Color Wheel This, Rosewater! The 8th Edition Blue Review

As I mentioned in the previous installment, the idea of the base set is to illustrate the strengths and weaknesses of each color. This is evident in the Blue in 8th Edition, so much in fact that I can imagine a designer muttering”color wheel this, Rosewater!” as he added yet another awful creature and unplayable rare under the Blue section. Here are particular things to look out for if you want to draft Blue…

Welcome to the second installment of my 8th Edition Draft Review, and thank you to all who responded to last week’s article both on the forums and via email. If you missed last week’s Black review, you can read it here. My Magic Online Limited rating has now dropped a full fifty points since I started playing this format due to the fact I have been trying out cards and color combinations for this review and have been occasionally forcing colors. So if you play me and I seem to be playing an aimless deck packing obscure cards (especially rares) then you know why. However I am finding it to be a great learning opportunity and 8th Edition drafts don’t seem to be diminishing in popularity yet, so I’m sure it is time and money well spent.

Anyway, for today’s installment we will be looking at the most loathed color in Magic.

8th Edition Blue

As I mentioned in the previous installment, the idea of the base set is to illustrate the strengths and weaknesses of each color. This is evident in the Blue in 8th Edition, so much in fact that I can imagine a designer muttering”color wheel this Rosewater!” as he added yet another awful creature and unplayable rare under the Blue section. Here are particular things to look out for if you want to draft Blue.

1) If you get cut off from Blue, give up the ghost quickly as it is probably the weakest color overall. It has reasonable evasion but its common flyers are inferior to White’s while counters have been weakened and card drawing is unexciting. Overall this makes Blue’s slice of the color pie seem pretty tame in 8th Edition Limited. However, if Blue cards are flowing, it can be a good partner to any color with the right deck.

2) Don’t expect any miracles in the rare slot. There are only a few rare bombs and a fair proportion of the Blue rares are unplayable. Where Blue really shines is the uncommons, with many good cards and a couple bordering on the ‘bomb’ category.

3) Blue has a lot of quirky cards which don’t always translate well into Limited play. As a result it has more unplayable cards than any other color. The good news (as mentioned above) is that a lot of them are rare which means that if you are a Blue drafter, the overall quality of your cards should not be affected too much. Both Blue and Black have eight commons that will always make the maindeck and six that never will.

4) There is plenty of bounce in the format and this can be used to great effect, especially in decks with no other real removal. However, it must be used to immediate advantage so as not to create card disadvantage.

5) Be aware of what Blue deck you are drafting. Some Blue cards are good in aggressive decks such as Coral Eel, Unsummon, and Wind Drake while some are great in a more controlling deck such as Horned Turtle, Remove Soul, and Treasure Trove. Make sure you draft a card that fits your deck, not always the strictly speaking”best card.”

In short, there is plenty there for the Blue mage and, as the set’s weakest color, it is one others will often shy away from giving you a clear run at all the premier commons. Here is an ordered list (best card first) of all the Blue cards in 8th Edition.

Mahamoti Djinn (r)

This card doesn’t do anything complicated. It doesn’t have a game ending special ability. It doesn’t cause mass destruction, screw up your opponent’s combat math or render him unable to play spells. It’s just a remarkably efficient vanilla flyer, which for only six mana can either shut down your opponent’s flying offense or just keep swinging until he dies. In short, it’s a fantastic card.

Confiscate (u)

Very few cards in Magic act as both a threat and an answer simultaneously and Confiscate is one of them. You take your opponents best creature and use it yourself giving you an automatic two-for-one. In this respect it is not dissimilar to Nekrataal except, instead of giving you a 2/1, it gives you your opponent’s largest or best creature. This is one of those cards that you are always happy to draw, regardless of the board position. After sideboarding your opponent may have access to Enchantment removal though so be careful you don’t set yourself up for a big three-for-one from your opponent if he Disenchants the Confiscate before the declare blockers phase.

Tidal Kraken (r)

Another big, uncomplicated creature. This guy demands your opponent either win or deal with it in three turns, which is exactly what you want from a card that costs you eight mana. On top of that, dealing with it is not going to be easy. Only a handful of non-rare spells will remove it on a permanent basis so for a lot of decks it’s a case of win in the next three turns or die.

Bribery (r)

While trying to order the Blue cards, I started a discussion amongst some friends on Magic Online as to whether Confiscate or Bribery was the better card. Many good points were brought up about these similar cards but eventually it was agreed by most that Confiscate was the better card. It offers a two-for-one that Bribery doesn’t and can act as an answer as well as a threat if something you can’t handle is beating you down. However, Bribery has its advantages too.

It can’t be nullified by enchantment removal and you can get the opponent’s best creature in the deck, regardless of whether or not it is in play. In fact, as a turn 5 play this is about as good as it gets as your opponent will often find themselves staring at their own Shivan Dragon or Serra Angel. Even if they manage to kill it then they are without their bomb unless they have graveyard recursion. Obviously its utility decreases as the game goes on, where it is never going to compete with a crippling Confiscate. However, a card slightly worse than Confiscate is still a damn fine card.

Air Elemental (u)

Yet another large, uncomplicated creature that will win you games. Costs one mana less than Mahamoti Djinn for one less power and two less toughness. The fact that this falls a number of places below Mahamoti Djinn is no slur on this creature, it’s just there are a lot of powerful Blue spells around the same power level. A 4/4 flyer for five mana is very efficient and, unchecked, this guy will win the game very quickly. If your opponent does have a flying defense, then the Elemental will normally be able to get a two-for-one or just sit back and play Defense against opposing flyers secure in the knowledge that the only non-rare one that can kill it unassisted is another Air Elemental.

Temporal Adept (r)

A card that can simply dominate the table once it gets going. Obviously the dream start is where you open with three Islands and then lock your opponent on three mana for the rest of the game. Unfortunately this requires a very good starting hand, while your opponent doesn’t have enough small creatures to force you to play some of your own. In short, it’s fairly unlikely. The next best scenario is that the Adept completely controls the mid-game by constantly bouncing their best, most expensive or most critical permanent while you slowly take control of the board and out-tempo your opponent.

In this situation she works as a slightly more versatile Puppeteer who forces your opponent to constantly re-spend their mana with the added nasty trick of being able to bounce herself when targeted by removal (although, of course, a smart opponent should be able to circumnavigate this).

Of course then we move onto the potential bad situations. First, the Adept comes out but your opponent has too much pressure so you can’t leave the mana open for the Adept. Alternatively you may never get to three Blue mana in the first place and you have just paid three mana for a vanilla 1/1. Of course as a 1/1 she is also rather flimsy, should your opponent have any kind of removal while she has summoning sickness. This is one of those cards that is very powerful, but only in the right conditions and it must be wielded correctly.

Archivist (r)

It is pretty tough to lose once this guy gets active, as the card advantage he generates is insane. Basically he is a walking Treasure Trove (a perfectly playable card) with no activation cost, which means that unlike Treasure Trove, he starts working for you on turn five. The good news for your opponent is that he is easy to remove and that it will take a while for him to win you the game. However, even if you only get one activation out of him and then a burn spell hits him, you have still achieved card advantage. That can’t be a bad deal.

Fleeting Image (r)

A seemingly uninteresting card that has a wide variety of applications as anyone who played with Skywing Aven in Odyssey Block Limited will be able to testify. Not only is the overall power of cards less in 8th Edition than in Odyssey, but unlike its Aven cousin, Fleeting Image will not cost you a card to return to your hand.

Early in the game this can be used as an efficient beatstick with the advantage that, if it is blocked by any of the numerous 2/1 and 2/2 flyers in the format, you can put damage on the stack and then return it to your hand to fight another day. It can also be used as a flying blocker with a kind of built-in regeneration. In the late game, it can really shine. You can use it for either of the uses above or possibly both if you have enough open mana. With seven mana open you can swing for two, return to your hand for 1U, replay for 2U and leave 1U open to return to your hand again once it has blocked. In short, while not exactly a game-breaking bomb, Fleeting Image is one of the best creatures you can play for three mana.

Puppeteer (u)

This guy comes very close to the Image’s power. The ability to tap your opponent’s best creature is great from either an attacking or a defensive perspective. When we get to White you will see how highly I rate Master Decoy and this guy is actually better. For an extra mana, he has the added flexibility of being able to untap guys as well as tap them, which makes a big difference. Your best guy can serve double duty as an attacker and a blocker and any creature with a tap ability such as Anaba Shaman or Crossbow Infantry can quickly become a major threat.

Thieving Magpie (u)

An old favorite in both Limited and Constructed and a very interesting card to boot. Obviously if this thing is left to rule the skies for too long, then it is a game-winner. Drawing an extra card per turn will almost always win you the game if it gets going early. Therefore we have to look at how likely this card is to get going. Blue and White decks should have little trouble stopping the Magpie with multiple 2/2 flyers that can block it indefinitely. Green decks can stop it dead with a Spider, although these are harder to come by. Red has little short of a Dragon that can get in the way and only a few bits of removal. Likewise Black has no common flyers that can block it with any degree of success and must also rely on removal.

So on the face of it, we have a card that is moderately easy to deal with. The reason this card is so good is the consequences if your opponent somehow doesn’t deal with it immediately. If this thing hits two or three times it could well put you so far ahead in card advantage that your opponent cannot recover. If your opponent does set up a defense? Well you have a slightly over-costed flyer that can indefinitely block one of your opponents 2/2’s.

Another intriguing use of the Magpie is as a great receptacle for creature enchantments. While these are traditionally bad from a card advantage point of view, they can be great on a creature that equates to card advantage on-a-stick. For example, you are playing a B/U deck against a B/W deck with loads of flyers. Turn 4 you play a Thieving Magpie and they respond with a Razorfoot Griffin. Turn 5, you play Unholy Strength on the Magpie and swing. They can either let it through, taking three damage and giving you a card or they can block it and lose their flyer. In both situations you still have a 3/4 flyer that has to be dealt with and you have already negated any card disadvantage it may cause you. Sounds good to me.

Concentrate (u)

Anyone who saw how highly I ranked Ambition’s Cost in the Black review won’t be at all surprised with how highly this comes in. It gives you the same three-for-one but unlike Ambitions Cost, you don’t have to pay three life for the privilege. Typically this is best played on about turn 8 when your hand has run out of steam and you cast this and possibly another threat as well on the same turn. However, this will be a welcome draw at any stage of the game.

Phantom Warrior (u)

Basically a Blue Severed Legion, only better. Play this on turn 3 and put your opponent on a ten-turn clock immediately. Better than most of the evasion in the format because it has unconditional evasion, you either remove or pacify the Warrior somehow or it will kill you. As well as being great in the early game in a beatdown deck, he is also good in the late game once most of the removal has been used up. Many, many 888 draft games come down to a creature stall where both the ground and the air have reached a stalemate. In this situation, Phantom Warrior is the trump card.

Deflection (r)

There was a saying in Onslaught Block Limited that if you flip a Willbender you are probably going to win. As sayings go, it wasn’t particularly memorable, but nevertheless it was true. Deflection is like a Willbender without Morph, and it is just as potent. Your opponent is bound to have at least a few targeted spells in his deck and so if you wait for your moment you will normally find an opportune moment to deflect.

All of a sudden your opponent Dark Banishes his own Craw Wurm, Giant Growth’s your Grizzly Bears or gives your Diving Griffin Holy Strength. If this card was common, it would not be too good but given it is rare, coupled with the fact that there are relatively few tricks in 8th Edition, players just won’t think to play around it. However, the problem with this card is that four mana is a lot to hold open in the mid-game in the hope that your opponent plays a target for it (Willbender only cost two and sat on the board). Often it will sit in your hand for turns on end hindering your development, while your opponent develops their board only for them to play their vital spell when you tap low for something else. Another card that has a lot of power but is tricky to optimize.

Fighting Drake (u)

In a format of 2/2 flyers, the 2/3 flyer is king and the fact that this guy is in fact 2/4 makes him even better, especially as he is costed very reasonably. Fighting Drake works best to either stop an opposing flying offense (in the same way that Giant Spider or Aven Flock can) or maybe to attack with impunity when your opponent has only one normal-sized flyer to defend with. Unfortunately, unlike Aven Flock, if your opponent has multiple flyers he can just gang block the drake creating a one-for-one trade, which makes the Drake not the best beatstick in the world. However for four mana this is still one of the most efficient flyers available.

Aven Fisher (c)

The best of the set of Blue commons, Aven Fisher comes in at 2/2 for four, i.e. one more mana than Wind Drake for the same stats. However, the true value comes in the inherent card advantage that Aven Fisher creates. They attack with Aven Cloudchaser, Diving Griffin, Dusk Imp or Wind Drake; you block with the Fisher and end up gaining a card out of the deal.

Alternatively you can attack into any or all of the above with impunity knowing you will either deal two damage or gain card advantage. Is it worth paying an extra mana to get an extra card at some point later in the game? Most certainly!

Trade Routes (r)

This is a great card which will always make your deck. Essentially it turns all your land into cycling lands, which can give you great card quality in the late game. Also you can return the lands you already have in play to your hand for an additional cost of one mana, which means digging for answers is going to be a doddle in the late game.

To be honest, if the game gets locked up and you have Trade Routes in play, then it will be difficult for you to lose the topdeck war. However here lies the cards weakness. It is very good at winning you the game in specified circumstances, but in other circumstances it is a bad card. In the early game it is pretty much dead and if you need an answer to an opposing threat immediately it is also an uninspiring draw. This is certainly a great card but not a bomb in the classic sense of the word.

Wind Drake (c)

Nothing complicated here, just a two-powered evasive creature for three mana. Very difficult to compare this with other flyers as other flyers are normally compared to this. Needless to say, this does everything that a Blue mage would want from a three-drop, but nothing more.

Coastal Hornclaw (c)

The first time I ever played with the base set was at the 8th Edition pre-release on Magic Online. I got two of these in my sealed deck and thought”what a horrible card.” You see I was used to Onslaught block where a 3/3 flyer for five should have a small ability tagged on (see Dragonstalker, Aven Soulgazer and Mistform Shrieker for examples). While I realized that a vanilla 3/3 Flyer for five was playable in theory, the idea of a 3/3 for five mana that you had to sacrifice a land to give flying was not good.

Having now played with the set long enough, I can say that this card is in fact well worthy of the main deck. As I have said many times in these reviews (and will probably say many more times), the 2/2 flyer is standard in 8th Edition. Therefore a 3/3 even with the potential of flying is a dominant force. As a blocker, this will shut down most of your opponent’s flyers even without activating. As an offensive threat it is limited by your capacity to draw excess lands although it can still be used effectively in the late game when land is plentiful and life totals aren’t.

Evacuation (r)

A big effect card that is not as good as it first seems. When I first saw this I thought of Upheaval from Odyssey, but in reality the cards don’t compare. Evacuation doesn’t return lands, which means that you can’t do tricks with floating mana like with Upheaval. So once we remove that trick, what are we left with? A card that resets the board of creatures without destroying any of them. There are certainly times when this can be useful. If you are playing a slow deck and your opponent a fast one, playing this and then dropping a fatty will negate their early tempo and allow you to establish board control. Alternatively, you can get an extra use out of any”187″ creatures you have such as Nekrataal and Aven Cloudchaser.

Thinking outside the box a little, one interesting use for this is when you have creature advantage in the mid/late game but no way of breaking through without taking heavy losses. Attack with everything and then, after damage is on the stack, play this in response maybe getting in a key half a dozen points of damage. If you have first strike creatures then this can be especially effective. Or maybe you are alpha-striking and just want an insurance policy in case your opponent has a trick.

This card has some good applications, however, the reason I wouldn’t pick it over the eighteen cards above this is that the card is nearly exclusively an answer, and as answers go it’s not a very good one when dealing with specific threats, as it doesn’t deal with anything on a permanent basis (unless it’s a Rukh Egg token giving you grief). If you are getting beaten down by a Primeval Shambler, Phantom Warrior, Bog Wraith or whatever, then this will delay the beats for one turn but will not really solve anything. You still have to deal with the threat when it comes right back down next turn.

Coastal Piracy (r)

This is a classic example of what Limited players call a ‘win more’ card. If you have one or more creatures dealing damage to your opponent then this card will win you the game very quickly. However if you have one or more creatures dealing damage to your opponent then you are probably winning anyway. That’s the cliché anyway and it has some truth in it. What you really want in your deck are cards that can turn a losing position into a winning position, not make a winning position better. A lot of the time you will draw this card when you are under pressure and it will just be a dead draw.

Okay so that’s the downside, let’s look at the upside. If you are applying slow but consistent pressure on your opponent then this card can be the nuts. Lets say that you go first and make the first play with a turn 3 Wind Drake (or even better Phantom Warrior) and your opponent replies with something like Horned Troll or another non-flying creature. Now on turn 4 you play Coastal Piracy, swing for three and draw a card. Not only have you already got back the card you spent on the Coastal Piracy but you have also demanded that your opponent deal with your evasive threat immediately (plus any others you play in the next couple of turns) or lose the game to overwhelming card advantage in a few turns.

This is a pretty good question to ask of your opponent early in the game. So in short, yes this will nearly always make my deck, but I will only be happy with it if I have plenty of early evasive creatures.

Remove Soul (c)

Counterspell is gone from the set but, from a Limited perspective, this is nearly as good. Creatures make up about 80% of the spells you will want to counter in this format and so holding one of these with 1U open is an excellent insurance policy, especially if you know your opponent has one or more game-breaking bomb creatures in his deck.

The fact it only costs two mana means that by about turn six you will be able to play a creature and hold mana open for this, which can give you excellent tempo advantage. This card is never going to be amazing because it will only ever give you a one-for-one, but sometimes that is all you need.

Dehydration (c)

About the closest Blue gets to removal and it can be a useful card especially against aggressive Stompy-style decks that attack with large creatures. The problem is, it is about as inefficient as removal gets. First, it only works on tapped creatures, meaning that its use is Limited to creatures attacking you and creatures with tap abilities. Second it doesn’t actually remove the creature, just pacifies it so your opponent has all the time in the world to nullify the Dehydration or bounce the creature to get it back if he so wishes.

So what we have is something like a bad Pacifism that costs more and is far more Limited in uses. I’m not saying this is a bad card, in fact it will nearly always make your maindeck, but when R&D made this card they clearly had in mind that Blue should be bad at dealing with permanents.

Treasure Trove (u)

This value of Treasure Trove will depend on how your deck plays out. If your deck is one of those that plays early defense and then plays a controlling game, while waiting for your bombs or evasion creatures to win the game, then this card can be excellent. It combos especially well with Remove Soul, Mana Leak, and Rewind as you can leave the mana open for the counter and, if no suitable targets present themselves, use the mana to draw a card instead.

To be honest, you’re not going to get much value out of this in the early game. While potentially you could draw a card off it on turn five, you have already used up your fourth turn playing it and so for the next few turns you will almost certainly be playing creatures instead. The key to success with this card is to get to the point where you can play a threat/answer each turn and still have enough mana open to Trove and to do this you have to be playing a strong defensive deck. Once you can do this, it will more than likely win you the game.

Wall of Air (u)

Speaking of strong defense, this is probably the best example you can play in the early game. If your opponent is playing a fast tempo-based deck, then regardless of whether it is ground or air-based, the Wall of Air will probably neutralize their best attacker each turn and, if any of them have a Toughness of one, stop them attacking altogether. This is extremely important if you have a slow start or use the rest of your early card plays on cards that you don’t want to be blocking with such as Sage Owl, Phantom Warrior and Treasure Trove.

The problem with Wall of Air is that, like with all walls, it is not a card you want to draw if you are looking to apply pressure. However, such is the quality of this wall it probably warrants a maindeck slot in all but the most aggressive of builds.

Boomerang (c)

A very versatile card that unfortunately, like all bounce, often generates card disadvantage. Nevertheless, it has many useful applications. You can bounce a key blocker to get through the last few points of damage. You can destroy a double-block attempt by bouncing one of them. You can bounce your own creature while damage is on the stack or when removal is targeting it. You can bounce your own”187″ creature to get another use from it. You can bounce a Circle of Protection or Worship that is preventing you from winning for a turn. You can bounce an enchanted permanent, killing the enchantment. You can bounce a land slowing your opponent’s development by a turn. The list goes on and on. Boomerang is not always great and I wouldn’t want too many in the deck, but it is rarely a dead card.

Unsummon (c)

I won’t waste time repeating everything I just said. Unsummon is Boomerang except that it can only bounce creatures and so cannot be used for all the applications above. It does however have the advantage of being one mana cheaper and less color intensive and is probably better if you are running less than eight Islands.

Mana Leak (c)

I like having Mana Leak in my deck for the exact same reasons I like having Remove Soul in my deck. The advantage is it can also counter non-creature cards, the disadvantage, and it is fairly substantial, is that in the late game this will be useless, as your opponent will normally have plenty of spare mana. As a result it falls a number of places below Remove Soul, but still falls into the”near-automatic inclusion” category.

Daring Apprentice (r)

Looking at this card it seems like you are getting a two-for-one but really you aren’t. This creature is too small to beat down or block to any legitimate effect, so really it is just a Counterspell-on-a-stick. Once it’s in play, the game turns into an intriguing game of bluff and counter-bluff, where your opponent will try to bait you into cashing in the Apprentice on a lesser spell while you try to calculate the optimal spell to use it on.

Of course its advantage over a regular Counterspell is that you don’t have to leave mana open for it, so while your opponent is keeping his best card in hand you can gain a tempo advantage. Ultimately your opponent may decide to just burn out the Apprentice in which case you have drawn a piece of removal so you should be happy. All in all this is a very tricky card to use correctly and to play against but should make your main deck.

Curiosity (u)

Basically a mini-version of Coastal Piracy. It has the advantage of only costing one mana, which means that you can pull off some great starts such as turn 3 Phantom Warrior, turn 4 Curiosity on the Warrior, swing for two, draw a card, Wind Drake. On the downside, it is still a”win more” card and unlike Piracy, if your opponent removes that one threat, it is gone forever. This can become pure card disadvantage later in the game when your opponent may well have removal in hand ready to kill whatever you target with this. Obviously it is best played when you can be sure to get in at least one hit and maintain card parity.

Rewind (u)

The only unconditional counter in the set and a rather expensive one. It’s a good insurance policy against bombs later in the game or against tricks when you are attacking, and is almost maindeck-worthy on the strength of that alone. The untapping ability will rarely be of any use unless you are packing something like Treasure Trove, so really this is just a bad Counterspell.

Sea Monster (c)

Blue should not really have large efficient creatures in the common slot and so rightfully this comes with a drawback in that it can’t attack unless your opponent controls an Island. To cut to the chase, in 40% of matches you will have a very efficient beatstick, and in the other 60% you will have an over-costed wall. This makes it one of those cards that it is great to have in the board and sometimes it will make your maindeck when you are short of creatures.

Coral Eel (c)

Clearly not a great creature, the Red and Green versions of this card (Rushwood Dryad and Canyon Wildcat) both have landwalk. When all is said and done though what you have is a two-power creature for two mana, which is always playable just because it can sometimes waltz in and deal four damage before your opponent plays anything he wants to block it with. In any other color this would probably never make your deck, but in a color where aggressive creatures are few and mainly poor, you will find this often creeping into your maindeck.

Hibernation (u)

Like a lot of the color hosers in the set, this can be great out of the sideboard and will win you games, often acting almost as a one-sided Evacuation. It should be picked higher than some cards that will make your main deck because, as I have iterated many times, a good sideboard card is often better than a bad maindeck card. This one is probably not going to make the maindeck unless you are really desperate and obviously its value reduces to near zero if you are playing U/G.

Sage Owl (c)

A card that I have been liking more and more lately. Traditionally I hate one-power creatures that don’t have decent ability, but I have found myself maindecking this more often than not. While not a particularly inspiring turn 2 play, it is great if you kept one of those two-land hands and haven’t drawn another one (even if its only to tell you to scoop).

It can also dig out answers if you are under pressure, or threats if you are looking to apply pressure, all the while providing a chump blocker (or deterrent if your opponent is playing DuskImp.dec). This is not an automatic maindeck inclusion, as it simply doesn’t have enough impact on the board, but you could do a lot worse.

Wrath of Marit Lage (u)

Another decent color hoser to bring out of the board, it’s at least as effective as Hibernation. The reason it is ranked lower is because any kind of enchantment removal can neutralize this, and because Red is more normally used as a support color than as a creature base. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t play this if you are playing U/R.

Inspiration (c)

About as much as you’re likely to get for instant speed card drawing these days. Netting you one card for four mana, it is half as good as Concentrate, because leaving mana open is rarely an issue in Limited. This is a playable, but decidedly unexciting card to have to put in your deck.

Horned Turtle (c)

A poor man’s Wall of Air, clocking in at one less toughness, and without flying. It does carry the bonus of it being less mana-demanding and occasionally being able to swing. It’s not a very good trade-off and this is certainly no Wall of Air. It is still a useful defensive creature to play early if you are playing a more control-oriented deck. It will normally take a while for your opponent to neutralise the Turtle if they are playing a ground based strategy.

Spiketail Hatchling (u)

Speaking of bad versions of other cards, this is a bad Daring Apprentice. The Force Spike effect would be a good trick if your opponent couldn’t see it sitting on the table and so really this is just a 1/1 flyer for two that may or may not slow your opponent down a little. Remember, they always have the option of playing a bad spell and letting you sacrifice your Spiketail to it, netting a one-for-one trade. I imagine this spell could work well against weaker players who may not know how to play against it, but those are not the match-ups where you really need help.

Invisibility (u)

This card can win you the game, no doubt. Unfortunately that doesn’t make it a good card, merely a way too lose card advantage. It’s very similar to Fear, which I rated in the Black review. If it made the creature completely unblockable then this would rank a little bit higher, but there are quite a lot of playable common and uncommon walls which will make this card redundant. Maybe I would play this in a deck that lacked evasion or contained a lot of”when this creature does damage” effects, it’s probably a reasonable sideboard card against decks lacking removal.

Catalog (c)

Very dull, uninteresting card drawing that doesn’t even net you any card advantage. This might be better than Inspiration early in the game, but once I have exhausted my hand (i.e. when I really need it) I don’t want to be discarding one of the cards I draw. The best thing I can say about this card is that, if you are really short of playables, it is reasonable filler getting you two cards further down your deck for three mana.

Storm Crow (c)

Sorry Nick, I can’t see it myself. It’s just a one-powered creature for two mana with no real redeeming features. It would be useful to block flyers, if it were not for the fact that only Dusk Imp is really vulnerable to it and even then it’s only a one-for-one trade. It sucks equally bad as a threat and I would have to be very short of evasion before I would consider using this twenty-turn clock.

Merchant of Secrets (c)

This is the last of the cards I would consider maindecking and it’s quite depressing to think that there are fifteen cards worse than this. We really are talking filler here… for three mana you get a chump blocker with no loss of card. 1/1s are just not very useful in this format and so the only reason to play this card is if it’s a choice between this and something equally useless that doesn’t cantrip.

Mind Bend (r)

This is a very difficult card to rank. I think you would have to draft and play with this card about a dozen times before you would get a good idea of its value. Let’s look at what it can actually do. It can nullify Circles of Protection and many of the color hosers in the set or it can ambush landwalkers.

However, nullifying a small group of cards on a one-for-one basis is not going to cut the mustard, certainly not in the maindeck and maybe not even out of the sideboard. Fortunately it can also have the reverse affect on your own spells. It can make your own random landwalkers unblockable or customize your color hosers. If you are running a lot of these cards anyway and are short of playables then, maybe this is worth a shot, but on the whole it is probably left in the sideboard.

Cowardice (r)

Obviously the symmetry of this card makes it useless in most decks but, like Death Pits of Rath, this is one of those cards that can’t really be called bad because in the right deck it is an absolute MVP.

The”right deck” is one that contains multiples of Samite Healer, Crossbow Infantry, Master Decoy, Puppeteer, Anaba Shaman, etc. The good thing is, all of these cards are decent anyway, so if you pick up Cowardice early you may be able to build a passable deck that doesn’t rely on Cowardice to win. The bad thing is, everyone else wants these cards too, so it’s hard work to get more of them than you would normally have over the course of the draft anyway. I wouldn’t risk my whole draft on the basis of an early-picked, dodgy rare, but I’m sure someone out there will and will probably beat me with it.

Steal Artifact (u)

A sideboard card and nothing more as there simply aren’t enough artifacts in the format that you should be worried about. I mean sure, your opponent might be using Fodder Cannon or Phyrexian Hulk and then this card could be your M.V.P., but this will be far outnumbered by the times it sits in your hand with no valid target. Best leave it in the board and bring it out if you see some juicy targets. A shame really, because in Mirrodin block this would be great.

Twiddle (c)

A bad card that seems to have the all-important phrase ‘draw a card’ missing. The best use of this card is to untap a surprise blocker, but even this will only give you card parity.

Flight (c)

Sometimes I think it would be really nice to give my Craw Wurm flying, but I don’t want to have to spend a card to do it. This is just asking for a two-for-one in your opponent’s favor, especially in a format where flyer defense is mandatory. In Mirrodin they made a card ten times better than this called Neurok Hoversail and it is still mediocre.

Telepathy (u)

A bad Peek, which wasn’t very good in Limited in the first place. Although you might get some use out of this if you have Persecute, Remove Soul or something like that in your hand, you really don’t want to be spending a card on this.

Shifting Sky (r)

This card is, on the surface, pretty useless unless your opponent’s deck is something like seventeen Swamp, seventeen Severed Legion, six Gluttonous Zombie. It does combo pretty nicely with Circles of Protection, but unfortunately you’re unlikely to get more than one of these, so filling your deck with this and two or three Circles of Protection is likely to backfire more often than not. Still, if your draft has gone absolutely terribly and you have no hope of winning otherwise, then it might be worth a go.

Merchant Scroll (u)

Once I drafted a deck with Unsummon, Boomerang, Evacuation, Remove Soul, and Mana Leak and I put this in as a Tutor effect. I still boarded it out after every game because a bit of tutoring is just not worth making the instant cost an extra two mana, and even if it were, then this card would only work as an Instant or else your opponent can see whatever you are fetching and play around it. I think we should leave this one to the Type 1 players.

Zur’s Weirding (r)

The first time I saw this card it looked great. The second time I read it properly and saw that it affected both players, and I liked it a lot less. This is a good card to drop when you have a fast clock on your opponent, but this is way too narrow an application to waste a card on. I’m sure Johnnies everywhere are loving this card in Constructed so feel free to draft it late and sell it to them.

[No, it’s still only good in Constructed when you have Magic Online bugs around allowing you to draw all the cards your opponent would draw. – Knut]

Flash Counter (c)

Remove Soul is good because it will counter about two thirds of your opponent’s spells. Flash Counter will counter, on average, two or three. You don’t know when and if those two or three will be played or if they are worth countering, so there is no way this should ever make a maindeck as you won’t want to hold the mana open. I don’t even think I would bring this out of the sideboard unless my opponent showed an Inferno or something.

Sneaky Homunculus (c)

Even if this were unblockable, it still wouldn’t be good. As it is there are any number of good common creatures that can block it and live to tell the tale; Master Decoy, Samite Healer, Drudge Skeletons, Angelic Page, Canopy Spider, etc. The only reason it doesn’t come in lower is that it is a warm body and sometimes that’s all you need. And please, if I see one more player play this on turn 2 and then pumping it up with Unholy Strength thinking this is a good combo I’m going to go off!

Intruder Alarm (r)

Pretty good if you have Anaba Shaman in play, completely pointless if not.

Sage of Lat-Nam (r)

Allows all your artifacts in play to cycle away for two mana. I don’t remember ever sitting in a game and thinking,”Gee, I wish I could cycle this artifact away for two mana.” In fact I don’t remember too many times when I have had artifacts in play. When you bear in mind you would have to use this ability twice before it generated any kind of advantage you will realize how close this is to being a vanilla 1/2 for two mana.

Fugitive Wizard (c)

A great creature because it teaches new players that Blue has terrible creatures.

Balance Of Power (r)

I seem to open this card more often than anything else, and I normally get to see it again on my ninth pick. This is just awful card drawing, as it is impossible to determine how quickly your opponent will empty their hand. And costed at five mana just makes it worse, as both players will have pretty empty hands by then.

Index (c)

If a card can be referred to as”much worse than Spy Network,” then you must indeed be looking at a real pile. However that’s the way of it in 8th Edition, where a designer somewhere must have had great fun seeing how bad he could make certain Blue cards. This is pure card disadvantage in an efficient package.

Hope you enjoyed this installment. Next week I will be back with everyone’s favorite fatties in Green.

Until then, happy drafting


‘piemaster’ on MTGO

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