purge[/card]. (Bear in mind that many cards fall into this category, although explanation of why is obviously important)
1.0 It has seen play once. [card]One with Nothing[/card]. (I believe it was tech vs Owling Mine, although fairly suspicious tech at that.)
5.0: I will always play this card. Period.
4.5: I will almost always play this card, regardless of what else I get.
4.0: I will strongly consider playing this as the only card of its color.
3.5: I feel a strong pull into this card’s color.
3.0: This card makes me want to play this color. (Given that I’m playing that color, I will play this card 100% of the time.)
2.5: Several cards of this power level start to pull me into this color. If playing that color, I essentially always play these. (Given that I’m playing that color, I will play this card 90% of the time.)
2.0: If I’m playing this color, I usually play these. (70%)
1.5: This card will make the cut into the main deck about half the times I play this color. (50%)
1.0: I feel bad when this card is in my main deck. (30%)
0.5: There are situations where I might sideboard this into my deck, but I’ll never start it. (10%)
0.0: I will never put this card into my deck (main deck or after sideboarding). (0%)[draft]Accorder Paladin[/draft] [card]Accorder Paladin[/card]
I’ll be the first to admit that this isn’t the kind of card I tend to play, and it certainly doesn’t go in my kind of decks (ignore the PT Kyoto coverage…), but I think that it definitely has some potential. I mean, the battle cry mechanic seems like a giant setup for Pyroclasm, but if you are going to go big, go big. Will this finally be the card that gets WW back in the spotlight? Not on its own, but in combination with some friends, I could see it happening.
A 3/1 for two would already be playable, at least according to most people’s standards. Add in the bonus for bashing with multiple guys and you have a solid card for any aggressive white deck. Plus, a 2-drop that trades with Cystbearer and Ichorclaw Myr is always a plus.[draft]Ardent Recruit[/draft] [card]Ardent Recruit[/card]
Constructed: 2.0[card]Court Homunculus[/card] v2.0 suffers from not being an artifact himself, but at least is a 3/3 when all is said and done. The “artifact deck” won’t have room for a ton of non-artifact guys, but Ardent Recruit feels like it might be worth recruiting for the cause if you are running [card]Myrsmith[/card], [card]Signal Pest[/card], and [card]Contested War Zone[/card].
At least [card]Auriok Sunchaser[/card] gives you a good payoff when you metalcraft it; this guy just becomes a [card]Hill Giant[/card], and usually at about the same time as when you could just cast a Hill Giant instead. Metalcraft cards like this are what I would try and avoid, even if you are trying to draft metalcraft.[draft]Banishment Decree[/draft] [card]Banishment Decree[/card]
I decree that this is banished to the unplayable pile, never to see the light of play in Constructed.
Five mana is a bit pricey, so I wouldn’t windmill slam this or anything, yet I don’t see myself cutting this in a white deck. Instant-speed removal, even if it just comes back next turn, still is removal, and there is no loss of card advantage here. It shouldn’t be too difficult to set things up so this gives you a pretty good turn, especially with metalcraft and other such nonsense.[draft]Choking Fumes[/draft] [card]Choking Fumes[/card]
Choke on this, [card]Kuldotha Rebirth[/card] deck!
This seems like a good sideboard card or a mediocre maindeck card, which probably means I’ll play an average of two in all my white decks. It is a little obvious, so a competent opponent will avoid getting blown out most of the time, and even in the best case scenario it won’t be that devastating. Infect does seem particularly susceptible, both because its guys tend to be small and because it wants to attack every turn, so Choking them out sounds like a good plan.[draft]Divine Offering[/draft] [card]Divine Offering[/card]
As much as I like incidental lifegain (and trust me, I do), it isn’t worth giving up the ability to blow up enchantments. [card]Kor Sanctifiers[/card], [card]Ratchet Bomb[/card], and even [card]Leonin Relic-Warder[/card] all seem like better cards to me, even in a control deck that wouldn’t mind a few extra life. On the other hand, if Artifacts.dec end up insane enough, this card could help keep them in check (kinda).
Limited: 3.5[card]Shatter[/card] with a very relevant upside? Sounds Divine to me! [draft]Frantic Salvage[/draft] [card]Frantic Salvage[/card]
I keep re-reading this card, frantically trying to salvage any sort of value from it, but there just is none to be had. Any dedicated artifact deck would rather be beating down or casting [card]Shape Anew[/card], and this card helps neither plan.
If you are blessed enough to have good artifacts, this is a sick gas spell in the lategame. A four mana [card]Raise Dead[/card] isn’t exciting, but tack on the ability to ensure your next three draw steps are all gas and you have a card. Worst comes to worst, you can even salvage this by cycling it if you have no good targets. You won’t have to take this card very highly, since you want one at most in your maindeck, and only in certain decks.[draft]Gore Vassal[/draft] [card]Gore Vassal[/card]
If damage still stacked…this would still be horrible.
On the other hand, even damage not stacking doesn’t stop this from being a very solid Limited card. I love cards that give me options, especially ones that don’t cost any mana to activate. Just having Gore Vassal in play increases the board complexity significantly, and in a good way. It will mostly be used to gore your opponent’s creatures, with the added bonus of being able to save one of your guys (at a cost).[draft]Hero of Bladehold[/draft] [card]Hero of Bladehold[/card]
This isn’t quite [card]Cloudgoat Ranger[/card], but it might just be the blade anyway. While it fails the Jace test (can it beat Jace on an empty board), it provides 7 power the first time it swings, which is a solid return on your mana investment. The fact that it loses to Jace isn’t as huge as it may seem anyway, since you aren’t playing Hero of Bladehold in a deck with no other creatures, so you should probably have a dude or two out to begin with. [card]Contested War Zone[/card] is another reason I have hope for Hero of Bladehold; that land is a real beating, and it fits perfectly in the kind of deck that Hero goes well in. Whether mono-white, or white/x, I would be surprised if Hero didn’t show up somewhere.
Hero does what a lot of bombs don’t: gets cast on turn 4! It is tough to rank all the different awesome rares, but when it comes down to it, being cheaper than the rest is huge. On of the big reasons that I prefer [card oxxida scrapmelter]Scrapmelter[/card] and [card]Skinrender[/card] to some of the more powerful six-drops is the fact that you can actually cast them early and often, a characteristic which Hero shares. This is one bomb you won’t be left holding in your hand when stuck on five lands, that’s for sure. I don’t even think you need to draft all that differently to accommodate it; Hero is going to be a beating in any deck, even infect, since it will kill in a few swings regardless.[draft]Kembas Legion[/draft] [card]Kemba’s Legion[/card]
Expensive limited-only cards like this are legion, a cost of sets being designed for draft as well as Constructed (and a cost we gladly pay).
As much as I love Scrappy, this guy isn’t even at that level, and I don’t usually get to maindeck el Scraperino. Seven mana is just a lot, and not having any sort of evasion pretty much kills it. It isn’t like they are really going to be bashing into a 4/6 with anything, much less multiple guys, so the second ability is pretty narrow. Kemba needs to get some new followers.[draft]Leonin Relic-Warder[/draft] [card]Leonin Relic-Warder[/card]
Legacy is the format where I expect this to make the biggest splash, since it happens to be very effective against both [card]Aether Vial[/card] and [card]Counterbalance[/card]. The fact that [card]Aether Vial[/card] will come back sans counters is huge, and Vial is becoming more and more a staple of the Legacy landscape, making me pretty optimistic that this guy will show up in all the aggressive WW-ish decks. He coincidentally also plays very well with Vial, allowing him to dodge [card]Counterbalance[/card] and jump in midcombat to nuke a [card umezawas jitte]Jitte[/card] or the like. I’m just waiting for the day when he gets Vialed out to kill a [card]Standstill[/card], though to be fair, Standstill usually isn’t too effective against an opposing Vial to begin with. He also isn’t even mandatory, meaning you can just Vial him out and beat down if there are no good targets!
In non-Legacy formats, the outlook is a little less positive, but if there is a WW deck and it wants to up its percentage against various flavors of Tezzeret, this gives it a good tool. I wouldn’t put it in control decks, since decks that don’t want the aggressive body are much better off with permanent solutions like [card]Kor Sanctifiers[/card], [card]Ratchet Bomb[/card], and [card]Revoke Existence[/card].
Limited: 3.5[card oxidda scrapmelter]Scrapmelter[/card] this is not, but it still delivers a good amount of value for the cost. It is very comparable to [card]Tidehollow Sculler[/card], which was always a solid but not insane card. The problem is that if you snag something awesome, you can’t really risk him in combat, especially since he is only a 2/2, making him a pseudo-removal spell, not a 2 for 1. Also, unlike Sculler, a midcombat [card]Galvanic Blast[/card] could be a blowout, since killing Relic-Warder and blocking with the newly unlocked guy is pretty filthy. [draft]Leonin Skyhunter[/draft] [card]Leonin Skyhunter[/card]
Cards have come a long way since the first time Skyhunter was printed, and even then it wasn’t really in that good a deck. WW is still struggling along, and certainly has the leonin’s share of options nowadays, so I would be remiss if I didn’t list Skyhunter among them. If there are too many [card]Wall of Omens[/card] and [card]Sea Gate Oracle[/card]s
runningstanding around, you could definitely do worse, but I would also hope that you could do better.
While I’m certainly not cutting Leonin Skyhunter, I’m not in a huge hurry to slam him either. WW on turn two is a tough sell, making this a little more expensive than it seems, which in turn makes it much weaker than it seems. Still, mana efficiency is mana efficiency, and playing a Skyhunter later in the game while still using the rest of your mana to equip something or cast something else is pretty nice. Plus, if you live the (mediocre) dream and get a bunch of these and Kemba’s Skyguards, you can just jam 11-12 Plains in your deck and curve out beautifully.[draft]Loxodon Partisan[/draft] [card]Loxodon Partisan[/card]
I don’t want to choose sides, but I hope Phyrexia has some more affordable cards. The bar for five-mana spells is impossibly high in Constructed, and Elephants aren’t known for their jumping skills. In fact, I’m trying to think of commons (or even uncommons, for the most part) that do cost four or more that see Constructed play, and am drawing a blank. I guess there are really no commons that can compete with Planeswalkers and the like, which is kind of depressing now that I think about it.
Oh good, I can still get my fill of off-color [card]Soliton[/card]s for when things go poorly. I’m still not sure how big a deal battle cry is in Limited, though it doesn’t appear that we are paying much for it. A five-mana 3/4 is still a card I would play from time to time, so adding an additional positive ability is certainly not a bad thing. Not exciting and not an early pick, but definitely a card.[draft]Masters Call[/draft] [card]Master’s Call[/card]
There is only one way I can see this being played, and it involves [card]Shape Anew[/card]. There are a few ways to try and Shape trash into treasure, and Master’s Call seems like the slightly better option. Master’s Call plus [card]Inkmoth Nexus[/card] gives you 8 Shape Anew targets, which isn’t unreasonable, since the other option makes you play with more loose cards. That of course is the method of playing [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card], [card]Trinket Mage[/card], and a single cheap equipment (probably [card]Accorder’s Shield[/card]), along with possible [card]Inkmoth Nexus[/card]. Having 8 ways to find one (bad) card seems suspect to me, and I would vastly prefer just playing Master’s Call and Inkmoth Nexus, since neither of those cards is that horrendous by itself. Of course, none of that addresses whether Tinkering out a [card blightsteel colossus]BSC[/card] on turn 4-5 is good enough, but if you want to do it, I would suggest the use of Master’s Call.
I’m assuming the vast majority of white decks will be interested in multiple artifact guys, either for metalcraft, battle cry, or both, and the rating here reflects that. Three mana for two 1/1’s isn’t normally the most impressive deal, but when they possess multiple valuable types (artifact, Myr), things start looking a little better. I also like that Master’s Call, [card]Dispense Justice[/card], and [card]Choking Fumes[/card] all share a mana cost, which makes playing around them much tougher. They all discourage attacking, but in different ways, and if they just skip their attack step and you have Master’s Call, you didn’t waste any mana and they threw away an attack step (plus they are more likely to attack next turn, which means if you do have one of the other cards, you can wreck them with it then).[draft]Mirran Crusader[/draft] [card]Mirran Crusader[/card]
Constructed: 2.0[card]Paladin en-Vec[/card] saw a fair amount of play, and this guy hits twice as hard, so he definitely is worth looking at. Sadly, pro-green is definitely not pro-red, making his application a little more narrow. A 2/2 double striker probably beats most green guys in a fight anyway, and the ones he can’t beat just ignore him anyway (I’m talking to you, [card]Primeval Titan[/card]). If you really want pro-GB, I would probably look to the [card sword of feast and famine]Sword[/card] instead.
There aren’t many beaters better than the Crusader, and getting free autowins against a fairly common deck is nice. The protection here is even much better than the Phyrexian Crusaders, since Infect is all green and black guys + a few small artifacts, whereas metalcraft is full of [card]Chrome Steed[/card]s and [card]Rusted Relic[/card]s that can ignore protection from red and white. Even against decks where the protection is irrelevant, double strike on an easily equippable guy is awesome, making this a good first pick.[draft]Phyrexian Rebirth[/draft] [card]Phyrexian Rebirth[/card]
I like this card, even if it isn’t [card]Martial Coup[/card]. Wrath + value is a good combination, and we aren’t talking about two 1/1’s either. Block Wraths sure have come a long way, almost to the point where they are better than the normal ones. Day of Judgment is sadly low in value nowadays, and paying 2 extra to get a 3/3 or 4/4 (or more!) seems pretty sweet. A mix of both sounds like a good plan, especially postboard. Stupid Jace does ruin the party a little, since the token is pretty vulnerable, but the decks this is good against don’t usually play Jace anyway.
Now this is a Limited bomb. Just having it in your deck means no situation is hopeless, and it doesn’t even go back to parity; all of a sudden, you have a huge threat. It really punishes them for overextending, which is a little awkward now that the format has a ton of wraths ([card]Sunblast Angel[/card], [card]Massacre Wurm[/card], [card]Contagion Engine[/card], [card]Phyrexian Rebirth[/card], [card]Slagstorm[/card]). There are plenty of reasons not to dump your hand on the board, not that it makes Rebirth anything less than a solid first pick.[draft]Priests of Norn[/draft] [card]Priests of Norn[/card]
Nornmally I would pass this by without a second thought, and just throw in a pun of some kind, but today I decided to pass on that.
In an infect deck, this is an auto-play, since a four-toughness infect creature is almost impossible to tangle with and come out ahead. Even in a non-infect deck, if you are defensive it is pretty awesome, and it would take a very aggressive deck for me to consider benching him. I have no idea how good W-based infect is, but even if it isn’t great, Priests of Norn is a very solid card.[draft]Tine Shrike[/draft] [card]Tine Shrike[/card]
Oh man, tine for another pun! I don’t want to get too carried away though, since three shrikes and you’re out.
Four-power fliers tend to end games quickly, so if you are infect this is a high pick. Much like most infect cards, if you are not infect, they don’t work so well. Shrike has a low toughness and costs four, so I would mostly stay away from it if infect isn’t your main plan, though I did win a draft today with just 2 Shrikes and 3 Priests of Norn as my infect squad.[draft]Victorys Herald[/draft] [card]Victory’s Herald[/card]
He won’t have many victories to announce if he ends up in a Constructed deck, that’s for sure. A Titan he is not.
This will end most games with one hit, and in the rare event that it doesn’t, you still have a 4/4 flier and gained four. The mana cost might be prohibitive, but that doesn’t stop it from being a sweet first pick. Granted, the presence of infect does make this a little less backbreaking in some matchups, though that doesn’t make it bad by any stretch of the imagination.[draft]White Suns Zenith[/draft] [card]White Sun’s Zenith[/card]
Ranking the Zeniths is tough, but I’m pretty sure that white is either second or third (after the [card green suns zenith]green one[/card]). I’m looking forward to trying this out in blue-white, since now we finally have a way to use all the mana we have when we leave up counterspells. Prior to the printing of the blue and white Zeniths, if a control deck left all its lands untapped, the opponent could just do nothing and the blue deck would have nothing to punish them with. Now, you can leave up all your [card]Cancel[/card]s and [card]Mana Leak[/card]s, and if they do nothing, you get to make 3-4 cats, if not more. The Zenith also scales up quite rapidly, making it a reasonable 5 mana play, a solid six mana play, and a very good 7+ mana play. If there is a UW draw-go deck, White Sun’s Zenith is going to play a big role in making it possible, and is my pick for one of the better cards in the set.
White gets yet another expensive bomb, and once again it costs a ton of white mana. I had the good fortune of opening this one in a draft today, and I was able to ride it to a 3-0 (assisted by all those Priests of Norn I mentioned earlier). I cast it for 5 mana, 6 mana, and a LOT of mana, and was happy every day. Even getting 2 guys in a pinch was good, and the reshuffling meant I didn’t feel it was wasted. That clause is really relevant, since if you open the Zenith, you should be looking to draft a long game control deck anyway.
Top 5 White Commons for Limited
5. [card]Banishment Decree[/card] 4. [card]Tine Shrike[/card] 3. [card]Leonin Skyhunter[/card] 2. [card]Priest of Norn[/card] 1. [card]Divine Offering[/card]
Top 5 Constructed Cards for White
5. [card]Accorder Paladin[/card] 4. [card]Phyrexian Rebirth[/card] 3. [card]Leonin Relic-Warder[/card] 2. [card]Hero of Bladehold[/card] 1. [card]White Sun’s Zenith[/card]
White made out quite well in this set, especially once you take into account all the artifacts that replaced colored cards. White control and aggro both got good boosts in Standard, with Legacy picking up another good disruptive 2-drop. The cards tend to pair nicely too, with Hero of Bladehold and Accorder Paladin facing off against White Sun’s Zenith and Phyrexian Rebirth. I’m pretty happy with white, and look forward to seeing how the cards pan out.
Tomorrow I go over Blue, which got some pretty nice uncommons in Limited!