5.0: Multi-format all-star. (Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Tarmogoyf. Snapcaster Mage.)
4.0: Format staple. (Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. Siege Rhino. Remand.)
3.5: Good in multiple archetypes and formats, but not a staple. (Jace Beleren. Seeker of the Way. Hordeling Outburst.)
3.0: Archetype staple. (Jace, Architect of Thought. Deathmist Raptor. Dromoka’s Command.)
2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. (Jace, Memory Adept. Tragic Arrogance. Dragon Fodder.)
2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. (Jace, the Living Guildpact. Naturalize. Duress.) Bear in mind that many cards fall into this category, although an explanation 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.)
Aligned Hedron Network
Meekstone is a savage card, so I’m certainly not sad it isn’t getting reprinted. Aligned Hedron Network is a one-shot Meekstone that hits only giant things, which does give you an opportunity if your deck is full of creatures that don’t get affected. If the stars align, this could be a sideboard card against a Red/Green Monsters type of deck.
Powerful ramp that you can cash in for cards later is something that definitely interests me. Hedron Archive is good if you are looking to go really big, while still being cheap enough that you can cast it before it’s too late (unlike, say, Nissa’s Renewal).
The second point of power really matters when you are comparing this to Civic Wayfinder (which saw a good amount of play). Flying isn’t a huge bonus, though being colorless is relevant in this day and age. I have my eye on this, but I’m not that hopeful.
Needing multiple cards exiled is a challenge, but like Ulamog’s Nullifier, this does give you a pretty solid payoff. If one of these cards works, both might, as the deck that goes out of its way to exile cards will likely want multiple ways to process them.
Conduit of Ruin
This is an interesting combination of tutoring and ramp, as it neatly finds a giant card and lets you cast it. It is at a cost where your card needs to do a ton by itself, so finding the right home for this could be tricky.
Primeval Titan is back, and it literally reaps what it sows. I like Oblivion Sower a lot as a value card, and really hope there is a deck that goes big enough to want this effect. A 5/8 plus a couple of lands is not bad, and this combines nicely with other exiling effects too. One of the best things it has done so far is inspire this exchange on Twitter between Yuuya Watanabe and Owen Turtenwald.
— Owen Turtenwald (@OwenTweetenwald) September 18, 2015
Look, we are hard-up for removal these days. Sometimes you have enough colorless creatures that you can justify playing semi-unconditional removal that requires one of those creatures to be in your hand.
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
It’s surprising that there aren’t more truly giant Eldrazi in this set, but I guess we were spoiled by getting all three in Rise. Ulamog will suffice as far as big threats to ramp to, and even is reasonable to put into play with See the Unwritten. Like Oblivion Sower, my favorite part about this card has little to do with gameplay and all to do with how much the name represents my normal state of being.
In a world where everything is even, this could be an interesting (if somewhat odd) sideboard card. It’s too expensive to just run out there speculatively, but there’s a chance it shuts down enough cards to make it worth it.
Allies get a free value land if they want one, which does make the deck better. This lets you save your Allies from removal or get a second trigger out of their enters-the-battlefield ability, and even works with animated Gideon (something I joked about before realizing he actually turns into an Ally).
I was initially most excited about this Blighted land, but blue decks with high land counts don’t tend to need mana flood protection all that much. As such, I’m not sure how often this will see play, despite having a very high power level. I’d look to include it in a lower-curve blue deck, maybe an aggro or midrange shell, where you don’t need lands 6+.
I have this effect slightly above some of the others because it affects the board right away, and because black decks don’t always need tons of mana in the late game. Ruinous Path competes with this somewhat, as it’s another late-game mana sink, but Blighted Fen is a solid card that will see play.
This is likely the strongest of these lands, just because red decks are the least likely to want lands 5+. Giving Mono-Red an out when they draw too many lands is shockingly powerful, even if the effect isn’t gigantic. The majority of red decks being red/green right now does make this a little less good, but I still have it pegged as an important card for aggressive red decks.
The power to gain 10+ life is a pretty good one, and Blighted Steppe seems like a decent way for creature-heavy decks to hedge against aggro. I wouldn’t want a ton of these—the effect isn’t one you need multiple times.
Being able to ramp without playing a spell is very strong in control mirrors, and this does have the potential to see play in an aggressive landfall deck. I really like all the Blighted lands, and am happy that all of them look at least plausible for Constructed.
Battlelands (all 5)
These aren’t quite fetchlands, but they sure do combo nicely with them. Battlelands are going to redefine what mana bases look like in Standard, as well as make new color combinations much more reliable (up to and including all five colors at once). Sequencing is very important in this new world, and Frank Karsten wrote an interesting article on the subject.
I do find it odd that because we have five allied-color battlelands and five allied-color fetchlands, there are some strange mana base incentives. For example, Flooded Strand can be better than Windswept Heath in Abzan, if you build a mana base like this:
Now, Heath just gets green and white, while Strand gets all three colors. It seems correct to run off-color battle lands to make your fetchlands better, and it still feels very strange to me. Still, that’s what we will be doing the next couple months, so being aware of it is important.
With battlelands rewarding you for playing basics the first few turns and an aggressive landfall deck looking like a real possibility, Evolving Wilds may finally get the recognition it deserves. It has always seen some play, but this may be its moment of glory.
Most decks don’t play nearly enough basics to make this worth it, but the ability is powerful enough that a mono-color deck may want to. It lets you cheat on lands a little bit, and is a fairly good effect if you can enable it.
Creaturelands are basically always good, and Lumbering Falls is no exception. It dodges removal nicely, and is reasonably-sized as well. It does suffer a little from being in an under-played color combination, so I doubt we will see as much of this as we will Shambling Vent.
Putting a Siege Rhino or Den Protector on top is not a bad ability to have. The biggest downside with these lands is that they enter tapped and aren’t basic, so they don’t fit into the battleland paradigm very well. If not for that, they would be a bit more popular.
Sanctum of Ugin
I’ve found that decks that play giant monsters don’t often want to sacrifice their lands, so I’m a little skeptical about this one. Still, getting to cash a land in for a spell is powerful, so keep this in mind if you can afford to play some colorless lands.
Unlike Lumbering Falls, Shambling Vent fits neatly into a great color combination, and as such is already seeing a lot of play. It does combo with awaken, though it now is always a creature, making it vulnerable to sweepers. Lifelink is a particularly good ability for a control deck, and most of the decks that play this will be control, complete with copies of Ruinous Path to make it giant.
Shrine of the Forsaken Gods
I like the ability to make 2 mana a lot more than what Sanctum of Ugin provides, so this is my pick for the best colorless land for an Eldrazi deck. Ramping out Ulamog is a real thing, and Ugin doesn’t mind the help either. All you need is Oblivion Sower to get you started…
The secret sixth Blighted land is also powerful, and gives any deck access to a token army. It’s pricey, but worth it if you have something that makes use of the tokens well.
Top 10 Constructed Cards
10. Drana, Liberator of Malakir
Drana is interesting. She’s clearly very powerful, but the double-black in her cost makes her a little harder to utilize than I was hoping. In the world of battlelands and basics, double-colored spells are much more difficult to cast than cards like Abzan Charm or Mantis Rider. Still, she’s incredibly strong if you can find a good use for her, and we have only dipped our toes into Standard at this point.
9. Ob Nixilis Reignited
8. Scatter to the Winds
Scatter to the Winds and Ruinous Path are in a similar spot—both of these will make a much greater impact on Standard than their power level might lead you to believe. Scatter is just the best 3-mana counterspell, even if the awaken doesn’t come up all that often. As a result, it will see a fair amount of play, despite not being that much more than a Cancel.
7. Radiant Flames
Red is actually the least happy about seeing this card, as aggressive red decks fear this way more than they do Languish or the 5-mana wraths. Radiant Flames is much more splashable than Anger of the Gods was, and will be a great sideboard option for all sorts of decks—even decks like Abzan that previously wouldn’t have dreamed of playing another color.
6. Bring to Light
Besides the fact that I’m intrigued by the deckbuilding possibilities, Bring to Light is just a powerful card. Utilizing it will be difficult, as the options are nearly limitless, but it feels like there’s enough of a reward here to be worth it.
5. Ruinous Path
This is the go-to removal spell for controlling black decks, and that’s all there is to it. They may miss Hero’s Downfall, but this is the new path, and they have no choice but to follow it. It isn’t that this is a bad card, since it does have good late-game punch, and it just so happens that it’s got a near-monopoly on this particular effect (Utter End is another card that’s about to get more popular).
4. Shambling Vent
Mana-fixing plus late-game power is a great combination. Shambling Vent has the fortune of being in what may be the best two-color combination in Standard right now (though there is some competition). This will be shambling all over Standard until this cycle gets filled out.
3. Makindi Sliderunner
Hey, who let the Sliderunner in? It’s tracking land all over!
In terms of impact, this is one of the better cards in the set. It may seem funny, but Sliderunner has really grown on me. It’s a 4/3 trampler for 2 mana if you are hitting your land drops, and aggressive red decks are definitely in the market for that, but the real kicker is how well it plays with Become Immense. Trample is a huge upside once that’s factored in, and as a result we are going to see a lot of people running this.
2. Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
Planeswalkers have a tendency to be overhyped, but I don’t believe Gideon is (and I said something similar about Jace, which I now think is the best card in Standard). Gideon just does so many powerful things at such a low price that he is going to see a lot of play. He even does fine in multiples, as the -4 stacks quite well, and getting him back with Den Protector is awesome. Get used to playing against Gideon, as tons of decks can and will play him.
In terms of impact on Standard, nothing else in the set comes close. These five lands have changed the landscape of Standard completely, and enable many new decks and cards to see play (including old cards that couldn’t fit into old mana bases). Learning how to build battleland mana bases and sequence them correctly is a mandatory skill if you want to play anything with more than two colors, and I suggest you begin practicing as soon as possible.
I hope you enjoyed the reviews, and they’ll be back when the next set comes out. It leads to some crazy weeks, but I can’t deny that they help me process the set, which lines up nicely with the Pro Tour that always follows. That’s what’s up next for me, so it’s time to buckle down and be as prepared as possible. The first Pro Tour of the year is a big game, and if I do well it definitely impacts my desire to go (or not go) to GPs.
One last note: I realized when looking through my review prep document that I just forgot to review Expeditions, so I think I’ll wrap this incredibly long series up with that.