Welcome back to the second day of our Gatecrash review. Yesterday, we kicked off the set by taking a look at all of the White cards as well as the Orzhov guild. Today, we will continue with the other half of Orzhov in Black, which also happens to be the first half of today's guild, Dimir. The Dimir are known for being hidden and a bit sneaky, so let's see if the set reflects that in game play. As always, we will be looking at each card in the set from both a Constructed and a Limited perspective and rating each accordingly. To help us with the rating, we have the following pair of handy scales:
5: These cards are all-stars and their greatness spans multiple formats usually. Generally the chase cards of a set such as Tarmogoyf or Jace, the Mind Sculptor. 5s should not be given out lightly as the really have to have a big impact across formats.
4: These cards are going to be seen in decks of their color more often than not but may be less universal than 5s. These will usually be dominant in certain formats but not so much in others much like Bloodbraid Elf or Baneslayer Angel. Note that with a shift to how Extended is, 4s tend to see both Extended and Standard play, but have not made the jump to eternal.
3: These are the backbone of Standard and usually serve some utility but are more restrictive in archetype, like a Makeshift Mannequin or Mind Spring.
2: These cards are generally much more restrictive in use and application. Occasional sideboard appearances or cameos in some combo deck are the most frequent uses here such as Splinter Twin or Acidic Slime.
1: These are basically unplayable and only see use in the most rare of occasions such as bad card poster boy One with Nothing.
5.0: I will always play this card. Period.
4.5: I will almost always play this card, regardless of what else I get.
4.0: I will strongly consider playing this as the only card of its color.
3.5: I feel a strong pull into this card's color.
3.0: This card makes me want to play this color. (Given that I'm playing that color, I will play this card 100% of the time.)
2.5: Several cards of this power level start to pull me into this color. If playing that color, I essentially always play these. (Given that I'm playing that color, I will play this card 90% of the time.)
2.0: If I'm playing this color, I usually play these. (70%)
1.5: This card will make the cut into the main deck about half the times I play this color. (50%)
1.0: I feel bad when this card is in my main deck. (30%)
0.5: There are situations where I might sideboard this into my deck, but I'll never start it. (10%)
0.0: I will never put this card into my deck (main deck or after sideboarding). (0%)
Just not the stats needed in the bottom right corner compared to the upper right corner to be worth it, even with a mill ability attached.
This is a reasonably sized flier with a relevant ability should you be in the department for such a thing. Of note is that this a rogue and has three toughness, allowing it to block a certain 2/2 that is otherwise unblockable.
Evasion in exchange for a point of power seems reasonable, but the big thing setting this back is the color shift. White might need the reach whereas Black doesn't need it nearly as much. This is a two drop for a color lacking good two drops, but I don't see it happening.
I actually view this guy as a real boon for Orzhov. He will get in three to four damage in the air all by himself and then turn into a drain machine, getting in another chunk of damage and gaining you some life. Definitely not as strong as the Wind Drake, but reasonable none the less.
I thought this was playable the first time it was printed, and I still think it has a shot. This is not the same power level as Spreading Seas, but it can color screw and opponent and the life loss is not bad either.
Basically board this in against those greedy players playing four or five colors, or against the guy relying on a bunch of gates. Outside of those situations, it is not very good.
This is our second Horned Turtle with defender already and both creatures just do not excite. Sacrificing another creature is not an appealing cost when the outcome is just deathtouch on your defender.
Orzhov actually really wants this effect and it can influence combat heavily. Given a typical 1/4, an opponent might feel fine attacking with a pair of 3/3's every turn, but what about into this? Are you willing to trade a 3/3 for a creature of your opponent's choice?
Four mana 2/2s have gotten more respect from me when they have mana generating effects due to Oracle of Mul Daya being so powerful. I am not sure where this guy fits in, but being able to work with shock lands is a big deal and I think he could be powerful given the right situation.
Obviously a giant mana advantage plus a living Drain Life that almost always can pay for itself is quite strong. Coupled with some card advantage, this can deal a lot of damage very quickly.
This is about as unreliable as removal can come and in constructed, that is not a highly sought after quality.
This is pretty bad removal early on regardless of your archetype. If you are Dimir and a mill deck, this will naturally gain strength as the game goes on, but for a deck like Orzhov, that might be more difficult. I don't think a non Dimir deck will ever want more than one of this, but Dimir can add more with more mill.
Tribute to Hunger is already close to seeing competitive play, but spending three mana on it is a bit much for many decks. Diabolic Edict, on the other hand, is certainly the right price and the drawback will often be shrugged off by most decks wanting to play this.
Unreliable removal at best. Edicts are always tough to use due to the number of creatures every deck has. Still, this is a great early play and you can randomly set up a scenario late that turns this back into nasty-mode.
Looming Shade is not looming in any constructed decks, well, ever and I am pretty sure giving it GateShading is not going to be changing that.
This guy should be solid in both Dimir and Orzhov. Orzhov can use him to deter attackers without ever actually having to spend mana, letting them cast spells and extort. Meanwhile, Dimir can use it to force through cipher or turn into The Abyss. Both decks are not monoblack though, which does hurt a little.
This can hit just about everything seeing play, but spending four mana without much of an upside is a little too much to ask. The mill is usually not going to matter unless you force it to, but I don't suspect any deck that can do that being all that good.
Unconditional removal is huge, especially at instant speed. The mill part of this might come up from time to time when you are a Dimir player, but expect Orzhov to gobble this up as well. This card will often be putting people in black p1p1.
Not a very broad sideboard card, but a powerful one against the right decks. You need to pair this with a way to fight Crusade effects, but given you have that, this will be a solid addition to the metagame.
Board it in against Boros with a lot of 1/1 production or multiple Guildmages, but don't expect this to be great until all three sets are drafted together.
You don't want to spend four mana to kill a Restoration Angel, or six to kill a Thragtusk. This is just too expensive to be a viable option.
Solid removal, but it can get expensive if you are trying to take out bombs. To kill utility creatures and things like Guildmages, you are paying a reasonable price. At least this is another way to kill Pack Rat when that format exists!
This is far too difficult to cast, and if you are going to Reanimate something, why not hit Griselbrand?
So, the tough part is casting this guy. I assume a well built Orzhov deck will have little trouble doing so, but Dimir might just kill you before this is an option. Once in play though, this goes to town, twice, so enjoy the groceries!
So this is interesting in that, like most cipher cards, it should usually be cast twice in the first turn. There are enough unblockable guys that this should connect if the creature doesn't die. Against a deck like Orzhov, or even Gruul with their combat tricks, you can get some value.
If there ends up being some infinite sacrifice deck, this could be the win condition in such a deck, similar to the old Project X decks. This is also OK against sweepers, but I would not run it for that fact alone.
Every trade you make becomes favorable while the ground gets littered with Rats. I imagine this will be one of the more frustrating cards to play against in the set. Again, a 3/3 is manageable though, so try to protect him.
I can see this being played in Reanimator decks as a maindeckable way to fight other Reanimator decks should the deck pick up steam again. I supposed a control deck can also just cast this, but that seems less likely to me.
Casting this should just win you the game the vast majority of the time. A giant body plus evasion plus a second body, also potentially giant, is too much value to pass up, even for 7 mana. Casting him still might be easier than saying his name though.
I think this actually has a shot at being ok in some type of Zombies deck. Sure, that deck has two very good one-drops, but this lets their team swing past Thragtusk all day. Even if now is not the right time for this, it might have its day before it rotates out.
A 1/1 for one is a decent concession of a card, but the ability to get your guys in during the mid to late game is quite strong. Obviously, as your Black creature count dwindles, this will get worse as well.
This is probably better than Lava Axe in limited, but I am not so sure about Constructed. This is like an unkillable equipment on an Invisible Stalker though, which is neat, but still not high powered enough to be a real threat I don't think.
I think this is really only playable in Dimir, but it increases their clock significantly when they are used to attacking for two each turn. This is often better than a Lava Axe the first turn you play it and it just gets better from there.
No one would ever have the need to block your Grey Ogre in the first place unless you enhanced it and I think we all know there are better creatures to enhance.
Not the best card by any means. The goal is obviously to Cipher this up and hope it scares them off, but often they just block, kill this, and discard a card, costing you a one-and-a-half-for-one. Not unplayable, but not something to be actually looking for aggressively.
Unless you have a real hankering for killing Lingering Souls tokens and have literally no other option, this is just too bad of a rate to play it for the ability.
A decent sized flier with a very relevant ability that almost gives this a secret +1/+1, at least as far as combat is concerned. Usually this is going to favor the Orzhov over Dimir, but will be playable in any Black deck.
I like this guy a lot, for multiple reasons. First of all, this is the cheapest card with extort, meaning you can get more extort triggers off of this than any other card assuming it lives. Secondly, it has a very relevant ability. It can harass a Planeswalker, reset undying for your Geralf's Messenger or keep an evolve creature in check. I think this guy will be pretty sweet in Standard and maybe even older formats.
Another creature you will play for mostly the extort ability, but that is more than reasonable. If you get some evolve counters or something, that is nice, but this is mostly just a Drain Life on a stick.
Generally, a deck wanting to mill someone is not going to have a bunch of creatures to throw away as fodder. If this guy has a chance, it is in some combo shell, but I am unaware of a combo that can use him.
If you are playing this as a 2/3 defender, he is fine, and a rogue, so again, he can block a certain other rogue we will get to later. If you want to actually mill someone though, the value of this goes up as a repeatable source of it. It does require a lot in terms of cost, but some decks will be happy to pay for it.
I really like this card and the dream on a hexproof creature with evasion is somewhat real, but I just think this is costed one or two mana too much to be legitimately viable. Cast twice in the first turn, this is a beating, but you need to be in a somewhat favorable position at that point, as this will have problems catching you up from when you are behind.
I think this is much better in limited where it can be used on one of Dimir's many unblockable creatures to quickly end a game or potentially bring things even when you are behind. Most Dimir decks will be winning quickly, but some will be more methodical and controlling, where this might be nice.
Too unreliable as this might just be a 1/1 against control for most of the game, regardless of what strategy you are using of your own.
Not a great creature because of how bad he is early, but I can see him being a legit threat in Dimir as it mills a handful of creatures into the yard easily. Not great if you are relying on trades and removal, but still playable.
I like this guy a lot even if I cannot know his exact viability. This is like a fairly resistant Looter, having three toughness, except you have the opportunity to draw cards pitched by it. A card like this has not really been in Standard since Jushi Apprentice. While the two cards are clearly different, they might enable the same style of deck, so keep your eye on this.
Looters are always good in limited and this one eventually just turns into an Archivist. Definitely strong card quality improvement. Oh, and its another three toughness rogue, which is nice to see.
I don't think any deck is interested in casting a four mana Midnight Haunting at sorcery speed, even if it has some upside to it. Being two colors is also quite significant. This has a niche that might make it playable, but I doubt it.
An army of 1/1 fliers is pretty sweet, especially since you can cipher onto the 1/1 you just made, meaning this will always have a cipher target. If you can connect a few more times with this, it has more than paid for itself.
All three modes on this seem more than viable in certain situations even though most of them are narrow. Blue/Black control would gladly play each of them given the right situation and Snapcaster Mage just extends that versatility further. This should be a solid player in the metagame until it rotates out.
Removal is removal, even if it is narrow. This will take out Guildmages and utility creatures and occasionally counter some nasty sorcery, both of which are value. I am not sure how often the Impulse effect will be used, but mill decks might use it for that.
Paying six mana for a 4/4 wasn't exciting on Treasury Thrull and its ability is much better than this. This is just too much mana for the effect it generates.
A giant Man of War is always going to be welcome in limited though. Consider the 1/4 version for five mana in Return to Ravnica. For an extra Black mana, you gain three power and card advantage? Plus, if the opponent has no cards in hand, this turns into Terminate. It is expensive, but still a very nice card.
This guy does have a combo with Mind Wrench, so I can see it trying to be played, but for general use, four mana to mill two is a very bad rate, and three mana for the first ability is also bad. If this does see play, expect it to be very limited.
This guy is primarily only going to be good in the mill Dimir deck, which is slightly awkward. In the cipher deck, this still can deal a few damage, but I think in general you want to play this in mill decks or heavy control decks.
I want to give this a four, but it needs to prove itself first as it could very easily end up being a flop. I love everything about this though and think that it can be the card Conundrum Sphinx never could be. If you are optimistic about this, it is damaging your opponent while drawing you cards, but even if you look at it more realistically, you built your deck to take advantage of this ability while your opponent did not.
A very fast clock, source of extra cards, great cipher target. This is everything Dimir wants and it should be quite good. The Howling Mine effect is a little riskier in limited, but the 4/4 body is so much more relevant that that should be balanced out
Another card that requires your opponent to be doing something specific in order to work. That means this will likely not be a main deck card, but it can serve some sideboard functionality. Consider bringing this in against Reanimator for example, as it will become whatever fatty they mill or discard, only with hexproof, which is pretty sweet.
This does both halves of what Dimir likes to do, so I see it being good. It picks up a cipher spell with ease or it synergizes with milling in a strong way. Obviously he is difficult to cast, but once in play, you can get a lot of miles out of this guy.
I don't see this being good as X has to be so large for this to be any good. If you ever did something like get X to seven, even then, you are looking at roughly a mill 20 if they run the right ratio of mana, but remember, that means you just spent nine mana on said spell. (Roughly count every X for three cards as decks are closest to a two-to-one spell to land ratio in general. Adjust accordingly.)
I feel like with other milling, this is a no brainer, but even by itself, it can potentially end games. Lets say you wait until your opponent has drawn nine lands. At this point, X of eight will basically kill them and an X of nine always will (assuming 17 lands). That is a lot of mana, but we are assuming it is the late game. Granted, because of that, this card is pretty dead early on. This should be an interesting card to use because of its uniqueness.
This type of effect is unique enough that some sacrifice plus infinite mana combo might use this in the future, but I don't really consider that to make the card playable. It might fill a niche though.
This guy is ok at getting in your cipher spells and better protecting you if you have a better target to suit up. Being able to lock down a creature on defense for three mana a turn is pretty good by itself, so I see this being pretty good but not spectacular.
There are just much better ways to go about milling than in small doses like this, especially since it is not all that reliable.
This will likely end up being the workforce of the mill deck, similar to Dream Twist in Innistrad. That said, it is a very narrow card still and only certain Dimir decks will even want it. It has the chance to win a game quickly if assembled on the right creature though.
This is just a variation on Cancel, so of course it has a chance to see play. Against most decks, you will want Dissipate or something else, but in control mirrors, where decking is often the win condition, this could be decent.
A solid three mana Counterspell that gains extra value if you are the mill deck. Most Dimir decks won't mind playing one of these and the mill deck might run two to three.
Because this has a work around in that if you play it when the opponent has no cards, its Control Magic, it has a shot. Even with the drawback, it is a four card swing. The issue of course, is that it is a punisher mechanic. While neither mode is bad, giving your opponent the option is. Still has a shot at seeing play though.
This is not Mind Control. Get that out of your mind right now. You should not always wait till they play their bomb and then steal it. Instead, you will often be taking 4/4s for four mana in hopes of pressuring the opponent into a four-for-one card advantage trade. Again, you can get someone who has no cards in hand and this is awesome as well. This card will feel very bad if you play it incorrectly though.
I do not know of a particular use for this right now, but Windfall effects always seem to get broken somehow and this one is not so expensive that that would be prohibited. In fact, this one comes with a nifty upside. Something will play this in some format! Mark my very bold words!
A tough card to set up but a big effect. I think this will most often be a mill card, but I could see it just being card advantage in the unblockable Dimir deck. I really want to see this one in action to know how good it can be.
Five mana for an effect that you have little control over the outcome on? No thank you.
Not a particularly strong card, but one that can certainly swing big, one way or another. I think you are too favored to draw one or two cards off this that you cannot justify it in a non-mill deck. That said, in a mill deck, where the four cards are relevant, this becomes more appealing. It isn't great regardless, but it is fine there.
There are a lot of essentially strictly better versions of this already in Standard and most don't see play so this guy is too far down the list to even be considered.
A common mostly unblockable creature is pretty nice. There about about a dozen creatures in the format that can block him, but that still makes this evasion better than flying, which is perfect for cipher
This has a real shot at being good in control sideboard for any type of mirror match or control on control match. You can likely cast the spells you exile, turning this into an almost Shadowmage Infiltrator. Plus, if you are trying to win with decking, this does aid that a little bit and because it exiles things, no flashback!
A very strong flier at a tough to cast cost. His ability will not always be relevant, but he is still a 2/3 for three, which is reasonable. And you get to hit land drops with this and cast things when you share a color, so he is certainly more than just a 2/3 flier.
And that is the Dimir with their black half as well. In general, I think they show a little less power at the peak when compared to Orzhov, but I think there is a wider range of cards from today that will see play in Constructed. As for limited, the Identity Crisis Dimir can have will be interesting to follow. How often does a Dimir player end up short on playables due to so many of them not being relevant to your deck? It feels like it might be the infect problem, where once you go infect, the value of a noninfect creature is almost worthless. I think one of the two sides will be established as the best while the other side remains an option as well.
With that, we will move over to the other half of the Dimir, in blue, along with the Simic guild tomorrow. Be sure to check back in then for our continued rundown as we journey through Gatecrash. Thanks for reading!
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