Welcome back to day three of our Oath of the Gatewatch set review here on TCGplayer.com! All week long we are taking a card by card look at Oath of the Gatewatch, rounding out the week with my Top 8 cards for Constructed! Thus far we have already covered black, blue, and the artifacts from the set and today we will be moving to the red cards as well as whatever multicolored cards are found inside Oath of the Gatewatch,

With Battle for Zendikar, we made a conscious effort to focus heavily on Constructed and, specifically, to take a bit of a brew-centered approach to the set. As a result, expect a lot of deck ideas or even decklists scattered throughout the review. There was an outcry for the return of Limited ratings though, so you can also expect every card to be accompanied by one of those as well. To help us out, we will be using the following two scales:


Constructed

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).


Limited

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!


Red

Akoum Flameseeker

We may have moved to another color, but the cohort mechanic continues to let me down. The outputs on these have just been rather boring considering how much you have to give up to gain the ability. Tapping two of my creatures to reverse loot is asking a lot which is saying something considering you already asked me to play an otherwise vanilla 3/2 for three mana.

Constructed: 1
Limited: 2.0

Boulder Salvo

This is mostly just a Limited card, though I did try to reason it under surge cost, but even then you are paying twice the mana of Flame Slash and had to do work to even get that price. Stick to Lightning Strike

Constructed: 1
Limited: 3

Brute Strength

While this is no Titan's Strength, it could still see some play in aggressive red decks as a fringe "combo" piece, if you will. When combined with Become Immense you gain nine extra power which makes trample a much more attractive keyword to pick up.

Constructed: 2
Limited: 2

Chandra, Flamecaller

I might have the most experience in the entire world with playing the previous six mana Chandra with competitive goals in mind. After failing miserably at Pro Tour San Juan, running four copies of Chandra Ablaze, I can say with some certainty that Chandra, Flamecaller is quite a bit better. All three of her abilities are able to be used immediately and they all are pretty solid.

Against control, a planeswalker, or an opponent low on life, making a pair of Spark Elementals is quite the threat (yes, I know they don't trample).

Against aggro, this offers you up to a four-point sweeper immediately and maintains that presence should you be safe for now.

And then, any time you have a turn or two of nothing going on and need to find some gas, filtering your hand into a new one is a pretty nifty ability to have at your disposal.

Six mana is easily the worst aspect of this card but I think it offers enough versatility and enough board impact that something will want to play it, if not many things.

Constructed: 4
Limited: 4.5

Cinder Hellion

While this seems like a powerhouse common for Limited, it really has no home when it comes to Constructed. Too slow and weak for aggro and it doesn't provide anything that a control deck would want.

Constructed: 1
Limited: 2.5-3

Consuming Sinkhole

No one is a bigger fan of blowing up lands than I am, but while this card might be the most literal land death card ever printed, it is also highly situational. Standard could reach a point where many decks were running ways to make lands into creatures and you might sideboard this, but the situation seems rather rare.

Constructed: 1
Limited: 1.5

Devour in Flames

This card won't see any traditional play as a removal spell under normal conditions, but it very well might see play in decks that can use the picking up of a land to their advantage. That includes decks that utilize landfall or that could use looter fodder for something like Jace. Some decks will just need a cheap way to kill 'walkers out of the board as well, so this might see a surprising amount of play.

Constructed: 2
Limited: 3

Eldrazi Aggressor

Well, they really went into the tank on naming this one, didn't they? Name aside, this looks fairly harmless and could prove to be, but haste creatures in the devoid aggro deck are pretty awesome as they act like burn spells for a deck with access to few of them naturally. This is not an amazing rate, but with other creatures boosting it, I could see it being played in linear lists.

Constructed: 2
Limited: 2.5

Eldrazi Obligator

I think this guy does a better job of this role than the morph version did in Khans. For five mana you get a Threaten and a hasty 3/1 that hopefully had some synergy with your deck. I would certainly play this in the sideboard of a red/black devoid aggro list, but a copy or two could also make the main as late game reach.

Constructed: 3
Limited: 3

Embodiment of Fury

I am very interested to see if this actually makes it into any of the landfall aggro lists as its passive bonus is relevant and its landfall ability works as a pretty nice finisher. Between Devour in Flames and this, I want to revisit red/green landfall once more! This is rather rough and doesn't account for things we have yet to see, but I like where this is going, especially with a heavy helping of fetch lands.

4 Scythe Leopard
4 Snapping Gnarlid
4 Makindi Sliderunner
2 Nissa, Vastwood Seer
4 Undergrowth Champion
4 Grove Rumbler
2 Embodiment of Fury

4 Swell of Growth
4 Atarka's Command
3 Devour in Flames
2 Temur Battle Rage

Constructed: 2.5
Limited: 3.5

Expedite

This is one of those cards that you might not know a specific home for right now, but you can be sure will be tried in more than one deck. This is so cheap and replaces itself that it is almost a freeroll to run when things go bad, but can be an amazing card when things go right. Whether you are supplying your giant landfall creature with haste for a stealthy kill, or using it to combo with Become Immense, this is not a card to sleep on.

Constructed: 2.5-3
Limited: 1.5

Fall of the Titans

Before I talk about this in Constructed, let me quickly note that if you have this in any two-headed giant event, PLAY IT! You will win. That is all.

In Constructed, this actually looks rather promising. Getting double value for your X cost from a traditional Blaze effect is absolutely huge and that is before factoring in the instant speed which makes this something worth considering even in control. This also pairs very well with rituals, should any pop up to use with it.

Constructed: 3.5-4
Limited: 4.5

Goblin Dark-Dwellers

I mentioned wanting to see a Constructed playable card with menace and I think this does that. When played in the fairest way possible, this will often be Flametongue Kavu which is not a bad place to start. Once you start spicing up your spells and include things like Kolaghan's Command, Abzan Charm, Crackling Doom, or even Hordeling Outburst, then this card just looks more and more awesome. Just putting this into a Goblin Token deck looks pretty sweet.

4 Goblin Dark-Dwellers
4 Dragon Fodder
4 Hordeling Outburst

Constructed: 3-4
Limited: 3.5-4

Goblin Freerunner

This card has an interesting tension where it is pretty excellent when cast for its surge cost and beyond mediocre when hardcast. If there are enough good one-drop enablers for this in goblins, I would like to take a second look at it, but I worry that the dream is too rare here. We will take a look at goblins in a second.

Constructed: 1.5-2
Limited: 2.5

Immobilizer Eldrazi

While it is difficult to know just how useful this can be, the typical pattern for defensive creatures or creatures designed to beat aggro is higher toughness than power. Off the top of my head, this includes things like Arashin Cleric, Dragonlord Dromoka, Siege Rhino, Wingmate Roc, and Jaddi Offshoot. Turning off a big part of those cards' effectiveness is huge upside and a 2/1 for two is passable. Let's start updating our black/red list from yesterday.

4 Reaver Drone
4 Sludge Crawler
4 Hangarback Walker
4 Forerunner of Slaughter
4 Bearer of Silence
2 Immobilizer Eldrazi
4 Dominator Drone
4 Wasteland Strangler
1 Eldrazi Obligator
4 Dust Stalker

3 Complete Disregard

This looks interesting. Although we are hardly at the most competitive angle we could be, I like The General look. I wish Sludge Crawler were a little better.

Constructed: 2.5
Limited: 3

Kazuul's Toll Collector

This card is sweet. This is one of the cards I want to brew around the most because it offers so many crazy scenarios. Most decks do not interact with equipment in their maindeck (or at least very much), so if you manage to pile a bunch up, play this, haste him up and protect it, you can have some pretty epic turns. I would list these as the top five equipment to try with this card that are currently in Standard.

Captain's Claws
Ghostfire Blade
Sword of the Animist
Strider Harness
Sigil of Valor

Constructed: 3-4
Limited: 2.0 + 0.5 per two Equipment

Kozilek's Return

This is one of my favorite cards from the new set and I will be taking advantage of its strength often. The strength of this comes in two parts. First, a Pyroclasm, especially at instant speed, tends to fight the types of decks that can give ramp or big creature decks trouble. Having a giant monster in play on turn four or five isn't as strong when you're in single digits and your opponent has five creatures out.

Once it has done its initial job of buying you time and getting you to the mid game, it then comes out of the graveyard to clean up whatever second wave your opponent had. Their Siege Rhino and Wingmate Roc are going to be taken out when I cast Ruin Processor or Ulamog and then I can safely close the game out. Even if the opponent just had a second wave of the same small creatures again, you often want access to a second sweeper, so just having any sort of flashback adds consistency to what we want to be doing. Expect this to replace Radiant Flames in my Dust Devils list.

Constructed: 4
Limited: 4

Maw of Kozilek

Even at max stats, this is hitting for only six damage and exposed at one toughness with no way to gain it back in the event of damage. Not a bad creature, but just not offering a Constructed deck anything special or exciting.

Constructed: 1
Limited: 3.0

Oath of Chandra

I have not yet gotten to play with this Oath, but despite having some strong abilities, it seems like it might play weird. The first ability is pretty strong as removal and most decks want that, but control decks probably make the most sense for such an ability, especially once synergy with planeswalkers is introduced. That is where the trigger from playing Walkers gets a little weird, because it goes to the opponent's face, which is not really a quality that control is interested in, save for going after opposing walkers.

I am sure some decks will use this, because it has enough going on for a cheap cost, but I feel like only aggro will want everything going on here and they tend to play less planeswalkers, so this might go without a great fit for a while.

Constructed: 3
Limited: 3.0

Press into Service

I am generally a big fan of versatile Threatens, such as the Eldrazi Obligator above, but this one really doesn't do much beyond being a five mana Threaten. Sure, you get a couple of extra damage out of it, but I would much rather spend two less mana or get a 3/1 body in the process.

Constructed: 1
Limited: 2

Pyromancer's Assault

This card is very weird and I love it. I am not actually sure of how viable it is as an engine or win condition, but I know I want to try it. Surge is a pretty fun mechanic to mess with anyway and it seems like a deck trying to play two spells would primarily consist of cheap spells and cantrips. Looking at Standard, I am not sure enough of this exists for this to be a viable deck just yet, but I also have a lot of hope as the idea seems really fun.

Constructed: 2
Limited: 3.5

Reality Hemorrhage

Shock for two mana is something that is already playable, albeit not very exciting. Making it devoid helps ensure it finds a home as any deck caring about devoid spells or colorless spells can get bonuses from that fact. I wish this exiled things it killed, as that would be way more useful, but still a fringe playable burn spell.

Constructed: 2
Limited: 3

Reckless Bushwhacker

Now this is a goblin with surge that is worth talking about. First of all, a three-mana 2/1 haste goblin is something that is not embarrassing, especially with Piledriver in the format. With surge we have Goblin Bushwhacker all over again, only it's easier to cast. You always cast something else on the turn you Bushwhacked anyway, as you wanted to take advantage of haste.

Paring this with something like Goblin Piledriver or Dragon Fodder on turn four is nasty. Even just getting your Goblin Glory Chaser renowned on turn three is solid. Here is a rough start to Goblin Tokens, with a more aggressive approach.

4 Goblin Glory Chaser
4 Goblin Piledriver
4 Mardu Scout
4 Reckless Bushwhacker
2 Goblin Heelcutter
2 Goblin Dark-Dwellers

4 Dragon Fodder
4 Hordeling Outburst

Constructed: 3
Limited: 3

Sparkmage's Gambit

This is a neat sideboard option for aggressive decks against opposing aggressive decks, or even midrange decks. I have run cards like Burning Earth in the sideboard of my 17-land red decks because I need a cheap way to take out tokens or win the mirror. Gambit limits the number of X/1s you can kill to just two, but the upside is that if they happen to have something bigger out, you can still render it useless on blocking duties for the turn.

Constructed: 2
Limited: 2

Tears of Valakut

This card looks like it might be a sideboard all-star, depending on what the metagame calls for. This takes out stuff like Ojutai after it attacks even when the opponent feels like it's safe behind a wall of countermagic. Dragonlord Silumgar, Thunderbreak Regent, Mantis Riders, Butcher of the Horde, Drana, Liberator of Malakir, and Wingmate Roc are a few of the things this might be fighting against. Also quite a strong option in Modern and possibly even Legacy.

Constructed: 2.5
Limited: 1.0

Tyrant of Valakut

This dragon is essentially unplayable at its seven mana price tag. You just can't spend that kind of mana on a vanilla 5/4 flyer unless you are in the most dire of situations and then you would rather it be just about anything else. The surge cost and bonus are quite good on this, but that does mean you always need to be casting another spell along with this in order to be playing a reasonable card.

I think this has a nice best case scenario, but most decks will avoid the hassle and play a more reliable win condition.

Constructed: 2
Limited: 4.5

Zada's Commando

It is rather unfortunate that this card costs two mana as that is the spot in the curve where goblins need the least help. A 2/1 first striker for two mana with a bonus upside and not one, but two relevant creature types, is still a fine contender for Constructed though. This might be played in some ally deck for its ability and rate, or goblins on rate alone.

Constructed: 2
Limited: 3


Multicolor

Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim

Well, everything about this card is pretty attractive. Up front you get a 2/3 for two mana with deathtouch, which means a creature that is relevant throughout the game. The value does not stop there though. This has a nice life gain ability tacked on which is probably mediocre when not built around, but can be devastating when your deck expects this ability to come online. Once you hit enough life, this turns into Utter End on a stick which takes over games.

Naturally, I go to Soul Sisters in Modern which is a deck that can hit 30 life already and often splashes black for the likes of Lingering Souls as is, making this a really interesting addition. This takes out Tarmogoyf and holds back all sorts of creatures on size alone and can take over a long game while protecting you against most incoming threats.

Constructed: 3
Limited: 3.5

Baloth Null

While Gravediggers tend to not excite me when it comes to Constructed, most of them don't draw you two cards back. This feels like a one-of in lists that do a lot of tutoring, such as Birthing Pod lists or ones featuring Chord of Calling, as grabbing this post-sweeper and reestablishing control with a pair of Siege Rhinos again is a pretty big game.

Oh, and as if it needs mentioning, good luck beating this thing in Limited.

Constructed: 2
Limited: 4

Cliffhaven Vampire

Really quickly, allow me to clarify this card. This does not make your opponent lose life equal to the life you gained, but rather is locked in at one loss of life every instance you gain life. So if you gain one life, they lose one life, and if you gain ten life, they lose one life. Also note that all combat damage is dealt at once, so multiple creatures with lifelink only trigger this a single time.

Now, with that mess out of the way, you can probably conclude that this is not the strongest card. A 2/4 flyer for four is underrate and the ability lacks a little punch to really excite me. If this had lifelink or scaled with the amount of life gain, then I would be on board.

Constructed: 1
Limited: 3.0

Flayer Drone

Now this is the kind of spice I was looking for in our devoid aggro shell. A 3/1 first striker for three mana is quite the formidable creature on offense, as almost all opposing two- and three-drops are going to be unable to block this, and the ones that can risk being blown out by a Shock plus the first strike damage.

4 Reaver Drone
4 Sludge Crawler
4 Hangarback Walker
4 Forerunner of Slaughter
4 Bearer of Silence
2 Immobilizer Eldrazi
3 Dominator Drone
3 Wasteland Strangler
4 Flayer Drone
4 Dust Stalker

3 Complete Disregard

Between haste and a ton of loss of life effects, this deck has the amount of reach you would expect from a black/red deck while still being very linear. It is possible that we want Reality Hemorrhage in here as well.

Constructed: 2.5
Limited: 3.0

Joraga Auxiliary

This is intended to be a Limited "bomb" at uncommon if you will. Taking over the game late with multiple activations at six mana a piece is a realistic thing when the board stalls out and neither player has a ton of removal. That situation just does not come up often in Constructed, making this mostly an overpriced 2/3.

Constructed: 1
Limited: 3.5

Jori En, Ruin Diver

Color me intrigued. Any cheap source of card advantage, particularly a Tome of sorts, is going to catch my attention. This card most reminds me of Sygg, River Cutthroat, which had a similar sized body and asked for a once-per-turn threshold to draw you cards. I think Jori more naturally fits into a control strategy, which is nice, but it does require two colors which restricts where it can see play.

Putting this into your Jeskai midrange decks is rather promising though as they tend to want to grind down opposing life points while backing that with card advantage. Keep in mind that if you cast two spells on your turn and two spells on your opponent's turn, you will net two cards out of this per turn cycle, which is a nice way to maximize value here. This plays particularly well with surge and prowess, so expect some interesting brews to incorporate this.

Constructed: 3
Limited: 3

Mina and Denn, Wildborn

This is a pretty strong player in the landfall deck I suggested earlier, as well as potentially just being good in ramp. A four mana 4/4 is decent as-is and the extra land ability does let you ramp with this, assuming you have the resources. The land bouncing ability is great in aggro for its ability to keep your landfall triggers happening even without lands coming during your draw step, and even ramp won't mind giving trample to an Ulamog or World Breaker when they go on the offensive.

Mina and Denn don't do any one thing great, but they do a lot of things well and that will probably land them a few deck slots. It can replace Embodiment of Fury from the above landfall deck pretty easily.

Constructed: 2.5-3
Limited: 4

Mindmelter

Well this is quite the strange card. For our three mana we get a Phantom Warrior, which is certainly Constructed playable under the right conditions. But then, tacked on to this Phantom Warrior, is the ability to have the opponent exile cards from their hand, like a mini Karn of sorts. That is a rather powerful ability to randomly have, even if it does cost four mana to activate. The sorcery speed clause keeps this in check, but I can still easily see some Eldrazi deck using this. Additionally, it might be some sweet tech in control mirrors as it comes in once most removal is gone and then attacks the opposing hand and planeswalkers!

Constructed: 2
Limited: 3.5

Reflector Mage

This is some cool technology to see on a card. I am not 100% sold on its viability in Standard, as Man of War and its descendants don't always find a home due to being kind of niche. The fact that this does lock the creature out for a turn, especially in the late game where they often have the resources to simply redeploy it, is absolutely huge. Aggro decks can use that time to attack twice past whatever huge monster was supposed to be there.

I think that tempo strategies are going to love this being printed. Now it's only a matter of putting together a framework where this makes sense. Here is a fairly budget blue/white fliers build that uses Reflector Mage in its disruption package:

DECKID=1258358

Constructed: 2.5
Limited: 3.5

Relentless Hunter

This might not be made for Constructed, but it has a chance to squeeze itself Into the Fray. A 3/3 for three with upside is not going to be the reason you build a specific deck, but it might be good enough to fill in the cracks when it turns out you are short on three-drops.

Constructed: 1.5
Limited: 3.5

Stormchaser Mage

For those of you that don't know, Wee Dragonauts is actually my favorite card ever, so this card makes me smile as it was certainly made in Wee's image. This one is actually much more playable as haste plus a mana being shaved off of the cost are both real nice. It is true that this doesn't explode for as much damage as Wee Dragonauts, but I still think it will see more overall play, mostly due to haste and being able to supply surprise damage.

Constructed: 3
Limited: 2.5-3

Void Grafter

Well, ok then. I am sure this card will blow me out in Limited and Constructed at some point. I'm so sure of it in fact, that I have just gone ahead and added both situations to my bucket list. Bring it on! A 2/4 flash creature for three mana is hardly terrible. This eats all sorts of random things like mana elves that think they are getting in a free point of damage or an aggressive deck's entire first three turns of plays! The granting of hexproof adds to the versatility of this quite a bit and means that it can be a blowout in combat, or just as a Counterspell.

The toughest thing about this card is finding a home that makes sense for it, as blue/green decks are not the most common thing in the world. Temur is the first place I think of, especially in some kind of Collected Company deck where this can expand its range of blowouts to also include it being in the top six cards of your library!

Constructed: 2.5-3
Limited: 3.5

Weapons Trainer

This is a very interesting lord. First of all, note that it is a 3/2 for two mana: a set of stats that you can hardly be upset about. It is super important that this pumps your team even when that equipment isn't on any of your creatures. This actually becomes a reliable lord effect with great stats and that is something I can definitely get behind.

Constructed: 3
Limited: 3.0


Wrap Up

Well, we have certainly picked up steam since Monday. It isn't often that blue is the weakest color in a set, but so far that appears to be the case. Red gets some generically powerful cards like Chandra while getting plenty of build-arounds such as Goblin Dark-Dwellers. Atarka Red has dominated the space of red decks for almost a year and while this set lends some support to the archetype, I think it does a better job of diversifying red's identity.

Tomorrow we will be back with the green cards from Oath of the Gatewatch along with the lands that green seems to love so much. Nissa has me pretty excited and updates to my ramp lists are sure to be aplenty. Until then, thanks for reading!

--Conley Woods--