With the release of the complete Torment spoiler on Brainburst and MTGnews, I figured that I’d give you a list of cards I think have a good chance of making an impact in Constructed Magic based on its reasonable mana cost (four or under) and my own evaluation of the it’s playability. My review of Odyssey in this manner turned up cards like Psychatog, Mystic Enforcer, Predict, Zombie Infestation, Werebear, and New Frontiers – cards that weren’t getting much attention at the time, but have since showed up in winning decks at States and at the Masters. Any card that costs 4 mana or less has a chance in Constructed, so let’s take a closer look at what Torment has to offer.
Torment is being called the”black set” due to the large volume of black cards, but how many are really good? Let’s kick off with black.
Is BLACK the King of Torment?
ONE MANA (2):
Carrion Rat marks the return of something that’s been missing from the Magic landscape for a long time: A two power for one mana creature. The drawback is significant, allowing the opposing mage to simply remove a card from his graveyard from the game in order to have the Rat deal no damage. Still, if the opponent is working hard to fill his graveyard, this little guy could apply some pressure in the right metagame. This might help make Gravestorm decks viable.
Restless Dreams is the cheapest of the generally undercosted Dreams cycle, and has the benefit of letting you swap cards in hand for creature cards in your graveyard. This may prove useful in environments where wars of attrition reign.
TWO MANA (5):
Cabal Ritual is no Dark Ritual replacement, since giving you a temporary one-mana boost is not usually worth a card (unless you were a fan of the old Lotus Petal). However, plenty of decks out there are actively working towards gaining threshold – and that’s where this Ritual will shine, giving you five mana for a two mana investment. That’s a serious boost.
Mesmeric Fiend gives you information, tempo, and a 1/1 creature all in a nice two-mana package. Better than Ravenous Rats? I think so.
Sickening Dreams is a black Firestorm, letting you deal Pestilence damage for each card you pitch.
Chainer’s Edict is our new Diabolic Edict; it’s slower as a sorcery, but has the added bonus of being a flashback card. Expect this cheap removal spell to see plenty of use.
Lastly, Nantuko Shade is another undercosted black weenie, but you will want to be careful about investing too much mana into pumping the Shade if your opponent is playing blue bounce.
THREE MANA (3):
Rancid Earth is strictly better than Rain of Tears, which saw some play in more controllish black builds.
Shade’s Form is an interesting creature pumping enchantment, allowing you to put the enchanted creature back into play if it is sent to the graveyard.
Zombie Trailblazer is yet another playable Zombie – this one’s special abilities both let you mess with the mana of people playing non-black decks, and take advantage of opponents playing black decks. I expect this card to be particularly useful in Block Constructed.
FOUR MANA (5):
Shambling Swarm is like a Contagion on wheels – more than ready and willing to drag down pesky one-toughness regenerators to the grave with it. The Swarm is particularly noteworthy since it has the potential of generating card advantage, and if you have some way to recur it thing get even better.
Ichorid is a bit disappointing, mainly because it can only feast on black creatures in your graveyard to power up, but I expect it to still see play in some decks.
Insidious Dreams seems to be horrible card disadvantage, but being able to stack your deck at instant speed may prove useful in the right deck.
Mutilate lives up to its hype as a black Wrath of God… But does black really need it?
Faceless Butcher’s tempo ability gives this creature nice utility, making it like a Parallax Wave with legs. I expect this guy will gradually increase in popularity, much like Flametongue Kavu did.
Black gets fifteen playable cards at four mana or less, with a average casting cost of 2.7 – and many of the higher costed ones require a heavy investment in black mana and/or swamps. Is monoblack back with a vengeance? My thought is no; black still needs aggressive weenies for that role, but I’d guess a core black deck with a splash of another color seems entirely possible. Black has had a supporting role of late – Torment might make it a main color.
Does RED’s alliance with black pay off?
ONE MANA (2):
Overmaster gives red yet another weapon against control-happy decks. It’s cheap, a cantrip, and a must-counter spell for blue if they don’t want to suffer the repercussions of the next instant or sorcery to come. Entirely maindeckable in the right metagame.
Grim Lavamancer is disappointing as a quick drop creature that’s much better in the mid- to late-game, but he may still find a home in the right deck.
TWO MANA (2):
Skullscorch adds another”punisher” card to red’s arsenal of cheap effects or damage – take your pick. This card will almost always be a cheap Lava Axe, so if burn decks become viable this will likely be in the card mix.
Devastating Dreams is the card I vote Most Likely to Be Cast After Overmaster. The power of Wildfire at a Firestorm cost, this card may help push counter-burn decks close to Tier 1 status.
THREE MANA (4):
Fiery Temper has two key features that make it highly playable – it’s an instant, and it deals three points of damage. Its madness discount is just icing on the cake, and sweet icing at that.
Longhorn Firebeast is another cheap red Punisher card and, like Skullscorch, will likely see play if good burn decks crop up.
Pitchstone Wall is notable as a unique defensive card, both protecting you on the ground (and noticeably built to beat Flametongue Kavu) and protecting a key card in your hand from pesky discard. I imagine this card would combine quite nicely with Wild Research to make darn sure you get to keep the card you tutor up.
Hell-Bent Raider is cheaply costed, but is generally weaker than most creatures being played in Type 2 right now. He might find a home somewhere.
FOUR MANA (3):
We see some quality burn here starting with Violent Eruption, a very efficient instant Pyrotechnics with a small madness discount.
Flaming Gambit is an instant X spell that has to be very good against creatureless decks… Or as a way to kill Morphlings.
Temporary Insanity is a red twist on Ray of Command, slightly more restrictive but generally just as useful.
Red gets eleven playable cards at four mana or less, with an average casting cost of 2.7 (hmm, just like black). The good red cards are also generally a little more heavy on red mana, meaning that red will need to be more than just a splash color in decks that use them.
Does black’s enemy color GREEN get the shaft?
ONE MANA (2):
Basking Rootwalla is a very playable, pumpable 1/1 that has the amazing madness cost of zero – which means whenever you might discard it you can just simply cast it for free. An instant creature for zero? How good is that? Pretty amazing, I think. A perfect complement to Wild Mongrel.
Green also gets its own cantrip counterspell hoser in Insist; much like red’s Overmaster, but it works on the next creature spell cast.
TWO MANA (1):
Nostalgic Dreams is amazing as a very cheap Recall for green, simply exchanging cards in hand for cards in the graveyard for GG. Typically, the trick to playable Regrowth and Tutor effects is to make them cheap enough in mana so that you can then play what you went to the trouble of putting in your hand, and Nosy Dreams fits the bill. But is this the only decent two-mana card? Yep. Wizards continues the trend of neglecting green’s two-mana slot due to the existence of Birds and Elves to ramp up green’s mana curve, seemly ignoring the fact that not all green decks want to have to rely on mana acceleration in order to play their spells.
THREE MANA (4):
Krosan Restorer, for the same mana cost as the venerable Ley Druid, is a little heartier and has the amazing threshold ability of being able to untap three lands! Imagine an Extended deck with a Gaea’s Cradle, a Deserted Temple, and a Thawing Glaciers on the board, and a Krosan Restorer out with Threshold!
Anurid Scavenger is nicely-costed for a 3/3 with a manageable drawback and protection from black, which could be very significant.
As a sideboard card, the Blightcutter could be very huge in the right (i.e. black) metagame.
Far Wanderings is a more expensive Rampant Growth, but with threshold it becomes a powerhouse mana accelerant and deck thinner.
FOUR MANA (2):
Centaur Chieftain is a mini-Overrun with legs if you have threshold. He has haste too, so he gets to run with the rest of your trampling, pumped-up gang.
Nantuko Cultivator has the very useful coming-into-play ability to cycle extra lands in hand for +1/+1 counters and lets you draw a card. I’m already thinking about combining this with Upheaval or Storm Cauldron.
Green only gets nine playable cards under four mana (and that’s stretching it a bit), with an average casting cost of 2.7. I guess in the”black” set, the enemy color is going to starve a bit.
Does Black’s mortal enemy WHITE feel the love?
ONE MANA (1):
Pay No Heed is a very cheap way to neutralize any non-Urza’s Rage damage, whether it’s being done to your creature during combat or whether it’s a Fireball to your dome. If it were only a cantrip!
TWO MANA (3):
Being a cantrip goes a long way towards making Equal Treatment a decent card, though it’s a little less flexible than other protection spells, it’s basically worth playing to almost neutralize any damage done that’s more than 2 points.
While you won’t generally gain any card advantage from it, Vengeful Dreams’ ability to remove attackers from the game is a nice way to handle regenerators, as well as helping keep graveyards emptier for threshold considerations.
Morningtide is going to be a major player in the new Type 2, since it completely hoses all of the lovely graveyard strategies we’ve had the pleasure to use and abuse since Odyssey hit the scene. Psychatogs are likely to be a lot hungrier and leaner with the existence of this card. Is this card the weapon White Weenie needs to make a comeback?
THREE MANA (2):
I’m not sure where Reborn Hero will find a home; is he a beatdown critter that can’t be Wrathed or Deeded away without some work? Is he a control creature, similar to how Nether Spirit was used? I have no idea, but he’s cheap enough and potentially powerful enough to see some play. He obviously needs threshold to rise above mediocrity; can White Weenie achieve that?
Cleansing Meditation is Tranquility for white, with the added bonus of giving you any of your own enchantments that were destroyed by it… Providing you have threshold.
FOUR MANA (1):
Major Teroh is there to provide a one-way Wrath to opposing black hordes. The question is, are there going to be opposing black hordes that you’d want to Wrath?
White gets a very lackluster seven playable cards under four mana, with an average casting cost of 2.4 – a little lower on the curve than most of the other colors, but still an overall weak selection for the other enemy of Black.
Is Black’s other ally BLUE being slighted?
ONE MANA (1):
Obsessive Search is Torment’s Opt, a little cantrip with a cool ability thrown in. Its madness cost is cheap too, and I expect Merfolk Looters will be pitching this guy for some time to come.
TWO MANA (3):
Turbulent Dreams is like a super-powered boomerang for non-lands – and if there’s any color that’s likely to have extra cards to pitch, it’s blue. Its sorcery speed hurts some, but it’s still cheap on mana. Probably better if you’ve got your own 187 creatures to bounce back, too, like maybe a Mystic Snake.
Alter Reality benefits from some color specifying cards from Invasion block – and while it won’t necessarily be a maindeck card, it’s possible that it might see play as an anti-sideboard card, like Magical Hack was used to turn around Choke.
The ability to achieve threshold at instant speed makes False Memories very interesting. It might even combo well with green’s Nosy Dreams and flashback cards.
THREE MANA (3):
Ambassador Laquatus has gotten some attention for his supermilling ability; however, decking as a win strategy has taken a kick in the teeth with Odyssey’s mechanics of flashback and threshold. He may see some use as a way to enable your own graveyard.
Circular Logic is a solid counterspell for any deck that even remotely fills the graveyard with cards, and its extremely cheap madness cost is a bonus for a deck with instant ways of discarding cards.
Llawan is powerful in a narrow way, and seems like a solid sideboard card for the right metagame – and grist for creative deckbuilders, too.
FOUR MANA (2):
Plagiarize gives blue the ability to steal something it’s never stolen before – target player’s draws for the turns! Full-tilt combo with Teferi’s Puzzle Box, and great synergy with Ody’s Looters and Cephalid Coliseum.
Possessed Aven is a good threshold creature in the color Most Likely To Achieve Threshold. A 4/4 flier for four mana, his activated ability is also decent in an environment with Psychatogs and Finkels running around.
Blue gets nine playable cards at four mana or less, with an average casting cost of 2.7 (hmm, I’m seeing a pattern here). A good counterspell, a combo card, and a big flier, but not much else.
SUMMARY: Looking at the overall picture, it looks like black does indeed get the lion’s share of the playable stuff – but the surprise is that red is not too far behind with a smaller card pool. Green and blue are tied for third place, and poor white comes in dead last. The average casting cost of these cards are slightly higher than their Odyssey counterparts, but it still looks like most of the action is happening at around the three-mana mark.