Welcome back to Part 2 of the official StarCityGames.com Limited Time Spiral review. I am your host, Jeroen Remie, and today we will be covering Time Spiral’s second Limited color: Blue.
Unlike White, Blue’s common-run a lot less deep, but they are of a fairly high power level. I will once again be using the same form of reviewing – not card-by-card, but more of a walkthrough examining what the color has to offer. Let’s start with the commons…
Blue’s strengths are the same as usual. Strong card drawing, a decent bounce spell, and good flying creatures. There are no real defensive guys around this time, though; no Horned Turtles or River Kaijins to hide behind. Basically, that is the only problem we have. The top commons to draft look like this:
The Early Picks
A great evasive creatures that comes out early thanks to Suspend, and even if you play it late it will not be bad. This guy is not much smaller than a dragon, and finishes games by himself.
A lot of people have this guy in the first spot, but I feel that if you aren’t playing Black, this guy can sometimes be fairly unimpressive. Card selection is always good, but it doesn’t have the same impact on the game as a 4/4 flyer. If you are drafting U/B, with all the madness tricks, this definitely comes first.
Not only is this a Wind Drake, which is great as an opening threat as well as a decent evasive clock, but it also makes sure that bad things never happen, keeping you safe. You never really see how good he is unless you are playing against him, where he will be a royal pain in the everything, constantly forcing you to lead with your worst spells. That’s a good thing for the home team.
4. Fathom Seer
To be honest, this card might be better than Spiketail Drakeling, but I have been getting him 8th-10th pick a lot in draft, so I guess you don’t have to pick him very high. This is my favourite common in the set. He is cheap, he is sneaky, and he is the best source of straight up card-advantage you can get at common in this set. Sure, bouncing the lands might suck, unless you do it on the turn you were not able to play a land… This is one of those cards you will have to play with to see just how good he is… and he is very good.
If you look at the list of common Blue spells that are actually awesome, this is the only spell that is up there. This means that despite the fact that you will not be paying its alternate casting cost a whole lot, and the fact that it’s “just” a bounce spell, you should take it fairly highly. This card is also a great combo with Fathom Seer, and will never actually be bad. Like I said, it’s often not really worth pitching a card to this, but it is a nice safety mechanism to have, just in case.
To show you how good Blue’s commons are, there is a common that is outside of the Top 5 that would be up with the elite in every other color. A cool combat trick and a three-power flyer for four wrapped into one is a tight package, and the only reason it isn’t higher is the fact that it is a horrible blocker. That means in some games he will do nothing.
The Middle of the Road Picks
This is where Blue gets into trouble. Where White had a huge list of awesome cards, blue has… fewer.
Fine as either a morph or as a two-drop, this guy is on par either way. He gets a lot better if you have a cool activated ability on some guy that you would like to abuse, or as a nice combat trick forced by untapping a fatty. Sometimes tapping a blocker or an attacker is good enough, and his versatility makes this guy a fine addition to any deck.
Despite the fact that it is four mana, and that it can only be used as a sorcery, it is still a very solid tempo card that will never leave you down a card. It seems like this card will really shine in dedicated tempo decks, but Blue really wants to play the card-advantage game in this set, making it a tad out of place with the rest of the pack.
Ah, the designated Sea Serpent reprint of the set. This guy is fine, as he will always be a morph that can trade with anything, and once you get to six mana he will often eat a guy and leave you with a fairly sizeable blocker. A powerhouse against Blue and Green, but pretty weak against the other three colors, one of which is the most popular.
That’s actually all we have, for the cards you will be happy to play maindeck, and I am even pushing it with the Serpent. Despite a very high top, the color drops off a lot. It has a bunch of fillers you can play, though!
The “23rd Card” Picks
These are cards you really don’t want in your deck… but if you have to, you can fill that spot as the last card to go in. That’s why they are called the “23rd cards,” as they are often played or cut as the 23rd card in your deck.
Ugh, six mana to pseudo-kill a creature, and it doesn’t even tap it when you play it. That card is hardly consolation for the fact that this is very expensive for a very poor effect.
In some formats, playing a counterspell is actually very good. They tend to be slow, and you won’t suffer much for keeping some mana untapped. This format though, tends to be a little more aggressive, meaning you will have to keep up with your opponent by playing attackers, blockers, or removal spells. Keeping three mana open will become very difficult.
Remember what I said about Cancel? The same is basically true for Think Twice, as finding spare mana in your early turns will be very hard, and even then you can only cast one half of the card most of the time. It is still card-advantage, and it doesn’t cost much, which means I could see playing one sometimes, but I’d rather not have it around.
I know a lot of people love this card, and think it is actually very good, but I don’t think it is. When your opponent has a removal spell for your guy, you will get two-for-one’d, which is never good. Even if you play it when he is tapped out, it will only replace itself for three mana – not very special, and not something I would be willing to pay three mana for (see Think Twice). If he doesn’t have a removal spell, this will still replace itself… but next time, you will have a hard time getting your guy through. This means that this card is only good when your opponent doesn’t have removal, bounce, blockers or anything like that… and well, if that is the case, you are winning. You don’t need the Eye.
As far as madness outlets go, this is a very expensive one with a pretty poor effect. As far as flyers go, this is a pretty small one for its cost. It is a little too expensive at everything it does. I would consider boarding this guy in against R/B removal decks, or if I needed a blocker for a flying army. Other than that…
This guy is pretty unplayable as a five-drop. Not even the Firebreathing (in Blue? what the…) can save what is basically a 2/3 for five. The only reason I could consider putting him in is the fact that he has Suspend, meaning I can get him basically for “free.” If you draft the Suspend/Storm deck (I’ll come back to this tomorrow), this can be pretty good. Other than that, it’s strictly a 23rd card.
If you try really hard, you can find some way to say that this is a blue Withstand. It prevents three damage done by a guy at the same cost, and draws you a card. Withstand, though, was very versatile — it prevented most of anything, and could be cycled without targets. Withstand didn’t always make the deck in a format that was far more about card-advantage than this one… you figure it out.
I originally put this guy in the next category, as I really don’t like him, but I can see him being somewhat of a decent finisher or finding a home somewhere in a very aggressive deck. The tempo-loss this guy brings you means he is very inflexible, and only makes him good in on the play or in later turns. In later turns I would rather have a decent-sized threat, and I would also not like to gamble winning the dice-roll all of the time.
That’s about it. A lot of cards that are just below mediocre, and there are more to come that are even worse. Note that I would be pretty unhappy having more than two or three cards from these last two categories in my deck. Blue heavily depends on having a strong second color, having good uncommons and rares, or being underdrafted. Then it can really shine.
A 1/5 that puts you behind in tempo if you play it on curve, and is very unexciting later on. I could see playing this in a deck full of 187 creatures, but I can’t really see drafting such a deck.
As you have found out by now, I feel this format to be pretty tempo-oriented, and this card is the epitome of anti tempo. The only reason I could see playing this card is to get a bomb rare – like Teferi, Draining Whelk, or Mystic Snake – but other than that, even if I can flash it back and have a bunch of targets, I would rather not. It can be a decent sideboard card if both you and your opponent are playing slow decks and you can flash this back, but even then…
Baring a sliver deck filled with Bonesplitter Slivers, giving your own creatures shadow can really suck, as you can’t even block anymore. For this to see play you need to have a lot of very aggressive slivers and be willing to pay three mana to get them…
If you have a good amount of slivers, and really want one more, I guess this could see play. I still would rather have a card that does something in my deck.
The Human of Conceding finally shows up! It is a 1/1 for one with no real ability, that will sometimes let you peek, see that nothing is coming, and make you concede. The worst part is keeping this guy in a two-land hand… you look, and see no land is coming. The only thing worse then being screwed is knowing that you will be for the next four turns.
To conclude this section… Blue’s top commons are top of the bill, but it also has a bunch of real stinkers. Let’s see where we stand with the uncommons.
Uncommons usually let you find the first unreasonable Limited cards that win games by themselves. The bombs.
This guy is the big pimp of slivers everywhere, as he is the best one by far. If you open this guy, be sure to go slivers, as he will win you the game. One of the best uncommons around, and I would take him over any common easily. It’s like finding a Glare of Subdual in your uncommon slot. The only thing that sucks is that he is pretty vulnerable at 2/2, so make sure your deck does not depend too much on this guy.
The number of times I have seen people come from behind and win with this guy is just unreal. Sure, he will sometimes do nothing special, but he is still a Baloth-sized creature in Blue! I have no idea why they would ever give Blue a creature that is almost as good as the best Green one, but hey… don’t ask how, just use him. Oh, and he also has a built in Yosei ability, that gets even better if you have a Vesuvan Shapeshifter around to lock ‘em up.
These are not bombs in the sense that they will win you the game by themselves, but they will often be better than any common in the pack.
“Tims” have always been good, and this guy can come as a surprise if need be. A card that is basically better then Frostwielder in every way, and that was picked highly in its day.
There is not a card in the set that comes close to the huge amount of card advantage you get when using Careful Consideration. Rich Hoaen used to take Compulsive Research over anything, and I think this card is just better. The only thing keeping him from “bomb” status is that he doesn’t actually win you the game, and it doesn’t do much in a tempo strategy.
Having Visions back on Magic Online showed us again how good Man-o’-War really was in Limited. This guy may not be as good, but he definitely comes close. Cheap if he wants to be – bounce, tempo, and flyer.
Even if you aren’t Red, he is still a 3/3 flyer for five, which has been great in Limited games everywhere. Nothing unusual here, but a good card nonetheless.
By now everyone knows how good split second is, and despite it not doing as much on this card as it does on Sudden Shock and the like, it is still nice to know that nothing can prevent that man from going back to the hand. Much like Snapback, bounce is simply very good in Blue decks – so this is more than fine.
Sometimes playable, but worse than most of the commons.
As far as counters go, this is okay. It is worse than Cancel, but it is not completely unplayable, and even has the possibility of locking up a game completely.
See this as a cantrip that gets you the second-best card you need (out of five). It should be pretty good at finding you land if you need it, and a spell in the late-game. The fact that it never is the best card means I will have it in the sideboard more often than not.
Once in a blue moon you will come against a deck that you would really not want to activate abilities. In that case you board this in, as it is also a creature that can be saved by instants. That’s only once in a blue moon, though; this is just a 2/2 for four mana.
This has to be the greediest card of all time. It just tempts you to try and make it work with removal, when you are better off actually killing guys and attacking instead of spending five mana. It can also be a regeneration shield for five mana… but seriously, that’s not very good either.
If Masticore was still around, this could be brought in to kill that beast. It would be a makeshift, slipshod answer, but an answer nonetheless.
Blue has some very good uncommons, and few really bad ones, which is part of its strength in draft. It even has more good uncommons than White!
Rares are usually where the real power is, and they are either unreal broken, or reserved for Constructed. Let’s see what Blue has to offer.
The ability doesn’t look all that good on paper. It doesn’t kill creatures, and it doesn’t even stay in play or become that big for that long. But wow, is this card ridiculous when you play with it! It turns off all abilities, and levels the playing field (size-wise). It usually dies the turn after you cast it because all the morphs will collide, but after that its work is done. This gets even more absurd if you have a bunch of morphs yourself that you can flip around again.
This guy is instant creature removal that will be guaranteed not die during the attack he lands. He will also make it almost impossible for your opponent to make good attacks, as they have no way of knowing what might come out of the bag next. One of the best rares in the set, and only held back by its awkward UUU casting cost.
This is not a counterspell. No, this is a dragon that happens to also stop a spell when it comes down.
The better the guys in play, the better this guy is… but in general, having the best guy in play as well is good enough for me. Triggering off unmorph effects is pretty unreal with some cards – like Brine Elemental, which makes him even better than if he could just shift shape each upkeep.
If you have this card in had you will win almost every race, and get to draw a card or even buy it back! Sure, it’s no Time Walk, but it comes pretty darn close in Limited.
Okay, this is actually a pretty weird rare. It’s not the nuts, or bad for Limited – it is just a fine guy. If you have a heavy flier deck then the ability might come in handy, but most of the time this will just be a Wind Drake. Fine, but nothing spectacular.
In Limited, I feel this card is even worse than in Constructed. In Limited every card counts, and the chance of getting this in your opener is not very high. If you draw it later it will hamper your ability to curve out, or never draw you cards at all. It is basically the worst topdeck around, as well as a not that great an effect for all that risk. I don’t think it should ever be played.
This is clearly designed as a Constructed sideboard card that could sometimes be boarded in against weird cards or decks, but most of the time will not do anything in Limited.
What could be worse, this or Squire? Yep… this.
As a Sea Snidd he is never unplayable, but the ability will not often get you a lot of rewards. If you plan to use him, do so as a snidd, nothing else.
If you managed to draft a sliver deck with a lot of Watcher Slivers, this guy is very good. If you didn’t, it is a 2/2 for five that can do some “damage on the stack” tricks. Not a very early pick.
Deep Sea Kraken
Wow. Ten mana or a long wait. And even then he’s “only” a 6/6. Not enough there to make it worth the horrible draw if you pull it after turn 3.
The rares vary a lot, and there are actually a lot of mid-range level cards in there that are okay; playable, but not very “broken.”
For completeness sake, some of the highlights from the Timeshifted cards:
Prodigal Sorcerer and Pirate Ship
Two pingers that are obviously both very good in Limited, where pingers usually shine.
As far as four-mana flyers go, this is about as good as it is going to get in this format. I love this guy.
The best part about this guy in this format is that he leeches everything away from all those slivers, making him so much better than when he was originally printed. Still, he’s only a Hill Giant.
Char was a high pick in a color that actually has burn, and it is the absolute best Blue card in the set. Pick it over anything.
Back in the day – when people would see this coming – Willbender was good. Now that no-one expects it, he is even better. Capable of swinging entire games by himself, this guy is an MVP.
The fact that it is a silly wizard that turns men into sheep often means that people underestimate him. Sure, he isn’t a great card – especially not in the early game – but he can take over pretty quickly once the board is stalled. Killing creatures left and right, he is not a first pick, but he is also not as bad as people tend to think he is.
And that’s it for the Blue stuff. I like the color a lot, as despite being fine as far as tempo goes, it also gives you some of the best card advantage and tricks in the set. It would be the best if only it was deeper, and now it can’t really support more than three drafters at a table. If there are only two, you can expect to draft a deck like the one below, and go an easy 3-0. Check it out.
- 1 Prodigal Sorcerer
- 1 D'Avenant Archer
- 1 Defiant Vanguard
- 1 Dodecapod
- 2 Brine Elemental
- 1 Castle Raptors
- 1 Cloudchaser Kestrel
- 2 Errant Doomsayers
- 1 Errant Ephemeron
- 2 Fathom Seer
- 1 Flickering Spirit
- 1 Ixidron
- 1 Looter il-Kor
- 1 Magus of the Disk
- 1 Vesuvan Shapeshifter
See y’all tomorrow.