Underrated Card #1: Cunning Sparkmage
I didn’t play Red back when Vulshok Sorcerer was popular, but I respected that card a lot. It did a lot of very powerful things then, and Cunning Sparkmage does a lot of powerful things now. Problem is, I don’t think the things it does well are maindeckable (is that a word? It is now!). A hasted pinger only has certain applications, and I think those applications are best found against two of the dying decks in Standard: Eldrazi Green and Boros Bushwhacker. It has the potential to mess with a G/W/b Junk deck by keeping its mana accelerants and Lotus Cobra in check, but overall, I think Cunning Sparkmage should be a sideboard card. Depending on how post-Worldwake Standard shapes up, I could very easily see this becoming maindeckable, so make sure to keep it in the back of your mind.
Overrated Card #1: Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs
Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs
Legendary Creature – Ogre Warrior
Whenever a creature under an opponent’s control attacks you, put a 3/3 red Ogre creature token onto the battlefield unless that creature’s controller pays 3.
No. Just no! This is not what Red is trying to accomplish. The Red decks nowadays are trying to deal 6-10 damage with their creatures and then finish the opponent off with burn spells (even bad ones like Quenchable Fire!) Chain Reaction and Kazuul, Tyrant of Cliffs is not “bringing Big Red back.” They are both bad cards. Stay away from each of them.
Now, to be fair, Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs is silly good in Limited. Ridiculously good.
Overrated Card #2: Searing Blaze
Searing Blaze deals 1 damage to target player and 1 damage to target creature that player controls.
Landfall – If you had a land enter the battlefield under your control this turn, Searing Blaze deals 3 damage to that player and 3 damage to that creature instead.
I really want to like this card. I really really do! But I can just see so many poor situations coming up with Searing Blaze. Not having the land to deal three damage, not having a creature to target for the win, and top-decking it when you need an actual burn spell are all negative situations that I can see happening. When Searing Blaze is good, it is great… but when it is bad, it seems terrible. If Red could have gotten one more very good card, I think it could have been a tier 1 deck in Standard. As it stands, I think it will still float around the middle tier, and possibly lower now that U/W/r Control is such a good deck.
Underrated Card #2: Ricochet Trap
This card has a lot of potential to me. Wild Ricochet used to see play in a lot of Red sideboards last year, and while this isn’t as powerful in a vacuum, Ricochet Trap still has a lot of value. One Red mana is very little, and while it is not as good in a Red mirror match, it can still cause a giant beating against a blue player. Currently, this seems better served in Eternal formats, but it is a card I felt I should highlight because cheap Misdirection effects should never be overlooked.
Underrated Card #3: Arbor Elf
If Eldrazi Green is going to make a comeback, this is one of the cards that’s going to help it. With Eldrazi Green being a very Elf-centric aggressive deck, Arbor Elf seems like an easy replacement over Noble Hierarch. Arbor Elf can’t do a ton of broken things, but it is simplistic in its nature. It accelerates, gets bigger from Elvish Archdruid, and helps to gain life in combination with Nissa Revane. Arbor Elf isn’t flashy. It isn’t going to steal the show. It’s going to do exactly what Eldrazi Green needs it to do, and sometimes that is all you ask. Now if only Oran-Rief, the Vastwood was a Forest!
Underrated Card #4: Avenger of Zendikar
Avenger of Zendikar
Creature – Elemental
When Avenger of Zendikar enters the battlefield, put a 0/1 green Plant creature token onto the battlefield for each land you control.
Landfall – Whenever a land enters the battlefield under your control, you may put a +1/+1 counter on each Plant creature you control.
Warp World decks in Standard have been fringe for some time now, and while I don’t believe this is a card that can really put the deck over the top, it is easily the best card to hit post Warp World. So, for all my Warp World fans out there (I’m looking at you, Tommy Ashton!), this is the new hotness for your tier 1.5 deck. Wouldn’t it be sweet if Warp World won Pro Tour: San Diego!
Overrated Card #3: Explore
You may play an additional land this turn.
Draw a card.
Props to R&D for a well designed card. That being said, just play Rampant Growth. Please.
Overrated Card #4: Joraga Warcaller
Creature – Elf Warrior
Multikicker 1G (You may pay an additional 1G any number of times as you cast this spell.)
Joraga Warcaller enters the battlefield with a +1/+1 counter on it for each time it was kicked.
Other Elf creatures you control get +1/+1 for each +1/+1 counter on Joraga Warcaller.
To me, this isn’t the card that Eldrazi Green needs. I personally believe it needs a token maker better than Ant Queen, but I could be horribly wrong about that as well. The creatures in Eldrazi Green don’t need any more help. That is what Oran-Rief, the Vastwood and Eldrazi’s Monument are for. Stay far away from Joraga Warcaller, and try out some of the newer options instead.
Ridiculous Card #1: Leatherback Baloth
Creature – Beast
Okay! Now we are talking! This is a 4/5 for three mana that will come down on turn 2 a ridiculous amount of the time if Eldrazi Green opts to play it. The thing I love about this card is how hard it is to actually kill. This bad boy runs through all of Jund’s creatures, doesn’t die to Bituminous Blast or Lighting Bolt, and can actually shrug off a fetchland-powered Steppe Lynx. Green decks have a lot of options about which way they can go right now. They can be an elf-based Eldrazi Green deck. They can be an in-your-face Stompy style deck. They can even be an all-in synergetic Elf deck topping off with Joraga Warcaller. I think the one constant of all three approaches will be Leatherback Baloth. It is easy to compare this card to Woolly Thoctar, but I feel it is miles ahead of the woolly bully.
Overrated Card #5: Omnath, Locus of Mana
Omnath, Locus of Mana
Legendary Creature – Elemental
Green mana doesn’t empty from your mana pool as phases and steps end.
Omnath, Locus of Mana gets +1/+1 for each green mana in your mana pool.
This is simple to me:
Omnath, Locus of Mana is another well designed, flavorful card, but it is not going to be winning very many competitive matches in the near future.
Underrated Card #5: Slingbow Trap
Slingbow Trap, much like Richochet Trap, is very narrow in its uses. The place where Slingbow Trap is going to get its value is against Vampires in Standard, but don’t forget that it can also kill a Baneslayer Angel. Vampire Nighthawk is traditionally a problem for Green decks, and Malakir Bloodwitch or an active Vampire Nocturnus are nothing to sneeze at either. Slingbow Trap could be strict upgrade over Windstorm depending on how the format shapes up.
Very Interesting Card #1: Wolfbriar Elemental
The big question with Wolfbriar Elemental is it better or worse than Ant Queen. That is a very difficult question to answer. Ant Queen is a pretty tough card to kill because of five toughness, but Wolfbriar Elemental brings his friends to the party immediately. Even better, Wolfbriar Elemental can bring a lot of friends to the party with him very quickly. On turn 3 in Eldrazi Green, Wolfbriar Elemental can be multi-kicked for two with the help of an Arbor Elf/Llanowar Elves, Elvish Archdruid, and three Forests. That kind of power cannot be ignored. Only testing will be able to tell which of these curvetoppers will be the better of the two.
Properly Rated Card #1: Everflowing Chalice
Everflowing Chalice enters the battlefield with a charge counter on it for each time it was kicked.
T: Add 1 to your mana pool for each charge counter on Everflowing Chalice.
I like all the talk surrounding Everflowing Chalice because I feel right in between how both camps feel. Everflowing Chalice is not overly powerful by any means, but it isn’t a weak card either. Some Constructed decks need this effect and others do not. I feel Everflowing Chalice is a middle of the road, harmless card that will see its fair share of play, but never lead to anything broken. There is nothing wrong with that. Good card is good. Nothing more, nothing less.
Card I Could Care Less About #1: Lodestone Golem
Artifact Creature – Golem
Nonartifact spells cost 1 more to cast.
It isn’t good enough for Standard because it has three toughness and is extremely easy to kill. It’s too slow for Extended, where people are making 20/20 indestructible tokens on turn 2. It isn’t relevant for Legacy because there is no deck looking for this kind of effect, and while it is probably very good in some form of a Stax deck in Vintage, I do not play any Vintage so it has no relevance for me. Lodestone Golem is one gigantic MEH.
Card(s) I Wish I Had Any Clue About #1, 2, 3, 4, and 5: Dual-Colored Man Lands
Are these cards good? Of course they are good! How could they not be good?! But saying a card is good and how it will play in the format are two completely different things. Each of these man-lands are very good on in a vacuum, but what decks do they go into? Right now, Standard decks that are relevant are either mono-colored (Eldrazi Green, Vampires, Mono-Red), can’t actually play the lands (Boros Bushwhacker, Barely Boros), or can slot them in perfectly (G/W/b Junk, Grixis, U/W/r Control). Do I think these man-lands will spawn new archetypes? Certainly not. But clearly these lands are very good, and will be very relevant for the two years that they are legal. I don’t have any clue which is the best one. They are all good! Hell, they are probably the best card(s) in the set.
Card That Is Way Out Of Its League #1: Quicksand
This isn’t 1998, folks! Creatures are gigantic, and giving one -1/-2 will change it from a one-mana 9/10 to a one-mana 8/8. Nothing to see here!
Properly Rated Card #2: Halimar Depths
Halimar Depths enters the battlefield tapped.
T: Add U to your mana pool.
When Halimar Depths enters the battlefield, look at top three cards of your library and put them back in any order.
Halimar Depths is another case of a good card being good. It isn’t overpowered. It isn’t underpowered. It will win games with its manipulation. It will lose games by entering the battlefield tapped when the player needs a land that enters the battlefield untapped more than life itself. It is just a good card that will be seeing play for some time.
Card I Wish I Had Any Clue About #6: Tectonic Edge
Is this the second coming of Wasteland. No, not at all. I know Wasteland and this, my friends, is no Wasteland. However, we cannot expect to see anything that powerful again for a long time. So, what can we expect from Tectonic Edge? Truthfully, I’m not very sure. Just looking at Standard, the landscape is bound to change. I believe the new man-lands alone make it seem like Tectonic Edge will see play, as they are so powerful that they demand answers. Also, the three-color decks that are dominating the format (Jund, Grixis, U/W/r control) have a million non-basics to blow up. The problem is that Tectonic Edge taps for colorless mana. Colorless mana can really hinder a lot of decks in this format. We saw how badly screwing with people’s mana was with Spreading Seas and Convincing Mirage. Playing Tectonic Edge could hinder your own development in the same fashion that those cards did. Does the good outweigh the bad? My gut is telling me no, but I won’t be surprised when proven otherwise.
Well, there it is. My feelings on the new cards across the board. Because I love to stick myself out on a ledge to be criticized, I will go on a limb and say that the man-lands are the best card(s) in the new set, Jace, the Mind Sculptor is over-hyped, Abyssal Persecutor is under-hyped, and Everflowing Chalice will see a ton of play. Next week I’ll be talking about…
I don’t have a topic for next week! Suggestions?