Downward Spiral: The Mirrodin Blue Review

There’s been a lot of buzz surrounding Shared Fate, but I’m just not convinced yet. The idea that a heavy control deck with plenty of multi-colored mana can cast this to stump an opponent while allowing you to cast their spells doesn’t make much sense to me, since your deck is going to provide them with the mana to cast your spells as they draw into the deck’s mana – so then it becomes a time issue. In fact, if you’re even a little behind on tempo this card could be fatal, since the opposing deck is less likely to have the answers you need. But along those lines, the real strength of the card may be as a kind of closer in a tempo deck….

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Scott would like you all to know that he had this up and ready to go on Tuesday. Thanks to our email problems – which should, God be willing, be fixed after this weekend – I didn’t get these until noon yesterday. We’ll be posting them one a day until next Friday, finishing off with artifacts! – The Ferrett, excited)

As promised in my previous article, this installment begins the series exploring all of the set’s cards one by one. I’ll be looking at these cards with Constructed and Limited in mind, but I should point out in advance that when I say”Constructed” I’m referring to the upcoming Standard environment unless I say otherwise.

As always, this is just a preliminary look and should be taken as such. In the past, I’ve been pretty good at predicting the power of incoming cards – but nobody bats a thousand in this field, and even the people who design the game get caught by surprise despite plenty of playtesting. The bottom line is that if you disagree with any of this, you aren’t automatically wrong. (You’re just probably wrong!) As an early look, I hope you’ll find this a useful jumpstart in your exploration of the set – but there’s no substitute for getting your own playing in.

One final note before we head in – because of the way the set is put together I’ve decided to include the artifacts that have colored activation costs within the reviews for their respective colors. So if you’re looking for my thoughts on Proteus Staff, the Blue article is the place to go. For Chrome Mox, you’ll have to wait for the dedicated”artifacts” installment.


Truth be told, I was a bit surprised to see this one come back. The ability to so cheaply handle artifacts and enchantments seems a bit contrary to recent moves against Blue’s countermagic abilities in that it discourages players from playing the big sexy cards, since the Blue player can shut them down so cheaply. Unlike more generalized countermagic, however, Annul only hits a specific set of cards – and as such, this card isn’t normally going to be a maindeck player unless Mirrodin influences Standard even more than people are currently guessing. (And that may have been part of the reason Annul was let back out to play.) This will certainly see plenty of play in Standard sideboards, and is surely a great main deck option for Limited.

Assert Authority

Predicting the exact breaking point at which Affinity cards are going to become attractive is giving me fits as I write these articles – but that’s a good sign in that it’s complex enough to force players to roll up their sleeves and really explore the mechanic. My main concern is that there are plenty of incentives to play”the artifact deck,” but the power offered seems a bit questionable when considering the awful things players can do to you game 2 once sideboards come into play. The artifact lands in particular seem like an incredible risk to me with so much amazing artifact hate now present, so taking this kind of risk had better pay off handsomely. While I’m not yet sure exactly where that exact breaking point occurs, I am sure that this card at least occurs well on the side of”no thanks.” Granted, hard countermagic is becoming increasingly difficult to find, but this one’s price is just too high, even with Affinity.


Broodstar’s casting cost has an interesting tension in that its power increases at the same rate that its casting cost decreases. Even at four artifacts you’re looking at a 4/4 for 4UU, though – and that’s not a bargain in anyone’s basement. For this to really be worth it, you’d probably have to plan on having (and keeping!) somewhere around six artifacts in play, and that’s normally going to be just too many strings to attach for this body to be effective. When it works it’s going to be spectacular, but I’m not convinced this can happen enough to rely upon.


Obviously, this is garbage for Constructed. How good this is in Limited will relate directly to how much equipment you can realistically expect to see. After a quick scan through the spoiler, I counted twenty different pieces of equipment of varying rarity. Given those kinds of numbers, it seems reasonable that many decks will average one or two pieces of equipment each, so this card is probably somewhat playable (assuming it can be relied upon to take out the target through a suddenly-favorable combat) but not something you’re going to get excited about.


This set has scads of artifact creatures, more than enough to be able to reasonably assume you will be facing some across the red zone. Wouldn’t that guy look much nicer on your side, working for your Limited game? I think so, too.

Dream’s Grip

Even in Limited, I’m not convinced by this card except for specific narrow uses like untapping utility artifacts for surprise double duty. The combat part of this Entwine card is even worse than it looks at first, since tapping their guy has to happen before attackers are declared, drastically reducing the value of untapping your own potential blocker since they see what’s coming before they have to commit.


The key on this one is that we’re back to actual Demonic Tutor-style effects, putting the card directly into hand rather than losing a card by only putting it on top of the library. Given how much tempo matters in modern Magic, this isn’t a negligible casting cost, but the effect is a powerful one if you have reason to be using it. For now, I’ve got them earmarked for Soul Foundry (or something cool to clone if I already have the Foundry in hand) and Oblivion Stone. Just make sure you’re not dead by the time you actually get all this stuff in play and working.

If Isochron Scepter turns out to have a deck built around it this card is likely to come into play as well, making sure you get your Scepter on turn 3 and allowing it to be played (and used) on turn 4. With all of the specialty artifacts coming up in the new Standard, many players will be giving this card a spin in the coming weeks.


Despite the potential annoyance factor, this pest is nowhere near Constructed quality since the opponent gets to choose, and may not care about the attack phase anyway. In Limited, he’s much more reasonable since you can assume that giving up the attack phase is more of an issue. This is a tricky one to predict, but my guess is that the Fatespinner’s disruption will likely slow an opponent down enough that you’ll get your money’s worth for the card and one turn of development invested – particularly since they’ll have to make their choice before they see what they’ll be drawing each turn.

Inertia Bubble

Only Constructed-worthy in a very tight pinch (as in, your colors have no other answers and there’s something particular you really need to stop from untapping), this one gets the Limited nod since you’re likely to face artifact creatures in most opposing decks.

Looming Hoverguard

A 3/3 flier for six better have an insane ability to get any consideration for Constructed. In Limited, this is going to get played because you get a decent flier combined with a tempo trick that not only removes one of your opponent’s turns of development but also removes one of their draw steps. In Limited, you’re normally looking at five mana for a 3/3 flier as a solid deal, so adding one mana to get the Repel effect on an artifact in an environment rife with artifacts looks good to me.

Lumengrid Augur

This card is going to be very good in Limited, making sure you never run out of gas as long as you can keep him alive. In Constructed, his power is a strong one – but it comes attached to a body too fragile to rely on at and at a mana cost that is likely to put you too far behind on tempo, even if you did manage to keep it alive. Compared to other available options like Concentrate, you can do better (and with less risk) right now.

Lumengrid Sentinel

Not a chance for Constructed – and I doubt it’s even worth it in Limited unless you have a very large number of artifacts.

Lumengrid Warden

This Limited environment looks to have quite a few creatures in the 2/3 range or so, which makes this a reasonable blocker at the cost. Not a high pick by any means, but he’ll make the cut in decks looking to buy some time.

March of the Machines

This is the update to Titania’s Song, and the differences are significant. The fact that the artifacts retain their abilities is the main point (in addition to getting moved to artifact-friendly Blue), since this version allows you to run a heavy artifact deck, use March of the Machines as your kill card, and still retain your utility artifact abilities when needed. The real question is whether the new Standard will have the artifacts to support such a control deck. This kind of thing had some brief popularity in the Ice Age days, back when you could lock the board up with Icy Manipulator+Winter Orb and Armageddon+Artifact Mana. On a first glance at the new Standard, the presence of Oblivion Stone (and the lack of most of the key cards listed above) would seem to favor a much different kind of control deck than overloading the board with permanents, but a real evaluation of this card’s effect is going to take more time. Even if there aren’t the tools to support this right now, it’s a good one to keep in mind as the new sets get added in to the mix. My main concern is the amount of global artifact destruction in this environment compared to the days of Titania’s Song. There’s power here, but for now I doubt it’s worth it.

Neurok Familiar

Yikes. Not a chance for Constructed and sub-par at best in Limited.

Neurok Spy

Just fine in Limited.


Obviously poor in Constructed except for very narrow usage, I doubt this one’s worth much as a Limited starter either. Three mana is quite a bit to keep open for such an undependable effect. Override strikes me as getting most use out of the sideboard for Limited decks with enough artifacts that are facing decks with higher-priced bombs that need dealing with.

Psychic Membrane

Great in Limited, where many of the potential attackers are too small to get through on their own and at worst you’re probably going to collect a card while it dies to a combat trick. Or they’ll have to use an outright removal spell on it, which is even better. If they don’t have a way to break through, this wall is likely to shut down several attackers, as opponents will be forced to rely on evasion and/or creatures with a power above two while everybody else stays home to watch. If you have a way to enhance it, this can shut down groundpounder decks all on its own.

Quicksilver Elemental

Very reasonable in Limited, where you’re already getting a nicely sized body to go along with a potentially influential ability. In Constructed this probably has to be dropped into a combo deck to make it work, but currently I don’t see anything reasonable worth considering yet.


There are many reasons to be pleased when a new card is released. Usually, that enthusiasm comes from either the power level of the card or something cool you want to do with it (or both). In this card’s case, though, I’m just happy to see Boomerang come back with only one blue in its casting cost. There have been many times over the years where I’ve been working on a specific deck and wanted access to Boomerang but couldn’t splash it in due to the double-blue in the casting cost. The addition of Regress to Standard means it’s much easier to splash this kind of effect – and I’m all for it. Nothing amazing or overpowered here, but I think it’s a good ability to allow players to splash when desired.

Ironically, it actually hurts the heavier blue decks in terms of replacing Boomerang, since the ‘Boom is clearly superior if color intensity isn’t a problem.

Shared Fate

There’s been a lot of buzz surrounding Shared Fate, but I’m just not convinced yet. The idea that a heavy control deck with plenty of multi-colored mana can cast this to stump an opponent while allowing you to cast their spells doesn’t make much sense to me, since your deck is going to provide them with the mana to cast your spells as they draw into the deck’s mana – so then it becomes a time issue. And presumably, if the deck was good enough to control the game before, won’t it still be good enough once you each swap? In fact, if you’re even a little behind on tempo this card could be fatal, since the opposing deck is less likely to have the answers you need.

But along those lines, the real strength of the card may be as a kind of closer in a tempo deck – establish an early advantage and then drop this to make things difficult. All told, I just don’t see where this card is going to reliably pay you off for the investment required to build a deck around it. An interesting and entertaining card that offers an awful lot of power, but I’m not convinced there’s an actual home for it yet.

Slith Strider

Only interesting in Limited if you have some reliable way to get him through (hint: you probably don’t) – otherwise, you’re probably just paying three mana to have a guy charge off to his death so you can get your card back. That’s a poor cantrip by any measure.

Somber Hoverguard

Again, strictly a Limited card. Most Mirrodin decks seem to be reliable at producing at least one or two artifacts in the early game, which prices the Somber Hoverguard somewhere around four or five mana in the earlier stages of the game, if those artifacts last long enough. Given that this is an acceptable deal with even one artifact on your side, I’d list this as quite reasonable – but make sure your deck is set to use him on offense. If you’re going to be back on your heels by the time you get this out, you’re probably looking for other options instead.

Temporal Cascade

At this cost, you can only consider the draw-seven if you have some crazy way of minimizing the awful things your opponent is going to do to you while you’re tapped out. The only purpose this card seems to serve is allowing two of them to provide a looping mechanism for some truly degenerate combo deck, since they don’t remove themselves from play. Currently, I don’t see anything close to a reliable enough engine to try and pull this kind of thing off.

Thirst For Knowledge

Assuming you can drop an artifact, you’re looking at an improved Inspiration since you get a card deeper and only have to pay three mana – and instant-speed card drawing is getting more and more difficult to find. In Limited, this is a great card and priced well for the effect. In Standard, this is strong enough to see real use as long as you can reliably discard an artifact. Concentrate is better, but it also costs four mana, two of them blue. In Block Constructed, this strikes me as definitely worth consideration.


This card got a lot of initial buzz, but I can’t say I’m really that impressed. It’s fine for Limited, where you’re going to draw two cards for three or four mana, which isn’t bad. In Standard I just can’t imagine getting that excited over a conditional Inspiration. Even at three mana for two cards, it’s still merely good – and in that scenario, I’d still rather have Thirst for Knowledge for this kind of deck. It’s not until we get down to two mana that this gets really sexy – and while that’s certainly a nice scenario, I have to question how reliable it is.

First, you’ve got to get (and at least temporarily keep) three artifacts in play; then, there’s the question of what your opponent is doing to you during all of this. The artifact lands help here, but I’m leery of the potential drawbacks to using them, particularly in game 2 and 3. What that all comes down to is whether a reasonable deck exists that can get three (or more) artifacts into play within the first three turns or so, and keep them long enough to cast this. If yes, this is indeed going to be a handy card – but that’s a pretty high burden of proof and right now I don’t see it. For most decks, Concentrate and (if appropriate) Thirst for Knowledge are going to provide the core of your deck manipulation, not this.

Vedalken Archmage

Very handy in Limited, this one is sure to get plenty of attempts in playtesting for Constructed as well. My suspicion is that he’s a bit too slow and vulnerable for the upcoming Standard environment, but my instinct is that he’s worth a good look in Block Constructed.

Wanderguard Sentry

Traditionally a 3/3 groundpounder for five with a marginal ability is sub-par for Blue in Limited, but tends to get run in decks that are hurting for some size. Given what I’ve seen of the new Limited environment, that seems about right this time around as well.

Aether Spellbomb

This is good stuff, and I’m glad to see it printed. Bounce that only works on creatures has an important place in the strategy of the game, but the fear of drawing dead in Constructed (as in, drawing one when they have no creatures) has normally held this kind of card back. That all changes by making it an artifact card and including the trade-in clause. By making it a 1cc artifact, you give some nice fodder to the affinity decks; by making it an artifact with an alternate use of card drawing, you get a card that can be traded in when it’s not needed, as well as providing some minor mana smoothing when your colors aren’t coming up right. I think this is a great card for the game in that it provides a reasonable power level while also giving the player decisions to make and all while also helping ease the randomness of mana issues. Nice work, guys.

Cobalt Golem

Only for Limited, and even then he’s just around par.

Crystal Shard

This card actually has two uses: One is as a deterrent to opposing mana when you have an extra available on their turn. As example, you can leave one mana open on their turn so that if they tap down to one mana you can use this on their turn, then use it again on your own turn to return their creature. This is okay, but hardly worth the overall mana investment.

The second use is the kind of thing I know Alan Comer is drooling over, which is bouncing your own guys. By coming to the party prepared with the right goods (like Nekrataal and other fun comes-into-play friends) you gain the ability to re-use said effects repeatedly and for only one extra mana. This looks like enough fun that I’d be willing to at least try working on a decklist, particularly since it looks like you get a lot of redundancy with Soul Foundry (at least for comes-into-play effects). I doubt it’s anything close to Tier 1, but it certainly looks fun.

Proteus Staff

This is to be used on opposing creatures only in desperation, as the mana required to keep them busy (or until you bring them to an early-game creature) is going to keep you from doing more important things, particularly if your opponent is getting any free comes-into-play effects in the process. That said, the real point here seems to be to create some kind of scaled-down Oath of Druids effect. The only way to really do that is by only using token creatures for your sacrifices or you risk sacking your weenie just to get another weenie. I don’t really see a deck that can pull this off in Standard and still be good right now. The effect is definitely powerful, however, so you’ll want to keep this one in mind as new options arise.

Wizard Replica

Godawful in Constructed, it might be playable in Limited where you can use an extra mana each turn to tie up two of there’s – and you get at least a little bit of a defensive body in the meantime.

Scott Johns

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