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First Pick At Oath Of The Gatewatch: White!

Pro Tour Champion Ari Lax knows how to evaluate Draft formats inside and out! See him break down Oath of the Gatewatch’s Limited analytics so you can be ready for Prerelease weekend! First up, the white cards!

It’s time to jump back into my series on playing and understanding Limited with new set releases. Today, we’re going to cover the white cards, with other colors to follow in the days to come.

Common Creatures by Curve:

Two Mana

Three Mana

Four Mana

Five Mana

Removal:

Tricks:

Other:

Top Tier Commons:

Potential Top Tier Commons:

First thing to note here: Oath of the Gatewatch is a small set. There are 66 commons in this set compared to around 100 in Battle for Zendikar. This basically means that any curve density calculation is 1.5x when comparing. So when a color has two two-drops, it’s the same as there being three two-drops in a large set.

So, when you see three three-drops in Oath of the Gatewatch, that’s a ton. Admittedly you probably don’t want to play Affa Protector and Kor Scythemaster in the same archetypes, but you aren’t lacking for decent three-drops.

One other thing worth remembering: The number four. There are a ton of four toughness creatures in this set. That is the wall you have to break through if you are attacking. Most are 2/4 or 1/4, meaning 4/3 is the sweet spot. With a single Support +1/+1 counter, both Kor Scythemaster and Kor Sky Climber are able to attack into a Foot Soldiers-sized creature and win the battle.

A big part of white decks is going to be curving into your Support cards properly. Expedition Raptor getting in both counters is a pretty big play for a common, so you need to be attacking without doing a ton of trading off. Fortunately, a lot of the white three-drops have abilities that do this built in. It’s like they planned it this way!

Note that this is also indicative of a big shift. The mechanics aren’t nearly as linear here as Battle for Zendikar. We are back to playing normal Magic in Oath of the Gatewatch.

Isolation Field is the clear winner on removal as it just KOs anything, but the rest of the white commons don’t seem immediately insane. Expedition Raptor is probably just great, as four power with flying for five is absurd at common, but I’m less convinced of Spawnbinder Mage than any other “free” tapper. I’m just not sure how many Allies you can have lying around while trying to race, meaning the card is relegated to a weird defensive role where you are clogged on board but need to stop a specific thing. Considering we have real removal in the set, that just doesn’t seem as necessary as it may have been in the past.

Searing Light is almost the exact same card as Lithomancer’s Focus, only narrower. If your 2/2 getting +2/+2 doesn’t win the fight versus their two-power creature, something went wrong. Sometimes you may want it for specific threats, but since I can play a Makindi Aeronaut and attack with my answer to two-power fliers, I’m not interested. Mighty Leap is honestly more exciting as it can deal damage or kill a bigger flier.

The card I expect to overperform is Ondu War Cleric. You want to curve to Support? Great, I’ve got a two-drop for you that still has play in a stalled board state after a normal Grizzly Bears stops mattering. Oreskos Sun Guide was good, and this card doesn’t even make you find the other piece to keep tapping it.

The card I have no idea on is Shoulder to Shoulder. It might just be conditional and clunky at three mana for two counters if you have creatures. It might also just be great to basically have a cantrip two power worth of haste in a size-based format. I’m just going to have to play with it and find out. I expect it to be cast later in the game than you think as it’s hard to curve into and mana inefficient to play on turn 4 and often 5.

Uncommon Creatures by Curve:

One Mana

Three Mana

Four Mana

Five Mana

Removal:

Tricks:

Other:

Top Tier Uncommons:

Potential Top Tier Uncommons:

White’s uncommons aren’t super exciting for the most part. If anything, they feel a big discordant with the idea of building a solid attacker and point towards possibly just wanting to break the x/4 numbers game by making x/5s and fliers.

Wall of Resurgence is the exception to the average thing. Blocks anything, makes a sizable attacker with haste. Basically Blade Splicer, which was one of the stronger rares in New Phyrexia.

Immolating Glare is definitely better than previous Kill Shot or Rebukes, as leaving up two mana over three is a big deal when your opponent plays around it, but it still has some of the same drawbacks. It’s a solid card, but I’m finding it hard to label as game-breaking.

As I mentioned with white getting Isolation Zone, real kill spells exist in the format. Iona’s Blessing is strong against decks without those cards, but a big liability otherwise.

Relief Captian sounds really good on paper, but again it oddly presses you towards a board stall where you actually have three creatures to get full value out of it. Of course curving into a 3/2 for four that pumps your two- and three-drop is still great, which again makes me thing that Expedition Raptor is going to be a crazy good common.

Allied Reinforcements wouldn’t have even been that insane in Battle for Zendikar. Cohort isn’t making it great either. Play this if you want two 2/2s for four, which honestly is less than you think since they get outclassed by that point.

Steppe Glider is very inefficient. It’s not unplayable, but it’s a real clunker you are often going to cut for curve reasons. The common five-drop flier is better.

Make a Stand is that a card you just have to think about and play around. Don’t try to line up a bunch of trades on blocks; figure out if it is going to eat three attackers. Don’t walk into it when your opponent makes a weird attack or passes with mana up in a weird spot looking to block with one or two too many creatures.

Stoneforge Acolyte isn’t a card. There is one common equipment, and only one of the non-rare equipment in Oath of the Gatewatch actually sounds exciting to play.

Rares:

Great:

Good:

Decent:

No Thanks:

White’s rares are super bimodal. The best three are borderline unbeatable, and the bottom three are borderline playable to complete trash.

Linvala, the Preserver is a giant flier with crazy upsides. Easy. Munda’s Vanguard…anyone who has played Steel Overseer in a creature-based matchup can attest to how fast this ability gets out of hand.

I had Eldrazi Displacer higher originally, but there isn’t a lot of reason in white to move into a colorless splash. It also isn’t exactly Mistmeadow Witch as it still dies to removal (wow that card was messed up), but it still kills blockers. Of course, “higher” is basically the difference between “first pick and happy with it” or “over everything” here, as a three-mana 3/3 with three mana tap a creature alone would be very good, and this just kills your opponent when paired with a larger number of cards.

I also had General Tazri lower as the activated ability is just a blank, but “4W 3/4 draw a specific card” isn’t bad. I’m not even sure there are more than 1-2 non-rare Allies I’m super excited to find in the whole set; I just want to be up a card.

Now we have the dregs. Pretty sure Stone Haven Outfitter is Grizzly Bears. Oath of Gideon is 2W for two 1/1s, aka a bad rate. Call the Gatewatch… if you have a planeswalker, that’s nice for you. I’m sure you will get this card if one is opened. Too bad you have to take it before you know if you are going to open a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar or Ob Nixilis Reignited. The real joke is that the payoff even if you hit isn’t absurdly high as you have to spend a turn off to cast it and fall behind on board.

Second Pick at Battle for Zendikar

Common Creatures by Curve:

One Mana

Two Mana

Three Mana

Four Mana

Five Mana

Six Mana

Removal:

Tricks:

Other:

Winners:

As mentioned earlier, we are back to normal Magic with Oath of the Gatewatch. This means a lot of Battle for Zendikar cards are going to change in value.

Shadow Glider. In a normal Magic world like Oath of the Gatewatch, a Wind Drake is good. In a normal Magic world where a mechanic is growing your creature, the card is even better. Ghostly Sentinel is a bit better, but still possibly clunky.

Gideon’s Reproach and Sheer Drop. Both are really good removal that suffered from a synergy based format where they didn’t peg down the Kalastria Healer or Nettle Drone killing you or level up your own cards. In a normal Magic world, Gideon’s Reproach is close to a better Immolating Glare and Sheer Drop is actually just Shriekmaw at common.

Ondu Greathorn. Being a 4/5 is just huge in an x/4 format. Same with Fortified Rampart as an 0/6 that now blocks harder than anything else thinks of blocking. I’m not even sure there is a six-power common in Oath! That’s a lie, I know there are a couple, but it blocks so many things that cost so much more.

All the combat tricks. Welcome back to real Magic, where things like tempo and sizing matter. Pretty sure Tandem Tactics is going to wreck a ton of combats.

Losers:

Smite the Monstrous. There are a third the number of common 7/8s as there previously were, and the card wasn’t insane to start.

Stone Haven Medic and Courier Griffin. There are less gain life payoffs and more 3/x’s that attack right into these creatures.

Kor Lookout. With less rally, a one-drop Ally matters less for triggering it and you are less likely to be able to build the Ally-tokens strategy this was a bigger part of. The format is also getting a bit brawlier, so the cost of putting a card into a 1/1 with no immediate board impact is much more visible.

Uncommon Creatures by Curve:

One Mana

Two Mana

Four Mana

Five Mana

Six Mana

Removal:

Others:

Winners:

Expedition Envoy. Getting on board to spread Support counters matters more, and normal beatdowns are much more viable. There are also less Scions floating around to turn this into a .5-for-one.

Kor Bladewhirl. First strike matters more when combat isn’t a bunch of super weird size mismatches like it was with the small-medium-huge jumps of Battle for Zendikar.

Ondu Rising. 4/4 is huge and racing is more relevant.

Losers:

Unified Front. This was the Ally tokens card, and that’s just not a deck any more.

Shockingly, Serene Steward is not a loser. There are still lifegain enablers, just fewer payoffs, and the counter from the trigger honestly matters more now.

Rares:

Great:

Good:

Winners:

Felidar Sovereign. Less giant creatures that just outclass it, more 2/4s and people attacking that die to a 4/6 lifelink.

Losers:

Emeria Shepherd. There are still defensive white decks, but it’s less of a default that you can get to seven mana.

Takeaways From White

Overall, white seems very similar in Oath of the Gatewatch as it did in Battle for Zendikar for slightly different yet still similar reasons. There aren’t any big standouts, just a lot of solids. Last set that meant no real enablers; this set that means just a bunch of bodies that are just that: bodies that don’t necessarily break normal Limited combat.