Welcome back to our regular set review here on TCGplayer.com. For every new set that drops, we bring you card by card breakdowns for both constructed and limited, and this time is no different. Because we will be talking about the limited applications of each new card, I wanted to quickly summarize what will be happening to the limited format.
So, even though we drafted Return to Ravnica all by itself and Gatecrash all by itself, once Dragon's Maze hits shelves, we will be drafting all three sets together. That means traditional DGM/GTC/RTR in that order. This means Gatecrash cards and Return to Ravnica cards will be seeing limited play together for the first time with their little cousin also included for kicks. Also remember that every booster has a nonbasic land rather than a basic in Dragon's Maze, for whatever that is worth.
With all of that said, we have some cards to review! Today we will be looking at every monocolored card from the set before diving into multicolored tomorrow before rounding out the week on Friday with our Top 8 list. So, let's get it started with the two scales we will be using to grade everything today:
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. 4s tend to see both Modern and Standard play, but have not made the jump to Eternal formats.
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%)
Horned Turtle with upside is pretty sweet, but that upside is just not exciting for constructed.
This guy is going to fluctuate based on the speed of the deck he is in, but he serves purposes for every archetype. In aggro, he acts as a Battering Ram, forcing your guys through every turn and in control he is a Horned Turtle that offers a bit of utility in the late game.
In general, this feels like it will be a bad Feeling of Dread too often. You need to be wanting to take advantage of the opponent's inability to block and then inability to attack in the following turn to desire this and I don't see that coming up more often than accessing the flashback on Feeling of Dread.
This is a solid Falter / Fog effect that I can see running a decent portion of the time. Mostly, only aggressive decks will want to play this, but slower decks might find an occasional use as well.
The bonus this granted would need to be insane in order for a six mana 3/6 to see play. We are talking like, indestructible or better.
Six mana cards are certainly going to be more viable now that the format is likely to slow down. That said, you still need to be pretty good in order to see play as a six mana creature. This is decent but also depends on the number of multicolored guys you have. Playable but not in high demand.
This should be a powerful tool going all the way back to Legacy when the environment suits it right. Now, you really want to have a good idea of what this is going to hit before you include it in your deck and you really want to avoid it hitting your own permanents, but assuming you do both of those things, this is a nice option.
This is much harder to set up in late game situations to be in your favor, but it can still be fine early as a removal spell for something maybe not as high on the priority list.
Fog with upside is always going to be fringe playable. As I wrote about last week though, keep in mind that this does not protect Planeswalkers you control, even though it does push you out of burn range, etc., which is pretty good.
Fog effects generally tend to be sideboard-only spells that come in to counter specific cards or strategies, but I can see running this main more often just because of the life gain bonus.
In general, I think any deck considering this will also be looking at Geist-Honored Monk, which is going to get the nod more often than not. That said this has a pretty big impact for five mana, so I can certainly see it having some impact.
A big body that brings with it evasive bodies and populate is more than worthwhile of an early pick. This will not end the game in the same way that Geist-Honored Monk did, but it does a pretty decent impersonation.
Plover Knights came, and he tried his darndest to see play, but alas, it never came. He's back but now 2 toughness smaller, so I don't have high hopes for him the second time around either.
Plover Knights was a strong white common in an aggressive, tribal matters set. As the format slows down, it would make sense that a similar card would improve even. While that is true here for the Roc, a loss of 2 toughness is a pretty big deal and will mean this is at risk of dying to a much wider array of removal spells, but he will still be a solid flier when he isn't finding his way to the yard.
A 2/4 for four mana that draws a card is about the power level these need to be at to be viable. A 2/2 Vigilance is not as threatening as a card in constructed, so this one probably won't be very scary.
Obviously you need some gates to support this, but it is a very strong turn four play that turns on populate for free. Of course, his value drops as the game goes on, making his gate restriction one of the more harsh realities.
I can't really see a card that does nothing on its own ever be that exciting to play. Sure, this can get you a 3/3 for 1 mana, but that only happens after you have invested another token creator and some number of turns into it.
I am not a huge fan of this due to its lack of usefulness outside of the obvious application. You need to be playing a deck that can take advantage of this and then be in a position in a game to take advantage of it. This is playable, but not a high pick. I would try playing any other spell with Populate before this.
While I love a win condition with a lot of versatility and utility on it, the high cost of this might keep it from seeing too much play. You really need to wait until at least seven mana to have this protected at least a little, which is quite a lot to ask. This will probably see light play, maybe in sideboards, etc., but I would not be expecting a Titan level of play.
Obviously this is just insanely broken in limited. The cost is once again prohibitive, but once you hit seven mana, you get to begin hitting the opponent's face and without fear of removal or anything of the sort.
You might be staring at this card and wondering what about it is constructed playable. After all, Hands of Binding is similar and hasn't even been thought of for constructed. While that is true in terms of limited applications, in constructed, this has one key use and that is as an accelerant. By playing this on something like Invisible Stalker, you are able to immediately untap 2 lands, paying for this, then untap 2 more lands. Now, while this cannot allow you to cast 6 drops off of 4 mana, it does allow you to play three 2-drops with that mana. Where is this useful? I am not sure, but it is powerful enough that it might just work.
Not a huge fan of this card but I can see it making your deck half of the time. The first time you play this it is likely Falter, but then with the timing of the cipher, you are really only going to be giving Vigilance to things or untapping lands, lowering its usefulness going long.
This is certainly more appealing than the white counterpart, but it is still just too bad of a Wonder impersonation to be reasonable for constructed.
While this guy is expensive and a bit clunky, his body is not even that bad on its own. A 3/5 flier is not amazing, it is reasonable. The ability to send multiple other things to the sky though is quite strong. This compares favorably to Sapphire Drake but I think the format will be an even better fit for it.
Most Counterspells have some shot at seeing constructed play, but with multiple strong Counterspells in this set combined with the lack of a demand for four-drop Counterspells makes me think this will never be the opt-in choice.
If you are in the department for a Counterspell, this is certainly one. I can't imagine people being able to pay six more than like 5% of the time, so this is basically a hard counter. Probably best out of the board, but likely acceptable in the main as a one-of.
There might be somewhere down the line where a giant wall on turn two is really important and this guy fills that role. However, that is a niche application and certainly is not true in current Standard, so don't expect too much from this little guy.
This is going to vary depending on how you use it. In a typical draft, this is going to be pretty bad and only included as a 23rd card, but, in the proper control deck that can take advantage of the life and tempo gained by this, it can be a relatively important card.
Like I said before, if these drew a card, we could consider them. People have played 2/4s for four mana that cantripped conditionally before and this clause is relatively easy to hit assuming you are actually playing gates. Should be interesting to watch the evolution of gate play in Standard,
Having two gates in play is still tough to accomplish but this is a valuable payoff. Unlike the white gatekeeper, this is a fine turn four play but isn't backbreaking. On the other hand, this has much more relevance going long, making it all around more versatile as a card.
What a strange card. This could be used as a niche answer to things like Izzet Staticaster but in general, I think most decks have access to better answers.
While this is certainly conditional and therefore not necessarily a first pick, this is still very strong and cheap conditional removal. Dealing with evasive creatures and utility dudes like tappers is important and blue is happy to have access to a solid removal spell.
These cards always come out, have one obscure, mostly harmless interaction that gets talked about but never played, and then fade out, forgotten in the bottom of a shoebox. I expect the same of this bad boy.
If you absolutely cannot deal with some landwalker or protection creature, be my guest.
I am unsure of the exact power level of this due to it being relatively unique as a whole, but I know it will be playable. If you compare this to Auger of Bolas, you are digging one card deeper and getting a second crack at a spell rather than a 1/3 body, but you are also paying one more. The key distinction though, is that Uncovered Clues can find other Uncovered Clues which is something Auger cannot do. Interesting card that I am sure will either be grossly overrated or rudely underrated, I am just not sure which.
This is going to be difficult to expect to hit two spells off of. Having a reasonable number of instants and sorceries to make that happen is somewhere in the double digits which is tough. That said, maybe some five color control deck will abuse this. I just don't see it being universally great.
Ahh, Wind Drake. What is there to say that hasn't been said? Nothing? Cool, moving on.
This guy should always make your deck so the difference in rating is not relevant there. What it does display is that I am uncertain just how valuable a 2/2 flier will be in this format. It won't be bad, but perhaps it will be a 7th pick card instead of a 5th pick card, which is drastic enough that I wanted to include a range.
It might be tempting to think that 1/3rd of all decks would run this, but then you would just be pulling numbers out of thin air, now wouldn't ya?
Unexciting for most decks as it is not offensively minded enough to be good in aggro and not tough enough to be good on defense more than a few turns. Late pack playable but nothing you should want to have in your deck.
This is certainly no Dark Confidant, but it still has the potential to be strong. In black aggro decks or potentially a combo deck built around this you can get your hand empty and then take full advantage of him. An interesting card to watch over the next six months.
Better than a vanilla 2/1 for two of course, but not in any way a bomb or anything of the sort. You will pick this up mid to late pack and be happy if it draws you two total extra cards during an entire draft, but that is fine considering he is already a reasonable size.
While this is more expensive than most graveyard hate people consider, it has a huge upside to it. The secondary clause could easily gain you 18 or more life in the right match up while still being clutch disruption to stop their degenerate strategy.
This is valuable as a hate card against heavy scavenge decks or the like but it also can be a clutch source of life gain in an aggressive match up if you lack other options. Still primarily a sideboard card, but it has other uses.
You can't convince anyone to run four mana conditional removal spells when there are three mana hard removal spells in the format that hit even more targets.
While this is a bit on the expensive side and not as powerful as something like Grisly Spectacle, this is still going to kill what you need it to most of the time. If the creature has more than 2 toughness, you can just convert this into a combat trick to take the thing down.
This might be a big winner in the flavor department but it definitely will not be winning anything in constructed. Cool card though!
This makes for a decent defender on turn three with a relevant ability going long. Unfortunately, the ability is a bit on the expensive side so you won't be tapping this guy every turn, but there will be spots where it comes up and does work.
Deathtouch is not the greatest ability on a six-drop even if it does come up sometimes. Deathtouch on your squad of gold dudes would only matter in some type of combo situation and I don't think this will ultimately impress anyone.
Deathtouch is a relevant ability to grant but it does tend to be more defensive than offensive. This guy is fine, but without enough multicolored creatures, I can easily see leaving him on the bench.
I am not one to pass up on the power of extort, believe me, but this guy is just too expensive for the job. Plus he relies on other creatures to be at his best which is not a great place to be.
This guy cannot win the game the turn he hits play like other bombs, but if left unchecked for a turn or two, he can swing a game around. The key is to have enough creatures to make this worthwhile while still having cards in your hand to cast. Assuming you have set up those areas properly, enjoy your bomb.
Would you play this as a 1/2? What about a 2/3? No? Alright, moving on!
This guy is not very good as a 1/2 flier, so I only expect that option to be chosen when you absolutely need a blocker. As a 2/3 flier than cannot block, this is reasonable and should be a middle of the pack pick up.
This type of aura has been printed over and over again since I can remember and it has never made a splash in constructed. While this might be one of the cheapest versions of the card I have seen, the inherent mechanic within is still bad.
Very much not a fan of these in limited either but if you are aggressive, this is at least a situational sideboard card, such as against 0/5 defenders for example.
Nekrataal is a powerful effect but this is both conditional and nowhere nearly as powerful of a removal ability. Skinrender saw some play but it was always on and had both a bigger body and a permanent Shrink on the opposing creature.
Meanwhile, killing something in limited is all that matters making this a strong turn four play and a solid play later on in the game, taking out a guildmage or the like. I am not sure if this will stand up amongst the powerful first picks in the format, but it will be close.
This spell actually isn't the worst and if there were a bunch of Wall of Omens running around, I would think it might have a shot at making a few sideboards, but as is, there is nothing worth even considering this for.
A pretty good removal spell out of the board but I don't think you can justify this making the main deck all too often unless you are really hurting for playables.
This guy is a little more enticing than the others due to haste being such an abusable trait (say with some kind of mass reanimation spell for example). That said, this is still just a fragile six-drop so don't expect it popping up at any FNM near you.
Haste is a less useful ability to grant when it comes on a six-drop. That said, this is a reasonable size itself and certainly improves top decks so it is definitely playable.
While the possibilities might be endless, they aren't particularly good. There are certainly some wacky combos to set up with this in order to abuse the “cascade into the same type” mechanic, but the effort and upfront costs are not worth it in the end.
Please don't. Unless you are bored of the format, then please do!
Five mana red removal needs to cascade to be a serious contender apparently. Cascade check: ... negative.
This is a bit on the expensive end, so you can't count on it to buy you time en route to your bombs, but it will be a relatively swingy spell once you can cast it. Three damage won't kill everything, but it will do enough with upside that it is worth an early pick.
This card is interesting and I am uncertain of exactly where it belongs, but it certainly has potential. As a combat trick, this is fine, pushing through extra damage for only two mana with the chance to rebuy it. On the other hand, this is also just a persistent 3/1 for three mana, aiding against removal and whatnot. Goblin tribal decks might want this, or it might just fit into some attrition based Standard deck.
Reusable combat tricks combined with a reliable body when you actually cast it makes for a strong limited card. This is good in aggressive strategies to apply pressure early and in control decks to Thwart early aggression. This is going to provide a lot of value over a long game.
Aggressive goblins always have a shot at seeing play due to the strength of the tribe itself. This is close to being good enough, but you would need to swap out the drawback with a bonus, so I don't think we are there yet.
First strike is a powerful ability in limited based largely on the fact that it is so strong defensively. One or more first strikers can easily hold back a crew on defense. Once the creature has to attack, that advantage is partially lost, relegating this to only aggressive decks.
If this were the only bloodrush creature, I think it would have a decent shot at being constructed quality due to its versatility. Once you stack it up against cards like Ghor-Clan Rampager though, it's hard to still justify this.
I think most of the Threaten variants are just going to be a better choice than this when looking at the confines of Standard. Zealous Conscripts for just a mana more has no deck building restriction and brings a lot more power to the table for example.
Threaten on a creature is always going to be strong and again, this one is nice in that you do not have to race to find your two Gates. Threaten is strong in the late game just as it can be strong on turn four so this should be a solid addition to any Gate-laden deck.
While I am a big fan of this in limited, I don't think you can really justify this in constructed due to the small output. Even if you are pumping up a mass of tokens, there was probably a Crusade that could do it better.
I might be overvaluing this, but I was already a big fan of Kindled Fury as it was. While it is not the most impressive looking spell, it always caught people off guard due to its inexpensive nature and the limited play it received. Here we have that same card with the ability to go to your entire team. While this is certainly no Overrun, granting first strike to your side of combat can certainly lead to many blowouts and for only two mana!
This is basically just another evolve dude and if cards like Cloudfin Raptor (Wrapter) are not currently seeing play, I find it hard to believe this will.
This will likely end up being a little worse than Crocanura due to his vulnerability in combat for the first few turns he sits out there. Eventually, he can turn into a total tear which is awesome, but takes some nurturing.
This is a solid play on turn 2 which is what you likely want, but then in the late game, you have a potential 5/5 or bigger, which is certainly a formidable upgrade. Keeping open that much mana is not easy but when it comes up, it will often feel “free.”
If you ever see this in a friends constructed deck, lend them a Mending Touch and get that thing out of there please!
A bad combat trick is still a combat trick and this can even be used to save one of your duders from removal. I would never want this in my main deck but occasionally it will find its way there and you can certainly find ways to get value out of it.
I think that Prey Upon would be a little more popular if it were an instant but at the same time, tacking on a conditional clause here makes it lose some appeal. Ultimately I think Prey Upon will be the go-to card if you are in the market for this kind of thing.
You cannot play this without at least four or five guys that have ways of generating counters but assuming that is true, this is quite strong. Remember that scavenge, unleash, and evolve all use this mechanic so this is likely more versatile than you believe.
Well, it's better than Monstrous Growth! This won't see much generic play but it might be attractive for those decks that look to make one large guy and go all-in in a turn like infect for example.
The fact that you cannot use this as a combat trick is a big letdown but it does give an impressive set of stats. Trample dudes and fliers won't mind turning this into a two mana Lava Axe which is about the best you can hope for.
This thing has fine stats as a base and a pretty powerful ability but I just don't know how easily you can take advantage of it. How many decks are running a bunch of creatures that have +1/+1 counters? Gavony Township gets the job done on its own, but if you are activating that and have a bunch of guys in play, just keep doing what you are doing!
Clearly a card you should be looking to build around but even on his lonesome, this can get relatively big fast. A very high pick in Simic and then a decent pick up for all of the other green mages.
Normally, I would think this might be fringe playable for gate-heavy decks to stem off aggro but with a card like Thragtusk in the format, it becomes very difficult to justify this two-for-one and ignore the three-for-one that Tusk brings.
Life gain is not great but seven life is a lot to be given in one burst. This is fine at all points of the game but you will even cast this without the life gain if need be, due to the payoff not being as critical as it is on some of the others.
This is clearly quite the spicy little hate bear but I wonder if and when it will be needed. There are some good control cards in this set but aggro and midrange have been king over control for a little while now. This will be welcome in the sideboards of many but it might be awhile before it becomes recommended.
A bear with upside is always playable. Flash is generally strong and the fact that this eats up an entire color can be huge. You will always main deck this so do not get fooled by the sideboard hints thrown your way.
I think someone messed up and forgot to include the type “Spider” on this bad boy, but nonetheless, reach makes you no less of a Hill Giant than you actually are!
A Hill Giant with reach is actually a real card in limited though and this even comes with the added bonus of scavenge being essentially a “free” ability tacked on to the card. Nothing too fancy here but an all-around solid addition to the green front lines.
Well, that is it for the boring world of monocolored. In reality, we might not have stumbled upon too many home runs, but seeing as how this is a gold set, the power is concentrated in the gold. Tomorrow, we will be back to begin going over the gold cards before rounding them out on Friday. Thanks for reading and I will see you guys tomorrow!
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