Zendikar Rising Limited Set Review – Introduction and White
Welcome back! Compulsion and I (hello, I’m Drifter!) are back with our fourth MTG Arena Zone set review in a row, with thanks to Terence for formatting and hosting! Similar to other set reviews you might’ve seen in the past, we’ll be going through and rating every single card using the system below, in colour order. All of these will be released daily on the site between the 12th and 17th, the day of Zendikar Rising’s release on Arena, beginning with White and ending with Multicolour, Artifacts, and Lands (which is all one final article).
After the review has been entirely published, 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!
Please read on for our introductions, some background on the aims of this review, some points of clarification, and the ins and outs of the system we’re using. After that, we’ll review each and every White card. Enjoy!
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!
Why have a mission statement?
Limited reviews are some of the most finicky things I’ve ever done; they measure all sorts of different and wacky things. Magic is a ridiculously hard game; the ratings of cards is so contextual that having a universal and objective way of measuring precisely how good a card is is impossible. Even when you’re just considering whether to pick a card, there are a multitude of variables to account for. To name just a few, let’s take a card as seemingly innocuous as Smitten Swordmaster from Throne of Eldraine as an example: How early in the draft is it? How likely are you to be in Black? How many 2 drops do you have vs how many 2 drops do you expect to need (more in aggressive decks)? How many knights do you have or expect to end up with? Is there anything specific about the format that makes the Swordmaster pick better or worse – is black especially good or bad, are 2/1s often liabilities because ping effects are abundant or because there are lots of 1/3s or 0/4s, are 2 drops especially important because there aren’t many, are the Adventure decks just so busted that you should try to move in on those? Maybe you shouldn’t move in because, if they are busted, everyone’s going to snap up the payoffs like Lucky Clover… What kind of balance should you strike then?
This is by no means a comprehensive list, and I could give that example for many different cards; I considered updating this statement with a Cycling card like Prickly Marmoset, for example, but frankly that’s much more difficult and Prickly Marmoset is less innocuous, more terrifying…
The reality is that in a draft, most of us won’t be considering all these factors, because we just don’t have time or we can’t be bothered, or with practice these things will just come naturally. But a good review has to, and if you’re doing them as early as we are then you don’t have the practice. A good review must account for all the factors that lead to making a draft pick, but do so in a vacuum rather than through direct comparison to other cards, and that’s very difficult because as you can see above, there’s really a lot to it… so you can approach a review in many different ways: a lot of them are pick orders or aim to assess the quality of p1p1s for this reason, or they just seek to capture the rather mythical concept of “general power level”. To maximise usefulness, I feel like we really need to state what we intend to do and what angle we’re approaching from specifically.
The mission statement of this set review (and later tier list):
Compulsion and I are rating how good the cards are likely to be in the composition of the final deck; we’re taking educated and researched guesses at what average well-drafted decks in the format will look like, and how well the cards will fit into them. For example, if a card requires auras to be useful, we’re considering how many auras you’re likely to get, how good the payoff is for getting there, how bad the failcase is if you don’t quite get there, and other considerations like how well the card fits on the ideal curve and how necessary it is for reaching that ideal curve. Whenever there are outliers (like if a card is really good in aggro and not in other decks), we’ll state them and factor them into our ratings.
In this way, at least in theory, this should give a good idea of how early one should be picking the cards and how to weight them – if a card isn’t all that likely to actually work out, then it follows that you shouldn’t pick it that highly. It’s not an exact science, because players tend to under and overvalue things a lot and, as the draft meta adapts to and counteracts their whims, it changes and evolves. That’s not something we can solve on day one though – our updates to the tier list will address that; the reviews are a guideline.
Let’s clarify some things:
- This is primarily a Draft review and should be taken as such. We’ll try to highlight outliers when a card is much better in Sealed than Draft, but overall there are a few things one should remember about the Sealed format: Sealed is slower, you’re less likely to face aggressive decks (but if you can build a good aggressive curve, it’s even more worth doing), expensive cards and those which generate value are better, splashes* and mana sinks are better, and playing extra mana sources is more often right than in Draft. That doesn’t nearly cover all of the differences but if you keep those factors in mind, you’ll go a long way. For a more in-depth sealed strategy guide, check out this link!
- All reviews and tier lists are more accurate early on in the Draft, when picks are less contextual; this one is no exception.
- This is a first impression; the set is not out yet so Compulsion and I have not had the pleasure of playing with it. We’re going to get some things wrong and there’ll be some uncertainty of how things shake up. The tier list will be updated, this review will remain the same, feel free to make fun of us later on! This review, like every other review, is not the end all be all. We don’t recommend following it blindly, so much as taking it as a good guideline. Compulsion and I will disagree often, but you have our individual ratings and thoughts to inform your decisions.
- The reviews and tier list are written with human drafts in mind; they’ll still be useful for bot drafts but not as much so.
- Early on, colourless cards tend to be better as they fit into and will enhance any deck, so they leave you more open to drafting different decks and will be good wherever you end up. We don’t take this into account in our ratings, since this only applies strongly in the first five or so picks, and then the effect drops off in importance gradually and is negligible after p2p3 (pack 2, pick 3) or so. P1p1, you want to take good colourless cards at about a grade distinction higher e.g. B instead of B-.
- Early on, multicolour cards tend to be worse since they fit into fewer decks, and will be wasted picks if you don’t end up in those two colours. However, cards that are good splashes are often largely saved from this effect, depending on the format’s fixing. We do factor mana cost into our ratings – if a card is easy to play in two colours, it won’t get much of a grade knock for this effect, but if it’s colour-intensive, it definitely will. P1p1, you want to take good multicolour cards at about a grade distinction lower if they’re good splashes e.g. B- instead of B, or more like 1.5-2 distinctions if they’re bad splashes.
- Sideboard-only cards are graded as though they would go in the maindeck for the most part e.g. they generally receive bad ratings, but good descriptions.
The Mechanics of Zendikar Rising – how do they affect gameplay?
- Double-faced modal cards or spell-lands are cards with two faces, one being a land and one being a spell, and you can choose to play either half. Generally each side is weaker for balancing reasons than a card you would just put into your deck e.g. the lands generally enter tapped, but the added versatility makes them absolutely incredible – you just get free value by having them in your deck, because you can play more lands and still flood out less. The question of whether you should cut lands for them or treat them as spells is surprisingly contextual – it all depends on how powerful the spell half is. If the spell half is especially good in your deck or just good in general, your primary plan should be to cast it as much as you can. In this scenario, playing it as a land is a failcase; it’ll sometimes be necessary and you’ll be thankful to have the option, but you don’t want to aim for that. If that’s the case, then the card should occupy a spell slot, but if that’s not the case and you don’t mind playing it as a land and are just including it as extra value and flood insurance, you can directly replace a land with it. That being said, this is a format where you will want to play 18 a lot, between landfall and these, and especially having a few spell-lands makes it free to do so – flooding won’t be that big a deal when a good proportion of your lands can also do other things!
- Landfall is a fantastic Limited mechanic which causes some of your cards to have an additional effect whenever you play a land, and gives them a lot of longevity going into the late game – when you’re getting an extra effect from several cards whenever you play a land, that can easily be worth a card, or even better! After all, the spells you draw could well just be 2-drops or other low impact cards, and it doesn’t take much for landfall abilities to beat that. Landfall cards synergise really well, since you can pretty freely include an extra land or two if you have a lot of them – this is another reason to include 18 lands, but if you have a lot of landfall cards and a couple of spell lands, you can even include 19!
- Party is a mechanic that wants you to have creatures of several different types in play, with different colours being especially good for different types. White is good for Clerics and Warriors, Blue is good for Rogues and Wizards, Red is good for Warriors and Wizards, Black is good for Rogues and Clerics, and Green is a jack-of-all-trades but master of none. As such, combining the right colours together is going to be important in the set if you’re trying to maximise Party/have a lot of Party payoffs. There aren’t too many full party bonuses so it’s not imperative, but your cards scaling up better is still important. One interesting tension is that many cards benefit from having creatures of a certain type, rather than a mix, so you really need to have a good idea of which of your synergies are most valuable and what to chase.
- Kicker essentially gives your cards two useful modes – one that is useful earlier on and one that scales into the late game. The effect of having a bunch of Kicker cards is that you need dedicated late game less – your 6+ drops are less important, because you’ll have lots of ways to use your mana anyway. This is something that spell-lands help with too, in that your having those available late means you’l have a higher density of spells in most decks, which will allow you to keep up with dedicated high end better. Indeed, White doesn’t even have any 6+ drops at common or uncommon, so looks like Wizards agrees!
- 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)
The average rate on this is likely going to be a +2/+2 buff for two creatures, which is alright. On a developed board in the right deck hitting the +4/+4 upside is looking quite obtainable. Allied Assault does have a low floor though, potentially only hitting one creature for +1/+1 or even being a dead card in some circumstances. Your mileage is going to vary a lot on this one, but in a deck designed to get the party together there is some serious blowout potential.
This is a pretty good trick if there are two creatures in your party, and I don’t expect that to be too hard to reach in a format full of the required creature types, but the failcase is really bad. In the late game, the upside can get really massive, but I think the sort of deck that really wants this wants to beat down in the early turns rather than have a good stallbreaker. Overall, I think it’s fine but not super impressive.
Angel of Destiny
This is a really weird card because on one hand it is a must answer threat that is resilient and evasive, but if Angel of Destiny gets answered with Nahiri’s Binding or Bubble Snare it is likely a checkmate. I would still play this card in any White deck but it is a gambit, so if there was a B+ or better Common or Uncommon in the pack which suited my deck I would probably go that route.
Funky Baneslayer won’t always be what you want, since it prevents you from killing your opponents with combat damage while it’s out, but it still has an incredible body and it’s not all that hard to set up this alternate wincon over time because they won’t have much of a chance of killing you or making good attacks while it’s in play!
3-mana 3/2’s are bad filler and the enter the battlefield ability isn’t very exciting. It enables certain cards like Paired Tactician that have triggers on attack, but for the most part it gives you one turn of pseudo-unblockable which can be easily countered with a blocker that outclasses the indestructible attacker.
3/2 for 3 isn’t a great body; this is okay upside for aggro decks, giving you a free attack with whatever you want, but this card is going to be filler in most decks. Still, it’s a Cleric, which some decks will heavily want, so I’m willing to leave it at low C- rather than moving into the D range.
Archon of Emeria
3-mana for a 2/3 flyer is a decent rate, even if the abilities are highly situational. I like Archon of Emeria quite a bit in slower archetypes where turning off tempo plays can only benefit you. In stronger creature formats this would be very middling, but I think it’ll make the cut every time in ZKR.
I don’t expect either ability to be game-changing in Limited, but this is a solid body to begin with and I expect it to be decent in most decks. This first ability can hurt you as much as help you, especially in your low-curve decks, so watch out and don’t be afraid to cut this if you really have a lot of 1s and 2s.
Archpriest of Iona
In theory this Cleric could put on some decent pressure early, attacking as a 2/2 on turn two and a 3/2 on turn three. The real benefit of this card is to wait for a full party, though, at which point it can attack as a 5/3 flyer (or buff something else). 1-drop creatures tend to under perform in Limited but this is the type of card that scales well enough to eventually demand removal. You definitely need to be in a deck that is mindful of ‘Party’ creature types to be worth it, though.
This is going to be a 1 mana 2/2 often, and that’s a decent rate which will trade for 2 drops and is especially good in aggressive decks. In the late game, this second ability certainly has a lot of potential to stall break since you only need 3 other creatures with it, so overall this is a 1-drop that’s good early and late… you can’t ask for much more! Remember that White doesn’t have any Rogues at common or uncommon, and only one Wizard (Farsight Adept) so this is a pull into Blue, as the only colour with many Rogues and Wizards (though Green has some of each too).
Not being able to target itself hurts this card a lot. There are plenty of Clerics in the format, but there is quite a bit of investment here just to generate 1/1’s and gain some life. Attended Healer does pair well with other lifegain/Cleric cards such as Kor Celebrant, so in the right deck it still looks like a decent engine.
Attended Healer has great synergy with several of the Cleric commons in White – Expedition Healer has lifelink with it out, Kor Celebrant is a fantastic combo with it, and Shepherd of Heroes/Skyclave Cleric instantly trigger it. Even if you only get to spit out one Cat with it, you’re doing great but I think a lot of decks will be able to do multiples, and it has a strong activated ability too. This card may not have the most exciting body but White has way more lifegain than enablers this set, so I like starting it high – I expect it to be even better as a first pick, where you can build around it and perhaps go into Orzhov for more payoffs. I think this is a high B-, and I could even see moving it up to B, that’s how well-enabled lifegain is here!
This little mouse can really go off if you have some ramp spells, but a deck like that seems disjointed. Canyon Jerboa is a card that slots best into a go-wide archetype, and those very rarely incorporate ramp spells due to the risk of flooding out. This card reminds me of creatures like Bolt Hound, which generally look better than they play.
This is a really powerful ability, especially if you have cards like Roiling Regrowth or Scale the Heights, which enable you to activate the ability twice. I expect this to be a reasonable card in aggressive decks, since it does attack for 2 by itself a lot of the time too, but it’s worth noting that there are no token producers at common to really power this up. It’s a really bad topdeck and attacking as a 2/3 isn’t all that exciting, so you do need to be dedicated to beating down and curving out.
It’s filler but if you’re an aggressive White deck in the market for another Warrior, why not?
This is a weak 2 drop, which ranges from awful (Dominaria) to medium (M21). I think White will have capable aggressive decks this format, since Landfall tends to enable some good beats, so I’m inclined to believe closer to the latter. Warrior synergy is definitely a nice boost, and this curves well into Paired Tactician and Expedition Champion.
Another okay go-wide card for White. This is Inspired Charge with a built in lite version. Dauntless Unity is definitely a trick you need to be aware of in this format because even though the two mana effect is very slight, the buff is still enough to run over players that don’t account for it in their blocks.
This is another solid trick in aggressive/go-wide decks, since both sides are very reasonable – I expect the kicker mode will be used more often in lethal alpha strikes, but being able to snag the occasional creature for 2 mana is a solid rate. I’m a little less happy with it because White doesn’t have any common token producers in the format (and only one at uncommon). While neither half of this is all that exciting, its versatility carries it through as with many kicker cards.
There are some very good targets for this in the set, but not enough of them that you can main deck this effect. I wouldn’t mind having this in my sideboard but it is the lowest of priorities in bo3 formats and unplayable in bo1.
This isn’t Theros: Beyond Death or an artifact-themed set, so Disenchant probably shouldn’t stray from your sideboard. Take it over weak cards in best-of-three, and ignore it in best-of-one.
This is a really good party payoff as you only need one other creature for it to be a 4 mana 3/3 flying/vigilance which is already very good, and the possibility of a 4/4 or 5/5 is well worth the fail case of being a 2/2.
This starts off as a 2/2 Flying Vigilance for 4, which isn’t great but it’s not all that bad either. Fortunately for this Angel Warrior, the format is absolutely filled with creatures of these other types and it only needs one to be great! In the late game, this could easily be a 4/4 or 5/5, which is a totally busted rate.
I would always consider this to be Emeria’s Call and not count it as a land, as you will need seven lands including three plains to cast this. But when you do cast it the game is all but over. This is looking like the best White card in the set but I could see it getting passed in pack 3 or maybe even pack 2 due to the WWW cost.
Emeria’s Call is the sort of bomb that will almost always win the game at 7 mana, and in a desperate spot you can even use it to make your land drops! Note that the spell lands work like this: the better they are, the less you want to count them as a land in the deck construction phase. Emeria is as good as it gets, so you should always count it as a spell – do not trim a land for it ever.
Vigilance Bears tend to over perform and the possibility of Lifelink is a sweet bonus. There are even quite a few ways to buff this thing. I think some people will sleep on this card but it is an excellent White common.
This is a strong 2-drop in any deck with plenty of Clerics, as lifelink is an ability that retains value even in the late game, it wears buffs extremely well, and it will force even 3 drops not to attack. This is a common that’s good in multiples, and should really stem the bleeding against aggressive decks. You probably don’t want too too many unless the format is especially fast though – replace your 2 drops with them, but still don’t have too many as more expensive cards will still be more impactful.
Another excellent White common creature! Decks running 3-mana 3/3’s are going to lean aggressive, making them more likely to benefit from each player drawing a card. In a weaker creature format like this Farsight Adept is looking pretty darn good.
Each player drawing a card benefits the side with the lower curve in the early game and the side with the more expensive curve in the late game, so that’s not really what breaks the symmetry – I don’t think this card would be that great in most sets, and this ability might even be a downside since your opponent gets to untap and use the card first.
Instead, what does break the symmetry is having direct synergies i.e. cards that do something whenever you draw a card or Landfall cards to make good use of more of your draws. This is a 3 mana 3/3 so it’s never too bad, but I do think heavy Landfall decks will want to take it higher and that it’s especially good this format. This is also the only White Wizard at common, which will lead to it being a prety high pick for Party decks, so this card is really exceptionally good this format!
Landfall is an incredibly powerful mechanic, especially in Limited where small advantages can end up making a huge impact. Getting a +1/+1 counter (and flying) every time you make a land drop is an insane value. Even if you draw it late you are likely to be holding at least one land, making it at minimum a 2/2 for 2 that can continue to grow.
Fearless Fledgling is a nuts card if you can land it on turn 2, as it will grow for as long as you have lands after that and even has evasion. This is a 2 drop that will often demand removal, and even in the late game, the flying means it’ll stay relevant. If you have some way to put lands into play at instant speed, you can even ambush fliers with it! This is a crazy card overall, and if I had a couple of these alongside other decent Landfall cards, I’d be very happy to play an extra land or two to enable it more consistently.
Another incredible Landfall card, Felidar Retreat is a straight up bomb rare. Note that you shouldn’t play this on 4th turn if you have another play and a 5th land. You can get full benefit playing it 5th turn, possibly even putting a +1/+1 counter on a creature you played 4th turn.
Oh look, it’s Citadel Siege! Okay, it’s not quite that good since you do need lands but this makes all your topdecks great for the rest of the game. It’s a busted turn 5 play and will dominate any game that goes long. Making a 2/2 Cat isn’t really that impressive, so I’m going to leave it at A rather than A+, but you should only be using that mode when you have 0-2 creatures anyway (and on 2, you probably still use the other mode more…).
Journey to Oblivion
Removing anything for 3-4 mana is about as good of a deal as White can expect and makes this a premium removal spell in ZNR.
4 mana removal for any nonland permanent is a great rate, and that’s a very reachable goal for this. Sometimes it’ll cost 2 and be completely busted. Being splashable makes it even better, and I’d be surprised to see it past third pick at any point.
Kabira Outrider is below average filler, coming in with poor stats and an ability that is admittedly pretty good but only lasts for one turn. I could see curving into this to great effect in some games, but playing 4-mana 3/3’s feels bad unless the ability can make a big impact.
This is a 4-drop that can enable a pretty good attack if you have a couple of other Party creatures and always give +1/+1 at least. This ability is deceptively good, since it will almost always enable a free attack or a creature to trade up. That being said, this is a weak enough body and 4 drops are generally good enough that these days that I’m not going to give it too high a grade. In dedicated party decks that are on the aggressive side, this will be more in the low C+ range.
I think this is good enough to not count it as a land either. Despite the two modes it’ll be a dead draw at times when you have little on the board and excess lands, but often having access to a Scorching Dragonfire type effect in White is really great and fits in great with a go-wide archetype. This can be played in any deck really because of the land mode, but in decks with fewer creatures I would count this as a land with a situational effect. Especially with Landfall in the set, having excess lands may not be as crippling as usual but it is still great to be able to turn an extra land into damage situationally.
As a side note, the timing seems like it was finally right for these double sided cards to be printed. I remember talking about the possibility of these 15 years ago but there was always push back in that they would require players to buy sleeves for their decks. Well, currently physical card limitations are much less of a concern so it’ll be interesting to see how this mechanic plays. I bet some of these card concepts have been cooking for many years and there was finally an opportunity to go for it.
I expect Kabira Plateau to be a pretty high pick, because the cost of a tapland isn’t that much for most decks in Limited, and this lets you get free value from your lands. The spell has the potential to be really impactful in some spots at just 2 mana, but it will often deal 2 damage by turn 4 or so which is absolutely fine when you can just play it as a land mostly anyway. I’m pretty excited to have it. That being said, individually these cards will be worse individually in this than a normal draft format because there are more of them and you don’t want to have too many taplands in your deck, so the potential competition will make this slightly worse. Still, White will be creature-heavy and make good use of this effect, though again it’s worth noting that there are no common token producers at common to churn this out fast.
I think many decks will want to play 18 lands this format to enable their landfall cards, and having lands like these makes that all the more enticing! With spell flip lands, the higher the power of the spell half, the more you want to count it as a spell – if the spell half is really good, you shouldn’t trim a land for it. With this one, it’s just okay, so it’s more deck-dependent – if you’re a go-wide sort of deck that’s curving out and will often have this be dealing 2-3 damage, you probably want to count it as a spell, but if you don’t have that many creatures then you should still play it but replace a land with it. This isn’t powerful enough that you should be okay to miss land drops to hold it very often, unless it’s like your fifth and you don’t have many 5 drops for example.
I kind of like this in decks that want to get the Party started early. Opening with a 1/1 flyer can be pretty annoying for opponents (e.g. Healer’s Hawk), and getting a jump on Party buffs could really up your tempo. If you draw it late the kicker ability looks pretty impactful, clearing the way for a surprise attack. It is a shame you don’t get more for the kicker but I still think this card looks alright depending on how much synergy you have with it.
This strikes me as an okay but unexciting card in aggressive decks – 1/1 Flier for 1 is a bad rate, but gets a lot more appealing when you’re trying to go wide and incorporating buffs like Canyon Jerboa and Dauntless Unity, and when you need to enable party synergy for cheap. This is a solid kicker ability which will help you push through a bunch of extra damage and certainly has the potential to win the game in some spots, so I think this is overall a reasonable inclusion.
I think this one may be better than it looks but I will stay conservative. There are a lot of Warriors and Equipment to take advantage of his ability. Since Kor Blademaster has Double Strike equipped or not it also provide extra value if you have other (non-equipment) ways to buff creatures.
Fencing Ace is a fine card that massively benefits from buffs (of which there are plenty this set), but there’s a load of equipment at Common or Uncommon this format, so this second line of text will come up a lot and could potentially have some pretty busted impact, since there are plenty of Warriors at Common too, including three in White (though only Cliffhaven Sell-Sword and Kabira Outrider are substantially benefited). This is a very solid package overall.
Kor Celebrant leans defensive which may not be a bad thing in this format. It still bolsters your Cleric/Party/Lifegain synergy while slowing down the advance of your opponent. It isn’t anything special but I wouldn’t mind having it in most White decks.
This is a decent card for a defensive deck, blocking well and netting some free life. Where it becomes really powerful is with lifegain synergy cards of which this format has some, especially in Orzhov, but it’s mostly reliant on specific uncommons. Still, this is pretty busted with those, triggering them over and over! I think White has more lifegain than payoffs this set, so I’m not going to give this card a C+ but I deliberated on it.
The ability is useless in Limited but even as a vanilla creature this is well worth the cost.
This is “merely” a vanilla 4/3 flier for 4 unless some particularly insane and highlight-worthy things happen, but that’s a fantastic rate anyway in Limited!
I had to read this one twice to make sure it said what I thought it said. Luminarch Aspirant does in fact give you a +1/+1 counter every turn. Insane.
This card is totally absurd at any point in the game and will demand removal in short order. It takes a couple of turns to really get going, so it’s not as busted as some other bombs, but I don’t foresee ever passing it nonetheless.
Landfall is a cool ability and all but outside of playing this 6th turn and surprise tapping 1 creature, your opponent will be able to play around it and this is not a good rate for a creature.
I was reasonably impressed with Captivating Unicorn in Theros: Beyond Death, and the Ox is better since decks will always have more lands than enchantments, even in Theros. This ability is great on a 4/4 body, since it clears the way for itself. Still, it’s an understatted 5-drop, you don’t want too many of those, and you may well have enough better 5-drops to end up having to cut it. In Green White, this gains some value since you’re more likely to be able to get lands into play at instant speed, where you’re preventing a full turn of attacks and blocks from an enemy creature.
It may seem expensive for the +2/+2 effect, but I reckon whole team buffs are going to be an excellent finisher based on how White is shaping up. Plus, including this in your deck effectively costs just 1 land to be turned into a tap land. Not all decks will want this but go-wide ones will likely reach on it. Be careful with your land count though, it could be very hard to cast this in a 15-16 land Aggro deck where you are counting Makindi Mesas as one of them.
This is a powerful way to end games in any creature deck, and it comes stapled to a tapland. It’s a little worse if you have a lot of 1-drops, but still well worth the inclusion. Honestly the opportunity cost is so low that I don’t need to be go-wide or even be all that beatdowny at all to be happy to play it – I would play this in any deck where I had 12 or so creatures and not too many other taplands.
I think for this one, you should mostly count it as a land in the deckbuilding stage and sub out a land for it, unless you’re specifically a go-wide aggro deck, in which case you might want to have it occupy a spell slot.
Maul of the Skyclaves
Maul of the Skyclaves provides tremendous value and reaches bomb status. There are quite a few ways in White to get extra value out of it as well. Attaching for free and having a reasonable reattach cost really seals the deal on this being one of the best cards White has to offer in the set.
Just play plenty of creatures and this will win you most of the games in which you draw it – it has insane immediate impact and a very reasonable equip cost for such a good rate.
I kind of like this since it hard counters your opponent’s 2-drop the turn you play it as a 2/3 blocker. In defensive decks Mesa Lynx looks surprisingly good.
Mesa Lynx blocks well, but not having party synergy is a tough sell. I think White has enough other good defensive cards for that style of deck that I’m much more happy to play one of the Clerics. On a card like this, blocking well is less important than attacking well anyway because this is still a card that will be outscaled by most 3 drops, and you’re delaying the game to reach that point and not getting any value or advantage in the form of damage in the meantime from doing so.
This is a little difficult to cast depending on how White your deck is, but shutting down abilities and being able to target Planeswalkers is a nice bonus for your trouble. Pacifism effects will always be your bread-and-butter removal in this color and as usual this is likely the best White common.
Arrest is a great card, while this is harder to cast but still premium removal.
I like this in a Landfall deck that either ramps or draws a lot of cards. Outside of that I would expect this to be a tapped Plains >95% of the time. But in a deck that needs to spend a couple turns growing a board wipe is a very welcome addition, so I do foresee certain archetypes making very good use of this. The rating on this one is particularly arbitrary for this reason so I will just put it at the average. In a ramp/control deck this could be one of the best cards in your deck, while in a typical creature deck it may not even make the cut if you are worried about disrupting your curve with a tap land.
This is a spell-land I’m not actually super excited about – an 8 mana wrath is so expensive that it’s hard to hold stuff and prepare for it in the same way, and there’s a huge inherent risk to doing so – eventually your opponent will be ahead on board because you’re holding back, and this takes so long to get going that you’ll have to start playing your stuff so your hand will be depleted when you can finally pull the trigger. You can’t rely on hitting 8 mana in any given game, so I expect this to rot in the hand a lot even when you can’t make good use of the land half – this will be your top-end, so there’s no reason to play the land, but you’ll be sat there two lands away for most of the game, because 8 mana isn’t something that happens on turn 8 so much as turn 11 or 12 mostly. Still, ramp can make this a lot more useful, mostly in Selesnya.
That being said, the opportunity cost over a Plains is still really low, so I’m still happy to play this, but I don’t think you should rely on it being a spell in mana base construction and you don’t want to get too greedy with it – this is not your standard busted limited wrath at all. You should shave a land for this, but it also makes running 18 lands look a bit more appealing at the same time – if you have some other landfall cards and spell-lands, you want to run 18 a lot this format.
I never would have thought Makeshift Battalion would be promoted to Uncommon. Paired Tactician isn’t a bad card but it can be difficult to attack with cards like this. You will often need to have a way to protect the Tactician and its partner in combat, otherwise they may just sit on your side of the board unable to activate the ability.
This is reminiscent of Makeshift Battalion, but I think there are enough common Warriors that I give it the edge. Requiring only one other creature to get a counter means that the Cliffhaven Sell-Sword, Dauntless Survivor, or Grotag Bug-Catcher curve into this are all going to be very tough for decks to beat, and White has a bunch of good tricks to keep it alive.
It will be really easy to get a Righteous Blow out of this, which is fine. Get to 2-3 in your party and this destroys almost any attacker or blocker for one mana… not bad!
I think this scales up from Righteous Blow to Divine Arrow well enough and easily enough that I’m happy to have it in most decks.
Pressure Point is a decent cantrip spell, working fairly well in both go-wide and defensive decks. Similar to cycling, cards like this end up finding you additional lands, but with Landfall cards in the format maybe that is a good thing.
This is an okay cantrip, but 2 mana is pretty expensive for those and most decks just won’t have the space. I expect it to be a lot more useful in defensive decks, because beatdown decks would rather just be deploying more creatures and using their mana on something more impactful, but it’s still not that exciting there – it’s a lot like playing a slightly better Revitalize, which has always been a bad card in Limited unless you’re a heavy synergy deck.
This creature is an investment, but I think it ends up being fine in ramp-oriented decks. If you don’t mind hitting 6-7 lands at the top of your curve Prowling Felidar is a really good deal over time.
This starts growing a little too late for my liking, not getting its first counter until turn 5. It’s a bad rate until it gets two counters, which won’t always be possible even on turn 6, so I’m not very happy to play it in most decks. White creatures are really powerful this set too, so I doubt you’ll have to resort to this weak a threat in the late game.
There are much better combat tricks in the format. The equipment ability is so situational I do not see it adding any value to the card really.
This is a medium trick, and while shaving some mana off equip costs is nice, I don’t think it’s a huge upside. It certainly makes it a slightly better trick sometimes, but if we look at the common and uncommon equipment in the set, there isn’t anything with too steep an equip cost or really that high impact, and cards like Skyclave Pick-axe and Cliffhaven Kitesail don’t do much with it.
Sea Gate Banneret
Kind of like Kitesail Cleric, this is a way to get your Party going early and still provide some benefit late. I don’t think it is a very good creature but it’ll make the cut in the right deck.
I could see some go-wide beatdown decks with party synergies wanting this, but the rate is weak enough that I’m not super excited. I think mana sinks are less valuable in a set with spell-lands, and that they perform this role much better because they occupy land slots. This is a low C- and I deliberated moving it down to D+, but there are really a lot of group buffs in White, and 1 drops are the best way to enable those since it doesn’t have any token producers.
This is an example of a card I would count as a land in every deck. Sejiri Shelter is a nice effect, working as a Negate, Indestructible, or even pseudo-unblockable effect depending on the circumstance. Playing this will lead to some awkward decisions of whether to lay it down first turn or hold onto it and hope to draw another land over the next couple turns. This is still a great way to upgrade a land in any deck though.
This is one of the better uncommon spell-lands, because the spell half is reasonably efficient and can be really impactful in the games where you flood, and when you don’t flood you can just play this as a land anyway! I would usually replace a land with this, but in more aggressive decks that will usually want to cast it as a spell, this is a good reason to run 17 rather than 16 lands.
Shepherd of Heroes
I am going to go out on a limb with Shepherd of Heroes and say it’ll overperform in this format. Dawning Angel was a pretty solid core set card and seems like a pretty fair comparison. In the right deck the Shepherd can gain you as much as 8 life. Cloudreader Sphinx tended to beat people down and I think this creature will slot in similarly despite the life gain generally being worse than scrying.
It won’t be hard to make this card gain you 4 life, and at that point a 3/4 flier for 5 that does that is fantastic. I expect this to be a 5 drop you prioritise, because it makes races impossible, is a good threat by itself, and brings you back into games where you’re on the backfoot. The baseline is amazing, but there’s some additional value with the lifegain payoffs in Orzhov too!
This is a really nutty removal spell, because even if they kill it, they’re probably getting a worse card than you exiled – you usually want to save it for their really impactful cards, so a vanilla x/x creature isn’t going to be better. It’s pretty incredible that it hits anything, not just creatures. You do have the option of running it out as a curve play if you need to and staving off aggro by just taking out their 2 drop and delaying them, so overall this is a fantastic card.
I like this one about the same as Sejiri Shelter. They are similar in that you aren’t making an enormous impact with these spells but they are pretty substantial when you consider they cost you almost nothing to play. This fits into a few archetypes as well as a Cleric that gains life on top of being a land when needed.
This is a fine 2 drop when you need it to be, that will stave off aggression really well, and a land when you don’t! Having that versatility is fantastic, and I like taking a lot of these spell-lands highly because they improve your deck for free. With this, you simultaneously can play one fewer 2 drop and can still shave a land – on turn 2, you always have the option of playing it as a creature, but it’ll be a land whenever you need a land. As such, I’m especially excited about this one, and it’s a high C+.
On its worst day Squad Commander is a Daysquad Marshall and the upside here is pretty crazy. This is one of those payoffs that all but reads ‘assemble a full Party and you win the game.’
I don’t think it’ll be hard to get two 1/1s out of this for the most part, and that full party bonus is some game-winning upside! It won’t happen too much but the baseline is so good that I’m always going to be happy to play this. Remember that White only has one Wizard at common/uncommon (Farsight Adept) and no Rogues, so this is a strong pull into Blue, which is the only colour that supports both strongly at common (though it is possible to enable this full party bonus in Green too).
Smite the Monstrous
This will come in clutch sometimes but conditional removal like this can be risky to run in your main deck. It fine to play as filler in bo1 but ideally you have this in your bo3 sideboard.
I think this is a little better in this set than in say M21, since there’s more equipment running around so it won’t be completely dead against other White decks, but it’s still not a high pick and you don’t want to run more than one in the average deck.
This is not a bad rate for enabling an extra Landfall. It doesn’t further any Party synergy but as returning a land is a ‘may’ ability there isn’t much else to dislike here.
In the right deck, this card has the potential to do a lot more than simply give an extra Landfall trigger, since it resets your spell-lands so if you played one in the early game then you’ll have access to the spell late. That’s going to be a lot like drawing a card in the late game, so I’m pretty interested. Still, I’m leaving it at high C for now since it doesn’t benefit your party.
Tazri, Beacon of Unity
Getting a 4/6 for 4 or even 3 mana is amazing, and Tazri has to be answered before enough mana is accumulated to extract all of her friends out of the deck.
Tazri will often cost 3 or 4 for a 4/6, which is a fantastic rate, and then it has this nuts mana sink ability which will usually cost 7 to activate. I think mana sinks are a bit less necessary this format than in most, because the spell-lands are so good at that and kind of occupy the same space, but this one is so good that it doesn’t really matter.
White is definitely continuing the go-wide trend, with most of the good cards here supporting those archetypes. There are some defensive and Landfall oriented cards, but overall White is shaping up to be an Aggro color once again. White also looks primed to take advantage of equipment as its creature stats are looking fairly underwhelming in Zendikar Rising. But, this is likely to make room for Party bonuses upping the power level. It will be really interesting to see how that particular mechanic plays out in this Limited environment. On paper it looks really easy to enable Party synergy and there are some pretty sweet payoffs for doing so. I can’t think of a set in recent memory where it’ll be so important to pay attention to creature types on the board, which is actually pretty cool.
While there are some bombs in the mix here, nothing is too ridiculous. In ZNR White at least will be relying on strength in numbers and assembling a Party rather than relying on individual threats. I am hoping this will lead to interesting board states and intricate combat math rather than a format of going back and forth with big threats and removal, but time will tell. Come back tomorrow and we will take a look at what Blue has to offer!
White has no shortage of strong creatures and party enablers this set, and I like that it has a good mix of aggressive and defensive creatures – I expect to see plenty of good faster White decks, but a lot of its creatures are value-oriented and scale well into the late game, and it has a lot of strong defensive options too. White has a lot of whole team buffs, which lead more in the aggro direction and make some of the defensive cards look worse, and they’ll be easier to slot into your deck because some of them are on spell-lands or on creatures that are reasonable by themselves. On the other hand, White has really a ton of lifegain this set, which means that it’ll also be one of the best anti-aggro colours and racing it will be really hard; it doesn’t have many payoffs, but Orzhov has plenty and it won’t be all that aggressive.
Party seems easy to enable in White if your goal is to only get to two – White only has one common Wizard and no Rogues. It can also be a little awkward that the Clerics are defensive-oriented while a lot of the Warriors are aggressive, so you might be forced to play some suboptimal cards in your decks to eke the most value from the mechanic. Black and Blue are the best colours for Rogues, while Red and Blue are the best colours for Wizards, so I expect White Blue to actually be the best White pairing as a result! Green looks to be a jack of all trades so that can be fine too, but White Black straight up cannot have a full party without the help of Stonework Packbeast (though most of the party cards scale, so it doesn’t matter that much). Your party cards only being half turned on is still good, but getting the extra bonus can be a massive deal in some decks, especially since some of the rares have really powerful full party payoffs. Party strikes me as a really well-balanced and thought-out mechanic for Limited so far, but if it does end up being busted then that will favour aggressive decks since you’ll be curving out into insane Party starts.
Overall, I expect White to be an exceptionally deep colour with a ton of options, and to pair well with every other colour, giving easy access to Clerics and Warriors, and to be one you want to go into a lot as a result. I’m really excited to see how its vast array of synergies and deck options shake up!