I know that my belatedly published review of Journey Into Nyx wasn't that long ago, and I've had my ongoing First Edition Retro review dominating the past couple of months, but the new core set just came out, and I'm going to review that too. Don't worry, I plan on changing the name of this column to “The Reviewist Manifesto.” It's not as catchy and it doesn't even really make sense, but it's probably more accurate at this point.
By Stephen Bahl
||The Comboist Manifesto Volume I, Article 22: A Comboist Review of Magic 2015
Core sets tend to modulate the power level of effects available to players in the Standard environment: every year some types of spells get better and others become more expensive or weaker in some way. And, as has been the case since 2009 (which marked the release of the inappropriately named Magic 2010), each summer, we get a new core set that has a mixture of reprinted core set staples, reprinted cards pulled from a variety of expansions, and brand new printings. Evaluating core sets in general is tricky because every cool change is balanced out by something else cool that didn't carry over from the previous year. Still, I think that this one is pretty cool. And I guess I'd better: I've bought more cards from M15 than I have from any other set in a long, long time. I even bought a booster box, something that I usually leave to the rest of you suckers. But enough about you—let's check out these cards!
Ajani Steadfast: Previous iterations of Ajani (except the red one, which is weird) have done a pretty good job of filling a sort of support role, improving and assisting an army of creatures. Thematically, this fits Ajani's lore or whatever. Also, it's a good sort of thing for a white planeswalker to do. This new Ajani gets something a little different: the ability to support other planeswalkers. From a competitive standpoint, there's a glaring issue with this. If one is able to play and maintain multiple planeswalkers, the game is probably already won. But helping other planeswalkers is a neat concept for more casual settings. Overall, for its impressive abilities and low colored mana requirement, this Ajani is a pretty strong planeswalker and one of the best cards in the set.
Ajani's Pridemate: A reprint from M11. This worked well enough the first time around. We all know what the deal is by now. A good card.
Avacyn, Guardian Angel: I pulled a few of these and I'd rather have gotten something else. Avacyn has gotten a depressing downgrade since her uterus was restored (at some point, Eric Turgeon explained to me that the symbol for the set Avacyn Restored is a diagram of female reproductive organs and I'm sure that's way more interesting than whatever the symbol is really supposed to represent). She's smaller, totally destructible, and now she's learned to charge mana for protecting your stuff. While her abilities are no longer terrifying, she is a 5/4 flyer that costs five mana, and that's not such a bad deal. This is an acceptable card. It's just that Avacyn used to look like this:
Battle Mastery: Reprint from Lorwyn. It's good if it isn't answered, but outclassed by a wide variety of options that opponents might employ.
Boonweaver Giant: Seven mana for a 4/4. I'll let you do the math.
Congregate: Reprint from Urza's Saga and also found in last year's core set (which has this year in its name, because Wizards of the Coast thinks that it's a car company). This card is the poster child for multiplayer bickering. Mark Rosewater included it in that old article he wrote about design mistakes that he'd made. Everyone hates it in multiplayer games and everyone ignores it in duels. But Wizards of the Coast is reprinting it again anyway, because they hate you.
Constricting Sliver: Really expensive, but the thought of dropping this and then making a bunch of sliver tokens is enticing. Cool idea, but six mana is a lot.
Dauntless River Marshal: The activated ability is expensive enough to be negligible, but a 3/2 for only two mana is nothing to scoff at. This seems like a solid choice for any white/blue deck, and could even work in three-color decks.
Devouring Light: Reprint from Ravnica. It's fairly good.
Divine Favor: Mediocre core set staple that keeps coming back every year.
Ephemeral Shields: Marginally useful because it's cheap and has the Convoke option.
First Response: A couple of years ago, this overpowered block came introduced some nice white cards that generated tokens. They were all better than this, which should have been a reprint of one of those things.
Geist of the Moors: At least they had a lot of room for flavor text.
Heliod's Pilgrim: A decent common for casual players and scrubs, I guess.
Hushwing Gryff: When I pulled this in a pack and realized that it was a rare, I was initially surprised. Then I thought about it and realized that, in conjunction with its instant-speed playability, that static ability could actually be quite strong. Then I thought about it some more and couldn't figure out how situational all this is. I'm still not sure what to think. Well, it's a hippogriff, so that's cool.
Kinsbaile Skirmisher: Reprint from Lorwyn. It's an acceptable white-weenie sort of card, if you're into that. There are better options, though.
Marked by Honor: Four mana for that? No thanks.
Mass Calcify: I pulled some of these too, but I don't find this card to be feasible. It's expensive, only hits creatures, and is useless against white decks.
Meditation Puzzle: Even a white deck full of creatures could find better lifegain choices than this.
Midnight Guard: Reprint from Dark Ascension. This card will mostly be used in Limited environments and in casual decks for its pseudo-vigilance. But the real potential here is for combos. Oh yeah! The simplest, most compact combo is Midnight Guard + Presence of Gond.
Oppressive Rays: Reprint from Journey Into Nyx. Hey, I just reviewed that set. I called this card useless.
Oreskos Swiftclaw: Another Journey Into Nyx reprint. I said, “This already existed. If you need copies five through eight of Blade of the Sixth Pride in your deck, there is something the matter with you.”
Paragon of New Dawns: At four mana, this isn't quite worth it.
Pillar of Light: As white removal spells go, this is basically average. It operates based on toughness, not power, which could be problematic in corner cases.
Preeminent Captain: Reprint from Morningtide. I pulled some of these in packs. I don't remember it being good in the past and it probably won't suddenly start being good now. Also, kithkin are dumb.
Raise the Alarm: Reprint from Mirrodin. We've all had a decade to process the fact that this card is amazing. And now it's back. The classic approach is to put it on Isochron Scepter, but it's just a great card in general.
Razorfoot Griffin: Reprint from Invasion and also later from a few other core sets. Generic overcosted white creature that no one cares about for Constructed gameplay (unless it's some silly casual griffins deck or something).
Resolute Archangel: Seven mana. I'm not going to stop pointing that out. If a card costs seven mana, it had damn well better win the game. This is a 4/4 creature. So, no.
Return to the Ranks: While I don't really see myself using this, it actually seems like a good tool for a white-weenie deck.
Sanctified Charge: Expensive combat trick is expensive. And this one doesn't get the Convoke mechanic or anything.
Selfless Cathar: Reprint from Innistrad. This guy is also known for being the worst card in the best deck in Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014. Stop trying, Wizards of the Coast: no one likes Selfless Cathar.
Seraph of the Masses: Now this is some good use of the Convoke mechanic. If this were a bit cheaper and lacked Convoke, then it would be unappealing, albeit still technically playable. But Convoke turns it into something truly impressive.
Solemn Offering: A recurring core set staple that isn't Disenchant and never will be.
Soul of Theros: Because the “soul” creatures in M15 are a cycle of big, mythic rare creatures in each color, the usual comparison seems to be to the titans from M11 and M12. Under that comparison, the souls fare poorly, since the titans were extremely powerful cards. Soul of Theros is no Sun Titan. But the souls have potential in their own right, especially with their potential to affect the board without ever having been on the battlefield in the first place, albeit only once and for a lot of mana. Soul of Theros just might be the best of the lot. It's expensive, but a 6/6 creature with vigilance should be. Its activated ability is expensive too, but could be useful in long games.
Soulmender: This is a returning core set card from M14. Soulmender doesn't see much Constructed play because there are other, more potent sources of life gain available.
Spectra Ward: For an aura to cost five mana, it has to do something really impressive in order to be worth it. Spectra Ward does provide a strong effect, but it's not quite enough.
Spirit Bonds: Now this is more like it! Spirit Bonds isn't going to be a powerhouse of a token generator, but it's good enough to have my respect. Cheap, versatile, and conceptually interesting. Just don't use it in a spirits deck. That would be silly.
Sungrace Pegasus: The gulf between a 2/1 and a 1/2 can be so vast sometimes. Sungrace Pegasus is a thoroughly mediocre card.
Tireless Missionaries: Seeing the name makes me think of Tireless Tribe, a card that isn't even very good. It's still way better than this. Tireless Missionaries was already printed before, in M11. I didn't remember that, but I looked it up and saw. The only people who do remember are those who did booster drafts of M11 and got annoyed at seeing this piece of crap over and over. Too bad it's returning for another core set.
Triplicate Spirits: Yet another great use of the Convoke mechanic. One can even use the tokens to help convoke other spells. And yet this costs enough that it will be a well-balanced card and not overpowered. I'd have preferred for Triplicate Spirits to be just a bit cheaper, really. It would have been safe at 3WW.
Wall of Essence: A classic! I used to use Wall of Essence back in junior high. I can't believe that this thing hasn't been reprinted since Stronghold. It was later outclassed by Wall of Hope, which would have been preferable for this core set slot, but whatever. The existence of this card in the core set will mainly only be of interest to players in Limited formats and to casual players building silly wall decks or life gain decks.
Warden of the Beyond: I like it! Fulfilling that condition is something that a good white deck could do anyway, for more important reasons than anything to do with this creature. And a 4/4 with vigilance that only costs three mana? That's good by any standard.
Aeronaut Tinkerer: Wizards of the Coast is determined to have some form of synergy with artifacts be a feature of blue cards. This was attempted in the past on multiple occasions and may have, some of the time, led to interactions that were ever so slightly broken as all hell. It's not a big deal or anything, and it didn't happen every time, but there were cards that turned out to be, in some minor way, completely and utterly bonkers. But that was then. Now we just get bland stuff like this guy.
Ætherspouts: Someone at Wizards of the Coast thinks that “Ætherspouts” comes after “Aeronaut Tinkerer” in alphabetical order, so that's the way the collector's numbers are arranged. This is wrong. I take deep, personal offense at this error. Apparently, that is the kind of person that I am. Yes, that's the situation at which we have arrived. Also, this is an expensive combat trick, but decent for some environments, probably.
Amphin Pathmage: I have better uses for my mana. Actually, I think almost everyone does.
Chasm Skulker: Synergy with card-drawing? What could go wrong? This delightful little monster is just asking to be exploited in some sort of combo. Oh, nothing too serious, though. Or maybe it could be. Depending on how blue fares in Standard, this card is certainly good enough for competitive play. But for casual deckbuilding, Chasm Skulker is rife with fun possibilities. Fun for me, at least.
Chief Engineer: You can't trick me, Chief Engineer. There's no affinity for artifacts going on here. Better than Aeronaut Tinkerer, but still not that impressive. I wonder, though, how this could be used. We had a ridiculous Vedalken deck in one of the tribal games. And perhaps I'm underestimating Convoke here...
Chronostutter: This could be mediocre if they gave it Convoke. Instead, it's just pathetic.
Coral Barrier: I thought for sure that there was already a card called Coral Barrier. Presumably I was thinking of Stinging Barrier or maybe even Coral Reef. It doesn't matter. This card is bad.
Diffusion Sliver: Nope. And most of the new slivers are decent. But this is an exception.
Dissipate: Originally printed in Mirage of course. A cruel reminder that Counterspell is not in the core set anymore and hasn't been for over a decade. When I take over the world, this will change. Oh well, at least it's better than Cancel. Historically, I preferred Forbid, but I did use Dissipate in some of my decks. As a combo player, I couldn't care less. But once upon a time, I was more of a control player, so I can sympathize with you control freaks. I'm with you in spirit. Bring back Counterspell!
Divination: Originally printed in M10, but reprinted all the damn time. Divination has established itself as the new staple blue card-drawing spell. Two cards for three mana. Simple. For the same amount of mana, I can draw four cards instead with Meditate or with Infernal Contract. Go big or go home. This probably seems silly to almost everyone, but I'm being completely serious. I like my card-drawing spells how I like my women: black and blue and—oh wow, I didn't think this analogy through at all. Look, the point is that Divination sucks.
Encrust: Originally printed in M13. It's not a true form of removal, but at least it's versatile.
Ensoul Artifact: More of an aggro thing, but it's a very good card, so I'm content.
Frost Lynx: This is exactly the kind of card that is a screaming vortex of terror for Limited formats, but is actually rather unimpressive for Constructed play. Fun with recursion, though.
Fugitive Wizard: What? Why? I demand an explanation for this stupidity. I thought it was 2015 now, not some year in which a 1/1 for one mana with no abilities is still acceptable. I feel dirty just thinking about this. There's a bit of situational irony with the flavor text, though. “The law has its place—as a footnote in my spellbook.” Spellbook, huh? The kind that a wizard might use for the purposes of magic? Magic that you're not actually capable of, seeing that you're a 1/1 with no abilities?
Glacial Crasher: Nope.
Hydrosurge: I've never liked this sort of card. It doesn't do anything to advance victory and it only forestalls defeat in very specific circumstances.
Illusory Angel: Originally printed in Planechase. This seems pretty good. I like it. Good choice for a core set card.
Into the Void: Originally printed in Avacyn Restored. Costs four times as much mana as Unsummon for twice the effect. Consolidating the effect of two copies of Unsummon on a single card isn't worth quadrupling the cost. No thanks.
Invisibility: Hey, Invisibility was in the original core set and I already addressed the card there! As a point of comparison, another card available in Standard right now is Aqueous Form, which was printed less than a year ago. Invisibility is a downgrade from that.
Jace, the Living Guildpact: Like Ajani and Garruk, this set marks the fifth iteration of Jace as a planeswalker card. There's been some debate over how viable this latest iteration is, but blue control decks are always using planeswalkers these days, so if a better one isn't available, they'll have to try this one. No incarnation of Jace has any properties other than generic blue control stuff, so it might be harder to keep track of which one is which. Here, I'll help. Jace #1 just does card-drawing and isn't very good, Jace #2 is one of the most overpowered cards ever printed, Jace #3 is only ever used to mill people, Jace #4 weakens attacking creatures for some reason, and Jace #5 is the worst one of all.
Jace's Ingenuity: I'm not the only one who remembers that Inspiration exists (it was reprinted in Return to Ravnica and that wasn't so long ago), right? Because Inspiration isn't even a strong card-drawing spell. It's actually a rather poor one. And yet, this card is even worse. I can't fathom why Wizards of the Coast thought that this would be a good idea. Jace's Ingenuity is so bad that it makes Divination look broken.
Jalira, Master Polymorphist: The new clause designed to prevent deck-stacking combos is amusing. I don't really see the point. Back in high school, I played against a friend who built a deck that put Raise the Alarm onto Isochron Scepter, used Proteus Staff to tuck a soldier token and stack his library that didn't contain any creatures, and then attempted to kill me with Goblin Charbelcher. It didn't work (I had enough time to disrupt his kill condition and set up my own), but it was fascinating to watch. Anyway, I can't think of a practical use of Jalira.
Jorubai Murk Lurker: Weird, but just weak enough that it doesn't really matter.
Kapsho Kitefins: No. If it tapped other types of permanents too, then maybe. It's expensive too.
Master of Predicaments: Well, this is an Air Elemental with a silly guessing game attached that either benefits you or does nothing. Decent, but not really compelling.
Mercurial Pretender: It can only copy your own creatures, not those of opponents. That is quite a drawback compared to Clone and similar creatures.
Military Intelligence: This could actually be acceptable for an aggro-control deck.
Mind Sculpt: Mill-based cards have to meet a high standard to be worth considering, but this just might be good enough. Glimpse the Unthinkable is widely considered to be a very good milling spell, but those extra three cards can really matter. Mind Sculpt doesn't require black mana, but the sort of deck that would potentially use it is probably blue/black anyway. If this hit eight cards, I'd have higher hopes for it, but seven is really pushing it.
Negate: Originally printed in Morningtide, this has become a core set staple. While I'd still rather have Counterspell, Negate is actually pretty good.
Nimbus of the Isles: Oh no, no, no. Poor blue creatures, so underpowered in this set.
Paragon of Gathering Mists: In environments where flying makes and breaks games, this could actually be pretty good.
Peel from Reality: Reprint from Ravnica. The typical approach seems to be to use this with Frost Lynx or something similar. It's OK.
Polymorphist's Jest: There are some pretty obvious combos here, mostly the ones that kill all of an opponents' creatures. Cute.
Quickling: Not really my style, but this seems pretty strong. Reminiscent of the “Gating” creatures from Planeshift.
Research Assistant: Help me research why your ability is so overcosted, jerk.
Soul of Ravnica: Easily the worst of the “soul” cycle of creatures. I don't know why the blue creature gets a domain-based ability, since none of the others do. Cards like this make me suspect that they deliberately weakened blue for this set, and by way too much.
Statute of Denial: In case there weren't enough underpowered counters, here's a new one.
Stormtide Leviathan: Eight mana, but it pretty easily wins the game if not answered, other than in extremely unfavorable situations. Seems fine.
Turn to Frog: Reprint from M12. Turn to Frog is a slightly weaker take on Ovinize, which is a color-shifted reprint of Humble. While I'd prefer Ovinize, I suppose that Turn to Frog is a pretty good card.
Void Snare: This has already made it into the sideboard of my Legacy deck. Simple and effective.
Wall of Frost: A core set staple. Against aggressive, creature-based decks, this does a good job of slowing the game down. Useless otherwise, though.
Welkin Tern: Reprint from Zendikar. Welkin Hawk is the exact card that I wanted to use in one of my old decks, but it didn't exist back then. If I still played creatures, I could see myself using this.
Accursed Spirit: Reprint from M14. As usual with the “Intimidate” mechanic, there's a chance that an opponent will have the right color and cause the card to be overcosted and stupid.
Black Cat: Reprint from Dark Ascension. It's no Hymn to Tourach, but it isn't bad.
Blood Host: Nah.
Carrion Crow: What? No.
Caustic Tar: If an opponent lets this do its thing, the opponent was a pushover anyway.
Child of Night: Efficient core set staple.
Covenant of Blood: I'd be genuinely impressed if it were an instant. Oh well. Still a decent card.
Crippling Blight: Reprint from M13. It didn't accomplish anything back then, and it won't do so now either.
Cruel Sadist: Quite a lot of potential for a mere one-drop. Not amazing, but it could work.
Endless Obedience: This can even get opponents' creatures. In the right deck, it could cost very little mana or even none. Very obnoxious and very, very powerful.
Eternal Thirst: Sengir Vampire has always struck me as ineffective. Creatures don't always die at times when it would really help. This card suffers from that same problem.
Feast on the Fallen: In theory, this could really boost an aggro deck. But one would have to take up a turn playing this, which is anathema to an aggro gameplan. Could still work in multiplayer, though, for obvious reasons.
Festergloom: Not interested.
Flesh to Dust: Five mana? Yikes.
Gravedigger: Originally printed in Portal. I'm probably one of the only people who actually knew that without having to look it up. No idea why it's going back to being an uncommon. It's not like Gravedigger has ever been impressive in any way.
In Garruk's Wake: Nine mana to win the game, which is a bit much. I prefer only paying six mana to win the game.
Indulgent Tormenter: If this thing isn't stopped right away, opponents will indeed be left feeling rather tormented by it. A 5/3 flying creature can be deadly on its own, and drawing cards off one is even better.
Leeching Sliver: Sure, why not?
Liliana Vess: Most of the original Lorwyn planeswalkers were a bit underpowered, but Liliana Vess was fine. All of those original planeswalkers have been revisted multiple times, but the girls don't get new iterations in this core set, for whatever reason. Liliana got a three-mana wrecking ball of a planeswalker in Innistrad. I'd have preferred that version, but this one is a good card too.
Mind Rot: Hey, it's another core set staple that was first printed in Portal. They didn't even change the artwork on this one. Not too many new Magic cards still use the same art that was first published back in 1997. But did you know that Mind Rot is a very bad card and sucks?
Necrobite: Reprint from Avacyn Restored. Mediocre card.
Necrogen Scudder: Reprint from Scars of Mirrodin. Suicide black isn't as fashionable as it used to be, but this is the right sort of card for that archetype.
Necromancer's Assistant: Could work in some sort of Golgari deck, which I like. There are better ways to fill a graveyard, though.
Necromancer's Stockpile: Just because an enchantment is cheap doesn't mean that its effect should be puny. This card is a disappointment. It could be way better and still be a safe card to print.
Nightfire Giant: This artwork was on a bunch of my booster packs for some reason. The card itself is rather lame.
Ob Nixilis, Unshackled: I mostly just think that search-hosing ability is hilarious.
Paragon of Open Graves: Who wants to leave three mana open for that? Probably great in Limited formats, but lackluster otherwise.
Rotfeaster Maggot: This could be a really fun card if it were cheap. At five mana, it loses all appeal.
Shadowcloak Vampire: Apparently Wizards of the Coast and I have very different views on what the difference between 3BB and 4B should look like. Indulgent Tormenter is a 5/3 flyer with an amazing upkeep triggerd ability. Shadowcloak Vampire is a 4/3 that doesn't have flying, but can gain flying for a turn through an activated ability (at the cost of 2 life), and that gets no other abilities. Easing color requirements can't possibly be that important.
Sign in Blood: Core set staple that is reminiscent of Night's Whisper. Good card.
Soul of Innistrad: No one thing makes this a good card, but the little things add up. This is a 6/6 deathtouch creature for six mana, which isn't great, but is decent. Five mana is a steep cost to recure creatures, but the ability does work on three creatures at a time, and at instant speed. Finally, the secondary version of the activated ability could work in a pinch. Altogether, it's a respectable creature.
Stab Wound: Reprint from Return to Ravnica. Decent.
Stain the Mind: Having trouble picturing the sort of deck that would use this, but it seems OK in principle.
Typhoid Rats: Reprint from Innistrad. Straightfoward one-drop. Because it's so cheap and deathtouch is just nice to have, this creature provides a nice starting point for developing something more powerful, such as with auras.
Ulcerate: Last Gasp does the same thing for 1B without costing any life. Is losing 3 life worth making this a one drop? Arguably, yes.
Unmake the Graves: Powerful late-game recursion spell.
Wall of Limbs: No, this is silly and expensive.
Waste Not: On the CPA message boards, I've already said more about Waste Not than I care to repeat here. It's not bad, but I deem it unreliable.
Witch's Familiar: Definitely not.
Xathrid Slyblade: The idea is that this assassin is hiding in the shadows and is only vulnerable when it strikes. The combination of first strike and deathtouch is extremely potent.
Zof Shade: Reprint from Rise of the Eldrazi, where it sucked back then too.
Act on Impulse: Since you just paid three mana for this sorcery, you won't have much mana to actually cast the spells that you just exiled.
Aggressive Mining: Could be some weird combo potential. Everything I can think of off the top of my head involves cards that would be put to better use elsewhere, though.
Altac Bloodseeker: Unreliable.
Belligerent Sliver: Probably fine for a sliver deck that happens to use red.
Blastfire Bolt: Yikes, this one is bad.
Borderland Marauder: Seems fine for an aggressive red deck.
Brood Keeper: Red isn't known for its aura synergies, and this thing does require an investment of four mana. Even when used optimally, Brood Keeper wouldn't be that great.
Burning Anger: Five mana is a bit much. This would be great if it were cheap, but instead it's safely mediocre.
Chandra, Pyromaster: There have been four different iterations of Chandra, and really, they're all pretty good. This one, returning from the previous core set, isn't my favorite, but I don't dislike it either.
Circle of Flame: Reprint from M12. The odd defensively oriented red damage-dealing enchantment. Yeah, it doesn't really fit.
Clear a Path: Reprint from Dragon's Maze. Bad card.
Cone of Flame: Reprint from Weatherlight. Too expensive for aggressive decks, but it can sometimes provide excellent value in more controlling decks. Too dependent on the composition of opponents' decks for my taste.
Crowd's Favor: Silly combat trick that is only remarkable because its Convoke option might allow it to be cast when one's lands are all tapped, which opponents might not expect. Still not good.
Crucible of Fire: Reprint from Shards of Alara. I pulled some of these in my boosters. Dragon tribal? I don't know. If I have multiple dragons out, my problem isn't likely to be “they need to be somewhat bigger.” It could be, but that possibility wouldn't really be worth running this card. It could be good with changeling creatures, though.
Forge Devil: Reprint from Dark Ascension. Occasionally, this could pick off something important, but usually, it sucks.
Foundry Street Denizen: Reprint from Gatecrash. Red has so many better one-drops out there.
Frenzied Goblin: This would be more appealing if the additional mana weren't needed for the ability. Still, it's not a terrible one-drop goblin. There are way more dangerous ones, but this one has some utility that could pave the way for victory.
Generator Servant: I like it! I can't figure out what kind of deck I'd actually bother putting this in, but I like the concept anyway. Much of the time, Generator Servant could simply be a 2/1 attacker for 1R, which isn't terrible. It could also act to provide some mana ramping.
Goblin Kaboomist: You get to keep the tokens if the goblin dies, so this seems alright.
Goblin Rabblemaster: There have been some ridiculously broken goblins over the years and while this guy might not be one of them, he's still an obvious powerhouse. This could be one of the best new rares in the set.
Goblin Roughrider: No abilities? No thanks.
Hammerhand: I see how it's supposed to work, but I don't think that it's worth including in a deck.
Heat Ray: Reprint from Urza's Saga. I prefer accepting sorcery speed in exchange for the option to hit players.
Hoarding Dragon: Reprint from M11. While it is only five mana for a 4/4 flyer, that artifact tutoring ability can be amazing when used with the right artifacts.
Inferno Fist: Decent aura for an aggressive deck. It could even work well on Brood Keeper.
Kird Chieftain: Well, it can't hold a candle to the original Kird Ape, but a 4/4 for four mana is good enough to see play. That activated ability is expensive enough to be marginal, though.
Krenko's Enforcer: Nah.
Kurkesh, Onakke Ancient: I want to break this! One of the coolest cards in the set.
Lava Axe: Reprint from Portal. Another one that most players probably don't realize was originally from that set. It's been a core set staple for around a decade, and it hasn't stopped sucking in all that time.
Lightning Strike: Reprint from Theros. Cut the “1” off the cost and you get Lightning Bolt, a card that is actually good. It was even in the core set for M10 and M11, but Wizards of the Coast decided that it was too good again. This is a pretty big deal. Lightning Strike is strictly inferior to Incinerate, a burn spell that isn't efficient enough for me to bother with. Come on, Wizards, give us the good stuff.
Might Makes Right: At some point, creature-stealing became a red thing instead of a blue thing. The red cards that do this usually aren't any good, though. Might Makes Right is expensive and unreliable.
Miner's Bane: Nope.
Paragon of Fierce Defiance: It has to tap itself to give something else haste, which doesn't increase the total number of attackers, although it might increase their quality.
Rummaging Goblin: Reprint from M13. Hey, it offers filtering, trading cards you don't need for new draws. Too bad it's such a mediocre draw itself. This sort of thing was available in blue for many years, and there was a reason that no one used it.
Scrapyard Mongrel: A 5/3 trampler that costs four mana? Seems good. The artifact-based red cards in this set are actually rather nice.
Shrapnel Blast: Reprint from Mirrodin. Often used to finish opponents off. It's instant speed too. Way better than stupid Lava Axe.
Siege Dragon: It's a big, red dragon. The latest in a long line of big, red dragons. For my seven mana, I'd want more. And I can get more too. But it's decent.
Soul of Shandalar: Direct damage is probably one of the most promising takes on the abilities for the “soul” cycle of creatures. While the activated ability isn't going to be enough to take down big creatures, it's reasonably costed and being able to use it once from the graveyard is impressive. And a 6/6 first striker is nothing to scoff at anyway.
Stoke the Flames: Another excellent application for the Convoke mechanic. And this spell isn't even that expensive for an instant. Stoke the Flames should work well with goblins.
Thundering Giant: Reprint from Urza's Saga. Haste is nice, but this creature isn't worth it.
Torch Fiend: Reprint from Dark Ascension. As Shatter-type cards go, this is fine.
Wall of Fire: A core set staple. Also, walls are dumb.
Ancient Silverback: Reprint from Urza's Destiny. I wouldn't bother just because green has so many other insane options for large creatures, but this card is still reasonably powerful.
Back to Nature: Reprint from M11. I'm glad that this is in the core set again. It's exactly the kind of card that should be here.
Carnivorous Moss-Beast: For that much mana, I can do so much more.
Charging Rhino: It's another Portal reprint. Even I didn't realize how many of these things are in the core set. Charging Rhino isn't really worth the mana, but there is the classic casual trick of playing Goblin War Drums to make this thing unblockable, Catch-22 style.
Chord of Calling: Reprint from Ravnica. And yes, of course I pulled one in a booster. I don't need to speculate on the combo potential of this card. It's already a popular inclusion in Modern decks based around Birthing Pod.
Elvish Mystic: Returning from M14, this is the new version of Llanowar Elves and Fyndhorn Elves. It's possible to use full playsets of all three and have twelve slots in a deck that all do the same thing, but this would not be prudent.
Feral Incarnation: Not my favorite among the new Convoke spells. It's a bit too much mana for a little token-making.
Gather Courage: Reprint from Ravnica. It's not bad, but most players seem to prefer the larger effect of Giant Growth to the alternate cost option provided by Gather Courage.
Genesis Hydra: We'll see. On one hand, the creature itself is always a pretty bad deal for green. Paying six mana and only getting a 4/4 isn't fun. On the other hand, this does provide card advantage. In ramping decks, this could actually work out. A bigger X is a lot better than a smaller one because, in this case, X controls three different things. A bigger X means a bigger hydra, deeper searching, and potential access to more of the cards that are revealed. Still, with that much mana being thrown around, lots of other cards start to look better too. Why bother with this one?
Hornet Nest: Go ahead, attack with that 6/6. I dare you. If I'm playing a combo deck, I can safely ignore this thing and try to go off. If I'm playing a control deck, I can usually play around this. But Hornet Nest against an aggro deck is a show-stopper.
Hornet Queen: Reprint from Commander, specifically the “Counterpunch” deck. Reminiscent of Deranged Hermit, although not quite as overpowered. Hornet Queen has some nice combo capabilities too. The first thing that springs to mind is to use something that repeatedly puts her onto the battlefield. Recurring Nightmare would work.
Hunt the Weak: Returning from M14. In optimal situations, it's a pretty nice deal, serving the dual purposes of killing a troublesome creature and boosting a key attacker. But it doesn't always work out that way and it is four mana for a situational removal spell at sorcery speed.
Hunter's Ambush: At three mana, this is just too situational. Not a terrible card, but unfortunately it's on the wrong side of mediocrity.
Invasive Species: I actually really like this card, but it's doing something that blue does better. The best combos I can think of for this ability involve blue cards anyway.
Kalonian Twingrove: If only there existed cards that could get extra forests onto the battlefield, they could let this creature come out faster and bigger. Oh wait, yeah, Kalonian Twingrove is going to be fine. While it doesn't have what it takes to find a niche in really power-heavy environments, it could be great for casual play. It even combos with Invasive Species, although that wouldn't be my first approach.
Life's Legacy: If this were an instant, everyone would be going crazy over it. Life's Legacy isn't really hyped, but I love the card. Wizards of the Coast has been giving decent card-drawing spells to green lately, and this could be one of the best. Blue mages are turning green with envy. Wait, what?
Living Totem: Yeah, I don't really see this being anything other than mediocre.
Naturalize: Reprint from, uh, Onslaught originally, but Naturalize has been reprinted a lot since then. It's just a green Disenchant, but that's really a very good thing to have, assuming that one is playing green. We've all seen it before so much that we're not impressed, but it's an excellent card.
Netcaster Spider: Nothing that anyone is going to get excited about, but as a point of comparison, Netcaster Spider is probably better than Giant Spider, the core set staple it seems to be filling in for.
Nissa, Worldwaker: Yes, yes, yes! Pulled this one in a pack too. Easily my favorite card in the set. Probably the strongest card in the set too and also probably the strongest green planeswalker ever. Nissa got a huge upgrade and is now the queen of all ramp. She's almost good enough for me to want to actually build a deck with basic forests in it, which hasn't happened since Earthcraft. I love the new Nissa.
Nissa's Expedition: Decent land-finding spell.
Overwhelm: Reprint from Ravnica. Weak card.
Paragon of Eternal Wilds: Well, it could close out games with its activated ability. Should be fine.
Phytotitan: I gave Phytotitan a gushing tribute in my recounting of the M15 prerelease. But really, it's pretty good.
Plummet: Mediocre core set staple.
Ranger's Guile: Reprint from Innistrad. While it could work in a pinch, +1/+1 is pretty small for a green combat trick. I'd prefer Vines of Vastwood.
Reclamation Sage: Many players may not remember this, but decks based around Survival of the Fittest used to employ Uktabi Orangutan or Viridian Shaman, later Harmonic Sliver, as part of their toolbox. Reclamation Sage just might be the best card for this sort of thing. I'd play it.
Restock: Reprint from Invasion. Perhaps I've been spoiled by Regrowth, but I never cared for Restock.
Roaring Primadox: Reprint from M13. While I wish that this ability were on a cheaper creature, it works here too. Great combo potential with creatures that have strong enters-the-battlefield triggers. Hornet Queen would work well alongside Roaring Primadox. Roaring Primadox used to be popular alongside Thragtusk, which is great fun for everyone.
Runeclaw Bear: A core set staple that is dull and exactly as bad as Grizzly Bears.
Satyr Wayfinder: Reprint from Born of the Gods. If a deck can use the graveyard as a resource in any way, this is pretty good, albeit outclassed by some of the overpowered cards that are used in the same way (Life from the Loam, for instance).
Shaman of Spring: Nope.
Siege Wurm: Reprint from Ravnica. Decent when used with saprolings or whatever. I wouldn't bother.
Soul of Zendikar: Compare to Centaur Glade, which is a good card. This is more expensive, but probably worth the additional expense. The graveyard ability is better than the Flashback on Elephant Ambush. Really, all this is pretty nice. Soul of Zendikar might be better than Soul of Innistrad, although probably not quite as impressive as Soul of Theros or Soul of Shandalar.
Sunblade Elf: A 2/2 for one mana? The activated ability is insignificant, but the value here is still good. Kird Ape and Wild Nacatl are better, but this is still fine for two-color white/green decks.
Titanic Growth: Core set alternative staple that no one likes. Give me Giant Growth instead.
Undergrowth Scavenger: At four mana and with no abilities, this just isn't scary.
Venom Sliver: Deathtouch is pretty good. This could be one of the best slivers.
Verdant Haven: Reprint from Gatecrash. I'd rather have Fertile Ground. Faster is better.
Vineweft: What? Why?
Wall of Mulch: Reprint from Onslaught. I prefer Wall of Blossoms. This one works too, though.
Yisan, the Wanderer Bard: Well, Yisan is mana-intensive and starts out not doing much. If one can afford to invest the mana and turns to build up counters, then things get interesting. His ability only finds creatures that cost the exact same amount of mana as the number of counters on him, so a deck really has to be built around him for the ability to be effective. Could be worth the effort, though.
Garruk, Apex Predator: This was the other planeswalker that I pulled in a booster pack. I like Nissa a lot more, but the new Garruk has gotten some hype too, but I'm apprehensive. I keep coming back to the fact that he costs seven mana. Seven is a lot. In my experience, a planeswalker that costs four can come in early enough to shape the course of the game, using abilities for the next several turns and providing a huge advantage. A planeswalker that costs five still has the potential to warp the game, but it needs very, very strong abilities, much like the new Nissa (Tezzeret the Seeker would be another great example). A planeswalker that costs six is really pushing it, but can shine in a slow control deck or in naturally slower environments (Elspeth, Sun's Champion might pull this off). But seven? That's huge! Karn Liberated costs seven, and he has absurd abilities that take over games the longer they go, besides having no colored mana requirements. The new Garruk needs extremely powerful abilities if he's going to be a good card at seven mana. Time will tell. I remain apprehensive.
Sliver Hivelord: Five-color creatures have to really push boundaries or do something special to warrant consideration. Sliver Queen was the very first five-color creature, and slivers have made other appearances in this role with Sliver Overlord and Sliver Legion. Sliver Hivelord really needs to be in a sliver-based deck in order to function, and the deck has to be five colors in order for Sliver Hivelord to be a viable inclusion. Casual players like grandiose five-color decks, but three-color sliver decks tend to be more efficient than their more polychromatic counterparts. Still, this is good where five-color sliver decks are a thing.
Avarice Amulet: Really a bizarre card. My first thought was that it seemed powerful, but risky. If that were all, it could be fine. However, with an initial cost of 4 and an equip cost of 2, this is not a particularly cheap piece of equipment. Am I the only one who thinks that this would not be overpowered if it lacked the drawback triggered ability entirely?
Brawler's Plate: Too expensive for what it does.
Bronze Sable: Reprint from Theros. Even in casual gameplay, this card is in an awkward position. Colored decks have access to better two-drops by using whatever color or colors of mana they are employing for other cards. And monobrown decks are almost universally trying to do so much more, leaving this card with no deck to call home. That's a roundabout way of calling it mediocre, but there you go.
The Chain Veil: For a card representing such an iconic object from the lore, it really doesn't seem like much. They finally made the Chain Veil into a card, made it a mythic rare, and I'm left completely underwhelmed. They made a mistake with this one, and we've seen it before. When something has played a key role in the lore, they want the card for it to do something special. But they also don't want it to turn out to be broken. In this case, they made The Chain Veil expensive enough to cast and expensive enough that the interesting ability loses its appeal. If I remember correctly, The Chain Veil is the first card that lets planeswalker abilities be used more than once per turn. It even does this for all planeswalkers you control. This could be something novel for casual players, perhaps in conjunction with lots of planeswalkers and some infinite combo. But that's just silly. I've seen it pointed out that it is possible to go infinite with the Standard-legal, but rather implausible, combo of The Chain Veil + Nissa, Worldwaker + Ral Zarek. See? Isn't that silly?
Gargoyle Sentinel: Reprint from M11. Mediocre.
Grindclock: Reprint from Scars of Mirrodin. Limited players find a source of amusement in Grindclock, as actually playing it as a two-drop can win a game by itself if the game stalls out. That's possible for Constructed formats as well, but even less practical. I keep coming back to Grindstone, which is a much scarier card. Still, Grindclock has some cool combo potential with cards that add charge counters to artifacts.
Haunted Plate Mail: Reprint from M14. What would otherwise be a woefully overcosted equipment card is made playable with its ability to double as a creature when needed. It pales in comparison to the “Living Weapon” mechanic from Mirrodin Besieged. Still, Haunted Plate Mail is decent.
Hot Soup: I'm surprised more people haven't taken to this thing already. The equip cost is a bit steep, but making a creature unblockable can be a profoundly powerful effect. Well worth the risk.
Juggernaut: An old core set card that is finally back. Juggernaut is an aggro player's card, but I have considerable fondness for it anyway because of its uncanny, tenacious simplicity. The wall-dodging ability is a negligible bonus and the forced aggression is a somewhat minor drawback. The crux of the matter is that Juggernaut is a 5/3 creature for 4 mana, with no colored mana requirements. And that efficiency has made it a good card. In my retrospective review of the original core set, I said that I thought Juggernaut might always dominate its particular niche.
Meteorite: I don't know whether this qualifies badly overcosted artifact mana production, badly overcosted damage, or merely an unimpressive combination of the two. Meteorite was a life-saver for me in the prerelease, but Sealed Deck can be weird like that. Ultimately, this still seems like a bad card.
Obelisk of Urd: This is built with tribal decks in mind. And with Convoke, it could hit the board sooner, rather than later. The problem is that in a tribal deck capable of really exploiting this, there are much, much better options. Obelisk of Urd is no Coat of Arms, and even that card often not strong enough to bother with.
Ornithopter: A classic. I've seen too much to ever underestimate Ornithopter. I do think that it's kind of cool how Ornithopter is now back to being a common, for the first time since Antiquities.
Perilous Vault: Most people are probably just going to use this as a reset button. It's expensive for that purpose, but thorough. Can Perilous Vault be something more? Can it be a combo card? I think so! I've got two words for you: lands deck. Ramp up and play this thing, then sit on it.
Phyrexian Revoker: Reprint from Mirrodin Besieged. Phyrexian Revoker is a superstar. Want a Pithing Needle that can also beat your opponent to death? Look no further than Phyrexian Revoker.
Profane Memento: I freaked out at first, then reread it and saw that it only triggers on creature cards. Nothing to see here. Move along.
Rogue's Gloves: I thought for sure that this was a reprint, but when I looked it up I saw that it's an original card. Unlike most of the equipment in this set, Rogue's Gloves isn't really overcosted. Good card. I'd prefer to put it on something unblockable.
Sacred Armory: No.
Scuttling Doom Engine: Big artifact creatures have to meet a high standard to be relevant. Scuttling Doom Engine has good abilities, but other six-drop artifact creatures include Wurmcoil Engine, Phyrexian Juggernaut, Steel Hellkite, Triskelion, and Duplicant. In that company, Scuttling Doom Engine isn't really impressive, but it still actually looks fine. The triggered ability really sells it.
Shield of the Avatar: Seeing it as a rare next to Scuttling Doom Engine, it looks weak by comparison. To be fair, Shield of the Avatar is considerably better than most other equipment cards in this set. It is cheap and provides some level of protection. I suppose that this card is OK.
Soul of New Phyrexia: Ha, I pulled one of these in a booster too. I rule! Soul of New Phyrexia is at least on par with its colored counterparts in this set. Six mana for a 6/6 trampler with no colored mana requirements is a good deal, and the activated ability lets it play defense and offense at the same time. As always, the additional utility of having one activation from the graveyard is a nice bonus. Soul of New Phyrexia is probably a bit better than Scuttling Doom Engine, but both are good artifact creatures.
Staff of the Death Magus: Oh yeah, these stupid things are returning from M14. I wish that these would just die already.
Staff of the Flame Magus: This cycle of cards is probably better than previous incarnations, but the whole concept should be burnt down.
Staff of the Mind Magus: It hurts my head to think about how many wasted card slots are going to these stupid staves.
Staff of the Sun Magus: At least Staff of the Sun Magus can be used for bad combos with things like Ajani's Chosen. Being the least bad out of five bad things isn't much consolation, though.
Staff of the Wild Magus: I just noticed that each one has a variation on the same stupid flavor text. It's like they want me to hate them.
Tormod's Crypt: Originally printed in The Dark and reprinted as one of the “timeshifted” cards in Time Spiral. But until relatively recently, most of these were probably the Chronicles reprints. It was also reprinted in M13, which I didn't even realize (M13 was the core set I got the least exposure to). Tormod's Crypt is somewhat infamous as the original graveyard-hoser. While it could still be used for that purpose, later cards drove it out of tournament play by being even better at the job. Phryexian Furnace, Planar Void, Withered Wretch, Leyline of the Void, Relic of Progenitus, Extirpate, Surgical Extraction, Grafdigger's Cage, Scavenging Ooze, Deathrite Shaman, Rest in Peace, Bojuka Bog, and assuredly some other cards I can't think of right now have all helped displace Tormod's Crypt as a tool for stopping graveyard-based shenanigans. However, I contend that the original is still a pretty good card.
Tyrant's Machine: Strictly worse than Trip Noose, a card no one even uses. Why not just reprint Trip Noose?
Will-Forged Golem: With Convoke, this seems like it's probably just on the right side of mediocrity. But only just.
Battlefield Forge: The Apocalypse painlands are back for some reason. While they aren't bad, I'm spoiled by having gotten used to the original dual lands, so it's hard to think of anything nice to say here.
Darksteel Citadel: Reprint from Darksteel. Hey, remember when Wizards of the Coast issued sweeping bans of all artifact lands while simultaneously banning the other cards that the top decks were actually exploiting? I do! I'm not saying that Wizards of the Coast changed their minds about artifact lands: they're only reprinting one and they're not doing so alongside truly powerful artifact-based mechanics like Affinity or Metalcraft. But they did overreact back then and it's good to see Darksteel Citadel come back.
Evolving Wilds: Originally printed in Rise of the Eldrazi. This does the exact same thing as Time Spiral's Terramorphic Expanse. Not the first functional reprint, but it is an odd one. Evolving Wilds provides mana-fixing, which everyone likes, and deck-thinning, which savvy players like. But it also results in potential tempo loss, which is a rather troublesome drawback. I try to avoid using cards like this when possible, but your mileage may vary.
Llanowar Wastes: Again, it's not that these are bad. It's just, I have Bayou and Verdant Catacombs. I don't need an inferior option for the same thing.
Radiant Fountain: My initial reaction was that it didn't seem any good, but I'm used to common lands having some annoying disadvantage. This doesn't enter the battlefield tapped or anything. It's just a regular mana-producing land that comes with a little life gain. I could actually see myself playing this in a monobrown highlander deck, and it could synergize with things like Ajani's Pridemate. It's not much, but it's something.
Shivan Reef: While my playset of Scalding Tarn fell into my lap before the card's price shot through the roof, I had to actually shell out a ridiculous amount of money for a playset of Volcanic Island, which I didn't own any of until it was too late (Plateau and Badlands were the other dual lands that I was missing, but they're not as inflated because they are not “blue duals”). The cards that are actually best for this role are stupidly expensive on the secondary market. I get that. I don't expect everyone to have access to them. But I think that everyone should have access to them. I hate the reprint policy and wouldn't mind seeing my cards drop in monetary value in exchange for players in general to actually have access to good manabases. I don't hate painlands, but they are emblematic of the problem and that does cause me some slight annoyance.
Sliver Hive: This seems like the perfect thing to make sliver decks better. The third ability is overcosted, but it's the least important part of the card anyway. I approve.
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth: Reprint from Planar Chaos. I can't believe that they reprinted this thing. They usually avoid reprinting cards that are this good. This gives me some hope that they'll lighten up in the future and stop treating cards that become valuable on the secondary market as untouchable. Yeah, I'm apparently stuck on that subject now. But this is just a really, really good card. The original is also like $20 and they're apparently willing to reprint it anyway without worrying that it will hurt the feelings of collectors or whatever.
Yavimaya Coast: Same issue I have with the other reprints of the Apocalypse painlands. They work, but there are other cards that work better, and I'd prefer those. I already have playsets of Tropical Island and Misty Rainforest, so I don't need the reprints for myself. It's principle.
Plains: The artwork for Plains in this set displays some variety, if you're into that. The first version has what appears to be farmland, the second version is a grassy field with the sun on the horizon, the third version has cumulus clouds above a dry-looking landscape with some dikes or something, and the fourth version has what appears to be a fault region with some patches of vegetation.
Island: All four versions of the artwork for Island in M15 show some geologically improbable formations. I don't know which plane this is, but it must have some very strange air, water, and soil chemistry going on...
Swamp: Artwork for swamps in Magic tends to portray things that don't really look like typical swamps. The first version of Swamp here has what appears to be several ropes. I have no idea what is going on with the second version. The third version looks like it could be an illustration of an actual swamp: good job Jonas De Ro. The fourth version seems to have some huge logs jutting out of the water, which is pretty typical for a Magic Swamp, I guess.
Mountain: I think this Cliff Childs guy is trying to make me angry. What is that supposed to be? Has he never seen a mountain? Does he not know what a mountain looks like? I have no idea what the first artwork for Mountain is supposed to be showing me. Is it a statue? Alas, I know exactly what's going on for the second version: that's a phallic symbol. The third and fourth versions aren't bad, though. If you showed me those images, I'd say, “Those are mountains.”
Forest: Well, the third artwork for Forest only depicts what might be a single tree. Traditionally, forests have multiple trees in them. This alien forest is suffused with a chartreuse glow for some reason. But the others all quite good.
But that's not all! There are fifteen more reprints that can't be found in booster packs, but that are included in supplemental products. The collector's numbers of these cards are 270/269 through 284/269. I know, it's weird. These cards, despite not being a normal part of the set, are legal in Standard and such.
Aegis Angel: Annoyingly good in some situations.
Divine Verdict: Guilty...of being a four-mana removal spell that only works during combat.
Inspired Charge: Guilty of being too expensive? Oh wait, we're not on Divine Verdict anymore. But it still applies here. I don't know.
Serra Angel: Still quite good. And Baneslayer Angel isn't in this set. Keep in mind, though, that the new Avacyn is better for monowhite decks.
Cancel: Yuck. At least Dissipate is the “real” counter in this set, instead of stupid Cancel.
Mahamoti Djinn: Reprinted to make Soul of Ravnica look better by comparison.
Nightmare: Black has some really good cards for the more expensive sort of bomb that Nightmare is. It has to compete with Indulgent Tormenter, Liliana Vess, Ob Nixilis, and Soul of Innistrad. Nightmare isn't bad, but all of those cards are better.
Sengir Vampire: Arguably mediocre, but probably still OK.
Walking Corpse: Strictly better than Scathe Zombies? Still not good.
Furnace Whelp: Arguably mediocre, but probably still OK.
Seismic Strike: Pretty good removal for monored decks, but the pool of creature-damaging spells in red is pretty deep.
Shivan Dragon: Siege Dragon is scarier, but this old thing is still strong.
Centaur Courser: Bland.
Garruk's Packleader: I've seen this work well. It's a little slow, but kind of fun.
Terra Stomper: The fixed version of Force of Nature, for nostalgic players.
And that is all. No more cards for you. Go home.
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