“I’m willing to discard everything else for you. I won’t make you pay extra to try out all my modes.”
Ross Swipes Left: The Escalate mechanic is certainly attractive, because it effectively turns one card into five cards, but in this case none of those five cards is very effective. You’re always going to pay a price for versatility, but for this card the price is too high. The drain life for two is often worth less than a card, and the -2/-2 ability does not kill many of the creatures in Standard, especially considering that as a sorcery it cannot be used as a combat trick.
Without much to gain in terms of raw value, this card is going to depend on being a madness enabler, where it can do some good work. Getting a discard spell and a bonus effect for two mana while also enabling a cheaper madness cost on another card can lead to some powerful turns, but those sorts of plays are the high end of this card’s potential, and a lot of factors have to coalesce in order to realize that potential. The low end on this card is as a bad Duress or a near blank, and that is unacceptable in Standard.
Shaun Swipes Right: I always say the more the merrier, so being part of a collective isn’t a big deal to me. Seems like a bit of an enabler and very demanding. Things might get a get a little bit Fifty Shades of Gray Merchant thanks to theme and the drain ability. Hopefully after a first date I’d be left saying, “That escalated quickly.”
“I’ve got more bounce to the ounce!”
Ross Swipes Right: I was around back when Remand was dominating Standard. Tapping out for a five-mana spell and having your turn effectively nullified for a fraction of that was backbreaking essentially every time. The lack of a cantrip makes this card significantly worse, since it trades off in the early-game at a much worse rate and does not cycle as the game goes long, but the option to have it affect the battlefield does a lot to narrow the gap with Remand.
You can now use your card aggressively if you would like, say, to clear out a blocker to attack a planeswalker or pressure your opponent. It’s also a better draw once you’ve already fallen behind on the battlefield, giving you a better chance at coming back from behind. On the whole, it’s slightly better when you’re ahead, better when you’re behind, but much worse when you are relatively even. You’re going to want to play this in a specific tempo-driven shell, but it’s so good in that shell that it could elevate the archetype.
Shaun Swipes Left: This card is just like the most recent public urination charges made against me: overhyped, unsubstantiated, and hopefully tossed out soon so everyone can move on with their lives.
More options are better, right? Sure, if you’re in the mood for some cheap bouncy action, this is more substantial than plenty of options, but when your ex is Remand, this is just going to look sad in comparison.
“On a scale of one to Omniscience, how free are you tonight?” No, wait. “Are those moon pants? Because your ultimate is out of this world.”
Ross Swipes Right: Tamiyo, Field Researcher has some steep costs to putting her in your deck. You need to play three colors, and ideally you would have enough creatures to be able to leverage her +1 ability proactively. That is going to leave you with few spots for precious removal spells, so there’s a tight balance to walk in deckbuilding. That being said, this card is very powerful and threatens to take over a game quickly and in multiple ways.
There also happens to already be a Bant creature deck in Standard that can leverage this card. Trying to play her alongside Collected Company is certainly difficult, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tamiyo take a backseat to the established all-star until the next rotation, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see her take over the starring role either.
Shaun Swipes Right: You smart, you loyal. Take this money and invest in Bant Company.
“Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ is my anthem.”
Ross Swipes Right: On power level this is probably a stretch, but this card is completely my type: an undersized but aggressive, evasive, and tricky blue creature that enables tons of internal synergies and leaves you with a wide array of options.
You can use the looting ability to draw a bunch of cards and discard a bunch of madness spells to contain your opponent’s battlefield. Or you can loot away a bunch of creatures and get your value from churning out 3/2 Horrors. Or you can loot the old-fashioned way and discard your extra lands to keep your hand stocked with action.
There are plenty of cool madness cards to enable the first plan, from Fiery Temper and Just the Wind to From Under the Floorboards and Welcome to the Fold. For the second plan, you can pair the Infiltrator with graveyard-centric Zombies and effectively get three cards from each loot: the card you draw, the Zombie you discard, and the Eldrazi Horror token you make.
There may not be enough good pieces to build around this one, but if there are I will find them, and I will play them. This isn’t going to be the one that got away.
Shaun Swipes Right: Worf is easily one of the most underrated characters from Star Trek: The Next Generation. He is a strong fighter, a gentle lover, and good with a Bat’leth. I would not mind infiltrating him any day of the week. I would never say no to Worf.
“Let’s do things you never thought you would!”
Ross Swipes Left: This effect is incredibly powerful, likely the most powerful on this list, and putting two planeswalkers onto the battlefield at once sounds like boatloads of fun, but to make it happen consistently you have to build a deck that is almost non-functional.
For an average span of seven cards to have two planeswalkers in it, you need approximately seventeen in your deck, and even at that number you are only going to find two planeswalkers about 65% of the time. A more realistic, but still high, number of planeswalkers for your deck is twelve, which leaves you with a 43% chance of finding two planeswlakers but a 19% chance of finding zero. Those numbers just aren’t going to work for a six-mana card that you need to be consistently excellent.
Maybe in a larger format like Modern that also has high-end planeswalkers to hit, like Nicol Bolas and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, you can make something work, but that isn’t going to be fast enough to justify the inconsistency.
Shaun Swipes Left: Two for the price of one seems like a good deal, but for such a huge mana investment, I’m looking for some commitment and consistency in a relationship. Having to wait six whole turns to enter my battlefield is just too long. Playable planeswalkers are going to always put out (on the battlefield) by turn 4 at the latest.
“Your eyes say crazy, but your text says value.”
Ross Swipes Left: I have two specific concerns about this card. First, as a 3/2 it trades with the many 2/3s in the format without providing any value. Thus, you are likely going to have to commit a portion of your mana to clearing the path for Stromkirk Occultist to connect and trigger. Which leads directly to my second concern: committing mana before the triggered ability greatly diminishes its effectiveness. You’re much more likely to reveal a card you cannot cast and get zero value from a card you are actively trying to leverage, which is a red flag.
The cards that have best used this form of red card draw did so as repeated effects that you got automatically, and before you had to commit any other resources for the turn: think Outpost Siege and Chandra, Pyromaster. The less you have to commit to see the card, the more the effect approximates an actual drawn card, and Stromkirk Occultist is well below the baseline on this metric when compared to previous examples.
The madness option is nice for a Vampire, and if such a deck arises this could be a role player in it for that reason, but the abysmal failure of the Vampire tribe to make in impact in Shadows over Innistrad Standard leaves me down on this one as well.
Shaun Swipes Right: Basic strategy dictates to swipe right first, figure out if they’re a Tentacle-Worshiping-Madness-Crazed-Mutant-Vampire-Horror later.
This seems like a toss-up. Her profile only has one blurry tentacle selfie taken at a distant awkward angle with half her face obstructed by an occultist robe, which is usually a red flag.
“I’m really attached to my horse!”
Ross Swipes Left: I get it. You can return Lone Rider with Ojutai’s Command while gaining the requisite four life to immediately transform it, giving you a Loxodon Hierarch with first strike, lifelink, and flash(ish). That’s a very good card. My issue is what happens in every other scenario in which you have to play the card. Then you have a 1/1 for two mana with a bunch of abilities that scale with size.
You can try to pair the card with pump effects, notably Thalia’s Lieutenant and Always Watching , but those cards are powerful enough that you don’t need to risk the downside of having a near blank piece of cardboard. Based on the chatter I’ve heard during spoiler season, this is my pick for most overrated card in the set.
Shaun Swipes Left: High maintenance and a fixer upper that would require a lot of work. It’s lonely to ride by yourself, but often better than grafting yourself onto a horse.
I’m not down to flip.
“One word: Twins!”
Ross Swipes Right: Reasonable stats and two unique abilities that synergize with each other and with the rest of the Zombie tribe makes this card a win for me. Relentless Dead and Diregraf Colossus are good cards that didn’t have the critical mass of support needed to build a deck, and Gisa and Geralf represent another potential piece of the puzzle filled in.
Notably, Gisa and Geralf’s mill trigger can be used to enable Take Inventory and delirium in addition to the creature synergies of the Zombie tribe, so it can fit into a more generic Sultai-based graveyard deck as well as a dedicated Zombie deck, provided there are at least enough tribal synergies to make the card better than Mindwrack Demon.
Shaun Swipes Left: This isn’t Game of Thrones and I’m not interested in whatever this brother-sister combo is offering. Eye patches are just not in this season.
*Wolf Whistle* “Want to come by my place later for some kibbles n’ bits?”
Ross Swipes Left: We’ve been through this before with Myr Superion. It may look like a Tarmogoyf in the upper and lower right corners, but it certainly doesn’t look like one in the rules text. Being hellbent is not a good thing, and cards that depend on it need to be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.
The key to Tarmogoyf’s power is that you get a great return on investment for playing the game as you normally would. Cards go to the graveyard as a natural part of gameplay, and in formats with fetchlands, getting it to a 4/5 is easy and requires little to no effort. You could get fancy with cards like Seal of Fire and Chromatic Star, but you don’t have to, and that’s the point.
With Lupine Prototype you likely won’t get to attack with it until turn 5 or so, at which point you haven’t really gained much by playing it at such a discount rate. Surviving Languish, Grasp of Darkness, and Ultimate Price while trumping Sylvan Advocate going long are nice bonuses, but not enough to move the needle.
Shaun Swipes Right: Lupine Prototype is like the nerdy girl who wears a back brace all through high school that you don’t appreciate, and then years later you see her walking down the street and realize she has blossomed into an amazing Bionic Terminator Wolf Construct. Sometimes life and love can be strange and complicated.
She might be needy enough to want hellbent before she even goes out for drinks, but I’m willing to take a chance for such a great body.
“I need some mouth-to-mouth reanimation.”
Ross Swipes Right: Liliana, the Last Hope is one of the more difficult cards in the set to evaluate, and I suspect we won’t know how to properly employ her for several weeks after release. That said, I see a lot of parallels with Jace, Telepath Unbound, another planeswalker that was underrated during spoiler season.
Their +1 abilities are similar, often shrinking a creature as opposed to outright killing it. Not being able to gain a full card in value looks poor, but it’s actually much closer to that than it seems, since shrinking a key creature for two combat phases can completely change the complexion of the battlefield, especially on the early turns when that creature represents a larger portion of your opponent’s development.
The second abilities of each planeswalker offer one card in raw value, but with some built-in selection from the graveyard, albeit Jace limiting you to spells and Liliana to creatures. Liliana’s -2 will be live more often and enables delirium and other graveyard synergies, meaning the card can be a key piece of almost any graveyard-based strategy.
And last, even though their first abilties don’t accrue raw value, if left unchecked, both planeswalkers take over a game with their ultimate. Liliana, the Last Hope is a little more vulnerable as a planeswalker, starting on only three loyalty, but is never vulnerable as a creature. The initial reaction to her was lukewarm at best, but I firmly expect that to change once people begin testing.
Shaun Super Likes: Liliana, the Last Hope for me to find a match.It might be correct to play things cool, in this case “below body temperature” cool, but I just can’t help myself. Just look at that confident body language. I say put her in a dedicated deck and try to fill up the graveyard.
I’m not picky when it comes to a three-mana planeswalker, even if they’re carrying a little extra Dead Weight or if her last boyfriend was an emo anime planeswalker.
And you’ll never be bored, since her ultimate comes with infinite Zombies to do the Thriller dance.