Insider Information – Overrated and Underrated in Rise of the Eldrazi

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Friday, April 16th – As is customary on the release of a new set, Cedric Phillips is here to evaluate the overrated and underrated cards in Rise of the Eldrazi. Do the ten-mana-monsters pass muster? Is the White Wall a good Omen? Does Student of Warfare score top marks? Read on to find out!

You know the drill. I make bold predictions so I can be made fun of, and then I make fun of you when I’m right and you aren’t.

Or something like that.

First, let’s see how right and wrong I was about Worldwake!

Cards About Which I Was Correct

1.) Kor Firewalker – It wasn’t too hard to be correct about a sure thing, but it never hurts to stroke my ego, right?
2.) Loam Lion – I said it would replace Steppe Lynx in Zoo decks and it did, for the most part. Zoo did evolve quite a bit over the season.
3.) Jace, the Mind Sculptor – I always thought this card was insanely overrated, and in Standard I was correct. Jace has been doing very well in Extended, and once Shards of Alara rotates out, it will more than likely be a powerhouse. However, I did say it was going to be overrated, and it has been!
4.) Treasure Hunt – I didn’t like this card very much when I first saw it, and said as much. I did say it was going to be an upgrade over Divination, and that wasn’t even true.
5.) Ricochet Trap – Cheap Misdirection effects are sick, and this one saw play in the sideboard of Hypergenesis. Pretty happy I got this one right.
6.) Explore – I said Rampant Growth is better, and I still feel that way.

Cards About Which I Was Incorrect

1.) Perimeter Captain – I thought this card was going to bring control decks back in a big way. Today, it is sometimes seen as a one-of in the sideboard of U/W Control decks. Don’t think I could have been farther off on this one.
2.) Dispel – I thought this was a card that would be used to win counter wars across Eternal formats. Turns out Spell Pierce is just a lot better at doing that.
3.) Abyssal Persecutor – It really hasn’t found a home yet and it’s hard to say this obscure card ever will. I know Conley and Gavin are in love with it in Extended, but outside of that minor splash, I was quite wrong about this big fella.
4.) Searing Blaze – Good card is good. I thought Searing Blaze would be difficult to cast a times, but those occurrences are few and far between.
5.) Arbor Elf – This currently sees no play, as Eldrazi Green is a dead deck. Oops…
6.) Leatherback Baloth – I thought this 4/5 beast was going to cause a lot of trouble. It actually hasn’t caused any trouble! Yet…

Cards I Didn’t Even Mention

1.) Terastodon – I think Dumbo was missed by everyone. It’s relevant in every single format except Standard, and when Shards rotates out and the format slows down, I could see it being good there too.
2.) Chain Reaction – I didn’t mention Chain Reaction because I didn’t think it would be very good, but it is actually an excellent sideboard card for Jund decks.
3.) Stone Idol Trap – Suck on that, Kor Firewalker!
4.) Stoneforger Mystic – You would think with how much I love White Weenie that I would have seen Stoneforger Mystic coming, but I didn’t at all. This card has been in a thorn in my side for months due to its ability to get two White Weenie destroying equipment, in Basilisk Collar and Behemoth Sledge.
5.) Basilisk Collar – I felt Basilisk Collar would be pretty useful, but I had no idea it would create such a format-defining combo.
6.) Sejiri Steppe – This card has had a giant effect on many games of Magic in the past few months. It looks so innocent, but it is oh so good.

Here is the last sentence from my Worldwake recap:

“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.”

It’s hard to say how correct this sentence is. The man-lands are all pretty insane and are seeing a ton of play, but I’m not sure they are the best cards in the set. Jace, the Mind Sculptor was over-hyped, Abyssal Persecutor was over-hyped (and has been disappointing), and Everflowing Chalice is seeing a ton of play.

Overall, not a bad recap! Let’s see how I do this time around!

Underrated Card #1: All Is Dust

All Is Dust
Tribal Sorcery – Eldrazi
Each player sacrifices all colored permanents

I think All Is Dust is very similar to Akroma’s Vengeance, sans cycling. I don’t think it will have a huge impact on this Standard format, but I do think it will be a huge role player in the block format for Pro Tour: San Juan. It deals with a ton of problems, but the main one being Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and it can even be accelerated out thanks to Eldrazi Temple. If control decks are good in Block Constructed, I think All Is Dust will have a lot to do with it.

Overrated Card #1: Emrakul, The Aeons Torn

Emrakul, The Aeons Torn
Legendary Creature – Eldrazi
Emrakul, The Aeons Torn can’t be countered
When you cast Emrakul, The Aeons Torn, take an extra turn after this one
Flying, protections from colored spells, Annihilator 6
When Emrakul, The Aeons Torn is put into a graveyard from anywhere, its owner shuffles his or her graveyard into his or her library

The pre-release card sure is a monster, but I don’t think it is going to be that great. For all the ways that this can be abused (Summoning Trap, Oath of Druids, Show and Tell, Polymorph), I am going to give R&D the benefit of the doubt and assume they tested this a bunch to make sure it wasn’t too broken. In a deck like Oath of Druids, I think you would just much rather have Terastodon to deal with problems, or Iona, Shield of Emeria to lock opponents out of the game. Summoning Trap and Polymorph are things to look out for in Standard, but if those become a deck, Wrath effects (Day of Judgment) and sacrifice effects (Gatekeeper of Malakir) will be ready to handle the problem. It looks scary and the art is terrible, but I don’t think Emrakul, The Aeons Torn is going to be dominating any formats anytime soon.

Underrated Card #2: Deathless Angel

Deathless Angel
Creature – Angel
WW: Target creature is indestructible this turn

Sphinx of Jwar Isle taught me to never overlook giant win conditions. Deathless Angel is a pretty scary card to me. Seven toughness means it shrugs off Baneslayer Angel and just about everything else you send into it, and if you untap with it, it is never going to die unless you want it to. Also, playing this with WW up forces your opponent to have two removal spells or they have a very real problem on their hands. Deathless Angel really looks quite underwhelming but when you take into account that it is gigantic, hard to kill, and can survive any mass removal your White deck would be casting, it’s hard for me to believe this card won’t be good.

Underrated Card #3: Gideon Jura

Gideon Jura
Planeswalker – Gideon
[+2]: During target opponent’s next turn, creatures that player controls attack Gideon Jura if able.
[-2]: Destroy target tapped creature.
[0]: Until end of turn, Gideon Jura becomes a 6/6 Human Soldier creature that’s still a planeswalker. Prevent all damage that would be dealt to him this turn.

Get your highlighter ready, because this is my pick for best card in the set. To me, this a dream card for a control deck. It can protect itself, Time Walk your opponent, and be your win condition all in one card. Gideon Jura is not an overpowered card. It is just a very good card with excellent design. I will truly be surprised if Gideon Jura is not the real deal, but I have been wrong before.

Underrated Card #4: Hyena Umbra

Hyena Umbra
Enchantment – Aura
Enchant creature
Enchanted creature gets +1/+1 and has first strike.
Totem armor (If enchanted creature would be destroyed, instead remove damage from it and destroy this Aura.)

Hyena Umbra is as good as Totem armor is. I am of the opinion that Totem armor is a very good ability, so I think Hyena Umbra is a very good card. If you are familiar with my 18 land White Weenie deck, then you know how good a fit Hyena Umbra is in the deck. Giving White Knight, Kor Firewalker, or Kor Skyfisher a second life against a Jund deck is a lot to deal with. It is hard enough to deal with those creatures once, but a second time, when threatening Brave the Elements, may be too much for Jund to handle. I think the cheap Totem armor cards are really powerful (think Elephant Guide), while the expensive ones are just asking to be two-for-oned.

Overrated Card #2: Student of Warfare

Student of Warfare
Creature – Human Knight
Level up {W}
[Level 2-6] First strike | 3/3
[Level 7+] Double strike | 4/4

I won’t sit here and compare Student of Warfare to Figure of Destiny because it isn’t fair to compare McDonalds with In N’ Out Burger. I would just be wasting everyone’s time. However, I just don’t see it with Student of Warfare. I understand that I can have a 3/3 first striker on turn 2, but it seems like I am just asking to be blown out if I do so. It’s easy to say that I can just keep developing the board and then make it a 3/3, but then isn’t it getting outclassed by other cards like Knight of the Reliquary and Baneslayer Angel? Student of Warfare is a card I really want to be wrong about. You have no idea how wrong I want to be about this card, because I love White aggro decks, but I am not buying the hype on this one. I just want Figure of Destiny back! Is that too much to ask?!

Card I Am Unsure About #1: Survival Cache

Survival Cache
You gain 2 life. Then if you have more life than an opponent, draw a card.
Rebound (If you cast this spell from your hand, exile it as it resolves. At the beginning of your next upkeep, you may cast this card from exile without paying its mana cost.)

When I look at Survival Cache, I have fond memories of cycling Renewed Faith. Maybe this isn’t the same card at all, but perhaps it is close to it. Rebound is an interesting mechanic to decipher because you need to play games with it to see if it bad, broken, or simply average. The fact that you can gain four life and draw two cards off Survival Cache is appealing though.

Card I Am Keeping My Eye On #1: Transcendent Master

Transcendent Master
Creature – Human Cleric Avatar
Level up 1
[Level 6-11] Lifelink | 6/6
[Level 12+] Lifelink Transcendent Master is indestructible. | 9/9

Would it surprise anyone if this card was insane? Certainly not. Now, would it surprise you if this card was mediocre to bad? I don’t think so. Transcendent Master is such a difficult card to evaluate that I actually don’t want to take a stand on it. It is so easy for this card to be awesome or embarrassing depending on how the format shapes up. I could even see this card coming out of sideboards when people attempt the board-in-creatures plan.

Underrated Card #5: Deprive

As an additional cost to cast Deprive, return a land you control to its owner’s hand.
Counter target spell.

Ladies and gentleman, this is as close to Counterspell as we are going to get. And you know what? I think it is pretty gosh darn close. It goes without saying that Deprive works favorably with Landfall, but the other interactions it has is what interests me. Deprive in combination with Halimar Depths + Treasure Hunt is pretty sweet. Deprive in combination with Knight of the White Orchid could be pretty effective. I’m sure there are some other combinations that I am missing, but in the end, the combos are just icing on the cake. Deprive says counter target spell. It doesn’t say counter target spell unless your opponent does X, Y, or Z. It says counter target spell. That alone makes Deprive a very good card.

Overrated Card #3: Sea Gate Oracle

Sea Gate Oracle
Creature – Human Wizard
When Sea Gate Oracle enters the battlefield, look at the top two cards of your library. Put one of them into your hand and the other on the bottom of your library.

I played Solar Flare for about four months straight every day on Magic Online. I knew Court Hussar very well, and this, my friends, is no Court Hussar. While I think Sea Gate Oracle is a fine card, I don’t think it solves any of Blue’s problems right now in Standard. The Blue decks have no problem finding cards if they want to, due to Treasure Hunt, Mind Spring, and Divination. Perhaps Sea Gate Oracle will find a nice home in Block Constructed or will become more relevant once Shards rotates out, but for right now I am not a fan.

Underrated Card #6: See Beyond

See Beyond
Draw two cards, then shuffle a card from your hand into your library.

I think See Beyond is very good. There is no worse feeling when you are playing a control deck and you draw your win conditions in your opening hand. See Beyond solves that problem and gives you two cards. To me, this is an upgrade over Divination, and the card Treasure Hunt wanted to be. Even late in the game, See Beyond isn’t a dead draw, and you can shuffle away a land in your hand, or just something you do not need.

Card I Am Keeping My Eye On #2: Sphinx of Magosi

Sphinx of Magosi
Creature – Sphinx
2U: Draw a card and put a +1/+1 counter on Sphinx of Magosi.

As I stated with Deathless Angel, I will no longer ignore giant creatures with relevant text ever again as it pertains to Standard Magic. Sphinx of Magosi is huge, and it has an extremely relevant ability. Unchecked, Sphinx of Magosi will win the game all on its own, and very quickly. I would not be surprised to see Sphinx of Magosi become the win condition of control decks at all.

Overrated Card #4: Shared Discovery

Shared Discovery
As an additional cost to cast Shared Discovery, tap four untapped creatures you control.
Draw three cards.

Shared Discovery seems like a card that is just too hard to activate. To me, Shared Discovery seems like a card where you have to play a bunch of bad cards to get active, and once you do get it active, you will draw into more crappy cards. This is another case of a card where I think R&D was very careful to make sure it wasn’t too good. If Shared Discovery only required us to tap three creatures, I think it would be busted. However, four creatures is just a lot more than three.

Underrated Card #7: Unified Will

Unified Will
Counter target spell if you control more creatures than that spell’s controller.

A classic counterspell for a tempo deck, Unified Will is a card I could see causing a lot of problems from a U/x aggro deck, if one surfaces. Between this and Deprive, it is a scary thought to see an aggressive Blue deck get ahead on the board and have access to these cheap hard counters. Think about the Esper Aggro deck from Pro Tour: Honolulu with these counterspells. There could be something there.

That does it for this edition of underrated and overrated cards for Rise of the Eldrazi. I ‘m actually pretty excited to play with this set, and I am hoping it shakes Standard up quite a bit. I think we have all had enough of the Jund hard lock we are all in, and a radical change would be welcome.

This weekend I head out to Los Angeles to gunsling their pre-release with Rob Alexander at the LAX Radisson. If you live around the area, you should come on out and see if you can steal some packs from Rob and I. However, if you play against me, make sure you have your Leyline of the Voids maindeck, because we won’t be playing sideboarded games!

See you at LAX!

If not, see you next week for the second instalment of underrated and overrated cards in Rise of the Eldrazi.

Until next time!

Cedric Phillips

[email protected]