Welcome to my Oath of the Gatewatch Limited Set Review. As usual, there are a few things that inform these ratings:
• The numerical rating is an easy way to get a sense of where the card is, but context is everything. I strongly encourage you to read what I think about the card, why I gave it a certain rating, and what sorts of factors make it better or worse. For example, a card like Mist Intruder is quite good in the right deck, and quite bad in the wrong one. I’ll do my best to describe when and where these cards shine (or don’t), but the rating doesn’t have that subtlety.
• Oath is designed for Two-Headed Giant play. I’ll try and mention when a card has particular relevance there, which usually will be when it targets multiple players or provides benefits to a teammate.
• The ratings scale is below. It gives you an idea of what kinds of cards belong in each ratings group, but is certainly not absolute. I expect the cards I review here to change based on actual gameplay experience, and I’ll be revisiting those that change drastically in a month or so.
5.0: The best of the best. (Citadel Siege. Wingmate Roc. Dragonlord Atarka.)
4.5: Incredible bomb, but not unbeatable. (Tragic Arrogance. Whirler Rogue. Icefall Regent. Hangarback Walker.)
4.0: Good rare or top-tier uncommon. (Abbot of Keral Keep. Jhessian Thief. Ultimate Price.)
3.5: Top-tier common or solid uncommon. (Separatist Voidmage. Fiery Impulse. Epic Confrontation.)
3.0: Good playable that basically always makes the cut. (Deadbridge Shaman. Skyraker Giant. Watercourser.)
2.5: Solid playable that rarely gets cut. (Read the Bones. Silumgar Butcher. Dragon-Scarred Bear.)
2.0: Good filler, but sometimes gets cut. (Throwing Knife. Chandra’s Fury. Artful Maneuver.)
1.5: Filler. Gets cut about half the time. (Vastwood Gorger. Aeronaut Tinkerer. Cobblebrute.)
1.0: Bad filler. Gets cut most of the time. (Thornbow Archer. Deep-Sea Terror. Akroan Jailer.)
0.5: Very low-end playables and sideboard material. (Vandalize. Vine Snare. Congregate.)
0.0: Completely unplayable. (Fascination. Infinite Obliteration.)
Previous Set Reviews
Battle for Zendikar Set Review and Set Redo
3 mana for a 3/3 devoid is not bad, even if it’s in a color which doesn’t have a ton of payoff cards for having colorless creatures. The ability here is extremely powerful, and is exactly where I like to see the <> symbol. Since the ability requires colorless mana while the cost of the actual card is “normal,” you can much more safely play Eldrazi Displacer in your deck than if those symbols were reversed. You can cast it on turn 3 without much issue, and if the ability eventually becomes active, great!
Once you know that your deck will have a couple colorless sources, you should prioritize creatures with good enters-the-battlefield abilities, though those realistically were already going to be high picks. Plus, even without them, this can knock blockers out of the way, prevent opposing creatures from dealing damage when they attack, and save your creatures from removal. It’s overall excellent, and having this ability active will cause your opponent no end of headaches. If you knew you’d get 3-5 colorless sources, this would be a solid 4.0, but that’s something you won’t usually know until slightly later in the draft (and makes you commit a little more than you want to early).
This guy is quite affable, almost by definition. Nobody is taking him early, and while he provides solid defense, he’s nothing to get excited about. It’s possible that creatures line up such that 1/4 is a particularly good set of stats, but I’d expect Affa Protector to be a card most played in decks that care about Allies (which can bump the value significantly).
4 mana for 4/4 worth of stats is a nice little deal, and this even double-triggers any Allies you have lying around from Battle for Zendikar. It also makes it more likely you have Allies around for cohort, and overall provides a number of benefits at a low cost. I’m fine playing this in a non-Ally deck, though I can see sideboarding it out against an opponent with too many 2/3s.
Call the Gatewatch
With just one planeswalker, this is not what I’d call a good deal. Yes, Gideon is an absurd Magic card in Limited, but having a potential dead draw when you have Gideon before you draw Call is not appealing. Additionally, you are paying 3 mana for an effect that doesn’t impact the board, which is already suspect. I consider the times when you have two planeswalkers enough of a corner case that I’m happy just giving this a 0.0 and moving on.
This is an interesting card. At first, I was ready to say that it was the bad kind of trick, because it doesn’t grant any stats, but upon further reflection I’m interested in what it does during a race. It turns a 5-point swing to a 5-point life gain, a difference of 10 life, and it can be used to save one of your creatures to boot. If your deck is looking to race, I could see this being incredible, but it fares poorly against a control deck or in a control deck (most of the time). My guess is that this gets overvalued, but when it’s good, it will be very good. I’m going to start by looking to sideboard it in, but I’m calling this one of the cards that is most likely to increase in value once we get a better idea of the format.
Much like Allied Reinforcements, this represents 4/4 worth of stats, half of which are on a flier. Unlike Reinforcements, you aren’t guaranteed to get all 4 points, as this requires two other creatures to get the full bonus. In a creature-heavy deck, this is great, but don’t feel bad if your 10-12 creature deck ends up not playing it.
2HG: This, and any support card, gets better in 2HG. You can support your teammate’s creatures, and that makes Raptor a more appealing card for sure. The power level in 2HG is high enough that this still isn’t an auto-include, but you can look at both decks before figuring out how many creatures this has to target. I was lucky enough to play in the Oath 2HG world premier, and we actually opened 2 copies of this card, but played neither (even though it was one of the last cuts).
In general, 5-color cards are pretty tough to get going, but Tazri gets a rating assuming that line of text isn’t even there. A 5-mana 3/4 that gets an Ally is great, and only needs a couple other Allies before you are talking about guaranteed card advantage. I wouldn’t stretch your mana base too far to accommodate the activated ability, but if you are already four colors, having a source or two of the fifth could be worth it.
I like cheap, effective removal, and that it requires you to be defensive is the kind of drawback I’m OK with. Unlike similar cards, Glare doesn’t require you to leave up much mana, meaning you can play it in the same turn as other plays once you hit turn 6 or so. That makes it less obvious and less punishing when the opponent does play around it, unlike a card like Divine Verdict. While Glare doesn’t do all that much for you when you’re the attacker, it’s good enough to make the main deck of almost every normal deck. Few decks will be so focused that they can’t make use of this, because even aggressive decks get attacked.
While the effect this provides is powerful, there are tons of commons and uncommons that just wreck Iona’s Blessing. I like this mostly as a sideboard card against decks that don’t have access to bounce/unconditional removal, as sticking a Blessing will likely end the game. As a 22nd/23rd card, you could certainly do worse, as this at least offers a high payout when it does work.
Unconditional removal is valuable, even at this cost and speed. Isolation Zone does hit enchantments, which funnily enough means that it provides a solid bit of Zone defense when your opponent happens to have one. It also can combo with Processors from BFZ, though there are vastly fewer of those floating around with just the one pack you’ll be drafting from.
As with other 4+ mana cards, this isn’t exactly a combo in multiples, but it’s versatile enough that I’d play a couple without hesitation.
If you’re beatdown or Allies, this does exactly what you want. If you aren’t, it’s not much more than chaff, and you can easily discard it.
Kor Sky Climber
A 3/2 for 3 is not a terrible deal to begin with, and when it comes with a solid upside, the sky’s the limit. This is even an Ally, though just about any white deck will be glad to include this. The only decks that aren’t really that interested are the very controlling ones, but even those need 3-drops that can trade with opposing creatures.
Linvala, the Preserver
White continues to get absurd mythics, as Linvala gives you the perfect card for any stage of the game. Even when she doesn’t trigger, you get a 5/5 flier for 6 mana, which is a fine card, and she’s at her best at exactly the time when you need a big play. If you trigger both of Linvala’s abilities, she provides a ridiculous amount of value, and it’s not hard to maneuver the game such that you will. Even if your opponent knows you have Linvala, what are they going to do? They can’t just not attack you or not play creatures, as you eventually just get to develop your board and play Linvala anyways!
2HG: While technically Linvala is better here, because you will get an Angel if either opponent has more creatures than you, it’s not like she gets that much better—she’s already as good as it gets.
Make a Stand
Much like Encircling Fissure, Make a Stand leads to some pretty big blowouts. Unlike Encircling Fissure, you actually need some creatures to kick things off, which is why this won’t make the cut in every deck. It’s sick in creature-heavy matchups, which puts it more on the “great sideboard card” level than anything else.
Apparently the flying Kor are now Allies, which makes me wonder why they were so uncooperative in Battle for Zendikar. Either way, this occupies the same spot as other decent Allies: good in an Allies deck, somewhat lackluster outside of that. I do like 1/3 fliers in my defensive decks, so I’d be tempted to run one of these in some of those, but they aren’t a high priority.
I’m still pretty down on combat tricks, especially after how poorly they fared in the last format. When you are trying to build for synergy, cards like this don’t really help, so it’s not a huge leap to conclude that you shouldn’t always play them. If this format does have a ground-based white aggro deck, Mighty Leap could jump in value.
We had the pleasure of opening this in our foray into 2HG last weekend, and it delivered. If you play Munda’s Vanguard and it lives, you are just an Ally away from crushing your opponent. It’s not hard to find an Ally in this set, and Munda’s Vanguard is powerful enough to make it worth your while. It’s insane with tokens, but honestly, it doesn’t matter much what you have in play if you are getting to activate it. Even if you just have it plus the one other Ally, that’s still two counters a turn, and that’s a significant advantage.
Oath of Gideon
I’m not thrilled that this cycle of rares refers to a card type you are highly unlikely to have in Limited, but Oath of Gideon is still a mediocre Raise the Alarm. Given that it makes Allies, that’s often going to be enough, though I wouldn’t play this outside of a dedicated Ally deck.
Ondu War Cleric
A bear that can gain 2 life a turn is a solid little deal. It can beat down early and is quite relevant late, which is really all that you can ask for out of your 2-drops.
If this fully works, you are getting a ton of stats for not very much mana. It’s worth going out of your way to get that to happen, and taking this early is a good plan. It rewards token-making and cheap creatures, which aren’t that hard to pick up.
2HG: This is incredibly good, as you will rarely miss on using all the counters.
White is getting more and more removal these days, with three commons in BFZ and two here, which is not a small number. Searing Light is cheap and works on offense or defense, though it doesn’t quite clear blockers out of the way. It is unfortunate that this doesn’t stack with anything else, unlike a burn spell, but every now and then you will kill a 2/5 with it and feel very smart. Incredibly smart.
Shoulder to Shoulder
If you have at least 14 creatures, preferably with a lot of cheap ones, this is head-and-shoulders above the average pump spell. It’s a sorcery, so it’s not a trick as such, but it does provide a benefit without costing you a card. I like cards that don’t cost you a card.
2HG: Support, teammates, etc.
Spawnbinder Mage is one of the cohort cards that really misses if you aren’t consistently activating it. A 2/4 for 4 is expensive enough that you wouldn’t really play it without the ability, and tapping two creatures to tap one creature isn’t all that impressive even when it does work. I like one copy in a heavy Allies deck, but that’s about it.
2HG: Tappers get a reasonable amount better in 2HG, because you can deal with the biggest threat presented by either player, and because you can keep changing targets as better ones appear. I’d look to play this, as you will often have an Ally deck where it will fit.
I like a 2/4 flying vigilance enough to pay 5 for it, even you can’t use the ability. If you can reliably activate it, it is a steppe above something like Ghostly Sentinel, and there are more than enough +1/+1 counters floating around.
Stone Haven Outfitter
As exciting as this textbox is, this set isn’t well-equipped to take advantage of it. There’s only one common equipment, Bone Saw in OGW, and that’s not one I want in my deck (even with surge). The uncommon equipment are a little better, but still aren’t really compelling me to take Stone Haven Outfitter and build around it. This is still a 2/2 for 2, which is a fine fail case, and if you end up with any equipment in your deck this becomes a bit better. It’s also an Ally, in case that matters.
Stoneforge Mystic this is not, as the name indicates. I can’t imagine being hard-up enough for Allies or having enough equipment to make this worth it, but I guess I can’t rule it out completely.
Wall of Resurgence
I’m not as blown away by this as some people seem to be. This is definitely not a “free” 3/3, nor is it exactly a 2-for-1. It’s close, later in the game, but early on you are exposing a land to great risk, and losing a land is quite relevant. Basically, an 0/6 Wall isn’t a full card, and making a land into a 3/3 isn’t a full card, with the combination coming close. Where this seems best is when you need multiple blockers and don’t mind risking a land, which is later in the game. Looking at it that way, it’s not all that different from normal awaken cards, except that it’s cheaper and less powerful.
Overall this is a playable card, certainly, and there will be games where it’s awesome, but it’s not a 2-for-1 and not every deck wants this particular combination of creatures.
Top 5 White Commons
Immolating Glare was erroneously listed as a common. It’s been removed from the list. – LSV
I like the removal spells as the top couple commons, but where the creatures land isn’t clear to me yet. The cheap and repeatable ability that Ondu War Cleric provides makes me give it the nod, but it’s also more situational than Sky Climber, as it needs some Allies to function. White nominally has the tools to beat down in OGW, as there are plenty of tricks and aggressive creatures, but we’ll see if there is a beatdown deck that isn’t based around fliers (which wasn’t really true before OGW). Allies also are all over the place, but rares like Munda’s Vanguard aside, white doesn’t have that much pulling you into a really dedicated Ally strategy.