Welcome back to day four of our Oath of the Gatewatch set review here on TCGplayer.com! I am Conley Woods and all week long we have been taking a card by card look at Oath of the Gatewatch and today we will continue with that trend, moving on to the green cards as well as the lands from Oath of the Gatewatch. Tomorrow we will be moving on to all things white and colorless, as well as finishing things up with my Top 8 cards for Constructed.
As we have discussed throughout the week, our review focuses on Constructed and the Constructed applications of each card, but this time around we are also adding Limited ratings to help out in your release events and Drafts in the coming weeks. To help us out we will be using the following pair of scales throughout the review:
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).
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 main deck about half the times I play this color. (50%)
1.0: I feel bad when this card is in my main deck. (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 (main deck or after sideboarding). (0%)
And with that, let's move on to the cards!
I can appreciate the cycle here being fleshed out more, although the flying that white got is substantially better than trample in this case. Still, green three-power creatures for two mana always have a chance at seeing play based on aggressive stats alone. The +1/+1 counter deck with Avatar of the Resolute has been popping up every once in a while and this could fit into a similar shell.
Constructed: 2Limited: 2-2.5
This card is all sorts of beefy with seven power and six toughness across three bodies and the ability to regenerate on top of that. Unfortunately, a mana cost of seven means this is competing with the likes of actual Standard powerhouses that win the game, so don't expect much outside of Limited with this Hulk.
Constructed: 1Limited: 3.0
Bonds of Mortality
I will admit that this card rubbed me the wrong way when I first read it. The set of abilities it has is so strange on top of being a cantrip. I suppose Ground Seal is the best comparison and that was a Vintage playable card back in the day. This card does directly attack strategies like Boggles in Modern or any crazy Standard brew using hexproof as its primary source of protection.
Constructed: 2Limited: 1.0
Craw Wurm is rolling over in his grave right now.
Constructed: 1Limited: 1.5
This card is very unique and is hard to compare to anything as a result. I will note that the complexity here at common is a bit much for my taste, although for Constructed, that doesn't matter much. This gives green a hasty source of damage which can be crucial for taking down planeswalkers or supplying lethal out nowhere.
The blocking clause might be where this is most unique though. Green is not used to getting removal, especially in this package. This gives them a way to take out those turn two Jaces or even a Mantis Rider that was played on turn three. I can't imagine this is go-to removal, as most decks touch other colors these days, but this is likely way more playable than it first seems
Constructed: 2.5Limited: 2.0
Embodiment of Insight
Vigilance to your lands is certainly better than trample as Embodiment of Fury showed us yesterday. The key difference, however, is that this costs a full mana more, making it a worse landfall creature and in all likelihood, pushing it out of Constructed, even with a few extra points of toughness tacked on.
Constructed: 1.5Limited: 2.5-3
This is a pretty interesting fatty as it isn't so much about what it offers you itself, but rather what it can do to your team, kind of like an awkward Craterhoof Behemoth. This effectively anthems your team and then offers you a bunch of life on the ensuing alpha attack should any of those creatures die, which is a fine dream to sell. My issue is where do you play this? It is not actually good against aggro as it is a seven-drop that needs other things going right to even gain you life. It isn't good against control because all of your small stuff is either dead, or this is getting countered. Against midrange, I would rather play something like Birthing Hulk that brings bodies with it and is resilient.
So if you can find a place for this, I am sure it will do work, I just don't know where that place is.
Constructed: 2Limited: 3.5-4
This card is quite the beating in Limited where a four-mana 4/5 can take over a game when cast early enough, but that same set of stats is something you expect to get in Constructed, usually with upside, which this does not come with. If you can figure out a way to make the sacrifice beneficial, such as in a Rally deck, perhaps this is worth the squeeze, but if you are playing this in any fair way, it probably just isn't quite strong enough.
Constructed: 1.5Limited: 3.0
Lead by Example
Double Battlegrowth (although it must go on two creatures) is a heck of a lot more interesting than Battlegrowth for Constructed, though I wonder if it is good enough, even for the +1/+1 counter decks. Compare this to Abzan Charm, which is three colors, but gives you four times the versatility of this and is just way more maindeckable, especially with the solid mana in Standard.
Counter-dependent decks might play this to supplement other sources of +1/+1 counters, but I can't see it going much further than that.
Constructed: 1.5Limited: 2.0
The easiest comparison to make with this is Treefolk Harbinger which has three toughness and often found Forests. The big difference is that Harbinger could find a Doran or a Nameless Inversion when it was needed. Loam Larva ensures you will have mana (and any color of mana at that), but you pay the price of running a 1/3 for two mana with no real late-game application.
If you are a green deck that needs assistance against aggro, I can see this being reasonable, but it doesn't seem powerful enough to run in your sideboard, so if this pops up, it will be in small numbers I would assume.
Constructed: 1-2Limited: 2.0-2.5
This is quite the card. If you go back through the formats, the cheaper removal tends to be played, even when it comes with small drawbacks, as the speed of these formats and mana efficiency is so important. You see this with cards like Swords to Plowshares, Path to Exile, and Dismember. All of these drawbacks are seen as minimal sacrifices in order to gain the awesome power of cheap removal.
Natural State does not come with the same obvious drawback, but instead comes with targeting restrictions. Basically, if you feel like the majority of targets for this are three mana and under, you should be running this over alternatives. If you want to be taking out expensive stuff, such as Lodestone Golem or Leylines, you should probably turn to Nature's Claim, but the fact that both of these exist and you have some choices is overall a great thing.
For Standard specifically, this is going to see some sideboard play, especially if cards like Jeskai Ascendancy pick up play again.
Constructed: 3Limited: 1.0
Constructed is probably a bit away from playing a 2/3 reach for three mana. This does have the ability to take out Ojutai or Thunderbreak Regent, but that involves this living and getting a successful block in. I don't like running that parlay, especially with stuff like Plummet in the format.
Constructed: 1Limited: 3.0
Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
Yes! A three-mana green planeswalker has been something I have been craving for quite a while. It kind of sucks that we get this one in an environment with no viable Llanowar Elf replacements to push this out on turn two, but even with that taken into consideration, this is still pretty awesome.
First of all, it protects itself through plant production, which is an important part of the card as you can cast it into an opposing creature with some assurance of it living. The middle ability might be straight off of Ajani Goldmane, but that ability was the reason Ajani was so strong in black/white tokens back in the day. Putting it into green gives you a way to pump up all of your early mana producers or maybe just turn an army of scions into something a little scarier for the opponent.
Nissa's ultimate is certainly strong, although it's difficult to ever put too much weight into such a thing. All that matters is that it puts enough pressure on the opponent to be perceived a threat so that when I put my fifth or sixth loyalty on this, you begin to get nervous and search for an answer to green's newest 'walker (which I think it does just fine).
Constructed: 4Limited: 4
This is quite the package on a single card. So basically, we get that double Battlegrowth from before, but at sorcery speed. Then, we look at every one of our creatures that has a counter on it, and they all cast a Fall of the Hammer on a single opposing creature. All of that is cool, but putting it on a five-mana sorcery is likely too much for this to break out of Limited.
Constructed: 1Limited: 3-3.5
Oath of Nissa
This might be the strongest of the Oath cycle as it is only a single mana, it works in decks without any planeswalkers just fine, and it gives green a quality source of card selection that they typically do not get this cheap. Some call this the green Ponder and while I don't see it being that strong, it does offer a similar sort of utility. It also has the brilliant ability of fixing your mana should you be playing with a lot of planeswalkers (list below). While this will often just be trinket text that does nothing, some amount of the time it will be a big deal and you can't expect too much from your one-mana card. This also combos nicely both with surge and bounce spells like Crush of Tentacles
3 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
3 Nissa, Vastwood Seer
4 Oath of Nissa
4 Wild Slash
4 Oath of Jace
3 Crush of Tentacles
3 Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
2 Kiora, Master of the Depths
2 Sarkhan Unbroken
1 Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
1 Ob Nixilis Reignited
3 Chandra, Flamecaller
1 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
Constructed: 3.5-4Limited: 2.0
Pulse of Murasa
This card is surprisingly strong, at least in my opinion. A card that gains you six life at instant speed is something already worth considering as a sideboard card against hyper-aggro, namely red decks with burn. This brings Regrowth to the table along with that six life, meaning you don't even give up card advantage in the process.
With fetch lands in the format and likely a cheap creature that came down and attempted to block (or blocked!), you should not have much trouble making sure you have a target for this when you need to cash in on that six life. I expect this to be a high impact sideboard card, kind of like a slightly weaker green Timely Reinforcements.
(Note: you can hit an opposing graveyard if you are absolutely desperate to do so.)
Constructed: 2.5-3Limited: 1.5-2
Ruin in Their Wake
So, I certainly misread this card the first five times I saw it. Originally, I thought that if you grabbed a Wastes with this, it would come into play tapped, even if you already did not have a Wastes. That would still be a big downgrade from Rampant Growth, so it made sense. The reality, however, is that you need a Wastes already in play in order for this to actually accelerate you.
Yes, you can grab Wastes with your first copy to make sure future copies are Rampant Growth, but the power of Rampant Growth rests on turn two when it accelerates you and is difficult to interact with. This needs to parlay a Wastes as one of its first two lands in order to mimic the same output and as a result, this should be significantly weaker and much less played.
I do find this playable still, it is just much more niche than I originally thought. For now I have left this out of my red/green ramp lists, but as the mana base evolves, it might sneak back in.
Constructed: 2-2.5Limited: 1.5
I had to think about this card a few times before determining it not a great Constructed card. You see, a 5/3 for four mana is actually pretty decent, but this is actually a 3/1 that needs two other creatures to bring the same power and toughness to the table. When that does happen, this is probably acceptable, but it's every other time you cast this that it looks a little embarrassing.
Constructed: 1Limited: 2.5
Comparing this to Call the Scions, we trade an extra power and toughness for one less potential mana. I don't think that is a tradeoff that is worth it in Constructed, although in Limited this is probably a bit better. Catacomb Sifter is so much better than this when it comes to a deck like Rally, but maybe that list wants a fifth or sixth copy of the effect.
Constructed: 1.5Limited: 2.5
This card is actually pretty sweet. The big power for this hides in its death trigger, but even up front, a 3/4 reach for four mana is not actually that bad. While that size creature would not see play without any upside, it certainly is not embarrassing once it actually hits play. But again, the power of this lies mostly in its ability, so let's talk about it.
First of all, it is important to note that this sees itself in the graveyard, meaning this should get you a 1/1 as a worst-case scenario. But now think about this in a deck like Rally or perhaps some new shell that self-mills a bunch. This card acts as a solo threat that can put a giant elemental into play, acting as sweeper protection, or perhaps just comboing with a sacrifice outlet to put a ton of power into play at the end of your opponent's turn. I am a big fan of graveyard strategies, so allow me to start a shell for this thing:
4 Nantuko Husk
4 Fleshbag Marauder
4 Seed Guardian
2 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
4 Grave Strength
2 Evolutionary Leap
4 Gather the Pack
2 See the Unwritten
This shell needs small creatures to feed to our engine, but it looks like an interesting new take on a sacrifice shell.
Constructed: 2.5-3Limited: 3.5
This is actually a pretty reasonable take on a Modern day Rootwalla. A bear as the base size is much better than a Grey Ogre and this pumps for only a single mana, which is not bad at all. Becoming a 3/4 for two mana plus a tax is quite formidable. The test with this is that you need a mana base that supports cheap threats plus has access to colorless. If one of those decks emerge, like a devoid Zoo deck if you will, expect this to be included.
Constructed: 2.5-3Limited: 3.0
Alright, while the Drone was a strong two-drop with niche applications, this is a strong two-drop period. A 2/3 vigilance for two mana is already worth talking about, especially in green. This then goes all Scute Mob on us and becomes not only a 4/5 vigilance himself, but also helps out any land creatures you might be working with. You probably need to explicitly be playing land-into-creature synergy to take advantage here, but there are some solid options like Ruinous Path and Scatter to the Winds.
Constructed: 3-3.5Limited: 3.5
Spined Wurm is rolling over in his grave right now.
Constructed: 1Limited: 3
This card really intrigues me. I was a big fan of Caller of the Claw when I saw it and this plays very similarly. You get a bigger base body for the cost and the option to pay for the trigger or not, which is nice, although spending one more total mana certainly makes keeping mana up for this a little tougher.
Still, a deck like Rally the Ancestors, or some new sacrifice shells that are gaining a lot of tools, could easily play this card, and to good effect.
Constructed: 3Limited: 3.5
Vines of the Recluse
This is quite the tricky little combat swinger. One mana normally gets you Giant Growth, which is a big boost, but this turns something that had no chance of blocking - whether that is because it was tapped or because it was on the ground - into a surprise blocker. I don't think this has a lot of application in Constructed other than being a cheap spell (for surge and such), but be sure to not drop your guard in Limited!
Constructed: 1Limited: 2.5
Ahh, finally we have arrived at the new bad boy that will be joining Dust Devils. Acidic Slime has not been in Standard for a while, a fact I am very sad about, but this does a pretty excellent job of replacing it, at least in ramp. Combining this along the same curve as Crumble to Dust and then topping out at Ulamog gives Dust Devils a significant land death package while maintaining good internal synergy and being fairly versatile.
Oblivion Sower gets to take all of those lands and cast them under your control, which will be getting even better with a bunch of new creature-lands in the set.
Constructed: I give this a perfect 5/7... (or a 4, whichever you prefer)Limited: 3.5-4
This card seems like a hoot for Commander, where you tend to have more time to set this kind of thing up, but making your Mana Flare cost seven mana does not excite me all too much for Standard. That said, this is an engine that can dig through your deck, so I suppose I would not be too surprised if it was broken at some point.
Constructed: 2Limited: 1.5?
Cinder Barrens / Meandering River / Submerged Boneyard / Timber Gorge / Tranquil Expanse
These are fairly old school as they just enter play tapped and have no abilities. That makes them fairly bad in Constructed as there are so many alternatives that come with bonuses, like turning into a creature, or gaining one life. That said, enough fixing could dry up that a deck turns to these as a one or two-of to cement their color fixing.
Constructed: 1.5Limited: 3.5
This card is very strange but also very playable as it is supported so heavily in this block. That red/black aggro deck I proposed this week would certainly play this card as a four-of and many of the black/green sacrifice shells I have seen probably would as well. This might even be enough fixing for Grixis-drazi to finally be a deck. Also very key that this is able to produce colorless mana while off duty.
Constructed: 3Limited: 2.5
While I don't know if this card will see a ton of play, it does have some interesting niche applications and in many ways plays like Tendo Ice Bridge did (albeit, with less flexibility). If you have a deck that wants access to colored mana, chances are good that the colorless only option after the fact is unappealing, but some Eldrazi lists or decks playing Sea Gate Wreckage might want to opt into that. This also gives you immediate mana in situations you normally wouldn't, such as off of Primeval Titan or Scapeshift, so that could be used in some cool way eventually.
Constructed: 2-3Limited: 3.0
I have seen many people upset with this as they feel it is low power level. While it is true that a 2/2 is weaker than most of these, the upside of deathtouch turns this into more of a removal spell than the rest. Your opponent can no longer send his 4/4 over without worry while you sit with this up. It also manages to sneak past defending creatures that are unwilling to trade, making it decent at pressuring planeswalkers.
This should see some Modern play as well as significant Standard play. Be sure to pay attention to your opponent's mana base before attacking!
Constructed: 4Limited: 3.5-4.0
This card is a bit of a head scratcher as it clearly has some cool potential, but I also want to figure out what best utilizes it. Playing it in control as a Fork makes a lot of sense, but being an extra copy of some awesome creature doesn't sound bad either. I suspect few decks will run four copies of this, but many decks will run a copy or two if they have the room and enough sources of colorless mana for this to work.
This is an interesting land to produce colorless mana with too, should that be something you are interested in.
Constructed: 2.5Limited: 4.0
A 2/1 double striker is actually quite a big game as it acts like a four-power creature on offense while holding off anything with two or less toughness on defense and then trading with anything up to four toughness. Additionally, this plays really well with anything that pumps lands, such as anthem effects or Sylvan Advocate from earlier today.
Red/white aggro should especially appreciate having some reach from their lands as that sort of archetype can run low on gas in the late game and this goes a long way toward preventing that.
Constructed: 4Limited: 4.0
Ruins of Oran-Rief
Originally, I was very excited about this card as I thought it was a colorless mirror to Oran-Rief, but upon further inspection, I realized that this only ever works on one creature at a time, which is a huge knock on power level and greatly Tempers my excitement for the card. It is possible that this would have been too strong with scions in a world where it pumped everything, but I think this nerf will limit the amount of play this sees rather drastically. It is still a land that generates a spell-like advantage, so I am sure someone will play it, I am just a little bummed.
Constructed: 2.5Limited: 4.0
Sea Gate Wreckage
I think this is my favorite of the new spell lands as I always have a fond love of tomes, even when they have a restriction on them. This land might prove to be the biggest reason people intentionally include other colorless sources in their deck (to be able to activate this) and I do think that is kind of cool.
My ramp decks will be using some number of these, as that is an archetype where you quickly empty your hand and then every draw can make or break the entire game. Expect this to also see play in control and plenty of other places as well.
Constructed: 3.5-4Limited: 4.0-4.5
While this may have been updated with a spiffy new symbol on it, this is still the same Unknown Shores that has been printed before and has consistently seen no real Constructed play. Being a source of colorless mana is probably the biggest boost this could have received but I imagine other options, like Crumbling Vestige, are just going to be more attractive.
Constructed: 1Limited: 3.0
Many people were kind of disappointed in this land and while I will admit that it looks reasonable as a three-cost activation instead of four, this is still a land that defends well and attacks well and you have complete control over which of those you want to be doing. This will never die to something like Lightning Strike as you can always switch it to four toughness, let the spell resolve, and then go about your way, just be sure to not switch it back until the following turn (As the damage stays on it)
This will probably see less play than the other creature lands but it is still pretty awesome.
Constructed: 3Limited: 3.5
The biggest upside to this being printed is that colorless Commanders, like Karn, now have a basic land to run so they don't need to play 35 individual colorless lands and can now do things like activate Wayfarer's Bauble.
In Standard and Modern, this will see play as much as it needs to. That is to say that if you are running a deck where Wastes is needed, such as Ruin in the Wake, or where colorless mana is needed and you have a way to fetch Wastes, you will probably run some number of them.
That said, Wastes is usually going to be worse than the nonbasic options that produce colorless mana, such as Sea Gate Wreckage.
Constructed: 2-2.5Limited: 3
Green was rather impressive, at least from this one player's point of view. Not only do they have some awesome cards that inspire me to build new decks, like Sylvan Advocate and Seed Guardian, but they also have a lot of utility cards and cards to help out existing archetypes like Oath of Nissa and Natural State. I expect green to pick up a lot of play with the new set as it seems like one of the best colors to interact with colorless mana, like getting an awesome new Rootwalla for starters. Expect plenty of updates to various ramp decks coming from me in the next few weeks.
Tomorrow we will be back to finish going over Oath of the Gatewatch, This means the white cards from the set as well as all of the colorless stuff. Additionally, we will wrap up everything with my Top 8 cards for Constructed and then send you off to your local release events! Until then, thanks for reading!