Welcome to the penultimate part of this guide. For those who have missed any of the first four parts, the links are below:
Next week, I will post the last part of the article, which will be a shorter piece covering the artifacts and non-basic lands in the set. Probably a timely finish, as interest in 8th Ed drafting on Magic Online is starting to wane a little due to the release of Mirrodin last week.
8th Edition White
A lot can be said about White in Eighth Edition because it really is a diverse color. It has bombs, it has filler, it has attack-minded creatures, it has defense-minded creatures, it has good evasion creatures, and it has good ground-based creatures. Like Red, it also has good rares and rubbish rares in roughly equal measure. Here are some things to bear in mind when drafting White.
- Try to avoid Green as a partner color, but any other color is fine, and even Green can work on occasion if you splash for removal.
- White has excellent commons. Pacifism and Master Decoy are superb, and following that are a number of common flyers that are all high picks. The fact that Diving Griffin is only the seventh best common in the color is a testament to how deep it is. On the other hand, its uncommons are very uninspiring. Its best uncommon (Chastise) doesn’t compare favorably with any other top four in Red or Blue.
- White is the best color for flyers in the format. In the common slot, Aven Flock, Aven Cloudchaser, Razorfoot Griffin, Angelic Page, and Diving Griffin are all good high picks that can cause your opponent problems if they have no flying defense. It also means that you can pick non-flyers higher in your other color knowing that you will not want for evasion. Dusk Imp, for example, drops down the list when you are playing B/W.
- White is equally comfortable as both a tempo and control color, and so is always a good color to start drafting when you are not sure how the other colors will pan out.
Anyway, onto the cards.
Do you hate it when your opponent drops a Platinum Angel in Mirrodin Limited? Well that has nothing on the feeling you get when someone drops this in an 888 draft, and you realize you have no way of removing it, either in your deck or sideboard. This card is clearly meant for Constructed, where mass removal gives you a chance because in Limited, it’s absolutely broken. Once you play this card, your opponent has to play some enchantment removal, or one of the few cards that cause life loss rather than deal damage such as Maggot Carrier or Soul Feast. If they don’t have any of these then you’re going to win unless you run out of cards or time.
Elite Archers (r)
I suppose the best card to compare this with is Royal Assassin. On the minus side, it can’t take out annoying tapping creatures, it is vulnerable to Black removal, it can’t take out really large creatures (although it will help), and, at six mana, it might arrive a little late to help you against really fast decks.
On the other hand, it is less vulnerable to Red removal, it can assist you when on offense as well as defense, and comes with a 3/3 body that can be used to beat down or block far more effectively than the flimsy Assassin. Oh yes, and it’s splashable. Royal Assassin is one of the biggest bombs in the set, but I would rather open Elite Archers. I think that says a lot.
Wrath of God (r)
Cheap, effective mass removal. This can be used either in the early game when your opponent has a fast start, while you have been feigning mana flood, in the mid-late game, when your opponent has over-committed and you have held back a couple of threats, or at any time when you are being overrun and need an”answer all” solution. On top of all that, you can sell it for a load of money or tickets afterwards. If you open this, lucky you.
Glorious Anthem (r)
There is quite a bit of a drop-off in power after the top three, but we are still talking about a strong first pick here. Giving all your creatures +1/+1 is normally enough to break the game for you, unless you are in the mother of all stalemates, or you are on the verge of dying. This is especially true in a deck with lots of flyers, as +1/+1 makes an awful lot of difference when all of the common flyers have very similar P/T. Fortunately, White has the best set of common flyers in 8th Edition, and so the Anthem will almost certainly fit in perfectly with your deck.
Serra Angel (r)
To start with, I would like to say that I think Serra Angel is a little overrated in this format. Although it’s still a definite first pick, her toughness of four makes her too vulnerable to too many things. If she were a 4/5 she would be far better, as she wouldn’t be vulnerable to Pyrotechnics, Lightning Blast or, more significantly, a gang-block from two of the numerous two-power flyers in the format. However, let’s look at the positives, of which there are many.
If we start of by saying that this card is strictly better than Air Elemental then that will get a few players attention, as Air Elemental is also a first-pick-quality card. Serra Angel is basically a White Air Elemental that doesn’t tap to attack. This ability is useful, as it means she can serve double duty as an attacker and a blocker, which is great when you are racing. As a 4/4, she is also bigger than all non-rare flyers in the format, except for the aforementioned Elemental, and so can not only hold down an opposing air assault indefinitely, but if she is on the offensive, your opponent will often have to trade two flyers for her life. Played on turn five, she will often win the game; topdecked later than that and she will almost always be a welcome sight.
Avatar of Hope (r)
First of all, you might as well get it into your heads that this guy’s reduced casting cost will rarely be relevant. Sometimes when you get beaten down, you will never even hit one to three life, you will just go from five to zero instead. Also quite often you will have eight mana by the time your opponent beats you to within an inch of your life anyway, as 888 is not a particularly fast format. It doesn’t reduce the colored mana intensity at all so it doesn’t even make it more splashable. You can mana-burn yourself to solve the first problem, but that is a bit seat-of-the-pants.
So with that out of the way, how good is it exactly? Well it’s a 4/9 flyer for eight mana, with the ability to block as many creatures as you like. Don’t underestimate the power of a 4/9 flyer, even without the special ability.
If attacking, it will take down all but the bombiest of creatures that are assigned to block it, and it is almost impossible to kill with a gang-block, provided your opponent has anything short of a complete air force full of flyers. Unchecked, it will likely as not win the game within half a dozen turns.
Where this guy really shines though is defense. While this guy is active, your opponent really doesn’t have any good attacks. Only a few creatures will be able to kill this blocker on a one-on-one basis (Deathgazer and any pumping creature with an insane amount of pumps) and likely as not, you will even be able to block two or three creatures per turn without risk of dying. Basically until your opponent deals with the Avatar, he is almost certainly not going to be able to alpha-strike, leaving unblockable creatures and fear as his only ways to deal damage.
All in all, this is a first pick, even though it will almost certainly cost you eight mana. Spells at that cost should have a profound affect on the game and be capable of turning a losing position into a winning one. That is exactly what Avatar of Hope does.
Master Decoy (c)
White’s best common? Better than Pacifism? Well personally, I think so. This is an incredibly versatile card for two mana that, in fact, does a very similar job to Pacifism. It stops your opponent’s best creature from attacking or blocking, and also has some built in tricks. If you want to alpha strike, you can tap two creatures, one in your opponent’s turn and then another in your turn to effectively eliminate two blockers for a turn.
You can also play it far more proactively than Pacifism, dropping it on turn 2, and then continually changing targets with it to constantly nullify your opponent’s biggest threat or answer. For example, you can tap down a Grizzly Bears on turn 3 to prevent some early damage when you have no three-drop. Then, a few turns later, you can start tapping down a Wind Drake that has put you on a clock. Then, you stabilize fully and you can start offensively tapping your opponents Giant Spider while your Aven Flock swings in unmolested.
During all this time, your Pacifism would have probably sat in your hand while you waited for a good target. However, it’s only fair to point out the advantages Pacifism holds. Firstly, it doesn’t require a constant investment of mana, which can be important, especially in the early turns. Secondly, as a creature, Master Decoy is vulnerable to a lot of removal that will be in your opponent’s decks anyway. However, the fact that I regularly see good removal spells being used to remove this little guy that you played on turn 2 is a testament to his power.
I guess I have already discussed this card in the previous paragraph. Essentially, it is a permanent answer to any attacking or blocking creature that you would rather wasn’t there. Unlike Dark Banishing, it also deals with Black creatures and, unlike Red removal, it also takes care of regenerators and high toughness creatures. Its weakness is that enchantment removal or bounce will allow your opponent to get the creature back. Watch out especially for a Naturalize or Demystify in the declare attackers phase, which could get your opponent a two-for-one.
Noble Purpose (r)
If you play this early, the game turns into a bit of a farce. You will gain so much life through this, that your opponent would have to have an extremely dominant board position to have a hope of getting you down to zero life. Any game that comes down to any kind of race, it will just be impossible to lose. Obviously, this is not a card you want to draw when your opponent has you on a short clock and you have no blockers. Also, after sideboarding, they may have answers to this before it can get out of hand. However, these are minor quibbles. You want to be picking this and playing it in any White deck.
Blinding Angel (r)
Another good rare, although I must confess I think that this also is a little overrated. What you get is a Fighting Drake for one more mana, with an ability that deserves some scrutiny. Denying your opponent his attack step is certainly a powerful ability. If your opponent gets no attack steps, then he is not going to win the game. However if your opponent is not getting his attack steps then that means he is getting hit for two damage a turn by a flyer that he has no answer for. This will kill him in ten turns anyway; the fact that he can’t attack can be pretty irrelevant.
Obviously the ability becomes relevant in any kind of race but, to be honest, it is a fairly small proportion of games that this actually happens. So what question we are left with is how powerful can a two-power flyer for five be? The answer is pretty good.
Offensively, it can be shut down by a lot of things including removal, a spider, or even two two-power flyers, which will force a one-for-one trade. However, if your opponent has none of these things, it will put them on a definite clock. Bear in mind that, of the commons, only Aven Flock, Canopy Spider and Giant Spider can block this indefinitely. Defensively it is also good, as it can totally shutdown air-forces containing the usual array of 2/2 flyers, and can also block a number of ground creatures effectively too. To sum up, is this a good card? Yes. Is it a first pick card? Maybe. Is it a bomb? No.
This card is a real kick in the teeth for your opponent. Not only do they lose their big creature that they are attacking you with, but you gain an amount of life equal to its power, which in the case of some bombs, is quite significant. Unfortunately, unlike Pacifism, this can only be used as a defensive maneuver.
If your opponent isn’t attacking with an important creature, then this will just be a dead card. However, the reason this is such a high pick is that it is strong exactly when you need it to be, in other words when you have a creature that you can’t deal with attacking you, putting you on a fast clock. You want cards that turn losing positions into winning ones, or at least even ones. Chastise does just that. It will neutralize your opponent’s biggest threat, add turns to your clock, and if you are racing, should give you the time to ensure your own threats will carry you to victory.
Angel of Mercy (u)
It seems 3/3 flyers with a marginal ability in the uncommon slot are a kind of tradition in Magic, so I guess there had to be one in 8th Edition too. These creatures are always powerful, but in a format with very few flyers bigger than 2/2, they are very powerful indeed. On offense, it can beat down very quickly if your opponent has no answer, and on defense it will often shut down your opponent’s entire offense full of smaller flyers. The life gain effect is really just gravy, although it can give you the edge in a race.
Story Circle (r)
A Circle of Protection, that can be whatever color you want it to be? Sounds good to me! Its disadvantage over Circles of Protection is that it costs one more mana (and a colored mana at that), and that it costs colored mana to activate. This can be more of a nuisance than you would think, meaning that sometimes you will often only be able to nullify the damage of one to two creatures per turn, rather than the almost indefinite number you can nullify with Circles.
Also, like with the Circles, it will only be able to affect half of your opponent’s deck (probably), meaning he can sometimes use the other color to swing, while he sits back on defense with the affected color. This card still stops you losing though and sometimes will be great as it all-but-nullifies all of your opponent’s major threats.
Master Healer (r)
This guy is a monster pain in the butt; he’s like Samite Healer on steroids. In addition to providing a good blocking body, he can also save one of your creatures from dying to damage each turn, or prevent up to four damage to the head. This makes it very difficult for you to lose the game, as your opponent will have to be attacking with a lot of beef to get any significant damage through. Obviously this is not so good in an aggressive deck but, with power like this, you won’t be that fussy.
Wall of Swords (u)
It’s very rare that a wall will rate this high in pick orders, but this one really does merit attention. Normally Walls have one of the following problems. They either have too low a toughness, so it won’t stop a lot of your opponent’s creatures for very long, too low a power so all they will do is nullify attacks from one creature per turn or not do any damage, or don’t fly so your opponent can just ignore the wall and win with evasion. This wall doesn’t fall into any of these classic traps being a 3/5 flyer. Its toughness is high enough so there are only a handful of creatures (and no non-rare flyers) that can kill it, but a power high enough so it will kill all of your opponent’s air-force (barring bombs). This really is the best defensive creature you can buy for such little mana.
Aven Flock (c)
This is White’s best common flyer, and is almost single-handedly responsible for White, rather than Blue, being the superior color for flyers in Eighth Edition. It is the biggest common flyer with the possible exception of Coastal Hornclaw, so in aerial combat this will come up trumps nine times out of ten. In the late game this can be invaluable either on offense or defense because its pumping ability can send its toughness to silly proportions, allowing it to indefinitely block any non-dragon flyer. Its value is even higher against Red decks, as your opponent will have trouble removing it.
Aven Cloudchaser (c)
This is a great card to have one or more of in your deck. A 2/2 flyer for four mana would be playable in its own right (although not great) and the ability on the card is game winning in some circumstances, and useful in others. Admittedly, sometimes it is also irrelevant but, as I said, a 2/2 flyer for four is playable anyway. The bad times are where the only enchantment out when you want to play it is yours (remember, once playing it, you have to target an enchantment). This is annoying but is far outweighed by the times that this takes out a Worship, Pacifism or Circle of Protection.
Oracle’s Attendants (r)
This is a bit like Master Healer, except with two drawbacks. He can’t protect you from evasion creatures, and he can’t protect himself from damage. Other than that, he can still do nasty things to your opponent in the combat phase, effectively neutralizing any creature with power four or less, or maybe two smaller creatures as he is also a decent blocker himself.
Razorfoot Griffin (c)
Another flyer that is very good because it trumps a lot of the other common flyers in the format. 2/2 is the standard size for flyers in the format, but the first strike ability means it will kill any of the other 2/2’s and live to tell the tale, which is very useful both on offense and defense alike. In fact, if you manage to get multiples of these out on defense, they can be a wall that will make the Craw Wurms and Air Elementals of the format cower.
Angelic Page (c)
Probably the second best two-drop in the format after Master Decoy, Angelic Page is basically a jazzed up Crossbow Infantry. Its ability will be useful whenever you play it, making it much harder for your opponent to attack or block. Remember it can use its ability on itself, allowing it to trade with a 2/2 flyer if you like. At a stretch it can even be used as a (small) beatstick. The only problem is the clause that stipulates”attacking or blocking” creature, meaning that it can’t save itself or any other creature about to die to damage outside the combat phases. This can occasionally be tiresome, especially if your opponent is running Anaba Shaman, but from a creature costing two mana you don’t really expect miracles.
Staunch Defenders (u)
This guy is a huge kick in the teeth for an aggressive deck. It provides a large blocker, with enough power to kill most ground-based creatures your opponent will beat you down with early. Just to rub salt into the wound, it gains you four life, probably negating a turns worth of damage that has just been done to you. If you are playing the beatdown role, then this is probably less optimal, although a three-power attacker is never completely useless, even if it doesn’t attack until turn 6. This is one of those cards that isn’t going to win you the game single-handed, but can really give you the edge in a race.
Diving Griffin (c)
It’s a Wind Drake, only it doesn’t tap to attack, but is more color intensive. If your deck is speed based, then this will be invaluable as it will come out a turn faster than all your other flyers, meaning your pressure will be faster and more intense more quickly. Therefore if you are playing such a deck (as you often are with White), move this card up a few places. If you are playing a more control-ish deck, then this will lose some value, although this is where its special ability comes into its own, as you can sneak in some extra points of damage while still leaving a blocker.
This card can be your MVP or annoyingly impotent, depending on how the game pans out. A flying wall is indeed a thing of beauty, especially one that has a high enough power that it can take out one flying attacker per turn, not just nullify its attack. Unfortunately, most of the bread and butter flying creatures that you would really want to block with the Sunweb have power of two or less such as Wind Drake, Aven Flock, Razorfoot Griffin, and Dusk Imp.
There is nothing more annoying then getting beaten down through the air, while you have a 5/6 flyer sitting there doing nothing and this stops the Web being a first pick card. However, that is not to say that this card is not good. It is excellent at shutting down ground assaults, where it can shut down such common beatsticks as Balduvian Barbarians, Hill Giant, Spined Wurm, and Lightning Elemental. It is also great against any flying bombs your opponent may have, such as Air Elemental, Shivan Dragon, Mahamoti Djinn, or Serra Angel. In summary, a good card but not always, try not to take it first pick.
Ardent Militia (u)
I always think of this card as the White equivalent of Moss Monster. It’s got a big butt, it will shut down most attackers, and it will sometimes beat down. Like Moss Monster, this will always make your deck, will sometimes save your life, but will rarely win you a game.
Intrepid Hero (r)
I don’t think this is designed to be a color hoser, but it sure works out like that in this format. If your opponent is Green, you can wipe out all of his Spined Wurms, Craw Wurms and (effectively) Nantuko Disciples, while the other four colors only have three common creatures that are affected between them (Lightning Elemental, Giant Cockroach and Sea Monster) and all of those are marginal for maindeck inclusion.
Where this card really shines is in killing random bombs that your opponent happens to have. Dragons, Djinns and Serras are all easy pickings for this guy, while a lot of staple uncommons like Air Elemental, Llanowar Behemoth, and Ogre Taskmaster are also affected. Against any deck using these creatures as their win conditions, this card can win you the game. Obviously if you have your own Nantuko Disciple or even Angelic Page, this also moves up the list. However, if you don’t see any targets in game one (and they have emptied their hand), then board him out, as vanilla 1/1’s for three don’t really hack it.
Seasoned Marshal (u)
This is another card that can be an MVP or useless depending on the situation. If your opponent has only one blocker (or only one that can kill the Marshal), then this guy is solid gold, often allowing your creatures to serve for damage when they have no right to. In these circumstances, he works a bit like a damage dealing Master Decoy. Unfortunately, in every other circumstance it is strictly worse than Master Decoy and often a lot worse.
As soon as your opponent has two or more creatures of any size, this turns into a card that basically reads”Sacrifice Seasoned Marshall, two target creatures cannot block this turn.” Sort of like a Blinding Beam without the Entwine option, which is not totally useless, but you could do better. It’s worth pointing out that this could be a major pain in the arse if given Regeneration or some kind of evasion with an enchantment, but even then it’s not going to completely break open the game and so it isn’t worth playing bad cards on the strength of this combo.
Savannah Lions (r)
Does one thing and does it well. In a tempo deck, it can land on turn 1 and keep swinging for two damage until dead. This puts you at a big tempo advantage that, if your opponents deck is slow or he gets off to a bad start, he may not be able to recover from. In the late game standoff, this is junk and as soon as your opponent plays a defensive creature or something that deals one damage, it is worthless. However, in a format where your mana curve often starts at three, this is not a bad maindeck card.
Standing Troops (c)
I put this guy here in the rankings, but in reality he is probably either higher or lower depending on your deck. If your plan is to hold the ground and win through the air (or with bombs), then this guy is great. For three mana he will fend off most early attackers, and can assist in gang blocks. He can also swing for the occasional point of damage guilt free, as he doesn’t tap to attack. In an aggressive deck though, he is not really what you want to be dropping on turn three (although he is still playable if you are short).
Glory Seeker (c)
Similar to Savannah Lions really. Costs one more than the Lions, for one higher toughness, which gives it more flexibility later in the game, but stops it from being such a tempo machine in the early game. Because decent two drops are hard to come by, this is a good mana curve creature that will generally make your deck even in multiples. Just don’t expect miracles from them.
Elite Javelineer (u)
Well, it’s a 2/2 for three, and when blocking it’s (kind of) a 3/2, although it’s a little more versatile. This card could be good on paper, but never seems to do much when I play it. Most of the cards that regularly attack me with one toughness (things like Dusk Imp, Canyon Wildcat, and Rushwood Dryad) have evasion of some kind, so it is very easy to play around the Javelineer’s ability. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with maindecking this card, just bear in mind that its ability is not as good as it first looks, so sometimes it will just be a 2/2 for three.
Most of the time, I want my combat tricks to be able to kill things more than stop things being killed, but in a format light on tricks this isn’t a bad one. It has the potential to allow you to pull off some devastating blocks at no loss to yourself, although unfortunately it will often get stuck in your hand, and you will end up simply nullifying a piece of removal one-for-one. Remember that it can prevent all damage, not just combat damage, so it is good insurance against cards like Pyrotechnics, Pyroclasm, and Inferno.
And so we move onto the color hosers. Karma is, without doubt, a potentially game breaking card versus Black. If your opponent has four Swamps out when you play it, then this is a five turn clock. However, don’t be afraid of playing it earlier than that if you have nothing else to drop. A ten turn clock that discourages your opponent from playing land can also win you games. If Karma manages to do ten damage to your opponent, then your other twenty-two cards should be able to manage the other ten right? One word of caution, if your opponent is playing three colors, make sure they do have a sizable number of Swamps in their deck before bringing this in. Last week somebody played Karma on me when I was playing a one Swamp, one Salt Marsh splash for a Dark Banishing. Oh and insert the usual”useless if you are playing Black” comment here too.
Circles of Protection (u)
Although there are subtle differences in when you will pick each different Circle, I see little value in writing a separate paragraph for each.
Effectively, each circle prevents you from getting damaged by its specified color providing you keep some mana open. Note”you” not”you and your creatures” so your opponent can still use creatures of that color as blockers, and burn of that color can still be directed at your creatures. However, the power of this is not to be underestimated. Playing the right Circle can effectively remove a lot of your opponent’s win conditions in one shot, meaning you can use your limited removal on those in other colors. I will pick these over some maindeck cards, as they can be a major pain in the arse for your opponent in games two and three.
Remember to pick those of your colors slightly higher, so another White mage doesn’t pick them up and use them on you. This also applies if you see Circles in your color and are not playing White (although they should not be picked so highly in this case as it is purely a hate draft).
Crossbow Infantry (c)
While on the face of it, this looks like a White Anaba Shaman, in reality the power level is quite different. Although Anaba Shaman costs two more, it can be pointed at the head, can kill creatures not in combat and, when it comes to it, can be used as an attacking or blocking creature as it’s body, unlike that on the Infantry, is big enough to impact the board.
This card can potentially be your MVP versus Dusk Imps and Deepwood Ghouls, and it can certainly screw up combat math in all situations. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really do enough to warrant a card play given how flimsy it is. I’m not too disappointed to play these in my deck, and I will often board them in against decks containing a lot of one power creatures.
Samite Healer (c)
I liked this creature a lot when I first saw it, but after a while I discovered that, like Crossbow Infantry, it provided a mildly useful ability attached to a very flimsy body. Its ability can be useful if there are lots of creatures on the table, but only really when on the defensive, as preventing one damage will rarely harm gang blocks too much. Also if it does become troublesome for your opponent, they can always use removal to kill it. Unlike Hallowed Healer before it, Samite Healer cannot save itself if targeted by a”two damage” removal spell, of which there are many in the format. I don’t mind having these in my deck but only if it is control-ish. I really don’t want to be playing these in an aggressive deck.
Although most good players will agree that dedicated life gain is bad in Limited, it is of course all relative. If you bring this in against a deck with eight or more Mountains and play it early, this is going to gain you a lot of life. It will make racing in the mid-game impossible for your opponent, and will give you a lot of time to win with any evasive threat you have. Obviously life gain itself doesn’t win matches, but when it comes on this magnitude it can make a big difference. Just make sure you have a way of winning the game, and don’t bring this in if your opponent’s Red is just a splash, as they will laugh at you.
Holy Strength (c)
Yes, it’s a creature enchantment, and so comes with all the drawbacks that this entails. When deciding whether to play this, you have to look at suitable targets. There is little point in using this on a non-evasive creature, as your opponent will simply gang block it, probably creating card advantage. You also have to look at how likely your opponent is to be able to two-for-one you with bounce or removal. If your opponent doesn’t have any way of removing a four-power creature, then this card suddenly becomes very good.
Putting this on Diving Griffin on turn 4 can often be game over when facing a G/R or R/W deck. In short, I would rather have this in my sideboard than my deck, but I am not too disappointed if lack of playables forces me to run it.
Cheap, easy enchantment removal. I like to have some way of removing enchantments in my deck so, if I haven’t managed to pick up an Aven Cloudchaser, I will look for one of these late. This should therefore rank higher if you haven’t got any enchantment removal in pack three.
Spirit Link (u)
A card that is playable but suffers from a Catch-22 situation. To make the best out of this, you will need to put it on a large evasive creature to stop it being easily killed and giving your opponent a two-for-one. However, if you have a large evasion creature swinging, then you are probably winning anyway and this is just redundant. Occasionally this will have useful applications, like putting it on a regenerator or on an Aven Flock in an aerial race, or even as pseudo removal on an opposing threat you just can’t handle. Maindeckable but considerably less good than it looks.
Venerable Monk (c)
Early in the game, the life gain is irrelevant and so this is a 2/2 for three, which is not at all exciting. Late in the game, it basically just says”gain two life” as the creature attached will often be irrelevant. Neither of these situations are particularly good, so this is basically just filler to use if you are short of playables. I suppose occasionally he might tilt a race in your favor, but this card still gets played far more than it should.
Suntail Hawk (c)
Yes evasion is good, but is one power of evasion really going to make that much difference? If it comes out on turn 1, then you are only going to have done five points of damage by turn 6, even if your opponent has no flyer defense. If your opponent has no flyer defense, you should be punishing his with proper flyers of 2/2 and above, of which White has plenty. If your opponent does have flyers, then what use do you think a 1/1 will be in stopping them? I won’t deny that this might be useful in tempo decks, getting in a few points of damage that no other card would but, to be honest, most of the time this is just a flying chump blocker.
Holy Day (c)
Fogs have always been quite useful in limited, and I am quite surprised that this seems to come round fourteenth of fifteenth pick. Admittedly, most games in 8th edition limited are won with evasion, or by a blistering start and in these situations Holy Day will only buy you a turn (which is the turn you lost by drawing it in the first place). However, sometimes you get games where both players trade early damage before the board stabilises, and then one person will build up the critical mass of creatures to alpha-strike.
In this situation Holy Day can grab victory from the jaws of defeat. If this were its only use, then it would be down in the list among Peach Garden Oath and Blessed Reversal, but fortunately it does have other uses. It can effectively nullify a combat trick such as Giant Growth, it can save your first strikers from dying after they have already dealt their damage, or can allow your Crossbow Infantry or Elite Archers to do their thing without risking any creatures. I’m not saying that you should pick it and play it on the strength of these narrow applications, but in the right deck this may be worth a slot.
Rain of Blades (u)
Too often this is just a surprise, one-shot Crossbow Infantry, although it does have some potential game turning applications. If your opponent is attacking en masse early in the game, then this is a good way to create some favorable trades. Alternatively if your opponent is alpha striking, you may be able to kill off a couple of creatures and save or win the game. I really wouldn’t put this in your deck though, it’s a bit of a waste of a slot.
Healing Salve (c)
The life gain option of this card should only be used in dire emergencies, as gaining a paltry three life and not affecting the board in any way is a chronic waste of a card. The protection side has more potential, but in reality it’s just a bad Redeem. If this is in my deck at the end of the draft, then the draft has gone pretty badly.
Sword Dancer (u)
I’m not quite sure what they had in mind when they made this card. It is clearly defensive in nature, yet just to give a creature -2/-0 you would have to spend four mana and all White at that. While this could be quite a useful trick in creature standoff situations, I can’t see me ever wanting to put it in my deck or even bring it in from the sideboard.
Honor Guard (c)
Another card that might make my maindeck, but it would be a sign the draft had gone badly. It can be a decent defensive creature later in the game but, to be honest, by the time you have the mana spare to use him effectively, your opponent should either have evasion or something suitably large that, even with a few activations, it still won’t help you. For two more mana you can get Standing Troops, which is a far better deal as it will always have a toughness of four and has a bonus ability. The only advantage the Guard has is that he comes out two turns earlier, so he may manage to swing for a couple of damage.
Peach Garden Oath (u)
The board has been cleared, and your opponent has managed to top-deck a Goblin Chariot, which is picking away at your precarious life total. You need a card this turn or the Chariot will take your last two life points. Any card to either remove the Chariot or a creature to block it. You tap the top of your deck and peel… Peach Garden Oath! Good Game.
Okay, so it won’t always be that bad, but that just illustrates why cards like this that don’t affect the board position are bad. Sure there may be weird game states in which this card will win you the game, but there are far more where it will lose you the game as it sits in your hand when you need a creature, trick, land, or removal spell.
Tundra Wolves (c)
Another dreary 1/1 with no ability of relevance. While this will enjoy some success against the Deepwood Ghouls of this world, this format is too slow to be concerned with 1/1s.
Blessed Reversal (r)
On the face of it this can save you from a big alpha strike but, as with Peach Garden Oath, you have to look at it and think how likely is this likely to help you win the game? The answer is not that likely at all. Most of the time all you will do is nullify the damage from a couple of creatures for a turn or two, without actually finding a solution to them.
Sacred Ground (r)
I think even if my opponent played three Stone Rains on me in the first game I would still think twice before bringing this in. Although if your opponent is filling his deck with Stone Rains, I guess you don’t need a lot of help winning anyway.
Combat tricks are good. Combat tricks that don’t increase your creature’s power or hurt your opponent’s creatures are not so good. At best, this could save one of your good creatures from Red (although not most Black or Blue) removal, or maybe save one or more (but usually one) blocker from dying for a turn. The only time this might win you a game is if you need one more turn to stabilise the board and so need to block your opponent’s attackers without losing creatures. However, the reason you are in this situation in the first place is probably because you are main-decking crap like this.
Sacred Nectar (c)
You trade a card and two mana for maybe a short amount of time. This card is the epitome of why most life gain is bad. It doesn’t improve your board position, it is not a solution to any bad cards you are facing, nor does it help out your own offense. It’s just bad, don’t take it.
Ivory Mask (r)
You can only really judge cards like this by the other cards in the format, so I looked over my old games on Magic Online to find out what I had been targeted with. In about twenty matches, I had been hit by about four discard spells, a couple of Red burn spells and a Blaze. Not exactly enough to be worth putting in a card against, especially as the discard will often be used by the time this comes out and the rest can double up as removal.
Rolling Stones (r)
Take a look at the Walls in 8th edition. Are there any of them that you would really like to attack with? Well… Sunweb maybe. Play this card if you have at least two copies of Sunweb.
Thanks for reading and happy drafting.