Thursday, February 6, 2014

Born of the Gods Limited Set Review - White

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.

White Common/Uncommon

 Acolyte’s Reward - 6+
The ability to pull a two for one with this card seems really high. Even if you’re stuck blocking a bigger creature than you’re capable of killing initially it allows you remove up. This is a pretty good removal spell that could also lead to some end of game scenarios when you get hit with a big alpha strike. I think this is a solid card you’re going to want in your white decks. Removal and save your guy is pretty swanky.

Akroan Phalanx - 6
Vanilla test this guy comes back decent. Paying four for a 3/3 vigilance is pretty decent, the upside if you happen to be red is pretty significant. Obviously in the RW aggro deck this guy is a pretty sweet cleanup card. I’m sure he’ll do work in any deck and may cause me to splash a single mountain if the cards fall right.

Akroan Skyguard - 6+
Everything that Wingsteed Rider did in Theros will probably be done by the Skyguard. Paying one less white for one less power and toughness feels significant because without any pants to put on the Skyguard he’s not really posing an air threat. But the ability to get him into play a turn earlier and find an enchantment to get on him makes him a very strong card. Generally when my Wingsteed Riders are doing work they’re 5/5s or more so being a point of power and toughness down won’t be an issue most of the time. Evasion and heroic is a great combo.

Archetype of Courage - 7
Giving all of your creatures first strike just seems insane. Doing so on a 2/2 for 3 is fantastic. There isn’t a huge number of other cards with first strike that you’ll be canceling out with this Archetype but giving two or three other creatures first strike can turn a bad board into a good one really quickly. This Archetype won’t bring you back from the brink though. Dropping a 2/2 first strike onto an empty board is going to leave you feeling pretty disappointed.

Dawn to Dusk - 5
With all the bestow creatures in this set I’m pretty sure you’re going to happily find a target for this card every time you cast it. If I’m going to run an enchantment removal anyway playing one that can get me a refund card as an added bonus is nice. I doubt I’m casting my enchantment removal on turn two anyway so waiting a little bit doesn’t hurt too much. It is sorcery speed but as a two for one it’s pretty decent.

Elite Skirmisher – 4
I’m not very impressed with short term heroic abilities for the most part, especially not on a three drop. 3/1 for three is pretty bad already. Having to throw a spell on him to get him to tap someone down isn’t really a redeeming quality. He does trade nicely (though at three mana it’s not really trading up) and sometimes being able to tap someone down for that final swing is important, but I’m not seeking to put him in my deck.

Ephara’s Radiance – 3
It’s an enchantment, that gives life gain. This has two things that are significant negatives. Where’s my draw a card here? I’m not saying that I’d play it with it, but I wouldn’t feel as insulted by the power. Three life per turn is insignificant, but neither is a card, two mana a turn, and tapping a creature. This card asks a lot and doesn’t give much back.

Excoriate – 6
Good removal is fantastic. Exiling is better. Most creatures tap when they attack. I like removal. Removal feels awkward in this set much like it did in Theros making any source of removal very important. The more I read this card the less I like it. Sorcery speed removal of a tapped creature means that it has to hit you before you can kill it. Don’t get me wrong. I’m playing Excoriate in my deck, I just wish it was better.

Ghostblade Eidolon – 7
Wasn’t Two-Headed Cerberus 1RR? This guy is 2W and comes with bestow. Six is a lot to pay for bestow, but when you’re adding double strike you’re probably getting what you pay for. Unfortunately when he falls off you need to find something else to give him to really make him shine, but double strike is a super powerful mechanic that demands an answer.

Glimpse the Sun God – 4+
I think this card is playable but I have trouble seeing it as very good. Cards like Frost Breath don’t always get played because they really demand an aggressive deck in which the tapping card is a finisher. I haven’t seen that early aggressive deck out of Theros block like I did out of Innistrad or Zendikar. Most decks in Theros got really aggressive early with cards like Ordeal of Thassa on a weak creature outpacing the opponent. Tapping down their creatures doesn’t matter if yours is already bigger.

God-Favored General – 4
Without finding a good way to tap this guy I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with him. I don’t want to fall into the trap of playing him and Ephara’s Radiance to try to get off a combo that gives me two 1/1 soldiers and three life for five mana every turn. Even if I can attack with him the turn on turn three, I basically need to blow my entire turn four to get two 1/1 soldiers.  I want this guy to be good so bad but at 1/1 I don’t feel like I have enough ways to tap him to make do good work.

Great Hart – 4
2/4 for four has never been good. But it is a creature that fits into the curve. Pillarfield Ox barely made it into decks in M14 which had very few good white creatures. I see some better white creatures in Born of the Gods so I assume that the elk-ox probably will see some play but never happily.

Griffin Dreamfinder – 4+
There is so much to like about this card it’s a shame that he’s just not very good. Paying five mana for a 1/4 flier isn’t going to impress me, especially with double white. Getting an enchantment card back from your graveyard isn’t nothing though, especially when it comes with a fine beast to place it on. Turning the 1/4 into a 3/6 makes for a pretty serious air born threat. Considering that Auramancer can do some work maybe we’ll see this guy make a showing. But five mana is a lot more than three.

Hold at Bay – 3
This is not Gods Willing. It never will be. It’ll save your creature or counter some damage to the face, but much like life gain you don’t win by preventing damage, you win by doing it.

Loyal Pegasus – 5+
2/1 flying for one is pretty amazing really. Any aggro strategy is going to love this guy. But if he’s your only guy in the air he can’t actually block anything flying and can’t attack. I think you’d be happy to run 4 of these, but less happy to run one. You just really need to look at your overall strategy for attacking early to see where if the Pegasus fits in.

Mortal’s Ardor – 4+
Combat tricks for one are pretty good. But I like them when they look more like Giant Growth. I also don’t feel that lifelink is great on a combat trick. You generally use tricks to squeak out a card. Rarely is it for big damage. So a +1/+1 for one just isn’t very impressive.

Nyxborn Shieldmate – 4
It’s Holy Strength, only it’s not. Honestly I think Divine Favor is probably a better card. Being left with a 1/2 when someone drops your enchanted creature isn’t really a bonus. I actually think this card is pretty bad. As a three cost bestow I’m not impressed, as a creature I’m not impressed. I don’t really want him in my deck. Unless I've got my hoard of Skyguards to bestow upon.

Oreskos Sun Guide – 5
Bears are bears. Bears that gain you life when they attack are better bears. Bears look like they’ll play a role in this set because there’s a number of low casting cost creatures. The only problem is, few of them are any good. If you get in with Sun Guide a couple of times it makes for a pretty good card. But most of the time he’s just going to be a bear.

Ornitharch – 6+
3/3 flier for five is decent. 5/5 is great. Getting two 1/1s isn’t bad either. This is one of the tribute cards that actually feels like a tossup. If your opponent has other fliers you’ may find yourself getting blocked out and having the extra two birdies won’t matter much. If your opponent has removal to get rid of you, you’ll be one big creature. But either way, they better have an answer because you’re getting five power in the sky.

Revoke Existence – 4S
I’m debating if this card is worth trying to run main deck. There aren’t the artifacts to make it matter but there are lots of enchantment creatures. It looks like about half of the creatures are enchantment creatures. Running one enchantment removal in Theros was fine and I think that this is likely to be a good choice. But it is still slow and only kills enchantments. It’s no Doom Blade.

Sunbond – 4
Four mana enchantments ask a lot. This is Mark of the Vampire territory. Gaining life wasn’t super easy in Theros and I don’t expect it to be getting much easier. Without a lot of creatures with lifelink I’m not sold that I want Sunbond in my deck. Unless I have a handful of Hopeful Eidolons or a couple of Gray Merchant of Asphodel but even then, this is a four mana enchantment that doesn’t do anything. On the flip side I’m sure I’ll get blown out by this card more than once. When things come together on this card it is unstoppable.

Vanguard of Brimaz – 6
Everything I don’t like about Akroan Crusader seems to be fixed in his newest incarnation. A 2/2 for two is much better than a 1/1 for one. Crusader ended up decent because of the number of possible bestow targets, plus Dragon Mantle and Titan's Strength. I think Vanguard will do well also.

White Rares

Brimaz, King of Oreskos – 8+
Brimaz is nuts. First off getting a 3/4 vigilance for three is the best deal in the set. We were excited to see Boon Satyr at 4/2 flash for three. Here we’ve got vigilance plus pumping out guys, guys with vigilance. When I compare this guy to Ajani, Caller of the Pride I see a lot more problems for an opponent from Brimaz. Three turns later you’ve done up to 15 damage and have a swarm of little catlings.

Eidolon of Countless Battles – 8
While the floor on Eidolon is pretty low, getting a 1/1 for three, if you have any kind of board presence this card gets dangerous quick. At only a four bestow cost (we’re talking Hopeful Eidolon speed here) you’re guaranteed a +2/+2 with a likelihood of seeing  +4 or +5 pretty easily. The best thing is that even if your opponent kills the creature, you get all of the bonus minus one in the creature when it falls off.  This is the closest we’ve seen bestow and casting cost on a card before. I don’t think we’ll see this being cast as a creature very often.

Fated Retribution – 4
Planar Cleansing was basically playable in M14 at six casting cost and triple white. This is instant speed but seven mana is a ton to ask in limited. The scry is a nice bonus but I don’t think this will be making it into most decks. Generally problem creatures come in the form of some guy Voltroned up with bestow creatures. This just kills all your creatures and gives them a swarm of guys that fall off. I don’t think it solves any real problems and I don’t expect it to find a home.

Hero of Iroas – 6+
As a 2/2 heroic for two I’m pretty happy with this hero. I see the decreased cost in auras as a bonus, possibly a significant one, but not an overpowered one. This card seems good, but not broken. It basically provides a little ramp into your bestows and is a solid early creature on top of that. I think it might be a toss up between this and Skyguard for the evasion.

Plea for Guidance – 4
Six mana tutors seem excessive. This card feels a lot like Opportunity without the instant speed. You can pull up your two best bestow creatures this way but you’re spending the entire turn to do it. You’ll probably spend your next turn casting one of them and the following turn casting the other. Of course, at that point you’re probably going to win the game. But you’ve had to tap out for three turns in a row to get there. Maybe the format will end up slow enough that this card will matter. We don’t get the big monstrosity creatures in Born of the Gods like we did in Theros so maybe you’ll get to the late game and not have anywhere to better to spend your mana.

Silent Sentinel – 6
Like many bombs, the cost is the primary consideration. Paying seven mana for anything is scary. Only getting a 4/6 is a little sad. But once the air is clear you’re likely to start causing some real damage. Well, kind of likely. You see you need enchantments in the graveyard, which by seven mana isn’t really hard to do. But enchantment creatures can’t come back bestowed, which is most of your enchantments. That doesn’t mean the card is bad but I think I’m likely to be underwhelmed whenever I finally get this card onto the field. It’s big, has evasion and a good ability, but there’s many other cards that I feel will help me win earlier on.

Spirit of the Labyrinth – 5+
This is clearly a constructed card. It is entirely possible you’ll be rare drafting it anyway as it can cause some significant problems for most of the big decks in standard and brings a pretty solid 3/1 body to the table. In limited the ability is basically useless. You may blank someone’s Divination but you aren’t going to do things like shut down a Sphinx’s Revelation. That said, a 3/1 for two is really solid and will make any deck happily.

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