Welcome back to another set review here on TCGplayer.com! As always, I am Conley Woods and I will be your host as we traverse the multiverse and examine all things Oath of the Gatewatch. All week long we will be looking at each and every card from Oath of the Gatewatch as we analyze just how good said cards might be in various formats.
For Battle for Zendikar, you may remember that we changed up our review style a bit and decided to focus primarily on Standard, or Constructed at the very least. We are always trying to improve here at TCGplayer though and the demand for Limited ratings was pretty high amongst commenters and readers. So, while we will not be doing a written review for Limited rankings in Oath of the Gatewatch, we will be giving them ratings based on the same system we have always used and the official Limited scale for Wizards of the Coast.
So, for each card, expect a Constructed rating with an explanation on where that card might see play or some non-obvious interactions using the card. Then, there will be a Limited rating giving you some idea of the value the card has in Draft or Sealed. Without context, this won't be a perfect system, but hopefully it creates a happy-medium for those players looking to gain an edge in Limited.
Once again, we are going to roll out a new scale that more appropriately accomplishes what we are looking for. Our review will focus first on Standard applications of the cards and then make nods to Modern and Eternal formats when it makes sense. Here is what we will be working with:
5 - These are true Constructed all-stars and will define one or more archetypes in loud ways or will simply be everywhere as their power is nearly unmatched in a format. Current examples of this include Siege Rhino, Thoughtseize, and Hangarback Walker.
4 - These are less defining than fives but are very close in power level. These tend to be the bread and butter of most Tier 1 Constructed decks. Examples include things like Sylvan Caryatid, Languish, and Stoke the Flames.
3 - These are powerful cards that tend to be more niche than the higher ranks, or are more utility-based. In general, when you go to start a Constructed decklist, you naturally begin with fives and fours as they grab our attention, but threes come in to fill in the cracks afterward. Examples include Anafenza, the Foremost, Soulfire Grand Master, and Satyr Wayfinder.
2 - These tend to require very specific environments or decks in order to have success, but they can still be very strong. Additionally, sideboard staples tend to fall in this category. I generally rate wacky cards that I am not exactly sure of in this space too. Current examples include Minister of Pain, Lightning Berserker, and Revoke Existence.
1 - This includes everything else. That is to say most cards that won't see any Constructed play fall here or the ones that pop up very infrequently for very minor jobs (usually out of the sideboard).
And then here is the Limited scale we will be referencing:
5.0: I will always play this card. Period.
4.5: I will almost always play this card, regardless of what else I get.
4.0: I will strongly consider playing this as the only card of its color.
3.5: I feel a strong pull into this card's color.
3.0: This card makes me want to play this color. (Given that I'm playing that color, I will play this card 100% of the time.)
2.5: Several cards of this power level start to pull me into this color. If playing that color, I essentially always play these. (Given that I'm playing that color, I will play this card 90% of the time.)
2.0: If I'm playing this color, I usually play these. (70%)
1.5: This card will make the cut into the maindeck about half the times I play this color. (50%)
1.0: I feel bad when this card is in my maindeck. (30%)
0.5: There are situations where I might sideboard this into my deck, but I'll never start it. (10%)
0.0: I will never put this card into my deck (maindeck or after sideboarding). (0%)
And with that, let's move on to the cards!
This style of Counterspell, the Force Spike with upside, pops up every once in a while and very rarely is considered for Constructed play. Three mana is just too much to hold up, especially when your opponent needs to tap down for this to be effective. Nice bonus with the 1/1 Scion, but very unlikely to make an impact in Standard. Enjoy the Limited blowouts though.
Constructed: 1Limited: 2.0
Horned Turtle is doing some work these days! While it is very hard to convince me to run this in my maindeck, there are certainly matchups or environments where I want these in my sideboard as a defensive measure. Typically decks without a lot of removal, such as blue/green are going to be the ones looking at this the hardest.
Constructed: 2Limited: 2.0
Blue is actually not used to getting Constructed-rate tappers too often. While tappers always make a splash in Limited, they tend to need to be really cheap to be consider in Constructed and this one limbos under that bar nicely. The colorless activation can be a hurdle, but I would not be surprised if this saw play, especially in sideboards. Basically does the job of Ancient Crab but better most of the time.
Constructed: 2-2.5Limited: 3.5
So here we have Inspiration with upside, which is pretty important considering how bad Inspiration is these days. Saving a full mana via surge is a pretty big deal as you can reasonable expect to Counterspell something and then draw two cards at the end of the turn. If that doesn't happen, you can still just fire this off for two cards EOT regardless. I don't expect this to be hugely popular, but it might find its way into a control deck or two.
Constructed: 2Limited: 2.5
At three mana, this is completely unplayable and even at one mana, the effect needs to be justified, which is difficult to do as it only "works" on a creature that was already tapped or will be soon. I can see this being played, but I am not sure where as most colors have better removal than this.
Constructed: 1-1.5Limited: 2.0
Crush of Tentacles
One of my favorite cards from the new set as it is both very flavorful and very powerful. We have not had an Upheaval of sorts in the format for quite some time, so it will be interesting to see exactly how this gets abused. If you are looking for ways to enable the surge, cheap permanents with enters the battlefield effects are interesting. Oath of Nissa is a great example here and Faerie Miscreant might be my favorite dream:
4 Oath of Nissa
4 Faerie Miscreant
4 Sidisi's Faithful
4 Elvish Visionary
3 Nissa, Vastwood Seer
4 Crush of Tentacles
Constructed: 4Limited: 4.5
Blue will occasionally get these very specific mana producers that only work with artifacts or colorless stuff or morphs. In order for these mana dorks to actually see play, it really comes down to how strong that theme is in Constructed. Grand Architect was quite strong while Qarsi Deceiver has seen no play. Colorless stuff is gaining in strength and this at least has a body to do something with when it isn't making mana, so I can definitely imagine a world where it sees play.
Constructed: 2Limited: 3
This is a cool take on the awaken mechanic, but the rate of a 3/4 flier for five mana combined with only getting this ability upon death is probably too much of a bad parlay to really consider this. It does provide some sweeper protection, but the upfront body is so bad that your opponent probably gets the advantage out of this until it dies and returns some of that investment. Certainly not useless, but I just don't see any competitive deck needing this effect.
Constructed: 1Limited: 3
This card is very intriguing to me as its triggered ability essentially has haste. If you can play this to a board with a bunch of small creatures, this might just draw you two to four cards immediately and then whatever this manages to do is just a bonus. I personally want to combine this with From Beyond, as it both supplies a bunch of creatures, but also can tutor this up, meaning you don't need to run four of an otherwise clunky six mana 4/4. The unblockable clause is secondary to everything else, but is a nice touch of utility added to the card.
You can actually pair this with white or red for awesome synergy as well, I just have an unnatural obsession with From Beyond so...
4 Hangarback Walker
3 Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
4 From Beyond
4 Whirler Rogue
2 Deepfathom Skulker
1 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
Constructed: 2.5Limited: 4.0
Well, that is certainly a textbox... A 2/1 flash flying creature for two mana is already worth considering in certainly situations but this comes with a very strange, albeit useful, ability. You gain the bonus of being able to exile opposing cards, which is useful, but then you also gain an ability to save your 2/1. This isn't the most reliable ability in the world, but it can definitely come in handy, especially with a bunch of mana at your disposal. I am interested to see where this picks up play.
Constructed: 2.5Limited: 3.5
Gift of Tusks
We have seen similar effects to this in the past, but this one kind of bridges the gap between Pongify and Turn to Frog. A 3/3 for a turn can be worth casting on your own creature occasionally, but more often than not, you are probably looking to hit an opposing creature and then cast Radiant Flames or something to deal with its new, smaller body. In general, decks are going to want removal that works on its own, but this might see a little play.
Constructed: 1.5Limited: 2-2.5
This is the type of card that is specifically added to a set to smooth out Limited and be an incentive for something. Paying four mana for a 2/3 flier in Constructed with very minor upside is just not where you want to be.
Constructed: 1Limited: 3
Grip of the Roil
This card is kind of weird in that I only ever want to pay the surge cost on this, because three mana is a bit much, but I also don't find the difference in cost worth setting up for surge. That means this card is only worth it when it happens to come together and that is not the kind of thing you want littering your Constructed decks.
Constructed: 1Limited: 2
What? Alright, I will admit that this card is intriguing, but it also seems like a total pain in the ass to get online. The base cost of three makes this pretty unappealing as just a scry machine as you need to put five mana into it before getting any sort of payoff. So if you want to run this, let's assume it is with winning the game in mind.
The best single card to set this up has to be Intuition, as it puts two copies in the yard and one in your hand, but it is hard to see this being great in Eternal formats. Winning the game is enough upside that someone will probably do something with this, but it is hurting my brain trying to figure out what that is.
Constructed: 2?Limited: 0
Jwar Isle Avenger
This card obviously harkens back to Illusory Angel but gets a -1/-1 in exchange for being a more reliable top deck in the late game. For Constructed, that hurts the card quite a bit as you build your deck with the goal of surging this in mind. I still think this is borderline playable, but the end result of a 3/3 for three mana is not a great payoff.
Constructed: 1.5Limited: 3
One of the most reliable Counterspells of the last five or so years gets reprinted once again. Noncreature spells are something every deck seems to run thanks to planeswalkers alongside your normal fare. This will continue to be one of the most sideboarded blue cards in the format.
Constructed: 3-3.5Limited: 2
Oath of Jace
The enters-the-battlefield ability on this is fine, although, by itself, does not provide you any card advantage. The name of the game when it comes to Jace's Oath is card selection though. Filtering out a bunch of lands and then scrying them away after makes this excellent in the late game or, for the very opposite reason, excellent in the early game. My favorite part about this Oath is that it rewards you for Walkers already cast, or for ones you cast in the future, which is not true for any of the other Oaths which all need to be in play before you begin casting Walkers. I have a spicy Superfriends list I have been working on, but will wait till a little deeper in the Oath cycle before spoiling the whole thing. Right now, I wanted to take a quick inventory of the planeswalkers in Standard:
Chandra, Roaring Flame
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
Jace, Telepath Unbound
Kiora, Master of the Depths
Liliana, Defiant Necromancer
Nissa, Sage Animist
Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
Ob Nixilis Reignited
Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
Sorin, Solemn Visitor
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
That is actually quite a solid group and from a first glance, Temur Walkers looks pretty sweet!
Constructed: 3Limited: 1.5-2
This is a strict upgrade to Last Word which, while fairly weak, was once the talk of the town. The upside of saving half of the mana on this is quite real though and makes this really strong in counter wars while already being good against decks running countermagic to protect their threats. I imagine this will see play in Standard, but it seems best in environments where its surge is more likely to matter, such as combo decks like Splinter Twin.
Constructed: 2.5-3Limited: 2
Prophet of Distortion
I love one-mana 1/2 creatures and this one just so happens to have an excellent ability attached to it. Drawing cards for four mana is a pretty standard going rate which makes me want to explore this in some big mana blue decks in the way that Azure Mage saw play back in the day. This is especially good at fighting control decks out of the sideboard. Once your opponent has you on few or no creatures, this is more likely to come in, live, and draw you some number of cards, almost like a Planeswalker might.
Constructed: 2.5Limited: 2.5
This card is super sweet, but also super expensive. While I expect many a blowout to occur in Limited, it is hard to even imagine a deck abusing this in Standard or any other Constructed format as seven mana is just so much.
Constructed: 1Limited: 3
Slip Through Space
I am always a big fan of these cute little combat tricks. I remember playing Shadow Rift back in the day in Vintage to sneak my Quirion Dryad through for lethal while replacing itself and giving me an extra counter. The card was sweet and this is almost strictly for what it wants to be used for. I can certainly see some deck building up a huge-power creature and then going for lethal with this, even possibly in Infect decks.
Constructed: 2Limited: 1.5
Sphinx of the Final Word
This is quite the anti-control package for seven mana. This comes down without a way to be interacted with once it hits the stack and then dodges all spot removal. Edicts and sweepers are real, so it is not as though this is invincible, but you had better be prepared for it. If it lives, expect any control-on-control match up to be essentially over. This might just be for sideboards, but big hexproof creatures tend to see play. Imagine this in the sideboard of Esper Dragons, for example.
Running this in the maindeck is a little more risky as, if your opponent is not planning on countering or killing this, you are paying a lot of mana for a couple of abilities that you are not actually using. Seven mana for a 5/5 flier is not a great deal, which makes me think the board is the most likely place for this to rule.
Constructed: 3Limited: 4
This card is pretty much tailored for Limited where a three-mana Unsummon is acceptable and Time Ebb is almost too strong at times. In Constructed however, you really want to get the Time Walk that Time Ebb can be before even considering this, although the added versatility isn't bad. It is possible that midrange decks become weak to this effect and it sees some sideboard play as a result.
Constructed: 2Limited: 3
This guy is a pretty nice build around in Limited, but in order to make it work in Constructed, you basically need to be all colorless and want your exiling enabler to avoid combat. Those are real concerns and a 2/4 flying body is not exactly something to write home about, but there are certainly decks that can be built that want this effect and can take advantage. Niche, but interesting.
Constructed: 1.5-2Limited: 3-3.5
Blue gets a vanilla prowess creature that is actually kind of aggressive. While I don't think vanilla prowess creatures are going to start seeing play, this does suggest a good trend for the mechanic as, if we see some more creatures with reasonable bodies plus prowess, blue might just pick up a new trick.
Constructed: 1Limited: 2
Unity of Purpose
This is a pretty interesting card to think about. In Limited it will often just be a combat trick that catches someone off guard, but in Constructed, it can be a combo card or a trick. In general, the +1/+1 counter deck has not included blue, but if there is some mana to be generated, this might find a cool home.
Constructed: 1.5Limited: 2.5
Dissipate as a devoid spell is pretty cool as it works well flavorfully and mechanically. There are quite a few devoid Counterspells at this point but this one is likely to be the best, being both a hard counter and enabling processors. Expect this to see more play than Dissipate, but its play won't spike until Dissolve rotates and there are no viable alternatives.
Constructed: 3Limited: 2.5
Well, that is it for our first color of the week! Blue did not get too many obvious Tier 1 cards, but it did get a lot of cards that fill very needed roles in specific archetypes. It will be really interesting to see what kind of play Oath of Jace sees but the same is true for Crush of Tentacles, Dimensional Infiltrator, and Deepfathom Skulker. Brewers, get to work because there is something awesome beneath the surface!
Tomorrow we will be back to take on the black cards from Oath of the Gatewatch as well as the artifacts from the set so be sure to come back as we continue our set review! Until then, thanks for reading!