Dissension Card Review Part VII: Split Cards, Artifacts, and Lands

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Mike completes his Constructed rundown of Dissension with a look at the Split cards, the artifacts, and the lands. Sure, we all know that the Shocklands are pure gold, and the Karoos are staple cards… but how do the new Split cards match up to the Split cards of old? A strong finish to an excellent, informative series.

[Part I: White][Part II: Blue/Azorius][Part III: Black]
[Part IV: Red][Part V: Green][Part V: Simic/Rakdos]

By Part VII, I assume you know the drill.

The Split Cards [thus far]:

One thing that I thought might be useful was to order the Split cards from Invasion and Apocalypse to try to help figure out how the Dissension versions might stack up in Constructed deck (which ones are good, which will get played, whatever). This is what I think…

1) Wax / Wane
2-3) Assault / Battery; Spite / Malice
4) Stand / Deliver
5) Pain / Suffering

1) Fire / Ice
2-3) Life / Death; Order / Chaos
4) Illusion / Reality
5) Night / Day

Note how the best split cards (specifically those played by Kai Budde in Pro Tour winning decks in consecutive years) have certain things in common. Kai’s Rebels deck could play both Wax and Wane, his Donate both Fire and Ice. Neither effect of Wax / Wane was spectacular, but both were serviceable and aggressively costed; on the other hand, Fire is almost unconditionally better than Constructed quality cards like Guerrilla Tactics and Glacial Ray; Ice is strictly better and faster than Enervate, which was a narrowly played Constructed card, but played nevertheless.

I’ve heard of decks playing only one half of a Split before, for example B/U/R in Block running Assault / Battery just for the Red half, or reanimation decks playing Life / Death and ignoring the bad Natural Affinity. These choices occur mostly when card slots are scarce. Pain / Suffering and Night / Day are cards where both sides are under-powered compared to a marginal Role Player, which contributes to the fact that no one puts them in the “playables” long box.

Pain: Bad Cry of Contrition
Suffering: Bad Demolish
Night: Terrible Sicken
Day: World’s Worst Ramosian Rally

Compare to the high Tier 2 Split cards…

Assault: Slow but passable Shock
Battery: World’s worst Trained Armodon

The difference is that few decks want a Cry of Contrition or a Demolish at all, let alone a bad version of either, and only one or two decks ever wanted a Sicken, and even the Ramosian Rally archetype didn’t always attend, but every G/R deck can use a Shock or a 3/3 (even if they aren’t the best Shock or the best 3/3)… and Spite / Malice has a counter (and every counter is playable in Constructed, according to Onslaught Block) and a Banishing… Even if they are a little clunky, you might want to play either half, and Spite / Malice was essentially “the answer” to whatever threat the opponent might play (unless it was, say, a Black creature).

In any case…

Bound / Determined

Bound: This card is a bit expensive. In Standard, you are going to either get two cards back or you sacrificed a Nephilim, meaning you were likely playing a fun deck. Anyway, this is super expensive and you are only breaking even most of the time.

Determined: This card is a member of my second favorite class of cards. My favorite class is “cheaper or otherwise empirically better than the cards everyone else is playing but is inexplicably ignored,” but my second favorite class of cards is “any cheap spell with a halfway relevant effect that includes the words ‘draw a card.'”

Generally I think that Heartbeat is going to have problems post-Dissension because of Azorius Guildmage and the whole Rakdos shebang (assuming either or both is played), but Determined is a shining defensive star for Heartbeat, the equal and opposite of Shadow of Doubt as faux Dismiss. As with Shadow, it is also a bad Impulse in a deck that might win immediately with scary regularity if only it sees one more card. Determined may see play elsewhere, as well.

Playable – Role Player

Crime / Punishment

Crime: Serviceable (perhaps, or especially, after Punishment?)

Punishment: A little clunky, but potentially very good (think a more expensive but faster Powder Keg… that also kills enchantments).

We’re going to have to wait and see how the mana costs look for Ravnica Block before we have any kind of a keen understanding of Crime / Punishment in context (for example, Invasion Block was all different kinds of two drops, so this card would have done well there). My guess is that it will be an above average token sweeper, probably out of the board. In the first PTQ I was happy to kill a Kird Ape with a Putrefy and Punishment does the same thing… but takes Hound of Konda and Savannah Lions along for the trip; Crime seems like an odd card… I don’t know when I would actually want this to steal an enchantment (but on balance, there are many times I can see wanting to grab the Keiga I killed at the end of the other guy’s turn). In a very specific context, Crime seems like it might be the most annoying Greater Gifts spell of all time. It’s difficult to see what existing deck wants this main, though.

Playable – Role Player

Hide / Seek

Here we have what seems to be a card that does two potentially desirable things somewhat poorly (kind of like Illusion / Reality, perhaps?)

Hide: White has been a little light on the artifact removal since they gave Disenchant to Green… I suppose Hide is reasonable artifact removal (though if White wanted cheap enchantment removal, it could just play Leave no Trace). The odd thing about the pairing with Red is that Red already has awesome artifact removal like Shattering Spree and Smash. That seems to imply that if White is paired with Red – as it has to be in order to cast Hide – it necessarily has access to these better options. One would therefore play Hide to save deck space (you don’t want to devote space to both Leave no Trace and Smash, say).

Seek: This is an interesting card due to two things: its speed, and its speed. Seek is quite quick, a turn 2 play that can be made while the opponent is tapped. It is also an instant, meaning that it can be used in response to some other play. Initially I thought that you would need two copies to beat Heartbeat (one for each of the primary kill conditions), but I think just grabbing the Weird Harvest, while not a kill, will buy quite a bit of time. Also note that in the absence of that Weird Harvest, versus the life gain of Seek, the Xs in the Maga or Invoke the Firemind mana costs become much more relevant (fewer shots for 46 without access to all the Drifts in a single turn, etc.)

I think Hide is a reasonable Role Player on its own and that Seek is an above average bullet, however they will rarely if ever both be good in the same deck. I think, therefore that this card falls short of Staple – even as a sideboard card – but that it will be very good nevertheless and serve in a long line of Dissension cards that ruin Heartbeat of Spring’s day in the sun.

Playable – Role Player

Hit / Run

This is either the first or the second best split card in the format. Run I could give or take. No one but Jamie even plays Overrun, let alone a two-color Overrun that only gives +1 rather than +one-million and trample, or whatever Overrun reads. Okay, okay, I know that it gives some sort of Piledriver +1 bonuses… but I don’t think that’s why Hit / Run is so good, and I don’t think many strong decks will choose Hit / Run for the Run side.

Hit is the half that really makes this card. It’s Diabolic Edict Plus! This card should just say, “take seven” in its text box and have the image of a dead Angel of Despair or Simic Sky Swallower for its art.

The only thing holding Hit / Run back is a reluctance to play it main. Flip this with Bobby and take eight? No thanks (I guess you could just not play Bobby in your Black deck but… never mind). It’s a bit clunky against a regular creature deck, or in the case that you just end up killing a Signet… But that said, Molten Rain was Staple with essentially the same net advantage in mana and life.

Playable – Staple

Odds / Ends

The question is whether a deck will play this for both sides or not. Ends is a pretty marginal Constructed card in terms of being played on its own (Twinstrike much), but Odds seems like a superb Blue-on-Blue card. In a counter war it’s only two mana, and you can basically guarantee that some relevant effect is going to occur.

Odds: This is a fun card in general, but its realistic applications are limited to Blue on Blue… It’s pretty erratic elsewhere… but you’ve got to love the fact that Odds are 50% that this might steal the game from a Hellbent Demonflame. Plus, the price is right.

Ends: You can think of this as a Wing Shards with Storm 1 for possibly less mana than that would cost most decks most of the time. One thing I like about this card is that Odds is good versus Blue, and Ends is not great but also not horrible versus creatures, so some Dutch Angel deck, or maybe some kind of Azorius-centered control, might benefit from including it.

Playable – Role Player

Pure / Simple

As a peerless Staple-breaker, Pure / Simple will itself be an unconditional Staple. Both sides of it are basically superb Role Players… Pure is a potential main deck card that should have many a 2WG four-drop quaking in its elephantine boots or putting on the old shades, and Simple is one of the most devastating sideboard hosers imaginable for certain strategies (and is just fine in the “kill a Jitte” category, especially for a deck that can make Red mana anyway).

Odds are that Pure aims at Psychatog in Extended… but there are a million targets in Block and Standard regardless. This could very well be main deck.

Playable – Staple

Research / Development

Research: This is one of those cards that is goofy and makes little short term mathematical sense… but had to be dumbed down a bit because it is a new ability and might be too good with selection engines, Divining Top, and so on. I don’t know if a lot of people would play Research in the abstract, but it is a definite Heartbeat sideboard candidate to fight Hide / Seek, Jester’s Cap, and Cranial Extraction (sorry, hateful chums).

Development: This is an odd and powerful spell that few would ever want to play… at least at retail cost.

The fun is when you imprint Research onto Isochron Scepter and can play either Research or Development for two. Now that is a good reason to play this half of this card!

Playable – Role Player

Rise / Fall

Jeroen is pretty smart. I don’t think there is actually much conflict between his review and mine. I asked him what he thought was the best card in the current Standard (if not Sakura-Tribe Elder), and he had an interesting answer: Shining Shoal. I thought this was really odd, because I think of Shining Shoal as mostly a Ghost Dad card, and I never even thought it was the best card in Ghost Dad. However he said that playing my Ghazi-Chord deck that he destroyed multiple Wildfire decks… Shining Shoal kicks maybe the best spell (I have Wildfire at #2) down the stairs, so that makes it the best card in his estimation. Like I said, Jeroen is smart.

Anyway, smart guy Jeroen loves Rise / Fall, a card that I didn’t really put much stock into. The Rise side is basically a Raise Dead and an Unsummon, for the cost of Raise Dead and Unsummon, so that puts it sort of into Lightning Helix league; I mean, Lightning Bolt is better than Raise Dead or Unsummon, but Unsummon is better than Healing Salve, so it’s not that much of a ridiculous statement, especially since Fall is a bad Hymn. I think that you can run Fall two different ways, and that it’s not “wrong” either time. You can run Fall out on turn 2 and hope to mise… You’ll get one card most of the time against most reasonably kept hands. You can also sculpt over time and ensure you hit two spells – especially expensive ones – when the opponent has missed a land drop or you have otherwise pulled the old puppet strings.

This is a good card for sure, but it’s unlikely to be a “straight in” every deck than can cast it.

Playable – Role Player


Supply / Demand

Actually, forget about that first line I had on Hit / Run. There is no way it is better than Demonic Tutor (more or less) / Fireball (okay, that’s a stretch). Nice. Card.

Playable – Staple

Trial / Error

Trial: U/W combat trick. Um… unlikely to be played? There’s nothing wrong with this, but no one will play Trial / Error just for the Trial, at least not main deck. It could be funny with some sort of Lure, I suppose.

Error: Conditional Counterspell. As we know, all counters are playable. This one is probably playable main deck in Ravnica Block only… but luckily, that’s the Block it is in. This is basically Hisoka’sDefiance2K6, and we all know how good that limited scope card ended up being.

Playable – Role Player

The Artifacts:

Azorius Signet, Rakdos Signet, Simic Signet

Given that Wizards seems to be insisting that modern U/W decks actually tap mana on their own turns and play permanents as part of an overall control strategy, Azorius Signet will see the most play. Simic Signet, though, keeps creeping up in my lists despite the fact that I have no interest in playing it (nice for the Voidslime splash in three- or four-color Blue decks). Rakdos Signet will get the least play because Rakdos seems to want to play a lot of aggressive guys rather than Signets, but Chapin thinks that people will (should) summon Pit Dragon with it on turn three and then get the tricks going… Playing a Signet does get a card out of your hand for Hellbent and also helps out the deceptively mana hungry Rakdos, though… food for thought.

Playable – Staple

Bronze Bombshell

Is it too dumb to think that you can go hit, hit, hit Spawnbroker with this? I mean it’s pretty dumb, right? Also four power for four is nice, but one toughness?

Constructed Unplayable

Evolution Vat

With eleven mana, or seven over multiple turns, this is an exponential effect. However, the opponent has to be willing to let you and your little milk drinkers live… I don’t buy it. I guess this is also the world’s worst Icy Manipulator.

Constructed Unplayable

Magewright’s Stone

In the right deck, this is a nice effect… The price is right, anyway. I think this card is comparable to Copy Enchantment, maybe a little better because it is more versatile and you can play it as a down payment on later effects rather than being forced to wait for the primary. Some people like Copy Enchantment in Annex Wildfire, and other people play a consistent game… I guess the most consistent players just choose Vore for the same effects more or less, but I digress. Magewright’s Stone is very “win more,” but is cheap enough that you can just lay it out there or wait on it and use it later without too much clunkiness. Not great and not awful; very “Johnny.”

Playable – Role Player

The Truth Is Out There

Muse Vessel

You know that poster that Fox Mulder had in his office? This card makes me want to believe, but I am old and you are young – younger than I am, probably – so hopefully you can grow and evolve past the predilections borne of my misspent [Magickal] youth.

If this were 1996, this card would be the nut high. It’s halfway between a Disrupting Scepter and a Jayemdae Tome, and its cost is only that of a Scepter each turn, which is negligible in the right deck over time. Factor in that few people can actually destroy an artifact main and there are some decent upsides to Muse Vessel; one of the things that is cool is that you can play their lands to cast their cards after you’ve done some thumping.

That said, this isn’t 1996. No one plays Jayemdae Tome any more, and despite a constant Core Set presence since Seventh Edition, no one has touched Treasure Trove either, despite the past successes of both Tome and Browse. As such, I am skeptical despite the definite long-term utility that should be obvious with this card.

Playable – Role Player

Rakdos Riteknife

You have to sacrifice a guy to get the first measly +1/+0 counter. Umezawa’s Jitte costs exactly as much to play and equip. Is it fair to compare against the best cards? Obviously, because those are the cards that people play, that Rakdos Riteknife has to beat, for a limited number of equipment slots. Just awful.

Constructed Unplayable

Skullmead Cauldron

I keep thinking this should be pretty good, but it costs four and doesn’t immediately win the game. A recurring source of life gain should be good, especially when you can ramp it up three at a time, but Peace of Mind doesn’t see much play and a single Firemane Angel that just sits there in your bin and doesn’t require dedicated additional cards rarely puts the big scare on beatdown. Ergo, this is worse than cards that people may or may not play already.

As for the second ability… nope.

Constructed Unplayable

Transguild Courier

A Hill Giant.

Cute with Bound / Determined, I guess, but… A Hill Giant (no one plays close-ended two card combos anyway).

Constructed Unplayable

Walking Archive

I don’t know what deck wants this. It is a 2/2 Wall for three that, like most Walls, can’t attack. This one gets in a nice fight with Bronze Bombshell over crappiest rare artifact, methinks.

Constructed Unplayable

The Lands:

Azorius Chancery, Rakdos Carnarium, Simic Growth Chamber

Despite my affection for Karoos in beatdown, I must say that Rakdos Carnarium is the worst of these highly playable cards because of Hellbent. Simic Growth Chamber is the best because of – and I hate to say this – Sakura-Tribe Scout, which may see some play after spending the fall and winter months on the bench. All of the Karoos are worthwhile in their own ways, of course, and probably all of them will see play in Charleston and beyond.

Playable – Staple

Blood Crypt, Breeding Pool, Hallowed Fountain

Here come the money rares we all hope to open all the time. It’s hard to say which is the best because they are all automatic includes in decks 99% of the time, but my pick is Breeding Pool just because of Wood Elves. Again, all are superb and all will get played as four-ofs in more than one deck.

… But you didn’t need me to tell you that.

Playable – Staple

Ghost Quarter

This card is narrow, but not as narrow as some people would have you believe. I think there may be some virtue to spending Ghost Quarter in a deck with Life from the Loam against opposing Karoos. With Loam you are not really falling behind, and it is possible that you can eventually exhaust the opponent’s supply of basics. This might be awful, though… Just a thought.

Possibly this is a sideboard card?

Playable – Role Player

Novijen, Heart of Progress

Despite its relatively low cost, Novijen is probably a late-game card (as with most of the Guild Halls). I like it a good deal with several token generation effects, from Dovescape to Supply / Demand, to a simple and single Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree (is eight lands to make a 2/2 good?). Unlike Vitu-Ghazi, where I’ve played as many as four copies main, I haven’t designed with more than one Novijen yet (greedy)… Quite playable, I think, even though Josh keeps taking my one Novijen out (greedy).

Playable – Role Player

Pillar of the Paruns

In some decks this is just City of Brass with no drawback. In others, it doesn’t tap for mana. I guess that makes Pillar of the Paruns the quintessential Role Player… I am just worried about bending mana costs too much for this card or getting screwed in the early game with a multiple Pillar draw. Unless you are willing to play all multicolored cards, I think this has to be in Glimmervoid land, i.e. a fine support land but not one that you plan on leaning on early.

Playable – Role Player

Prahv, Spires of Order

This card isn’t nearly as terrible as it looks at first glance. For example, it is probably quite annoying for a deck that tries to win with a single monolithic threat, buying lots of time with an essentially uncounterable – if expensive – effect, quite possibly when you are playing the same kind of annoying deck. The main saving grace is that, as a Block, Ravnica is full of loose mana because of the Signets and Karoos, so hitting your land drop with something that can only tap for colorless is not lethal.

Playable – Role Player

Rix Maadi, Dungeon Palace

As with Rakdos Guildmage and his Selesnya counterpart, Rix Maadi is creeping up against Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree for best Guild Hall. This card is obviously insane against any kind of a slow deck, and it sets B/R up for the Hellbent that makes it worth playing, which is just gravy. This piece of real estate is just another in a long line of Dissension cards that will make life difficult for Heartbeat of Spring in three weeks… I’d expect two copies in basically every Rakdos-themed deck.

Playable – Staple

That’s it for Dissension! Thanks for reading.