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Scars of Mirrodin Set Review – White

Reviewing Scars of Mirrodin is going to be a little different than most sets, though I will use the same process. Each color has less cards than normal, and Artifacts is a section in its own right, and not just the afterthought it normally is. I thought about putting the “colored” artifacts in the section corresponding to their colors, but they aren’t exciting enough to really warrant that, so I’m going to keep them in Artifacts. Plus, I anticipate playing plenty of off-color replicas and Myrs in Limited, so saying that they are of a certain color isn’t really true.

Now, let’s see what white offers. Much like in the original Mirrodin, Scars rewards you for playing equipment in your white decks, both with metalcraft and with a minor theme of guys who get a bonus while equipped. White seems better equipped to be on the offensive in Limited, but that isn’t really much of a surprise. As for Constructed, there are actually more interesting cards in the 27 than M11 had in its 50, though that really just means that there are more than two.

Alright, let’s get to it. As usual, the scales I am using are as follows (updated with newer cards as examples even):

Constructed

5.0: Multi-format All-Star. Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Tarmogoyf.

4.0: Format staple. Vengevine. Mana Leak.

3.5: Good in multiple archetypes, but not a format staple. Raging Ravine. Lotus Cobra.

3.0: Archetype staple. Cultivate. Goblin Guide.

2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. Rampant Growth. Khalni Heart Expedition.

2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. Celestial Purge. (Bear in mind that many cards fall into this category, although explanation of why is obviously important)

1.0 It has seen play once. One with Nothing. (I believe it was tech vs Owling Mine, although fairly suspicious tech at that.)

Limited

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%)

Abuna Acolyte
abuna acolyte

Constructed: 1.0

This guy has a long way to go until he’s learned enough for Constructed. Even the full fledged Leonin Abunas only saw brief murmurs of play, and he realistically was more of a gimmick than anything else.

Limited: 1.5-2.5

I’m going to be giving cards like this a “variable” rating, since there are a ton of cards in the set that vary wildly in effectiveness, depending on your deck. I actually think that’s awesome, since drafting for synergy is one of the hallmarks of a good format. The low rating is when the card doesn’t have a ton of support, and the high rating is when it meets the appropriate conditions (which I will of course explain with each card).

In this case, the condition is having at least 5 artifact creatures, a few of which you actually plan to attack with (aka not Myrs). Preventing 2 damage is huge, and has always been first-pick quality (see: Sanctum Custodian, Hallowed Healer, Troubled Healer), so a guy who prevents 2 some of the time and 1 all of the time isn’t too far behind. If you have very few artifact creatures, he’s nothing exciting, but that isn’t often going to be the case in this set.

Arrest

Arrest 

Constructed: 1.0

We gave up Oblivion Ring for this? The fact that Jace has diplomatic immunity from Arrest is the biggest strike against it, since it is about as good as O-ring was against creatures. Sadly, that strike is by far enough to doom this to unplayability.

Limited: 4.0

After Faith’s Fetters and O-Ring, Arrest is probably the best Pacifism-type effect made for Limited. Shutting off their biggest guy or an annoying utility dude is exactly what you are looking for out of your removal spell, and it is easily splashable to boot.

Auriok Edgewright
auriok edgewright

Constructed: 2.5

If the Glint Hawk/Memnite/Ornithopter/Mox Opal/equipment deck is an actual deck, Auriok Edgewright might be good enough. He is another very conditional card, but the deck is filled with them, and at least the Edgewright gets the job done very quickly when equipped. There are a lot of “ifs” associated with both that deck and this guy, but he might just be the wright man for the job.

Limited: 1.5-3.5

Ahh, metalcraft. I might as well tackle it here, since it is going to come up over and over again. There are a few ways to approach metalcraft, and a big part of evaluating cards with it is to gauge the effectiveness of the card in question in each of its forms (powered up and unpowered).

One of the obvious ways to look at metalcraft is by comparing it to mana symbols. How many Mountains would you need in order to play [card]Cyclops Gladiator[/card]? I would say 12-13 would be ideal, and one or two fewer if necessary. That sets a reasonable baseline for metalcraft, though it is of course more complicated than that. The first problem is that most cards with metalcraft all at least do something even without it, so it isn’t like they are unusable when you aren’t powered up (unlike Cyclops Gladiator when you have 2 Mountains). On the other hand, people don’t tend to kill your Mountains very often, and they are definitely going to be targeting your artifacts if you have some awesome metalcraft dudes in play. At the end of the day, I think I would prefer to have 13+ artifacts if I have a couple metalcraft cards, and 15+ in a more dedicated metalcraft deck. I will play cards like Carapace Forger with 9 or more, just because they are reasonable on their own, but I wouldn’t consider that optimal.

At the end of the day, each card with metalcraft is going to need its own explanation, and that is something I am going to provide in this review. It is clear that Ezuri’s Brigade is awesome even in a deck with 0 artifacts and that Rusted Relic is unplayable in that same deck, but most of the metalcraft cards fall somewhere in between those two extremes, and my job is to try and figure out where.

So, Auriok Edgewright. He is more on the side of dedicated metalcraft, since a difficult to cast Grizzly Bears is not something most decks are interested in. When he is active, he can be pretty effective, and is insane when equipped with anything that boosts his power. The equipment-heavy WW/metalcraft deck is designed to make use of cards like this, though I doubt he will go very early. Most decks at the table won’t want him, because he isn’t worth the effort unless you have both a ton of artifacts (13+) and a couple pieces of equipment.

Auriok Sunchaser

Auriok Sunchaser 

Constructed: 1.0

The payoff on this guy is much less than the Edgewright, and the WW deck doesn’t have nearly enough slots to play both of them. I guess he’s gotta keep chasing that dream, but I don’t foresee it ending well.

Limited: 0.5-3.0

Once you get to the realm of the 40-card decks, the differences between the Sunchaser and the Edgewright become much smaller. The heavy metalcraft decks without much equipment would much rather have Sunchaser, though that doesn’t quite offset the fact that she’s a 1/1 without metalcraft. Sunchaser is unplayable without a dedicated metalcraft deck, and because of that she won’t be very difficult to pick up at all.

Dispense Justice

Dispense Justice 

Constructed: 1.0

Despite the sweet name, I don’t think much justice is going to be dispensed. It takes a lot of work to make this better than [card]Condemn[/card], and once they know you have Dispense in your deck, it becomes very unlikely that you will get to 2 for 1 them. [card]Wing Shards[/card] was pretty sweet, but this is no Wing Shards.

Limited: 2.0

While gunslinging at the prerelease, I saw David Ochoa’s Myrsmith get killed by a Dispense Justice. Ocho picked up Dispense Justice, read it, and shrugged. Guess who is never getting his Myrsmith killed by Dispense Justice again? My point isn’t that Dispense is bad, since it’s fine, but against a cunning opponent I fear that it won’t be very effective. They can always play around it by not attacking, but unlike Second Thoughts or Neck Snap, they can also play around it by attacking with Myr or tokens alongside their dragon. A properly played-around Dispense Justice is just not going to be very effective, though if they don’t play around it you can blow them out from time to time. Lastly, white also wants to be aggressive, and this card doesn’t mesh with that very well either. Removal is removal, but this is pretty bad removal.

Elspeth Tirel
Elspeth Tirel

Constructed: 3.0

Elspeth is one of the first planeswalkers that gets better the more you play, and not simply due to power level. Jace is a common four-of because he is broken, not because he works particularly well in multiples, but Elspeth gets actively better the more you have. The Elspeth into Elspeth play is one I think is quite potent, and really is her saving grace. After playing with her in Limited, I am forced to say that she is no Elspeth, Knight-Errant. Making a trio of tokens is all well and good, but what do you do when you untap? If you make more tokens, she dies, and unless you have a backup Elspeth, all you did is cast Conqueror’s Pledge. If you decide to gain life, she goes back up to 4 loyalty, but then you have to worry about defending her, and the three tokens you made aren’t always going to be up to the task. Threatening to go ultimate isn’t bad, but it is tough for a lone Elspeth to survive until then without some significant help. Five mana is also a lot, especially once you realize you can just cast Baneslayer Angel instead. I’m not saying Elspeth is bad, but I think she doesn’t have the wide range of applications that original Elspeth did, and she is definitely less powerful overall. A planeswalker that gives you three tokens every other turn with some lifegain thrown in isn’t really worth five mana, and it isn’t the easiest thing to keep her around until she goes ultimate.

Limited: 4.0

Planeswalkers are still the best ever in Limited, and even though Elspeth is not nearly as good as previous ‘Walkers, she is definitely good. I don’t think there are any uncommons or commons I would take over her, but she is certainly not on the same level as Molten-Tail Masticore or Wurmcoil Engine (which were coincidentally both in the first pack Josh Utter-Leyton opened for his sealed deck). If your opponent has a flier out, Elspeth doesn’t really do a whole lot besides gain some life, and against infect, life isn’t even very awesome. She can dominate stalled boards, but when you are on the back foot she won’t necessarily be enough, and that is a big strike against her. Still, if you are fortunate enough to open her, take her. I usually found myself making guys, then gaining life, then either making more guys or trying to build up to her ultimate, though if I had enough blockers to begin with she did a good job as a suspend 1 Wrath.

Fulgent Distraction
Fulgent Distraction

Constructed: 1.0

Here I am, trying to write a set review, and I keep getting distracted by crap like this. It’s ok, most sets are full of such cards.

Limited: 1.0

Blinding Beam this is not. Tapping two guys for three mana is not playable by itself, and de-equipping them doesn’t make the card much better. If your opponent has some cards with a hideous equip costs, like Argentum Armor or the like, I guess you could side in the Distraction, but I would still rather not. Note that you can also block their guy then de-equip it as a trick, though that still doesn’t make the card sweet.

Ghalma’s Warden
Ghalmas Warden

Constructed: 1.0

When your sweet metalcraft card wouldn’t be remotely playable if it always got the bonus, you can tell you are in Limited territory.

Limited: 1.5-2.5

Maybe I’m optimistic when I say this will only make the cut half the time, since vanilla 2/4’s for 4 aren’t the end of the world. Ghalma’s Warden doesn’t really get all that much better in a metalcraft deck, since it’s fine without the bonus and good when it gets pumped. Actually, dedicated metalcraft decks aren’t even really looking for this kind of card. When you are playing a ton of mediocre artifacts to power your guys up, you don’t want cards that are decent on either side; you want high variance cards like the Sunchaser or the Edgewright, since they at least give you a good payoff if you get there. You don’t have room for many non-artifact spells, so you want the highest-impact ones possible, and I’ve already cut this from metalcraft decks. When I have 8 slots for colored spells, I’m going to play my 2 removal spells and a combination of Glint Hawks, Edgewrights, Sunchasers, and a Spikeshot Elder over Ghalma’s Warden. In a more “normal” deck, the Warden is better, since it stands on it’s own much better, but metalcraft decks aren’t interested in such things.

Glimmerpoint Stag
Glimmerpoint Stag

Constructed: 1.0

I’m sorry, I just don’t see the point of this card. Flickerwisp never really made waves in Constructed, and Flickerwisp has much better stats than the Stag (-1 mana and flying in exchange for 2 toughness is definitely a bargain). There may be a glimmer of playability somewhere, but it would take a ton of good enters the battlefield effects for me to buy it.

Limited: 3.5

The versatility of this is really what makes it spectacular. There are so many good points: it mimics any EtB effects you have, knocks off harmful enchantments like Arrest, Bonds of Quicksilver, or Volition Reins, kills opposing tokens, and at the very worst, untaps one of your attackers. A 3/3 vigilance for 4 isn’t the worst either, and overall you have a very consistently strong card.

Glint Hawk
Glint Hawk

Constructed: 3.0

Glint Hawk seems like the driving force behind much of the WW-equip speculation, as it offers double triggering of Quest for the Holy Relic and a 2/2 flier for one mana. Bouncing Memnites, Ornithopters, and Mox Opals seems to be in Glint Hawk’s future, and we will find out shortly whether such decks are viable or not.

Limited: 1.0-3.0

The Hawk needs at least 7 artifacts to be considered decent, and more in order to be actually good. In decks with few artifacts, I would only play it if I had a couple cool artifacts I wanted to bounce (off-color Trigons, Corpse Cur, Necrogen Censer, Tumble Magnet), since a 2/2 flier isn’t all that impressive lategame. The Hawk fits perfectly well into the aggressive white metalcraft deck, and will often come out on turn one, thanks to Memnite or Accorder’s Shield (in our first draft, all 5 Accorder’s Shields that were opened were played in maindecks).

Indomitable Archangel
Indomitable Archangel

Constructed: 2.0

As we found out with Conundrum Sphinx earlier this year, 4/4 fliers for 4 just aren’t good enough for Constructed anymore, at least not without a really good ability. Giving other permanents you have shroud, maybe, just isn’t that exciting. Opponents can always just kill the Angel, and trust me, they will. Where I do have hope for the Archangel is in the sideboard. She reminds me somewhat of Linvala, Keeper of Silence in that regard; she is very good against decks that usually will have trouble killing her. If there is an artifact-heavy white deck, it doesn’t seem outside the realm of possibility that some other decks will have artifact kill but no creature kill, and in that narrow circumstance, Indomitable Archangel could be good enough.

Limited: 4.0

On the other hand, 4/4 fliers for 4 are still as good as gold in Limited. The ability she has is definitely good too, but even without it she would be a good first pick. Much like Leonin Abunas, there are some decks that just won’t be able to beat Indomitable Archangel (nice Shatters, brah).

Kemba, Kha Regent
Kemba, Kha Regent

Constructed: 2.5

I was all set to give him a lower rating, but then I realized that Simba was a 2/4 for three. Those stats aren’t terrible, and getting free 2/2’s every turn isn’t bad either. If Pyroclasm and Arc Trail are what people are going to use to fight WW, siding in a few Kembas lets you go over the top without spending a ton of mana. I don’t think the payoff is good enough to base your deck around him, but he seems like the definition of a solid role-player.

Limited: 3.5

I would always play this, even with zero equipment, and if you are playing white, you most likely will have at least one piece. Once you pick up Kemba, you have incentive to draft a couple pieces, and he is a very dangerous guy even when he’s just making one cat a turn. I wouldn’t take him over a good removal spell or whatnot, but he is easier to trigger than the various metalcraft dudes, and better when he’s not equipped.

Kemba’s Skyguard
Kembas Skyguard

Constructed: 1.0

Three mana is just too much, even if you do gain a few life. Lifegain on an evasive beater isn’t even that interesting, since lifegain is really only relevant against aggro, and in those matchups you don’t want a 2/2 flier, you want something that can block effectively.

Limited: 3.0

The Skyguard is a nice efficient machine, and the only drawback is the double-white in the casting cost. Luckily, most aggressive white decks are going to be heavy white, so you don’t have an excuse to pass this guy very often. Even the metalcraft decks won’t mind playing another evasive guy to power up their equipment.

Leonin Arbiter
Leonin Arbiter

Constructed: 2.0

I’m not completely sold on this guy being awesome. He disrupts Ramp fairly well, but is still just a 2/2, and therefore can and will die to Lightning Bolt, Pyroclasm, or Arc Trail. Lategame he doesn’t even stop them from just paying the 2 mana, and if you are playing fetchlands yourself you are liable to be inconvenienced every now and then. It is a card worth considering, and people will play it, but I suspect it won’t be enough to beat Ramp by itself.

Limited: 1.0

Arbiter is basically just a Grizzly Bears in most circumstances, especially since he is as likely to annoy you as he is to annoy your opponent. I know I won’t want to play do-nothing Bears all that often, at least not ones that aren’t artifacts.

Loxodon Wayfarer
Loxodon Wayfarer

Constructed: 1.0

I’m trying to think of an interesting way to call this terrible, but it just isn’t coming to me. Grizzled Leotau has seen Constructed play (wrapter played it at Worlds 2009), and this isn’t even Grizzled Leotau.

Limited: 1.0

If you are a defensive white deck, I could see this making the cut, but there are two problems with that. The first is that you mostly aren’t going to want to be the defensive white deck, and the second is that this guy still isn’t all that good. If you have power-enhancing equipment, he does turn into a beast I guess…

Myrsmith
Myrsmith

Constructed: 2.0

I have high hopes for this card. Pyroclasm is probably going to dash those hopes, but it would be sweet if there was a way to go off with the Myrsmith. I don’t really think this is going to make the cut, in the end, though it can dump a whole ton of guys on to the board, and there has to be something cool you can do with them, right? Eh, probably not.

Limited: 4.0

Myrsmith is the blade in Limited, or at least the person who can make the blade for you. She enables metalcraft with ease, and gives you a steady supply of guys to chump with or equip. There aren’t many cards I would pass for Myrsmith, and I would even take her over removal spells like [card]Arrest[/card] early in the draft.

Razor Hippogriff
Razor Hippogriff

Constructed: 2.0

The casting cost on this is high enough that I would normally just rule it out immediately, but the lifegain clause gives it a chance. Gaining a significant amount of life makes this a reasonable play, even if it will likely only be a specific sideboard card at best. A five-mana 3/3 flier that gained me five life every time would be worth investigating, and the Hippogriff has the potential to be better than that. The most likely suspect to pick up is [card]Molten-Tail Masticore[/card], with Wurmcoil Engine as a close second.

Limited: 4.0

Assuming you have a few good artifacts, the Hippogriff is ridiculous (well, let’s be real; anything called a hippogriff sounds ridiculous to begin with). Even without the EtB ability, it still is a 3/3 flier for 5, and those have never been bad in Limited.

Revoke Existence
Revoke Existence

Constructed: 2.0

Hey, Disenchant is back! I know we already had access to Kor Sanctifiers (among others), but more options never hurt. If exiling the target is relevant, now we can Revoke it, and that might come up every now and then.

Limited: 4.0

This isn’t Vindicate, though it is close. Killing (for good) approximately half of the nonland permanents most decks have makes this a straight up removal spell, and it should be treated as such. Killing enchantments is a nice bonus, and every time you blow up an Arrest or a Furnace Celebration (another really good card, btw), it feels kinda filthy.

Salvage Scout
Salvage Scout

Constructed: 1.0

Even damage still stacking wouldn’t be enough to salvage this guy.

Limited: 1.0

Not every deck is going to kill your artifacts reliably, and that makes Salvage Scout a little sketchy to maindeck. If you have a ton of good Replicas or artifact creatures, it is more likely that you will have good targets, but I wouldn’t be too happy playing Scout most of the time. It is a great sideboard card, and I plan on having access to it in most of my sideboards if possible.

Seize the Initiative
Seize the Initiative

Constructed: 1.0

I’m going to go ahead and seize the initiative myself by telling you never to consider this one.

Limited: 1.0

This is a decent trick, but deck slots in white decks are pretty slim most of the time. I would rather have equipment than a one-shot trick, and often you won’t have the space for a non-artifact spell of this power level.

Soul Parry
Soul Parry

Constructed: 1.0

Looks like Seize the Initiative isn’t the sole owner of the “unplayable combat trick” award.

Limited: 1.0

The same problems I had with Seize the Initiative are present here, even if this can get you a 2 for 1 every now and then.

Sunblast Angel
Sunblast Angel

Constructed: 2.5

I initially thought this card was just another unplayable Angel, but TSG was able to convince me otherwise. Killing multiple guys and dropping a 4/5 for six mana is pretty sick, and that doesn’t seem all that difficult to pull off. Even if they know you have Sunblast, what are they going to do, stop attacking? UW Control gets another interesting option here, and even though the Angel is competing with a ton of other awesome cards, it is definitely worth considering.

Limited: 4.5

Sunblast Angel is one of the better cards in the set, and it seems almost impossible to come back from it killing multiple guys. Once they start playing around it, you still end up the winner, since that just gives you time to draw into it. When I said Elspeth was awesome but not a bomb, this is the kind of card I meant.

Sunspear Shikari
Sunspear Shikari

Constructed: 1.0

Even if it was always a 2/2 lifelink first strike, this wouldn’t be playable. Oh wait, that would make it Knight of Meadowgrain, which I played in Kyoto, but then didn’t believe. Wrapter and I had to actually look up our decklists, since neither of us believed that we would play such a terrible card in the Pro Tour (spoiler: we did). That all being said, Shikari is a lot of work for no reward.

Limited: 2.0-3.0

Even with as little as one equipment, I don’t mind having a Shikari in the deck, and with multiples she gets quite good. Lifelink is almost impossible to race on a 4+ power creature, and there is no shortage of equipment that will get her there. She is particularly filthy with the +4/-1 equipment, since first strike makes the loss of toughness irrelevant.

Tempered Steel

Tempered Steel 

Constructed: 1.0

I’m sure people are going to lose their temper over me calling this sweet card unplayable, but I don’t see there being enough good artifact creatures to make this into a viable Constructed deck.

Limited: 2.0-4.0

When this starts pumping more than half of your guys, it’s absurd, and even if it only gets 7 guys or so, it still is pretty awesome. +2/+2 is a ton, and even your Myrs become enormous. Obviously the earlier you draft this the better, since you can just build around it.

True Conviction
True Conviction

Constructed: 1.0

Sovereigns of Lost Alara this is not, and it really isn’t even Finest Hour. Sorry, but it’s true.

Limited: 4.0

This is expensive, but it is also absurd. Even if all you have is a pair of 2/2’s, once you drop this it seems almost impossible to lose. I wouldn’t be surprised if this ends up being even better than the rating I just gave it, since they have to have a removal spell for each guy you play or they probably just die.

Vigil for the Lost
Vigil for the Lost

Constructed: 1.0

Who holds a vigil for this when it ends up lost in the unplayable pile?

Limited: 1.0

I don’t think this is that good, but it certainly is powerful. Chumping with a Myr and gaining seven life does make it very difficult for your opponent to actually kill you, though if you throw away a card on pure lifegain I guess they can just kill all your creatures. It might be at its best as a sideboard card in an evasive W/x deck against a deck full of groundpounders (ones without infect, of course).

Whitesun’s Passage
Whitesuns Passage

Constructed: 1.0

Ah yes, the obligatory straight unplayable common. I guess figuring out that cards like this are bad is a rite of passage, a skill-tester if you will.

Limited: 0.5

Maybe, maybe in a super aggressive racing matchup, but probably not even then. I would say that erring on the side of never playing this is probably safest overall.

Top 5 White Cards for Constructed

5. Kemba, Kha Regent
4. Leonin Arbiter
3. Sunblast Angel
2. Glint Hawk
1. Elspeth Tirel

Despite my reservations, I think Elspeth is still the strongest white card in the bunch. The sequence of Elspeth, -2, untap, -2, play a second Elspeth, +2, is powerful enough to give me hope that she will be awesome, even if she is a little lackluster by herself. Khemba and Glint Hawk both belong in the same speculative WW equipment deck, which if it works will be an interesting part of the metagame. Lastly, we have Sunblast Angel and Leonin Arbiter. Sunblast is one of a long line of potential finishers for UW Control, though she could be sick as a surprise SB card in something like a Naya-ish mirror. The Arbiter is pretty blah, but might be enough to disrupt Ramp long enough for WW to stick Argentum Armor or the like.

Top 5 Commons for Limited

5. Auriok Sunchaser
4. Glint Hawk
3. Kemba’s Skyguard
2. Revoke Existence
1. Arrest

Alright, that’s all I’ve got today. Join me tomorrow as I wade into blue!

LSV

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