The Darksteel Trader’s Guide

Back at the start of the year, I wrote an article outlining the mistakes and overhyped cards in Mirrodin. That was only twenty days ago from when I write this, and it’s time to make due on my promise and write a trading preview for Darksteel, as at long last we have the completed spoiler.
Or the almost completed spoiler. The mostly completed spoiler. The”I think there might be two or three cards missing” spoiler. Regardless, this is where I put my neck out on the line and offer up the cards I think you should be looking to trade for.

Back at the start of the year, I wrote an article outlining the mistakes and overhyped cards in Mirrodin. That was only twenty days ago from when I write this, and it’s time to make due on my promise and write a trading preview for Darksteel, as at long last we have the completed spoiler.

Or the almost completed spoiler. The mostly completed spoiler. The”I think there might be two or three cards missing” spoiler. Regardless, this is where I put my neck out on the line and offer up the cards I think you should be looking to trade for.

The Rares

If I don’t mention a card, I’m indifferent towards it. That probably means it’s neither good nor really bad, though.

I should note that MTGnews’ spoiler doesn’t necessarily outline what all the rares are. So please forgive me if end up missing a few – I can’t control that.

Leonin Shikari

A rather obvious card, the Shikari raises eyebrows from people who see the ability as potentially incredible. It potentially is, but in my mind, it’s not that good a card. The ability to shake off targeted effects with Lightning Greaves is a two-card combo that would be devastating against Astral Slide. But that’s assuming Slide didn’t tend to run at least six Wrath effects to go with their Slide tricks. Against other decks there are currently not many targeted effects, at which point the Shikari’s ability is not worth spending a full card on. The one combo is access to a power-boosting piece of Equipment and a first striker, which allows you to get double duty out of the axe, clamp, or plate.

The problem is that the Shikari needs that combo to be worthwhile. Aggro decks don’t want a card that’s poor unless it meets a criteria.

Personally, I don’t think this guy will see much Standard play. Other bears have real abilities. He will show up in block, however. Don’t trade for him high, and if the person wants him, trade him off. Block-only rares rarely get too valuable. On the plus side, he’s insane in Limited.

Pulse of the Fields

There is some debate as to the wording on Pulse of the Fields, but either way, this is likely the strongest of the Pulses – Which is really weird since it’s life-gain. Since few control strategies rotate around doing quick damage to their opponent, Pulse of the Fields will allow you to regenerate your life-total after your aggressive opponent burns himself out on trying to kill you before you can stabilize. I don’t think it’s an amazing card, but it’s a sideboard card that can go in against any aggro deck from the board of any White control deck. That’s nothing to complain about.

Trade ’em off people who always think life-gain sucks.


Ten mana is a lot. It doesn’t seem to say”can not be countered” either. This one’s going in the same box as Dimensional Breach.

Turn the Tables

The MTGnews rumor mill has this noted as a rare. I feel bad about talking down to Leonin Shikari, when there’s horrors like this lurking in the spoiler. I really hope this card isn’t rare, it’s just absurdly awful. Five mana for a Humility plus Fog! Yaaaaaauuuuusssss!

Chromeshell Drake

This card would be quite good if it wasn’t Blue. Using up all of Affinity’s Blue mana for one turn to get a 3/4 flier alongside a possible bit of card advantage is just looking for a kick in the jibblies. I’m not sure if I’m allowed to use the word”jibblies” in an article. In Block it will potentially be valuable, though.

I’d value it pretty low. It doesn’t really look like much of a rare, to be honest. I’m sure people will be trading for them, though, so you’ll probably want to get rid of yours.

Last Word

I don’t want to call this card valuable, but perhaps you might remember a card known as Urza’s Rage? Yup, Last Word is showing up in a format where”Can not be countered” looks better and better, and it’s a rare, so it’s probably going to be valuable. It even has relatively solid casual appeal, so scoop up your four when you can. It makes me roll my eyes to consider how many times I’ve heard the phrase”Blue will get worse!” when it’s been dominating Standard for three seasons running. Affinity, U/WC, Tog, Snaketongue, Bleeeeeeech.

Pulse of the Grid

If you recall from my last article, I noted that no matter how powerful a card is, it has to look like it would go into a deck before it becomes worth chasing. Pulse of the Grid isn’t that powerful – if it doesn’t pulse back to your hand, it has a disturbing resemblance to Catalog. And it doesn’t really seem to go into anything. It’s good for a control deck facing another control deck, when the other deck is winning … but otherwise, I don’t think I care for it.

I’m willing to say this card might be good, but I don’t see any application for it at the moment so I would be wary of trading for them.


You smell that? That’s the stink of a Tinker that was left in the oven too long and had all the goodness completed cooked out of it. This card manages to be a worse version of Transmute Artifact, which isn’t a good card, either. You can basically Fabricate for less mana – since you’ll have to either give up an artifact land or a spell you paid mana for – so basically, Reshape sucks. Let’s never speak of this card again.


A better version of Chain of Vapor for Miod’s Desire based combo in Standard, but yet I’ve had no luck getting the deck to go off any faster than in any other situation. Overall, while I see Retract as having potential, I don’t feel just yet that it’s necessarily good. I can’t willingly state a card has a high trade value when it might have one narrow usage in a fringe deck.

I would probably pick up four of these while their value is low, yet I can give no guarantee they’ll end up being played. It’s a pretty low risk gambit though, since they’re not going to be valued high initially.

Death Cloud

It’s an often repeated axiom that symmetrical effects on paper are not always symmetrical effects in practice. Death Cloud hopes to emphasize this to the fullest possible extent. A large, jaw-dropping effect, Death Cloud will either usher in a new deck archetype or it will do very little and find itself dropping in value over time until it goes the way of Phyrexian Scuta, Doomsday Specter, and Skullscorch. Either way, I can envision a deck that this could go into, so I can possibly say I feel decent out it having a reasonable chance of obtaining fair value.

Don’t ascribe too much value to it when trading for it. The card is just as likely to flop as succeed. But, I would definitely say it’s worth picking up four.

By the way, for fun, here’s a decklist I threw together when the card was first spoiled on mtgnews.com :

“>Cabal Interrogator

“>Withered Wretch

“>Rotlung Reanimator

“>Rukh Egg

“>Solemn Simulacrum

“>Death Cloud


“>Talisman of Indulgence

“>Stone Rain


“>Bloodstained Mire

“>Urborg Volcano

3 Mountain

13 Swamp

Just a rough idea, don’t take it too seriously!

Greater Harvester

5/6 for five mana in Black is strong, even with the his drawback. That alone would probably get the card some attention. With it’s strong anti-control ability (the decks dominating the Standard format), I get the feeling this one will probably find itself in Black sideboards. It has good overall synergy with Zombies and other sorts of Black aggro-controllish decks.

I do not think, however, that this card will end up getting too high in value. I am hoping it’s flavor text is”And the Goblins got in it’s way. Repeatedly.” Which illuminates why the card could never be too good.

Pulse of the Dross

Like Pulse of the Fields, this Pulse has a natural fit in Black aggro decks. Drop creatures from your hand and then repeatedly Pulse your opponent out of cards? Doesn’t sound bad. It has a fair bit in common with Blackmail and Cabal Interrogator, both of which are currently seeing playing in Standard.

I think right now Pulse of the Dross isn’t good enough to be playable – there’s better discard floating around, as I just mentioned – but it might be worthwhile in Block and it has some interesting applications down the road. Call it a sleeper card, if you will. Let it drop in value after initial hyping and pick them up cheap. They’ll probably be played in Block or in


This card isn’t”awful” but it baffles me as to why it was made. Very good perhaps in Ponza or other Red semicontrol strategies, the triple Red casting cost is a painful consideration when evaluating this card. Triple Red is a very shaky mana cost, making the card basically playable only in mono-colored decks, unless those decks have strong mana fixing options or the card is for the late game. This is a powered up, rare Steam Blast.

Not worth it.

Furnace Dragon

I seem rather quick to mark a lot of rares as possible sideboard cards. I’m willing to say this is a bit of a poor way to judge cards. Sideboard slots are generally for cards that are more focused or only useful in particular match ups, and they rarely end up being too valuable. That being said, Furnace Dragon looks like a card for the Affinity mirror. It kills every creature in modern Affinity when it’s ability goes off, and if you drop an artifact land or spellbomb after the fact, you keep your Glimmervoids, while your opponent’s pop at the end of the turn. One-sided Jokulhaups effects are pretty good, or so I hear.

I know dragon cards are usually given trade values above their playability value, so I don’t think Furnace Dragon is going to be considered too easy to get. On the other hand, nine or so mana might be reachable in non-Affinity decks against Affinity, so I wouldn’t count it out of mass appeal anyway. Medium value, in the end.

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Not a good card. Direct damage that can only target players (or only creatures) is automatically half the value of normal direct damage – so let’s call it two damage for three mana. Yeah, that’s a ridiculous way of putting it, but I’m trying to describe the card’s value. I’d rather have Hammer of Bogardan, thanks.

Savage Beating

The kind of card that has extremely high casual appeal but no real tournament appeal, I’d trade these off. Seven mana to do quad damage is flashy, but effects like this are best when you can cast them before your opponent has been able to Wrath, Vengeance, Stone. This is too late. It’s certainly a powerful effect, but I doubt it would manage anything beyond a sideboard slot. Relentless Assault was about as good, and no one has played that in an eternity.


Good card. Hard to really evaluate, it’s value is somewhat dropped by the recent reduction in targeted card draw spells. Three mana is a very good price for this ability, but right now I can’t think of all too many targeted spells floating around Standard, pardoning land destruction – which isn’t a deck you leave 1RR open against. Anyway it’s good, but I don’t think it will end up having very high value.

Slobad, Goblin Tinkerer

In some situations Slobad allows you to greatly diminish the power of artifact hate, but it’s tricky saying whether or not he’s any good. He’s still a one-power goblin for two mana, and while his ability is mana free, he doesn’t necessarily do that much. Vengeance destroys him, and halves your artifacts, which remains a rough beat to let resolve I can’t see a card with a such a mid-strength ability as being all that impressive, so I’m going to say I don’t think he’ll have long-term appeal.

This is one of those cases where I’m very sure I could be wrong.

Ageless Entity

This card reminds me of a cross between Forgotten Ancient and War Elemental. That negative remark aside, it’s a rather natural fit for W/G control, which gains cards like Well of Lost Dreams, Pulse of the Tangle, Pulse of the Fields, and so on… looks to be on the upswing.

I can’t really make a solid judgment of this card. If you’re able to gain four to eight points of life, he suddenly becomes a massive wrecking ball that puts your opponent on a rather short clock. That’s good. On the other hand, it doesn’t have haste. They’ll have time to Wrath him away. That’s bad. Add on the fact that it lacks trample, it may just trip over soldier tokens until the end of it’s days.

It has potential. But so did Forgotten Ancient. And look where he’s gone.

Fangren Firstborn

The casting cost is quite brutal, and it’s toughness is pretty low for a would-be fatty. Okay, but, it’s still a five-power swinger the first time it goes for the throat. A natural combination with Lightning Greaves, overall I’d probably say this one is like Ageless Entity: Lots of potential, yet doesn’t seem to fit naturally into anything good. Beasts doesn’t really need another four-drop, especially one that doesn’t work well with Contested Cliffs due to it’s low-toughness.

Might be good, but I wouldn’t rate it high with so many strikes against it.

Pulse of the Tangle

A card that makes almost no sense. Have an elephant. If your opponent has at least two creatures, you may make another elephant. Well then! Elephants for some, spell going into the graveyard for others. Simply put, its status as a sorcery really damages the card’s power when facing off against W/x control decks, and elsewhere, it’s a harder to cast Call of the Herd that only has flashback when your opponent for some reason, not only has more creatures than you, but a lot more creatures than you. That’s nothing good in my book.

I don’t expect this card to do well overall. Actually, I don’t think it makes elephants. But 3/3 tokens will always be elephants in my book.

Rebuking Ceremony

Very likely to be playable in Mirrodin Block Constructed, I’ve already noted that I personally don’t believe Block Constructed-only cards become that valuable. This card is pretty hopeless outside of Mirrodin-only formats. Avoid.

Oh, and keep in mind – It’s ridiculous in draft. Redunkulous, I might be tempted to say. Say that one out loud.

Roaring Slagwurm

Why are you so bad? You’re worse than Craw Wurm!

Viridian Zealot

On the other hand, this man is pretty quality. 2/1 for GG is a little rough, but a bear with a built in Naturalize is the sort of card I’m not going to complain about. Efficiency like this can put cards on the map in Extended, so I’d probably pick up a playset of these – I’ve heard a lot of people crying and whining that it’s not very good or shouldn’t have been rare, so I don’t think they’ll be too valuable early on…

Go! Get four!

Arcbound guys

All of them are casual cards with no worth in Constructed. Reclaim effects aren’t good. Overpriced large men aren’t good either. Next question?

Darksteel Colossus

I can’t tell you how good this card is until I’ve tried out my R/G turbo-Colossus / Tooth and Nail deck. Twenty-Two power! Blackjack!

Wait! I bust. Dealer wins. *sad face*

Ok, maybe I can. Eleven mana is a huge, insane sum that only becomes vaguely worthwhile in formats that don’t have countermagic or bounce. Like, say, Onslaught block. So obtain a couple of these, go back in time and play them in Onslaught Block qualifiers. Otherwise, the card is probably ok in some sideboards simply because it’s impossible for some of the slower control decks to deal with, but he doesn’t even say”Can not be the target of Spells or abilities.” Come on. He’s eleven mana!

Yeah. Eleven mana. Hoboy.

Darksteel Reactor

A bizarre win condition that is probably not all that great. There is a shockingly low amount of non-creature bounce floating around Mirrodin standard. Oh, wait, they just printed Echoing Truth, so U/W decks will have it in their sideboard. Oh ok, cool. Guess we’re done considering this card.

Rumor has it people have already made Turbo-Reactor decks that go off on turn 7. This card is not that bad, but it seems too casual and just too slow for Constructed formats. And don’t play it in Limited either. I know some of you are going to, and I can’t stop all of you, put please don’t. Unless you have multiple ingots, other Darksteel stuff and March of the Machines. Then Darksteel Reactor becomes a good time.

Oh boy does it ever.

Death-Mask Duplicant

He can successfully steal protection from artifacts from your dead Needlebugs, but really, paying seven mana for a 5/5 creature means you really want something incredible to come out of it. I don’t even like casting Bosh these days, and it’s friggin Bosh!

Oh wait sorry, I was accidentally doing a Limited review. Whoops. Unplayable chaff.

Eater of Days

I have heard from a handful of savvy Vintage players that this card looks vaguely playable in decks centered around Smokestack and giving away turns. I am not altogether sure if those savvy Vintage players are full of lies and/or candy, but the card certainly does look rather interesting. It’s certainly better than Leveler.

Yes, I realize that isn’t saying much. It’s probably not in the least bit playable in Standard, but it may end up being of worth in Extended or Vintage. So you should probably trade them off unless you, personally, already have a deck in mind. I don’t.


This card just makes me scowl. [Look up at Iain’s picture, then picture the scowl. Doesn’t he look constipated? He doesn’t? I’m rambling. – Knut, Metamucil free]

Lich’s Tomb

Oh man. Wow. I have no idea what to say about this card.

It’s just so … Incredibly bad. You don’t lose for being below one life! And you don’t care! Woohoo. If Ted would let me right out long strings of gibberish that result from me slamming my head against the keyboard, I’d give this card a rather worthless paragraph of writing.


Really, really cool and possessing of a pair of powerful abilities, Memnarch is a casual player’s wetdream of a card. However, I don’t think he’ll ever manage to see tournament play. So I would probably be trying to trade these off, though I assume you could find a decent buyer.

Panoptic Mirror

This card isn’t noted as a rare, so I don’t know if I’m rating a rare! Gleeful. That being said, it has a ridiculous amount of potential – in exchange for a completely absurd amount of mana. Sure, you can wrath every turn. For nine mana total. Guess what kiddies! That’s what we call win more.

Might be broken in some combo deck or something somewhere, but I’ll be trading these little devils off to people who dream of Stone Raining every turn or something. Oh I guess that’s a lock. I give it a hearty meh, but I’ll admit, like a couple other cards, I might be wrong.

There’s too many situations where the speed of activation is just too slow. Oh and other savvy vintage players want me to tell you it’s broken with Ancestral Recall and Time Walk! Thanks guys! You’re so useful!

Serum Powder

A point made about this card is that you’re made more likely to mulligan by the fact the card is in your deck. It’s a beautiful piece of work and very well designed, but I personally don’t know how good the card will actually be in practice. I would probably be trying to trade these off, as they do seem to have a fair amount of hype going for them.

Sundering Titan

They should have named this card”Forgotten Invader.”

Sword of Fire and Ice, Sword of Shadow and Light

Hello and welcome to the rare Equipment that’s too expensive to see play show! Both of these cards are ridiculous in Limited, and completely unplayable in Standard or Extended! Hurray! I’m so glad they turned out to be rare.

Days like this, I’m so glad I don’t bust open packs.

Thought Dissector

A vaguely decent card they may end up seeing play against decks like U/WC or Slide, in the sideboards of other control decks. It has the potential to mill quite a few cards at a time, and against a deck like MWC for example, the only artifacts you could steal aren’t going to be bad. Oh no, I stole your Mindslaver, I am sad.

I wouldn’t value it high, though. Helm of Obedience looked a lot better than it actually was.


A very strong Affinity hate card, Trinisphere has applications against Goblins, Affinity, White Weenie and any other deck that tries to be fast, while not hurting the control deck that played it in the least. That’s pretty solid, so I would likely say this is going to end up as one of the valuable cards from the set – especially since it has applications in nearly every Constructed format. No wait, it does have applications in every Constructed format. Every single one.

And yes, if a spell has a cost reduction factor, Trinisphere always gets around it. Affinity cards will always be at least three mana, and so forth. Read the FAQ if you don’t believe me.

Well of Lost Dreams

This card has the vague effect of making an uncycled Renewed Faith a Stroke of Genius that is limited to drawing you six cards. Oh? Oh, that might be good! I’m not sure about this card. It’s not going to see play as a four-of, but it’s effect does involve the word”Draw X.” Name how many cards that have”You Draw X” on them that weren’t good?

The list isn’t too long, I assure you. I can’t even think of one off the top of my head. Necrologia? I mean draw X as in X = mana cost, so Necrologia doesn’t count.

I’d probably make sure I had two or three of these, in case they shoot up in value, but I wouldn’t struggle to get four. It has a lot of highly possible abilities, after all, life gain becomes pretty solid when against control decks it reads”Draw a ridiculous amount of cards.”

Blinkmoth Nexus

Not quite as powerful as Mishra’s Factory, I would still say this card is going to end up seeing play. Sure, 1/1 fliers aren’t exactly the biggest deal in the world, but unlike Stalking Stones, it’s not really effected by your opponent’s access to Wrath effects. That makes it pretty valuable in control on control or aggro vs. control situations.

Disappointing as a rare. The card simply doesn’t feel as powerful as other man-lands, which have traditionally been uncommons. This is no Faerie Conclave.

I’m disappointed they put a mana-cost on the bonus ability, though. That was rather unnecessary hosing.

Rares, In Conclusion

Darksteel is full of cards that make me look at them sideways. It’s not really a bad set, not exactly, but like Legions, a lot of the cards look good but unwieldly. These sorts of cards often turn out to be playable yet just as often turn out to be crap. Remember Windborn Muse? I have four that I have never cast in a Constructed game, even if the card does look rather solid to me. Reading over the reviews, I know I didn’t give a lot of really”This is so solid!” reviews, because honestly, none of the cards truly stand out.

Except Pulse of the Fields. The life gain. Stands out. Hoboy. Well, it is really good life gain, mind you.

I’d write some thoughts on Darksteel Limited here, but honestly… I’ll say all that later. I’d just like to note that yes, Blue is really quite good in this set. So is Black, oddly enough. But any set where Blue gets another Skywing Aven is very good for Blue. Spire Golem is really good, too. It feels also that there are less colored cards than within Mirrodin, especially in White. White is just so bad.

Don’t play Hunger of the Nim or Scrounge, though. You’ll be disappointed. Darksteel Pendant is bad, please, don’t run it unless you’re running a lot of affinity. I’m sure someone better at writing pre-release primers will write one up, anyway. I’ll be doing limited reviews out the wazoo next week.

Did I say better? I mean more willing. This is nine pages. Any longer and Knutson will karate chop me in the face. [Already done. – Knut]

So now I’m just waiting for someone to come back to this article four months from now and give me a talking to on my picks. I expect to be 60% correct, with 20% attributed to the fact I honestly can’t predict every new deck that might come out when I haven’t gotten a chance to play with most of these cards. The other 20% I’ll write off to arrogance or other sorts of mistakes.

Good luck at your pre-releases! Remember, mozzie says White sucks, and it’s all about the teeth!

Next week I’ll be back with, well, hopefully a two-headed review written alongside one of my favorite Limited writers of all time. Can you guess who it is? Do you care?

Iain Telfer