Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Born of the Gods Limited Set Review - Red

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.

Red Common/Uncommon

Akroan Conscriptor – 6
Act of Treason on heroic seems pretty nice. It can certainly turn your game around if you have a sac outlet. There doesn’t seem to be a ton of sac outlets though so it’s not going to make Red/Black the same kind of thing it was in M14. Still, a card like this being on the field will make them pretty concerned about playing some sort of big bad creature because you’re likely to just steal it and smack them in the face with it.

Archetype of Aggression - 5
Trample isn’t really the best skill. With the other Archetypes granting skills like flying and deathtouch, trample isn’t too impressive. This being a 3/2 for three helps that some. But with double red and not being a creature that can make very aggressive use of trample himself I’m forced to just feel like this one doesn’t meet the mark of several others. I’d rather see a bigger creature with trample because three power doesn’t feel very trample to me.

Bolt of Keranos – 6
I dub thee Lightning Scry. However, I think Magma Jet was better; so was Lightning Strike. Conventional wisdom is that scry is worth 1/3 of a card. The question here is if it is worth one more colored mana. I don’t think it is worse than most other iterations of direct damage but this is limited and three damage is still pretty useful.

Cyclops of One-Eyed Pass - 5
Is there a Cyclops of Two-Eye Pass? Just curious. Considering the vanilla nature of this creature, it’s a hard one to evaluate in many ways. Much like Regathan Firecat on its own all it can do is trade with some other big dumb creature. But with the right pairing it can pack a world of hurt. Sometimes you won’t be able to do anything with him because you’re staring down a 2/1 on the other side of the table but four mana for five power is never terrible.

Epiphany Storm – 3
I love looting, I’m less fond of discard first looting. The idea of it being on an aura makes me want to cry. Along with the rest of this cycle, I think these cards are just plain bad. The effect here is good. But you’re basically paying two cards for the first one. Then one for each additional card you draw. Generally you’re seeking card advantage, not card disadvantage. Not to mention the likelihood of losing your target primarily out of spite.

Everflame Eidolon – 5+
Firebreathing is a pretty good ability in limited even though it’s a pretty bad card. Being able to stick it onto any guy is pretty nice. Being a bestow with a three mana cost is even cooler. The great thing about this card is you can put it on a random guy and pump it up to trade up; then you can pump it up to trade up a second time. Or you can put it on a flier or first strike guy and get in for solid damage repeatedly. The low bestow cost and the fact that even a 1/1 firebreathing is useful for trading makes this a solid card I want in my deck.

Fall of the Hammer – 6+
Considering that Prey Upon was a solid card in Innistrad, I feel this can only be better. It’s a fight, without getting hit back.  Great quick kill spell to handle a creature or to finish off a creature you need to kill. Again, useless when you’re board is empty but assuming you aren’t losing by a ton this is a great card. It can also just be a big finisher with your Voltron up. I still think it should have been named Junk Shot since it's basically fight without your opponent fighting back.

Fearsome Temper – 4+
+2/+2 and some sort of evasion for three is ok. Being able to shut down a blocker can be useful at times but I’d much rather be bestowing than putting this on a creature. It’s not terrible but it is pretty expensive to shut down a couple of creatures and get in for damage. With so many bestow options, a straight up enchantment just feels too risky.

Impetuous Sunchaser – 3+
This card is so close to being amazing, just one power off. 1/1s for one are generally bad. Adding flying doesn’t make it a win and neither does haste. The downside of a weak creature attacking each turn is pretty significant. This card is goes beyond undesirable cards into the unplayable realm. As a target for bestow it is acceptable since it has flying, but who cares if my 1/1 has haste.

Kragma Butcher – 5
Considering that Felhide Minotaur was acceptable, if unexciting we can only see good things for his butcher brother. He feels like Minotaur Skullcleaver's slower and number cousin. But Skullcleaver  did great work in Theros, I think we’ll see the butcher hacking up his fair share of meat. I’m happy to put him in my deck.

Lightning Volley – 4+
This could be good card but I feel that it is asking a lot, too much in fact. I’d need three untapped creatures on and four mana at the end of my opponent’s turn to make this as useful as Flames of the Firebrand. I don’t see it likely that I’m going to get four mana worth of damage out of this card most times I cast it. I’ll probably end up using it as an expensive Shock. At one or two mana I’d really heavily consider this card, but at four I feel it is pretty high priced. I wouldn’t be thrilled with this unless I’ve got some deathtouch. It could be sided in against a deck with a ton of X/1 creatures but I'd still rather just play a something like a 2/4 at this point.

Nyxborn Rollicker – 4
+1/+1 just isn’t very much. A 1/1 creature just isn’t very good. There may end up being some magic number that makes having a 1/3 creature become a 2/4 kills half the creatures in the format. But I don’t think that this is likely to make this card worth running. It’s not totally useless, but it’s not a card that will turn the tides of the game nine out of ten times. Maybe as a heroic trigger this will have a large enough impact to make a difference but I’m not seeing the red heroics I want to make this playable.

Pharagax Giant – 5+
While a 5/5 for five is a pretty good deal, I can see times where people take five damage to the face to avoid you throwing down a big creature. Either way this is a decent creature. Canyon Minotaur plus Lava Axe is great for one more mana. For a common, five mana 5/5 is pretty efficient. You probably won’t want to fill your deck with these guys but having two near the top of your curve seems like solid threats.

Pinnacle of Rage – 5
So far I haven’t been impressed with rage cards from Theros block. They tend to be expensive and not that great. This is two lightning strikes in one spell at sorcery speed for two more colorless mana. It’s not a great deal. Sometimes you just need some more removal to clean up smaller threats. It is important to remember that this card won’t kill a 6/6 and you need two targets for it. Sometimes it is just an expensive Bile Blight.

Reckless Reveler - 5
While there aren’t a lot of artifacts in this set, a 2/1 for two has never been terrible. If you end up against  someone running a Gorgon's Head or Siren Song Lyre this will be a decent way to combat it. Plus 2/1 creatures frequently end up outclassed at the end of the game, burning it to get rid of a Springleaf Drum isn’t horrible if your opponent is getting his inspired on.

Rise to the Challenge – 4+
What was it about Thunder Strike that wouldn’t fit into this set? I suppose in Standard you can now play eight of a card you’d never even consider putting in your deck.  While this isn’t a bad card in limited it is fairly risky. It’s less risky than it was in M14 because M14 had so much good removal. With less quality removal you’re more likely to get your kill. I’m ok playing these here but I’d rather have an actual threat.

Satyr Nyx-Smith – 6
I feel like haste is what really makes this card work. It basically gives you a 2/1 and a 3/1 for six mana, which isn’t terrible in limited. It also has the chance to produce more.  Because you can lay this down when you’re guaranteed to be able to safely attack it seems more valuable than several of the other token producing uncommon. Plus getting five power out of one card can cause some real problems for your opponent the following turn, even if this smith dies quickly.

Scouring Sands – 5
Electrickery with scry attached is a pretty sweet deal though sorcery over instant is not. This card may make all X/1s far worse than they previously appeared. With so many decent creatures with one toughness this spell looks like a must play in many decks. I guess we now know that the magic number on toughness is specifically not one.

Searing Blood – 6+
Expensive Shock with a potential upside is an interesting card. Getting to kill a creature plus three damage to an opponent makes this a five damage spell for two mana. It seems pretty good. Double red will be a little annoying but I think there’s more than enough targets in the set to make it good. Don’t forget that if you have to block with a creature to use this you’re still getting upside with the damage.

Stormcaller of Keranos – 5+
While 2/2 haste for three has been acceptable, it has never been exciting. The problem with them is that they always get outclassed in the late game. However, unlimited scry without tapping is pretty amazing. Late game the scry is amazing, early game the haste is acceptable. I feel that makes this a pretty solid card that I want in my deck. I’ll probably even take two. Being able to spend extra mana to avoid unneeded land drops is pretty awesome. However, you need to be in color to make this work. There always is some downside.

Thunder Brute – 7
5/5 haste trample is pretty good. It can cause massive when it hits the board. 8/8 trample for six is also pretty fantastic. Assuming the game can frequently make it to the late game this guy is sure to make a bashing when he gets cast. Because of trample I expect to see this guy as a 5/5 haste pretty much all the time, because if you can’t deal with a 5/5 haste trample there is no way you’ll be able to deal with an 8/8 trample.

Thunderous Might – 4
Still no draw a card. That’s too bad. You are most likely to get +2/0 to +5/0. +5/0 is pretty good if you can drop it on something with evasion or flying, but this doesn’t grant any form of evasion.  I have a hard time seeing this be really useful. It’s also dangerous because it is an enchantment and it is based on your devotion. Too often someone can kill a creature that gives devotion they can end up with a three for one on a well timed block. It’s not a terrible card if you can stick it on something with first strike, but overall I’d rather have something less fragile in my deck.

Red Rare

Fated Conflagration – 5
Lava Axe a creature or planeswalker, but not a player doesn’t seem fantastic. I figure that two colored mana is worth a bit more than trading in a single mana in casting cost. The fact that this goes off on creatures of planeswalkers at instant speed is nice but you have to be really deep in red to play this card. Late game I don’t even expect five damage to solve every problem I’m likely to encounter. I feel like I’m going to play this card but never end up casting it.

Felhide Spiritbinder – 7
Unlike many creatures with Inspired this one passes the vanilla test. 3/4 for four is a perfectly acceptable creature in limited and one that is likely to get in to attack. The ability to make a copy of the best creature to send back in when he untaps makes this a really big threat. Even if you’re just copying him you’re getting in for six damage. I like this minotaur a lot. If you include some of the other minotaur buffing creatures he can become an even more formidable threat.

Flame-Wreathed Phoenix – 8
This is just bad decisions all around. A 3/3 flier that goes back to your hand is just fine for four. A 5/5 flier for four is fantastic. This is a no lose card. There’s no good choice unless you’ve got the removal spell in your hand. Just a solid card and problematic for your opponent no matter which way you look at it.

Forgestoker Dragon – 7+
This is an interesting take on Flameblast Dragon. Rather than getting the Fireball effect you get to ping any creature for 1R when it attacks. Assuming you have the mana to cast him you basically can ping for three each turn. Flameblast was a powerhouse in the fairly aggressive M12 format and I think we’ll see Forgestoker do similar work here. I feel that the six casting cost for a 5/4 is a little higher than I’d like but it’s a pretty typical dragon.

Oracle of Bones – 4+
This is a really interesting card that is likely to be really to be mediocre in limited. With the unlikely chance that you’ll be sitting on a decent instant or sorcery you want to cast for free, I think that this card will pretty much always be a 3/1. Maybe you’ll get a free Searing Blood but this card is going to ask you to play expensive damage spells you probably don’t really want in your deck.  If you can pull in enough good sorcery and instant spells in something like a red/blue combo deck you could probably get significant use to make your opponent consider taking the tribute. But 3/1 for four is pretty bad. (It may be that the risk of tribute is so significant that people will always take the buffed creature and this will be a better card than it appears, but I think in limited I’ll always take the 3/1).

Satyr Firedancer – 4
This is sort of an inverse Guttersnipe but not one that I think will really do the trick. It allows you to get double value out of burn spells. There aren’t enough burn spells to make me want to play a 1/1 for two. Maybe someday I’ll draft five Searing Bloods, Pinnacle’s of Rage, and one of these guys… who am I kidding. If this was a build around it’d need to be uncommon. I think I’ll just pass over it every time I see it unless it becomes a valuable card in Burn.

Whims of the Fates – 2
Cards like this are for fun kitchen table games and making people cry in EDH. This is not a reliable or fun limited card. With huge risk no matter how you cut it you’re going to pay a bunch of mana for something that will either win you the game, lose you the game, or do nothing. But which of those it will do is entirely out of your control. It does bring up fantastic match discussions about how you should pile (odds say all in one pile) but beyond the philosophic discussion, this is just different version of Scrambleverse.

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