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Undiscovered Treasure: A Complete Worldwake Review

So what happened is that I wrote up my review yesterday for my local playgroup and thought, “Hey, James might like this”  But my style is a little different and I’m not as deep into the analysis as his excellent white review is.   We talked and instead of integrating my thoughts into his review, I’d just publish mine.

In short, my opinion on the set as a whole is a little lukewarm.  I’m the guy who likes to buy x4 of everything, and this time I think I’ll sit it out as I see a lot of “jump through the flaming hoop” cards that Johnny’s like, and some EDH goodness.  Most of the cards I want I either picked up (Jace) or I don’t see them going up in price too much.  In the long run, when the set rotates out, the cards will depress.  I’m of the feeling that it will be easy to trade extra fetches (just an example) for almost anything I want out of this set.

I also evaluate for draft by default.  In that respect I think draft is about to become a bit more organic, as all the speedster cards get replaced by fatter guys, defensive guys, and better flyers.

Anyways, I haven’t done a set evaluation in a while, so sorry if it’s a little scattered.  I  do evaluation on a couple different levels so I’ll break it down by category.

Chase – A chase card is usually a premier, high value rare. Chase doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a must own, sometimes the card is just too expensive or it’s very specific to the environment that’s its being played in.  But you should know what they are, and why they demand that value.

Ex. Jace, The Mind Sculptor, Thoughtsieze, Baneslayer Angel, Tarmogoyf

Staple – A staple card are generally “must own” x4 copy.  These can be any rarity, and you’ll see these over and over again in the course of the format.  The difference from these and “evergreen” cards is that you’ll see them drop in value as they rotate out, or they’re roleplayers for a certain type of deck or format.  Sometimes, because of mana cost or ability they might be good, they won’t be relevant to every deck.

Ex.  Rampant Growth, Duress, Bloodbraid Elf, Honor of the Pure, Blightning, Tri-lands, Duals, Fetch Lands.

Staple – Evergreen – I think I’m the only person I know who uses this term – – The best example I can give  off the top of my head of a “staple” vs. an “evergreen” is Elvish Archdruid vs. Great Sable Stag.  Archdruid is a great card, but he fits a role in a particular deck type.  GSS is almost always a good deal – he’ll be a staple, a roleplayer, sure, but he’ll definitely go into any almost any  green deck, as opposed to having you have to build around him.

Evergreens provide resources to multiple deck types in casual play, multiplayer, EDH and competitive.

Ex. , Lightning Bolt, Path to Exile, Acidic Slime, Tri-lands, Duals, Fetch Lands.

Role player – These cards are decent, but only in certain archtypes.  I generally advise newer players to stay away from these cards unless you’re a Johnny and get the sense that you want to break it in half.

Ex.  Megrim, Traumatize

Bomb (Draft only) In a Draft, bombs are usually first picks out a pack, they’ll have a huge effect on the game if they resolve, and will almost always win you the game unless your opponent has an answer.

Ex. Fireball, Hellkite Charger, Marsh Casualities

To keep the review as easy to read as possible I’ve just linked the spoiler here.  I’m not going to clutter up the review with all the stats unless it’s appropriate.  http://mtgsalvation.com/worldwake-spoiler.html

***White***

Admonition Angel – Draft Bomb, Role Player

The four big flying fatties seeing play in standard are Sphinx of Jhar Isle, Baneslayer, Malakir Bloodwitch, to some extent Broodmate Dragon.  Sphinx and Broodmate are decent because their mostly immune to removal, and Baneslayer is too good not to play.  Malakir is immune to most removal, gains you life, and can block Baneslayer.  Any new entry into the “flying finishers” gets compared to them.  While Angel is bigger, it’s slower and very vulnerable.  In draft though, very little can deal with it.

Apex Hawk

You expect a 2/2 flyer for 3 casting cost.  And a 3/3 flyer for 5 is par as well.   Decent draft pick

Archon of Redemption – Role player

Same issue as Angel above but he’s got under average stats for his cost.  He’s begging you to build a deck around him.  I’d actually play Serra Angel over this.  Gaining life is overrated, AND you have to jump through some hoops to really get value.

Battle Hurda

Pretty boring., kind of lower pick draft card.  There’s enough x/4′s  that he won’t matter as much.

Fledging Griffin

Solid draft pick, very fair.

Guardian Zendikon

Well now we have some defense in draft. Too bad he doesn’t fly.

Hada Freeblade – Role player

If Allies becomes a standard deck, this guy will be in it.

Iona’s Judgement.

It’s removal.

Join The Ranks – Role player

See Hada Freeblade

Kitesail Apprentice

Pretty bad.  Duelist is better and didn’t get played all that much- Compare this to Skyfisher!

Kor Firewalker – Staple – Evergreen

Huge card that really really hurts mono-red.  And it’s a soldier. The gain life ability just puts it over the top.

Lightkeeper of Emeria

I actually prefer this card in draft to the archon above. It doesn’t really ask you to play other cards to make it better,  It’s got decent stats even as a 2/4 with no kick, since it comes out early to play defense, and if you draw it late, the life gain will help out.

Loam Lion – Staple

This is weird, because it might see play in extended zoo but white green isn’t the best deck in standard right now.  Amazing statistics for its cost, just like Kird Ape.

Marsh Threader

Cliff Threader’s good, so I would guess this is.

Marshal’s Anthem  – Role Player

I like this card.  Resurrection was never bad, and neither was Glorious Anthem. I think it’s a little under the radar but it’s good in control, and it’s pretty huge in EDH.  It’s probably too expensive for tournament constructed in multiples which is why it’s so low in cost.   I’d probably pick it for draft though.

Perimeter Captain

Third in the list of “red black aggro just doesn’t want to see this card in draft”

Refraction Trap – Role player

This is a huge card in draft, and may see play in standard.  Note that it protects planeswalkers, which harm’s way doesn’t do.

Rest for the Weary

Like Sunspring expedition, it’s a Decent Sideboard card for the aggro matchup in draft.

Ruin Ghost – Role Player

There’s an infinite combo with this and some other cards on the forums,  He’s got bad stats, but yeah, sometimes you want lands to come in multiple times.

Stone Forge Mystic – Role Player

Yep, someone’s gonna make a kor deck with him.  Bad stats otherwise.

Talus Paladin – Role player

This is a big swing in Allies and may push that deck over the top.

Terra Eternal

Makes your man lands INDESTRUCTIBLE!  And that’s it.  Now you youngsters will have that special feeling you only get when you open an animate wall as your rare.

Veteran’s reflexes Bleh.

***Blue***

Aether Tradewinds

Solid Utility Common.  Like Narrow Escape, it wants you to play permanents with comes into play abilities (Halimar depths! ), and it slows down your opponent.  Worst case scenario, in the early game you can put an opponent’s land back in their hand.  Boomerang has been a tournament staple, maybe this card has a place.

Calcite Snapper

Another common that owns the speed deck in draft, and it can bash for four if you like.  And shroud.  Tournament level, possibly, because of that last ability.

Dispel

Wizards just hates hard counters, this is another bad counterspell I’m just going to ignore.

Enclave Elite

Slightly worse than Apex Hawk in draft, but no slouch.  Blue usually doesn’t get fatties with no drawback.

Goliath Sphinx

<Hork>

Halimar Excavator

Woo Ally mill deck.  We continue the theme of decent defensive stats again, that 1/3 ass for 2 is no joke.

Horizon Drake

Sure!  3 power flying for 3 is great.  The ability might even be relevant.

Jace the Mind Sculptor – Chase Rare.

It’s good. The pros have already been sleeving and playing it.  Brainstorm is no joke.  And that ultimate is a 40 cal straight to the noggin.  You don’t walk away from that.

Jwari Shapeshifter – Role player

Basically, you’re either playing allies and want this card, or you don’t care.  It’s really good for that deck of course.

Mysteries of the Deep

Instant Speed Card draw is pretty clutch.  It’s expensive, but Blue Mages hate to tap out.  Not sure if this will see play over Mind Spring in standard but it seems okay.

Permafrost trap

I’m sure this is decent, but I’m not first picking it in draft.

Quest for Ula’s Temple

I actually have a deck for this.  The other 8 million magic players out there?  Out of luck.

Sejiri Merfolk – Staple?

Seems pretty strong for the cost.  Great draft pick for those colors

Selective Memory  – Role player

We’ve seen cards like this before, someone always figures out a way to break them.  I still don’t feel good opening this in a pack.

Spell Contortion.

Fairly costed, if it was costed any other way it would be a must play staple.  This is sort of fair.  I think people are still locked in on Flashfreeze as THE counterspell, will take a white or blue deck actually winning more for them to start considering other stuff.  I like it though.

Surrakar Banisher

This is no veldakin dismisser, but its got a decent body.

Thada Adel, Acquistor

Definitely in EDH.  If it were 2/2 for two it might see play in legacy.  It’s playable, but how many artifacts are in play in standard?  May be really good in Rise?

Tideforce Elemental

I think this is part of the combo with Ruin Ghost.   First pick in draft too.

Treasure Hunt – Staple – Evergreen

This is a huge card for blue.  The math has been done and the long and short of it is that you get 1.75 cards for 2 mana.  If you can manipulate the library (halimar depths and jace) then you always get more bang than divination.   Also, you always, always draw a spell.

Twitch

This is a reprint.  Can’t really complain too much.

Vapor Snare

Pretty bomby.  Mind Control is always good.

Voyager Drake

Great stats, great ability, great first pick.

Wind Zendikon

Another huge card for blue.  2/2 flyer for 1 with a minor draw back (you slow yourself down a bit to get aggro).   It’s a great card without a deck right now.

***Black***

Abyssal Persecutor  – Chase

I’m on the fence on this guy.  I like him, but not enough to shell out a twenty for him, then build a possibly weaker deck around him.  His price is leveraged around the fact that he is a solid mythic in a mostly bad set.  The black deck in standard is Vampires, and this is based on it’s synergy, and he doesn’t contribute to that at all.

Agadeem Occultist

Another weird rare. He’s pretty good in Allies, but not in constructed, since you have no idea what’s going to be in a graveyard.  Bad stats for his cost too.

Anowon, the Ruin Sage.

He just HAD to be 4/3.  Malakir Bloodwitch is so much better than this, and that’s a low cost rare.  He could have been 4/4 and relevant.  I don’t see what’s wrong with abyss in standard, I really don’t.  He’s legendary, too.  People might try and play him, and he’s just going to feel clunky.

Bloodhusk Ritualist.

The question posed earlier was “Is this better than Mind Sludge?”  Short answer: No.

Mind Sludge just ends games.  Ritualist is probably best in an edh or casual deck, but ultimately you’re paying for a 2/2 for 3, which isn’t that great.  Decent in Draft though, another solid 2 or 3 for 1.

Bojuka Brigand (why I do I feel like we’re back in Betrayers of Kamigawa land?)

The ability to block is fairly irrelevant anyway – I think black allies will rally around growers like him and the sellsword to get past all the fat blockers.  And coming out a couple turns faster is worth it.  Sick card.

Brink of Disaster

It’s removal, and it kills land, which is pretty relevant.  Not a Befoul though.

Butcher of Malakir – Bomb

A little highly costed for standard, but it does wreck some of those shroud strategies.

For draft, I suspect ZZW will be a bit slower, so this can make an impact.

Caustic Crawler

Meh.  I’d rather play shatterskull giant (which just got a lot better by the way) 4 is a much more relevant power now though.

Corrupted Zendikon.

3/3 for 2 casting cost in black is aggressive.  I can dig it.

Dead Reckoning

Huge draft masher two for one.  Might be good in standard where you want to get value back when you get hit by blightnings  – Grim Discovery saw play for that same reason.

Death’s Shadow – Role player.

Meh. Though you can search for it with Ranger of Eos

Jagwasp Swarm

Playable draft pick.  Like I said I think flyers and evasion is better now.

Kalastria Highborn.

Some people will love this card.  The question is whether it’s better to play than Hexmage in the vampires slot.   For the moment, I don’t think so.   If you have a deck for this guy, that’s great.  He’s slightly better in casual though, which I think is why his price is up.  He’ll go down over the long run I bet.   He’s no Rotlung Reanimator.

Mire’s Toll

There was a card in standard called blackmail which was 3 cards for B, and it was pretty bad. You want to play discard early, not late.

Nemesis Trap – Staple

This is Broken Visage as an uncommon. This a great card, fun to wreck people with, and will could see play in standard to 187 those baneslayers.

Pulse Tracker

I sort of like this card as 1 drop vampire, and a rogue, and he does an extra damage.  He quickly becomes irrelevant when someone drops a blocker, but he can still do duty as a vampire for you.

Quag Vampires

Same deal as Apex Hawk and the Merfolk.  Not as good as either but swampwalk is relevant.  If you’re playing swamps you can at least hate it so you don’t get killed by it.

Quest for the Nihil Stone  – Role Player

Except this one is actually really good!  Five life is pretty huge, and there’s some great discard out there.  This is totally under the radar right now (1 dollar on SCG), and I suspect it will jump up once someone breaks it.

Ruthess Cullblade

Ok draft pick.  He’s a vampire, decent stats, and an okay ability.  But in Standard he’s competing with Hexmage again.

Scrib Nibblers

What’s to say?  He’s got a mill ability, and can maybe gain you life.  Sucks in combat for his cost though.

Shoreline Salvager.

Good Stats for his cost in draft, and the ability is no slouch.

Smother – Staple

Another proven reprint that just rotated out of extended.  Now it’s back and extended players will be happy.  No slouch in standard either.

Tomb Hex

I like. Solid removal in draft.

Urge to kill

WOW does black get a lot of stuff that kills stuff. And yeah, it’s good for vampires.  Vampire players do a little dance.  Again.  Yawn.

***Red***

Akoum Battlesinger

I can imagine this scene, where wizards is sending a memo around to all the colors that they should slow down a bit, and of course Red got the memo, didn’t bother reading past the first sentence, and decided to wing it.   Red’s just gonna keep aggroing it out, like that loud drunk guy at the party that’s making everyone uncomfortable.

Ummm. yeah, not the best card unless you’re committed to mashing with allies.

Bazaar Trader

Wut?  It can’t even give away an Illusions of Grandeur.

Wizards fell down, least they could do is give us the other half the combo piece…

Donating the demon is the best I can come up with.

Bull Rush

RAAARRRRREEDDGHKAGHTG!!!

Chain Reaction

This is pretty good for red.  Not Earthquake good, though. Much more of a Multiplayer Wrath.  Phone this rare right into your EDH deck.

Claws of Valkut

RAAAAAAA…..It’s lightning Talons, basically.  But not always as good.

Comet Storm – Bomb, Staple – Evergreen

Solid red Bomb.  Instant is huge.   For standard it’s weighed against cascade, but it’s  fantastic card for casual and draft.

Cosi’s Ravager

Not particularly great.   It’s not as good as hellhound, though I guess with land tricks it can do a few extra points. Maybe there’s a combo deck in him.

Crusher Zendikon

Unlike the Black and Blue Zendikon, this guy doesn’t have good stats for his cost. Draft playable, since that 4 power is more important.

Cunning Sparkmage

Solid draft pick

Death Forge Shaman

I thought he was good, then I realized the damage is only to target PLAYER.  Well he’s a body.  If you have 8 mana he’s pretty nasty.

Dragonmaster Outcast – Chase

He makes dragons.  He’s fetchable with Ranger of Eos.  He takes a turn longer to smash face than with  scute mob, but he makes flyers.  Multiples of flyers.  He makes DRAGONS.

Goblin Roughrider

Sure.

Grotag Goblin Thrasher

Good stats for the cost, and this is about as close as you’re going to get to evasion in red for that casting cost in draft.

Kazul, Tyrant of the Cliffs – Bomb

Everything that Anawon the ruin sage isn’t, except he’s not a vampire.

Mordant Dragon – Bomb

Same issue as Admonition Angel for his cost in standard.  In draft he’s a slightly worse flameblast dragon.

Quest for the Goblin Lord –Role player

Now that’s cute, cheap, and easy to pull off.  Siege Gang Commander anyone?

Ricochet Trap

Wizards keeps making deflect/swerve variants and they keep sucking in draft and ride the margins in standard.

Roiling Terrain

This is interesting but expensive.  The card this compares to is molten rain, but it’s not as good.  Against some decks it’ll just whiff on the damage.  But then lands are better now…

Rumbling Aftershocks

Meh.  Kind of hard to build around it in your last pack.

Searing Blaze – Staple

It’s kinda like lash out, but worse.  But red loves two for ones, and red has lots of ways to make land fall happen.

Skitter of Lizards!

ARARARRARARAGAGGHHH!   Solid beats. Early game it’s a goblin chariot, late game it’s a tuktuk, whatever you like.

Slavering Nulls

Decent stats, it’s a zombie goblin, and it has a discard effect.  I miss that red/black deck… could it be back now?

Stone Idol Trap

Kills an attacker, swings in for 6 (probably)  But is it a staple, really?  I really can’t say.  Seems good, but what do you take out?

Tuktuk Scrapper

Crappy body (like most of the allies) but the artifact ability is pretty nasty.

***Green***

Arbor Elf  - Staple

It’s llanowar elf, with the possibility that you might whiff if you don’t have an actual forest in play (you have savage lands/oran rief etc out) But it’s still probably good.

Avenger of Zendikar – Bomb

Pretty cute, and fun in casual to.   Someone’s going enjoy killing with plants, I’m sure.

Bestial Menace – Staple

Flores already called it in Eldrazi green. Any deck that makes tokens.  Think Cloudgoat ranger.  Except you hit for nine.  It’s fairly bomby in draft.  If you were to get that by p/t paying “fair” it would cost you 7.

Canopy Cover

Funny,  I was just talking about how elves needed a silhana ledgewalker…  dunno if it will see play, but seems like a good draft pick. Think Whispersilk cloak

Explore – Staple

Better than rampant growth.  Great flip over in cascade decks especially.

Feral Contest

Another awkward green attempt at stall-breaking.

Gnarlid Pack

Bear, or Hill Giant, or better, it’s all good.  Solid draft beater.

“Back in my day, we played Kickered Grizzly Bears, and we called it Kavu Titan, and we lit in on fire so it had  haste.  I remember those days… ”

Grappler Spider.

Eh.

Graypelt Hunter

So it’s Nimana Sellsword with Trample?   Sold!

Groundswell – Staple

Might of Old Krosa, I missed you.

Harabaz Druid

Could be interesting.  Again, I’m not all that interested in Allies.dec

Joraga warcaller – Staple

It’s a great finisher in Elves, and you’ve got the mana and ways to put on counters.  If you’re playing elves, you should pick this up.

Leatherback Baloth – Role Player

Same issue as always – Straight green always runs into problems. It has no tricks, no card advantage, and no reach (the ability to finish the game with a random top deck or through a stall).  And elves is usually better  because of it’s synergy. But people are gonna pick it up and play it, and Wizards will promote it, and will rotate out, and no one will care.

Nature’s Claim

Nothing wrong with this, it’s a solid card, but not even naturalize is seeing play right now.

Omnath, Locus of Mana – Chase

Debatable on its power level, I think it’s a great general and someone’s likely to break it.  It’s a tempo choice – you invest in the attack at the cost of progression on the board – but Omnath is an insane late game top deck.

Quest for Renewal

Seems strong, especially in casual Multiplayer

Slingbow Trap – Role Player

It’s targeted green removal, and will have targets in draft.  I think windstorm is the sideboard card for this in standard.

Snapping Creeper

Good stats, will probably have vigilance.  Just another guy that slows down the board.

Strength of the Tajuru – Bomb

Nice finisher there – see the comet storm chart for stats.  Oh yeah, and combos with Warcaller.

Summit Apes

Huge beater in draft.  Might be too fragile for constructed… Someone’s gonna try it though.  Might be really good.

Terastadon

Blow up your own lands and get 18 power for 8 mana.  Or just play crush of wurms.
Blow up their lands and they get stuff.  I dunno.  EDH, but kinda dull.

Vastwood Animist

Another good ally card with bad stats

Vastwood Zendikon

Craw Wurm was usually good, except this attacks a turn early. Pretty saucy.

Wolfbriar Elemental –Staple – Evergreen

Pretty solid beater.  Decent stats on his own and late game drops some extra threats. Might not be standard worthy but he’s still really good overall.

***Multicolor***

Novablast Wurm – Bomb

It’s almost like Wizards designed EDH just so we could have a place to play big fatties like this.  I dunno, we’ve got acceleration, and this blows up stuff.  While it’s still pretty slow for standard, this is a great effect to have.

Wrexial, the Risen Deep – Bomb

Made for EDH again.  He’s got a great toughness, is immune to terror, and has evasion.  His ability isn’t that relevant to standard, but casual, OMG he’s got targets.

***Artifacts***

Amulet of Vigor

I really can’t comment on Amulet of Vigor without bias.  At this point I’m a bit sick of yet another “jump through the deck design hoop”  rare.   I don’t have the mental fortitude to start looking for all the CIPT permanents in standard and extended and casual that this might go with.  It’s just exhausting.  Let the Johnny’s have their cake, I’ll just do what I usually do – wait til someone figures out how to break it then lamely shell out for an overpriced rare.  …or I could just play nature’s claim on it and let you play with a slow deck.

Basilisk Collar – Bomb

There’s a Kor deck. This card isn’t good enough for it, since you never want to attack with Armament Master.  But re-usable deathtouch is sick in draft.

Everflowing Chalice – Staple – Evergreen

Turn 2 chalice for 1, turn turn 3 chalice for 2, turn 4 do fun things with 6-7 mana.  Like Play novablast wurm :D   Solid card for most formats.

Hammer of Ruin

Not exactly a bonesplitter, nor is the ability that relevant.

Hedron Rover

Better than Hedron Scrabbler, I suppose.

Kitesail

Better than Hammer of Ruin, in cost and utility. Flying matters.

Lodestone Golem

I really like this guy.  Might be a role player in an esper deck, or something likes to eat lands.  Anyone notice he’s got Juggy stats?

Pilgrims Eye – Staple – Evergreen

Stats and flying are kind of fair, but irrevelant.  We play the Borderland ranger and we’re fine. For EDH as well, anything that thins you out early is generally good.

Razor Boomerang

Wait, it is Betrayers of Kamigawa.  I should have called it at the evil red griefing Legendary Ogre for 5.  Well, Hankyu very much.

Seer’s Sundial.

I dislike that the default casting cost for artifacts that draw you cards seem to be four.  Still, I could see this (possibly) playing support in a red or green casual deck with no other way to draw cards.

Walking Atlas – role player

There was an elf a while back that had this ability, and it saw play. You could do some silly things with this and Geopede, maybe.

***Lands***

Bojuka Bog – Staple – Evergreen.

I don’t necessarily like what this card means for the reanimator deck archetype, especially in casual.  Of course it’s a land, so you have a choice of holding back vs. playing it, but in my case I would do the thing I usually do with functional lands like Maze, I just play one less business spell and treat this as a spell. It’s uncounterable.  It’s like, reanimation in standard isn’t that great, we’ve got crypt, leyline, and relic in extended, was this really necessary?   Seems like an odd call.

Celestial Colonnade – staple

It’s a dual land, it becomes a flyer.  Is it any good?  Well, as good as any manland would be.  They’re all great for casual, and they dodge  removal in standard.. could be good.  And if they were, it just makes land destruction and sea’s claim decks that much better.

Creeping Tar Pits – staple

I can get behind this card as well. Unblockable is pretty key.

Dread statuary

Sure in draft.  Seems slow and vulnerable in standard. 3/3 would have been better.

Eye of Ugin

Of Ghostflame fame.   We get a hint of the next set (Steamflogger Boss?)   The funny thing to me is, that if Eldrazi spells are actually playable/competitive, then a land that gives a discount of two to all of them is pretty crazy, like workshop crazy. But it’s legendary!

The ability is pretty silly, but I guess some casual deck might like it.  Another random Johnny rare.

Halimar Depths – Staple – Evergreen.

Great card, especially with Treasure Hunt.

Khalni Garden

Some people don’t like this card.  It does give you a guy, which is relevant.  Polymorph decks will find some fun with this.

Lavaclaw Reaches – Staple

Sure.

Quicksand – Staple.

Sure to be popular in control to stem the aggro rush, and always good in draft.

Raging Ravine – Staple – Evergreen

I REALLY like this guy.  He starts off as a 4/4 and continues to get bigger.  What’s not to like?

Sejiri Steppe

Here’s the question – if you’re playing this as a spell slot in order to ignore the question of whether you should play this as a spell or ramp, , it’s not necessarily as good as Brave the elements (The latter is a reactive instant, after all)

And if you’re playing it as a land, it’s kind of like Soaring Seacliff.  So yeah maybe I answered the question.

Smoldering Spires

Well, red actually likes it when you can’t block.

Stirring Brush – Staple

Good stats, but my Raging Ravine is better. You could be playing w/g though.

Tectonic Edge  – Staple – Evergreen

I’ll take Wasteland where I get can get it, I guess.

Zendikar Card Review batch 04 (249/249)

Welcome to the fourth and final batch of Zendikar preview cards.  We’d like to take a moment to thank the tireless folks at mtgsalvation for their work on the spoilers we’ve all come to know and love.

Below you’ll find the first impression, knee-jerk reactions of myself and my teammate James, upon seeing these cards for the first time.  As usual, James is focused on constructed formats, specifically block, standard, and extended, while I evaluate the cards in the paradigm of limited, with a smattering of commentary related to EDH and legacy.  Without further ado, here come the cards!

Bold Defense – 2W
Instant (Common)
Kicker {3}{W}
Creatures you control get +1/+1 until end of turn. If Bold Defense was kicked, those creatures get +2/+2 and first strike instead.

JOE

This is a good execution of the kicker mechanic.  The card has a decent ability, but at a slightly increased mana cost than you’d usually find, in this case, we can compare the card to glorious charge.  In exchange for this nerfed initial ability, you get a card that doesn’t lose as much relevance in the late game.  When you top-deck this card later on, when you actually have seven mana, suddenly it’s a much more powerful combat trick.  This is a well rounded trick and will be commonly seen in white decks lacking harder removal.

JAMES
I don’t see this being good enough. I’d rather just play Glorious Charge and have some mana left open for 2nd main phase shenanigans–or more Attack phase shenanigans like a Harms Way. That being said, I haven’t run Glorious Charge in any constructed decks…maybe I should! That’d give me a better benchmark on this card. My gut tells me Bold Defense is just over-costed for the affects.

Caravan Hurda – 4W
Creature – Beast (Common)
Lifelink
1/5

JOE

This creature’s raison d’etre is to stall the ground while your fliers and other evasive creatures push through the winning damage.  Creatures like this epitomize what’s known loosely as a “skies” archetype, traditionally found in the UW color combination.  A 1/5 lifelink is a real bummer for an opposing green mage whose early drops become less appealing.  He does what he does, and that’s great.  Just don’t mistake the deck he belongs to.  This guy is out of place in a curve-conscious aggro white deck, but at home with a slower, more controlling WU skies type deck.

JAMES
Seems great for limited but the 5cc for constructed is underwhelming.
comment

Cliff Treader – 1W
Creature – Kor Scout (Common)
Mountainwalk
2/1

JOE

He’s not a bad grizzly bears kind of guy… 2-drop with 2 power.  This cost and power define the white aggro decks, and some limited formats in general.  He’s randomly superb against red opponents, but will often be maindecked just because his power and CMC are right for your curve.

JAMES
I like this for constructed, SB in particular. I really wish it was Pro-Red because it would be some serious SB-beats against a red deck. Mountainwalk just isn’t enough; oh well…

Kor Duelist – W
Creature – Kor Soldier (Uncommon)
As long as Kor Duelist is equipped, it has double strike.
1/1

JOE

An interesting card.  He seems to be an improvement upon boros swiftblade, a card which was always suited up anyway.  I’m guessing he’s got more applications in constructed, but will occasionally make an appearance in limited as well.  Again, this is a card with a proper home.  His proper home is the aggro archetypes, and obviously he’s more appealing with a trust machete or whatnot.  Every so often, you might run him sans equipment if your curve really wants to be as low as possible.

JAMES
Umezawas Jitte and Sword of Fire and Ice really like this guy. He’s so cheap. Too bad the stack-in-combat’s been removed. Previously we could have removed charge counters from the Jitte after the firststrike damage was done, and pumped our guy to keep him around (and do more damage) during ‘normal combat damage.’ Alas, we’re stuck with the current rules [probably perpetually from here on out--or so we should assume]. What sort of stinks is that he’s pretty conditional and equipments do cost a fair bit of mana to get going. The only equipment I could see effective on a creature like this is the Bone Saw which you could play and equip without too much disruption to your normal curve-creature-drop. Behemoth Sledge is also on-color and would offer considerable tempo but it wouldn’t come into play until at least turn 4. In the end, I’m trying to keep an open mind about this creature but my main concern is that activating the doublestrike requires quite the investment. I mean, let’s face it; the two equipments I cited (Jitte & Sword) are a couple of the best equipments printed thus far, so they’re for the most part good on any creature. Doh, I guess I have to say “nope, not good enough.”

Landbind Ritual – 3WW
Sorcery (Uncommon)
You gain 2 life for each Plains you control.

JOE

Lifegain, though more popular now than perhaps ever, has never been my cup of tea.  I can’t see running this card in limited, nor constructed.  However, I’m a bad person to ask about this card.  I suppose it’s capable of gaining you 10 life for 5 mana under ideal conditions.  Some people may think that’s worth it… I just don’t.  I’d much rather have a card which advances my board position or reduces my opponent’s.

JAMES
I don’t see lifegain as worth it unless it changes the board state. As it is, gaining life just to gain life isn’t worth it. If you’re dying, just play the new Day of Judgment and reset the board. I mean, Kitchen Finks is so awesome because you’re gaining life on top of presenting an efficient beat-stick (with persist which is just amazing). This does nothing of the sort…

Makindi Shieldmate – 2W
Creature – Kor Soldier Ally (Common)
Defender
Whenever Makindi Shieldmate or another Ally enters the battlefield under your control, you may put a +1/+1 counter on Makindi Shieldmate.
0/3

JOE

I’m none too stoked about the Defender ability on this guy.  He’ll be played to attain a critical mass of allies at times, but I sure would rather have more copies of the blue ally with the same ally-ability, only having flying rather than defender and starting as a 1/1 rather than an 0/3.  That common ally will be nuts.  This one is kind of a dud, but critical mass is critical mass.

JAMES
Boo.

Noble Vestige – 2W
Creature – Spirit (Common)
Flying
{T}: Prevent the next 1 damage that would be dealt to target player this turn.
1/2

JOE

A forgettable spirit, this… Spirits are a creature type I’ve been following closely since creating my Ghost Council of Orzhova EDH deck.  I shall not be including this creature therein.  It does have evasion, which is a plus, though his ability is pretty weak.  Sometimes a 1/2 flier for 2W makes the cut, but I’m always hoping for better.

JAMES
Underpowered in a world of crazy goodness. Find a better creature. ;-)

Pillarfield Ox – 3W
Creature – Ox (Common)
2/4

JOE

Ox?  Really?  A new creature type for Ox?  Not “Bovine” or something?  Meh.  “Mammal?”  Nope.  Ox.  Oh well.  Whatever.  This guy’s less exciting to me than hill giant, unless I desperately need another ground-staller in a skies deck.

JAMES
Not so horrible in limited but pretty boarderline. Probably a late pick but we should all be aiming for better 4 drops. I see no reason to include this in any constructed decks.

Shieldmate’s Blessing – W
Instant (Common)
Prevent the next 3 damage that would be dealt to target creature or player this turn.

JOE

Strictly worse than healing salve is not the kind of endorsement you’re looking for.  This card sucks ass, people.

JAMES
I can get behind this–exact opposite of Joe!!111!!! lol. It’s cheap and prevents all damage from a Lightening Bolt. I don’t see a reason for not playing this in limited where you can bluff or create a creature attrition situation. It’s one less than Harms Way but loses the ability to redirect. Because of that, I think Harm’s Way will remain the constructed include but I wouldn’t be all to surprised to see this in a constructed deck. It’s not the worst card in the world. What is the worst card in the world? I’m going to ask on Twitter now! lol

Sunspring Expedition – W
Enchantment (Common)
Landfall – Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, you may put a quest counter on Sunspring Expedition.
Remove three quest counters from Sunspring Expedition and sacrifice it: Gain 8 life.

JOE

If you want lifegain, use this rather than Landbind Ritual.  If they use removal on this, consider it a success for you.  I won’t be playing this card.

JAMES
Same comment as on Landbind Ritual (above).

Lethargy Trap – 3U
Instant – Trap (Uncommon)
If three or more creatures are attacking you, you may pay {U} rather than pay Lethargy Trap’s mana cost.
Attacking creatures get -3/-0.

JOE

Not terrible, I guess.  You can sometimes get favorable combat exchanges, making trades your opponent accepts into pure losses, but this isn’t likely to make the cut in my decks either.  The trap cost will probably be turned on fairly often, but I still don’t feel very warm and fuzzy about the card.  If this is the level of trick you’re resorting to, is blue really that strong for you?

JAMES
This looks pretty good for an Esper-Control style deck. I’m not exactly sure if token-based decks will be around much longer but there’s certainly an opportunity for a Solider deck developing from the cards printed in M10 and Zendikar so being attacked by 3 creatures is all together possible. The trap cost makes it pretty sweet for U/Esper decks since it’s cheap and will leave room for casting Esper Charm @ EOT (for example). We’re entering a new Extended format where Zoo looks poised to make a strong finish. Zoo is essentially “the” aggro deck of the upcoming Meta and from discussions with Ben Lundquist this past Wednesday the Meta-cycle starts with a ‘big splash aggro deck’ [deck X] transitioning to a control-style deck [deck Y] and then decks geared to beat the control deck [deck Z]. From this POV, I say this looks good for people considering Fairies for the upcoming extended season where it’s likely to have 3 creatures attacking. Even the creation of a one-turn Fog for U can be enough for stabilization to occur. The single-Blue commitment for Trap/Non-Trap casting also makes it very splash-able.

Merfolk Seastalkers – 3U
Creature – Merfolk Wizard (Uncommon)
Islandwalk
{2}{U}: Tap target creature without flying.
2/3

JOE

Whoa.  This is deceptively powerful.  Tapping a single creature makes for a solid utility creature.  Being able to tap multiples in the late game is fairly crazy.  The stats aren’t terrible either, given he has islandwalk.  This one gets a big nod.  Thumbs up.

JAMES
I don’t see how it’s goign to tap multiple creatures late game…What am I missing on this one? Anyway, tapping down creatures in limited is pretty good but I worry the cost is too high–its 300% the cost of Blinding Mage for example. From what we’ve seen of Merfolk in this set, I believe there are better options for constructed play.

Seascape Aerialist – 4U
Creature – Merfolk Wizard Ally (Uncommon)
When Seascape Aerialist or another Ally enters the battlefield under your control, Allies you control gain flying until end of turn.
2/3

JOE

Cool… this is a great ally to build around.  Evasion is something a lot of allies lack.  Giddy up.

JAMES
Pretty interesting for an Ally. Since Allies all trigger off each other, we can assume we’re getting at minimum +1/+1 to our other allies. Swinging in with a big team of flying, pumped up creatures sounds good in my head but a lot of flop ideas sounded good in people’s heads and ended up being duds. (Spam comes to mind but that’s just me). Test it out for block, for shiz.

Shoal Serpent – 5U
Creature – Serpent (Common)
Defender
Landfall – Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, Shoal Serpent loses defender until end of turn.
5/5

JOE

Serpents in blue are usually piss poor creatures that have some weird ability to seem appealing despite that fact.  Hmm… let’s see.  6-drop 5/5… not bad.  Sometimes attacks… I dunno.  I’m on the fence here.  Blue just usually doesn’t want to go in the fatty direction, though it will be easier to pair with green than ever.  I just think this ends up sitting the bench in favor of far better creatures more often than not, but it’s probably more playable than a lot of Serpents in the past.

JAMES
I got nothing.

Spreading Seas – 1U
Enchantment – Aura (Common)
Enchant land
When Spreading Seas enters the battlefield, draw a card.
Enchanted land is an Island.

JOE

Almost never relevant, almost never played.  If you’re doing island walk shenanigans with this, you’ve probably failed a skill test somewhere in there.  At least this cantrips.  God willing, I’ll never play this card.

JAMES
It’s better than Seas Claim…if that means anything. lol.

Bog Tatters – 4B
Creature – Wraith (Uncommon)
Swampwalk
4/2

JOE

I’d say it’s a sideboard card against black at best.  4/2 is too dang vulnerable on 5.  No thanks.

JAMES
Might see play in limited, as Joe mentioned, restricted to SB where it would potentially shine. Otherwise, it’s way too expensive for its stats.

Crypt Ripper – 2BB
Creature – Shade (Common)
Haste
{B}: Crypt Ripper gets +1/+1 until end of turn.
2/2

JOE

I like this Shade alright.  Haste is a nice ability in my book… it’s often what helps you swing the tempo race back into your favor.  Shades are decent in general, and this one has a decent cost.  Just look at loch korrigan.  I dunno… in some decks, I definitely run this dude, but it’s always when I’m heavy black (thank you Dr. Obvious).

JAMES
This wouldn’t be bad in a limited deck but I don’t think at 4cc it’s worth the affects for constructed. In its favor, here are the advantages: On turn 4 it’s a 2/2 Hasty (obviously). Late game (and this is what i mean by in “its favor”), it’s a hasty that you can pump for more damage–let’s say a 4/4 hasty. Not horrible. It is a threat in and of itself. Very, very borderline. I’d rather play the new Specter, Guul Draz Specter for 4cc. But that’s just me.

Guul Draz Vampire – B
Creature – Vampire Rogue (Common)
As long as an opponent has 10 or less life, Gull Draz Vampire gets +2/+1 and has intimidate. (It can’t be blocked except by artifact creatures and/or creatures that share a color with it.)
1/1

JOE

Looks like Wild Nacatl got bitten by a vampire or something.  This one’s solid and interesting.  The fact that he’s a piddly 1/1 early makes him far worse than nacatl, but later on, he’s the same size as the kitty cat, but with Intimidate, the new fear.  Evasion is nice, especially for little guys later in the game.  I think the vampire deck looks mighty sexy in this format.  We’ll see.

JAMES
Not horrible. It’s pretty decent mid-game and Intimidate might make this worth having 2x in a deck. I mean a 3/2 “fear” (which intimidate is in this case) for one is not bad. The casting cost lets us play another spell, it’s splash-able, etc. I see some advantages to this little common but probably restricted to block play.

Hagra Crocodile – 3B
Creature – Crocodile (Common)
Hagra Crocodile can’t block.
Landfall – Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, Hagra Crocodile gets +2/+2 until end of turn.
The creatures of Zendikar are opportunists, eating whatever is available to them. Like goblins. Or boats.
3/1

JOE

5/3 on the attack for 4.  That’s good stats.  Fits into a suicidal black all-in kind of aggro deck.  Something about this guy doesn’t jive with my own style, but I definitely see him being played… paired with green to abuse landfall, this guy might well have a spot on 4.

JAMES
I see this in limited but not making it to constructed. I just see better 4-drops in Mono-Black (such as Vampire Nocturnus

Heartstabber Mosquito – 3B
Creature – Insect (Common)
Kicker {2}{B} (You may pay an additional {2}{B} as you cast this spell.)
Flying
When Heartstabber Mosquito enters the battlefield, if it was kicked, destroy target creature.
2/2

JOE

Playable / decent without kicker, and with late game relevance (and how!) due to the kicker ability.  This is a saweet common for black.  No holds barred creature destruction for 2B more?  Awesome.

JAMES
I wish the casting costs were reversed. It’s too pricey as a 4-drop. It’s also pretty dang expensive for a 7 drop. Probably not the worst card in limited but there are [again] better options for limited.

Marsh Casualties – BB
Sorcery (Uncommon)
Kicker {3}
Creatures target player controls get -1/-1 until end of turn. If Marsh Casualties was kicked, those creatures get -2/-2 instead.

JOE

Yet again, this is a good spell without kicker that gets better later on with the kick.  Building a deck around this will be easy, and sweepers like this card are often what win you the game.  I’m guessing this is a very high pick for anyone who opens a sweet black rare, and might draw other people into black too, if infest and the like are any kind of historical indicator.

JAMES
Not bad at 5cc since you can wipe the board but (obviously) Infest is WAY better.

Mindless Null – 2B
Creature – Zombie (Common)
Mindless Null can’t block unless you control a Vampire.
2/2

JOE

gray ogre with a drawback?  I’m only playing him in a very-heavy vampire deck.

JAMES
Nope. Not good enough.

Nimana Sell-Sword – 3B
Creature – Human Warrior Ally (Common)
Whenever Nimana Sell-Sword or another Ally enters the battlefield under your control, you may put a +1/+1 counter on Nimana Sell-Sword.
“He asked if I had work for him. No wasn’t the right answer.”
- Samila, Murasa Expeditionary House
2/2

JOE

Hill Giant on his own means he’s playable with or without allies.  Obviously with allies is preferable, since he then helps critical mass and isn’t dead / weak on his own.  Top notch common ally here.

JAMES
I’m really not down with these expensive 3/3′s (and 2/2′s). I guess the “advantage” to these is the ally trigger but that’s soooooo situational. I’m a doubter.

Surrakar Maurader – 1B
Creature – Surrakar (Common)
Landfall – Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, Surrakar Maurader gains intimidate until end of turn.
2/1

JOE

Meh.  Bear-ish.  Bear-cub.  I’m not too stoked on him, but in aggro decks, you take bears and whatever evasion you can, even if it only works most of the time.

JAMESDecent early game, dud late.

Bladetusk Boar – 3R
Creature – Boar (Common)
Intimidate
3/2

JOE

I guess for constant Intimidate, I’ll accept a loss of toughness off hill giant.  This one’s not bad.

JAMES
This is fine for limited but R wants more than this in constructed paly.

Goblin Shortcutter – 1R
Creature – Goblin Scout (Common)
When Goblin Shortcutter enters the battlefield, target creature can’t block this turn.
2/1

JOE

Interesting bear here too.  All these bears are right on the borderline between playable and “meh”, but the ones like this with a sometimes relevant ability are okay in certain decks.  Being a goblin helps his stock too.  I dunno… I play him sometimes, but he’s not among the first creatures I’m putting into deck slots.

JAMES
This is pretty good late game in limited when you want to squeeze a fatty through for the win or experiencing locked board positions. Off a Bloodbraid Elf this isn’t so bad–but hell, isn’t everything good off a Bloodbraid?

Highland Berserker – 1R
Creature – Human Berserker Ally (Common)
Whenever Highland Berserker or another Ally enters the battlefield under your control, you may have Ally creatures you control gain first strike until end of turn.
2/1

JOE

This is an awesome early-drop ally, and an example of a bear I’d probably run unless he’s my only ally.  I’d usually rather have him than the shortcutter above unless I had some sick goblin deck going.

JAMES
This is a pretty good ally. I would figure to see this in block–but I’m not sure what colors will rule supreme for allies in block (and it’s DAMN early to call block cards since we’ve only got this first set out).

Inferno Trap – 3R
Instant – Trap (Uncommon)
If you’ve been dealt damage by two or more creatures this turn, you may pay {R} rather than pay Inferno Trap’s mana cost.
Inferno Trap deals 4 damage to target creature.

JOE

This is quite solid removal.  Probably a decently-high pick for red.

JAMES
Not bad, not bad. Two creatures might be asking a lot and you’re only removing one of them. Still in limited this might be a good play. I’d pick it up were I in-color.

Magma Rift – 2R
Sorcery (Common)
As an additional cost to cast Magma Rift, sacrifice a land.
Magma Rift deals 5 damage to target creature.

JOE

I don’t know what to make of this one.  The removal is good, since 5 damage will deal with a lot.  But the downside is huge, losing a land.  This will depend entirely on the curve of the deck in question.  If I want to get to 7 eventually, there’s no way I run this.  If I top out at 5, it’s a different story.

JAMES
Nah, that’s okay. Were it creature or player, I’d say we’ll see this in Austin as a mono-red include but as it is, this sucks.

Mark of Mutiny – 2R
Sorcery (Uncommon)
Gain control of target creature until end of turn. Put a +1/+1 counter on it and untap it. It gains haste until end of turn.

JOE

Interesting.  This is a little worse than act of treason, since you hand the guy back slightly bigger.  Still, this will win you some games when played at the right moment.  And obviously, this is sick with any kind of creature sacrifice outlet.

JAMES
EEek. you better be winning with this or it’s toast for you. Gain control, put a counter on it, get your “damage in” and then hand them a bigger, better creature? No thank you.

Molten Ravager – 2R
Creature – Elemental (Common)
{R}: Molten Ravager gets +1/+0 until end of turn.
0/4

JOE

Not interested.  Good blocker, but yeah… I’m not into this kind of guy.

JAMES
Not horrible in limited. Not at all. Big ass means that your opponent has to block or risks you tempo-ing them out. It’s pretty cheap too at 3cc. I don’t see this making waves in constructed play though.

Seismic Shudder – 1R
Instant (Common)
Seismic Shudder deals 1 damage to each creature without flying.

JOE

This will be really awesome as a splash card in flying-based decks.  As a sweeper, it will see play in a lot of decks, actually, but some red decks have too many X/1s themselves to be comfortable with this, so I’m guessing this sees the most play in decks that aren’t base-red.

JAMES
Doh, had a comment then re-read it. ‘Without flying’ is not the same as ‘With Flying.’ Pass.

Shatterskull Giant – 2RR
Creature – Giant (Common)
4/3

JOE

Well hell, this is basically a better hill giant.  Paying R instead of 1 is a bargain for that extra point of power.  Playable as hell.

JAMES
Not good enough for constructed play.

Slaughter Cry – 2R
Instant (Common)
Target creature gets +3/+0 and gains first strike until end of turn.
“Since when did ‘AIIIEEEE!’ become a negotiation tactic?”
- Nikou, Joraga bard

JOE

This is as removal-like as combat tricks can get.  It’s almost always going to kill a creature in combat, and every once in a while might steal a game in an alpha strike.  Good common.

JAMES
Great shenanigan card. Act like you’re chumping and then remove the creature? Not bad but probably not quite good enough for constructed play.

Spire Barrage – 4R
Sorcery (Common)
Spire Barrage deals damage to target creature or player equal to the number of Mountains you control.

JOE

seismic strike can only hit creatures, so that’s why this gem is 2 more.  I think it’s worth it in a base-red deck.  Lava axe has won me some games, and this is way more versatile, but every bit as capable of doing 5 to end the game.  This gets the nod (in red).

JAMES
Slightly too expensive for constructed play. It’s also conditional since you can’t really splash for this in constructed. For extended you don’t even want 5 mountains in play. That’s too many.

Torch Slinger – 2R
Creature – Goblin (Common)
Kicker – {1}{R}
When Torch Slinger enters the battlefield, if it was kicked, it deals 2 damage to target creature.
2/2

JOE

Shades of Flametongue Kavu here.  This is gray ogre early, and lets you shock too later on.  solid.

JAMES
One more than Murderous Redcap and lacking in persist. Bummer.

Joraga Bard – 3G
Creature – Elf Rogue Ally (Common)
Whenever Joraga Bard or another Ally enters the battlefield under your control, all Allies you control gain vigilance until end of turn.
1/4

JOE

Well, it’s none too exciting, but this is another ally to help attain that critical mass I keep talking about.  I’m guessing that you’ll be rolling if you have more than 6 allies, and a creature that’s worse than another but has the ally creature type will sometimes make the cut for that reason.  If you already have 6 other allies that are decent, I dunno… I still might play him.  It’d really depend on the other options there, but this won’t be among the first allies I line up for inclusion.

JAMES
Not the worst of the allies and far from the best.

Tajuru Archer – 2G
Creature – Elf Archer Ally (Uncommon)
When Tajuru Archer or another Ally enters the battlefield under your control, Tajuru Archer deals damage equal to the number of Ally creatures you control to target creature with flying.
1/2

JOE

Whoa… this guy’s very cool.  A cheap ally which helps green-based ally decks combat their historical nemesis, fliers.  Good stuff.

JAMES
A great sb include for block-constructed going Allies. Ausser-dass, ich sehe nichts.

Tanglesap – 1G
Instant (Common)
Prevent all combat damage that would be dealt this turn by creatures without trample.

JOE

Weird.  Usually a fog, but in the color of trample, sometimes it’ll be more like safe passage or something.  Conditionally awesome, usually marginal.  I like my tricks to do more than buy me a turn most times.

JAMES
Weird. Definitely worth considering in a limited deck since as we’ve seen (or you should have seen) Safe Passage is very playable in limited. I don’t see the point in constructed.

Timbermaw Larva – 3G
Creature – Beast (Common)
Whenever Timbermaw Larva attacks, it gets +1/+1 until end of turn for each Forest you control.
2/2

JOE

Hmm… I guess he’s hill giant or better on the attack, but in exchange he’s vulnerable the rest of the time.  Probably has a time and place to shine.

JAMES
Sits around as a 2/2 but probably swings on T4 as a 4/4. (assuming dual-color decks). In mono-G, this is a pretty good beat stick. I just wish it was bigger than a 2/2. Maybe a 1/3 or something would make me feel safer. Otherwise, I feel like I’d be paying four for a creature that’s going to get zapped. Meh, just play Garruk Wildspeaker at the same casting cost.

Vastwood Gorger – 5G
Creature – Wurm (Common)
5/6

JOE

Weak.  Not my thing, but occasionally necessary when you’re the fatty deck and lack enough fatties… but wait… why are you the fatty deck then?  I dunno… 5/6 is pretty beefy.  It might see play, but I’m guessing it’ll usually be reluctant play.

JAMES
Fine in limited since it’s obviously going to apply significant pressure. Not good enough for constructed.

Zendikar Card Review – Batch 3

Welcome to batch 3 of our ongoing Zendikar preview series.  As with the last two batches, I will give each card a knee-jerk reaction within the paradigm of limited play, occasionally speculating on legacy and EDH, while James will primarily comment on Block, Standard, and Extended, with occasional banter on other topics.

We love hearing from you in the comments section.  Without further ado…

Armament Master – WW
Creature – Kor Soldier (Rare)
Other Kor creatures you control get +2/+2 for each Equipment attached to Armament Master.
2/2
Illus. Steven Belledin
#1/249

JOE

Might randomly be awesome in the right pool / draft, but there’s a lot of pieces that have to fall into place.  Usually this is a rare that’s a slightly-worse-than-usual runeclaw bear.

JAMES
This is a great theme-driven deck (“Tribal”) but I don’t see a fit for this in anything competitive.

Arrow Volley Trap – 3WW
Instant – Trap (Uncommon)
If four or more creatures are attacking, you may pay {1}{W} rather than pay Arrow Volley Trap’s mana cost.
Arrow Volley Trap deals 5 damage divided as you choose among any number of target attacking creatures.
#2/249

JOE

The trap cost here isn’t a huge savings, but it hardly matters.  Whether for the trap cost, or full price, this is top shelf removal for white.  This should take down a minimum of two attackers, and will often leave your opponent wrecked.

JAMES
Maybe I’m just a sucker for the Trap mechanic (I think I’ve said this same thing about 6x ! lol!) but I feel the non-trap cost is a bit ridiculous. 5cc? That’s more than Wrath of God and Day of Judgment and really it’s not going to kill anything that frightening. The ability to divide the damage is certainly appealing. I see this card fitting more into control decks. I’m not sure that 5 color control/cascade has a future because of loss of Reflecting Pool, filter-lands and vivid lands; that being said, it’d be a great side-board option if token-based/winnie decks make a comeback. Outside that, I see better removal spells in Path to Exile, Harms Way and even to some extent (some) Celestial Purge and Martial Coup. Martial Coup may be a better benchmark because for two more cc you get to “wrath” and fill the board back up with 5 of your own dudes.

Kor Aeronaut – WW
Creature – Kor Soldier (Uncommon)
Kicker {1}{W}
Flying
When Kor Aeronaut enters the battlefield, if it was kicked, target creature gains flying until end of turn.
2/2

JOE

A solid creature with a respectable kicker.  At 1WWW, it’s white-intensive, but this can often push through important damage for aggressive archetypes that are a white mainstay.  I like this uncommon just fine.

JAMES
Pretty interesting card. It helps to have it on turn 2 because of the flying and then mid/late-game you can cast with kicker to just send in a dude with flying. That being said, for the same cc I would rather play Elspeth, Knight Errant or Ajani Goldmane–Elspeth pulling the majority of weight in my mind because she gets a loyalty counter & gives a creature +3/+3 and flying. Maybe this will go into that Kor-themed deck I mentioned above but not into anything competitive.

Kor Hookmaster – 2W
Creature – Kor Soldier (Uncommon)
When Kor Hookmaster enters the battlefield, tap target creature an opponent controls. That creature doesn’t untap during its controller’s next untap step.
2/2

JOE

Another tempo-oriented card that’ll shine in aggressively curved decks.  A solid gray ogre variant.

JAMES
I’m trying to figure out if this is playable or not. I want to say yes. The appeal of a targeted Sleep is pretty strong and it’s not overly costed. You can trust that this creature will get in for 2 the next turn–well, big assumption but let’s roll with it for a moment. With that assumption we have to assume that we’re tapping down something bigger than this 2/2. Is the 2/2 going to cause enough of a tempo change? Probably not alone it won’t! What board position would we want to see this in? Certainly not in an opening hand; we want it for punching through the final points of damage. Tapping a Baneslayer Angel seems hawt. What else? Hmm, my surmise is that we’d rather play Brave the Elements (new from Zendikar) which at 1cc gives all your creatures pro-whatever-color-you-need-at-the-moment (i.e. one-turn evasion for the finishing alpha strike). Definitely not a good choice for Extended or Standard and highly unlikely for Block.

Kor Outfitter – WW
Creature – Kor Soldier (Common)
When Kor Outfitter enters the battlefield, attach target equipment you control to target creature you control.
2/2
#21/249

JOE

This will only ever save you a couple mana, so it’s mainly a bad grizzly bears, but still has a place in what looks to be a white-heavy aggro archetype in this set.

JAMES
Plays well with the first card on our list today, Armament Master but that’s assuming an “ideal world” where we have Armament Master in play AND a worthwhile equipment. I’d like to pitch this as playable if you’re equipping a bomb equipment like Sword of Fire and Ice or Umezawas Jitte but really wouldn’t we rather just pay the two and equip it than put another dude into play? I sure would so…yeah, this isn’t really that great of a creature.

Nimbus Wings – 1W
Enchantment – Aura (Common)
Enchant creature
Enchanted creature gets +1/+2 and has flying.
#28/249

JOE

Auras always have the “exposure to 241s” danger.  The risk is that you enchant your guy only to lose two cards to the opponents single removal spell.  If the rewards are greater than this risk, the aura in question is playable.  It’s my opinion that flying and a small boost are probably worth it in some cases.  Evasion is very nice, and giving the right creature flying can win the game.  I think this will have a home in WG decks with lots of ground-based fat green creatures.  Suit one up with Nimbus Wings, and you should be putting your opponent on a fast clock.  I like it.

JAMES
I don’t see this being played outside limited. Maybe there’s a spot for in block (?) but really for 2cc (1 & W) I would rather drop Honor of the Pure. The bigger butt (i.e. Holy Strength) makes this a somewhat defensive card which runs against the grain of giving a creature evasion. What’s the point of having evasion if you’re just going to sit around and block with the creature? It’s a little underwhelming imo.

Ondu Cleric – 1W
Creature – Kor Cleric Ally (Common)
When Ondu Cleric or another Ally comes into play, you may gain 1 life for each Ally you control.
1/1

JOE

Life gain has been growing in popularity.  I think this will see play, but it’s not my kind of thing… however, the Ally deck is reminiscent of affinity in Mirrodin in the sense that “the more the merrier” seems to hold true.  I can see running this mainly for its type line.  Its own ability is incidental to the fact that it’s an ally.  It’s like running off-color mana-producing myr or off-color spellbombs in mirrodin.  It’s about critical mass.

JAMES
If Ally makes a surge in Block, maybe otherwise no. As sad as it is to say Essence Warden & Soul Warden seem better since they aren’t “ally” based. Plus, how many allies are you going to have in play at any given time? 3? Regardless, I see better Ally-cards in White at 2cc (such as Kazandu Blademaster–which after seeing more and more of the spoiler, I realize I was too quick to judge as “just a 2/2″).

Quest for the Holy Relic – W
Enchantment (Uncommon)
Whenever you cast a creature spell, you may put a quest counter on Quest for the Holy Relic.
Remove five quest counters from Quest for the Holy Relic and sacrifice it: Search your library for an equipment card, put it onto the battlefield, and attach it to a creature you control. Then shuffle your library.
#33/249

JOE

Well, if you’re particularly creature heavy and have one bomb equipment, maybe this is worth a slot.  Almost always, it’s not.  You want cards that do good things all by their lonesome.  This has a lot of strings attached.

JAMES
Too bad the quest is “when you cast” because it’s probably just too slow to justify. Being able to tutor out a Jitte is pretty sexy but it’s altogether under-powered and slow. It’s not on the same threat-level as Luminarch Ascension which I find a lot more appealing. General aside: The vulnerability of these ‘quest’ cards is that a simple Naturalize hoses 5 turns or more investment. (Qasali Pridemage comes to mind as a playable)

Windborne Charge – 2WW
Sorcery (Common)
Two target creatures get +2/+2 and flying until end of turn.

JOE

Another way to ram through damage in the white rush archetype.  I like it just fine.  Also great in the WG kind of deck I mentioned above.

JAMES
Expensive. So far as constructed goes, same comments vis a vis Elspeth apply here. Just straight up better: both are at sorcery speed, Elspeth sticks around to be a continuing threat, and does a better job pumping the creature (33% better).

Summoner’s Bane – 2UU
Instant (Common)
Counter target creature spell. Put a 2/2 blue Illusion creature token onto the battlefield under your control.

JOE

Not bad at all!  I seldom play control in limited, but this is an essence scatter I can definitely get behind.  It’s somewhat easy to see coming, alas, but still… a good counter for limited.

JAMES
Certainly provides the right kind of card advantage that U needs to win. I wish the illusion had flying but maybe I’m just being a bit greedy. This is a really good card in limited, btw. It’s cancel on steroids imo. (Maybe Essence Scatter is a better counter examle but the 2 U in the casting cost makes me think of Cancel more than Essence Scatter). I can see this being a great counter spell in Block and also making some appearances in standard. Unless I’m totally blanking on some amazing control cards in U, the counter-suite seems a bit dry–probably because Cryptic Command has played such a meta-defining role and its absence is a gaping whole where once was a God of CounterMagic. I do like this counterspell.

Caller of Gales – U
Creature – Merfolk Wizard (Uncommon)
{1}{U}, {T}: Creatures you control gain flying until end of turn.
1/1
#43/249

JOE

Nice one!  Levitation always suffered from being an enchantment and from being costly.  This is a lower mana investment and can occasionally beat for 1.  I like it.

JAMES
It’s good that it’s multiple creatures otherwise it’d be strictly underpowered. I personally wouldn’t want to rely on getting my miniature creatures through on the back of this card but the Merfolk decks will probably toy with this. —-CORRECTION–checking out the spoiler on mtgsalvation right now and it looks like it’s changed to target creature. Okay, so it’s underwhelming.

Cosi’s Trickster – U
Creature – Merfolk (Rare)
Whenever an opponent shuffles his or her library, you may put a +1/+1 counter on Cosi’s Trickster.
1/1
#45/249

JOE

Interesting card.  Soldier of Fortune had a torrid love affair with this merfolk in the late 90s… little known fact.  No, this is potentially interesting in constructed, but it’s basically a 1/1 for U in limited.  You can’t ever count on it being much more.  I mean, maybe it grows to 2/2 or 3/3, but it’s almost certain to be out of your control.  Usually, this sits the bench; that’s my prediction.

JAMES
This could be a really aggressive card. Fetchlands will be making a strong appearance in every format from Extended to Block so I would expect this to be an amazing tempo-play. If you’re going full on merfolk then sleeving this up with Merfolk Sovereign is a great choice. What I really find appealing about this card is that in the early game U players can flop this puppy down and then simply protect it and keep counter magic available to tempo-play the opponent all the while exerting pressure on the opposing player. It’s proably not a game winner in and of itself but I definitely see this having a spot on the team.

Gomazoa – U
Creature – Jellyfish (Common)
Kicker {1}{U}
When Gomazoa enters the battlefield, if it was kicked, return target creature to its owner’s hand.
0/3
#46/249

JOE

An 0/3 makes me sad.  As a 1/2 I’d play this every time.  This is just a weird, pricey unsummon.  It still has a place, but I’d probably use it in a spell slot, not a creature slot, and I’d rather this guy had flash.  It’s an effect that needs to be instant to be fully useful.

JAMES
I don’t see the point of this card. Just play Unsummon[card] and then play a better creature (like [card]Cosis Trickster above).

Paralyzing Grasp – 2U
Enchantment – Aura (Common)
Enchant tapped creature
Enchanted creature doesn’t untap during its controller’s untap step.
#58/249

JOE

This has been done many times, and it’s a good example of “soft removal,” which is the normal kind of removal for blue.  Not bad at what it does.

JAMES
Very playable in limited though I can’t think of many instances where this would see play in constructed decks. Better to just have an Essence Scatter and not get that creature into play in the first place. Imo.

Sky Ruin Drake – 4U
Creature – Drake (Common)
Flying
2/5
#66/249

JOE

A solid flier in common.  Will definitely see play.

JAMES
Very interesting for limited. The big butt makes it easily a stabilizer against early-rush strategies while the 2 power lets it switch over to an attack after it played its stabilization role. Pretty cool. That being said, it’s not playable in constructed decks. (too expensive).

Sphinx of Jwar Isle – 4UU
Creature – Sphinx (Rare)
Flying, shroud
You may look at the top card of your library.(You may do this at any time)
5/5
#68/249

JOE

In limited, being a 6-drop 5/5 flying shroud makes it a bomb.  The top card thing is gravy, but mostly just a cute sideshow.  In constructed, maybe this can pair with djinn of wishes?  I dunno.

JAMES
Weird. I don’t see the value of looking at my library as worth it in this instance. It’s certainly a fairly efficient creature but it’s very boarderline. U-based decks typically don’t use big creatures for exerting pressure–simply because tapping out for a big spell like this allows your opponent to “finally” play their win-condition and they’ve been playing around the permission strategy for a few turns. Why give them permission?

Umara Raptor – 2U
Creature – Bird Ally (Common)
Flying
Whenever Umara Raptor or another Ally enters the battlefield under your control, you may put a +1/+1 counter on Umara Raptor.
1/1
#75/249

JOE

This might end up being the most popular common ally.  This is playable all by itself as a flying (you guessed it) gray ogre.  The fact that it can easily go well beyond makes this, in my mind, a likely first pick for blue.  Definitely a very high pick.

JAMES
Agreed. Strong ally at 3cc for a 2/2 flyer and mid-to-late game it’s not a dead card. A player can cast this spell and still leave some mana open for countering another spell. Well balanced. I’d expect to see this floating around in Block.

Welkin Tern – 2U
Creature – Bird (Uncommon)
Flying, defender
{T}: Shuffle Welkin Tern and all creatures it’s blocking into their owners’ libraries.
0/3
#76/249

JOE

Pretty neat!  I like that it’s the chump blocker par excellence!  This ought to be thought of as a soft removal spell… it’s not terrible.  Block a few bears until a scary beast comes to town, then send him packing.

JAMES
I don’t quite get “and all creatures it’s blocking.” It’s not allowed to block multiple creatures so it’s just a one-for-one right? It’s ‘aight…but probably not worth it.

Grim Discovery – 1B
Sorcery (Common)
Choose one or both – Return target creature card from your graveyard to your hand; and/or return target land card from your graveyard to your hand.

JOE

An awesome raise dead variant.  This will help you get double-duty out of whatever fetchland you cracked if you got lucky with landfall.  Worst case it’s raise dead for 1B.  Worth it for sure.

JAMES
I find this card really good. For the Vampire/MBC this seems like a great option. It’s cheap, does more than one thing, etc. In fact, I’ll bet it will fit really well into the Grixis-Control style decks using Soul Manipulation and Architects of Will.

Hagra Diabolist – 4B
Creature – Ogre Shaman Ally (Uncommon)
When Hagra Diabolist or an other Ally enters the battlefield, target player loses life equal to the the number of Allies you control.
3/2

JOE

A solid ally capable of doing double digits worth of life loss with the right number of allies.  However, as a 5-drop, you’ll need a few early allies to maximize your return with this guy.  3/2 is a little weak on 5 to run this guy as a sole ally.

JAMES
I just don’t have enough exposure to these allies to get a gauge on their power. Assuming you’ve been exerting even a modicum of pressure on your opponent this could be a very simple way of getting in the last few points of damage. (Assuming 3 or allies total on the battlefield). He’s pretty expensive though.

Malakir Bloodwitch – 3BB
Creature – Vampire Shaman (Rare)
Flying, protection from white
When Malakir Bloodwitch enters the battlefield, each opponent loses life equal to the number of Vampires you control. You gain life equal to the life lost this way.
4/4
#100/249

JOE

Damn.  This is a bomb.  Even as your only vampire, a 5-drop 4/4 flying is solid.  Just ask air elemental!  This should see a lot of play in constructed too, as vampires are on the rise.  This will probably be worth some $$ as well.  Pro white positions him quite well to battle a certain baneslayer angel, as well as dodging wall of reverence.  Constructed ain’t my thing really, so this is partly “on-a-limb” but I’m thinking this is a shoe-in for constructed vampires.dec.

JAMES
Seriously? This is ridiculous. Vampires is looking so damn strong. I see this as super playable. Even if the “total vampires” you control is only 2 (counting this one), then a four point swing in life with a 4/4 flyer is looking good. Pro-white is just gravy.

Mire Blight – B
Enchantment – Aura (Common)
Enchant Creature
When enchanted creature is dealt damage, destroy it.

JOE

This is on the extreme weak side of soft removal, but sometimes we all do things we’re not proud of.  Running this will be one of those times.  It happens.

JAMES
Weak.

Hellfire Mongrel – 2R
Creature – Elemental Hound (Uncommon)
At the beginning of each opponent’s upkeep, if that player has two or fewer cards in his hand, Hellfire Mongrel deals 2 damage to him or her.
2/2
#130/249

JOE

Who can guess what red creature I’m about to compare this to favorably?  If you said gray ogre, give yourself a gold star.

JAMES
Blightening loves this. There’s looking to be a few great discard spells in this set that will mesh well for a B/R strategy. I see this making an appearance in Type2. It only cost 3cc, will put pressure on an opponent and is sorta like a Sulfuric Vortex. Not bad.

Obsidian Fireheart – 1RRR
Creature – Elemental (Mythic Rare)
{1}{R}{R}: Put a blaze counter on target land without a blaze counter on it. Lands with blaze counters on them have “At the beginning of your upkeep, this land deals 1 damage to you”. (The land continues to burn even after Obsidian Fireheart leaves the battlefield.)
4/4

JOE

I’m not sure whether that parenthetical remark, “The land continues to burn even after Obsidian Fireheart leaves the battlefield,” is a joke or not, but it seems like sloppy rules execution.  The fact that the land gets this new ability already indicates that the effect is not dependent upon Obsidian Fireheart being in play.  The “continues to burn” thing is unnecessarily confusing.  Here’s hoping it’s a joke.  Anyway, the card itself seems more like a constructed card with RRR in the cost.  In limited, there’s no question it’s a huge creature for 4 mana though, so if you’re base-red, this should be a bomb for you.  The fact that it doesn’t require tapping to add counters makes him sweet.  On turn 6, they’ll already be taking lightning bolt-worth of damage per turn… FROM THEN ON.  I think it’s a bomb, but a quirky and odd one.  You need to be base red, but if so, you’re probably good to go with this guy.

JAMES
I’m not commenting on this card until I see it. It’s wording is all weird–total FUBAR imo. I can’t get a straight answer on the forums about whether this is confirmed or complete conjecture. Seems like random guesses in the dark about what it could do. Let’s see a scan of the card! ;-)

Unstable Footing – R
Instant (Uncommon)
Kicker {3}{R}
Damage can’t be prevented this turn. If Unstable Footing was kicked, it deals 5 damage to target player.

JOE

I only like it when it’s kicked.  How often is damage prevented?  An instant lava axe though?  Sign me up.

JAMES
I can think of instances where preventing the prevention of damage would be really useful. Too bad it doesn’t stop lifegain too. Would be a total shoe-in for SB. Harm’s Way cries a little in the dark when it sees this card. The kicker just gives it late-game viability. This is worth experimenting with in SB (before the tourney of course).

Oran-Rief Recluse – 2G
Creature – Spider (Common)
Kicker {2}{G}
Reach
When Oran-Rief Recluse enters the battlefield, if it was kicked, destroy target creature with flying.
1/3

JOE

Not bad.  If it had deathtouch too, it’d be properly insane.  This seems decently balanced as is.  I run him in green.  Fliers are green’s traditional downfall.  Maindecking an answer is not such a bad plan, usually.

JAMES
Pretty expensive. I don’t see this having the goods for constructed play. But heck, it will destroy a Baneslayer Angel so it can’t be all bad. Maybe think of it as a 6cc spot removal for Green? Does that make it swallow-able? Maybe…

Quest for the Gemblades – 1G
Enchantment (Uncommon)
Whenever a creature you control deals combat damage to another creature, you may put a quest counter on Quest for the Gemblades.
Remove a quest counter from Quest for the Gemblades and sacrifice it: Put four +1/+1 counters on target creature.

JOE

Only needs one quest counter eh?  And blocking will do the trick.  I think it’s a solid giant growth kind of card… it’s a little weird, and a little slow, but it’s like a seal of strength, essentially.  Lets you bluff your way through future combats for sure.  I’m down with that.

JAMES
Very interesting. The cheapest Quest of all? (cheapest as in “most accessible to actually achieve the goal of the quest). Pretty damn cheap. Too bad the counters can’t be divided. I guess that would make it over powered? Well, blocking occurs pretty frequently in combat, I’m just a little wary of saying, “put this in your deck” because I’m viewing the quests as all together un-reliable a strategy. Maybe someone will play this in some decks and leave a comment on how they work out. For now, I’m a skeptic.

Relic Crush – 4G
Instant (Common)
Destroy target artifact or enchantment and up to one other target artifact or enchantment.

JOE

Solid.  Should go into many EDH decks the day of the pre-release.  This is not terrible in limited either, since by the mid-to-late game, you’ll usually see some kind of enchantment or artifact.  Maybe it’s a sideboard card, maybe not.  This set has tons of equipment and weird enchantments of all shapes and sizes.  I’m guessing a fair number get maindecked.

JAMES
Too expensive and what artifacts are we talking here? Pass

Savage Silhouette – 2G
Enchantment – Aura (Common)
Enchant creature
Enchanted creature gets +2/+2 and has “{1}{G}: Regenerate enchanted creature”.

JOE

Hmmm… it’s better than regeneration, but I still worry about the 241 exposure here.  It’s right on the margin here for me.  I guess it depends on what my creature suite looks like.  I dunno.  I’d much rather not be in the situation where I need another card in my deck, and this is among the top contenders for the slot, let’s put it that way.

JAMES
Definitely not a bad pick in limited. Being able to Regenerate isn’t bad either. Has to be played late game when you’ll have the mana open to protect it. I don’t’ see this making the cut for constructed play though. (for example, I’d rather just play Cudgel Troll–but I don’t run that as it is…)

Territorial Baloth – 4G
Creature – Beast (Common)
Landfall – Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, Territorial Baloth gets +2/+2 until end of turn.
5/5

JOE

5-drop 5/5 is alright by itself.  Occasionally a 7/7 makes it superb.  A solid common sure to be a vertebrae in the backbone of many green decks, and the splashed beef of others.

JAMES
Probably too expensive for constructed play; there’s better G in this set.

Expedition Map – 1
Artifact (Common)
{2}, {T}, Sacrifice Expedition Map: Search your library for a land card, reveal it, and put it into your hand. Then shuffle your library.

JOE

Neat, flavorful name!  This is a colorless civic wayfinder without the creature.  Surely has a place as a common fixer for non-green multi-color decks.  That’s its purpose, and it serves it well, but fairly.

JAMES
This is a tad bit better than Civic Wayfinder since we can pull any land (i.e. pain lands). I’ll wager this is excellent in limited and then not quite good enough for constructed play (due to the lack of a body).

Explorer’s Scope – 1
Artifact – Equipment (Common)
When equipped creature attacks, you may look at the top card of your library. If it is a land card, you may put it onto the battlefield tapped.
Equip {1}

JOE

Whoa, nice!  Free lands, free landfall occasionally.  If you have multiples in play, they stack up nicely, letting you hit a two-land pocket every blue moon.  I dunno… it sort of doesn’t do much… that’s my only beef here.  Getting free lands is nice, but it doesn’t really enhance your creature any.  It’s a weird kind of accelerator, being on an equipment.

JAMES
Interesting enabler. And you just have to attack. Free lands = card advantage and can be activate as early as turn 2. Not bad at all. I’ll bet this little puppy finds a home in some creative decks. I wouldn’t even laugh if it was in Extended. Getting the mana boost will go a long way in that format. Heck, it’s great for a Naya-Zoo deck that wasn’t able to get a Plains-Mountain-and-Forest onto the Battlefield (Wild Nacatl). I’d test this card out. It’s major draw back is that if you want to reliably have this card early game (when it’s useful as it’s not as game-impacting late game) you’d have to run 4x. That being said, it’s still somewhat helpful late game when mana is plentiful and players are entering near-top-deck mode….that’s essentially what makes it construction-worthy imo.

Grappling Hook – 4
Artifact – Equipment (Rare)
Equipped creature has double strike.
Whenever equipped creature attacks, you may have target creature block it if able.
Equip {4}

JOE

Awesome.  Steep in cost and equip cost, but a huge payback in the end.  I don’t see myself ever opening this and not playing it.  Not exactly a bomb, I’d say, but quite solid as equipment goes.

JAMES
Dang expensive but late game as a 2-of it’s not horrible. I just worry that at 8cc total investment, it’s too pricey to justify. Being able to Lure can be great but it’s only one target creature. “any number of target creatures” would make me think this could be excellent. As it is, I don’t see it providing the pressure necessary to justify inclusion. Maybe I’m missing something…

Khalni Gem – 4
Artifact (Uncommon)
When Khalni Gem enters the battlefield, sacrifice it unless you return two lands you control to your hand.
{T}: Add two mana of any one color to your mana pool.

JOE

Okay, so you can still tap this once for two mana, then sac it… I’m thinking the tempo loss might be a bad thing… maybe not worth it.  On the other hand, this is an awesome way to enable many-colored decks.  I think it’ll see play, but will be a risky thing to do with decent artifact removal floating around.  I’d rather not have to resort to this kind of fixing.

JAMES
It’s not my style. I don’t like to open myself up like this. If it’s bounced or destroyed, you pretty much have to scoop.

Spidersilk Net – 0
Artifact – Equipment (Common)
Equipped creature gets +0/+2 and reach.
Equip {2}

JOE

Weak.  Not that interested.

JAMES
lol. Too bad the equip cost isn’t 1. That’d make it okay. I don’t see it being worthwhile outside of limited.

Soaring Seacliff
Land (Common)
Soaring Seacliff enters the battlefield tapped.
When Soaring Seacliff enters the battlefield, target creature gains flying until end of turn.
{T}: Add {U} to your mana pool.

JOE

This can, again, help push through valuable damage.  In this cycle, this is probably my favorite card.

JAMES
Free jump I guess but at the cost of playing something on curve. Certainly looking at this as a one-of in a limited deck makes me think it’s fine since it could be a game finisher (enabler, that is).

Turntimber Grove
Land (Common)
Turntimber Grove enters the battlefield tapped.
When Turntimber Grove enters the battlefield, target creature gets +1/+1 until end of turn.
{T}: Add {G} to your mana pool.
#227/249

JOE

Kind of a weak effect, really.  I’ll pass.

JAMES
I feel like we reviewed this cycle already. Blah, pass.

New Conflux Cards – Batch 03

Court Homunculus – W
Artifact Creature – Homunculus (Common)
Court homunculus gets +1/+1 if you control another artifact.
1/1

At best, he’s non-legendary Isamaru.  At worst, he’s eager cadet that dies to naturalize.  I’m thinking he’s a bit player in a very narrow archetype.  Not seeing him doing a lot outside of 40-card formats.  Neat creature type though!

Banefire – XR
Sorcery (Rare)
Banefire deals X damage to target creature or player. If X is 5 or greater, Banefire can’t be countered by spells or abilities and the damage can’t be prevented.

Holy crap.  Holiest of holy craps.  This is easily one of the big-money chase rares of the set.  I never thought I’d say that a card makes demonfire look like crap, but this card makes demonfire look like crap.  This is just incredible.  SO powerful.  Flores’ NY state champs “This Girl” deck of a few years back was all about sneakily distracting the opponent from the end-game plan of hellbent demonfire.  This is a similar card, but requires so much less setup.  No hellbent required.  And let’s be honest, when are you going to ever cast this for less than 5?  Seldom.  Very seldom.  Only if you’re doing so very early to nuke some kind of dude to buy time… but c’mon, you already wanted to burn for large amounts.  It’s sad how outdated and crappy all those old stalwarts have become.  Disintegrate, lava burst, fireball, earthquake.  These all got outclassed by the new school of demonfire and molten disaster, though earthquake and rolling earthquake still have their places… Banefire is like another plateau leap upward, leaving the rest behind yet again.  Incredible card.  If you don’t want to take my word for it, consider that playsets are already selling for ~$50 on ebay.

Dragonsoul Knight – 2R
Creature – Human Knight (Uncommon)
First strike
{W}{B}{U}{R}{G}: Dragonsoul Knight gets +5/+3, has flying, trample, and is a Dragon in addition to its other creature types until end of turn.
2/2

Not bad as simply a first-striking gray ogre, so the ability is just gravy, and will obviously win some games if you can draft enough of the (ample, it seems) domain enablers.  Probably going to see quite a bit of play, I’m guessing, in limited.  Note you can use the ability multiple times to accrue +5/+3 again and again… unlikely but there.  (does that make it a “Dragon Dragon?”)

Worldheart Phoenix – 3R
Creature – Phoenix (Rare)
Flying
You may play Worldheart Phoenix from your graveyard by paying {W}{U}{B}{R}{G} rather than paying it’s mana cost. If you do, it comes into play with two +1/+1 counters on it.
2/2

Let me just state for the record that I love the Phoenix creature type, so perhaps I’m biased.  I like this guy.  4-drop 2/2 fliers are just fine in limited.  Ones that come back as air elementals for domain are pretty damn good.

Matca Rioters – 2G
Creature – Human Warrior (Common)
Domain – Matca Rioters’ power and toughness are each equal to the number of basic land types among lands you control.
*/*

Seems like this will usually be a gray ogre at worst, but potentially a 3-drop 5/5.  The only real precedent here is phyrexian negator, the comparison to which is a bit like apples to oranges.  Negator is clearly tons better than this situational dude, but sometimes he’ll be a mid-to-late game drawback-and-trample free negator.  Not terrible.  I think he’s very playable.  A lot of times in this format he’ll be an easier-to-play gnarled mass.

Shard Convergence – 3G
Sorcery (Uncommon)
Search your library for a Plains card, an Island card, a Swamp card, and a Mountain card. Put these cards into your hand, then shuffle your library.

Hmm.  A bit of a slow way to get domain going.  If you have land’s edge or seismic assault in play, this is an 8-point lightning blast.  Yawn.  I think it sees limited play, but it’s not my favorite.  You can’t really count a 4-cc spell as a fixer… I’d much rather be playing the basic landcyclers.

Tukatongue Thallid – G
Creature – Fungus (Common)
Whenever Tukatongue Thallid goes to the graveyard from play, put a 1/1 green Saproling token into play.
1/1

As far as nearly-vanilla 1-drop 1/1s go, this guy’s probably a small step above benalish hero.  It’s like two sequentially appearing eager cadets for the price of one.  I’m almost certain some sick combo exists in which you cycle this fool through the yard again and again leaving yourself with an army of saprolings, but my self-imposed ~5 second-ish impression window was insufficient for me to think such a combo up.  I’m pretty sure it’s there somewhere, but probably uses 3 or more cards.  This guy does double-duty as a chump blocker, so maybe the swarm + team pump stratagems will employ him.

Armillary Sphere – 2
Artifact (Common)
{2}, {T}, Sacrifice Armillary Sphere: Search your library for up to 2 basic land cards, reveal them, and put them into your hand. Then shuffle your library.

Hmm.  I think I like this one.  Compare it to something like Journey of Discovery, and the “installment plan” kind of thing (plus the accompanying option to use the ability at EOT, when you have nothing better to do) probably makes this slightly better, despite being exposed to the usual artifact hate.  I think you could do worse if you’re trying to draft the domain deck.  (Shard convergence, for instance, is almost certainly inferior).

Bone Saw – 0
Artifact – Equipment (Common)
Equip {1}- Equipped creature gets +1/+0.

Sick name on this one!  Lol.  Bonesplitter seems to be the obvious point of reference here.  For waiting another turn (and spending another mana), you get another +1/+0 out of the original.  Whether it’s just because I have a soft spot for 0-cc artifacts or not I can’t say, but I think I like this one better.  On the other hand, whereas bonesplitter’s +2 is actually relevant and can speed up clocks well, this one is a pretty marginal effect.  Usually there will (should) be something more effective to take up the slot this guy wants to take up.

New Conflux Cards – Batch 02

Gleam of Resistance – 4W
Instant (Common)
Creatures you control get +1/+2 until end of turn. Untap those creatures.
Basic landcycling {1}{W}

I like it.  A scary effect in white which should win you a game or two at the pre-release.  The landcycling cycle is very very good this time around.  There’s a few more coming in this batch too.  I like them all.

Martial Coup – XWW
Sorcery (Rare)
Put X 1/1 white Soldier creature tokens into play. If X is 5 or greater, destroy all other creatures.
Illus. Greg Staples
#11/145

Good god.  Clearly you want to cast this for 7cc or more.  This seems very fucking good.  Wrath of god + 5 or more 1/1 soldiers?  Follow up with a swell of courage FTW the next turn?  Hell, even a nicely non-creature Ajani Goldmane would do some serious damage.  Elspeth and vengeant, too.  This is definitely going to see some serious play in contemporary formats.

Sigil of the Empty Throne – 3WW
Enchantment (Rare)
Whenever you play an enchantment spell, put a 4/4 white Angel creature token with flying into play.

Hmmm… gimmicky for sure, but also potentially great.  How easily can the old school enchantress decks play this?  And is enchantress even viable now that it’s Legacy only?  I’m brain-farting whether there are recurring enchantments in standard, but I have a sneaking suspicion that there are a couple.  It could be okay… but it sure seems like a do-nothing conditional kind of thing… in other words, a pile of shit.  Maybe it’s a pile of shit that’s been shaped like a pretty statue… I dunno.  It has appeal, but seems Johnny-ish.  Stay away.

Traumatic Visions – 3UU
Instant (Common)
Counter Target Spell
Basic landcycling {1}{U}

So far this seems to be the best of the land-cycler spells… but it’s close to the red damaging one.  The white untap / pump spell is not without merit and power either.  All of them will see play.  This one may see constructed tournament play, whereas I’m not entirely convinced of the others.

Absorb Vis – 6B
Sorcery (Common)
Taget player loses 4 life and you gain 4 life.
Basic landcycling {1}{B}

You know, pretty much any ability can be stapled to these basic landcycling cards, and they’ll still see play.  10UUUUU, draw a card, instant with basic landcycling… I’d play it.  Would you?  Every once in a while, this will burn your opponent out as a late game top deck.  99% of the time, you’ll be amused by how your base-black deck so easily splashed three colors.

Goblin Razerunners – 2RR
Creature – Goblin Warrior (Rare)
{1}{R}, Sacrifice a land: Put a +1/+1 counter on Goblin Razerunners.
At the end of your turn, you may have Goblin Razerunners deal damage to target player equal to the number of +1/+1 counters on it.
3/4

He’s got the goods.  I wonder whether he ends up generating more damage than seige-gang in older-format goblin decks… I’ll have to ponder that.  Intuitively though, sticking to my first-impression guideline, I’m thinking this guy is a bigtime house.  It’s not like these are “goblin bone” tokens or something; they’re plain old +1/+1s.  Ajani Goldmane and any old reinforce guy will play well with this dude in standard.  His own ability helps too… He’s seeming more and more incredible the more seconds go by here…

Volcanic Fallout – 1RR
Instant (Uncommon)
Volcanic Fallout can’t be countered.
Volcanic Fallout deals 2 damage to each creature and each player.

Tournament staple, pure and simple.  Even if it were just an instant, it would be a huge power-up over pyroclasm, its obvious predecessor.  But the uncounterable clause makes pyroclasm a thing of the past, I would think.  This card is simply amazing.

Voracious Dragon – 3RR
Creature – Dragon (Rare)
Flying
Devour 1
When Voracious Dragon comes into play, it deals damage equal to twice the number of Goblins it devoured to target creature or player.
4/4

A nice way to follow up that empty the warrens, post combat of course.  This guy is a fucking house.  Already intense as a 5-drop, if you throw him in with seige gang or mogg war marshal or the like… dragon fodder anyone?… you’ve got a powerhouse.  I predict a bright future here.  Absolute nuts in limited.  Very fast for a devastating clock.

Cylian Sunsinger – 1G
Creature – Elf Shaman (Rare)
{R}{G}{W}: Cylian Sunsinger and all other creatures with the same name as it get +3/+3 until end of turn.
2/2
Illus. Jesper Ejsing
#80/145

Interesting effect.  So, clone gets this effect, and ditto volrath’s shapeshifter.  I can see a mask of the mimic kid of thing here, perhaps… interesting stuff… gimmicky and I’m not sure how incredibly good it is, but it’s interesting nonetheless.  The newness is great.  And hey, he beats the hell out of a grizzly bears, no?  Dig those creature types as well.  He’s decent in limited, and I can see some wild-eyed mages trying him out in casual constructed… depending on supporting cast, maybe he has a shot at the bigtime.

Paleoloth – 4GG
Creature – Beast (Rare)
Whenever creature with power 5 or greater comes into play under your control, you may return target creature card from your graveyard to your hand.
5/5

Okay, I need a rules guru to explain whether this guy triggers on his own CiP… if he can gravedigger on his own CiP then he’s a house.  If not, he’s still pretty awesome, but probably shines most in a big-dorks kind of beats deck.  You know, either way, if you’re remotely in green, I think you run this guy.  Not seeing him in constructed formats any time soon however.

Sylvan Bounty – 5G
Instant (Common)
Target player gains 8 life.
Basic landcycling {1}{G}

Yawn.  Lifegain.  You know, lifegain isn’t always terrible, and at least this basic-land-cycles.  I think this gets the nod, especially since base-green is typically the way you do many-colored decks.  And if you get it late, EOT +8 should buy you a turn if nothing else.  I guess it’s worthy despite my normal aversion to lifegain that isn’t recurring.  Eight is a lot.

Conflux – 3WUBRG
Sorcery (Mythic Rare)
Search your library for a white card, a blue card, a black card, a red card, and a green card, reveal them, and put them into your hand. Then shuffle your library.
Illus. Karl Kopinski
#102/145

Would this card be game over if its text were “draw 5 cards?”  Well, probably not.  The fact that you’re guaranteeing the effectiveness of the 5 cards pushes it well into the Cruel Ultimatum zone of “I win” textboxes.  Now, this is one mana slower than CU, so I’m guessing the ultimatum still sees more tournament play.  Question: would a dedicated domain deck rather run this or ultimatum?  Actually, would a domain deck run either?  I mean, 5cc is great, but is it truly “domain?”  It’s not too focused on acheiving “domain” proper, but only as a consequence of playing esoteric and eclectic mana costs.  So I don’t know… I’m thinking this card is very very cool, and essentially “I win”, but I think it’s going to be in the shadow of Cruel Ultimatum, definitely at first, possibly forever.

Countersquall – UB
Instant (Uncommon)
Counter target noncreature spell. Its controller loses 2 life.

People had their doubts about negate when it first arrived, but it’s proven its worth.  Thus, in all sorts of decks, this will be a huge player… well, not ALL sorts… it’ll have to be UB decks, obviously, but this seems like a real winner.  Why not get a shock out of your negate?  That seems well worth a few river of tears, am I right?

Kaleidostone – 2
Artifact (Common)
When Kaleidostone comes into play, draw a card.
{5}, {T}, Sacrifice Kaleidostone: Add {W}{U}{B}{R}{G} to your mana pool.

I love it.  I loves elsewhere flask too.  The real draw for me is the… draw!  I mean, there’s a reason cloudstone curio has that “non-artifact” clause in there… even so, this is tempo-painless mana fixing, and in this case gives you a domain filter.  Very cool.

Rupture Spire
Land (Common)
Rupture Spire comes into play tapped.
When Rupture Spire comes into play, sacrifice it unless you pay {1}.
{T}: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool.

Hmm… initially I don’t like this spell… it seems quite slow to me.  People don’t draft the panoramas as highly as the CiP tapped tri-lands, and the reason is analagous.  Spending 1 mana to drop a CiP tapped land is handing your opponent a big fat wad of tempo on a platter.  Still, various 5-color archetypes or slower controlling archetypes might play this in limited.  I’m not seeing it in any kind of constructed unless some gimmick exists that I’m missing.

Unstable Frontier
Land (Uncommon)
{T}: Add {1} to your mana pool.
{T}: Target land you control becomes the basic land type of your choice until end of turn.

Okay, so usually this is just shimmering grottos 5-8.  However, this is the domain matters set, so clearly there’s going to be some more-expensive, but powered up Might of Alaras and such.  I guess a few savvy mages will prevent their opponent from landwalking them by changing their lone land…  Either way, henge of ramos is officially a bookmark for life.