Welcome back! This is the second review of Zendikar Rising so far, with all of them in the process of being released daily on MTG Arena Zone between the 12th and 17th, beginning with White and ending with Multicolour, Artifacts, and Lands (which is all one final article). After the whole review is out, we’ll be compiling a full tier list for your viewing pleasure, which will be updated regularly over the coming months – check out our Core Set 2021, Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths, and Theros: Beyond Death Tier Lists, which link to their attached reviews and written updates, for an illustration of what’s to come!
Check out the introduction above for analysis of Zendikar Rising’s mechanics, the aims of our review, and some points of clarification!
Who are we?
I’ve played Magic off and on for the last 20 years. I just checked to confirm that and it blew my mind a little bit. I started with 6th edition and began playing ‘competitively’ with Odyssey. My handle is actually a really good Limited card from the Odyssey block. Anyway, Magic Arena got me back into the game, and I have been drafting infinitely since closed beta and have finished top 1000 Mythic nearly every ranked season.
I’ve been enthralled by Limited ever since I began playing in New Phyrexia. With a particular fondness for flashback and cube drafts, I’ve drafted more sets than I can count on every platform through wildly different eras. On Arena I draft infinitely, having profited 30k or so gems from it at this point, and have made top 100 mythic many times. Self-reflection and forming good habits are paramount to Limited improvement, and those themes feature in many of my articles and in each session of the Limited coaching service I provide; consider booking a session today if you’d like feedback tailored to you that you can really put into practice!
- S: Ridiculous bomb: has a huge immediate impact on the game and threatens to dominate it if unanswered. (Baneslayer Angel, Elder Gargaroth, Sublime Epiphany)
- A: Very powerful card: approaches bomb status, pulls you strongly into its colour. (A+: Chandra, Heart of Fire, A: Scavenging Ooze, A-: Mangara, the Diplomat)
- B: Great playable: happy to pick early, pulls you into its colour. (B+: Soul Sear, B: Roaming Ghostlight B-: Hunter’s Edge)
- C+: Good playable that rarely gets cut. (Deathbloom Thallid, Selfless Savior, Quirion Dryad)
- C: Fine playable, sometimes gets cut. (Alpine Watchdog, Fetid Imp, Hobblefiend)
- C-: Mediocre playable or decent filler, gets cut around half the time. (Caged Zombie, Legion's Judgment, Short Sword)
- D: Medium to bad filler, gets cut a lot. (D+: Titanic Growth, D: Silent Dart, D-: Burn Bright
- F: Mostly to totally unplayable cards. (Miscast, Necromentia, Tormod’s Crypt)
This sort of counter spell gets the job done for the first five turns or so but can sometimes be a dead draw late. This is mitigated somewhat by Anticognition becoming a hard counter with a scry bonus when your opponent has eight cards in their yard. A Control deck oriented to filling your opponent’s graveyard (at least to eight but maybe completely!?) will happily run this card. Most of the time this will simply be Essence Scatter, and I quite like playing that spell.
I quite like this card, because mill is a fairly supported theme in Blue/Black this set so I expect this to function as a hard counter some of the time, and the conditional part of it doesn’t matter that much in the early game. The scry 2 is strong upside later on too, because chances are you’re not looking for lands by then so if you see one in your top 2, it’s like drawing a card. This is going to especially shine in the Dimir deck, since it won’t be conditional for nearly as long there. I consider this a high C rather than a C+, because I think lots of decks won’t want too many, especially non-Dimir decks – I think the first copy is really good and the second copy is a lot weaker. Still, I could certainly see going up on it.
Beyeen Veil is not a very good effect but Blue decks generally couldn’t care less about tapped lands so this is free utility. At some point with these spell-lands you need to be mindful of finding enough playable non-land cards as this will simply count as a land in your deck. Taking this over a C/C+ creature for example may not be a good idea if it results in you needing to ultimately play a D+ creature to fill out your deck. Beyeen Veil is a great upgrade to an Island, just make sure the rest of your deck is going to be squared away.
This effect isn’t usually worth a card, but when it comes stapled to a land, it’s great! Even if all you’re doing is gaining 6-8 life with it in the late game, you’re doing well, but in the case where you can use it to kill a creature or even two, you’ve essentially traded a land for a removal spell. That being said, don’t count this as a spell – it’s just value replacing an Island; you’re still going to play it as a land more than half the time, and you should never prioritise holding this too much – if you have a 6 drop in hand, don’t have much other action, and five lands then just play it.
This seems a little better than Capture Sphere. Flash would have been nice against the equipment in this set but paying one mana for the effect has a lot of tempo potential. Bubble Snare is pacifism most of the time, and even cheaper if you are in a position to allow your opponent to attack for one turn.
This card’s tempo potential is colossal upside – Capture Sphere is a solid removal spell, but when you can play this card for 1 mana, you’re getting a totally busted rate. It’ll come up a lot and you’ll even want to take damage sometimes to ensure you gain that 3 mana, because all your opponent has to be doing is attacking you for it to be great and the baseline is just a good card anyway.
The value of this really comes down to how good you think Scry is. I am sure there is an in depth study somewhere on it, but my estimation is that each Scry is worth a little less than half a card. The most common use of it is going to be burying unnecessary lands. Doing this represents gaining a card since it saved you a dead draw. When this is the case you will effectively draw one card when you Scry a little over two times. Sometimes you will need to draw a land, but there is also the ineffable advantage of burying less impactful spells so let’s generalize it to Scry 2-3 = Draw 1. My fuzzy math is further complicated by Landfall in this set, but ultimately you will want 2 friends for Cascade Seer to be worth it (Scry 3). Let’s save Party math for another time and leave it at Cascade Seer should serve well as long as you have a decent party theme going.
Scry tends to be a lot more valuable in the late game – I don’t agree that Scry 2-3 is equivalent to drawing a card on turn 4 when you often play this card, because lands may well still be valuable to you there and it’s not always clear what you want – it’s very easy to bottom a land in the mid-game and end up regretting it, or to keep one for your 6 drop but draw more than you need anyway. Still, this card is fine nonetheless since it does a fine Octoprophet impression but can scry for more and find cards you really need in the late game. This is a high C, but it’s a very medium turn 4 play so i can’t justify C+.
Charix, the Raging Isle
Uhhhhhhh, okay yeah this card has 17 Toughness no big deal everything is fine. So anyway, if you had six mana including four Islands Charix, the Raging Isle threatens to be an 8/9. This is an awesome card that cleverly gets better and better the more Islands you have since it demands blocking due to potential damage while only needing to use the ability once to kill basically anything. The only real downside is having to pay mana to deal damage, making Charix especially weak against chump blockers.
This card is a solid blocker with a decent pump ability, but nowhere close to a bomb – you won’t usually have tons of islands in play, especially in a format with spell-lands, so this will be +2/-2 or +3/-3 often until you reach the late game. That means until then, this won’t be attacking into anything that well – they can just bounce off with a bigger creature, and the fact that you start at 0 means it’s quite expensive to deal damage with this, and if you use the ability multiple times then they might well be able to multiblock you. You can hold up mana and stop them from attacking you, but that doesn’t strike me as super exciting either. This is a format with spell lands and kicker, so I expect opponents to be doing relevant things with their mana for longer, and holding this up is an easy way to fall behind in that case. This is a card that’s really weak to fliers too. Still, it’s a fine mana sink and in the late game, it can legitimately be very frightening; I just don’t expect it to be that exciting until then.
If you have let’s say 6 or more Wizards this becomes playable, otherwise the effect just isn’t worth it.
With four Wizards at common in Blue, all of them pretty decent, and a few others in every colour but Black, I actually quite like this card – it can be a pretty easy 2 for 1 if you have good blockers, and even gaining 4 life and replacing itself for 1 mana isn’t that bad. You do need plenty of Wizards (I think 7-8 minimum), so it won’t be good in every deck but I also don’t think you’ll have to do that much work to get there in heavy blue ones.
Cleric of Chill Depths
If your deck needs two drops that chill and play defense this one is adequate. There have been formats such as Dominaria where the 1/3 stat line has actually worked out pretty well, so we will see if that applies here. This thing fends off bears extremely well but will quickly get outclassed by creatures with at least 3 power. Eventually sacrificing Cleric of Chill Depths to chump something big and tap it down for a turn buys you a good amount of time, though.
It enables Cleric synergy, but it’s not very exciting. Sometimes you do need 2 drops that fill a good defensive role, but in a kicker format where value is everywhere in the late game, this is a liability to include in your deck. Check out the kicker 2 drops for cards you actually want. This is a decent sideboard card against aggro or decks with lots of 2/xs, so do keep that in mind.
The noncreature clause really kills this one, as at best you are getting a slight discount on Negate. I don’t see it as completely unplayable but don’t expect Noncreature spells to be much more prevalent than usual in this set.
Negate should never leave your sideboard this format, and neither should this – this is a creature-based Party format with very few reasons to be a spell-based deck. It’s not even a good sideboard card.
At least in Limited this is a do-nothing card at its finest. Confounding Conundrum is right!
There is no reason to ever play this card in Limited, it will almost never do anything – sure against Green decks, it might slow down their ramp, but in 19 out of 20 games, it will have no effect other than being a cantrip for 2 mana, which is a terrible rate by itself.
I am a bit wary of Coralhelm Chronicler. If you do hit a Kicker card it is well worth it, but if you whiff with those five cards it is going to hurt. I suppose by the time you are paying Kicker costs you are around the top of your curve and can start discarding excess lands off the ability. In that way Coralhelm Chronicler can generate card advantage in much the same way as Scry effects. Overall, I would want to have several Kicker spells in my deck before feeling great about playing this. It is still probably worth including in a deck with only a few Kicker spells though as a gambit. I could even see some players using removal on this Wizard, guessing you have plentiful ways of triggering it.
With no fewer than six Blue kicker commons (I don’t like Spell Shield very much but the others are great, and the other colours have some too), I think this card is great – it will draw you a card enough of the time and then stay in play and loot a bunch. You might not have too many spare lands to throw away if you have lots of kicker spells, but it’ll still help you find your best cards and there’ll be early plays and situational spells you don’t mind ditching. Many decks won’t even have to build around it very much – kicker spells are good and plentiful. I consider it a high B- overall, because it is true that kicker spells lose a little value in large numbers if they’re not great to begin with and it is still a minor deckbuilding cost sometimes.
This is a solid card that gives you plenty of options – the 3 mana mode isn’t that bad, it’s a Wizard, and it will still trade with most other 3 drops, and the 6 mana mode is good value and tempo when you get it tacked onto that. This is a card that shows off Kicker’s strength – neither half is that exciting, but the versatility of having a 3 drop that scales well into the late game is great.
If you subscribe to my Scry musings from earlier you will agree this is a decent value. I suspect this effect is a little worse than Divination but for one less mana and with Instant status it still seems playable for decks that want card advantage. Scry is a tricky mechanic though as more skilled players will use it optimally while newer players may actually hurt themselves with it by burying a land they actually needed, for example. In the end this is a filler draw spell but it is better than Anticipate if that helps.
This is mostly just Anticipate – it’s only better than Anticipate in the exact scenario where you want two of the cards you see on top. Anticipate is better in other scenarios since if the third card down is better than the other two, you won’t know it when you play this and may keep a worse card over it. Still, I think they’re close enough, and Anticipate is never a great card in Limited unless you want spell synergy or get some kind of bonus from playing it, which there isn’t much of this set – there are specific uncommons like Windrider Wizard and Umara Wizard, but the bonuses are small enough from casting a spell with those that I wouldn’t build around that heavily.
This is Snapping Drake with a pretty sweet upside. It is playable with or without another Wizard, but if you do happen to have another in play it’ll make your opponent think twice about removing Expedition Diviner. 3 Power flyers win games and this one looks to be a nice value in most Blue decks as Wizards are quite prominent in ZNR.
This is a decent statline to begin with, and it’s amazing if you do have a Wizard because this will be the first thing they’re forced to remove on many boards. There are four common Wizards just in Blue, so I’m happy to take this highly especially when the failcase is still so good. I expect it to win a lot of games by itself, just through being an easy 2 for 1 and solid threat, and unlike Snapping Drake, you’re actively happy to trade off this card!
This will be Divination most of the time as 6 mana is a very steep price for three cards. Still, it is nice to have the option if you draw this late. Divination is always playable but it tends to be better in slower formats and worse in faster ones. We will see how Zendikar Rising shakes out in the coming months.
This is a really format-dependent card, because it’s fantastic in a slower format and much worse than this rating in a faster one – the range is something like C- to B-. Divination is generally decent, and the six mana mode is really solid upside – if you’re empty-handed, which is often when you have the time to cast Divination anyway if you’ve been curving out, then you’re often going to pull the trigger and draw three, but you can still just cast this alongside a 2 or 3 drop or if you miss another point on your curve.
A deck full of these would be a glacially slow way to Mill your opponent. It is a free spell as long as it is tapping down your opponents’ only potential attacker, but that is a fairly big if.
Cloning, even only your own creatures, tends to be a pretty good effect in Limited. Getting it on a Land makes this an easy first pick. I would expect to play this as Glasspool Mimic most games though, and allocate my mana base accordingly.
Cloning only your own creatures is a lot worse than just any creature, but this is still a really solid card, and it being attached to a land is great upside. You don’t really want to play this as a land unless you’re in danger of mana screwing, so do count it as a spell mostly, but if your deck doesn’t have many good creatures to copy, then you can consider shaving a land for it and having it mostly just be a land, and it’ll still be colossal upside when it’s not.
Inscription of Insight
Every mode on this is useful and efficient. Paying the Kicker on it will likely be a rarity, but it will be a blowout when it happens. The insightful inscription on this probably reads simply: ‘if you are seeing this, draft Blue!’
This card’s modes don’t strike me as powerful enough for it to reach bomb level – I don’t think any of them are all that exciting at sorcery speed since they can just replay their stuff into double bounce, this third ability will often just make a 2/2 or a 3/3, and the second mode is the best one as sorcery speed Glimmer Genius, which is a decent card but not busted. That being said, the versatility is really sweet, and this reminds me of a 4 mana Read the Tides. Being able to pick the best mode for your current situation is powerful, and the kicker ability is great upside so overall I’m going to give it a low B, to go up or down depending on how fast the format is – this card is pretty bad in a fast format, and more like a B+ in a slow one.
Into the Roil
This is a neat callback to the Zendikar of 10 years ago. More recently In Eldraine we got this in the form of Turn Into a Pumpkin at uncommon, but I actually prefer Into the Roil since it can be cast for two in a pinch. I like Into the Roil a lot in Limited and think it is one of the best Blue commons. Bubble Snare is probably slightly better since Blue is looking very defensive, but if a strong Blue archetype supports aggression/tempo Into the Roil may actually be better.
Blink of an Eye is usually a solid card in Limited, since you can use it for tempo if you need to and drawing a card in the late game stops it from being card disadvantage. This is a card where you want to kick it more than just cast it in most decks, but it’s very solid in either mode.
Jace, Mirror Mage
Jace is back to being absolutely nuts in his latest form. Five mana is definitely the cost you want to pay since the two copies play so well together. Unless you have no way to defend them, you can Scry 2 with the 4 loyalty Jace and put a land on top for the 1 loyalty Jace to draw for free. If all goes well you can start growing the copy and draw something that costs 4 or less from the Legendary Jace. Even if only one Jace sticks it can set itself up to draw nicely with the Scry 2 ability. The design of this card is really neat and although this Jace is no Mind Sculptor he is still a Limited bomb at least.
Jace is really solid, but not having abilities that impact the board means he stops short of the highest grades – he’s a pretty slow draw mechanism and bad when you’re behind on board. You’ll mostly be kicking him and it’s a nightmare for your opponents to kill both his copies, so I do expect him to be really good, but that’s still paying 5 mana to do nothing that turn and he’s in a format that’s so creature-dense, with all the group buffs White has, and the fact that your aggro opponents will have more action in the late game from spell-lands and kicker abilities… all of this leads me to believe that Jace will be an awkward play for most of the game, so you’ll need to go very late or be significantly ahead for him to be all that great.
Additionally, his loyalty will be deceptively low if you are actually drawing cards with him – many cards in Limited cost at least 3 mana, so that’s a lot of damage he takes to draw. The best case is if you can set up drawing lands with him, but that still requires him to be kicked to be feasible, and you don’t want to draw lands in the late game, so you’re better off just scrying them to the bottom!
Surely overpriced Force Spike can’t be good just because it is printed on the back of a tap land? Well, even the possibility of trading one of your lands for an opponents’ spell does in fact make this pretty solid.
When Force Spike is attached to a land, I’m pretty excited. It’s a little awkward that by the time Force Spike has stopped being relevant, you probably don’t want lands as much anyway, but it’s still free value, and the versatility really makes this card. This is one of the spell-lands I would almost never count as a spell – you should expect to play it as a land more than half the time, so just shave a land for it.
Theoretically you could pick off a 2/2 and then get to work attacking for 3 in the air with Living Tempest. In practice I suspect this is going to be a bit too slow, though. Typically 5-drops with below average stats need to affect the board in a meaningful way to be worth playing. This is why Chillbringer is so much better even though they match up so closely.
I think the format is pretty hostile to this card, because it has no Party creature types and it doesn’t line up well into other commons like Shepherd of Heroes and Expedition Diviner. It’s not too bad to just have it alongside counterspells to give you a way to use your mana, and it will occasionally eat a 2/x, so I don’t think the base rate is terrible, but a lot of decks will be able to do better.
The three mana swing hinging on eight or more cards in your opponent graveyard makes a huge impact on this one. If you have some Mill enablers like Ruin Crab I could see reaching on this, otherwise it is likely much worse than it looks. I can’t imagine stealing a tapped 2 or 3 drop for 5-6 mana being a winning line of play when you are trying to stabilize. However, Blue has a lot of tools for playing defense so in a deck that can efficiently set this up and swing over the best creature on the opposing side will consider this one of their better win conditions. Here is another card with value contingent on the speed of the metagame, so keep that in mind as well.
Mind Control effects are always nuts in Limited, and even if this one is more expensive than most, I expect it to be really good. Even stealing their 3 drop on turn 6 in the failcase is good, but when you enable this, it’s completely busted and will win the game by itself. There are plenty of Blue and Black commons and uncommons that have mill just tacked onto them freely, and this is a busted payoff for those.
If a Mill deck is viable and you are in it, Maddening Cacophony is fine. You really need to have several ways to benefit from opponents having eight or more cards in their graveyard to even consider running it though.
I don’t think this is how you want to enable your Rogues and mill payoffs at all – it just puts you down a card if you’re not dedicated to the milling strategy. That being said, if you have some really busted “eight or more cards” payoffs or have enough other mill that it’s a likely wincon, this will be fine, but see my analysis of Ruin Crab for why I don’t think mill is well-supported enough to be a good alternate wincon here – if you’re the extremely rare draft that already has a couple of Ruin Crabs, go nuts and do take this highly, but this doesn’t belong in the vast majority of decks!
Master of Winds
Master of Winds isn’t a bomb rare by any means, but I think any deck is really happy to play this. Especially in ZNR, where Blue is looking highly defensive it is great to have a blocker alongside your card advantage. I like that it can even threaten 4 damage, although this does get shut down by any flyer with more than 1 toughness that you are unwilling to trade Master of Winds for.
This card is a ton of value, immediately giving you your card back, blocking well, and then threatening to hit for 4 in the air. Unlike most draw spells, it’s good when you’re behind, since a 1/4 body stops most of the common fliers in the format, so it’s a great first pick even if it doesn’t quite make it to bomb levels. You do need to keep fuelling it with the required cards for it to attack well, but there are plenty of those in Blue and it actively helps you find them!
Air Elemental has an amazing body in Limited, and this is a lot of upside for just playing the game and having good cards in your deck. It’s even a Wizard, Harry!
You need to be seeking eight or more cards in your opponents graveyard for this to be worthwhile, but I think this Rogue is deceptively strong in the right deck. Playing it turn 1 is obviously great, but even if you draw it late and don’t really need it at the point it can still likely replace itself.
I quite like this card in Rogue decks because it enables your other synergies cheaply, presents a clock, helps you reach that eight or more cards requirement, and then you can just cash it in later on for a card. I think any deck where you can reach eight cards in a reasonable time frame will be happy to play it, but when you add cards like Soaring Thought-Thief and Sure-Footed Infiltrator into the mix, it’s a card you want to take highly and are happy to have. This is the kind of card where you need to know when you want it, because it’s really bad if you don’t though!
The sideboard is the only place for this one.
This is a pure sideboard card, not something you should ever maindeck, especially in a Party format where most decks will be creature-heavy.
The full party payoff on this is excellent, but we will see how realistic that is going to be to obtain in ZNR. I still like this as an unblockable 2-drop (maybe about half the time) that will demand an answer at some point in the game. Your deck needs to be party oriented and aggressive to really want this though.
This is a great attacker, since most creatures in this set are one of the required types, so I think it will represent a solid and annoying threat in most decks. If you’re a dedicated party deck, of which White-Blue is one of the best combinations, this is a reasonable full party bonus to hit, and at that point it will break stalls and just run away with the game by itself, even if you don’t have other creatures that can get through. I’m leaving this at high B- for now, since there will be turns where you want to cast spells or other creatures, so it won’t always be a 2/1 unblockable, but I could see moving it up.
Blue is definitely looking to turtle in this set, and while Risen Riptide does fit the theme I just don’t see it as being impactful enough. Your opponent can still attack into it unless you are willing to hold up a bunch of mana for an Instant Kicker spell. Eventually the goal is to stabilize and begin attacking with it, but realistically you are only going to be able to activate it 2-3 times even in a Kicker oriented deck.
This is a good blocker on turn 3 and then later in the game, it’s a solid that rewards you for just playing good cards. Its main problem is that it doesn’t have a Party type, and it can be pretty bad if you’re getting beaten down by fliers, but I’m still happy to try it out.
Roost of Drakes
Griffin Aerie looked pretty good on paper but it didn’t end up working in most decks. I think Roost of Drakes will suffer the same fate. At least you are guaranteed one 2/2 flyer if you are willing to spend four mana, but that is a pretty bad rate. This will still be a decent card in a deck with at least several Kicker spells, but I don’t think it will end up being great.
This card is great – there are six Blue commons with kicker so it’s easy to enable, and the failcase is a 4 mana 2/2 flier, which is bad but not awful! If you can make a second one, just one more, then you’re already getting a great deal since you don’t even have to pay any additional mana and many decks will be capable of making multiples and just winning the late game with this. You even have the option of dropping it for one mana, say if you’re planning to play a kicker card on turn 4, so it will fit into many curves. I don’t think any Blue deck is likely to have no kicker cards, so the potential power is huge and the failcase isn’t that bad.
I knew a big Mill enabler was coming and here it is. Ruin Crab is that rare 1-drop that puts your opponent on a clock from turn 1. It plays really good defense too, but it will be interesting to see how much players are willing to block with it and risk a premature death by combat trick.
Ruin Crab is a great “eight cards matter” synergy enabler, and threatens to deck your opponents by itself. That being said, drawing it late is still pretty bad – you do want to get the mill train going early or have a good supporting cast for it, because it takes absolutely ages to kill. They can ignore it until they’re really in danger, and then all they need is one removal spell and your work is pretty much undone – with Merfolk Secretkeeper, it was an underrated common at first so you’d get loads and they’d all help each other. There just isn’t enough mill – most of the cards in the set only mill 1-3, so it’ll be pretty hard to actually get there without multiple copies of this, and it’s an uncommon. It’s also not a great blocker at all, at most holding 2 drops off. This is great if you have enough synergies, great if you can get multiples, and medium otherwise.
Sea Gate Restoration
If this was just Sea Gate Restoration it wouldn’t be playable, but once again getting it for free is quite valuable. I would definitely count this one as a Land, but if you happen to draw it really late it’ll be a sweet bonus. By the time you can cast this you are unlikely to have many cards in your hand though, so I wouldn’t expect to draw more than 2-3 cards for 7 mana. Still, this is well worth turning an Island into a bolt land.
Sea Gate Restoration strikes me as just a fine card – the problem is that by the time you reach 7 mana, you probably won’t have other cards in hand, so you’ll be forced into a position where you want to wait and draw more because otherwise this will just be netting you a single card. It is pretty good with other card draw, which Blue does have plenty of, but if you have a bunch of other card draw then it lessens the need for this effect anyway, and you’d rather just be dropping 7 mana stuff that impacts the board after you’ve cast other card draw spells already. It’s pretty bad when you’re flooding out, because you really want to impact the board with your spells if you’ve had to pass the turn once or twice already. Ultimately, the usual caveats apply – it’s just free value to add to your deck so it’s still a pretty high pick, but a lot of the other spell-lands are better and taplands definitely have diminishing returns past three or four.
Kicker has an odd relationship with this – it makes it more likely that you’ll have cards in your hand late because you’ll have more expensive spells to cast, so that’s good for it, but it also means you need this less and would rather just be using your cards in hand.
Sea Gate Stormcaller
To evaluate this card, I like to look at the instants and sorceries that cost 2 or less at common in the set. It’s worth noting a lot of them like the counterspells, cards that only work in combat steps, and the overly conditional cards don’t work well with it so those are out, and I see three good hits for this in Blue – Into the Roil, Chilling Trap, and Deliberate. Of the other colours, it’s worth noting that even Red doesn’t have a lot in this set that is good with this – only Roil Eruption at common – so we’re mostly looking to Black and Green, which thankfully have several good commons that benefit from this.
Still, I don’t think there’s enough that I’m amazed, especially when the kicker will usually cost at least 9 mana (2+5+2 for the spell). I think by the time you reach that, you’ll probably have been forced to use your 2 mana spells and won’t have a target, so I don’t really consider that much upside, so ultimately this is a solid turn 4 play in decks with enough spells but nothing too special in a lot of them. Being a Wizard itself and enabling Chilling Trap does help, so I’m still going to give it a reasonably high grade for now.
Seafloor Stalker is deceptively great and I suppose that is fitting for a Rogue. 3-mana 2/3’s are nothing to write home about, but once you have a party of 3-4 this puts your opponent on a very short clock. This is one of those cards I suspect most players will sleep on until they get wrecked by it.
I’m not too fond of this card – I think mostly you can just do better with the 3 drops you play since this is such a mediocre statline; this card is not good at chipping in for early damage, which would set up its ability better and make it a more relevant threat. If you have a stacked party, it’s going to be the late game anyway, so the cost reduction won’t matter as much.
It is nice that you can use this ability multiple times late if you do have a full party, as a pseudo-firebreathing, and it’s not too bad in a fliers deck which wants this as a medium blocker that can then help it push through lethal later on, so I’m not going to give it too low a grade, but I could see moving it down if the format ends up on the faster side . I think the main draw of this card though is just that it’s a Rogue for decks that care about such things.
This effect is only going to be worth it if you have some valuable creatures worth protecting. In a more aggressive deck, perhaps with Party creatures and Seafloor Stalker it is likely worth a copy though to threaten unblockable damage and hexproof protection, a frustrating combination!
I’m not too fond of this card – it costs 2 mana to protect your stuff from removal which is hard to hold up, +0/+3 isn’t a good trick, and even Dive Down wasn’t very good in Limited. I expect most decks in this format to be heavily creature-based, which makes this even worse.
With six cards you are very unlikely to miss in most Blue decks, making this a great upgrade for one of your Islands. Spending a turn to morph a land into a spell may end up being too slow in some matchups, but you always have the option of laying the land so the upside is still worth it here.
Six cards is pretty likely to draw you a card, and may even give you a pick of the best instant or sorcery. You can hold the spell half up alongside counter magic and other instants, so it sort of has double synergy in that regard. This is another case of a card that wouldn’t be playable if it weren’t attached to a land, but the upside is fantastic because it is. I still wouldn’t count it as a spell though – the effect is too slow for that, so unless you have some really bomby instants and sorceries, do shave a land for it.
5 mana to draw 3 cards is actually a decent rate already, and if you do have a Party going it becomes very likely you will find 3 useful cards as well.
By turn 5, you should be reasonably equipped to look at five cards in many decks, and at that point this is a fantastic rate. Being able to dodge the cards you’re playing to enable party but which don’t scale especially well into the late game is great and this is so much better than draw 3. This is also easy to cast, and a great splash card. In the average set, one without Kicker as great ways to use your mana late, and one without so many good 5 drops, I would actually start this at B-.
All that being said, I’m not yet sure how I feel about the set’s speed, and this is the kind of card that falls off a cliff if it’s on the faster side. So far, it’s not looking that way though, since most of the cards are value-oriented in Blue and even White had tons of lifegain, so with that in mind, I’m happy to give this a high grade right now, but check the tier list for updates!
On the surface this seems okay as a 2 mana 3/2 which can generally attack when you want it to. The main issue is in an aggro deck you are extremely likely to want a Party and this Squid does not further you in that. In a defensive Blue deck this does trade with most 2-3 drops, but Cleric of Chill Depths seems better in that role.
I actually like the Squid more in defensive decks than Cleric of Chill Depths, since it deals favourably with 3-drops, whereas Cleric won’t be able to favourably block most of them. Having a non-Party creature type is pretty bad in this format, but I think that will matter less in those sorts of decks anyway, so I’m reasonably happy to include this card as a filler playable in decks that don’t care about that – it performs the aggressive and defensive roles both reasonably well, but is never too exciting.
The power/toughness on this are lackluster, but having a way to break through stalled boards and can card advantage is amazing. Blue is definitely set up to lock down the board and having a card like this to poke in that scenario is a great value. Just make sure you have enough Rogues to reliably activate it.
At 4 mana, this is pretty expensive, but it also has the potential to just run away with the game if you have another Rogue and aren’t too far behind. 2 damage unblockable is nothing to scoff at either, and this will be as great at finishing your opponents off as providing card advantage. Take this highly if you’re in Dimir, more likely at B-.
This Wizard reminds me of Ghitu Chronicler, another card I was very happy to play.
This is a fine 2 drop that nets you your best instant and sorcery card in the late game. It’s comparable to Ghitu Chronicler, which was a great card in Dominaria, and I expect this to be fantastic in a slower format and still fine even in a faster one. It’s a high C+, and I would even consider splashing it in some decks if the format does end up slow.
A 2 mana 2/1 flyer is already good and there are plenty of playable Artifacts to steal in this format. If you happen to snag Equipment this is a slam dunk.
2 mana 2/1 flier is a great rate to begin with (I would give that card a B-), and this is an Equipment-heavy set where that is a supported strategy. Let’s look at the available artifacts, with mostly the commons mattering because they represent average case – there are plenty of good ones, but most of them are uncommon, and you won’t be able to steal stuff like Sea Gate Colossus because it just costs too much mana. For that reason, I don’t think the steal artifact side will have a target in most games, but it will come up every so often and be absolutely backbreaking; you can steal anything and be really happy, so I like starting it high but not at bomb levels.
Whereas most of the tap lands come with spells that would be mostly unplayable on their own, Umara Wizard is actual a pretty solid threat. I would consider this a spell rather than a land in any deck that has a decent Wizard presence. Having a potential 18th land in your back pocket can really improve your mulligan percentage and is not to be discounted.
I really like this card – it’s never dead because it’s either a land or a very relevant threat that can win late game situations. This is the one best things you can upgrade a land with since it’s good in any scenario where you don’t need a land. If you have spells and Wizards, which Blue has loads of by the way, this is a really fast clock so it’s a great threat but even if you’re just trading it for another creature, you’ve still exchanged a land for a spell. This card is too inefficient that I’d be happy to count it as a spell even in decks with lots of the required cards, so just replace a land with it and be overjoyed.
I really like this one. Wind Drake is a fine playable and Blue decks are going to be doing a lot of the things that trigger this card, which ends up smoothing your hands considerably.
Wind Drake with a bunch of free loots is a solid card, and with four common Wizards just in Blue, and all of them being pretty good, I’m happy to take it highly.
As far as 1 mana 1/1’s go, Zulaport Duelist actually gets quite a bit of work done. It furthers your Mill/Rogue synergy and will sometimes swoop in and take out an enemy threat. In the end this is one of those archetype specific cards that either fits in well or doesn’t at all. These sort of cards can be important signals in draft to help determine which archetypes are open.
I think this card does enough that I’m happy to have it in plenty of my decks – this ability will often allow you to eat a creature, at which point it’s always worth it, it enables Rogue synergy cheaply, and milling two is nice with some of the Blue cards like Anticognition, and especially in Dimir since a lot of the Black cards benefit from your opponent having eight cards in their graveyard.
Blue in this set is leaning defensive, looking to turtle up while it utilizes Scry, Looting, and draw effects to obtain card advantage. There is a lot of support for Mill (to get eight cards in your opponent’s graveyard at least) in this color as well. Blue still has a few win condition options available to it, mostly in the form of flyers and unblockable Rogues. There is strong a possibility of Blue fitting in to an Aggro archetype, contributing Wizards, Rogues, and tempo spells to a Party oriented (likely UW) deck. UB Rogues is also looking like a formidable archetype, so be on the lookout for ways to meld Blue with Black as we take a deep dive into those cards in our next article. At this point I am feeling somewhat underwhelmed by Blue, but I will say if it ends up being fairly easy to stall boards in this format, cards in this color will mostly overperform.
Blue looks sweet and value-oriented in this set, with a multitude of cards capable of dominating the late game and a lot of card draw and good kicker cards, alongside good evasive options to bolster aggressive decks. Blue’s defensive options alone do seem to be lacking a bit, so that may bring it down somewhat. I don’t think this will be a good colour for forming the core of an aggro deck this format, but providing evasion and late game options to a better colour for that like Red or White, or going the more midrangey route with Green all seem fine places to be. Dimir looks like the most clearly supported combination for Blue, with a ton of synergies directed at that, and there does seem to be a good mix of enablers and payoffs for getting your opponent to eight cards in graveyard, even if I don’t think mill is well-supported enough to be a good alternate wincon here,
If the format ends up on the slower side, Blue will be pretty busted in it, because it looks to be going way over the top of the other colours in the late game with all its great kicker cards and card draw, so I’m pretty excited to see how that shakes out! The fact that White has so much lifegain means that I think there will be some great slow Azorius decks, since it’s going to be fantastic at buying Blue enough time to work its magic, and Azorius is also still the best route for party synergies, since the available types from the two colours pair so well.
Have a great evening and join us again for Black tomorrow!