M13 Set Review Part 1: Red And Blue!

In the first part of his M13 set review, Patrick Chapin goes over the red and blue cards that have caught his eye. Get inspired to play with new cards at SCG Open Series: St. Louis this weekend!

M13 is now in full effect! The M13 Prerelease was this past weekend (always a good time), and now the fourth core set since the relaunching of Magic with M10 is set to become tournament legal this weekend. The Titans are finally gone (good riddance), as are Mana Leak and Ponder. They are still tournament legal for three months, so M13 is sort of split into two debuts: this weekend and in three months.

M13 is not a powering down, however. It is a refocusing of where the critical battles are fought. Instead of a world of crazy sixes, there are a number of exciting new fives (with a better spread across all costs). Different removal, different planeswalkers, different bombs to win with, different tools for aggression. M13 is a very different landscape than M12, with tools to immediately impact tournament play as well as seeds that will blossom with the Return to Ravnica this fall.

Today, I am going to discuss some of the red and blue cards in M13. I’ll be back Wednesday and Friday to finish discussing the rest.


Crimson Muckwader

The entire new "Kird Ape" cycle is obviously near the top of the list of cards that will change in value with the inevitable reprinting of shocklands in Return to Ravnica this fall. One way to evaluate these cards is to look at them as being gold cards that have the upside of being castable without the second color, but the drawback of being weaker when played with a dual land rather than the appropriate basic. All in all, the drawback is actually probably slightly bigger than the advantage, though the rate of some of these are quite good.

Crimson Muckwader has a pretty big advantage in that he is red, a color that notoriously appreciates small creatures. After all, a 2/1 for two is not even that bad a deal for red creatures, so getting stuck with that as the downside is not exactly a bum deal. The hidden drawback, however, is that you have to play enough red to actually play him early plus enough black to actually have a bunch of Swamps.

Blood Crypt and other shocklands will help tremendously, even in three-color decks; but until then, he is basically resigned to R/B decks. This has not been the best color combination recently. If anything, the R/B deck we want to build is Vampires, which might not be the best home for the Muckwader (and his lack of tribal synergy).

Krenko’s Command; Krenko, Mob Boss; Mogg Flunkies

Evaluating new linear cards requires looking at them each as individual cards and as a package.

Krenko’s Command is a reflavored Dragon Fodder, which was a mediocre but playable way to make Goblins for the dedicated before. It is not the most efficient token maker in the world, so you have to be getting pretty heavily rewarded to make it worth it. As a result, it is likely to end up tier 2 at best (as usual).

Krenko, Mob Boss is a lot more exciting! While he does cost four, he can completely take over games and provide a geometrically increasing board presence when you have to go big. What is particularly exciting is the three month window where Krenko and Goblin Chieftain are both legal in Standard at the same time.

Imagine the following opening:

Turn 1- Any Goblin.
Turn 2- Krenko’s Command or Goblin Wardriver (attack for 1).
Turn 3- Goblin Chieftain (attack for 8 or 9).
Turn 4- Krenko, Mob Boss, activate (attack for 18 or 21).

That is a definitely an extremely aggressive nut draw! Krenko, Mob Boss is definitely going to be one of this set’s, "It dies to Doom Blade," (or Murder). That said, it offers such an awesome payoff, it could actually be worth it.

Remember, you don’t only get to do it once. You literally double the number of Goblins on your team every turn. If they don’t have a removal spell for even a single turn, they are in real serious trouble. Now add to this the ability to give him haste and ensure that you always get to double your board? This is the card that could actually make Goblins playable.

Mogg Flunkies is a reasonable role-playing reprint that some from the old days will remember fondly. Unfortunately, time has not been kind to Mogg Flunkies, a card that has found itself demoted from tier 1 to fringe. This is the future. Creatures are way better than they used to be. He does offer three-power for two and the right tribe, though.

Goblins has been an interesting archetype in recent years as one is pulled in three different directions: tribal Goblins, Mono Red, and combo/tokens-esque Goblins.

Here is a possible starting point for a dedicated Tribal Goblins deck:

Goblin Grenade is another sweet incentive that will only be legal with Krenko’s Command and Krenko, Mob Boss for three month. Brimstone Volley might be reasonable as well, though I don’t love how it lines up at the moment (mana and damage-wise). Pillar of Flame is obviously another option, but I prefer the burn spells to be higher impact when we have so few and already have so many cheap plays, hence the Bonfire of the Damneds.

Krenko, Mob Boss would totally be worth playing more of, but Hellrider is a pretty good card, too. I am not sure what the right balance is, and even six four-drops is probably at least one too many (with another Mogg Flunkies being a reasonable option if you are less greedy than me).

Hellion Crucible may not seem that strong on the surface, but the key is that the opportunity cost is very low. It isn’t like you really need 23 Mountains in your deck. So what are the colorless land choices? Ghost Quarter? Splashing Wolf Run? Hellion Crucible gives you giant haste creatures, which is actually something you could really be in the market for after a sweeper.

Signal Pest isn’t a Goblin but could totally turn out better than Goblin Fireslinger and should be considered. As a matter of fact, it isn’t clear that tribal Goblins is really better than some sort of Kuldotha Red variant:

Sadly, this take on the strategy doesn’t make that good of use of the new M13 Goblins cards aside from Krenko’s Command. However, it does promise some pretty blistering starts, and who knows? Maybe there is some hybrid possible (or a vulnerable metagame one week).

Firewing Phoenix

Chandra’s Phoenix has been replaced (though will be legal for three more months), and the replacement is a very different sort of Phoenix. While Chandra’s Phoenix has always been much more about haste and has mostly been a tool for aggressive red decks, Firewing Phoenix, however, is slower and harder hitting, suggesting use in some sort of midrange deck.

At first glance, the power level is attention grabbing, as a 4/2 flier for four is already the right ballpark, and then you get the ability to rebuy-DI thrown in. Then the reality sets in that four is a very tough casting cost for red decks, these days, and anything short of a star has a long way to go.

While Chandra’s Phoenix was really about the haste, Firewing Phoenix is very much about the rebuying. One possible home for Firewing Phoenix is in some sort of U/R/x midrange deck with some fliers and removal. It hits hard but can provide some long game, as well. Any deck with Desolate Lighthouse has the potential to combo it with Firewing Phoenix to build a slower Whispers of the Muse.

Firewing Phoenix is conveniently the right size to rumble with Restoration Angel, as he will happily trade then come back later. In fact, he might be so well positioned that some Grixis and U/R control decks consider adopting him, particularly if they go some kind of Thundermaw Hellkite route. This Phoenix is very slow, and likely a two-of much more often than a four-of; however, he is worth considering.

Mark of Mutiny

Act of Treason now does one more damage!

Searing Spear

How far we have come…

I used to get really excited by Volcanic Hammer. Unfortunately, we don’t even really play all that many Incinerates, so this one isn’t shaking things up too much. That said, obviously three damage for two mana is still a good deal if you are in the market for that sort of thing. The biggest thing holding Incinerate has been the lack of relevance for three-toughness creatures. After all, Pillar of Flame takes out an awful lot of creatures, but then they jump up to a four toughness, like Restoration Angel. There are definitely some Blade Splicer Golems and Zealous Conscripts, but three toughness has not been nearly as popular as two.

Slumbering Dragon

I give this one an A for "top down" but a solid C- for the play pattern it encourages. This doesn’t stop me from being willing to rock this one in the right circumstances. It is a very exciting card early in Limited; however, it is not totally out of the question for Constructed. After all, Increasing Savagery is almost too perfect of a combo (a card that is totally reasonable to run in its own right).

Reckless Brute

This is a very so-so rate, but if you are in the market for maximum damage from haste creatures…


This strange card is definitely somewhere between Jokulhaups and Warp World. Level 1, with this card, is to just cast it in a deck containing plenty of one-cost cards that can deal a point of damage such as Pillar of Flame, Galvanic Blast, and one-drop creatures. You aren’t going to want to stick this in some random Mono Red; however, if you have a big red deck that uses Koth of the Hammer or Gilded Lotus, you could actually reasonably get the mana to cast this unwieldy spell.

Level 2 with Worldfire is to set up a combo that ensures they die immediately. For instance, in Modern, you could have a Rift Bolt suspended so no matter what they draw, they die on your upkeep. Of course that takes a tenth mana and the Modern card pool. Can we do better in Standard?

What about Argent Sphinx? Most of the "Blinking" in Standard (currently) involves the creature returning immediately. Argent Sphinx is actually on a small delay. It does cost a mana to use, but you can actually exile Argent Sphinx during your opponent’s end step. Then untap, Worldfire, and at the end of your turn, you get a Sphinx back (with your opponent having no card they can draw to save them).

Venser, Shaper Savant is a great option in this same vein. It doesn’t require mana the turn you "go off." It is good on its own. It can help you rebuild, even if you don’t have an actual creature to kill with (letting you Blink a land or even itself!) The biggest issue with relying too heavily on Venser is that he is such a powerful permanent, opponents are going to throw everything they have at Venser to try to keep you from getting to use it at all.

Another possibility is Fiend Hunter. Fiend Hunter can target one of your own creatures so that when you Worldfire, the Fiend Hunter leaves play, returning your creature to you. Oblivion Ring is the same way. The tough part about relying on Oblivion Ring is that you want to be able to use it on their guys as well, but this can often doom the inevitable combo. Interestingly, Venser can let you reset O-Rings and Fiend Hunters later in the game. Leonin Relic-Warder is yet another O-Ring type effect if you can use an artifact to win.

Praetor’s Grasp is actually a pretty exciting possibility, as you can search your opponent’s deck for a one-cost creature, a burn spell, or even just a land to give yourself a jump start at the post Worldfire world.

Sudden Disappearance, Stolen Goods, and Glimmerpoint Stag all work but take too much mana to really do what we need when we need it.

Here is a first (surely awful) attempt at a dedicated Standard Worldfire Combo deck:

Continuing in the vein of surely wretched first drafts, here is a possible starting point for a Mono-Red Worldfire deck that might be moldable into a real deck:


It’s about damn time! Smelt has been a long time coming and is sure to fine homes at the right times (if only because Shatter has found homes many, many times). While Ancient Grudge is a more powerful card, there are plenty of times where we don’t actually need to kill two artifacts, and having the one-mana discount is much appreciated.

Besides, it isn’t like green mana is always a sure thing. Sometimes we splash green mana for the possibility of flashing back Grudge, but really we just want a Shatter. A Shatter for one mana is like the difference between Lightning Bolt and Searing Spear and not to be underestimated. This card has good chances of appearing in every Constructed format (from time to time), as it is the exact tool you want when mana is the bottleneck and a key artifact is the problem.

Wild Guess

This is a totally reasonable rate for this effect with the strangest component being the double red cost, which is not something we are used to on card filtering. If you can manage this, however, this is an excellent option to consider for some kind of dedicated Reanimator strategy. When you know that some of your cards are going to be "dead," this is pretty close to a draw two for two. Of course, if you want the card in the graveyard anyway, then it’s pure profit.

Of course, Faithless Looting exists, so nothing’s ever really dead. However, even when you aren’t in full-blown combo mode, you could just want to filter away your Gut Shot for cards that are more useful. In fact, just discarding a Ravings is totally reasonable since it saves you the two mana (a great hedge for when you already like the cards you have, but now have the Ravings for later).

The double red cost definitely brings Tibalt to mind since both are double red discard outlets. What sort of deck wants to do both of these?

To make Wild Guess better than Think Twice / Desperate Ravings, you generally have to value the three mana you save highly as well as actually have something in your deck you actually want to discard (not just using it as card filtering), or else it is just a bit more restrictive than we’d like (compare to See Beyond).

Flames of the Firebrand

Arc Lightning is back! Arc Lightning was always super exciting back in the day, but there was a pretty important difference: creatures weren’t as good back then. Because they weren’t as good, they were smaller in general. This lead to Arc Lightning getting more two and three for one’s than it will today. Besides, you haven’t really done something all that impressive when you Flames of the Firebrand 75% of a Lingering Souls.

Arc Trail is still legal and generally a slightly stronger card than Arc Lightning (saving a mana is just awesome), and it isn’t exactly dominating the tournament scene. There is a lot of competition at the three spot for good burn (Brimstone Volley, Volt Charge, Bonfire of the Damned, Slagstorm), so Flames of the Firebrand won’t go in every red deck. But it is a useful tool to have available when the format happens to find itself in a place where the 1-1-1 split is what you want but also need the ability to hit a single target for 3.


So it’s an Earthquake that doesn’t hurt me? I’m already interested. Paying an extra mana to get it at instant speed and we are talking about a very important card in the format. This is going to change the calculations players make during combat.

This is the best instant speed sweeper in many, many years, which means the play of "on your end step, sweep the board, untap, and play something awesome."

What is interesting is that Magmaquake has been printed at the same time as Bonfire of the Damned, another slightly overpowered red sweeper. Slagstorm and Whipflare are great cards, as well, so we definitely have an embarrassment of riches in this department. Still, none of the other options are instants. None of the other options can sweep planeswalkers. Magmaquake is going to be one of the most important cards in the set. Although it is a rare and not a mythic, it is hilarious to me that it is currently (as of this writing) selling for under $2.

Magmaquake is one of the most important cards in M13 in terms of shaping the new Standard format, but it does have a blind spot: fliers. If only there was a new weapon against fliers, particularly the swarms of Lingering Souls and Moorland Haunt tokens that can be so annoying…

Thundermaw Hellkite

Mark my words, one of the absolute best cards in the set and destined to become one of the chase Mythics, it is astounding to me how many people are saying all of the same things about Thundermaw Hellkite that people said about Baneslayer Angel. Even the people who get how good Baneslayer was are having trouble wrapping their mind around Thundermaw Hellkite and why it is not just "some random dude."

Ok, first of all, it is clear from the comments on my article a few weeks ago on Thundermaw Hellkite (which can be found here) that there are a few fundamental misunderstandings about evaluating Magic cards running rampant. No wonder people are so surprised when they discover the cards that turn out to be good.

First of all, it is important to remember that Magic cards don’t exist in a vacuum. Obviously, all of our evaluations based on keywords and stats are just a starting point: a guideline. If no one plays any fliers, who cares that Thundermaw Hellkite can kill them all?

That said, evaluating the card on raw power can go a long way towards painting us a picture of the future. For instance, when Strangleroot Geist was first revealed, an ungodly number of people wrote the card off since what deck can actually support double green on turn 2? Wolf Run? They don’t want Strangleroot Geist anyway!

Of course, when we understand just how powerful Strangleroot Geist is, we began to imagine a world where people change their basic assumptions about cards, decks, and the format. What decks can support double green on turn 2? Strangleroot Geist decks, that’s who!

While we can just look to jam Thundermaw Hellkite into existing decks, we eventually want to get to a place of understanding what real "Thundermaw Hellkite Decks" look like. Its power level is so high, it will demand homes be created for it.

Now, there seems to be an awful lot of misunderstanding of Thundermaw’s abilities’ power level. Most notably, there seems to be a lack of understanding about haste.

Haste is good.

No, better than that. Haste is really, really good.

Now, it totally depends on what you are giving haste to (obviously), since a hasty Camel isn’t impressing anyone. However, the bigger and cheaper the creature, the better haste is. Haste on Thundermaw Hellkite is like a comes into play ability of Lava Axe…but then you get to keep the Dragon!

This isn’t even factoring in the ability to kill fliers yet. Let’s just stick to haste for a minute. Some people were surprised to see haste compared to lifelink since haste only impacts "one turn," whereas lifelink effects every turn.

First of all, haste effects every single turn of the game. You could always have another haste creature. Second, haste is remarkable against sorcery speed effects. How much life do you gain from a Baneslayer that dies to Wrath of God or Oblivion Ring? How much damage did you deal with your Thundermaw against those?

Magic is full of two now versus one extra a turn choices. For instance, what is better: a creature that draws a card when it hits the opponent or a creature that draws a single card when you play it? It can go either way, depending on the context, but the argument that a creature that draws a card when you play it sucks because a different creature can draw a card every turn is obviously silly. They do very different things.

Sometimes you want a card that can increase your advantage every turn (like Baneslayer, which sort of gives you an extra "attack" every time it hits them). Sometimes you want a card that gives you twice as much now (like Thundermaw giving you an extra attack immediately, but no more in future turns).

Now, where am I getting Thundermaw Hellkite’s power level from?

Haste on a 5/5 flier is totally worth a mana. I’d rather have a 5/5 flier with haste for five than a 5/5 flier without haste for four (as long as I actually want to attack people). Let’s keep it real, you’d play a 5/5 for four if the right occasion came along. Juzam Djinn isn’t really so bad, and flying is a much, MUCH better drawback than dealing one damage to you a turn.

As if that wasn’t enough, Thundermaw Hellkite kills opposing Lingering Souls, Birds of Paradise, and taps their Restoration Angel and Delver. Does this affect everyone? Nope, but you aren’t even paying for it!

Seriously, we are already getting a better deal than you can find elsewhere just getting a 5/5 flier with haste for five. Demigod of Revenge was a staple bomb in Standard and Extended, and it cost RRRRR. Now we factor in that you get to mise free Birds, Lingering Souls, and more? Seriously? Is this a joke? That isn’t something we are interested in? IT IS FREE.

You don’t want to put Thundermaw Hellkite in your Mono Red deck? Maybe what you should be asking yourself is if you should really be putting your Mono Red in your Thundermaw Hellkite deck. Just because Baneslayer Angel wasn’t used in every White Weenie deck doesn’t mean that it hasn’t won countless tournaments and been one of the best cards in years.

You want my pick from M13? This is it. Thundermaw is what’s happening. This one isn’t even that well disguised. I’ll make you a deal. If Thundermaw turns out to not be good, I’ll write an article called "I was wrong about Thundermaw." Of course, if you commented on my Thundermaw article dissing the card, you better have your "I was wrong about Thundermaw" post ready for when it starts winning tournaments.


From a Constructed standpoint, Blue is the unchallenged winner of "fewest and least meaningful Constructed cards." It is hard to ever really paint blue as the worst color in a set (and this is certainly no commentary on how it is in Limited, as I have not yet drafted with M13). What is clear is that when M13 was being finalized, Wizards realized just how bad they messed up with Snapcaster Mage, not to mention yet another year of aggro-control being oppressive.

Faeries? Caw-Blade? Delver? Yes, other decks are playable and often good against these decks, but it is fun to mix up the game a bit beyond, "What is the best anti-Aggro Control deck you can build?"

M13 seems to suggest an overcompensation; an attempt to aim past where they normally would as they have fallen short of "scale back on blue efficient cards" in recent years. They would seem to rather miss the mark going too far than not far enough this time.

That said, in the end, blue is blue. It gets card drawing and countering, two pieces of the color pie that have been undercosted since day one. Since so much of Magic is based on what is grandfathered in, it is highly likely that the best blue cards will continue to shine. Additionally, drawing cards and library manipulation is the type of thing that causes each mistake to be magnified since you can find whatever your overpowered cards are and do them more and more often.

I don’t have as many blue cards jumping out at me, but there are definitely some gems.


Ok, this probably isn’t one of the gems, but it is an interesting new take on a classic design. Scrivener was always very well loved, even if he wasn’t a tier 1 Constructed card. Archaeomancer is actually significantly better in a couple ways. First, being able to get back sorceries as well is certainly worth more than the double color requirement (as Izzet Chronarch was much better than Scrivener).

Next, losing a point of power in exchange for costing one less mana is a massive upgrade. Is it enough to get it into Constructed? There certainly is a lot of competition at the four spot, not to mention how much this card just does what Snapcaster Mage does but for twice the mana. Of course that is not exactly a reasonable bar…

Archaeomancer is probably more "sweet" than it is good, but it will also probably show up a little bit (and be a big "surprise" and cool "tech" when it does).

Arctic Aven

Another card that is going to change in value this fall with the Return to Ravnica; the prospect of a three-power lifelink creature is pretty exciting, even if he a bit fragile and mana hungry. Again, not a tier 1 card on rate, but it is a nice way to race creature decks that don’t have a lot of removal.

Augur of Bolas

Now we’re talking! Augur of Bolas is one of the absolute best blue cards in the set and a much-appreciated bone thrown to those of us who enjoy drawing extra cards. It does require you to play a certain threshold of instants and sorceries to make it work, but we were probably doing that anyway.

I would play Elvish Visionary in blue in a lot of decks. Give him two extra points of toughness and we are talking about a star. So how does Augur of Bolas’ ability compare to drawing a card? You don’t always get the card since even with 20 spells in your deck, you are going to brick 29% of the time. That’s right, with 20 spells in a 60-card deck, you are only 71% to hit on Augur of Bolas.

Does this mean Augur of Bolas draws you 71% of a card (assuming you play 20/60)? Well, remember, you aren’t just drawing a random card. Let’s assume that we don’t place particular value on spells versus land (which would be totally reasonable in the right deck). We still value having the choice between Ponder and Gut Shot, between Vapor Snag and Mana Leak.

With 20/60, Augur of Bolas will show you two or more spells 26% of the time. Even setting aside the occasional choice between two Ponders, you are still talking about nearly a quarter of the time you will get some amount of selection. We even get to choose from among three 3% of the time. How much is this worth? Generally, I would say choosing between two cards is worth 1.25 cards (with drawing two cards, then discarding one of your choice being worth about 1.5). If 22% of the time we get options and another 3% of the time we have the bonus of a choice of three, we are talking about roughly 6.25% of an extra card of "value" from each Augur of Bolas due to selection (25% of 0.25 extra cards).

If we add this to the 71% of a card we were already drawing, we are talking about over 77% of a card. Next, we take into consideration the ability to reset the top of our library due to Ponder. Just imagine: we look at the top three and it is a Restoration Angel, a land, and a Thought Scour. We take the Restoration Angel or land (depending on what we need), then we Augur of Bolas and at least hit the Thought Scour (or whatever the third card down is), giving us a fresh top of the deck next turn. Delver of Secrets gets better when you have some way to abuse it, and likewise, so does Augur of Bolas.

Augur of Bolas is definitely blessed to have been printed in the age of Delver, though it is likely to show up in a variety of places over the next year besides Delver. Still, we might as well start with the villain:

I’m not actually sure if it is that unreasonable to start counting Augur of Bolas as part of the mana base since it gives you access to Gitaxian Probe, Ponder, or Thought Scour 39% of the time (in this build). If one wanted to go more extreme, you could play the full twelve and have almost exactly a 50% chance of hitting a cantrip.

Augur of Bolas actually could be a totally reasonable man for a control deck as well, serving as a sort of Seagate Oracle. In fact, many control decks are going to be able to play more than 20 spells, making him that much more likely to actually hit. Getting maximum value out of the body could be as simple as playing a Sword of Feast and Famine or two, but it might also just be fine to not play any enhancements.

Augur Bolas is an ideal fellow to carry a Sword or a Pike, but he is also a Merfolk, which is an interesting creature type to be sure given the printing of Master of the Pearl Trident.

Master of the Pearl Trident

The new Lord of Atlantis is a functional upgrade, as he no longer buffs opposing Merfolk. He is sure to bust onto the Legacy scene, but maybe there is a chance he crosses over to Standard with Augur of Bolas. As for Legacy:

Yeah, yeah, I know, Brainstorm instead of Standstill is sacrilegious in a Merfolk deck…

Battle of Wits

For the record, I sympathize with the argument that this card isn’t tournament legal. My only counterpoint is that neither is cascade or fetchlands. Look, we are playing a card game. Sometimes we just do the best we can to make sure the rules engine stays together.

As for its power level, it has actually "gotten there" a number of times in the past, even if not quite tier 1. What is particularly appealing about Battle of the Wits is that going to all of the trouble of supporting it (playing a 235-card deck or whatever) is actually a ton of fun, since it forces you to play with a lot of sweet cards you otherwise wouldn’t get a chance to use. I will be writing more about this card later in the week due to its synergy with some other M13 cards…


This isn’t the most efficient way to solve problems, but it is a relatively versatile one. After all, how many times has blue/black wanted an answer to a Sword besides Ratchet Bomb? As a creature removal spell, it is actually worse than Oblivion Ring (and is a weaker card in general), but in terms of giving blue a new dimension, Encrust succeeds.

Essence Scatter

Not as good as Mana Leak; no shocker there. What is interesting is this brief period where we can play both, but Cavern of Souls is legal. Some players seem to be of the opinion that Essence Scatter is generally stronger than Doom Blade. Compare Cancel to Vindicate.

Yes, obviously Vindicate can hit land, but it is also double colored and a sorcery. What if we had access to 1WW instant destroy target non-land permanent? That card would definitely be better than Cancel. Murder is in in the same league as Cancel. Doom Blade has the restriction of not hitting black creatures, while Essence Scatter has the restriction of not hitting artifacts, enchantments, planeswalkers, sorceries, or instants (a much bigger restriction).

Of course, it is still a two-mana counterspell, so it isn’t that bad.

Jace’s Phantasm

A 1/1 flier for one is really not that bad of a deal in blue, and Lord of the Unreal is a card, so Illusion is not that bad of a creature type. As for the +4/+4 end of it, well, we can go all out and do stuff like Mind Sculpt and Thought Scour (YOU!) to push us in that direction. More likely, however, we will just have Thought Scours in our blue weenie, Illusions deck and sometimes party.

Mind Sculpt

Since this targets only opponents, it is a lot less abusable in some sort of graveyard combo deck. It is, however, a reasonable addition to the fabled turbo-mill archetype that really was a deck once (i.e., Sanity Grinding) despite being the exact type of deck that people always build, always want to be good, and never is. Well, almost never.

Still, it is sweet.

Besides, who knows, maybe we reach a critical mass of "cares about your graveyard being big" cards in Return to Ravnica so that we actually want to stick this in a deck with Jace, Memory Adept and Jace’s Phantasm and use it as a sort of "one-card, instant enemy threshold" enabler.

Talrand, Sky Summoner

This guy is fine and can totally take over games, no question. I am not quite as keen on him as others, as there is a lot of competition for the four-spot and he is quite vulnerable. Still, he effectively has "haste," since he can make you guys immediately with Gut Shot and Gitaxian Probe (or just having mana). Plus, he is the right creature type. Overall, he is good; he is. It’s just that I’d rather be friends. I like him; I am just not in love with him.


Look, I would Index for nine. I might even Index for eight on the right day. Indexing for five, however, is pretty awful. It is not totally out of the question, say, if you had some sweet combo and a lot of ways to reset the top of your library. On rate, however, Index is worse than Reach through Mists. This doesn’t mean that people aren’t going to play with it.

Brainstorm was criminally underplayed for an entire generation. Fast forward to a few years ago. Ponder was printed and was criminally underplayed. Then Preordain was printed and underrated (at first). Eventually, however, people caught on that this is what they should be doing. After Preordain was replaced by Ponder again, people were still slow to adopt Ponder, but eventually it has made its way everywhere.

Things have swung so far the other way that people are now looking for this type of effect to always be good instead of just evaluating it based on rate. To many, Index looks at five instead of three, so party on! The key differences, of course, are that you don’t draw a card (a pretty big one) and you can’t shuffle.

Look, maybe Index was underrated, too. What I do know is that I wouldn’t play Sage Owl even if it let me rearrange the top five cards of my deck, not even if it was a 1/3 that didn’t fly. I would, however, absolutely love a 1/3 that draws me a card for two mana. If that effect is worth less than a card, I am not super excited about the prospect of spending a mana and a card to get it.

Any new red and blue cards (besides Nicol Bolas) that you’d like commentary on? Want to go on record that Thundermaw Hellkite isn’t good? Chime in in the forums!

See you Wednesday!

Patrick Chapin
"The Innovator"