, I started with the white cards from Battle for Zendikar. Today, I’ll be taking a look both blue and black. Let’s get started with the best color
Common Creatures By Curve:
It’s right up front with blue with Salvage Drone and Murk Strider. We just came off a set where Separatist Voidmage was the best blue common and that set
didn’t have eight-drops. How deep are we going to go to make Murk Strider good? Are we playing a one mana 1/1? Looking at the other common Processors, I’m
skeptical, but I might be convinced to play Mist Intruder if I have multiple Murk Striders despite it otherwise being a spruced up Shriekgeist. At least
Benthic Infiltrator offers a body that matters in combat. Spell Shrivel is a bit less mediocre, but it doesn’t slot into a tempo curve. Oracle of Dust
might even be enough to bridge the gap on the weaker Ingesters being playable; a 3/5 is a brick wall, and upgrading your Ingesters to Looters in a
mana-heavy format seems strong. Or maybe blue just wants to lean on other color Ingesters that are actually reasonable Magic cards since the real incentive
is just getting the first Processor trigger or two for the Unsummons. Regardless, determining the required support for Murk Strider and how that affects
when you pick it and how that shifts in different color combos seems like it is going to be a big part of drafting blue decks.
Moving away from the exile zone, the Scion-producing Eldrazi are both good rates. Eldrazi Skyspawner is clearly a better version of a card that has been
one of the best commons in a format for the last year (Sandsteppe Outcast or Ghirapur Gearcrafter), and Incubator Drone just offers a lot of flexibility at
a fine four mana effective 3/4 rate.
On the note of repeat cards, when did a straight up Dragon become a common effect? Ringwarden Owl was severely underrated as common Air Elemental, and I
suspect a similar trend will occur this time with Wave-Wing Elemental. It’s not a high pick because it’s a six-drop, but it’s pretty crazy that you can
rely on seeing this effect because it’s on a common.
Clutch of Currents and Rush of Ice being in the same set at the same rarity just looks really odd to me. Regardless, blue has three tempo-creating
creatures in the same set between these two and Murk Strider. That’s pretty crazy and implies that blue wants to get ahead early and cement the lead.
Clutch of Currents is way better than normal in a set where it is resetting Awakened lands or bouncing Eldrazi that were paid for with sacrificed Scion
tokens, though Rush of Ice may be situationally better, as it always assures two attacks through the tapped blocker. I still feel like I would play some
absurd number of the 4U 3/3 version of either card. It is worth noting there is a point where Awaken provides diminishing rewards, but mostly that is the
case where you have exactly five mana and two copies of these cards and can’t chain tempo effects efficiently. One of these is probably the best blue
common, and the other is the next best. Yes, I did just say that after saying there was a better Ghirapur Gearcrafter in the color. These are some really
good cards in blue this set.
The sizing issue on Cloud Manta is really interesting, specifically on the Giant Mantis matchup. 3/2 straight up loses that fight and trades down to Shadow
Glider or Eldrazi Skyspawner, but that third power clocks real hard. This card is a real reason to play a combat trick or two, and fortunately, there are a
number of those floating around to use.
Once you get past the creatures and Awaken pseudo-creatures, blue’s spells are shockingly bad in this set. Anticipate is just fine filler and might be the
best of the bunch. This is not a tempo-removal format where Dispel plays well. Brilliant Spectrum is a one-deck card in a format that looks to be light on
enablers for said deck. Roilmage’s Trick can be good, but the effect being moved down from uncommon (Blinding Spray and Hydrolash) to common feels like
it’s a sign that wide combats are not going to be a big part of the format. Spell Shrivel is just the same average three mana counter we always have.
Tightening Coils is a half answer for the things you actually want to kill in the format and is awkward in a tempo plan, as it leaves a blocker around.
Blue has a ton of really good commons this set. The big gap at common is actual answers. You can tread water against a giant Eldrazi, but if you aren’t
already ahead to make your Man-O’-Wars matter, you will eventually fail to answer it and die.
Uncommon Creatures By Curve
Oh look, Mulldrifter–I mean, Coastal Discovery. The sorcery version of the card is a bit worse, as Divination is way more important than Inspiration for
preventing mana screw, but a splashable three-for-one is still a three-for-one. I would not be shocked if this was the best uncommon in the set.
Besides that, I’m not really seeing stand out uncommons for blue. Cryptic Cruiser and Ruination Guide are both above the curve but not immediately
dominating. Windrider Patrol is a fine Air Elemental, but it’s hard to get super excited about this effect when you get an effective 5/6 flier at common to
replace it. Maybe these cards are all just good, but I’m spoiled by comparing them to the great blue common creatures.
I could be underrating both of the Archaeomancer effects. Halimar Tidecaller has to be the better one, as all of the blue instants and sorceries I would be
looping with Ulamog’s Reclaimer just have Awaken anyway, so it’s ahead on all three counts of granting flying, costing less, and not requiring a card to
The spells are comparable to the common ones: rather blah. You get a Remove Soul that doesn’t hit what you want it to in Horribly Awry, a super small and
wide effect in a tall format in Dampening Pulse. Retreat to Coralhelm likely plays very well, but is still a card that has little impact on its own, though
the usual overload on that card type is likely less prevalent in an Awaken format. Adverse Conditions is probably the best of the non-creatures/Awaken
spells, and it’s still basically Frost Breath. Woo.
Yet another color of strong rares.
Drowner of Hope and Guardian of Tazeem should be pretty evidently good. Big threats that tap opposing threats while attacking. One of them even leaves
power around through removal! The other great rare is probably good for at least scry four plus draw three. I’m not even sure that’s better than Tidings
would be in a format where hitting a bunch of land drops matters, but I don’t really care and will take my game-breaking spell first regardless.
Prism Array is probably the card that people will immediately disagree with me the most on, but it’s just Tumble Magnet with the option to rapid fire a bit
harder. Two counters might not be enough, but at three, I’m pretty sure it’s a high pick. I guess that makes it almost a green card I’m splashing, but it’s
here in the blue section by collector number so I’m talking about it here.
Part the Waterveil is another card I may be rating a bit too highly, but I’ve died to Time Warps in a lot of dumb ways over the years in Limited. This one
just has kicker 4: Absolutely win the game attached to it.
I can see any of the okay cards being a bit better than just okay, but not a ton. Not having a common hard counter implies that effect is strong in this
Limited format of eight-drops, so Scatter to the Winds might just be a good counter with kicker when you can leave up the extra mana rather than the usual
just okay bar set for Cancel. Exert Influence doesn’t interact with a lot of the relevant threats, as per the general gap between random dorks and the six+
power Eldrazi, but against the smaller evasive creatures, it is still a Mind Control.
Takeaways From Blue
Blue is a very deep color, but it really needs to lean on the color you pair it with for supporting spells and removal.
This depth also means that blue has multiple decks that likely follow color pairing lines. The best blue commons are great in both, but it’s very possible
to get a Murk Strider or similar through an adjacent blue drafter.
Common Creatures By Curve:
Black has the opposite issue of white. The cards are all good, but none of them are really great. They are just semi-efficient dorks.
That does have some benefits. All three ingest creatures in black look real good compared to the blue ones. Compare Sludge Crawler, Culling Drone, and
Dominator Drone to Salvage Drone, Mist Intruder, and Benthic Infiltrator (ignoring the ingest) and the rate difference is pretty clear. The black ones are
mostly worse at attacking multiple times, but that only really applies to a couple Processors in the set. If you are using ingest to enable the one shot
Processors, your overall gameplan looks a lot better than if you don’t have to play a half creature like Eldrazi Storm Crow to make it happen. You also
have Grave Birthing on this axis, but that card is a bit more of a Mind Stone than an actual creature.
Unfortunately, the black Processor offerings are a little lacking. You have… Mind Raker. 3/3 Ravenous Rats is easily playable, but not the kind of thing
I’m basing a deck around. There are multiple color combinations and decks where ingest is going to be the flavor text people are joking that it is.
That said, discard is really good in a format where people want their later land drops, as it’s a lot easier for there to be no dead cards in your
opponent’s hand. That also makes me think Mire’s Malice might actually be playable compared to the basically identical and pretty bad Mournwhelk. By
playable, I mean as good as Mind Rot as ever is, but the shift from 25th best card in most decks to 20th is pretty relevant.
Black has two common lifegain payoff creatures in Nirkana Assassin and Kalastria Nightwatch, but only one enabler in Kalastria Healer. Healer isn’t even
that good of a card until you hit a really absurdly high number of Allies, and despite Assassin and Nightwatch being Allies, the drain trigger they would
create on entering the battlefield doesn’t enable their ability that requires them to be entering combat that turn. Considering what I said about the white
lifegain enablers also being subpar, these are going to be more vanilla than anything else, and three mana 2/3 and five mana 4/5 are not exciting vanillas.
The last two black creatures are a bit better. Geyserfield Stalker is a pretty replacement level five-drop, but I like 5/4 menace better than 4/5 no
abilities. The one I really want to play is Voracious Null. This isn’t a card I have a good grasp of the exact scenarios where it is going to be insane so
I can’t describe exactly why it is good, but this really feels like a card that grows huge and runs away with a boardstate.
Black’s removal is there, but it is definitely worse than white’s. This is probably a good time to talk about bad removal in Limited. You still take it
pretty highly because the flexibility of having an answer is important, but once you have the first copy or two, you need to be careful to not overload.
None of the black removal is trading well. Bone Splinters is a one-for-two and, as mentioned multiple times with the 4/4 to 7/7 jump, Demon’s Grasp is
basically only killing things that cost less than it. Complete Disregard is probably the best of the bunch, and that’s mostly because it still kills the
effectively 4/4 landfall creatures when they aren’t triggered. You aren’t wrong for taking any of these pack one, pick four, but don’t get excited when you
get your third Demon’s Grasp.
The other black spells are about as mediocre as the removal, only they aren’t removal so there’s no real need for them. Dutiful Return and Altar’s Reap
were not good in their previous printings or functional printings, and Swarm Surge is just another Trumpet Blast which has always been an archetype
specific card that is never past okay.
Black is going to provide a bunch of playables at common, but nothing that immediately stands out as a real top tier card.
Uncommon Creatures By Curve:
Grip of Desolation can potentially kill two creatures due to Awaken. It also just straight up kills an Eldrazi and enables Processors. First pick for sure.
The black uncommons follow the same trend as the commons: fine, but not great. The only one that can rise above that level is Bloodbond Vampire, but again,
all the lifegain enablers at common are unexciting. This puts the “lifegain deck” in the hands of finding multiple uncommon payoff cards and multiple
uncommon enablers like Retreat to Hagra, Vampiric Rites, or Zulaport Cutthroat to make it happen. Really not happening.
The card I may be underestimating is Skitterskin. It’s big and the black commons point toward an aggressive devoid deck that it would fit very well in. Of
course, it’s still just a ground beater so there’s a real cap to how good it can be.
Okay, I may be first picking some of these.
Ob Nixilis Reignited, Drana, Liberator of Malakir and Ruinous Path should be obvious, and Ruinous Path is definitely in the “still first picking this, but
it isn’t winning every game it resolves” category of Good. Wasteland Strangler is similar, as a conditional small ball Shriekmaw is still a Shriekmaw.
Smothering Abomination and Guul Draz Overseer are just big fliers. They could both easily be a bit worse than I have rated them here, as their abilities
have some odd conditions to them, but I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt because again, large flier. Defiant Bloodlord, however, basically has no
ability, and seven is a definitely jump from six.
Takeaways From Black
Black is filling the unexciting base color role this set that is usually reserved for green. You will stumble your way into it when it is open, though
people will likely not inherently underdraft it the way they always underdraft green because they always like to take random aggro dorks and bad removal
more than they like Fangren Hunter/Rhox Maulers/Molder Beast/other giant idiots.
Don’t draft too much bad removal or your deck will be a giant clunkfest disaster.