Welcome to the hippest set review for all things Five. Every set release sees everybody’s opinion on every card virtually every single time. Have no fear, my philanthropic fillies, because today we’ll not lollop around worrying about all of the chaff that every set has with it. After all, how many times do you want to read, “Solid in Limited, poor in Constructed?”
Therefore, I will mention only the best cards, the interesting cards, and the overblown cards. However, you can’t evaluate cards without knowing the format. Shock is of a much different quality based largely on whether or not Lightning Bolt is legal in the same format, for example.
This review is a Five Color review. What is Five Color, you may ask? (If you did not ask this, then skip this paragraph). Five Color is a casual format requiring a minimum of 250 cards- at least twenty cards of each color – using Vintage-legal sets, with our own banned and restricted list that you can find over at 5-color.com. We recently had a vote on several cards, and you can see the results there.
My traditional structure for these articles is to start with any major mechanics and an evaluation of how that mechanic will play out. Then I move into actual card evaluations. Please note that everybody’s Five Deck is different. Everybody has pet cards that they like and want to play. As such, virtually every possible card can get played in Five Color, and none are a surprise. This is just a list of what I think are the goods, the solids, and the overrateds.
Without further ado, it’s time to start running*.
There have been some real winners – mechanically – in the past, like Transmute. Many mechanics are neither good nor bad in Five Color; they just are as good or bad as the card itself. On the other hand, a lot of mechanics are very specific to certain cards, and therefore are poor in Five Color. An example of these mechanics would be spiritcraft, splice onto arcane, soulshift, and offering (all from Kamigawa block, obviously). These abilities aren’t really viable in Five Color. What will the new three look like?
Hellbent – This gets a big yuck in Five Color. Five is all about filling your hand and drawing cards. We don’t have time for Hellbent. Ick.
Graft – Graft is a neutral ability. It’s neither great nor bad; it depends on the strength of the individual card.
Forecast – Of these thee mechanics, Forecast has the most Five Color potential, so I saved it for last. Five Color is about card advantage more than practically any other environment that I have ever played. Even the aggro decks are chock-full of cheap card drawing. Tutor effects usually go to cheap card drawing options. This format loves card advantage. Therefore, any ability that appears to give card advantage is going to be looked upon quite highly.
This is where Forecast steps in. By playing it while still keeping it in your hand, you have added an effect to the board without losing a card. If this effect is useful, then you have a powerful ability. Note that this ability could be plagued by lousy abilities. No matter how good a mechanic is, if it is on a lousy card, no one will play it. For example, no matter how nifty Jump is as a surprise, it won’t ever make a good card. A forecast Jump effect, for example, would be lousy. Therefore, it still has to have a useful effect.
It looks like White got the aggro goods in this set, which is quite ironic. In previous sets, White was combined with Red and Green for a more aggro taste, yet with Blue in this set, you would think it would be all about control. My favorite White card from this set is Mistral Charger, a virtual vanilla creature that really amp up what an aggro deck can expect to do with White creatures on the second turn.
Azorius Herald – I’m not exactly sure how these new pay-mana-of-another-color-or-the-creature-dies-but-you-still-get-an-effect (PMOACOTCDBYSGAE ability for short, which I like to pronounce, “Puh-moa-cot-sk-byes-gay”) are going to shape up, but I really like this guy for aggro. As Lighting Helix has shown, a life boost on an otherwise good card can really help you win a life race. Playing a solid two-power unblockable creature for three mana while also getting four life seems like a pretty good deal to me.
Celestial Ancient – Hello recurring Rancor. Even with a non-recurring Rancor you get a pretty solid ability for one Green mana. Of course, by the time you play a five mana 3/3 flyer, you probably already dropped your Rancors, so that probably not that great of a deal. I think recurring Rancor is better.
Condemn – Why do people like Swords to Plowshares so much, especially over other good White removal? It’s cheap as can be (so is Condemn). It handles any regenerator or indestructible creature (so does Condemn). It removes any possibly of recursion, making a nice answer to cards like Genesis (so does Condemn). Swords to Plowshares’s disadvantage is that it gives life to the creature’s player (so does Condemn). Condemn has one additional disadvantage – it can only be used on attackers. It’s “moving a creature to the library” is both better and worse than removing from the game, so that’s a wash.
Guardian of the Guildpact –I suspect that it will be a really useful card.
Mistral Charger – If you really liked the idea of dropping a 2/2 flyer in the form of Leonin Skyhunter in your aggro 250 deck but you didn’t have the room for double White, look no further than your newest salvation. Mistral Charger is the two-drop of White two-drops. A highly playable aggressive two-drop that does not cost WW, but just costs 1W. This is a gift to aggro mages everywhere who like Savannah Lions in their deck. It’s also Clampable.
Proclamation of Rebirth – Perfect for the aggro deck on the go. First turn, play a Savannah Lions. Second turn attack with Lions, trade them with a Goblin Welder, then drop a Llanowar Elves and a Jackal Pup. If your opponent plays Pyroclasm, don’t worry. Just play Proclamation of Rebirth and put the Pup, Elves, and Lions all back into play under your control while your opponent gets nothing. Ideal for decks that maximize their one drops.
Green doesn’t offer a lot, but then, it usually doesn’t outside of creatures, mana, and the odd utility spell. The best Green card might actually be Loaming Shaman. Another solid beater for your aggro decks.
Cytoplast Root-Kin – This should really be called Counter Whore. It gives them to those who already have them, it gives them to those that just came into play, and it can take them all back as well. Don’t let the counter tricks confuse you. This is a versatile 4/4 for four mana that can help out Spike Weavers, Feeders, and whatnot as well.
Indrik Stomphowler – Uktabi Orangutan for Timmies. As a 4/4 for five mana, it’s a Durkwood Boars. As a Naturalize when it comes into play, its super expensive. As a 4/4 Durkwood Boars/Naturalize combination, it’s really versatile (more so than the aforementioned orangutan, which only attacks artifacts). And Timmy-esque.
Loaming Shaman – It’s a beater that shuffles someone’s Anger back into their deck. That’s not bad. It’s a three-power beater for three mana that nails someone’s graveyard too? Again, that’s not bad. If your aggro deck has problems going against Glory and Wonder, and you don’t want to waste cards on Tormod’s Crypt and similar effects, look no further than Mr. Splash (cause he only costs one Green).
There’s only one straight Red card that’s even worthy of mention. The rest are poor versions of previous cards, or are too Red-intensive for Five Color. Take, for example, Rakdos Pit Dragon. It’s a fine card for a Red deck, or any deck with a sizable contingent of Red cards, but here in Five Color it doesn’t have much of a punch.
Demonfire – Well, it’s a Disintegrate sort of spell that allows regeneration but still removes from the game. Most people find three X spells to be their X spell of choice. Ghitu Fire for its instant-ability (but then you could play Volcanic Geyser for that), Fireball for its ability to be split, and Kaervek’s Torch for its ability to be difficult to counter. However, Demonfire may be good enough to get a nod. Since its damage can be uncounterable and unpreventable under the right circumstances, that’s a powerful finisher.
Just like Red, there are few mono-Black cards worth mentioning. However, there is one rather nice trinket.
Infernal Tutor – We like tutors in Five Color. Tutors are quite important, since they help to alleviate the randomness of the environment. This is a fine tutor because it is so cheap. When you aren’t able to use it with Hellbent and tutor for any card, you can still get a duplicate of a removal spell, or a creature card, or whatever else you have in your hand. Playing it on the second turn to get another land is a fine choice too. This is a great card.
Today’s feature includes two creatures and an instant. Both creatures have the same basic ability. My favorite card of these three? Probably the Court Hussar.
Court Hussar – Just like Azorius Herald, this PMOACOTCDBYSGAE can be a nice blocker and a sort of Impulse on the third turn. It’s not that great, but a lot of control decks need blockers and need search. This does both, so although it’s not as cheap as an Impulse or a TAco (Temple Acolyte), it’s still a solid choice.
Plaxmanta – Another PMOACOTCDBYSGAE, this is a nice 2/2 creature for two mana. Think of it usually as a UG 2/2 creature that can be played as an instant, and when it is it counters target spell or ability that targets on of your creatures. At other times, it’s a spell that reads 1U and has just the counter ability. Lots of aggro players play Gaea’s Skyfolk, so this may fit an aggro player’s manabase.
By the way, it looks like they’ve continued the “Bad Name” tradition started in Guildpact. Plaxmanta? It sounds like a creature that attacks Mr. Tooth in some comic written my the American Dental Association to teach people the power of proper flossing. “Beware kids! The awesome, relentless power of the Plaxmanta! Mr. Tooth is about the bite it, but don’t worry, because Our Hero has arrived, and he uses the Floss of Justice and the Paste of Truth to defeat the evil Legions of Decay!”
Spell Snare – This format certainly has a lot of two-drops in it that are worthy of packing Spell Snare. Price of Progress, Wild Mongrel, Balance, Demonic Tutor, Fellwar Stone, Counterspell, and much more. However, this format has even more problematic cards at other casting costs. While Spell Snare might wreck a deck with the nice tempo advantage gained by countering a Wild Mongrel, a Five deck will just keep going. Note this spell does not counter spells that cost two mana or less, just two mana. As such, Skullclamps and Savannah Lions and Grim Lavamancers and Chrome Moxen and Basking Rootwallas and Land Taxes will all be played with ease.
In the past two sets, I combined Guild mana card with normal gold cards for this section. This time, if I want to continue that policy, I have to add the split gold cards as well. Since that would mean combining three normal sets of cards into one, I‘ll just keep the normal distinction of Gold, Guild, and Split, instead of a cover-all “multicolor” designation.
Coiling Oracle – A speed bump in the form of card advantage. It’s a little hard on the mana requirements early, but I really like it.
Gobhobbler Rats – Don’t let the potential for this card to be a 3/1 beater with regeneration for RB fool you into thinking this is a good card for aggro. Watchwolf is a 3/3 for two colors and includes Green as one of its colors (Green is the most used color in many or most Five Color decks). This is really a 2/1 for two mana with no abilities in most circumstances. Even without Hellbent, Infernal Tutor is good. Without Hellbent here, the Rats are poor.
Rakdos Augermage – Maybe this card will see play because it is the invitational winner. Perhaps it just is limited to Red/Black decks. It’s a very effective beater as a 3/2 first strike creature for three mana. The mana is limiting, however.
Trygon Predator – I love this card. Three mana yields you a 2/3 flyer, which is a little smaller than the best you can get for that price in these colors (Serendib Efreet would have +1/+1 with a disadvantage, for example). However, you get a nice bonus. Whenever the predator hits someone, you can off one of their artifacts or enchantments. That’s a really solid ability. Even if all you do is attack and kill a Fellwar Stone, that’s card advantage in the form of the 2/3 flyer. Good Stuff.
Voidslime – Most decks don’t run Absorb or Undermine, and this is a similar card with a similar casting cost. However, the extra Green mana in lieu of Black or White is much easier for most decks to cast. Additionally, this card is much better than Absorb or Undermine. Those cards were Counterspells with an added bonus. This is better than a regular Counterspell, since it counters abilities as well (triggered and activated).
Windreaver – This Morphling clone is good enough that in some decks it will actually be better than Morphling. It can hit for a lot more damage than Morphling ever could (it was maxed at five damage a turn, whereas Windreaver is limitless). However, in Five Color, Windreaver won’t win out. Morphling had abilities that activated for colorless mana, but all of Windreaver’s abilities require Blue or White. As such, it really only works well in a Blue/White deck, not Five Color.
I am highlighting just three cards, but there are only nine total guild mana cards in the set, so there’s a 33% chance of getting noticed. Of these cards, I really like the Azorius Guildmage the best.
Avatar of Discord – This is a great card for those players who like balls-to-the-walls aggro. Want to know why? For years, Wizards was careful about creatures that cost three mana and were Black. Hypnotic Specter had taught them something. Dark Ritual turns into a powerful creature. Here, I can Dark Ritual out a 5/3 flyer on the first turn. (Note: this play requires five cards, the land, the Ritual, the Avatar and the discard of two other cards.)
Azorius Guildmage – This guy can probably make the cut in many decks. Guild mana always makes for an easier play, and the Guildmage has a pair of abilities that are right for any control deck, or frankly, even some aggro decks. From tapping attackers and blockers to countering activation of things like Deeds and Disks, this is a real winner.
Rakdos Guildmage – This Guildmage is a bit on the expensive side. Like the Gruul and Selesnya Guildmagi before it, this is a nice adjunct to an aggro strategy.
Six of the ten make our list, showing off the versatility of split cards. There are several powerful effects here, including a new Tutor, a new Wish, and a new Deed. My favorite is probably the new Deed in Crime / Punishment. Sweeping the board of one-drops or two-drops will really help control decks stabilize.
Bound / Determined – The Bound half of Bound / Determined has a lot of potential, but it will never be as broken as All Suns’ Dawn, which has the same mana cost. Therefore I suspect that Bound will never be that great. Determined is just an ability, with nothing that special.
Crime / Punishment – Crime is just an expensive recursion spell, but Punishment? Now that’s something interesting. It can surgically sweep the board of one or two drops with ease. If you are going for three or more in your number, just play Void instead.
Pure / Simple – I like this card for the Simple half. The Pure part is removal that you won’t use that often. The Simple part, on the other hand, now that’s something. In today’s day and age when you can’t sneeze without seeing a Jitte; Skullclamp; Sword of Fire and Ice; Bonesplitter; Rancor; Pillories, or whatnot, Simple will clean off the board. Of course, the Rancor will come back, but them’s the breaks.
Research / Development – The Research half of this spell has gotten some serious attention in Five. For just two mana in commonly highlighted colors (meaning those colors are played in a greater amount than the others), this spell adds four cards to your deck, which you can subsequently tutor for. It will allow you to add four silver bullets for whomever you are facing, and then tutor for them. It’s a fairly powerful ability. Development is just another spell, nothing special. Sometimes you’ll want to play it for cards and creatures, but not regularly.
Rise / Fall – I personally enjoy the possibility of the tempo of Rise. Bounce a creature, then get a creature card back to your hand, all for just two mana. I like that a lot. I just wish it were an instant. Fall, on the other hand, is pretty acceptable at times for a discard spell. Both of these halves fit into an aggro-tempo deck.
Supply / Demand – I am really going to enjoy this next sentence. The Supply side of this situation is to make more money for individuals who already have a lot of money. (i.e. makes small creatures for someone who has a bunch of mana and should be doing something better). Demand is the real card here. We like tutors in Five color, even janky tutors like this one.
Ghost Quarter – The new Wasteland might be good enough to see play in Standard or Extended, where non-basic lands are played with a frequency not unlike Vintage. However, in Five Color, all a Ghost Quarter will do is help your opponent smooth their mana base. It ceases to be a good play.
And that does it! Today we’ve taken a close look at 32 of the more interesting cards from Dissension and reviewed them briefly. I hope that you enjoyed this little trek through some interesting cards.
* With apologies to Richard Dawson