Hello friends, and welcome to The Winning Agenda’s M21 set review for Magic: the Gathering.
Jesse Marshall is a long-time limited fanatic, and he’s put his card evaluation shoes on to take a walk through the timebending streets of M21.
Check out a video discussion between Jess Horig and Jesse Marshall on our Facebook live page (www.facebook.com/thewinningagenda) from 2pm Australian Eastern Standard TIme on Sunday 28 June 2020. That video discussion will also be streamed live on Twitch (twitch.tv/thewinningagenda) and available on YouTube if you can’t tune in live.
Without further ado … M21!
M21 Set Review
Card grading scale
5.0 – I will always play this and build around it. The most powerful cards that warp games and formats or give repeated, powerful advantages. Some will be nigh-unbeatable planeswalkers, efficient board wipes with upside or bombs that are super-difficult to remove (Vivien, Monsters’ Advocate or Ashiok, Nightmare Muse).
4.5 – This will always make the deck, and will absolutely warp the game if it resolves, but it can be answered. It may be a self-contained high-powered card that doesn’t otherwise impact the board but can dominate the game itself, or replaces itself with another card (or more) but may not beat out the opponent’s board (Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath or Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast or Embercleave)
4.0 – A bomb or a powerful answer that gives more than a one-for-one. Some less powerful board sweepers might be here, or bombs that are powerful and have some impact when they hit the table, (Lurrus of the Dream Den or Snapcaster Mage).
3.5 – An answer that I will always play that is unconditional, but may still be a one-for-one (Blood Curdle), a two-for-one or better that requires some work, or a bomb that has negligible impact when it enters the battlefield but can dominate games (Obosh, the Preypiercer, Trail of Crumbs or Bastion of Remembrance). Some super-efficient creatures or archetype-defining cards might also get this rating.
3.0 – A staple in most decks of its colour (Cavern Whisperer, Frost Lynx, General’s Enforcer), solid piece of removal (Flame Spill, Dire Tactics or), efficient beater or strong creature that has no impact when it enters the battlefield or is relatively easily answered (Setessan Champion), or an excellent combat trick.
2.5 – An archetype staple for a popular and powerful archetype in its colour that is still good outside of the archetype or without too much work (Bushmeat Poacher), a decent piece of removal with some relevant conditions or restrictions (Charge of the Forever Beast or Divine Arrow), or a relatively efficient creature that I’m always going to be happy to play on colour or a very good combat trick.
2.0 – A narrow but powerful archetype staple, a decent creature that doesn’t get me too excited but I’ll usually play on colour (Glimmerbell, Pious Wayfarer, Boot Nipper), a piece of decent but situational or temporary removal (Heliod’s Punishment) or decent combat trick.
1.5 – Generic filler that I’m reasonably happy to play most of the time (Mosscoat Goriak or Forbidden Friendship), situational removal or removal that asks for a 2-for-1 or some setup (Heartfire, Mutual Destruction).
1.0 – Filler that I am less happy to play but will sometimes make the deck, decent sideboard cards, or highly situational removal I’m unlikely to play most of the time.
0.5 Rarely playable except in very specific decks.
0.0 Unplayable in limited most of the time.
Alpine Watchdog – 1.5
Glory Seeker (and Fresh Volunteers for those Masques enthusiasts) was never terribly exciting. Adding keywords to the White 2/2 for 2 has increased their playability in limited significantly, but at the same time creatures in general have increased in power significantly.
This is a downgrade on Herald of Dromoka, and vigilance is probably not as strong as Bishop’s Soldier’s and Mesa Unicorn’s lifelink, but it’s likely to hit the table in a fair number of white decks as a beater on curve with an always-relevant keyword.
Angelic Ascension – 2.0
Spending two cards to get a 4/4 flyer, or needing to assemble a token to sacrifice to this, is a lot to ask. Removing their best threat but giving them what will be close to, if not better than that threat in the form of a giant flying beatstick feels pretty poor.
If you have a lot of tokens that you’re able to reliably throw to this, then maybe it makes the cut, but I’ll leave the ascending to others most of the time.
EDIT: I underrated this initially, it should be a 2.0.
Anointed Chorister – 1.5
Lifelink is one of the more powerful keywords, even on smaller creatures. Any one drop that has the ability to scale up in the lategame (see Almighty Brushwagg) often turns out better than it seems, particularly where it has a relevant keyword ability.
It can be more valuable to have a creature that can battle your opponent’s board more favourably than a 1/1 in the first few turns. That being said, Core Set formats sometimes devolve to topdeck wars, where the ability to level up in the midgame when you have a dead draw, and utilise excess mana, does come into its own.
This is on the borderline of falling to a 1 because of the activation cost – 5 mana makes it so much less likely you’ll be able to use it twice in a turn.
Aven Gagglemaster – 3.5
Air Elemental is usually a strong card in core set formats, and although this loses a point of toughness (which is unfortunate because it can meet an untimely demise at the hands of Scorching Dragonfire), the ability to bash for 4 in the air and stabilise your position in the race by gaining at least 2 life is strong enough to consistently make the deck.
It’s a credible threat that can close out the game in a few turns on its own and battles reasonably well with opposing weenies.
Baneslayer Angel – 4.5
A true limited bomb. Baneslayer is playing in a different ballpark since its release in M10 and M11 because creatures as a whole have improved substantially. However, it remains a premier threat that opponents must answer immediately lest they fall further and further behind. Any day you untap with Baneslayer in play is a good day.
Basri Ket – 4.0
Basri’s +1 is solid, and even better on vigilance creatures where you get the power on the attack and you get a beefier blocker to defend Basri. It can also help force some damage through later in the game (or at least turn a trade into a chump block for your opponent). That’s decent and reasonably flexible.
His -2 gives you some potential to get 1-2 additional soldiers without too much effort, and if you are ahead on the board, it can do so without exposing Basri too much on the backswing. This ability is very tempo dependent but can lead to some blowouts.
If you can play a steadier game with Basri and get him up to his -6, you are very short odds to win the game. The combination of the +1 ability’s general utility, the scaling power on the -2, and the strong -6 make Basri a very good deal for 3 mana.
The main downside is that Basri does nothing on an empty board. This isn’t irrelevant, as you want your planeswalkers to do something if you’re behind, and it holds Basri back from a higher rating here.
Basri’s Acolyte – 3.5
White decks will want to take advantage of a decent curve in most formats, and this is no exception. The counters will go nicely on a Concordia Pegasus, Alpine Watchdog, Daybreak Charger, or any number of other commons in the 2 and 3 drop slot. Lifelink is always nice, and this is a decent medium-sized body to carry it.
Lifelink also has the added bonus of synergising with Griffin Aerie, one of the better card advantage engines in white below rare.
Basri’s Lieutenant – 4.0
It may seem odd to rate the Lieutenant the same as Big Bas himself, but this creature is good at all stages of the game, whether you’re ahead or behind, and whether you’re engaged in a massive board stall or you’re racing.
Importantly, the Lieutenant can put the counter on itself, and its death ability also triggers of itself. That means playing this on an empty board gets you at worse a 4 mana 4/5 vigilance with protection from gold spells, and a 2/2 vigilance when it dies.
That is super-efficient, and if it can dish around the +1/+1 counter love to another relevant creature the turn it lands, or if you can leverage multiple death triggers (either with the Acolyte or with the Solidarity that’s up next), this can have a monstrous impact on the game.
Basri’s Solidarity – 2.0
It can be awkward having cards like this in your deck because if you’ve got an empty board you’ve got yourself a stone cold brick, and with one creature it’s very mediocre. With two creatures it’s decent, but effectively just a flashed back Travel Preparations.
Counters and exact power and toughness do matter a bit more here (getting your Basri’s Acolyte up to 3 power can turn on your Griffin Aerie, for example), but there is still a danger your card is a bit mediocre unless you’re in a board stall or you’re way ahead. Sorcery speed stops any combat shenanigans and means that you’re always looking for offensive value or synergies here.
Celestial Enforcer – 1.5
The stats on this aren’t too bad (it’s no Mindless Null). Although its tap ability is both expensive and situational, it will be available a reasonable amount of the time given that white has 2 fliers at common and a handful at uncommon.
This will make the deck sometimes, but I’ll rarely be excited about it. It’ll fill a spot on the curve, sometimes tap something relevant, and generally brawl reasonably effectively in the early game.
Concordia Pegasus – 2.0
This creature generally sits around the 1.5 range for me in most core sets, but this time it just gets the bump up to 2.0 because of the number of +1/+1 counters flying around.
Having a 2 drop flyer that can reasonably consistently get bigger without spending a whole card thanks to Basri’s Acolyte at common means that if you have 2-3 of each in your deck, you’re staring at a pretty efficient beatdown core.
Containment Priest – 1.5
Most of the time this is Alpine Watchdog but with a less relevant keyword ability. Flashing in your 2/2 may just snag a better creature by surprise blocking, but then you could just be playing something better than this and presenting your own threat.
This might make it to fill out a curve in a beatdown deck but it’s not exciting.
Daybreak Charger – 2.0
We seem to be getting a Leonin of the Lost Pride card in most sets now, and I’m generally not a huge fan of 3/1 beaters. However, this one can give Concordia Pegasus or another beater a relevant power boost the turn it lands, and if it gets a +1/+1 counter or two, the power starts to look a lot more scary.
This may be bordering on falling to a 1.5 as well, but like Concordia Pegasus, If I’m playing a white beatdown deck and I’ve got a couple of Basri’s Acolyte, I’ll be happy to slot a couple of these as well.
Defiant Strike – 1.0
The fact that this doesn’t usually save your creature makes it pretty mediocre. There’s no heroic shenanigans or other payoffs for targeting creatures here, and this feels flat off the bat.
Dub – 0.5
Auras that do nothing to offset the inherent 2-for-1 potential they hand to your opponent are usually questionable. This seems out of step with what you want to be doing in this format in white, and this particular Dominarian reprint doesn’t get a rise out of me.
Faith’s Fetters – 3.5
Faith’s Fetters is the archetypal removal with upside. It beats out Pacifism because although it costs 2 mana extra, the lifegain and the ability to shut down activated abilities are absolutely worth the premium. I’ve always had faith in this card, and in this format it feels like white will be very happy to lay down early beaters and then Fetters an opposing blocker.
Falconer Adept – 2.5
These sorts of creatures can go wrong at 4 mana, but the ability to spit out creature tokens, let along flyers, is not to be trifled with. If you can get even one or two attacks in with this card, it’s been a strong play that synergises very well with white’s +1/+1 counter and flyers matter subthemes.
It can be worse than Daysquad Marshal if it’s killed straight away, and its stats aren’t super impressive on their own, but the fact the tokens fly and the potential to create multiple tokens takes this from a 2 to a 2.5.
Feat of Resistance – 2.0
Although I’m usually a bit resistant to this sort of card, and it’ll often be the last card cut in my draft decks, this one has more of a chance of seeing play because the pump sticks around and the protection gives you a real shot at winning combat or dodging removal. This is like a hybrid Unlikely Aid and Unexpected Fangs, in that it saves your creature and gives you an ongoing boost. That’s better than it looks at first blush, and I’m sure will lead to many a blowout.
Gale Swooper – 3.0
Assault Griffin with upside? Yes please! This compares favourably to most previous white and blue flyers for 4 at common. The ability can push through a key attacker without warning. This feels like a Dream Heron or Vulpikeet where you get to lift your best creature into the air, if only for a turn, but you don’t risk any kind of tempo or value loss because you get a separate 3/2 flyer as well.
Glorious Anthem – 3.0
The fact that this old favourite does nothing on its own does hold it back from a higher rating, but the effect remains extremely potent. This doesn’t require any tribal commitment and all your creatures will soon be singing from the same hymn sheet. Its permanence and reach gives you the potential to build up imposing board positions quickly. If you can pair it with any kind of token generation, you’re in business, but it’ll often be good enough with straight up creature cards.
Griffin Aerie – 2.5
These kinds of combo or value enchantments often turn out to be stronger than they seem. This one takes a little more work than a Bastion of Remembrance or a Primal Empathy, but I think it’ll still be strong. It pumps out very relevant creatures and has a reasonably easy requirement to fulfil.
Even if you trade a 3-power lifelinker for a similar-sized creature, you now get a 2/2 flyer out of it.
You will want a decent bunch of lifelinkers in your deck, but if you can pull it off, this can run away with games.
Idol of Endurance – 0.5
This is slow, has sequencing issues and is very expensive for what it does.
Early game it’s just awful, because you can’t slam it down until you have the relevant cards in your bin. Lategame, it pumps out one of your smaller creatures per turn at a 2-mana premium.
Given the sequencing issues and the fact that you need to sculpt your deck a bit to take advantage of this, it feels like you’re going to either end up holding it in hand frustratedly and wishing it was anything else, or bring back a chump blocker every turn if you draw it later and you’re facing down bigger threats.
Legion’s Judgment – 2.5
Costing one less than Blade Banish and Smite the Monstrous is great, but losing instant (compared to Smite) and the ability to exile (compared with Banish) does temper that slightly. Sorcery speed is a little less of an issue than in Ikoria, where a significant chunk of the giant beaters had psuedo-haste because of mutate.
Still, the 4-power restriction is real, and it means that this misses a lot of dangerous creatures in the set. I wouldn’t play more than 2 of these ever in the maindeck, and I’d be reluctant to play more than 1.
Light of Promise – 1.5
There are a few synergies in the set that can see this become a significant power boost, so I won’t write it off entirely. It feels a little bit like Stormwild Capridor, but it has a few relevant downsides. It has inherent 2-for-1 issues, doesn’t dodge opposing removal, and requires very specific cards to trigger, which you may not want to play normally.
Still, the ability to present a +3/+3 threat at instant speed by bluffing Revitalize (which cantrips for good measure) means that this can be hard for your opponent to interact with in combat if it’s on a vigilant creature, for example.
If you’re discerning about when you play it, and if you can get something out of it on the same turn, it can be a decent threat, but it is a risky play that can see you get brutally crushed by removal.
Makeshift Battalion – 1.0
This can be decent, but its ability does ask you to be quite far ahead and it’s often just a 3/2 for 3.
If you’re risking one of your other attackers when you trigger this, you’re not necessarily coming out ahead, so you have to think carefully about doing so. Having flyers like Concordia Pegasus who can attack without risking their lives more often improves thing.
The fact that it wants things in play before it and then delays its impact for a whole additional turn can make for some awkward sequencing and tempo. I don’t love it, but I’ll put one in my deck if the curve demands it.
Mangara, the Diplomat – 4.0
Mangara controls the board and demands payment from your opponent whenever they attack with multiple cards, or paly more than one spell a turn. This replaces itself almost all of the time unless it’s answered swiftly, and it’s got decent stats to boot. In a lot of games, this will savage your opponent’s tempo or force them to sequence plays awkwardly. If they ignore Mangara, it will probably give you a significant card advantage.
Mangara does so many things that it’s easy to overlook the first word in their text box. Lifelink helps with all of the lifegain matters cards, and the additional relevance of lifelink in this format pushes this up from a 3.5 to a 4.
Nine Lives – 0.0
This is too narrow to see much play, because you need it to land at the exact right point in the game with the game evenly poised.
It’s worse than a fog because it doesn’t actually prevent the damage, and if they attack with enough sources (even over two turns) you’ll watch all nine of those lives get ticked off in quick succession.
It’s also sorcery speed, so you can’t ambush them with it and they have full information before they declare attackers.
You need to be vulnerable to an alpha strike, but able to kill your opponent on the backswing, and they need to be willing to essentially commit harakiri by attacking into this nonetheless.
I can’t envision a use for this that doesn’t involve Donate or Harmless Offering.
Pack Leader – 3.5
This is an extremely strong effect for 2 mana. Your Alpine Watchdogs become extremely efficient, and your Selfless Saviours get bigger and allow this to attack with impunity so that you can protect the rest of the doggo squad.
There are enough dogs seeded throughout the common sheet that this should have plenty of canine company to lead you to a strong board position whenever it comes down.
Rambunctious Mutt – 2.5
I’ve always felt as though Magic has been good for my vocabulary, and this is a great example of why. Exuberant muttering aside, this one fits nicely into the upper end of a white deck’s curve.
The fact that this hits both artifacts and enchantments when it’s cast is nice. It’s also notable that this effect is better on a 5-drop than it is on, say, a 2 drop like Leonin Relic-Warder, because you’re less likely to have that awkward tension between wanting to use your mana on-curve and wanting to get value out of your ETB trigger.
This is the kind of card that I want my Thraben Purebloods to be – it loses a toughness but gains significant upside in the ability to 2-for-1, particularly in a format with a relevant uncommon enchantment cycle.
Like with most 5-drops, I’m not going to go nuts on these, but I’ll be happy to have 1 copy in most white decks.
Revitalize – 1.5
If history tells us anything, it’s that straight up cantrips are usually a little better than they look. This one is effectively a 2-mana cycle with a small but potentially meaningful effect, and is not going to fizzle from lack of legal target like some cantripping combat tricks.
You’re generally going to be wanting more action out of your cards than this, especially at 2 mana, but if you’re looking for consistency, 2 mana cyclers can be okay. If you can get more out of the life gain through Griffin Aerie or Light of Promise, you’re going to want to play this for sure.
Runed Halo – 0.5
You can play this to give yourself protection from the best creature on their board, but it really is a mediocre removal spell since it allows them to continue to block and interact on the board.
You might side this in if you see multiples of a particular threat or play it main deck if you’re super short on removal and have lots of flyers, but I’d generally avoid playing this if possible.
Sanctum of Tranquil Light – 1.5
These are very difficult to evaluate, but let’s break it down as simply as possible. This starts as a 1 mana tapper that doesn’t die to creature removal, but the ability costs 5 (it reduces its own cost). If you have 2 other shrines in play, it costs 3 to tap a creature and you can do it multiple times a turn.
The fact that the other shrines have passive abilities, except Sanctum of Shattered Heights whose ability only costs 1, means that if you can pair this with one or two shrines of different colours, the others wont fight for your mana.
Seasoned Hallowblade – 2.0
In most decks, Daybreak Charger will do more than this at common. If you’re in black/white reanimate, this can give you some sweet value by killing their blocker and getting your reanimate target in the bin.
Otherwise, it’s a pretty mediocre 3/1 that can use excess lands to save itself in combat sometimes.
Secure the Scene – 3.5
The premier piece of white removal, this hits all nonland permanents, meaning you can snipe their best creature, Planeswalker, shrine or even a Chromatic Orrery to really rub it in.
The 1/1 can be annoying, but shouldn’t be too much of a problem most of the time,
Selfless Savior – 1.5
This isn’t the one drop of my dreams. It may be selfless, but like Dauntless Bodyguard before it, I’d rather take a good card rather than a mediocre card to save my good card.
That being said, this doesn’t have the awkward sequencing issues that the Bodyguard had. It’s not as strong as Alseid of Life’s Bounty, which had lifelink and triggered constellation, but it does have synergy with the doggos, so can sometimes find a place.
Siege Striker – 2.5
This pseudo-exalted double striker feels a little deceptive to me. I worry how often I’ll want this to besiege my opponent’s face, only to find that I have one or two other creatures in play and I can’t actually afford to tap my whole board to get behind a single attacker. If the path is clear for this and you have a full board, you’re winning anyway.
Speaker of the Heavens – 2.5
The usual use case for this is pretty good. 1 mana for a 1/1 vigilance lifelinker. Okay, I’ll play that a reasonable amount of the time. In a colour with a +1/+1 counter subtheme, even better. The activated ability won’t go off super often unless you have a lot of support, but when it does, it’s ridiculous. I’d be happy to pick this early pack 1, or slot it into most white decks.
Staunch Shieldmate – 0.5
Old staunchy paunchy does block reasonably well for 1 mana, but vanilla creatures that have no hope of actually contributing to me winning the game unless the board is basically empty aren’t terribly exciting.
Swift Response – 2.5
These are often more awkward than they seem simply because they can’t help you clear out blockers if you’re on the beatdown. Still, the ability to kill their best creature at instant speed (before the attack lands) is a big deal, and I’ll usually be happy to play one or two, particularly if I am playing Celestial Enforcer and I expect to be able to use its ability.
Tempered Veteran – 2.0
This is close to a 2.5, but I think it would need just one more efficient common source of +1/+1 counters to get there.
Basri’s Acolyte clearly works wonders with this card, but aside from that and Feat of Resistance, there aren’t heaps of attractive options that you’re going to see regularly to turn this on.
The fact that it has the ability to put counters on the board is good, but 6 mana is a lot. Compare that with the Ikoria mentors, which contributed a counter for free when they entered the battlefield, and they were still far from exciting. In the midgame, tapping out to slightly upgrade one of your creatures doesn’t feel amazing.
If you think you can reliably use the first ability, it’s good, but otherwise I’d rather take something a little higher on the raw power scale.
Valorous Steed – 2.5
Creating two vigilant creatures for 5 mana is a very efficient deal. There’s not much to say here, other than that white doesn’t usually get a single 5/5 for 5 mana (I’m looking at you, Thraben Purebloods), let alone 5 power and toughness split across two bodies, both with vigilance.
Vryn Wingmare – 1.0
There isn’t much creature-based removal here that could let you go full-Umori and slam this with impunity. That being the case, this is an inefficient (worse than Wind Drake) flyer that you might play if you were desperate for flyers, noting that it might hose you on a key turn or lose you some tempo by squeezing your mana.
Warded Battlements – 1.5
A pseudo-anthem that also blocks is a very interesting proposition. This works a treat with Concordia Pegasus, and I could see U/W skies decks loving this in the midgame as they race their opponent’s ground game. Even in other archetypes, upgrading all of your other creatures without needing to attack itself (a la Perimeter Sergeant) makes this more flexible and likely to impact the game for longer.
TOP 5 WHITE COMMONS AND UNCOMMONS IN LIMITED
- Faith’s Fetters
- Secure the Scene
- Aven Gagglemaster
- Basri’s Acolyte
- Gale Swooper
Barrin, Tolarian Archmage – 2.0
This is usually a more mana-intensive Man O’ War. You’re going to struggle to consistently trigger the draw a card ability. It’s fine, but not great and I wouldn’t go out of my way to accommodate the more difficult casting cost if mana is a bit shaky.
Cancel – 0.5
Counterspells like Cancel are always a risk in limited because of sequencing issues and how bad they are off the top. If you have a lot of bounce, it gets slightly better. I’ll leave these out of my deck 9 times out of 10.
Capture Sphere – 3.0
Capture Sphere gets a 3 rather than a 3.5 because it doesn’t answer passive, triggered or activated abilities that don’t require tapping.
It’s solid removal and you’ll always want some in your blue decks, but it does have its weaknesses compared with more definitive answers.
Discontinuity – 0.5
The cheaper mode can save a creature from being killed on your turn, save you from a combat trick when you’re on the attack and various other corner cases. The six mana mode can, if you’re lucky, counter a pre-combat main phase spell and deprive your opponent of a combat phase.
The problem is, combat isn’t always relevant, and when it is, they may not play a spell precombat, meaning you risk paying 6 for Fog or Cancel.
Enthralling Hold – 2.0
It may seem enthralling to be able to take your opponent’s best creature, but what if you have to let them bash you with it first? What if you actually want to bash them, and their gigantic monster is standing in the way, stubbornly staring you down?
I’d hold my horses before picking this up too early and think carefully about whether there might be a better option
Frantic Inventory – 2.0
If you’re the only one on them, this gets very good very quickly. 2 mana cycling isn’t too bad as a worst case, and once you start accumulating multiple, it gives you the chance to gain some serious card advantage.
It pairs well with card draw matters cards like Gnarled Sage, as well.
Frost Breath – 1.0
If you’re on a strong tempo and prowess gameplan, this can be good enough, but the card disadvantage is fatal to its chances of making it into some decks.
Instant speed means you can deprive them of two attacks and one block or vice versa, giving this some additional flexibility, but I think it will get cut more often than not.
Ghostly Pilferer – 3.0
The synergy between the first and third abilities means that you can pay 2 to cycle any card in your hand and guarantee yourself 2 damage.
If you are able to clear the way for this to attack, it does a pretty good Ophidian impression. That’s a very nice package for something that’s very efficiently costed for a blue creature. I’d be stoked to pilfer one of these for any blue deck.
Jeskai Elder– 2.0
The base stats on this just aren’t exciting enough to make this worth prioritising more highly than a middle of the road pick. The low power and inability to force its way through without backup also makes the loot ability mediocre. It will feel good when it’s in a well-balanced prowess deck on curve, but otherwise it will stall out a bit too often.
Keen Glidemaster – 2.0
I had to do a double take on this card because I was as excited about it as it appears to be about itself (judging from its artwork). Decent stats and a very relevant ability make this strong in almost all colour combinations. It can target itself to peck away at your opponent when you’re flush with mana but light on plays later in the game, and if you’ve got a big ground beater that you can lift over their board it’ll put in some serious work.
Library Larcenist – 1.0
The stats on this hold it back a bit, because if it was a 2/2 I could get more excited about both the damage and the card if I work hard enough to get it through unblocked. As it is, it’ll take work and deliver a middling payoff if it attacks and doesn’t die. I’d rather a Thieving Otter most of time but I would play this sometimes and not be too sad about it.
Lofty Denial – 0.5
2 mana conditional counters usually need to be a bit better than this to make the deck. Despite its lofty ambitions, this does a reasonably poor Mana Leak impression, and Mana Leak isn’t one that I’m ever that keen to play in limited.
Miscast – 0.5
This is too narrow and too conditional to make it. Swing and a miss(cast).
Mistral Singer – 3.0
Wind Drake is always decent, and Wind Drake with prowess is a slam dunk.
If U/x prowess is a good deck, this will be a huge part of carrying it to victory.
Opt – 2.0
In most formats I’d give Opt a 1, but with a prowess subtheme it gets a lot better. I’ll play this most of the time in blue as long as I have a couple of Prowess creatures, because the incidental +1/+1 is worth the 1 mana most of the time.
Pursued Whale – 4.0
Aside from the fantastic Moby Dick reference, this can absolutely monster your opponent’s board if their Pirate leads their whole team to their doom. 7 mana is a lot, but it does have some resilience to removal from its passive, and its enormous 8 toughness means it dodges a lot of damage-based removal as well.
Rain of Revelation – 2.0
This is slowish at 4 mana, but it is instant speed and can give you some decent card advantage. I think it’ll slot into the more aggressive skies decks better as something to hand some long-game reach. It synergises with the U/B reanimate strategy as well and is generally a pretty serviceable way to trigger prowess and accumulate some card advantage.
Read the Tides – 1.5
I’m no tidereader, but this hardly seems swell. Sea God’s Scorn was okay, but this is significantly worse on the bounce and very expensive for a draw three. Choice is nice, so this may play better than it seems, but I’m not sure it has quite enough impact for its cost.
Rewind – 1.0
In a prowess deck with Rain of Revelation, Capture Sphere and other good plays on your opponent’s turn, this can be flexible and powerful enough. If it’s just going to be an expensive Cancel for you most of the time, though, best to leave this one at home.
Riddleform – 2.0
It can be tough to form an opinion on cards like this, but in a finely tuned prowess deck, I can see this doing some work. It compares reasonably well to Reptilian Reflection and can be a decent beater if you can reliably trigger it. The scry is a nice bonus, and one that shouldn’t be underestimated.
Roaming Ghostlight – 3.5
This Mist Raven variant is a vital piece of blue’s power in this set.
The ability to put a serious evasive threat on the board and bounce their best creature (with only a small restriction) is very, very good for 5 mana.
Rookie Mistake – 2.0
This is a solid combat trick, at 1 mana, that can also save your creature from damage-based removal. You need to honour this when your opponent has one mana up, and almost every blue deck will be happy to play one of these.
This gets a slight bump up in ratings because of prowess and the fact that you will usually be happy to play it at the same point in the turn when you want prowess triggers (after your opponent has committed to combat and you want to mess with their math).
Rousing Read – 3.0
I was expecting to be enthralled by this after reading its title, and it didn’t let me down. If you can play this when your opponent is tapped out and you’re safe from removal, it replaces itself due to its ETB trigger, and you give a permanent +1/+1 and flying to one of your beaters. That’s a pretty good deal for 3 mana, and it can see this doing a ton of work.
Sanctum of Calm Waters – 1.5
This is an optional ability so you’re not going to deck yourself with it so long as you’re careful. Itcan get out of hand for your opponent very quickly if you have one or two other shrines, and it pairs really nicely with the black or red shrines in particular.
This gives tempo decks so much extra gas, and is another way to get some value from your reanimate spells in U/B or trigger your Gnarled Sages pre-combat to give them vigilance.
The one thing that holds it back is that you really need another shrine in play to upgrade it from an expensive Merfolk Looter to actual card advantage.
See the Truth – 0.5
Sorcery speed Anticipate? No, thanks!
Shacklegeist – 3.0
There are a lot of strong 2 mana 2/2 rares in this set, and this is no exception. It flies, beats down well and allows you to control the board if you have some other spirits hanging around. It doesn’t go so well on defence on its own, but the tapping ability means that it at least has some defensive potential.
Shipwreck Dowser – 3.5
Archaeomancer with better power and toughness and prowess means this is a mean card. It may cost 1 mana more, but wow do you get some value for that mana!
This is a very strong early pick and can set you up very well to utilise all sorts of spells more consistently and to greater advantage. It rewards you twice, intrinsically, for playing more instants and sorceries, and it has reasonable stats as well. This is a phenomenal card.
Spined Megalodon – 2.0
This is mega powerful when it hits the board, but in most decks I’d be worried that my back would already have been broken by the time this hits the battlefield. In some prowess decks with Frost Breaths and Roaming Ghostlights to bounce their threats, you might feel more confident of getting to the point in the game where you can just slam this.
I’m not sure its impact is still enough to justify its cost and the opportunity cost of having it in your deck even in that best-case scenario, but it might just be good enough as a finisher.
Stormwing Entity – 4.0
This is exceedingly easy to cast for its cheaper mode, and its stats are beastly at 2 mana. It doesn’t have flash, meaning you can’t pair it with Rewind so well, but there are enough cheap spells like Opt that you can rely on hitting this on turn 3 or 4 regularly.
Getting a scry to assist your tempo and a strong flying threat will really set you up. This is a build-around that rewards you for playing into blue’s strengths in the set.
Sublime Epiphany – 4.0
What this card does may sound a bit like Opportunity at this mana cost, but really it can do so much more because it impacts on the board immediately. If you do get to counter their threat, bounce something else, copy your own creature and draw, you’ve got 4 cards worth of value plus crucial tempo.
Even if you don’t get to counter something but you copy one of your tapped creatures and block favourably, bounce their best creature and draw a card, that’s very good for 6 mana. It’s not so good when your board is empty, but its ceiling is so high that I’d be looking to build around this if I saw it early.
Teferi, Master of Time – 4.0
We’ve never seen a planeswalker that can be activated twice in a turn cycle. Teferi promises big things, and whilst his abilities may not scream raw power, the fact that you get two does increase its overall power significantly.
I’d almost always play Teferi, but there will be some times when you just loot, phase out a creature and then Teferi bites the dust. That’s not an amazing deal for 4 mana, but with this much potential upside, I’m willing to take that worst-case scenario.
Teferi’s Ageless Insight – 3.0
It doesn’t take too much to get this working with Opt, Frantic Inventory and looters like Teferi’s Protégé, Jeskai Elder or Sanctum of Calm Waters waiting in the wings. As long as you’ve got a solid curve and some good tempo plays, this can get you enough value to win a lot of games of Magic.
Teferi’s Protégé – 2.5
A solid body and a relevant activated ability. This battles well with a lot of the 1 and 2 drops in the set, and can play well in a more controlling or aggro-control deck. Versatile and reasonably efficient.
Teferi’s Tutelage – 2.5
Depending on how much you can leverage its ability, it can be a strong closer. Milling them for 2x the number of Frantic Inventories in your bin can be nice if you’ve picked up a bunch, but you’ll need to make sure you don’t go nuts and lose to damage in the meantime. So long as you have a sensible curve and regular gameplan, this can just give you an alternate win condition that doesn’t ask too much of you.
Tide Skimmer – 3.0
A fantastic reward for playing flyers that synergises really well with the best blue threats in the set and blocks respectably the turn it lands as well. It demands an answer and just slots into any blue deck that wants to beat down. This could be a 3.5 depending on how fast the format ends up being.
Tolarian Kraken – 2.5
This is slow, but it can really influence combat in a big way on your turn without much effort by getting rid of important blockers. If you have some instant speed card draw like Opt, it can also tap down their attackers.
Its stats aren’t super exciting, but it can help to gum up the ground whilst your flyers go to work on your opponent’s life total.
Tome Anima – 2.0
You do need to sometimes be careful of 4 drop 3/3s that don’t impact the board at all. However, if you have a reasonable chance of regularly triggering its evasion on your turn without too much effort, it can be a very good threat.
Unsubstantiate – 1.5
This will probably see play as an expensive Unsummon more often than not because of Prowess and blue’s general lack of removal.
The ability to also Remand a removal spell is a nice additional mode to have.
Vodalian Arcanist – 1.5
A serviceable blocker that helps with mana on occasion but isn’t particularly strong at combat or utility.
Waker of Waves – 2.5
Its activated ability works nicely in U/B if you can find a way to reanimate it, and it’s available to use at instant speed.
It is expensive to cast, but it has a significant impact on the board and is hard to remove. Don’t underestimate the -1/-0, which turns combat math strongly in your favour and turns off one-power deathtouchers like Fetid Imp.
It’s not a first pick, but it’s certainly a decent option that is at its best in U/G when you can ramp into it or U/B when you can reanimate it using its activated ability.
Wall of Runes – 0.5
With all that blue has going for it in this set, we can do better than ol’ Runey.
Wishcoin Crab – 0.5
Anyone else’s brain see Wisconsin Crab when they skim read this? I don’t really know what Wisconsin’s like, having never been, but this crab sure is boring.
TOP 5 BLUE COMMONS AND UNCOMMONS IN LIMITED
- Roaming Ghostlight
- Shipwreck Dowser
- Mistral Singer
- Rousing Read
- Keen Glidemaster