Core Set 2021 Constructed Set Review – Blue
It’s time for the second part of my set review, as we move on from white to blue. Keep in mind that this review highlights only cards that are likely to see play in Constructed.
When reviewing cards I will be using a grading scale. This is basically the same letter grading system you might find at school.
- A: This grade is rare, because it will only be used on cards that look like they will be heavily played, possibly even dominant in a format, or ban worthy. These cards often go beyond Standard, and see play in older formats as well.
Examples: Teferi, Time Raveler, Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath.
- B: Format staple that’slikely to see plenty of play in multiple different archetypes, both in the sideboard and maindeck.
Examples: Rotting Regisaur , Light Up the Stage.
- C: This could be a card that is only played in single, but popular archetype. It could also be a heavily used sideboard card.
Examples: Cindervines, Absorb.
- D: Cards that see some play from time to time, but aren’t a major part of the top tier archetypes.
Examples: Ajani’s Pridemate, Genesis Ultimatum.
- E: Cards that don’t see play, but people might think are good when they are first printed. These cards have some hype but end up being duds.
Examples: Luminous Broodmoth, Happily Ever After
Barrin, Tolarian Archmage
I have never seen a bounce creature as good as this one. At the same time, bounce creatures have never actually seen that much play in Constructed, unless they’re Brazen Borrower. Barrin is a bit different than Brazen Borrower of course, and it’s not immediately obvious which is better, but they will likely go in different decks. Being able to bounce a planeswalker gives us some nice flexibility, but the most important part about this card is how beneficial returning your own permanents to hand is. We can target our own permanents with the Barrin trigger, as well as have other cards in our deck that we want to bounce. We can do this via Teferi, Time Raveler, or other bounce effects. I see this as a high upside card, that will be very good if there is a way to consistently draw cards off of it.
This is a fun card, as being able to completely stop your opponent from taking a turn is a huge effect that we rarely see printed. Since the effect is so powerful, it is a little difficult to evaluate, but it’s rare that casting this on your own turn would ever make sense. In more casual sorts of decks, I could see using it to dodge detrimental end of turn triggers like Chance for Glory and sacrifice triggers, but it’s difficult to imagine that being Competitive. There is also the minor upside of functioning as a counterspell/stifle effect on the end of your turn – you can use it to exile a creature they flash in or a card draw spell they play, but really that doesn’t add up to much. The effect is flashy, but I personally don’t see it as a competitive card.
Most players weren’t around when Accumulated Knowledge was legal in Standard, but it did see play. Being able to stack your card draw effects so that each one is better than the next is pretty sweet. However, you need to cast multiple of these in a game in order for the cost to be worth the reward. Since the printing of Accumulated Knowledge, the game has changed quite a bit, with decks becoming more powerful generally speaking. I don’t think the power level is going to be high enough for Frantic Inventory, but if there is a deck it fits into, it could be something like an Arclight Phoenix deck that churns through a large portion of its deck throughout the course of the game, and maybe even plays some self-mill cards.
If there is an aggressive blue deck, it’s hard to see it not wanting a nice evasive creature like this that also can give you some card advantage. There aren’t that many times that your opponents will cast cards from outside their hand, but Uro definitely comes to mind as a card Ghostly Pilferer can benefit from, if the opponent escapes it. Ghostly Pilferer can also be a discard outlet, like if you wanted to put a large creature to reanimate into your graveyard, for instance. One toughness makes it vulnerable to creatures like Mayhem Devil, and blue aggressive decks rarely become tier one strategies, which caps the upside on Ghostly Pilferer.
Jeskai Elder could be perfect in something like Mono Blue Tempo, where it actually competes with ghostly Pilferer since the cards are fairly similar. Prowess and not having to pay any mana to loot are definitely advantages it has. Jeskai Elder will be good in decks with cheap spells like Opt. that help make it bigger. This is a reprint though, and it never saw that much play during its time in Khans of Tarkir Standard.
We have a perfect counterspell in a blue or White-Blue aggressive deck, where most or even all the creatures have flying. It will be good in a deck like that but won’t see play anywhere else. The strength of the card is tied to how good a flyers deck is, which makes it tough to evaluate by itself. People play Quench, this is much better than Quench in the right deck.
The Standard Azorius flyers decks that sometimes crop up will want this card, but it probably won’t be enough to push them into competitive viability.
I see Miscast as a fringe sideboard card at best. Right now, there are so many counterspells available that you really do want to pick and choose which ones to play. If there is a prominent deck that plays a lot of instants and sorceries than Miscast could become a reasonable sideboard card, but I think it’s more likely that it doesn’t see any play. Negate is more versatile, as it counters a wider variety of spells, and is unconditional.
Miscast could act as a worse Dive Down effect – it’s a cheap way to protect your creatures from removal, at least.
This one is, of course, nothing new; people playing right now are going to be familiar with Opt. I’m happy to see it reprinted, as it is a useful role-player in a variety of decks. It really sees quite a bit of play right now actually, since it’s even in the most prominent Standard deck, Temur Reclamation.
I like the design on this card, and it seems sweet enough that people will certainly try to play with it at first. Ultimately, I don’t think it’s good enough to see high level play though. At seven mana, you really need a game winning play; for one mana less, Dream Trawler is available. Late in the game, the opponent is likely to have three extra mana, so they can kill Pursued Whale if they have a removal spell.
Rewind has seen play as a counterspell, but really depends on the format. It works really well alongside other instant speed cards. For example, Chemister’s Insight. On turn four you can Rewind something and then cast your Chemister’s Insight, which is a great use of resources. I would like to see this maybe in UW Control as another counterpell option, and definitely think its worthy of consideration in control decks that want to be casting spells or cycling Shark Typhoon on the opponents turn.
This is a card I tried hard to make work in Standard a couple years ago, but it never seemed to work exactly the way I wanted. I have a feeling the same will be the case now. It needs to be put in a deck with primarily noncreature spells, but it is, of course, vulnerable to enchantment and instant-speed removal. The Blue-Red color combination is the most likely to want to play Riddleform.
Sanctum of Calm Waters
I want to see what a shrine deck looks like, and maybe we will see more shrines printed in later sets, as Sanctum of the Calm Waters is a good card if you are able to build around it. I still am skeptical about that decks’ viability in general, but of the shrines, this one stands out, since being able to draw a lot of cards every turn is a fantastic payoff.
See the Truth
This is an Anticipate with upside, but the question is whether you can make use of the upside. There are ways of casting it off the top of your library, like with a Bolas’s Citadel in play, or potentially flashing it back from the graveyard. It could even be searched out of your library and cast with a card like Emergent Ultimatum. Still, it’s hard to think of ways to consistently make this into draw three cards.
Do you think much of this card with Snapcaster in Modern? Obviously, that’s not the focus of this review, but some of my friends have been championing that and I’m a bit sceptical since it sounds a bit too much like Concentrate that requires you to play a medium card to me. I figure it’s a bit better with Past in Flames, perhaps there’s a Gifts shell there, although it does give you a major weakness to graveyard hate… It could be a nice couple of lines to add in to give our viewers a taste of the older formats, if you have some insights!
Here is a Spirits card that will only go into a deck with other Spirits; otherwise you won’t be able to make full use out of it. Spirits isplayed in Modern and Pioneer, but not so much in more recent formats. Unfortunately, it’s not at a high enough power level to see play in Pioneer I don’t think. That doesn’t mean we won’t see enough Spirits in white and blue where Shacklegeist won’t see play in Standard or Historic. I’m just not sure how strong the tap ability really is, because in aggressive decks you normally want to attack every turn, and as just a two mana flyer it’s okay, but doesn’t stand out.
Another card that goes well with Opt! You won’t always be able to set up one mana spell into Stormwing Entity on turn four though. This is a blue prowess card, but I don’t know that it is good enough even in that deck. You have to jump through hoops but even as a turn four play Stormwing Entity doesn’t stand out compared to other options.
Stormwing Entity is quite a solid t3 play in the older formats with any decent cantrips, and it dodges Fatal Push completely in those, while threatening to hit for often as much as 5, while improving your draws.
Wow does Sublime Epiphany have a lot going on! The card ranges from a huge blowout to unimpressive. We definitely want to play it in a deck with creatures worth copying, to reliably make use of that mode. Optimally, we also want to set this up to counter something, though at six mana the opponent might be able to get a sense of what you’re trying to do. We get enough bang for our buck, for a six mana play, that I think a deck like Temur Elemental or Simic Ramp could play a couple Sublime Epiphany at the top of the curve. I’m confident this card will see play, even though we have never seen anything like it before. Mystical Dispute is a problem for this card, but it has some powerful enough applications to still see play, e.g. in countering both Ulamog and its trigger in Historic.
Teferi, Master of Time
Wow, this is one of the most exciting cards I have ever seen! Being able to activate your planeswalker ability on both players turn is going to mean a lot of looting. Phasing out a creature also allows for some sort of removal type effect as needed. I see this as a great way to go through your deck very quickly, and fight the exact cards you want, as the looting part of Teferi, Master of Time will be the most used part of the card. Honestly getting to ten loyalty isn’t that crazy when you can activate your uptick on both players’ turns. If you like looting through your deck, this is the card to be playing, and it’s got the power level to prove it – this is the type of planeswalker that any deck playing blue should be considering.
Teferi’s Ageless Insight
Is there such a thing as drawing too many cards? This card allows you to kind of go crazy with card advantage potentially. Casting an Opt to draw two instead of one, and so on. It is a build-around though, that needs a ton of cards that draw a card, but you do also want to be able to interact with the board. It’s unlikely that a deck with this card breaks through, since if you do build around it, it’s still a four mana enchantment that doesn’t make any immediate impact. I would rather be playing Teferi, Master of Time than this, but the two cards do work well together if you are lucky enough to get both in play at the same time.
This one likely ends up being more of a casual card, but if you want another tool for a mill deck, then this works for that. People will play it, but that doesn’t say anything about how good it is.
We have seen Unsubstantiate in Modern as a Gifts Ungiven option for Storm decks, and it has some other niche uses. You can use it as a Remand or bounce spell, but it does neither one particularly well. With multiple other good options for bounce effects currently in blue, I will be surprised if we see much out of it.
Thanks for reading,