I’ve been playing with Scourge in Limited for a few weeks now. I’ve been practicing for Nationals, I used it in the Team Grand Prix in Pittsburgh and have been discussing card quality with my teammates. All this Scourge work gave me a hankering to try my hand at something I haven’t done before: A comprehensive set review.
I have to give Wizards of the Coast credit: they keep coming up with cool mechanics to keep Magic fresh. Scourge’s new mechanic, Storm, is a great addition to the game. It adds an interesting trick or bluff element to the game that before only the blue mages got to use. Now when your opponent of any color passes the turn without casting a spell, you have to wonder,”Is he setting me up?”
The cards have been consistently good for a while now as well. Sure, there are some bad cards printed every set, but in most cases they are making them on purpose as challenges to casual players (“Yeah, but can you build a deck that wins with this card?”). If you want to see just how far Magic has come, take a look through Homelands sometime.
For this review, I will talk about each card of a color (White, in this case) individually. I will then rate the cards, listing them in the order I would pick them.
Ageless Sentinels (Rare):
This is a very solid defensive card. When the Sentinels hit the table, your opponent’s attacks should come to a grinding halt. Only things that would kill a 4/4 can afford to swing, and even then white’s combat tricks make that a risky proposition. The more evasion and/or late game bombs your deck has, the better the Sentinels look.
Astral Steel (Common):
Beware the white mage who casts a spell before attacking. I’ve been very impressed with Astral Steel, especially in fast aggressive decktypes like Soldiers. It allows you to just keep swinging with your early rush creatures, even when you opponent gets out a bigger blocker. The Storm effect works very nicely in this kind of deck. Just when your opponent gets out a couple of mid-sized blockers to stop your weenie rush, you can drop a low casting-cost guy and send in with a Stormed Steel ready to go.
Aven Farseer (Common):
The white commons in this set are so good. In the Morph block, two-drops are fantastic for your tempo, especially if they have evasion. The +1/+1 whenever a creature is turned face up ability allows this early weenie to become a late game fatty. It also works as a nice deterrent to your opponent’s Morph. The Farseer being both a Bird and a Soldier makes it synergize nicely with a lot of white’s tribal cards.
Aven Liberator (Common):
Did I mention white had good commons in this set? The Liberator is good to play face-up or face-down. As a 2/3 he’s big enough to hold Morphs at bay or survive much of this block’s removal. As a Bird Soldier, he has both good tribal interactions and the invaluable flying ability. When face down, the Liberator is a great”Ace up the sleeve” to deal with unexpected combat tricks or pesky removal.
Daru Spiritualist (Common):
I have to admit, at first glance I thought the Spiritualist was a bad card; he’s not. In a strongly tribal Cleric Deck, the Spiritualist can really shut your opponent down. He obviously makes damage-based removal much worse against you (I’m sorry; did you build your entire draft around that Lavamancer’s Skill?), but he also allows for remarkable combat tricks if you have a way to target your own creatures.
Daru Warchief (Uncommon):
All soldiers you control get +1/+2 on a 2/3 creature. Clearly amazing in a strongly tribal deck and fine even if you only have a couple Soldiers.
Dawn Elemental (Rare):
If all your lands tap for white mana, this guy is a first-pick bomb… But every non-white mana producer is a big step down from there. If only half your lands tap for white, this guy’s casting cost seems a lot more like eight mana than four.
Decree of Justice (Rare):
It’s clear Wizards wanted the name”Decree” to be associated with high casting cost game winning bombs. Decree of Justice does not disappoint. Six mana for a 4/4 flyer is good, eight mana for two is fantastic, and ten for three fliers are… Well, you get the idea. The fact that this late game bomb can be cycled away if the need arises in the early game is great to get instant 1/1 Soldiers in the process makes this Decree an incredibly flexible card.
Dimensional Breach (Rare):
This card is way too situational for a seven-mana sorcery. All permanents are removed from the game, so your opponent gets to bring the first one back. Your deck would have to have some impressive fat in order to make that a good deal. The real question is, in the game where you do have that kind of fat out, why haven’t you won already?
Dragon Scales (Common):
+1/+2 and doesn’t tap to attack? Wow, is this card good. It’s especially fantastic with Provoke (Deftblade Elite got a new best friend), and on almost any flyer it locks down the board while clobbering your opponent. The”returns to play” ability removes the normal card disadvantage enchantment drawback.
Protection from Dragons is unlikely to come up, even in this block. That said, a 3/3 flyer for five that happens to be a Bird/Soldier is just fine.
Eternal Dragon (Rare):
I’m sure you didn’t need me to tell you this, but the Eternal Dragon is a broken bomb rare. A 5/5 flier is great in Limited, Landcycling is fantastic, and the”buyback” is just unfair.
Exiled Doomsayer (Rare):
A 1/2 Cleric for two mana that increases morph costs by two? Hah! Take that, Zombie Cutthroat! If you have it that, is. Perhaps you could do something with it in a morph-light Cleric deck?
Okay, the card just sucks.
Force Bubble (Rare):
Interesting card. Not good, but interesting. Obviously, the Bubble is great in a situation where your opponent can get a few points of damage through every turn, but that kind of thing doesn’t come up much. It’s much more likely to be an on-the-table-Naturalizeable Fog. While Fog effects can definitely win you games, especially in a set with so many Falter effects (Wave of Indifference, Choking Tethers, Taunting Elf, etc) the main power of a Fog is in the surprise. Late in the game when your opponent thinks he can kill you with an alpha strike, a Fog effect can leave you unscathed and your opponent vulnerable to a lethal counter attack. Force Bubble can’t surprise your opponent, so it’s very unlikely to win you a game.
Frontline Strategist (Common):
Speak of the Devil! Now this guy can generate a game winning surprise Fog Effect. Against any non-Soldier deck, this 2/2 Fog waiting to happen is fantastic. In addition to stymieing combat tricks and making the world safe from cards like Insurrection and Wave of Indifference, having the Frontline Strategist ready to turn face-up allows you to block enemy Morphs without fear of nasty surprises.
If you happen to be playing Soldiers yourself, this guy is just stupid. How about my team deals damage this turn and your team doesn’t? Sound fair?
Gilded Light (Uncommon):
Anything with Cycling 2 can’t be bad… But this card should be in your sideboard unless you have a Cycle card like Lightning Rift or are trying to stop some specific player-targeting threat from the draft.
Guilty Conscience (Common):
This is another example of a card I thought was bad until I saw it in action. It’s not a great card, but it’s definitely playable. It will turn any creature with a power equal or greater than its toughness into a one-use wonder. It’s also a nice way to deal with Sparksmith.
In a deck with as high a card quality I would have Guilty Conscience in the sideboard, but I could see bringing it in frequently.
Karona’s Zealot (Uncommon):
This Zealot is maindeck-worthy whether you’re playing a Cleric deck or not. His Morph ability, while expensive, is one of the nastiest, most-punishing combat tricks you’ll see in this block. Additionally, the 2/5 body you’re left with after the Morph is fairly effective at holding the ground.
Noble Templar (Common):
I love the land cyclers; they’re all fantastic. In decks without a lot of two-drops, you can effectively run one less land for each land cycler you have, greatly reducing your mana flood problems. Even if you’re running the full land complement you would run without a land cycler, you still get the benefit of reducing your mana screws or having a nice high casting cost creature. The 3/6 Templar stops most ground assaults, giving your airforce time to do its job. His dual creature type (Cleric/Soldier) makes him a great fit in any white deck.
Rain of Blades (Uncommon):
White gets a Sandstorm. Cute, but not that exciting. Rain of Blades should be on sideboard duty. Keep in mind the possible Storm utility that all low casting cost instants have when you’re playing with Scourge.
Don’t waste a high pick on it, but if you’re short on playables, one of these would be fine main deck. Not happy, but fine. The life gain can be a poor man’s fog, and preventing six damage will save your star player from almost any injury.
Reward the Faithful (Uncommon):
This is a really neat card for multiplayer politics. If you’re not playing multiplayer, leave it in your sideboard.
Silver Knight (Uncommon):
Dropping a Knight on turn 2 is fantastic tempo. A 2/2 first-striker for two mana is particularly nice in the Morph Block. The double-white in Silver Knight’s casting cost will often slow him down a bit, and Knights aren’t part of a tribe, but he is still a great pick.
Trap Digger (Rare):
Cool, but slow. Given time, the Digger can effectively lock up the ground. Just be careful not to get to caught up in digging traps at the cost of developing your board. If the Trap Digger dies his traps can’t be sprung, so don’t feel too safe behind your minefield.
Wing Shards (Uncommon):
Boy, is this card devastating. It’s fairly easy to get a two-for-one with Wing Shards’ Storm, and if your opponent was trying to set up a Storm combat trick for his attack, you could very well wipe out his entire team.
Wipe Clean (Common):
The plethora of good enchantments in Scourge makes main decking cycling enchantment removal seem like a good idea. In addition to being an answer to cards like Lingering Death, Wipe Clean’s ability to remove an enchantment from the game is an answer to those pesky returning Dragon enchantments.
Zealous Inquisitor (Common):
Another fantastic white common. Given enough mana, the Inquisitor rules ground combat. If you need your mana for something else, you can send him in (his ability makes him practically unblockable), and if you don’t leave him back and watch your opponent’s ground forces hit the breaks.
Keep in mind the possibility of damaging him yourself (with a Gravel Slinger, for example) and redirecting the damage.
Zombie Cutthroat (Common):
I know it has black in the casting cost, but this guy wants to be Morphed anyway. Zombie Cutthroat is the best common in the set. His mere existence in your deck means your opponent has to treat each of your Morphs like a 3/4 or risk a nasty surprise.
While black mages get to cast this guy face up in the few cases where that’s a good idea, all other mages get the benefit of having access to a black creature for blocking fear critters.
Strangely, the best common in the set being black in this case weakens black. Because everyone can (and should) run the Cutthroat, they won’t get passed, so it’s like black has one less common in this set. Additionally, black’s big evasion method is fear, and Zombie Cutthroat really rains on that parade (Gluttonous Zombie is so sad now).
Proteus Machine (Uncommon):
A morph is always somewhat playable, but the Machine’s Morph ability is definitely weak. It only starts to get interesting if you have a lot of cards that key off of Morph, like Aven Farseer.
The Stabilizer is going to be an awesome sideboard card in Block Constructed (I’m sorry, Astral Slide) but it’s not maindeckable in Limited. If your opponent’s deck is built around Lightning Rift, you’ll be happy to have one in your board, but you should only pick it up late.
Temple of the False God (Uncommon):
This land is horrible. You would have to have the slowest deck in the world to consider it.
Rob’s Pick List For White
For the purpose of this list, I will consider my deck to be of the tribal type that works best with the card in question, and my mana to all be of the appropriate color (meaning all plains for the Dawn Elemental, not Swamps for the Cutthroat). If your deck doesn’t fall into that category, you can lower the card’s rating appropriately.
- Eternal Dragon
- Decree of Justice
- Dawn Elemental
- Daru Warchief
- Wing Shards
- Zombie Cutthroat
- Ageless Sentinels
- Frontline Strategist
- Zealous Inquisitor
- Dragon Scales
- Silver Knight
- Noble Templar
- Aven Liberator
- Aven Farseer
- Astral Steel
- Karona’s Zealot
- Daru Spiritualist
- Trap Digger
- Wipe Clean
- Guilty Conscience
- Proteus Machine
- Rain of Blades
- Force Bubble
- Dimensional Breach
- Ark of Blight
- Exiled Doomsayer
- Gilded Light
- Reward the Faithful
- Temple of the False God