Ben Bleiweiss’s Guide to Everything Time Spiral, Part 2 (Blue)

Ben continues with his all-access look at Time Spiral. In today’s article, he focuses on the Blue cards in the set. Which Blue card does Ben think will be banned in Extended? How do you accurately cost a creature? When is breaking the color pie good, and when is it bad? Find out in today’s article!

[Part 1: White]

Welcome back to part 2 of my Time Spiral set review! Sorry for the delay — real life has a way of intruding on your writing time, sometimes. Sometimes, your writing time is intruded upon by your real life. Whichever you choose, I should be back on schedule, and ready to submit, for your reading pleasure, parts 2 through 6 of my Time Spiral set review.

For those just joining up, welcome! In my set review, I try to focus on all aspects of a set — not just the strategy (but there’s plenty of strategy talk), but also the history, design, artwork, and intangibles of the set release. For instance:

Ancestral Vision
Is Ancestral Vision any good? Some who have playtested with the card say it’s the best card drawing spell since ever, and others have said that it’s utter chaff. I tend to think that Ancestral Vision is good, especially compared to the current standard of Standard, Tidings. Both are sorceries, and one draws you four cards for five mana on turn 5, and the other three cards on turn 5 for one mana on turn 1. The drawback to Ancestral Visions? You need to wait four turns to see it hit, meaning the later you draw it, the less relevant it’ll be to the game.

Unless, of course, you cheat it into play.

The rules gurus at Wizards changed the rules on playing cards with no mana costs as of the release of Time Spiral. At this point, you can use alternate methods (read: Isochron Scepter) of playing spells with no mana costs (read: Evermind) without having to cast them. Isochron Scepter (and Panoptic Mirror) won’t affect the suspend cards in Time Spiral (the Mirror is too slow, and the Scepter needs instants), but there is one actively-played Extended card that will break Suspend cards in half.

Mind’s Desire.

Mind’s Desire was already close to a Tier 1 deck in Extended, and the additions of Lotus Bloom, Ancestral Vision, and Wheel of Fate will probably push this deck into restrictionville. The reason is twofold: All three of those cards help set up the Desire, and all three of those cards do insane things once the Desire goes off. These three spells were created without a mana cost for a reason — you need to trade time for mana as a resource. When this part of the equation is taken out, bad things happen.

Ah, the Shrink mechanic. The ability to reduce the power of creatures has bounced all over the place on the color pie, from Black to Green to Blue. Shrink, Fyndhorn Pollen, Briar Patch, Torment, Greel’s Caress — these were ways that creatures were neutered, without actually killing said creature. It made sense to shift the ability out of Black — after all, Black is fine at just outright killing creatures, or reducing both power and toughness.

So why did this ability move into Blue? Wizards needed a way for Blue to affect combat in Limited, and the previous abilities were bounce and tapping/untapping. White has creature pump, damage prevention and damage redirection; Black can kill creatures outright; Red can kill creatures outright or steal creatures for a turn; and Green has creature pump.

According to my list above, this is an ability that should have stayed in Green. On the other hand, Green already has too many problems with Limited-only useful effects (creature pump), so maybe its best that they didn’t clog up Green slots in sets with more Limited, non-Constructed worthy chaff.

Brine Elemental
The biggest problem with Morph is that you know, 99% of the time, what the morph creature is. Each color only has a couple of playable morph creatures, so if your opponent is playing Blue/White in Extended, chances are that you’ll be seeing Exalted Angel, and not Voidmage Apprentice. This holds true in all non-Blue colors for Time Spiral — that Green morph is going to be Thelonite Druid and that Red morph is going to be Fortune Thief — but Blue has a lot of morph tricks. Willbender is one of the few responses allowed to split second spells (morph doesn’t use the stack), Voidmage Prodigy might be a good surprise Counterspell, and there are at least two other playable Blue morphs in this set. Brine Elemental is not one of those.

I, for one, am glad this spell was printed. Years ago, Wizards of the Coast said they were going to make an effort to dial down the power level of countermagic, and the proceeded to stuff the environment full of the most mana-efficient Counterspells in years. Mana Leak, Remand, Rune Snag, Hinder, Spell Snare, Voidslime — this is less powerful than previous Counterspells how? This set adds Mystic Snake, Draining Whelk, and Cancel to the pool of available ways to counter target spell, but at least Wizards is acknowledging that maybe, just maybe, it’s time to make Mystic Denial the base to cost other Counterspells around.

And yes, I know Mystic Denial only counters creatures and sorceries. In a Portal environment, that means it counters everything. This will also be played as much as Hinder was played, since they are both three-mana hard counters for Blue.

Careful Consideration
Which is better: Careful Consideration or Fact or Fiction?

Careful Consideration:
You always end up with two-to-three cards in your graveyard.
You get to choose which of four cards you keep.
You always get the best card, if you only want one.

Fact or Fiction:
You see one more card.
You can end up with card advantage, if you get the two, three or four-card pile.
It costs only a single Blue to cast, so it’s more easily splashable.

That I am even comparing the two cards should give you an indication of how highly I think of this spell. I will state, for the record, that Blue got the best cards in Time Spiral, and in the largest quantity. Careful Consideration enables Madness (possibly relevant in a Tog build with Circular Logic).

The biggest surprise, from a dealer’s perspective, has been the popularity of Doubling Season. It has ended up as one of the most popular and expensive cards in the Ravnica block. Clockspinning is kind-of-half of Doubling Season, with the added bonus of speeding up or slowing down suspended spells. Will there be a viable Clockspinning deck in any format? Probably not — Jhoria’s Timebug seems like a better choice if you’re going the “cheat Suspend” route. Still, this card will be extremely popular with casual players or in group games. Double Myojin divinity counters, anyone?

Coral Trickster
I never understood the reasoning behind killing Merfolk as Blue’s weenie tribe. The replacements thus far have been abysmal (Cephalids, Avens, Birds, Illusions). Giant squid indeed! The exception, Wizards, is extremely boring. Wizard is a profession, not a tribe. You can have Elven Wizards, Thrull Wizards, Saproling Wizards (I mold you for one!), Goblin Wizards, Cephalid Wizards, Aven Wizards, Bird Wizards… so I wouldn’t call Wizard an iconic Blue creature type.

Everyone seems happy with the return of Merfolk. Who cares if it makes no sense to have Merfolk fighting on land? It’s a freaking fantasy game, and if I can put Firebreathing, Flight and Galvanic Arc on DanDan and have him belch mama Bleiweiss’s chili-breath at passing 747’s, I can have a bunch of anthromorphic mermen duking it out with gorillas on the Plains.

Crookclaw Transmuter
Wizards of the Coast recently had a designer contest, and one of the questions was as follows:

3. Name a popular, existing mechanic, and explain how you would make it better.

This contest appeared before the release of Time Spiral, but I’m ineligible for entry eight ways to Friday. (For the record: I work for a Magic retailer, I work for a Magic tournament organizer, and I freelance for Wizards of the Coast. Okay, I lied — three ways to Friday. That’s more like one way to Thursday). I did start to write up some answers to send along to Aaron Forsythe, just to shoot the breeze, but I was sidelined by several other projects.

My answer to this question dealt directly with the Flash mechanic. My suggestion would have been to keyword the “play as an instant” mechanic as “Ambush,” and to make it a primarily Green ability. The argument is as follows: there are several allied-color bleeds on the color pie, including life gain (White/Green), Artifact hate (Green/Red), Enchantment hate (White/Green), land destruction (Red/Black and Red/Green), direct damage (Red/Black), card drawing (Blue/Black), flying creatures (White/Blue) and the such. Red is the only color that reliably gets haste creatures, but you could definitely make the argument that Green could bleed over into this ability.

Red is impulsive and rash (haste), but Green is the color most likely to stalk and jump out of nowhere (snakes, alligators, basically any predator in nature that uses camouflage or stealth). While I don’t think that you’d like to give Green first strike or haste, giving them the Flash/Ambush mechanic makes a ton of sense. For one, it would approximate haste, in a non-hasted form. If you Flash a creature into play at the end of your opponent’s turn, you will be able to attack with it at the beginning of your turn. This gives your opponent a small window to deal with the creature (especially if it has a tap ability) at the end of their turn (disadvantage to haste), but it also allows you to have all your mana up on your turn (advantage to haste).

In addition, it is a foil for Blue (anti-counterspell, since it taps them out at the end of their turn) and for Black (taps them out to kill the creature at the end of their turn), which would make it a perfect mechanic to have in Green. It would also open up a lot of design space for Limited and Constructed play, because you could have a lot of creature-positive spells (Giant Growth/your-own-creature-enhancing-type-things) piggybacked onto creatures, instead of having to take up slots with spells. I’ll talk more about this when we discuss the Green flash cards. For the time being, let me say this:

They gave the good flash spells in this set to Blue.
They gave the bad flash spells in this set to Green.
Crookclaw Transmuter is not one of the good flash spells.

There are no Magic artists as polarizing as Drew Tucker. The foremost impressionist artist in Magic, Drew turned off a good many people with his non-traditional takes on fantasy cards. I happen to be a fan of Drew Tucker, and Dandan is one of my favorite pieces of Magic artwork, period. Many people glance at this particular piece and think “what is Dandan? Boats? A lake?” They don’t even register the hint of a giant fish, barely shaded, advancing on the boats from below. Great artwork, Dandan.

Dandan is also a great Blue-on-Blue card. There are two Standard-legal creatures that have four power for two mana — Dandan and Imaginary Pet. Imaginary Pet isn’t going to attack on turn 2.

Given the burn currently in Standard, it might be possible to run Dandan maindeck. There isn’t a Frostling or a Mogg Fanatic (the closest is Icatian Javelineers), so Red will have to overkill Dandan to get through (Volcanic Hammer, Shock, Char). The magic toughness in Standard right now is five (out of Psionic Blast and Char range), so there isn’t a huge difference between a one or two toughness creature if you plan on blocking half of the time. Dandan takes down Phyrexian Ironfoot, Burning-Tree Shaman, and other nasties. With all the Ravnica shocklands floating about, Dandan will probably be able to attack a good portion of the time as well. Don’t overlook Dandan as a contender for States.

Deep-Sea Kraken
I wouldn’t expect Tidal Kraken to be played in non-Reanimator builds. I wouldn’t expect it to be played in Reanimator builds either, as there are much better choices for large monsters (i.e. Akroma). Deep-Sea Kraken lets you cheat the mana costs on Tidal Kraken, but at the cost of nineish turns. Let’s say you suspend the Kraken on turn 3 (and I’m sure Blue mages love tapping out to lose a card on turn 3). Without assistance, you’ll see Tidal Kraken on turn 12. If your opponent casts five spells, you’ll see Tidal Kraken on turn 7. This still doesn’t seem like a good deal, especially since you’ll almost never get to ten mana to hard-cast him if you draw him past turn 3.

In a group game, Deep-Sea Kraken is a new staple. The more players you have, the faster he’ll come down. Turn 4 Kraken, here I come!

Draining Whelk
Draining Whelk or Mystic Snake? I tend towards Mystic Snake, because a turn 4 counter is much more relevant to a turn 6 counter. Compare this to Overwhelming Intellect, which saw, at most, fringe play. As a Blue mage, I’d probably want to draw 2-5 cards, plus counter a spell, rather than put a 3/3 to 6/6 flyer into play, plus counter a spell. Even more, this card is horrible against aggressive decks. If you survive to turn 6 against White Weenie with Draining Whelk in hand, what are you going to get? A 2/2 or a 3/3 creature, after you get smacked about by Suntail Hawk, Savannah Lions, Soltari Priest, Knight of the Holy Nimbus, and the such?

Draining Whelk also seems horrible in the Blue-on-Blue mirror. Teferi hits a turn earlier, and there are so many mana-efficient counters (Mana Leak, Rune Snag, Remand, Cancel) that I don’t really see a place for a win-more card like this.

Dream Stalker
Evil monkey. No soup for you.

Drifter il-Dal
Okay, hold on. Let’s go back a second.

Dream Stalker
This isn’t the typical set review, so I’m not going to dismiss Dream Stalker out of hand. Let’s compare him to another Blue creature that saw block play years ago.

Arctic Merfolk (U1, 1/1)
Creature — Merfolk
Kicker: Return a creature you control to its owner’s hand.
If you paid the kicker cost, Arctic Merfolk comes into play with a +1/+1 counter on it.

Remember when I said that five was the Magic number for toughness in an environment filled with Char and Psionic Blast? Well, Dream Stalker not only has that toughness, but it also has a point of power. Unlike Wall of Roots, Dream Stalker can block and kill those pesky Savannah Lions and its ilk. In the late game, Dream Stalker can also get you second use out of things like Mystic Snake, Avalanche Riders, Azorius Herald, Carven Caryatid, Coiling Oracle, Court Hussar, graft creatures of all shapes and sizes, Faith’s Fetters (notice: it returns permanents, not just creatures), Gemstone Mine, Icatian Javelineers, Loxodon Hierarch, Nekrataal, Patagia Viper, Plaxmanta, Ravenous Rats, Sage of Epityr, Serrated Arrows, Spike Feeder, Tivadar of Thorn, Viridian Shaman, Wood Elves, Yavimaya Dryad, and Stalking Yeti — and these are just the playable possibilities here. There are plenty of one-drops that you can feed the Stalker (Flying Men, Sage, White guys, Red guys) to get a 1/5 blocker on turn 2. Don’t dismiss Dream Stalker out of hand, thinking that you’ll always return a land on turn 2, setting yourself back a land drop. Use him to your advantage, and have the biggest turn 2 blocker in the format.

Drifter Il-Dal
Spindrift Drake was never really played, but it appeared in formats that began with Mogg Fanatic and Cursed Scroll, and ended in a format dominated by turn 2 kill combos based around Tolarian Academy and Memory Jar. Will Drifter il-Dal fare any better? Possibly, as Blue and Blue/White has quite a weenie base to build around now, and I don’t think you can overlook the importance of being able to drop evasion Savannah Lions for the same mana cost. The upkeep makes it prohibitive to drop if you plan on using Counterspells for backup, but if your plan is turn 1 guy, turn 2 Drifter plus guy, turn 3 Counterspell, you’ve probably got four-to-five power worth of evasion on the board by turn 3.

Errant Ephemeron
Pop quiz: What’s the correct mana cost for a 4/4 flying creature?
The answer? Eight mana.

Back in the day, someone developed a system that explained the way that creatures were made by R&D. I wish I could give credit to that person (and if anyone can point me towards the original usenet post where this information is contained, I’d love to see it!), but here’s how the system went:

+1 CC for every point of power
-1 CC for one toughness. +1 CC for every point of toughness above two.
+1 CC for minor abilities (trample, first strike, haste)
+2 CC for evasion abilities (flying, unblockable, shadow)
+2 CC if able to produce mana (Llanowar Elves)
+2 CC if minor creature removal (Mogg Fanatic)
+3 CC if repeatable creature removal (Orcish Artillery)
+4 CC if repeatable creature removal at no drawback (Visara)
-1 CC for a minor drawback (Islandhome, Erhnam Djinn)
-2 CC for a medium drawback (Juzam Djinn, Orcish Artillery)
-3 CC for a major drawback (Lord of the Pit)

One colorless mana = 1 point
If a card has only one colored mana, that mana = 1 point
If a card has two colored mana (GG, for instance), each mana = 1.5 points
If a card has three or more mana (GGG for instance), each mana = 2 points.

Using this formula (which has drawbacks, but still can be applied today), you can pretty much tell which creatures are above or below the curve. Most of these formulas apply more to Limited play than Constructed play. Let’s examine some vanilla creatures to see how they stack up:

Savannah Lions: +2 for power, -1 for toughness = 0 points (W)
Grizzly Bears: +2 for power, -0 for toughness = 0 points (G1)
Grey Ogre: +2 for power, -0 for toughness = -1 point (R2)
Trained Armodon: +3 for power, +1 for toughness = 0 points (GG1)
Hill Giant: +3 for power, +1 for toughness = 0 points (R3)
Silverback Ape: +5 for power, +3 for toughness = +2 points (GG3)

By this formula, some of the best creatures for Limited in the olden days were Serra Angel (six points mana for nine points worth of creature (four power, two toughness, two flying, one vigilance), Mahamoti Djinn (seven mana for eleven points worth of creature) and Shivan Dragon (seven mana for eleven points worth of creature). Compare this to Errant Ephemeron:

+4 points for power, +2 points for toughness, +2 points for flying = 8 cost.

Even at seven mana, you’re getting a creature that is still below the curve (should cost UU5). Does the suspend cost of U1 and four turns make up for this? Possibly — at that point, you get a 4/4 hasted flyer, which should cost nine (+4 power, +2 toughness, +1 haste, +2 flying = 9 mana). Compare this to Volcanic Dragon, except you had to tap out to play Volcanic Dragon — you can simply sit behind countermagic once the Ephemeron hits the board.

Just something to consider, though I personally wouldn’t play the Ephemeron. There are better things to drop in Standard right now with that mana, even with the suspend cost.

Eternity Snare
Eternity Snare is missing a line that says “when Eternity Snare comes into pay, tap the creature it enchants.” Dehydration was barely a good card, and I don’t see how throwing an extra two mana on it in exchange for a card makes it better. Couldn’t this have cost five, so it’d at least be a Limited option?

Fathom Seer
Is this Gush? Technically, it is not GushGush could be played for no mana, and could be played as an Instant from your hand. Fathom Seer, though, is the next best thing to Gush. You don’t need to return untapped Islands, so you can play a spell, and then return those lands. You can drop Fathom Seer on turn 3, and you get a 1/3 blocker plus two cards. I can definitely see this getting love in combo decks. There are better card-drawing options right now for control (and control doesn’t want to lose the land drops), howzabout this guy in a Legacy Enchantress build?

Fledgling Mawcor
I can definitely see Fledgling Mawcor getting played out of the sideboard in a White Weenie heavy metagame. In Tempest block constructed, Rootwater Hunter was the great hope for killing all those pesky one-toughness White creatures. White has a lot of pesky one-toughness creatures, and one of those is Icatian Javelineers. Prodigal Sorcerer might not do the job, but Fledgling Mawcor can. If you’re also looking to mix things up on the morph, Fledgling Mawcor does a good job off of the sideboard, along with Willbender, Voidmage Prodigy, and Vesuvan Shapeshifter. Yeah, this guy is far from Tier 1 — but he’s something to consider in a niche sideboard for specific metagames.

Flying Men
Suntail Hawk for Blue, except Suntail Hawk was more of a Flying Men for White. Either way, I only see one man in the artwork. I guess the other men are invisible. Maybe they’re hiding on the other side of the carpet. This is why R&D gives better art descriptions to the artists nowadays — not that Flying Men isn’t a great piece of art (I happen to like it), but it’s more of a Flying Man then a Flying Men.

Fool’s Demise
Very briefly, there was a combo deck that revolved around Composite Golem, Corpse Dance, and storm spells. The basic idea went as follows: you Corpse Dance Composite Golem, sacrifice it for five mana, and then use that mana to cast Corpse Dance with Buyback. Repeat this infinite (or an arbitrarily large number of times), then storm your opponent to death with the five mana you get from the last Golem sacrifice. Corpse Dance doesn’t exist anymore, but Fool’s Demise serves the same purpose — you pay five mana to get infinite storm count.

This version of Golem Dance has two drawbacks. One, you have to actually get Composite Golem into play. With the Corpse Dance version, you could just discard it, and then Corpse Dance it when you were ready to go off. Two, you can’t go off at instant speed. You need to cast both parts of the combo as sorceries (a creature and an enchantment) making it a lot more vulnerable than the Corpse Dance combo. Even so, it’s worth at least looking at a two-card infinite engine for Extended. I don’t think this one will make the grade (as opposed to Mind’s Desire and Enduring Renewal builds), but it’s good to keep this one in the back of your mind, just in case.

Ghost Ship
This used to see play in Blue Skies back in the day, and Mike Flores was a huge fan. I believe he had a deck that abused the heck out of Nevinyrral’s Disk (Boomerang, Reality Ripple), and used Ghost Ship as one of the main creatures in the deck (since it could survive the Disk).

Back then, the magic burn number was three (Lightning Bolt and Incinerate). Nowadays, it’s four (Char and Psionic Blast). For this reason alone, I don’t see the regenerating Azure Drake making a big splash in Standard. I also wouldn’t play in fear of those two spells — plenty of decks will only be using one or the other, and they only will have four copies to use per game. You have to keep such things in consideration when testing, but you can’t live in fear of them. Nobody stopped playing Affinity because there were 1,000,000 artifact removal spells in Standard — they just played the best deck possible. If Ghost Ship belongs in the best deck possible (or one of the best decks possible, since Standard will be pretty open at States), play it.

Giant Oyster
This is why we don’t love Homelands.

Probably nifty in Limited, but none too exciting in Constructed. This card will get you strangled in group games. Nobody like Humilityworld.

Poor Green. Isn’t Green supposed to be the color of fatties? You’d think so, but Green isn’t the color that gets the largest creature in most sets anymore. That’s a thought for a different article.

Looter Il-Kor
Jeroen Remie says that Looter il-Kor is worse than Thought Courier. I’d tend to disagree with that statement. Both come online turn 3, but one of them swings for one, while the other does not. Outside of Quicksand and Desert, there aren’t any played removal spells that will take care of one and not the other. Thought Courier hasn’t seen play in quite some time, so I wouldn’t expect Looter il-Kor to break great waves either. Not bad, but you have better options on turn 2.

Lord of Atlantis
And thus completes the Lord cycle, consisting of Goblin King, Lord of the Undead, Field Marshal, Elvish Champion, and Grizzly Bears for Blue. I don’t count Zombie Master — he’s just a wacky funster who isn’t a true lord.

Lord of Atlantis has seen play in several formats, depending on how much of a metagame emerges around Blue decks. Fish decks (originally based around Merfolk) have traditionally been the foil decks for Blue combo and control, although there aren’t really any good Merfolk in Extended or Standard right now.

Lord of Atlantis himself is a problem, because while the other lords cost three, Lord of Atlantis only costs two. Considering Blue is supposed to be the worst color at this sort of effect (creature pumping, cheap weenies), it’s problematic that it ended up with the best-costed of all the original Lords. This creates a huge design constraint on Merfolk, since you can’t push their power/toughness too hard, without Lord of Atlantis becoming too good for the color.

Magus of the Jar
Memory Jar is banned or restricted in every format in which it’s legal, and it was banned or restricted in every format in which it was previously legal. A lot of this has to do with the existence of Tinker, but never mind that — is Magus of the Jar any good? It has the same effect as Memory Jar, but it is summoning sick, and can be killed by creature removal spells. The three toughness is a huge boon (in the past, this probably would have been a 1/1 or a 2/2 creature, but Wizards really pushed the power level on the Magus cycle as a whole), and it still combos for about fourteen damage with Megrim. Magus of the Jar is worth testing with, but I think the best use may be in a burn deck, where you can draw 4-5 burn spells at a time when you can cast most of them (Volcanic Hammer, Char, Seal of Fire, Psionic Blast, Shock, Rift Bolt, madnessed Fiery Temper) and throw 15 damage to the dome per activation.

Merfolk Assassin
And they even reprinted War Barge! How considerate! How 1996!

Mistform Ultimus
I officially remove the existence of Mistform Ultimus from every Magic trivia question, and from lists of creatures of a given type. From this day forward, Mistform Ultimus only exists in play, and no longer exists in theory.

Let’s say you’re playing Solidarity (the High Tide deck) in Legacy. Your opponent is playing Goblins, and they bring in four Red Elemental Blast and four Pyroblast for game 2. In response, you take out four Reset and four Force of Will, and put in four Moonlace and four Ersatz Gnomes. Take that, silly Red deck!

Mystical Teachings
Okay. Take Merchant Scroll, and change it from a Sorcery to an Instant. Then, remove the color restriction on tutoring. Allow it to get several relevant creatures (Teferi anyone), and then throw in flashback for good measure. Is it good enough to see play? Signs point toward yes, though it’ll have to compete with Careful Consideration. Different cards for different decks though — I think Mystical Teachings will be underestimated at first, until some realize that it’s an instant-speed Diabolic Tutor with double-use in several U/B decks.

Ophidian Eye
Ophidian Eye plus Niv-Mizzet = two-card kill in Standard. Niv-Mizzet is playable on his own, and Ophidian Eye is certainly playable with the amount of evasion creatures that Blue has gotten in the past block. This also adds consistency to the Curiosity/Niv-Mizzet deck that is sure to pop up in Extended this coming season. Some will look at this card and go “overcosted Curiosity” but I look at this card and say “well, consider it an Enchantment version of Ninja of Deep Hours”. Remember, this also triggers off any damage — feel free to throw this on Gelectrode for hours of fun.

This probably belongs in that other TCG, as an Alliance Ally card. My tummy feels funny. You don’t touch the other elves like that.

Paradox Haze
Some Vintage players have considered the application of Paradox Haze in Stax decks — give your opponent two upkeeps, and they will lose permanents twice as fast as you. I tend to think of this as a win-more card for that deck — if they weren’t going to play Hatching Plans (draw three), I don’t see them playing Paradox Haze, when there are other cards (Time Vault) available that are seeing no play at all. In other formats, having a double upkeep doesn’t have a ton of uses (double Energy Chamber counters?), but this is definitely a card that casual players will have fun with.

Pirate Ship
Would lower their flag when Puff roared out his name.

Prodigal Sorcerer
After years of hemming and hawing about moving the Tim ability out of Blue and into Red, Wizards decides to print not one, not two, not three, but four creatures with the Tim ability in Time Spiral. You might as well call this set Tim Spiral.

On a side note, breaking the color pie is good clean fun. Breaking it five times in one set (Blue direct damage) and then saying “we bent the color pie a little” is kind of like lying. A lot.

Psionic Blast
The most important Time Spiral card isn’t from Time Spiral proper, it’s from the Time Shifted subset. Psionic Blast gives Blue decks access to great direct damage, and we all know that Char was seen in a ton of decks over the past year. If there was one Timeshifted cards that will be viewed as a mistake in the coming two years, it’s going to be this one. Blue/White, Blue/Green, and mono-Blue weren’t meant to have a Tier 1 creature removal spell (and one that can double as a finisher), and this outclasses most Black direct damage spells as well. Psionic Blast will be played in Extended and Standard, and it will be played in Control, Tempo, and Aggro decks.

Is it too good, in a vacuum? No. Is it too good, given the design constraints of Magic over the past half a decade, and given the current metagame in Standard? Yes. It’s not at the Jitte/Skullclamp level of mistakery, but it’s one tier down from there.

Psionic Sliver
A.k.a. Psionic Entity Sliver. If Sliver decks become good, this will probably be played as a one-to-two of. If you get your opponent to ten life or less, dropping Psionic Sliver will be the equivalent of a ten point fireball. On its own, it’s pretty bad.

Riftwing Cloudskate
See, now this is a Suspend card that I can get behind. The suspend time is equal to a mana cost, so if you throw it up in the air turn 2, or cast it turn 5, the only difference is haste, and not mana. I think that Riftwing Cloudskate has some potential in a Blue Skies type deck, though it’s better suspended on turn 2 than hard-cast on turn five. I’d pay U1 for a 2/2 hasted, flying Man-o’-War.

Sage of Epityr
The only thing that players wanted, over the past year, was Sage Owl. Or Spire Owl. Or some dumb creature for one or two mana that could reorder your library, and work well with Ninjas. But no, Wizards had to wait until Betrayers of Kamigawa rotated out of Standard to give Blue the ability to order their library on turn 1, and drop Ninja of Deep Hours on turn 2. Index doesn’t count — you don’t attack with Index. Seriously, this wouldn’t have been too powerful in Standard beforehand — maybe it even would have gotten Ninja of Deep Hours a little bit of love. One block too late, but still not a horrible little card, if you believe in the power of the Owl.

Screeching Sliver
Before Time Spiral, milling strategies were weak. After Time Spiral, Gaea’s Blessing makes milling strategies nearly impossible. One card at a time isn’t going to cut it, and neither are three-to-four. There are three situationally playable Blue slivers in Time Spiral, and Vision Charm Sliver (man, what is this thing anyhow?) isn’t going to cut it.

Shadow Sliver
Shadow Sliver, on the other hand, is. Anything that allows your entire tribe to alpha strike can’t be ignored, and Shadow Sliver lets you Falter the entire team, every turn. Moreover, with Squall Line and Hurricane (next year) entering the mix, this probably is better than Winged Sliver. It’s a lot harder to block/kill a shadow creature than it is to block/kill a flying creature, especially in Time Spiral.

People are going “woe is dredge, woe is dredge” because of Tormod’s Crypt and Withered Wretch. Tormod’s Crypt, in Standard, is a sideboard card. Game 1, I’m going to dredge to my heart’s content, and drop a turn 4 Avatar of Woe. Sindbad allows you to tap for a free dredge — if you don’t draw the card, you don’t discard. This makes it better than Thought Courier if your intent is to dredge multiple times a game. Would have been better if you had access to Sensei’s Divining Top, but whatcha gonna do.

Also note that Arabian Nights was the first set that should have had Legends, but the Legends rule didn’t come until Legends. There are several cards that would be Legends today, on name alone. These include:

Abu Ja’far
Ali Baba
Ali from Cairo
Bazaar of Baghdad
Island of Wak-Wak
King Suleiman
Library of Alexandria

Each of these nine cards represents a unique person or place, and therefore would be Legendary under current conventions.

Slipstream Serpent
All right, who is responsible for killing Islandhome as a keyword? Fess up, Wizards! Islandhome was nice and simple. From the 5th Edition Sea Serpent: Islandhome (If defending player controls no Islands, this creature cannot attack. If you control no islands, sacrifice this creature.) Short, sweet, to the point, and now defunct.

X”home wasn’t really used outside of Blue creatures, anyhow. Off the top of my head, I can think of one non-Islandhome home creature — Gorilla Pack. I just can’t wrap my head around that one either.

“Hey Bob, here come the apes!”
“Let’s walk out of the Forest and into the Plains!”
“Good work, Bob. The apes are just standing there!”
“Standing there, flinging poo!

I guess it’s hard to explain “X”home away except for Islands — thematically, you can understand the whole “fish out of water” idea. It’s hard to explain why a Knight will leave the castle, and stop at the foot of the Mountains. That’s called defender, not Plainshome.

I wouldn’t want to use a card to shave a mana cost off of Unsummon, but this might be used in combo decks that like using cards like Cloud of Faeries.

Spell Burst
Spell Blast was always behind the curve for Countermagic, so it’s only fitting that Wizards tries to upgrade it with buyback. I don’t want to be the one who spends UU8 to counter Savannah Lions twice. Disrupting Shoal didn’t work well, and that had the option of blindly hitting a spell for Force of Will cost.

Spiketail Drakeling
Spiketail Hatchling: Two for a 1/1 flyer with Force Spike. Spiketail Drake: Five for a 3/3 flyer with Mana Leak. Spiketail Drakeling: Three for a 2/2 flyer with Rune Snag. I tend to think that the Drakeling is more akin to the former than latter of the previous spike creatures, and is highly playable in a Blue skies/aggressive deck. It’s among the top three flying three-drops in Standard right now (other contenders: Hypnotic Specter, Drift of Phantasms, Skyknight Legionnaire, Vexing Sphinx, Stinkweed Imp, Shrieking Grotesque, in no particular order) and is better than Cancel if you’re aggro or Tempo.

Sprite Noble
If Kira, Great Glass Spinner wasn’t playable, neither is this. Force-feed this card to your opponent, and then tell them you like the Sprite in them.

Stormcloud Djinn
Arabian Nights introduced a whole slew of huge-ass creatures with drawbacks. These were Djinn and Efreets.

Green: Erhnam Djinn and Ifh-Biff Efreet (one a staple, the other playable)
Black: Junan Efreet and Juzam Djinn (one playable, the other a staple)
Red: Mijae Djinn and Ywden Efreet (Junky, and playable)
Blue: Serendib Djinn and Serendib Efreet (Blue would give their left eye to have a four-drop 5/6 flyer in Extended or Standard or Block, the other a staple)

Djinns and Efreets made a brief comeback in Mirage block, though very few of them were played (Rainbow Efreet, Wildfire Emissary, Fledgling Djinn and Waterspout Djinn were the main suspects). Djinns returned en-force in Invasion, as a Constructed unplayable cycle. Since then, there have been three new Djinns and Efreets in all of Magic: Djinn Illuminatus, Tidespout Tyrant, and Stormcloud Djinn.

I like Djinn and Efreet as the iconic large Blue flyer better than Sphinx. I don’t like Stormcloud Djinn. Here’s a trivia question: What do you get when you mix Electric Eel with Stronghold Zeppelin? The answer? Crap.

Stormscape Familiar
Probably would have been better if there weren’t ten Signets running around in Standard. I don’t see a combo deck that will really need this right now in Standard, and it’s less stable mana acceleration than, say Azorius Signet or Dimir Signet.

Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
This should have been a Green creature. This falls in line with a great tradition of Wizards of the Coast taking a Green mechanic that needs a lot of help, and making it into an uber-powerful Blue card. See also:

The people versus Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir (Making creatures uncounterable)
The people versus Meloku the Clouded Mirror (Making creature tokens)
The people versus Kira, Great Glass Spinner (Making all creatures untargetable)

This should have been a 3/4 Legend that cost GGG2. End of story.

Telekinetic Sliver
A.k.a. Opposition Sliver. One of the better Slivers in the set, and one that will realistically see tournament play. You drop Telekinetic Sliver, and your previous 2-3 drops all become Icy Manipulator. Now you control the board, and you also have the countermagic to keep your guys alive. Opposition was more versatile, but Telekinetic Sliver swings for two (or more) when it’s time.

Temporal Eddy
I don’t see this being better than the bounce available in both Standard and Extended, or better than Time Ebb/Temporal Spring. Temporal Bobby was out of town, but I hear he works much cheaper.

Think Twice
I think that Blue card drawing is probably better than this right now, between Whispers of the Muse, Telling Time, Careful Consideration, Ancestral Vision, Tidings, and Compulsive Research. If you’re milling yourself, it’s a free card for U2, at instant speed. It’s a delayed-payment Inspiration for UU3. It’ll probably see play in some decks (because you can break up the mana costs, and choose when you want to draw the second card), but that doesn’t make it great — just playable.

Tolarian Sentinel
Glowing Anemone. Hisoka, Minamo Sensei. Oboro Envoy. Sage Aven. Saprazzan Legate. Steamcore Weird. Wizened Snitches.

Thieving Magpie.

I’ll let you choose which pile Tolarian Sentinel goes into.

Stifle was the update to Interdict, except without interrupts in the rules anymore, Stifle couldn’t stop a player from reactivating said permanent. Stifle is a staple in several formats, especially since it is one of the few cards that can stop Storm. Trickbind shuts down multiple activations of a permanent (thanks to Split Second), stops Storm (through Force of Will), and costs a negligible amount more than Stifle. While Trickbind isn’t good against a first-turn fetch land, it’s better than Stifle in virtually every other situation — especially since the two-mana cost is negligibly more expensive than Stifle’s one, when you don’t need to worry about Force of Will.

Truth or Tale
This card is deceptively bad, meaning that it’s bad, period. People look at it and think “Fact or Fiction”, but with Fact or Fiction, you would always end up with the card you wanted most, no matter what. Truth or Tale always trades one-for-one, and you always don’t end up with the card you want most, unless your opponent is really bad. It only costs two, but Impulse is a much better option in Legacy/Vintage, and Telling Time seems a lot better in Standard/Extended.

Unstable Mutation
Playable somewhere between Moldervine Cloak and Giant Growth. Kills creatures with Defender over the course of 5-8 turns. The wizard in this picture should be arrested for indecent exposure.

Vesuvan Shapeshifter
A very playable morph creature, especially since it triggers “face-up” effects, such as Thelonite Druid, and Willbender. It also works as Clone to kill Legends, and can drop early for the 2/2 creature. I tend to think it’ll see play, but then again you also might want to have something better than your opponent, and not equal to what they have. The morph cost (only two) is what makes this a contender.

Viscerid Deepwalker
Sea Spirit ahoy! This card has Firebreathing, which according to R&D is something that a Giant is able to have, in certain mythologies. In this case, I guess it’s water breathing. Viscerid Deepwalker will hose you, boy oh boy!

Voidmage Husher
Probably not, but maybe? Trickbind, Voidslime, and Willbender seem better, if you’re really worried about this sort of thing.

Voidmage Prodigy
Ah, we get constipated Kai, and not pregnant Kai. Better than it was the first time around, due to there being less things that kill a passive X/1 — plus, if the Standard game is as control-heavy as it looks to be, this will trump other Counterspells off of the board.

Walk the Aeons
People seem less than enthused by Time Warp with Buyback, but I think that the cost is reasonable for the effect. Time Stop saw a little play, and this is a proactive Time Stop. I’d rather take two turns then take one turn and deny my opponent a turn.

Whispers of the Muse
This card was amazing in the past, as draw-go decks could sit on their butts, play lands that doubled as creatures and removal, and sit back behind a wall of countermagic. Nowadays, you have Quicksand, Desert, Urza’s Factory, a ton of good countermagic (Cancel, Mana Leak, Rune Snag, Remand, Rewind, others), so you’d think Whispers of the Muse would fit right in. I’m not sure it’s better than Telling Time, Careful Consideration, Think Twice, or another instant-speed Blue drawing/card selection spells now available. I could be wrong, but I’m sure that this will see play at States in some decks.

Better than the last time around, since it’s one of the only solutions to Split Second shenanigans. If Voidmage is Kai, Willbender must be Dirk.

Wipe Away
Better than Boomerang in all but the most dedicated of Tempo decks, since once you cast Wipe Away, the creature is just gone off of the board — no responses please! Eye of Nowhere saw a lot of play because of Wildfire decks, and this will suffer for not being a Sorcery (although having it be a sorcery would defeat most of the purpose of it being Split Second). I think a lot of people will underestimate the power of Wipe Away due to the sheer power of Sudden Shock, Sudden Death, and Krosan Grip, but they will come around. Oh yes they will!

That’s all for today — next up: Black!