M13 Set Review: Blue
White had a fairly mediocre haul in M13, although that changes if I am underestimating Ajani. How did Blue do? I should be quick to point out that how Blue did changes drastically due to the rotation. Talrand, Sky Summoner is a different dude without Phyrexian mana spells, but we’ll get to that.
Archaeomancer: The fixed Snapcaster Mage? I like getting my spells back, but I am not going to pay four for a Regrowth, even if there is a 1/2 body attached to the deal. I am especially not going to pay that during my main phase. No deal. Yes, I know this is a cheaper Izzet Chronarch, I do not care.
Arctic Aven: A 3/2 lifelink flyer for three isn’t bad, but I think we can do better. Actually, given Geist of Saint Traft, I know we can do better. Sorry Aven, not your fault, you did your best. A long time ago you would have been awesome. Now, you’re only fringe playable.
Augur of Bolas: I will be playing four of this fish in pretty much all of my Blue decks post rotation. It isn’t quite Ponder, or Preordain, and sometimes it will whiff, but if I can somehow run 24 or more spells in my deck I’ll hit over 79% of the time. That’s a pretty good ratio. That’s going to be harder to do without 12 cantrips, but I think I’ll find a way to make do. Getting a 1/3 blocker (beater!) is a pretty nice bonus. Heck, even in the rare times when I whiff, I’ll still get some return on my investment. This fish just screams value. In some ways he is the fixed Snapcaster Mage, not Archaeomancer.
Battle of Wits: Impossible to shuffle. Difficult to resist. It was never my thing, but Godspeed to all of you who wish to reprise Vizzini.
Clone: Holy balls, you mean you’ll actually have to pay four mana legend rule Geist of Saint Traft or copy my Thragtusk? Good! Phantasmal Image was sick and I won’t miss it. In all seriousness the interaction between Phantasmal Image and Thrun was an embarrassment. Clone at least plays fair, which is not the way to dominate tournament Magic for two years.
Courtly Provocateur: Um… ok, if you’re into that kind of thing, have fun. I’m moving on.
Divination: You know, since we no longer have any countermagic, this being a sorcery isn’t the problem it used to be. On the other hand, it is still main phase card advantage that sacrifices tempo. I think I’ll prefer my card advantage give me a 1/3 blocker, or some other kind of tempo gain/board presence.
Essence Scatter: Poor Essence Scatter. Negate is laughing its ass off at you. You took the bullet aimed at Mana Leak-Snapcaster Mage. Sorry. At least you’re still great in draft. Yes, I know that’s no consolation. It is going to be a long year.
Addendum: Not everyone plays Cavern of Souls. Plan accordingly.
Fog Bank: Just be glad it doesn’t have hexproof. It’ll shut down Exalted for about 15 second before you Pacifism/Oblivion Ring/Divine Verdict it. On the plus side, it might piss of Green decks until they find the one removal card they were able to splash.
Harbor Serpent: Pretty sick stall-breaker in Blue-on-Blue draft matches. Otherwise, just another slow fatty. It would amuse me if someone had some sick sideboard tech in Constructed where they used Cavern of Souls naming Serpent to wreck other Blue decks.
Hydrosurge: Um… okay.
Index: You mean I’m supposed to get card disadvantage when I manipulate my library? Who knew! Since there are no combo applications right now, this is only useful if you are planning to cast some Miracles. Even so, the fact that you can’t toss the chaff to the bottom of the library means this is exceedingly narrow.
Addendum: I was too kind. This is awful and is a sign that WotC wants to apologize for the 19 land Blue decks we’ve been able to play.
Master of the Pearl Trident: Did it take him 18 years to show up? What has he been doing all that time? Anyway, this is a strict improvement over his friend Lord of Atlantis, and a boost to the various fish decks floating around the power formats. I don’t think there are quite enough fish in Standard, but perhaps there will be more in Ravnica. (Point of fact, there are no Merfolk in AVR or Innistrad).
Negate: Insofar as we have countermagic, it is Negate that will have to carry the load, with some help from Dissipate. Sorry Rewind, even with Restoration Angel we do not pay four mana to counter target spell without drawing a card. Given the potentially backbreaking Bonfires and Lotuses Negate will be doing work in Standard.
Jace’s Phantasm: It is pretty hard to end up with 10 cards in your opponent’s graveyard if you aren’t actively trying to get them there. To pump an opponent’s graveyard you can use Thought Scour and Mind Sculpt, but that seems inefficient. Jace, Memory Adept can do so in one fell swoop, and if you don’t have a Phantasm in play at the time, can simply draw you a card instead. Of course, that is still a lot of work just to pump a 1/1 flyer. I like the Phantasm thematically, but it isn’t anywhere near as threatening as Delver of Secrets.
Addendum: Apparently Sword of Body and Mind is a card. Who knew?
Kraken Hatchling: A sideboard card to keep you from being swarmed? That is the upper bound.
Merfolk of the Pearl Trident: Not good enough, even with their Master present.
Mind Sculpt: Don’t let someone get seven of these for their draft deck. It won’t be pretty.
Omniscience: Is the plan to put this into play with Show and Tell, and then go insane with Griselbrand? Worst case scenario, you get a Griselbrand directly? I guess the real worst case scenario is you lack any backup, but in that case you just wait. Omniscience will do some bad things; I’m just not sure what the best shell is. I can tell you it won’t be paying retail for Omniscience.
Addendum: Maybe not, this is actually a great deal worse than Dream Halls.
Scroll Thief: It seems amazing today that Ophidian was once a powerful card in Standard. Scroll Thief is great if you can get it through, but that’s the rub. Maybe with islandwalk, maybe with Spectral Flight. More likely not at all.
Spelltwine: OK, let’s game this out. I discard a broken spell with Wild Guess. I cast Spelltwine. Now, how do I win the game? I can’t count on my opponent having anything useful. I can’t find any spell in Standard that has the requisite power level, unless you count Worldfire with me controlling a Thragtusk. I’m sure Spelltwine will be broken eventually, but it might be safe right at this moment. Of course, paying six mana to win the game isn’t that broken to begin with, especially if you need to do some setup first.
Stormtide Leviathan: Is Leviathan worthy of inclusion in a reanimation deck? Griselbrand is the clear first choice, and there are various Angels battling for the backup slot, along with a new Wurm. We’ll see, this does provide a Moat and is unblockable. I’m going to try this out in Frites and see how it plays.
Addendum: Nah. People just bounce/steal this, and Dragons ignore it.
Talrand, Sky Summoner: Shine brightly Sky Summoner for these are the halcyon days. Resolve Sky Summoner, without passing priority cast Gitaxian Probe, get a Drake. If they attempt to kill Sky Summoner try to save it with Mutagenic Growth, or at least shoot something with Gut Shot. Woe is an opponent who lets you untap with Talrand. Of course, after the rotation spells will cost mana again, and Talrand will be “fair”. Well, fair-ish, untapping with him is still going to be very good, but that will be harder without Mutagenic Growth. For now, enjoy going absolutely nuts.
Talrand’s Invocation: Oddly enough, while Talrand is much stronger pre-rotation, post rotation putting two 3/3 vigilance flyers into play for four mana isn’t the worst thing in the world. Also, please pass me many of these in draft. Thank you.
Tricks of the Trade: While this is pretty silly on a Geist of Saint Traft, Invisible Stalker already has the hexproof-unblockable combo pretty much covered. BTW, who thought Invisible Stalker was a good idea? Just curious.
Unsummon: I understand Vapor Snag is strictly better, but don’t mock Unsummon. It absolutely laughs at Exalted, and if you need spells to keep Augur of Bolas and Talrand, Sky Summoner working, Unsummon is excellent. Heck, sometimes you’ll be using Unsummon on Augur and Talrand, and then Vapor Snag is strictly outclassed. Funny how that works. Also, perfect flavor text.
Vedalken Entrancer: Yes, I will look to get a few of these in my Blue draft decks. Inevitability is a good feeling.
Void Stalker: Sure, it is slow removal, but you still get a 2/1 for 2 mana. It is splashable, but sadly, is not a merfolk. Oh well. It isn’t exactly a great card, but if you are looking for two drops to fill out a Blue aggro list, this should be something you at least consider.
Watercourser: Meh. I guess if I am hurting for three drops I’ll grab a few of these. I’ll probably need to, since I’ll need something to hold the ground, and trade with some of the Green men I passed.
Welkin Tern: Two power, splashable, evasion. That’s a solid package for two mana in what looks to be a fairly slow draft format, at least compared to what we are currently dealing with.
Wind Drake: I’ve never liked Wind Drake. White is used to getting two power flyers for two mana, so Drake just always seems outclassed. I’ll play it, but it isn’t a high pick, especially now that there will so many drake tokens just waiting to trade with it.
White has had a rough M13, losing its control elements, but that is nothing compared to Blue. Post rotation Blue is going to lose Mana Leak, Ponder, and the “free” spells from New Phyrexia that helped make Delver so powerful. I’m not going to say that Blue is in trouble post-rotation, but only one of the top eight decks from the last four ISD Block Premier tournaments were Blue. Oddly enough, it ended up winning. In any event, if ISD tournaments are good predictors, get ready for a lot of Green. We’ll see. Ravnica will have something to say about the new metagame, as will Thragtusk and Thundermaw Hellkite. Long story short, Blue might be in a bit of trouble even with Augur of Bolas. Then again, Blue has proven pretty resilient, and Geists are still an option, so I guess we’ll just see, won’t we?