Hi Friends! This is part 2 of my constructed set review. Please check out part 1 as well! I also dropped a “Hot takes for Filthy Netdeckers” article, in case you having a hard time figuring out where to start in ranked.
★★★★★Total rock star – either a headline card in a one of the most popular decks, or a common inclusion in multiple high-level archetypes. Tier 1 decks are built around these cards. Examples: Sandstorm Titan, Harsh Rule, Oni Ronin
★★★★Popular but not as powerful – either a common support card in popular deck or an important inclusion in a tier 2-3 deck. Very good in the right situations, but sometimes they just don’t fit in the metagame, or are simply one of the less exciting inclusions in major decks. Examples: Cirso, Deathstrike, Sword of Icaria
★★★Tech and/or Niche: maybe this is a powerful card without a home, or maybe it is a niche role player that sneaks up in the right situations. The best deck builders will know when to use these, but do not expect them on ladder every day. These are often in competition with other cards for limited space. Examples: Sabotage, Crownwatch Cavalry, Thunderstrike Dragon
★★ Long Shot: Some cards are powerful, but cost a lot. Some are do-nothings that could fit into weird combo decks. Some cards are largely there for the memes and end up getting showing up in some fringe decks. All those cards get 2 stars! A lot of these cards are actually 1s or 4+, and but are too difficult to predict at the moment. Examples: Crown of Possibilities, The Last Word, Sporefolk
★ Unplayable: I do not expect these cards to see play. Either there are better options, or the stats:power ratio is just how high enough. Many commons made for draft land here. Examples: Xenan Guardian, Forge Wolf, Mithril Mace
★★★”When I grow up I want to be a cultist!” I am going to say that “Cult Initiate” seems like a better name to me, since I don’t the most people ‘aspire’ to be in a cult. They want to be devoted/religious to a cause that happens to be a cult. Then again, what do I know about being a cultist? I should be more accepting. The card will certainly fit into any aggressive slanted lifeforce deck, which looks viable. There are going to be some games that this cute little cultist will totally dominate starting on the first turn.
★Teleport saw very limited play, and that was in tempo style decks that valued both the offensive capability and the ability to save your own units. This card is not good enough.
★★This is really low impact, but I suppose it could find a home into a tokens or Shimmerpack style deck. “Scry 1” (an MTG term for the “look at your top card…” mechanic) is not incredibly powerful, but it is also not nothing. In a world where people have happily played 4 Talir’s Favored I am not going to count this out. He also synergizes well with Warp, so I could see him fitting into the Forge deck.
★ Is this supposed to be a mono-time card? Is there a combo I am missing? This is just a pseudo-5 drop that is a giant idiot right? This card confuses me, but I am pretty sure it is bad, and will hold that belief until proven otherwise.
★★★ This is the first ramp card that we have encountered, and I will admit now that I am really not an expert on these types of decks. That being said, I think this has the potential. Mystic Ascendant + Power + Forgotten Find on turn 8 is 3 cards, which is a lot. Turn 2 Sporefolk into Turn 3 Forgotten Find means you can have 6 power on turn 4. We clearly have the issue of how you get these power into the void, but I think it is worth it? If this card isn’t good enough now, it might be worth revisiting in the future if we get more discard outlets/enablers.
★★★ A 3/2 for 2 doesn’t really need much help to pass the threshold of playability, and this has an excellent little bonus. I expect any lifeforce heavy deck will want him, and he will be fine but not outstanding (but what are we really expecting from our 2-drops?). I expect every Ketra deck will play 4.
★ I gotta say – what’s wrong with your face? Certainly limited playable, but we are not talking about that right now, and I can’t think of reason to actually want a card like this.
★ For Sandstorm to be good you need to be playing a deck which plays 4 Sandstorm Titans, and still needs anti-flyer help, or a deck that wants help with flyers and doesn’t want Sandstorm Titan. It is hard to imagine either of those situations are actually common.
★ It is very hard to imagine playing a deck that wants 1/3s for 2 and that charge is the ability you want with your 1/3 for 2. Art is also misplaced in my opinion. This nice lady is sitting and reading on the mountainside, and she is the only mono-time unit with Charge? I’m confused.
★★ I’m starting to get the impression that the Xenan are not the ‘good guys’. Predator’s Instinct obviously saw a lot of play, but costing 1 was a massive feature in the Killer’s deck. Sequences like Conduit > Power >Instinct was a powerful tempo play (or burn spell) and the fact this spell costs 2 is an important drawback. Still, it is close enough to a card that is probably a 3 star card that I am going to give it some credit.
★★ This is a combo with Crystalline Chalice, and could be a win condition in a unit free control deck. Still, this is incredibly slow, so I am not optimistic. There may be other sacrifice synergy decks I am not considering. Better than most of the Ring cycle.
★★★ If Forge decks are a thing, I feel like this is a nice roleplayer in that style of strategy. Forge doesn’t work out, Familar is probably not good enough to make it. This will probably be a 1 if that deck doesn’t turn out.
Evelina, Valley Searcher
★ There are enough dinosaurs and explorers to make a deck, but I am struggling to figure out how this is much better than Ageless Mentor. The problem with Dinosaurs has never been there lack of “bigness”, but rather their lack of interaction and speed. I would love to be wrong on this, but Evelina seems bad.
★★ Though this could get there in the Lifeforce aggro deck, I imagine there are just better options. Just play another removal spell or something, because the floor of 2/2 for 3 is pretty embarrassing, and you need 2 trigger her twice for her to start being attractive.
★ Overwhelm eh? What a weird choice. Cost reduction like this is especially interesting when the units cost relatively little since you can power out multiple units a turn. Overwhelm tends to be on larger units. As I have said elsewhere, I am not really interested in ramp decks of the most part, so maybe I am missing something, but this card seems bad to me.
Edit: apparently I was missing something. Jarboe pointed out to me that this applies to everything with overwhelm, and not just units. Obliterate and Stonescar Maul both work! And if you have a Stonescar Maul equipped, now all your damage spells cost 1 less! I still don’t think that make it any better than 2 stars, but I wanted to point all of that out because it is a very interesting wrinkle, and there might be more potential than I had originally thought.
★★ This feels like a bad Valkyrie most of the time, but there is going to be some Time deck that desperately wants Silence, and this will be passible. There is a world in which most Xenan and Praxis decks play 1 or 2 Curators, but that feels unlikely. If you really want to Silence stuff, Combrei is still a legal deck to play.
★ This card doesn’t get into ranked. It has situations where it does a lot, but that is few and far between. Not interested.
★★ I remember the camp physician from back when I was a kid. Always bossing me around and stopping us from having fun! Never liked her. Of course she was also my mother, so that might have biased my opinion. Moral of the story is that this card is probably too low impact, but has some potential in the Forge decks if those end up being good.
★ The drawback on this card is pretty substantial, and Time has no shortage of good 4 drops. If you need to play this card to make the dinosaur deck happen, you probably should find a different deck.
★ Darude called, he wants his space in the deck back. I hope that Striped Aratodon apologizes for what he has done, because Darude can get…surly when disturbed.
★ Viper’s Bit be interesting if it cost 2. It costs 2 more than that. Not today!
★★ Ramp on a body is interesting, but this is overcosted from where I am actually interested. Maybe it fits into this mythical Xenan ramp deck, but I doubt it.
★ It is hard to give any card with warp a straight up 1 star review in a world where Forge decks could end up being busted, but this is really lame. If you are forced to play this crap, the Forge deck is probably just not good enough.
★★ This seems like a part of a hypothetical Strangers deck, but if it does exist, this is the kind of card it needs. Still, this is fragile, so I am not excited about the archetype, but I am sure someone will only
Swarm of Humbugs
★★★ Almost every card that generates multiple bodies has seen major play, and this fits right intoany Xenan Obelisk decks. Shimmerpack players have often debated on what 5-drop fits best into the deck, whether they should include Twinbrood Sauropod, Lumen Defender, or just overload on more 4s like Praxis Displacer. Some number of Swarm is better than any of those. The competition is tighter at 5 in Praxis, but this is still a worthy consideration. Not a blockbuster card, but it fills an important hole.
★★★ 3/4 for 5 is certainly not an exciting stat line, but this card is probably closer to playable than many people realize. Imagine a Combrei, Praxis, or Elysian tempo deck that used this as a counter to Harsh Rule, or just a way to muck up the opponent’s curve. I could easily be wrong here, and the stat line is just too pathetic to get anything done, but Slow on a body is certainly worth testing.
★★★★ If these Forge decks are a thing, Waystone Infuser will certainly be a part of it. The value of a card like this is heavily predicated on the power of the rest of the Forge deck. This could also slot into a Vodacombo deck, where she will be an acceptable roleplayer.
★★★★ Becky has a great body and a solid ability. She is also versatile, since there are so many sources of incidental healing in the card pool. Although Becky isn’t an all-star, she will certainly show up in a number of lists at least as a 1 or 2 of.
★ Pack Hunt has gotta be like the 10th best pump effect in Time. It is hard to imagine that this is better than some of the many alternatives. Just stick with Obelisk.
★ This Forge deck needs to be a lot different than I am expecting for Plated Golaith to be a consideration. Probably just a worse Twinbrood Sauropod.
★★ This card interests me. How many stats do you need from a card like this for it to be interesting? The card is extremely awkward in some respects. This is the sort of spell you want to cast before combat right? Well in that case all your lifesteal units can’t really help. But are you going to cast multiple spells before playing a 6 drop? That seems unlikely too. The ceiling is still absurd. Giving your whole team +3/+3 or better before attacking is probably just game winning, but that is not going to happen very often. Overall this feels like a long shot, but I will not count it out given that potential.
★ The lifeforce tokens deck is fine without something like this, and it certainly doesn’t have any other homes, so I am not interested. Would need to be about 4 cost to interest me.
★★★ I want this card to be good so badly. This is probably not for the Forge decks, but could very easily fit into the Praxis or Elysian stompy decks. I have said elsewhere that I want 7 drops to do something when it comes into play, and this fails that test when you are playing it from your hand, but it actually passes when you are playing from your deck. High cost cards with warp are particularly difficult, since they are much more situational just as a function of their cost. Still, I think this card is worth exploring, even as a 1 of in any big Time deck.
★ Belching Behemoth would be very interesting at 5 or 6, but this is obviously wildly overpriced relative to that. I would love to be a fly on the wall when this name came up in DWD. I’m not sure why this is belching, but I will take it.
★★ There are a strange combination of issues with this card, such as being a pseudo 4 or 5 drop, as well being very conditional. I could see it stealing a couple slots in a Xenan Lifeforce Tokens type deck, but I feel like there are just better alternatives most of the time.
★★★ This may be a bold take on this card, and I know I have a bit of a weakness for small deadly units, but this thing is really annoying! It wears equipment well, is is a great roadblock for something like a Hooru Skies deck, and it can fit very well into the Ketra decks as it becomes really obnoxious if it is able to grow even a little bit. Certainly not an all-star, but I expect to see it around.
Ayan, the Abductor
★★★★Not quite at the same level of some of the other cards in this cycle, but this guy is still a total baller. Sometimes he will be eating up 2/1s and such that are attacking. Sometimes he will be enabling Lifeforce (even as a surprise). Sometimes he is a 3/3 + an 8/9 for 12. It is very hard to give any 3-drop that dies to Torch and Suffocate 5 stars, so I am limiting this to 4 stars, but he is great by almost any other metric.
★Though I like cards that are good both early and late, I feel this is a bit too inefficient on both fronts for me to actually be interested. It also doesn’t contributed to the lifeforce synergies of the tokens deck, so he also just doesn’t have a meaningful home.
★★★I expect that I am higher on this card than some. Teleport was underplayed in set 1 in my opinion, and this has a lot of upside over a card like that. Silence mitigated many of the downsides to Teleport since summon abilities are often so good. A treachery for 3 is not outstanding, but it will certainly come up! Still, this is clearly a card with serious diminishing returns, so I expect 1 or 2 is the right number most of the time.
★★★★ This should probably be a 1 or 2 of in every Xenan deck. It is almost always better than the 4th Deathstrike or Annihilate. Obviously not an outstanding card because of its limitations, but it will certainly see a lot of play.
Ketra, the Devoted
★★★★ Ketra basically gives birth to the Xenan Lifeforce Tokens/aggro archetype all by herself. There are a lot of games she is going to take over. I am already imagining some sick curves of Oasis Seeker into Ayan into Ketra. This deck feels very Snowball-y, since it is like Warcry but all the advantages you gain are on-board. I worry that cards like Leave a Witness are going to dump on durdly Time decks, but when there is an opening I expect Ketra will make her presence felt. This flavor here is also great. Plays into a really dark troupe that I am totally here for.
★ 4 is really just too much for this. Sure it synergizes with lifeforce, but you really need to effect the board on turn 4. Overcosted scheme is just not good enough.
★ I can this of a lot of cards that are better than this that do not see play. Just play another removal spell or something. Xenan is not this desperate for lifegain sources.
★★★ I have been eyeing the start of a Xenan tokens deck between some of the Lifeforce, and the Xenan Obelisk. Compared to the Elysian and Praxis tokens decks it looks to have slightly better sustain. This might not turn out, but Invoker could also fit in as a value card in a wide range of midrange decks. His popularity will ultimately be dictated by the number of sweepers and the speed of the format. He has a chance though!
Mask of Torment
★ I am generally not a fan of ramp strategies, which might prejudice me against this card. I still don’t think the ramp pay-offs are good enough. Unlike other 1 star cards, this is probably worth testing, but I am not going to be the one to do it.
Champion of Mystery
★ This is basically just a 7/7 for 6. Hitting TTTTTT or SSSSSS is just not going to happen in the average game. I am not looking for big dumb bodies for my 6 drops. If Reality Warden isn’t good enough, I can’t imagine how this would see play.
★★I have some issues with this name/ability/art match. Determined is +1/+1, Battle-tested is +2/+2, but the Prophetic stranger is +3/+3? The guy in the art doesn’t exactly look like a brawler either. Anyway, if I gave Battle-tested stranger 2 stars I feel this guy deserves the same grade. Strangers have certainly got some interesting new tools, but they are probably still not good enough to be taken seriously.
★★If this is supposed to be the payoff for Xenan ramp I just don’t get it. If you are able to attack with her she still isn’t a game winner, and there are about a million removal spells that just take her out no problem. I wouldn’t even play this is more reanimator decks even if the TTT was free. I give 2 stars because it is powerful, but for a legendary 9 drop this is awfully close to a 1 star card.
That is all for Time and Xenan! Be sure to check out the Fire/Praxis section if you haven’t already, and my Hot Take Decklist article if you are looking for something to play, and comment on Reddit about how wrong I am about everything! Next up – Justice and Hooru!