Hey kids! Welcome to the definitive StarCityGames.com Limited Time Spiral set review. We decided to do it a little different this time…
In past years, reviews on Limited have come too fast and too soon, often meaning that what was being said was not really well-tested, and merely a lot of speculation. This time around I have been testing for Pro Tour: Kobe, with my fellow Pros over here in the Netherlands (despite not actually attending the PT myself). This means that I have some well-tested results for you, some well-tested theories about cards, as well as some sample decklists from me and other top-rated pro players.
I’ll not be doing a card-by-card breakdown this time — It’ll be a rundown by color. I will try and tell you what is good at each rarity level, and what you should be looking for. It all sounds kind of tricky, but it’ll be fine. Then in the end, we’ll see how my reviews stand up to the results in PT: Kobe, being played the coming weekend.
Today we’ll start with White. During these reviews I will try write on the colors in order of strength, starting with White first. Since, y’know… it is the best.
As you all know, commons are the most important things to draft. For this reason, White is the best color in the set. There are a huge amount of playables, and most of those playables are actually good cards instead of random Grizzly Bears and Grey Ogres. Before I go through my pick-order, I’ll have to tell you one thing first.
Do not bother drafting Rebels.
Yeah, I know, it’s pretty unreal that I am saying such a thing. Every pro in the world is disagreeing with me right now… but let’s examine the facts.
White is the single most over-drafted color in the set, simply because it is the best one. Rebels is the single best theme in the color, so everyone will be looking for it. This means you will probably have five players at the table trying to draft White, and they all want the Rebels. In the end you will end up with one, maybe two, searchers… who will mostly just die as soon as you play them. The rest of your deck will be filled with suboptimal picks. You kept picking those Seekers and Zealots over Castle Raptors, and now you didn’t get a Scout in the draft, or you didn’t draw the one you got, or they killed it. You will be left with a bunch of Grey Ogres (remember, half the table is White – those Seekers are not great).
Let me tell you, I’d rather have a Castle Raptor. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t pick Amrou Scout. It is still the best White common in the set. It just means that you should take the other rebels in the draft as an afterthought – you shouldn’t base your deck around it, and you shouldn’t force “Rebels” by all means. It’s good when you have a Scout or two, but really… getting two Rebels out of your deck will usually be enough. It is not worth forcing it, because it only comes together once in ten drafts.
On that thought, there’s something else I like that other writers do not. I like White as a control color. Everyone keeps saying how you should draft White aggressively. Sure, if you get the deck, and the draws, you will easily win. I just like to have a more consistent strategy, where I don’t need to pick up infinite two-drops, and I don’t need to draw them all in order to win. Sure, It’s cool when I do, and I’ll still play the little guys and mise sometimes, but in general I really like being the control player.
With that in mind, here’s my pick-order for the White commons in Time Spiral.
The Early Picks
1. Amrou Scout
Yeah, despite the fact that I am not looking to draft a specific Rebel theme, this girl is still the number one hottie around. She is the easiest way to get both card-advantage and pressure, and despite the fact that you don’t want to force rebels, if the first pack gives you two of these, you will get that unreal deck everyone is raving about. Just remember that she is the only searcher, and without her the best theme in the set is unworkable.
This card doubles as a removal spell as well as a combat trick, and those happen to be two of the things you want most in every draft. The only reason I pick Scout over this thing is that the Rebel theme is so unreal when you get it going that you will just want to take a risk in order to try and get the chain going — early on, at least. In later packs, this card becomes a lot better than Scout, especially if you don’t have a lot of Rebels.
The best creature by itself in the color, this guy is a complete house. He blocks everything short of a Baloth, and if you don’t need the blocker, he’ll just fly over and win the game for you. This is a stronger version of Aven Windreader and the like, and those were always high picks. This guy is amazing.
The curve is one of the most important things in a Limited deck, and this is basically your best two-drop (if it wasn’t for the search engine). Having this guy on turn 2 immediately puts you in beatdown mode, and will most likely keep attacking until turn 5 or so. A great man.
A Wind Drake with two big pluses… but above all, a Wind Drake. This guy can become unwieldy when you have a bunch of Isolations, so you have to make sure not to pick them too high then. In the average deck, this guy is one of the best.
The Middle of the Road Picks
The next couple of cards are all middle of the road material. Sometimes they shine, like Ivory Giant in the mono-White deck, or sometimes you just want to take them highly simply because you want them in your deck, like Amrou Seekers. Most of all they are just a bunch of solid men that will get to you fairly late in the draft. They aren’t numbered because they will get to you fairly late, and how good they are generally depends on your deck at the point of choosing.
Great in mono-White to end the game, but most of the time this is just a filler guy that you can get on the cheap. Nothing really exciting. If you get a bunch of Kestrels, and suspend this mid-early game, you will often end the game five turns later.
Like I’ve said before, White fear is a pretty good ability… but half the table will be White. This means that in more then half the games, this will just be a Grey Ogre, which means you shouldn’t be picking him highly. He is your best common target for the Scout though, so pick them up high if the Rebel strategy has worked out for you.
A lot of people absolutely love this guy, but I have to say I am not very happy with him most of the time. He is only good in pairs or better, and then only if you drop him on turn 3 and 4. I like this guy less and less each time I play him, not even wanting to search him out with Scout – I’d rather do good things with my mana, and he gets put in the sideboard often when I only have one Scout or less. He might actually be unplayable, but right now I’ll put him in the middle of the pack.
I like this guy a lot, more than the Zealot, because he will by nature always almost tap something that is better than himself. Be it a morph, a random Grey Ogre – or in the best situation, a 4/1 first striker. The best thing about this dude is that he is awesome in both control decks and aggro decks, making him a solid pick at any point in the draft. All that, plus he is a rebel!
A solid trick, on par with Ramosian Rally and the like, this is basically a better version of Rally the Righteous, and that card saw a lot of play in aggressive decks. Of course, if you are a control deck this card will seldom make the grade, but in aggressive deck it is actually very good. Though it often comes fairly late due to the strength of the other commons, you should pick this pretty highly.
You pick up Fortify even higher if you have this guy, as he is the perfect combo. Fairly unspectacular as a turn 3 drop, but the guys pile up fairly quickly, and the Crier is a great way to turn those late game lands into something decent. This guy actually becomes a very early pick when you are drafting B/W, because as far as madness outlets go, this dude is the stone nizzles (Kelly Kapowski version).
The prime example of a card that is never bad, but also never actually good. I’ll play him if I get him, and he’ll be pretty good sometimes, but I won’t really pick him over, well, anything.
No matter what you are playing – aggro or control – this guy will also be unspectacular but good. Flying is great for those last couple of points, as well as for offence once you’ve managed to clog the board up in a control deck. Very unexciting, though.
This guy is the backbone of U/W control decks in this format. Since you are never going to try and get through on the ground, you don’t really care that he is a sliver, and all you want is to have a 2/4 blocker, as well as leech some abilities as an afterthought. The more you have, the better they get, and the better random other slivers get as well. If you are going to be control, pick these puppies up early – they are very good.
I love to be able to regain a couple of life points when I am playing control, because it prevents the burnout once you’ve finally gained the upper hand. I’d never play more than one, or maybe two, but I always like having one in my deck. This is all in control (obviously), as I would never want this thing in my aggro deck. Ever.
The “23rd Card” Picks
These cards are all pretty much unplayable, but sometimes you just have to play them. The good thing about White is that it doesn’t really have many of those — just a lot of “middle of the road” picks.
Even if you are mono-White, this card is still not that great. Tapping three men at sorcery speed is pretty tough, as you will basically have no defence left. It is, of course, a fine card if you have multiple Criers. I like having one in the sideboard, just in case I need to kill a dragon – or maybe one in the main, but never more than that. Even if I have a mono-White deck.
I’ll never play this if I can’t flash it back, and even if I can it is still nothing more then an “okay” trick unless I have at least a Firemaw Kavu or two. Of course, if I have that, I’ll have an unreal deck anyway, and won’t need these. Note that it doesn’t save your men from mass removal, and that basically clinches it.
A Shelter effect is always okay, but this one does cost a lot of mana, meaning you will never really be able to foil removal effects with it. That means it is an expensive combat trick that will stick around. I guess that is fine for some decks, but most of the time this is benched.
Baring extremely rare situations, these will be in my sideboard and never come out.
One-drops for one that don’t actually do anything but attack are not playable in Limited. Save it for the sliver deck.
I’d rather not search for anything than search for this. Well, that’s a lie, but still, this is not very good. It’s not even a Fog.
I have yet to see the activated ability deck. Until then, this does nothing.
Four-eyes indeed. Nice wall.
Congregate wasn’t that great, and that actually counted all the creatures in play. If I have a bunch of guys in play, I’d like to think I am winning. If my opponent does… man, I’m losing anyway.
The fact that the most cards are all in the first two categories makes White the best common color in the set. Not only is it very deep, but even the tenth common is very good compared to what other colors get as premier stuff. Flickering Spirit compared to Mana Skimmer, anyone?
Uncommons are usually where we get the bombs for the first time. Less than the rares, of course, but still unreal cards that win games.
Are you kidding me? Elephant Guide was a stone first pick back in the day – so was Moldervine Cloak – and this card’s effect is even better. I don’t care what you are drafting, but if you are White, you take this. If you aren’t, then think about splashing it or switching colors.
These won’t win you the game, but they will get you a lot closer to victory. They are generally better than most, if not all, commons.
I heard him being compared to Nagao, Bound by Honor by none other then Julien Nuijten. Despite that being an exaggeration, it still says a lot that he is even close to that power level. The more flankers you have, the better he gets, making them close to unblockable… and he has a nice body himself.
A 3/3 flyer for six is fine in any Limited format. Add the protection from Black and you have a good card. The fact that it is also the best suspend creature for Limited makes it a very high pick instead. This is attacking on turn 5, which means that basically it is a 3/3 flyer for four – that is very hard to beat if you are playing against Black.
Knights of the Holy Nimbus and Outrider En-Kor
The Rebels. Not only are these things very good by themselves – both have a nice ability that makes them very hard to kill – but they can also be searched out by Scout. If you have a Scout, I don’t see talking anything over either of these. If you don’t, it’ll still be tough to pass them on.
Another one of those cards that rewards playing heavy mono-colored. The only thing that makes this not a bomb is the fact that, like I said, a lot of people will be playing White, and the effect makes their guys bigger as well. Other than that, there is not a lot to dislike.
These cards are situational, or plain bad, and should not be taken very high.
Despite the fact that it taps to attack with no fear of getting killed in combat, it is still only a 2/2 for five mana, meaning it will not be a good defender or deal a lot of damage by itself. The abilities are good, but the body is underwhelming for its mana cost. If only this was four mana…
Being a Crossbow Infantry is fine, but giving the ability to other creatures is not really what I want from my men. White has a lot of small men, and would hate having to look across a sliver infantry army.
I don’t want these cards in my deck.
It prevents a point, and then I get a 1/2. Okay, that’s fine for one… wait, it’s three mana!?
This card will be passable in some situations, but is a horrible topdeck and will never deal with the actual board position. No thanks.
A sideboard card at best, if your opponent has enough targets. This is not a format where you want this kind of spell in your maindeck, if you can help it.
Spirit Link is okay because not only can you play it on your own guy to gain some life, you can also use it as pseudo-removal spell on your opponent’s creatures. This card takes away that luxury, leaving you with just a life gain card. Life gain isn’t the best in Limited.
Rares in Limited formats are never just “filler” cards. Usually they just come in two varieties. The nuts, or unplayable.
Wrath effects in Limited are always very good, and reusable Wrath effects (with Snapback and the like) are even better. If you get this, it is a very good reason to try and draft your White deck in a more controlling direction. It might be a little worse in the beatdown deck, but it will still affect your opponent’s game a lot by just being in play.
White never gets big creatures, so when you finally do, you’d better pick it highly. The effect itself will not come into play very often, but in the late game when you are both playing off the top of your deck, skipping a draw step to get this 5/5 in play will be well worth it. Note that you can do it end of your opponent’s turn, so you know what is going on at all times.
If you ever get to the point where you can get the buyback going on this thing, you are winning the game. Even without buyback, is very good in an aggressive deck as it takes care of a potential blocker (and becomes a new attacker), and it obviously shines in a control deck. However, it’s not quite as good as it looks, as you will almost always get their worst creature… but it’s still pretty good.
One of the best removal spells White will ever get. The only downside is that you will have to wait a turn to use it, and it can be killed before that. Talking as someone who has gotten his Penumbra Spider killed by this multiple times, I’ll tell you this is very good. That’s not even taking into account the number of tricks you can pull off using Momentary Blinks and bounce spells.
You need to be heavy White to cast it, but if you do you will have an amazing creature for its cost. Lots of opponents have commented on this actually being better than a straight up 3/4 flyer for three, because then at least they didn’t have to think about not playing creatures anymore.
So, it seems Visara isn’t the only thing that kills things any more. But only one color this time.
This would be unreal as a 3/3 vigilance flyer for four. It only costs two?! Okay…
Not only is this just a Fog most of the times, it is a Fog that will leave you at one life. No thanks.
If only there were any goblins to hate out. The fact that this is one of the worst rares in White says a lot, as it is still never a bad card. It is just not as good as it could be.
A very surprising morph, as no one will see it coming, as well as some nice defence against a single evasion creature. It is just not very bombtastic. It’s merely “just” a good card. Other colors have bad rares in this category, but White just has mediocre ones…
It’s Balance! But they’ll see it coming! In six turns! Yeah… whatever….
As you can see, White has almost only good rares, the deepest commons, and solid uncommons. Clearly the best color, if you ask me. I’ll take a quick glance at the purples for completeness. I won’t cover all of them, as we can all see how a Moorish Cavalry is only filler, but the notables are part of the format after all.
The format seems too fast for her, but all that text makes her absolutely unbeatable when you can cast her. Just draft a control deck and make sure you can survive till the lategame, and this should be great for you.
Auratog, Celestial Dawn, Consecrate land, Enduring Renewal, Valor
Don’t play ‘em or pick ‘em, okay?
The Rebel theme is huge in this set, and this is the only other searcher. Pick it very high, as it also trades with a Baloth and the likes, making it one of the best.
Lol, but for the other reason: complete bombalicious.
A very good aggressive creature, and probably better than any common in that deck.
Finally in this set review new-school style, I’ll give you a sample decklist I drafted at the Open Amsterdam Championship last week, piloting it to a 3-0 record. I have one for every color, but this should give you a decent idea what I mean when I talk about the control version of White decks.
- 1 Witch Hunter
- 1 Amrou Scout
- 1 D'Avenant Healer
- 1 Errant Doomsayers
- 1 Errant Ephemeron
- 1 Fathom Seer
- 1 Flickering Spirit
- 1 Icatian Crier
- 1 Ixidron
- 1 Jedit's Dragoons
- 2 Looter il-Kor
- 1 Magus of the Disk
- 1 Opaline Sliver
- 1 Stormcloud Djinn
- 2 Watcher Sliver
- 1 Zealot il-Vec
See you tomorrow for the second color in the set, Blue. Be sure to let me know what you think in the forums, and be sure to send any questions you might have to [email protected], and I’ll cover them in my Ask Jeroen columns.