The ME4 release events are upon us, and I thought I’d hammer out some thoughts on the set for people who want to enter the release events
(especially the Sealed events) but don’t know how all the cards in the set fit together.
I’ll mostly be focusing on the commons, since they make up the bulk of the Limited experience, but I’ll comment on the odd uncommon or rare
here and there.
(Don Cherry voice):
First, some words about early drops and their general uselessness:
All three of these cards suffer from being quickly outclassed (almost by accident, as the 2/3 filler creatures start to hit the table), and all three
are terrible topdecks. You might be tempted by Citanul Druid, reasoning that players will be playing their artifacts in Sealed, or perhaps by Cyclopean
Mummy, thinking that your B/x deck has a terrible curve with few two-drops, and you need something in that slot.
In fact, your opponents probably won’t play anything at all on turn 2, unless it’s a 1/1 flier or a Giant Tortoise, or they lucksacked a
good uncommon, and in each case, your guy will be worthless. I’m not saying a tempo/removal deck with Bullies and Mummies is impossible, but
you’d better hope you don’t draw the wrong half of it at the start of the game.
There are two exceptions, though:
Both of these guys can do work in the mid-to-late game, so you want them in your deck. Argothian Pixies can hold off something like Clay Statue or
Dragon Engine indefinitely, while Alaborn Musketeer trades with a Wild Griffin or Primal Clay in flier mode.
Now, moving on…
I don’t always play 2/1 fliers that can’t block, but when I do, I prefer Aesthir Glider. This is a three-drop that can keep dealing damage
into the midgame, more than you can say for a lot of these other burglars.
The set has no guys with rampage and no Basilisks, so you can forget about finding much synergy. There are stalemates, though. They
don’t always happen; it depends how the two decks interact. If they’re light on kill and heavy on 2/3s and Staff of Zegon, it’s
likely the board will start to clutter up. That’s the cue to put this card in. You can also get value out of it by, for example, casting it on
Obsianus Golem the turn after they drop an Air Elemental.
If Urza and Mishra ever marketed an energy drink, this would certainly be the name of it.
There are enough artifacts in this Limited environment that Artifact Blast (Ahhhhh….refreshing!) will probably always make your deck. Against
most Sealed decks, it’ll be a cheaper Negate. Depending on the number and type of artifacts you see from your opponent in game 1, you can decide
whether or not to use it on the first creature or hold it for that Icy Manipulator, Al-Abara’s Carpet (does it match the drapes?), or Clockwork
There are enough artifacts around for Artifact Blast to be good but probably not enough that we can say the same about Atog. An artifact-heavy Sealed
deck in ME4 will have 10-11 artifacts (contrast to 16 or so in Scars of Mirrodin), and it’s really easy to draw the wrong half of that deck and
just have the Atog standing there doing nothing. Getting cute with something like Tawnos’s Wand won’t get you anywhere. Leave this guy on the
bench. Unlike Tyrus Thomas, he deserves to be there.
Horn of Deafening (uncommon)
These three cards are similar in that they tilt stalemates in the favor of their owners once all the boom-booms are out on the table. Of course, once
the game state has moved into the phase where only evasion creatures are sneaking through, mana isn’t an issue, and the most impactful cards are
the important ones. Amulet of Kroog should almost never make your deck. (If I see multiple Soul Shreds from my opponent, and my deck is filled with
X/3s, and my 23rd card is a lump of feces, maybe it goes in.) Staff of Zegon plays the role of Saltfield Recluse pretty nicely in the late game, so you
sometimes want it. And the uncommon Horn of Deafening is the best of them, as it always completely blanks your opponent’s best creature. It
should always make your deck.
Bird Maiden could be a sideboard card if you see multiple Cloud Spirits and Phantasmal Forces from your opponent. This is also a great nickname for a
female magician known for kibitzing. Do we have any of those? I guess it works for a male, too.
One of the reasons that 2/1 and 2/3 vanillas are pretty awful in the format. I’d be hesitant to play this, hoping for more impactful cards, but
people seem to love it. If you happen to have a really control-ish pool without Giant Tortoise-style creatures, you could probably do worse for an
The Swarm is a good man. The best thing about it is the ability to trade with one of green’s most troublesome commons, Ironhoof Ox. That’s
something that no other common creature (that doesn’t cost 6-7 mana) can boast. If an opponent has Forests, you’ll be seeing a lot of
Ironhoof Oxen. This guy beats down just fine, too. Despite a tendency to get hit with artifact removal, he’ll usually make your deck.
No, it doesn’t have flying. I know the text box is a morass, and you might not do more than glance at it as a result, but don’t make that
Nice to see this dude still balling and shot-calling after all my time in the TSE queues. One of the best blue commons, if not the best.
Counterspell is one of my favorite cards in the format because of the disparity in power level between the “made for Limited” parts of the
set and all the absurd uncommons and rares they jammed in for nostalgia purposes. Whether it’s an X=7 Braingeyser, Wicked Pact, Balance, or
Shivan Dragon, this card takes care of it. I’d probably play any number of them in a U/x deck.
The format does have artifacts, sure, but most decks will have only seven or eight. While it’s certainly better than other cards that affect only
7-8 cards in your opponent’s Limited deck, like Negate, it’s still only half a Doom Blade. A “one in the main, side another one in if
I see a lot of artifacts” sort of card. Don’t forget that you can aim this at your own Obsianus Golem if somebody is alpha-striking for
lethal or putting in a call to Sherlock Domes.
The sort of deck that would want this probably won’t come together easily in Sealed. Many of black’s early options, like Hasran Ogress and
Foul Spirit, don’t play well with the card. Leave this on the sideline unless you can think of a compelling reason not to. That second-turn
Juggernaut you dream about will be probably play out as “fourth-turn Juggernaut + one awful, late-game topdeck” in most contests.
If you’re going to maindeck artifact removal (and you should), this is the best common option in the set. It destroys anything and can swing a
race in your favor. Always play it.
2/3s like Elite Cat Warriors and Alaborn Trooper are weak in this format because they don’t kill this guy (or green Elephants). In the early
game, it’s basically just a 1/3 wall, but once the dust has settled, the Engine will go to work and will either eat removal or force a
double-block. If you have a choice between playing this and Alaborn Trooper, choose this.
A fair card for a U/B deck, but I’d rather have Giant Tortoise, which is also a blue common and does almost exactly the same thing.
Completely unplayable. Just as an added note, I used to be known as the “Ebony Horse” during my time as a top hurdler at WilliamsCollege.
A “third-turn Rhino” draft archetype might be out there, but in Sealed, this guy is going to look terrible compared to the Foul Spirit your
opponent cast four turns earlier. Far, far worse than something like Ironhoof Ox, this guy will sometimes still make a deck just because heavy hitters
are so scarce in some pools.
Really good against greenâ€”play as many as you can get your hands on when facing a deck with Forests. Evasion is very valuable in ME4. Otherwise,
2/3s are awful in the format. Hold on, I’m going to list some commons:
Prowling Nightstalker, War Mammoth, Southern Elephant, Ironhoof Ox, Cloud Spirit, Wild Griffin, Primal Clay, Clockwork Swarm, Spotted Griffin, Wild
Aesthir, Ogre Taskmater, Phantasmal Forces, Foul Spirit
Elite Cat Warrior can’t effectively block any of those, and they’ll be all over the place.
Here are some more commons:
Elite Cat Warrior can’t attack through those (or though many of the same creatures it can’t block). All of this applies to Alaborn Trooper
as well. 2/3s don’t interact favorably with most of the cards in ME4.
So nice to get Air Elemental, Serra Angel, Sengir Vampire, etc. with this. Depending on what other creatures you’re running, you could certainly
run into decks where only a small percentage of their creatures actually do anything to you. Once you identify which ones are going to get you, False
Summoning can stop â€˜em from hitting the table.
The usefulness of this card really depends on what’s across the table from you. It can serve a couple of purposes. First, if you’re playing an
aggressive game but your opponent has a ton of defensive creatures, this can put you over the top. Second, if you’re playing a control game (with
Soul Shred and late-game black bombs, say), but your opponent is U/W, this can help your defensive creatures take to the air. There’s only so much room
in a deck for cards like this, though. Draw too many early on instead of your removal/creatures, and there won’t be a much of a late game left to
There’s not really any good reason to run this. Howl from Beyond is a common, but it’s weak enough that there’s not really any reason
to game against it.
Don’t let the land sacrifice deter youâ€”this guy is a spicy one. Cast him on turn 6 alongside a removal spell or another flier, and you
won’t be disappointed. Figuring out how Spirits affect your mana curve can be a challenge. If you have something like Ebon Dragon, that
doesn’t mean you should keep Spirits on the benchâ€”they’re too good for that. Just weigh the benefits of a Spirit against your need to
play a late-game fatty, and make an appropriate decision.
I would play any number of Giant Growths. The format has almost no tricks. The blue bounce and red burn spells are sorcery-speed, so almost nothing bad
can happen to you when you cast it. Against black, use an artifact creature for the deed, and Terror can’t touch you either. That means that
Demonic Hordes will be hitting the bin after you block with your Grapeshot Catapult, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. If your opponent is G/W,
do the opposite. Block with a colored creature. You don’t even have to worry about Just Fate because it can only be cast before blockers are
Against a lot of decks, Giant Tortoise is all you need to prevent yourself from taking even a single point of damage before turn 5. ME4 Sealed decks
often have ugly curves with no two-drops to speak of. The two-drops that do show up (Goblin Bully, Cyclopean Mummy, Argothian Pixies, Alaborn
Musketeer) are no match for a Tortoise. It’s interesting, thoughâ€”all of the creatures stopped by the Tortoise aren’t important,
so…how good can the Tortoise be?
Actually, it’s still fine, since it stops all manner of 3/x creatures as well. Just nothing to get excited about.
Do you think Urza slips these on before firing off one-liners? (I guess that honor would go to Sunglasses of Urza.)
A surprisingly efficient creature for red. The best thing about these guys is that they can keep attacking if an opponent plays Dragon Engine or War
Mammoth. Will certainly make your deck.
These are cards for drafters to have fun withâ€”there’s zero chance your Sealed deck will be able to use them. I’ve seen a few people
try it, and it’s always resulted in stone nothing.
Here’s the trouble starterâ€”a bit of an instigator. Cloud Spirit and Phantasmal Forces are two key blue commons, and Wild Aesthir is out
there too. This guy should always make your deck. Because the early drops are so terrible, if you play him on turn 1, it’s really, really likely
he’ll do 3-4 damage and also become fear addicted/danger illustrated. Remember that you can’t sacrifice him after combat due to the weird
Portal templating and the fact that he’s the self-inflicted mind detonator.
This card is a better in Draft, with focused beatdown decks, than it is in Sealed. The important creatures in Sealed already have some form of evasion.
This is still a fine addition to a deckâ€”it cantrips and will almost always force some damage through. Nonetheless, I found that it often
didn’t do quite enough, and my opponent always seemed to have a block he could make that would allow him to swing back and kill me.
After you announce Gorilla War Cry, if your opponent looks at the complicated board and asks “Is that going to kill me?” make sure you
A narrow sideboard card that can replace your 23rd card clunker if you see a Clay Statue.
When did my ex-girlfriend win the Magic Invitational?
Cards that are bad against almost everything else, like Goblin Bully, are good against Hasran Ogress. Nonetheless, it has attractive beatdown stats. In
a draft deck with a focused beatdown strategy, it’s better. In Sealed Deck, it’s just a bad Goblin Cavaliers. I almost like it better as a
blocker than an attackerâ€”destroy target War Mammoth.
Another card I’d consider siding in against multiple Soul Shreds. It’s pretty easy to get value out of this in creature combat, since
there’s not much else going on. If you fire this off after blockers, your opponent really can’t do anything.
Enrage stinks, and a trip backward through time has not sweetened it. Everybody who reviewed Enrage said the same thing: “I won’t play
this, but I expect to lose to it more than once.” Well, here we are again.
Excuse me, I’d like to Ox you a few questions.
Ironhoof Ox is nearly impossible to deal with in creature combat, usually requiring an uncommon/rare, inefficient artifact fatty, or a Primal Clay in
wall mode. Though high on the curve, it’s only slightly worse than something like Air Elemental, and I wouldn’t cut Air Elemental from a
Limited deck. I’d play any number of these.
Crazy. Fate is a b****. Gets you every time. It’s not good to wish beatdown on anybody. Serra sees everything!
If an opponent is playing white and leaves 2W up, odds are that this common is in his hand. A lot of the time, there won’t be much you can do
about it. Because of the interchangeable nature of many of the creatures in the format, very seldom will you be able to get fancyâ€”just cast it on
your opponent’s best guy. You’ll be able to spot your opponent’s best guy easilyâ€”he’ll be the evasion dude hitting you
for 3-4 damage every turn and/or Rock Hydra.
The ability to destroy any creature is obviously very useful. If you’re lucky, you’ll draw these when the board is stalemated and be able
to pick your spots and remove key threats. If your deck is one of those decks where most of your removal is in the five-mana slot (multiple Lava Flows
and Soul Shreds, for example), you might want to think about playing eighteen land. Getting stuck on four with a handful of Lava Flows is a surefire
way to die. Don’t forget that this spell can destroy land. That can be relevant when an opponent is paying upkeep on a Serra Bestiary, Phantasmal
Forces, or (god forbid) Demonic Hordes.
Step 1: Open booster.
Step 2: See card with name beginning with “Library of…”
Step 3: Swear loudly.
The regeneration-removal ability isn’t normally relevant. If you have a bunch of bad three-drops anyway, or other cards you can cut, it’s
probably worth it to side this guy in against a deck that’s showing you Clay Statue or Sedge Troll. Sadly, you’ll still have to
double-block to kill the Sedge Troll…Lim-Dul’s Cohort doesn’t exactly hit like Mike Tyson. In case you can’t tell from this
not-so-glowing review, you shouldn’t be too happy playing this guy. Don’t underestimate the miserable color requirements, either. If your
deck has Counterspell or (especially) Rockslide Ambush, this guy just makes you play with bad mana for very little return.
For experts only. Fast, beatdown decks filled with 1/1s can possibly use this card wellâ€”Owl Familiar get a 100% increase in efficiency when this
is on the tableâ€”but if your opponent’s Obsianus Golem is a 5/6, do you really care? In the events in which I played, it was clear that
opponents were playing this card when it provided little-to-no advantage. That isn’t to say that there doesn’t exist a deck that can use
Mightstone. I’m just saying, be careful. The more “beatdown” your plan, and the smaller your creatures, the more this will help you.
I have yet to have a Sealed pool where it was worth it.
Maze of Ith (rare)
Oasis is like a free Amulet of Kroog that requires foregoing a land drop. That sort of effect can be annoying in combat (and it’s better than the
Amulet since it can’t be destroyed and costs no mana), but it’s isn’t exactly the most impactful of effects. 23rd-card material, if
that. I’ve included it with Maze of Ith in this section just to make the point that both lands count as “spells” and not towards your
total mana count.
Maze is obviously really good and should always make your deck.
Also, I’d just like to say that if Lord Ith opened a fast-food restaurant, it would totally be called “Barl’s Jr.”
Like an acquaintance of dubious attractiveness who is nonetheless always up for a booty call, Obsianus Golem will be there for you if you want a
durable beater to shore up the late game. You just won’t feel very good about yourself afterward. Decks without the luxury of powerful mop-up
rares will probably find themselves casting Golems and hoping their opponents don’t have Divine Offering. This guy is a little more playable than
Stone Golem is in M11, which is to say, not very. At least he puts the brakes on Ironhoof Ox.
The Taskmaster is one of those cards that I hate playing with and hate playing against. Sometimes it’ll be just what you need, cracking for eight
damage before trading with a guy in a double-block. Other times, you’ll need a blocker and, well, whoops.
Curve filled. If I’m down on 2/3s for three mana, you can imagine what I think of this guy, but creature-poor Sealed decks have to beat down with
something. Could easily make your deck. Could just as easily hit the bench.
I remember beating down with these guys while playing Shandalar, that old PC Magic game. Does anyone else remember hunting the swamp’s edge for
that Shapeshifter enemy who would reward you with a duplicate card upon his defeat? I spent a lot of time duplicating Black Vises and Dark Rituals.
Anyway, the Vultures are playable. Sometimes the carrion counters will even be relevant, allowing you to trade with a larger flier in the late game.
This guy seems good, but a 1/1 body isn’t very impactful. The Owl is at his best against decks that are filled with X/1sâ€”especially so
against other blue decks with Phantasmal Forces and Cloud Spirits. He’ll almost always make your deck, and the looting will feel like an
advantage, but the body left behind in the wake of the effect often doesn’t do a lot. A deck with a bunch of these (and some tempo elements) is a
good candidate to use cards like Mightstone and Righteous Charge.
They’re fragile, and they trade with any flier (except Aesthir Gliderâ€”stay thirsty, my friends!), but the Forces have tremendous upside;
that means they’ll almost always make your deck. When you’re deciding how many Islands to play, treat these guys like they cost 2UU.
Especially against red decks, you have to watch yourself with the upkeep costs. Lava Flow is a card, and casting Phantasmal Forces off of three Plains
and an Island is just asking for trouble.
When could you play Phantasmal Terrain? If your pool is such that you’re forced to run maindeck Sea Serpents, and you run into an opponent
with multiple copies of Junun Efreet or Serra Bestiary, who has bad mana because he’s splashing a Fireball, then maybe you can put it in.
A reasonable creature, unblockable against most decks. Remember to go to your sideboard if you’re up against Lim-Dul’s Cohort and friends.
There’s not that much worth getting back. ME4 doesn’t really contain cards like Contagion Engine that have some absurd ETB effect and stick
around to dominate the game. Best-case scenario you return your best artifact, something that your opponent killed. If you’re going to play
Reconstruction, it should be with artifacts that opponents are really eager to kill or trade with that also have a significant effect on the game.
Juggernaut and Icy Manipulator are two good examples.
Decks with numerous small, evasion creatures are good candidates for Righteous Charge. +2/+2 is a considerable boost and often makes blocking
impossible. It will take some practice to identify which decks are suitable for this card. If you have a relatively high creature count, lots of tempo
elements (Symbol of Unsummoning, for example), and a low curve, Righteous Charge is probably a good fit.
The key red common removal spell. When you’re doing your mana, pretend that this card costs RR. Extra Mountains can turn Rockslide Ambush from a
flyswatter to a sledgehammer. When that opposing Air Elemental comes down (and it will), you’re going to want four Mountains and two Plains in
play, not the other way around.
I think it’s possible to maindeck this and get plenty of value out of it, but against a fair portion of decks, you’re just going to want to
hang yourself when you draw it. A nice sideboard card to haveâ€”the sorts of decks that you sideboard this in against are pretty obvious. See more
than one X/1 creature? In it goes! Especially a blowout against blue common fliers, to the extent that you can probably just sideboard it in if you see
Nomads, you know. Small hands. Smell like cabbage.
This makes me appreciate Sylvok Replica. This guy can’t really block, can’t really attack without shutting off the possible use of his
ability, and suffers from summoning sickness. Nonetheless, he’s certainly playable against opponents trotting out Icy Manipulators, Clockwork
Avians, and other artifact bombs. Especially against U/W, there’s really no chance of him dying. You can certainly start one in Sealed and not be
ashamed of it. Given the choice between this guy and Crumble, though, I’d take Crumble.
It’s Arrest, but that upkeep is really steep, to the extent that I wouldn’t want to play two of these. If you draw both early, you
can’t really use them. An awkward card overallâ€”because of what it does to your mana both in-game and during deckbuilding. That said, cards
like Rock Hydra are out there, so sometimes your W/U or W/G deck needs one of these.
Control-ish black removal. It’s great for stabilizing precarious board positions but unfortunately isn’t great for killing stuff
that’s really dangerous. An opening hand with a couple of these and two land might look good, but I guarantee you you’ll get stuck on land
and pounded out. Certainly not as good as Terror, but it’s still fine to play any number of them in Sealed. If you open one of those pools with
three of these and two Lava Flows, you really have no choice but to play eighteen land.
Continuing the green theme of commons that no other color can take in a fair fight, this guy will almost always be the biggest thing on the board the
turn he comes down and should always make your deck.
Another nice white common flier, play him if you have him.
I’m not sure if anyone reading has played long enough to remember what a Limited blowout Repulse was, but this card isn’t even close.
Reason 1: You can no longer save creatures with damage on the stack. Reason 2: Even if you could, this is a sorcery. Heck, you can’t even save
your own guys from removal.
This card will always make your deck (and you can get value by digging one of your guys out from under a Serra’s Bestiary or Weakness), but
don’t get too excited. It’s a far worse card, in my opinion, than Cloud Spirit or Counterspell.
I put these together because they’re both unplayable.
I guess I could’ve included this in the group above as well. This is the Fredo of the “Flying Carpet/Staff of Zegon/Tawnos’s Wand”
This can make bad creatures good and good creatures great, and this format has plenty of both. You definitely want this in your deck.
Another reason that “bad creature” 2/x beatdown strategies are terrible in this format. Imagine holding a grip of Goblin Bully, Cyclopean
Mummy, Rockslide Ambush, Onulet, and lands, and your opponent casts this guy on turn 2. What else can you do but turn to the side and vomit all over
your own shoes? Heck, replace Onulet with Fire Imp (a terrific red uncommon that’s one of the best), and the hand still does basically nothing.
As with Giant Tortoise, don’t get too excited if you’re playing this guy. He’s good at what he does, but the 2/1 beatdown strategies
aren’t the ones that will be 4-0ing the release events.
An efficient beater that should generally make your deck. Green can get a little swollen at the four-drop slot (and the format has almost no mana
acceleration), but guys like this are worth it. I actually like Southern Elephant better (it can attack into Clay Statue, for one example of a
difference), but you’d certainly rather have War Mammoth against something like Drowned, or in combination with Giant Growth.
Close to unplayable. A “bad and dirty” beatdown deck might get away with using something like this, but I don’t think I’d ever
be happy about it.
Key white commons. Wild Aesthir is notable in that it wins a fight against every other common flier, and, in fact, can win in combat against a lot of
quality ground-pounders as well. Even without mana, it blanks three blue commons.
One-mana removal is as rare as spun gold in this formatâ€”it’s nice to keep curving out while neutering an opposing creature, which is
exactly what Weakness allows you to do. I actually think it’s better than Soul Shred for this reason, despite the less profound effect. There are
almost no ways to destroy an enchantment in ME4, so you don’t have to worry about Weakness being knocked offâ€”once you brick that Wild
Griffin, it stays bricked.
This guy seems solid at first glance, but were you really that excited about playing Standing Troops in TSE draft? If the answer is “yes,”
then I can understand that, because beatdown strategies were brutally fast in TSE draft. In ME4, all Yotian Soldier does is stop bad cards. You can
play him (people will be playing some number of those bad cards), but I’d rather have a Goblin Cavaliers any day, even in a control-ish
So that’s it. When you go out there and throw down, you’re going to see a metric ton of the above cards, with a few really flamboyant, old
favorites thrown in. Hopefully the information above will be helpful to you. Good luck with your release events!
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