I’m hoping to gain insight into how M11 Limited will play out, and on the design of the set in general, by comparing what we’ve gained to what we’ve lost from M10 and considering how these changes should impact the dynamic of the set. If nothing else, this will give me a chance to discuss the new cards. Pretty straightforward task, not much intro needed… let’s get to it.
White commons from M10 that are not in M11:
Those have been replaced by:
To compare these more directly, I think cards change roughly as follows:
I like this change. Ajani’s Mantra’s not good, but if I want some life gain for some reason, I’d probably prefer it to Angel’s Mercy. It’s at least a slightly more interesting card, particularly with Ajani’s Pridemate, and I like making the planeswalker’s names more common. Not a substantial play impact, since both cards are pretty bad.
In a way, White’s down a removal spell. In another way, Divine Verdict is almost like a combat trick, in that it only kills creatures that get into combat anyway. Yes, you have to have a creature of similar size, but the Jump effect helps a lot on surprise killing something, and half the mana is certainly nice. This card is a lot more flexible, and I’m pretty sure I’d usually rather have it in a deck. As much fun as it is to read people for Devine Verdict and not attack, I think Mighty Leap creates more interesting interactions in play.
Here we see the casting cost swing the other way to preserve the curve, and perhaps I should be comparing 4 mana instants and 2 mana instants, but these effects felt more similar. I’m pretty sure Inspired Charge is a big upgrade. It might not be as efficient as an early trick when you just want your one guy to eat their one guy, but +2 power for all your guys can be substantially game-changing. This card is not as subtle, and your opponent will often know it’s coming, because the effect is big enough that it’ll usually inspire an alpha strike that would be miserable otherwise. I think Glorious Charge was a bit low impact, so I’m happy with this change too.
Wild Griffin is clearly much more aggressive, and in general, that’s what you’re looking for in a 3 mana White flier.
Lifelink â†’ Goldenglow Moth
Another minor shift in bad lifegain cards.
Razorfoot Griffin was already amusingly good at ruling the skies, and now it’s just a little bit bigger. The extra toughness doesn’t matter all that much when you already have first strike though, so I think the card is actually about as good, as the times you can’t cast it because of the second White can be totally devastating. Fortunately, White makes up for it by only requiring a single colored mana in other places where it matters more.
I guess this is the “playable one-drop” slot, and here we get a relatively good aggressive one-drop rather than a relatively good defensive one-drop. I think that’s a good change, and I like that the direction White is going here in general (as seen on Mighty Leap, Inspired Charge, Wild Griffin, and here) is toward substantially more aggression. I think the “White Weenie” approach generally works better than the lock up the board approach, especially when you’re just “locking” it with lifegain and 1/3’s. Instead we get better evasive threats and better ways to push damage at the end.
These are very different cards, but I guess they’re both two-drops that want lots of copies of themselves. I hate good two-mana cards at common for Limited, so I’m glad to see Veteran Armorsmith go. I don’t really like cards that reward you for drafting them early and hoping to pick up more of them, and I think the Hawks could be a little annoying in Limited, but I find their Constructed applications interesting enough that I’m glad they’re in the set.
White picks up another four-drop instead of a three-drop, but note that this is the second non-flier that’s been upgraded to a flier. Moving Snapping Drake to White really pushes this White evasive racing plan. There are multiple good fliers across the curve at common in White, and Infantry Veteran makes blocking them even more difficult (and just adds a point of evasive power if you have another flier). White looks to be really seriously dedicated to this plan in this set.
Note also that the minor tribal theme in White has been removed, so you can stop worrying about creature types now. This would be bad for Palace Guard, except that I think he’s more valuable now as you don’t have the other soldiers to hold the ground, and there’s one less three-drop. He’s a good stopper while the fliers do their jobs.
Bad defensive cards are bad. I’m not really sure which is worse. I guess Tireless Missionaries are like that terrible exalted guy, but without Exalted. That’s pretty bad. Wall of Faith isn’t a huge loss though.
Interestingly, this is where we make up for Divine Verdict on the removal front, in a way. Harm’s Way can kill creatures that aren’t in combat, but only small creatures. Similarly, Mighty Leap isn’t killing anything much bigger than whatever you have around. Condemn can hit anything, but only if it’s attacking. I’m sad to see Harm’s Way leave. I think it was one of my favorite designs for a White card ever, and I remember being extremely excited when it was first spoiled. Condemn’s a great card, and almost as good in Limited, while probably much better in Constructed, but I liked Harm’s Way a lot. It’ll be interesting to see what ends up happening with this and Path competing for the same slot in Standard. There are a lot of arguments for both cards, and for more “pure” control decks, I’d certainly be tempted to switch to Condemn, especially if you have a reasonable number of other options for dealing with creatures.
What can I do? These lists of cards are pretty different. Either of these can be a pretty big brawler, and each have relevant synergies within White. Ajani’s Pridemate would be substantially better if Soul Warden wasn’t leaving the core set, and as things are, I think it often won’t do anything special. I guess this means people who want to try to build around it with Ajani’s Mantra might get to pick up extra Pridemates later, but he’s uncommon, so I wouldn’t really want to go for that. I have a feeling the Pridemate will be substantially worse than Rhox Pikemaster in Limited. As for Constructed, in the world we live in now, the Pridemate would merely be “good” if it automatically grew every turn, so it seems like it’s probably too much work.
Righteousness â†’ Nothing
We’re down an uncommon, and I’m calling it this one. I assume this is because there are more uncommon artifacts, but I haven’t actually checked that yet. Losing Righteousness doesn’t really seem all that significant.
I can play my answer to enchantments maindeck, and instead of siding it in for game 2 and 3 if I see that you have a lot of good enchantments, I can just hold off on playing him on turn 2 if I know you’ll have some targets later. Cool. I like moving mass enchantment removal back to Green and giving White good spot removal for enchantments, and this guy’s about as good as it gets.
These cards have nothing to do with each other except that they’re both three-drops. Undead Slayer was pretty lame. It really hated Black in a way that wasn’t very fun, but it wasn’t even good enough to try to take because they could usually kill it. It had some good flavor that was somewhat mitigated by having a really lame (overly blunt) name and awkwardly wordy ability. Roc Egg is some sweet Time Spiral style throwback action to both Rukh Egg and Roc of Kher Ridges. At first I was skeptical about this card being any good, but looking at how dedicated White is to the plan of winning with fliers, an 0/3 that they really don’t want to kill can make it hard to race on the ground, and if they do kill it you get another efficient flier, which is probably exactly what you wanted.
Captain of the Watch apparently came in just a little too high on the curve for Constructed, so I’m happy to give the slot to a different White lord to see if we can do any better. Knight Exemplar leads an awesome tribe with an awesome bonus ability, so I’m optimistic, even if I don’t actually want to play a Knight deck these days. In Limited, Captain of the Watch was just ridiculous, especially with all the other White cards that cared about Soldiers. Knight Exemplar will be fine, but nothing special, although it will be awesome every now and then to actually have an indestructible White Knight.
Alright, I can’t actually keep this up. Rares are too unique for the side by side. Even above I didn’t know if I should be comparing lords or 6 mana bombs. Rares collectively don’t have a huge impact on Limited (although rares individually certainly do). Let me just talk briefly about the rares I think I interesting for Constructed.
We lose Open the Vaults just in time for Scars of Mirrodin. I can only assume that’s for the best, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that fuels an extended deck that will never have been a Standard deck in the distant future. The rest of the rares we’re losing never really mattered too much.
In exchange we pick up Leyline of Sanctity, which seems ridiculous. That effect was good enough to see sideboard play without letting you target if you wanted to, and without the ability to play it for free. And this is no ordinary card to be able to play for free. There’s a HUGE difference between starting the game with this and playing it on turn 4. ALL their burn is dead, all their discard is dead. Those are colors that have no way to get this card out of play. This card is seriously, dangerously powerful, and I’m just glad I’m not the kind of person who was hoping to be trying to burn my opponent out. This card can just devastate all kinds of decks, without you even needing to protect it. If you can protect it, even a huge number of combo decks are almost hopeless.
Beyond that, the next best card we’re getting (ignoring Day of Judgment, because we were going to have it for the length of M11 anyway, because of Zendikar) Is Sun Titan. I liked him more before some of the other Titans stole his thunder, but he’s still a solid man. Ultimately, I’m guessing he’ll mostly pick up where Captain of the Watch left off, and just quite not good enough to be played regularly, but it wouldn’t take many 3 mana permanents that sacrifice to do something good to turn that around.
Serpent of the Endless Sea
That’s a serious overhaul.
That’s actually a serious upgrade on 2 mana “do nothing” enchantments. Exactly how bad is Jace’s Erasure? It doesn’t look like a real card, but on the other hand, there have been Limited formats where Millstone was a bomb. This may work half as quickly, but it doesn’t require any effort to keep going, and it’s common so you can get multiples, and Tome Scour is still around if you really want to push it. You won’t always play it, but if your deck is looking good at living and bad at winning, I wouldn’t hate to have to look to this card to get it done.
Similar trashy merfolk bodies. 1/3 is probably a little better for blue than 2/1, but nothing to write home about.
This is just an unbelievably huge upgrade, such that I almost feel bad comparing them. The effect of the one-mana spell is better than the effect of the four-mana spell. Diminish is a pretty solid trick and reasonable Blue “removal spell.” It also makes me happy my random two-mana dork was a 1/3 instead of a 2/1.
If I’m going to spend a turn drawing cards, I’d rather do it in a much more powerful way. Foresee might not smooth your draws the same way, but it finds you what you need, which is almost always two sweet business spells, and can get though a huge amount of garbage. This is another huge upgrade. Blue looks to be doing extremely well so far, which shouldn’t come as a surprise at this point.
One less toughness for a chance to mise some cards? That’s really all it costs us?
It’s possible that I should be comparing Illusionary Servant to Cloud Elemental, but I think the “skulking” drawback is more significant. On the one hand, it sucks that I can be out a four-drop instead of a three-drop, on the other hand, I kind of wanted to hold off on the three-drop to give you time to use up your targeting spells anyway, so I don’t mind needing to wait for the bigger body. I think these cards are pretty similar in power level. Both are huge if you can make them stick.
Sick upgrade. None of the cards on the list look to be in a similar slot, so after seeing what else lines up, I’ll come back to this issue.
Odd that it comes to this, but after lining everything else up, this seems to be what happened. The cards are extremely different, but powerful Blue card replaced powerful Blue card. I can only assume Merfolk Looter is slightly more powerful in core set Limited, but Augury Adept is also insane, and should be more fun.
I guess these cards are different.
Augury Owl is much better, and doesn’t make you want to concede when you keep it and two lands and don’t see another land on top, which means it has to be more fun.
Huge Upgrade. I’m really happy to get rid of the “basic land types matter” mechanic at common in the core set. I don’t like encouraging mono color decks in that way here. I think it makes drafts a lot worse. I also like that Blue finally has a serpent that isn’t terrible.
Much less aggressive, much better on defense. Huge against the aggressive White decks, rather than stuck trading down against a two-drop or getting dominated by a first striking four-drop. If I have cards like Foresee, I’d much rather have the 2/4.
More help against the White Fliers. I didn’t really want to block many non-fliers with a 2/2 flier, since I’d usually be trading down, so I’m quite happy to have an extra toughness here.
I guess the bad one-drop is slightly worse?
I’m kind of shocked by the increase in power level here compared to M10 Blue. White got a bit better, but this is amazing.
Three toughness will certainly hurt when you lose your game winning five-drop to a Lightning Bolt, but in exchange, it completely dominates the skies, and it’s splashable. Overall, probably a slight upgrade.
If I’m paying three mana to put a good card in my hand, would I rather get an artifact from my deck, or a spell from my graveyard? Probably the spell on average, but the Artifact if I have a bomb. I think most of the time I won’t play either one. Call to Mind is a little more interesting in Constructed, especially with Pyromancer Ascension.
I can’t say it’s a fair comparison, but my alternatives weren’t great. I guess in a way, these are both “finisher” type cards… sort of… I’ll take the 3 cards, for what it’s worth.
Water Servant’s a color card. I like that the original elementals were redone in dramatically more flavorful ways. Also, a 3/4 for 4 with good abilities is pretty sweet for Blue in Limited. Phantom Warrior’s not bad, but I think this is a win.
Telepathy â†’ gone.
I’m sad to see Mind Spring go. I’ve had fun with that card in both Limited (where I felt like I kept getting it too late) and in Constructed. I guess if that’s what has to go to make room for Time Reversal, I’m willing to give the more fun card draw spell a chance.
Time Warp is another card I’ve recently grown fond of that I never really cared about the first time around.
The cards we gain are much more interesting. First up, there’s Conundrum Sphinx, a card that doesn’t quite slot into anything obvious, but looks powerful enough that it should find a home eventually. It’s not big enough to be the winner in a ramp deck, like Mythic, and isn’t right for an attrition deck like NLB to take Vengevine’s slot. It’s just a solid midrange powerhouse. I imagine it would play very well with Augury Adept.
Frost Titan is disappointing.
Leyline of Anticipation is extremely interesting. Another Leyline that is a functional reprint of a four-mana spell (although this time it was just an artifact). This effect is so powerful. Amazing with creatures against attackers, amazing against control, it basically turns any deck into Faeries! If only you could reliably have exactly one in your opening hand…
Redirect. I’m happy to see this mechanic keep getting pushed until people finally start playing it. Is this one good enough?
Stormtide Leviathan. I hadn’t noticed this guy before. It’s not exactly better than Blazing Archon, but it’s not exactly worse either. Merfolk can still attack you in Legacy if they have Lord of Atlantis, and so can opposing creatures that were cheated into play, but an unblockable 8/8’s a much faster clock, and it still stops most attackers. Is this a reasonable potential reanimation target?
Viscera Seer is better, since it has power, and being able to sacrifice creatures is sometimes nice, but both cards are terrible.
Interesting that it shifts from evasion against non-Black to evasion against Black, but overall fairly similar power level, and I’m very happy to have a 2B rather than a 1BB card in this slot.
It’s a little awkward that I have to claim this is the swap that occurred, since it’s clear that Drudge Skeletons were removed for Reassembling Skeletons at uncommon, and Vampire Aristocrat became Bloodthrone Vampire, but for Limited commons, I’d rather look at how the two-drop changed. Interestingly, both creatures are generally pretty good on defense. Bloodthrone Vampire can hold off more creatures on the right board, and doesn’t require keeping mana up, but Drudge Skeletons can hold off a big guy indefinitely. Bloodthrone Vampire in RoE was much better than Drudge Skeletons have ever been, but there aren’t a bunch of tokens in M11, so it won’t be as good. Overall, I don’t think either card is great, and I think Bloodthrone Vampire might be a little worse, but I’m not sure.
I’d almost prefer to compare Kelinore Bat to Bog Raiders and Dread Warlock to Liliana’s Specter, since that keeps the casting costs the same, but the functionality of the cards is much more similar this way. Comparing the two sets, it’s clear that Black as a whole got better, since Specter is a huge upgrade over Bats, while Dread Warlock and Bog Raiders are of similar power level. Liliana’s Specter is good enough to play it even when Black isn’t your primary color, which is too bad, because it increases variance. This is why I don’t like 1CC being as common as it is, but this card, like Aether Adept, was certainly pushed to make up for its casting cost, and I guess it’s nice to have some incentive to pick a primary color and a secondary color so that you can get 10 Swamps to more reliably cast cards like this. As for this card more specifically, a 2/1 flier is a solid card in Limited, and automatic card advantage is a big deal in Core Set Limited particularly. Kicking a Shrieking Grotesque was always pretty awesome, and this card is basically the same thing.
Nightwing Shade requires much less Black mana to dominate a board the way Looming Shade could in mono Black, and in general, Shades aren’t about the early game, so getting a better body later isn’t a problem. Much worse in mono Black, much better in a two color deck – that’s a change I’m happy to see.
Pretty big power level hit here, but I like that Quag Sickness pushes mono Black less than Tendrils, even though it also needs Swamps. The reason is that it doesn’t give any payoff for overkilling, and mostly killing will usually get the job done. Also, you don’t need three-mana removal to kill creatures as large as four-mana removal. And you can play it early and not quite kill a creature, and then kill it later by playing another land. Without Tendrils and Looming Shade, the push for mono Black in limited is gone, which, as I’ve made clear, I think is a really good thing. This easily makes up for the gain in power level on the three-mana creature trades though, so I’d say Black is pretty close to where it was on power level overall, so far.
Awkward comparison, but Black had far too many three-drops before, which made Vampire Aristocrat and Warpath Ghoul much worse than they otherwise would have been. It’s good for Black that it gets spread over the curve slightly better, although a Giant Cockroach isn’t great. It almost always trades, the goal is to find a way to make it trade up rather than down. The fact that it trades so much makes it relatively good with Gravedigger.
These are functionally identical.
I love how easy Wizards makes this overall. Lost a one mana removal spell for one toughness creatures, yeah, it was replaced by the same thing. I like that it’s an instant and tapping a big guy rather than removing all the power from a 2/2 flier is another step toward pushing this format slightly more toward aggression than M10, which I think is an important direct for core set limited to go. I think this is a generally more fun, more interesting card to play with.
For the most part, I’m not looking ahead much while I do this; I’m just finding the best comparison as I go down the list, and then I get left with a shift in the big Zombie slot at the end. So we gain 2 toughness in exchange for entering the battlefield tapped. I really want to be able to block with my five-drop the turn I play it. On the other hand, I also really don’t want my five-drop to trade with a reasonable number of three-drops or die to a Lightning Bolt. I could be wrong, but I think I’d rather have the Legion.
Bog Wraith â†’ Gone
It’s pretty embarrassing that after playing with these cards for this long, I’m still not sure which is better. It’s probably Corrupt, since you’re basically +1 damage because the first Black doesn’t come off the top, but I feel like I often cast Consume Spirit for less than 6 mana. Oh well, it’s best when you can save it, and the +1 point is a pretty big deal. The extra point also means it’s much less likely to not work out if you don’t have enough Black, so I think it’s slightly more “splashable” if such a thing can be said about this kind of card.
An obvious strict upgrade. It’s interesting that they couldn’t find a way to move it to common to keep it in a cycle with the other Planeswalker’s enchantments, but I guess replacing Megrim came first and the flavor came later.
I’m not sure that the Skeleton is better in Limited, but it’s a much more unique and interesting card, and while it seems pretty low impact most of the time, I’m excited about its theoretical Constructed applications. Does the Dredgevine deck want another card that interacts with going straight to the graveyard enough to go here? It’s awesome with Eldrazi Monument, but it’s also slow. Great flavor, very bold for a Core Set. I’m a huge fan.
Some of those rares, like Hypnotic Specter and Mind Shatter, saw occasional play, but really Vampire Nocturnus was the only one to make a real impact. Captivating Vampire replaces both lords, but for the time being it gives Vampires a second lord in Standard. Will that be enough to push Vampires back to playable? Well, Lords are about the last thing you could ask for against Jund, but if Obstinate Baloth can keep Jund in check enough that its percentages lower, then Vampires could be a real contender.
Grave Titan is a monster that gives a lot of decks access to a much better finisher than they could have realistically asked for.
Leyline of the Void is the only Leyline to be reprinted, and the only Leyline to see a lot of play from the first time around. I’m happy to see it back. It’s a powerful answer to a lot of things that really need to be answered, and it’s a great option to have in the format, especially with Relic of Progenitus leaving.
Nantuko Shade is a card I don’t have a lot of hope for, to be honest. Yes, it looked absurdly powerful when it was first printed, but power creep etc, and I think most dedicated Black decks are going to want their creatures to be Vampires. I suspect Gatekeeper of Malakir and Vampire Hexmage usually come first. Maybe someone will manage to bring back Mono Black Control, and this guy will have a place, but I don’t see it happening. Threats like Vengevine, Eldrazi Monument, and Planeswalkers are just too awkward for black to deal with at the moment.
I really wish Necrotic Plague didn’t have to switch between players. I would like to see this effect in a playable form. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened this time.
Phylactery Lich doesn’t quite seem good enough with the amount of White removal around these days, but when Maelstrom Pulse rotates and we get more artifacts, we can have another look at him. I do find the idea of sideboarding him potentially exciting. He seems awesome against Red if they don’t know to pack artifact removal, for example.
This is taking long enough that I have to split it into two parts. I like to look this closely at what Wizards is doing and how the decisions about the Core Set appear to be being made. I hope I’m not the only one. I’ll finish this off next week.
Thanks for reading,