Friday, February 7, 2014

Born of the Gods Limited Set Review - Blue

For me, one of the best ways to make a profit and still enjoy playing Magic is to win events. In Limited events that means knowing what is good in a format and being able to able to accurately assess the value of cards. Everyone puts their own value on certain types of cards. Some favor removal over any creatures, others take any decent creature over removal. Some like expensive or late game cards and others prefer value for early tempo. While I can't adjust for your play style I can tell you what I happen to think of certain cards.

The other color set reviews can be found at the following links:
Multicolored and Colorless

Limited Rating System

Everyone who evaluates cards uses a different system. Mine is 1-10 because I feel like it creates the easiest and most recognizable system. Using grades tends to provide some false associations; B- is a pretty lame grade in school but a pretty good card in magic. I also don't like using the 1-5 system because I'd rather say something is a five than a two point five.

10 - First pick and must play even if you have to splash it.
9 - Game winning card every time it hits the table.
8 - Bombs, top tier removal, and otherwise game defining creatures.
7 - Powerful creatures or amazingly efficient creatures, conditional removal.
6 - Solid creatures, expensive or highly restrictive removal, big play enchantments and artifacts.
5 - Core cards in your deck, on curve creatures, decent cards.
4 - Fallback cards that you'd rather not have in your deck but can fill in if needed. Cards that are too situational to main deck.
3 - Bad cards, cards that have too much risk and little reward.
2 - Really bad cards that barely do anything at all and aren't likely to impact the game in a meaningful way.
1 - A card with zero meaningful impact on Limited games of Magic.
Add-on Ratings
S - Sideboard cards. These will often be brought out of your board and are worth picking up over other things of their level because of their impact against certain match-ups.
+ - Better than the average card in this category but still not worth the step up to the next level.

Blue Common/Uncommon

Aerie Worshippers – 5+
While some of the pieces of inspired dude factory aren’t impressive, getting a 2/2 flying bird for 2U isn’t bad. At 2/4 I feel you’re much more likely to be able to make an attack than with lower power and toughness making untapping a worshiper far more likely. Plus getting a token with evasion is far more powerful than a couple of 1/1 mans. Inspired still seems more like a bonus than a reality though and this is a 2/4 for for.

Archetype of Imagination – 6+
Levitation is bad at 2UU. A 3/2 on top of Levitation for 1U more is better. But the fact that this almost makes all your creatures unblockble is huge. It does make Reach a more valuable ability in this set but suddenly picking up your entire board and being able to ship it over unhindered can easily win you board stalls. The only problem here is that if you drop him on a pretty empty board he is just a 3/2 flier. We happily paid 3UU for Messenger Drake it seems likely we’d pay one more to add the Trained Condor plus effect.

Chorus of the Tides – 5+
Speaking of 3/2 fliers, here’s one that costs two less mana. This heroic ability is actually the worst heroic ability I’ve seen yet. I’d never burn the spell just to do it –but if I’m going to bestow onto my flier anyway, getting a free scry one isn’t bad. I think I’ll be happy to play chorus of the tides as blue fliers looks like it could have a solid impact.

Crypsis – 5
This still isn’t Gods Willing but it is blue and it does untap a creature and allow you to make a possible two for one. Seems legit so long as you have bigger creatures, which isn’t blue’s strength. I feel like this is card is a fine combat trick but doesn’t handle a threat unless you have something to block with that has deathtouch. With Baleful Eidolon or Dredge Scorpion this card goes up significantly. But on its own I’m not very impressed.

Deepwater Hypnotist – 5
2/1s two drops are generally fine but unexciting. The bonus of giving a temporary Sensory Deprivation on untap may be significant if you get to attack with him once, you’re likely to be able to continue doing so. Again, inspired is more of a bonus in this case, but a 2/1 for two is still playable.

Divination – 5
Drawing cards in Theros always felt like I was just fishing for more land to be able to cast some of my bigger creatures. With a decent number of two casting cost creatures I fear that Divination may be a dangerous play in a lot of games. If you do nothing on turn two and your opponent plays a creature, then you Divination on turn three and they play three drop, you’re in pretty bad shape. That said, gaining card advantage is still going to be important in the late game.

Eternity Snare – 6
Cantrip Claustrophobia probably sounds better than it is. At six mana plus failing to tap the creature you’ve enchanted I’m not convinced that this card is really going to save you. It’s also not like you’ll be able to turn around and cast the card you’ve drawn until the next turn. But cantrips are still pretty nice and removal (even bad expensive removal) is still removal.

Evanescent Intellect – 2
It’s a mill enchantment aura. That is so bad. Millstone wasn’t terrible but it was a straight up artifact. I know this is intended to go on something with Inspired or heroic but it just looks terrible for either of those purposes. Maybe I’m wrong but this cycle looks like they’ll all be sitting in the sideboard and never seeing play.

Flitterstep Eidolon – 5+
1/1 unblockable for two is fine; it makes for a great bestow target to hand out some continual damage. Being able to pitch it onto your big beasty for 5U is also pretty good because you have an unstoppable threat. Overall this guy is fine but he doesn’t do much on his own. Unlike several of the better bestow cards in Theros giving a pretty weak bonus doesn’t turn your non threat into a big threat. If you have to drop this on a 2/3 for six mana you aren’t exactly thrilled with the results.

Floodtide Serpent – 5
Vanilla test says fine. I honestly can’t tell if this is a drawback or an advantage. Fortunately, it’s a cost not a trigger so Missed Trigger penalties don’t apply. Technically I’d say it is a drawback but being able to pitch your unattached bestow creatures into your hand is pretty nice at the best times. At the worst times you’ve got a 4/4 blocker. Sea Serpent was frequently playable primarily as a strong defender and 4/4s will block a lot of incoming threats. I’m thinking he’ll see play and be an acceptable creature most of the time.

Kraken of the Straits -5
A big dumb creature that can’t be double-blocked for the kill seems pretty decent. 6/6 uncommon is fine, even for seven mana. There isn’t a lot of downside here except for the seven casting cost, but when a 6/6 with moderate evasion is your reward, you’re pretty happy. Do I want more than one? Probably not, but I’m fine with the first one at the top of my curve.

Meletis Astronomer - 5
1/3s for two often do much more work than we expect them to. There is a lot of 2/1s and 2/3s running around in the set which makes the 1/3 body  pretty important. Again, the mediocre heroic trigger means that I’m not thrilled with blowing a spell just to trigger heroic but if you’re already going to bestow or combat trick a guy, the upside is pretty decent. I think most of the time I’m playing a 1/3 for two more than I’m looking to rip enchantments out of my library.

Nullify – 5
I’d generally run two Essence Scatters if I had them. I think nullify fits into that same mold. The UU instead of 1U is a bit of a downside because often times I’d end up using my Essence Scatter on turn three or four when I didn’t have a play. I can’t really guarantee that I have the mana at that point. With so many bestow creatures floating around I think Nullify is still decent, but not impressive.

Nyxborn Triton – 6
When I look at bestow creatures the first thing I look at is what happens if I cast them as creatures. 2/3 for three is a perfectly fine minotaur that is fair but not exciting. The next thing I look at is how much longer do I need to wait to bestow it. In this case, I’m bestowing two mana later and getting 2/3 which bumps any card from just a card to a bomb. Even better, when they kill that guy I’m left with a 2/3 which isn’t insignificant. I think this Triton will see plenty of play and will always do good work on the field.

Oracle’s Insight - 7 
You know how I said that the tap ability enchantments were lame. I wasn’t talking about this card. As a note, this card almost says “Tap a creature, scry 1, draw a card” which almost feels acceptable for four mana. But instead it lets you do this every turn. This card is insane. On any target with Inspired it is just plain bonkers.  If this stays on the field for a few turns, you win. Occasionally you’ll get blown out but that’s a risk with any enchantment.  Don’t forget you can activate it the turn you play it unless the creature is summoning sick. Or wait until their turn. While this is a great card you need to make sure you have threats in your deck that are worth digging for. If you have the option, you may just have to take a strong creature to actually have threats instead of this card.

Retraction Helix – 6
This almost says “tap a creature you control and Disperse” but not quite. For one mana I’m a big fan. Considering this can be done after blockers are declared to remove an aura the number of tricks this card can play is fantastic. It also triggers heroic and will trigger inspired.

Siren of the Fanged Coast – 6+
Nine out of ten times, this is a 4/4 flier for five, very Serra Angel. That one other time this card may be pretty bad. This is one of the few cards when the either/or from Tribute may not work out in your favor. If their board is weak, you get to steal their best creature, which may not be much. Then you’re stuck with a 1/1 flier and their mana dork for five. The backfire issue is there but this is still a pretty solid card.

Sphinx's Disciple – 5+ 
When we played Messenger Drake we were at least guaranteed a replacement card when it died. This is more of a flying Scroll Thief which seems pretty good until you see you’re paying five mana for a 2/2. When the air is open this is a great card. But if there’s much of anything else up there it’s not going to do much for you. But once you pull ahead with card draw, you’re sitting pretty good.

Stratus Walk - 5
This is several times better than Flight. You still get a card back which is pretty nice but I'm not thrilled with it overall. It's good for both Heroic and Inspired. But overall it is not fantastic. I'm curious if the card replacement gives it more valuable than I'm giving it but it is still just a not very good aura. I might find myself happy to throw this in to my deck as a 22nd and 23rd card simply to up my speed through my deck.

Sudden Storm - 4+
Slow Frost Breath with scry. If you've got the solid aggressive deck or the big bestow creature it's pretty good as you can get in for two turns. But in most regular decks this is still just a bad card. I hate having to use cards like this to do nothing but punt for two turns.

Thassa's Rebuff - 4
This card has some really good possible upside in the right deck. If you're heavy blue it's fantastic. Lots of the time your opponent can't afford to pay three more mana to cast their big spells. Used on a card on curve it is pretty nice, once you're late in the game it can just get pretty bad. All in all it's really risky. It might find a home in some Mono-Blue.

Vortex Elemental – 5
This looks like a bad removal to me. So long as you’re able to block something you can basically throw it back into your deck and later end up drawing a creature that doesn’t really do anything on its own. It can deal with a big threat which may mean you need to side board it in against something you just don’t have an answer for, but you are just going to see it and whatever you send back into your opponent’s library again. The forced block cost is too high to expect to be able to hit two creatures and it doesn’t do anything against creatures with any form of evasion. Bad removal is still removal.

Blue Rare

Arbiter of the Ideal - 8
Rarely do you not attack with a 4/5 flier. That makes untapping it very likely though not a sure thing. At slightly weaker than a Mahamoti Djinn this card is a solid bomb. If it becomes the engine that keeps on giving you’ll just keep playing creatures and you’re unstoppable. It is a bit of a win more card since you already need to be in a position that you can attack with a 4/5 flier but the fact that it likely provides back end cover when you’re attacking makes it feel really solid.

Fated Infatuation – 5
While this card is great a triple blue casting cost is pretty scary to me. I’d expect to see it landing in mono-blue decks just fine but if you have to wait until 6 mana to get your third blue source, the three casting cost clone really groundbreaking. Being able to get a clone and scry two is pretty good, so is instant speed clone. I’m just not sure how many decks want to run a UUU anything.

Mindreaver – 4
While I think Mindreaver is a very interesting card, I think it falls drastically short in Limited. The fact that you don’t get to rip three off the top when you cast Mindreaver and start off with some valid targets is a really big downside, especially in limited. Plus, how many doubles do people end up with, even in draft decks. You might have a couple of two ofs in your deck, maybe you got lucky and pulled three of a common. But as it is this guy is really just a 2/1 for UU which isn’t great but works in a pinch.

Perplexing Chimera – 5+
The number of people that simply won’t be able to follow how this creature works will be huge. I think this card belongs in the Judgebringer deck because of all the problems it causes. That said, it basically shuts your opponent down until they cast something you want. Then it shuts you down. As the last card out of your hand it is the best insurance policy around. They can’t even really kill it. Though deciding when to use it will be a huge skill play. I want this to be an 8, but it's just not.

Tromokratis – 7+
The king of board stalls, Tromokratis is really an all or nothing card. It sits like a big wall and can prevent your opponent from trying to dink away at you with a flier. Remember, all creatures means All creatures so this goes horrible with any RTR block guys with Unleash. He’s a big dumb guy that can’t be chump blocked so he’ll make an impact on the field no matter what.

Whelming Wave – 6
An overloaded Cyclonic Rift with some possible advantages looks pretty cool. Sorcery speed is a bit of a bummer but at only four mana it can fix some overloaded board states and really take some action onto a Voltron your opponent has created. It seems like I’d want this in my deck even if I didn’t have any of the left behind creatures just to solve problems I have no other answer for.

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