Welcome back to the final day of our Oath of the Gatewatch set review here on TCGplayer.com! As always, I am Conley Woods and I will be your host! All week long we have been taking a card by card look at Oath of the Gatewatch and today we will reach our summit. We have the white cards from the set as well as the true colorless cards (non-devoid) remaining and some of the set's strongest stuff is found within. Afterward, I will be going over my Top 8 cards for Constructed!
As we have discussed throughout the week, our review focuses on Constructed and the deck building 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! Each card will be assigned two ratings, one for Constructed and one for Limited, based off of the following two scales:
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!
Vigilance is definitely an upgrade to Horned Turtle ( Yotian Soldier) but it isn't all too relevant here as your sideboard defensive card doesn't actually need to be attacking for one damage very often. This could be a sideboard defensive card if little else is available, but I do not see it being much more than that. He is an ally, for whatever that's worth!
Constructed: 1.5Limited: 2.0
This is cute in an ally deck as you can trigger ally synergies multiple times, but I am not too sure that four mana for a vanilla pair of 2/2s is really worth it. If you have an ally deck that really needs to produce as many allies as possible, then perhaps this has a home, but that's all I can really see this doing. Gideon is such an obvious upgrade here (aside from price concerns).
Constructed: 1Limited: 3.0
Call the Gatewatch
At two mana, decks could realistically run a few of these and less copies of walkers in general, but at three mana, I think your deck actually has to need this and be built with it in mind. It is certainly still playable, but you need to have a plan and an appropriate package of walkers, as opposed to just playing them for value.
If my Temur 'Walkers deck had white in it, I would certainly utilize this. I am not sure there are enough 'Walkers in Standard for this to be great right now, but that can definitely change.
Constructed: 2.5Limited: 0.5
While this might seem like just another Limited trick, this actually has some nice play as a counter to all-in strategies nicely. For example, imagine hitting a Griselbrand that was just reanimated, or an infect player who has just gone all in on a bunch of pump spells. While these situations are not necessarily common, they do come up.
Currently in Standard, Atarka Red uses Become Immense in combination with other pump spells to kill you out of nowhere with just a single unblocked creature. This does a pretty nice job of preventing that from happening.
Constructed: 2Limited: 2.0
White finally get to dip their toe into the Eldrazi pool and it turns out the water is pretty nice! This guy brings you a 3/3 body for three mana which is perfectly fine. Its ability is quite a versatile one as you can use it to blink your own stuff for extra triggers or to save them from removal, but because the creature comes back tapped, you can also use this to clear blocks away from the opposing side of the table.
That entire package leaves me thinking this has to see play somewhere, although the question remains, "Where?" Aggro might want this to push through damage, but more than likely, a deck needs to be built around this to capitalize on its strengths.
Constructed: 3Limited: 3.5-4.0
There is not much to talk about here. Keep in mind that support must go on different creatures and cannot go on itself, so you will always have a five mana 2/2 flier here and, unless that's coming with about six or seven +1/+1 counters, I don't see it happening.
Constructed: 1Limited: 1
This card could very well end up being a sleeper hit. Five mana for a 3/4 is not great, but this comes built in with a tutor for any ally, making it pretty great already. The bonus ability to Overrun your team for +4/+4 or +5/+5 is also just huge. That ability only costs you five mana too, which is reasonable for an effect that is winning you the game. I wanted to sketch up a quick look at what five-color allies might look like without hammering out the mana base too much.
I like the look of this, if for nothing else than the threat of hasted things coming at your face. I didn't fit any blue creatures into this particularly version, although I think you can squeeze one or two in if you feel like it.
Constructed: 3Limited: 3.5
This is certainly cheap enough to see Constructed play in decks like Blue/White Control or anything remotely similar. This protects your planeswalkers and your life total for just a few mana. While this is not Condemn by any stretch, it is still very playable and doesn't give back your opponent any life should you be racing them.
Constructed: 2.5Limited: 3.0
I guess it was only a matter of time before we saw the next in this cycle. I know this is technically a blessing and not an embrace, but I am going to link it to the embraces as it feels that way mechanically and flavorfully, minus that specific word. Shiv's Embrace would be the original in the cycle and we have seen cards like Serra's Embrace, Verdant Embrace, and even Squee's Embrace carry on the tradition. This will carry on the tradition in spirit, because it sure as heck is not seeing any play.
Constructed: 1Limited: 2.5
So here we have a rather bad version of Oblivion Ring / Banishing Light. It is restricted on what it can hit and costs a full extra white mana. If we lose all better options, perhaps this might pop up somewhere, but I would be very surprised. It does work with Eldrazi processors for whatever that's worth.
Constructed: 1Limited: 3.5
Even if this card just always had first strike, we would be about two other keywords from playable.
Constructed: 1Limited: 2.5
Kor Sky Climber
Another common, three-power ally for three mana, so we can be sure this one is breaking through into Constructed. Oh, flying is nice. Oh, two mana isn't nice. What else ya got for me? Nothing? Well alright then...
Constructed: 1Limited: 2.5-3
Linvala, the Preserver
Timely Reinforcements is back and bigger than ever. This is the sort of a control finisher version of Timely Reinforcements which means it will see less overall play, but likely be a huge pain in the butt for aggro decks regardless. Gaining five life off of your finisher is pretty good as is, but when it also comes down as a slightly varied Broodmate Dragon and only costs one type of mana, you are getting a steal.
Unlike Timely Reinforcements, getting the token trigger on this is a little more difficult as the angel does count against you, meaning you need to be down two or more creatures before casting the angel. This will be a very common finisher, especially in non-dragon control decks, but you will also see this out of sideboards as a great way to put the nail in the coffin of aggro.
Constructed: 3.5Limited: 4.5
Make a Stand
If you remember back to Rootborn Defenses, that card was surprisingly strong in Standard and made the main or side of a ton of different decks, from actual token decks that used the populate, to white weenie strategies that just wanted to save themselves from a sweeper. While Make a Stand does not give you a token, it does pump your squad, making it much more bearable to run in your maindeck as, even when you don't want to make your squad invincible, you can still just pump them up for some extra damage.
I would expect this to be a reasonable sideboard card and some lists that go very wide will get away with this in the maindeck. Be wary of attacking into this in Limited!
Constructed: 2.5Limited: 3.0
The stats on this are not crazy impressive, but a 1/3 flying creature on turn two can be quite the defensive option against some decks, especially if any small skies type of deck comes into existence. Realistically, if this sees play, it will likely be because of the ally creature type.
Constructed: 1.5Limited: 2.0-2.5
Nothing too exciting to see here as this card is in and out of Standard all the time. It always has the niche use of being a part of some all-in combo, like with Become Immense, but beyond that, don't expect much.
Constructed: 1Limited: 1.5-2.0
I like where this is going, but I still can't get excited by cohort. I see this and imagine two of my creatures, both of which are going to be receiving bonuses, tapped because they had to use this ability. In Limited, you have the time to do that, so no worries, but in Constructed, if my five-drop is doing nothing the turn it comes out and needs to tap not only itself, but another creature the following turn before it gives me a minor output, I am probably going to look for other five-drops.
I do think this can be a one-of in some kind of General Tazri ally deck, but I didn't even include a copy in the list above, so I am sure that says a lot.
Constructed: 1.5-2Limited: 4.0
Oath of Gideon
This is one of the more interesting Oaths because it actually changes how your deck plays out. Oath of Nissa and Jace both have some card selection involved, but ultimately, your deck works the same with or without them (so long as you draw well). Gideon's Oath actually has increases the starting loyalty of your 'walkers, enabling them to take entirely different play patterns than they otherwise would.
Additionally, those two tokens are pretty nice at protecting your walkers and they also happen to be allies, which means this might be viable in a shell with ally synergies and only a few 'walkers. Gideon himself makes allies as well, so that seems like a natural home.
4 Expedition Envoy
2 Kor Bladewhirl
4 Kalastria Healer
4 Zulaport Cutthroat
3 Drana, Liberator of Malakir
4 Lantern Scout
3 Cliffhaven Vampire
4 Oath of Gideon
4 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
3 Sorin, Solemn Visitor
2 Ob Nixilis Reignited
2 March from the Tomb
Constructed: 3Limited: 2.5
Ondu War Cleric
I have been leaving this out of my ally lists as Kor Bladewhirl feels better overall. Both are bears, which is fine, but this once again asks you to stop your attacking and, instead, tap two allies to gain a pair of life. That is pretty lame considering just how badly allies want to be attacking, especially since the rally mechanic incentivizes it. In general, the cohort allies and the rally allies just don't mesh well.
You can come up with an ally list that is all about gaining life (the above list is more of a hybrid) in which case, this card is probably fine.
Constructed: 1.5Limited: 2.0
I want to love this card, but I am not quite sure I do yet. From a numbers perspective, this gives you six power and five toughness for just four mana, which is very good assuming you can get it all. In order to do so, you need three other bodies in play, which is difficult, but does happen. At that point, this comes down as an anthem and then sticks around as a 3/2 after, which is reasonable. In order to play this in Constructed, you probably want to take advantage of the fact that it's an ally, but it might find a home elsewhere.
Constructed: 2Limited: 3.5
Wait, a second playable Condemn effect in one set? This comes with some big restrictions as it is sort of a Shock with targeting restrictions, but there are plenty of hyper-aggro decks against which this would be a total beating. Control or midrange tend to be able to keep open a single mana to take out whatever cheap creature is trying to get frisky (Zurgo!).
I would imagine most decks that play this will sideboard it similar to Last Breath, but decks that really struggle with an early game might make room for a couple main. This does get blown out by combat tricks, but only red tends to run anything of the sort right now.
Constructed: 2.5Limited: 2.5
Shoulder to Shoulder
If this were an instant, it might be worth talking about as it replaces itself so the effect doesn't have to be great. As is, I don't think any deck will really want to invest in this. Maybe the +1/+1 counter-themed deck needs additional support, but I imagine that by this point, they are just looking for those cards that are outstanding to replace current filler.
Constructed: 1Limited: 1.5-2.0
Another cohort ally and ally disappointment. I would love to be excited by these mechanics, but the outputs just are not there for Constructed. In Limited, tapping creatures is great, but in Constructed, tapping creatures is great because my squad can get through for damage. When two of my squad needed to tap to do that, it becomes so much more clunky as I need to use this on my opponent's end step. Oh yea, and in the meantime I spent four mana on a vanilla 2/4...
Constructed: 1Limited: 3.0
Well this is quite the Limited package. Considering cards like Abzan Falconer exist, I can't imagine anyone getting this desperate for their +1/+1 counter deck, but enjoy playing against this in Limited. Or don't.
Constructed: 1Limited: 3.0-3.5
Stone Haven Outfitter
Unlike the multicolored equipment lover from this set, this actually asks that you equip a creature for it to get the +1/+1 bonus. While worse, it also rewards you with replacement cards should any equipped creature die, which is a pretty nice secondary ability to have. This also happens to be an ally, which means it might find its way into some hybrid ally/equipment decks.
I want to pair this most with Stoneforge Masterwork and Captain's Claws as both of those have some natural ally synergies already. Our next card might work well in the deck too!
Constructed: 2.5-3Limited: 2.0
If you are anything like me, seeing Stoneforge in the name of a card probably got you excited. Unfortunately, this is nowhere close to as strong as Stoneforge Mystic was, but we still have some meat on the bones to work with. A one mana 1/2 isn't bad and the cohort ability on a one-drop is perhaps the one place where I am not too sad to see it. Not attacking with this isn't a big deal and because the second creature you tap can be summoning sick, you can play this on turn one and activate it on turn two pretty easily.
Of course, only seeing your top four cards is not exactly a tutor, but with 10 or 12 equipment in your deck, you will hit fairly often and can always try again the following turn when you miss.
Constructed: 2Limited: 1.5
Wall of Resurgence
This card might not look like much at first, but three mana for a 0/5 and a 3/3 haste is actually quite impressive. Yes, you need to expose a land, but many decks won't be able to capitalize on that anyway (Utter End, Ultimate Price, Wild Slash all miss it, for example).
This is great against aggro as you supply two defensive bodies, similar to Blade Splicer, while also being pretty good against control as a hasty threat tends to catch unsuspecting planeswalkers with their loyalty around their ankles. It is possible this is primarily a sideboard card, but we have not really seen a card with this much defensive power plus offensive capabilities in quite a while, so expect people to experiment with this all over.
Constructed: 3Limited: 3.0
Deceiver of Form
This card certainly offers quite the alpha attack on the turn you cast it and every turn thereafter, should the first one not have been enough. In theory, you are building your deck to contain large bodies and lots of creatures so that when you hit turn seven, casting this gives you a good chance of being lethal immediately.
Some decks will be ok with the RNG every turn as they will expect to hit once every two or three turns while other decks will include ways to stack the top of your deck, therefore ensuring you hit something desirable. I feel like both directions are legitimate and even in a worst-case scenario, you are playing with a seven mana 8/8, which isn't that bad.
Constructed: 2.5Limited: 4.0
This card comes with a heck of a lot of potential behind it. I am sure some of you saw the joke combo idea of an opening hand containing this, Eye of Ugin, Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, and Inverter of Truth for a turn two kill. Of course the odds of that opening hand are insanely small, but the scenario does a good job of demonstrating the potential power here.
Having your two-drop turn into five or six power worth of beater is just a satisfying thing to think about, so keep your eye out for cool synergies or colorless creatures that this works well with.
Constructed: 2.5-3Limited: 3.5
I think I am supposed to be more excited by this than I am. A bunch of abilities on a card is cool, as is the ability to use them twice per turn rotation but none of these abilities are that exciting when placed on a 5/5 for six mana. Sure, I do want to draw cards, but two colorless mana, or four if I want to run it twice, is certainly not a given with most manabases. Outside of that, pinging things and Pacifying them for a turn are both minor effects, even if I do get them "for free" thanks to the untap clause.
Don't get me wrong, this has a lot of utility and, as a result, is great when you can tutor a single copy of this up and do work in certain situations, but as a feature of my deck, I feel like I can spend my six mana on something better. Compare this to Ojutai, for example, which flies, protects itself, and draws you cards, all for less upfront mana and no mana thereafter.
There are people really excited about this card, so I certainly do not want to discourage brewing. There could be something awesome that I am just missing, so go deep!
Constructed: 2Limited: 4.5
Kozilek, the Great Distortion
So while Nulamog was a force to be reckoned with in combat, both being indestructible and attacking you on two fronts, Kozilek is a master of your resources, both granting them to you and then using them to protect yourself and your new Eldrazi overlord. In general, the cast trigger on this and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger are better than the original versions of these two, although the lack of annihilator does make them worse to cheat into play. For anyone who has drafted Sneak Attack in Legacy Cube, you know just how powerful sneaking in old Kozilek can be, whereas the new one is not nearly as big of a deal.
That said, drawing four, five, or even seven cards off of this will often just be game over. You have so many tools at your disposal and a hand full of free countermagic to keep you alive until you untap. Once you do, you not only have a grip full of new gas, but you theoretically have a 12/12 menace creature in play, which hardly hurts. I will definitely be using one copy of this in Dust Devils where From Beyond and Sanctum of Ugin can be used to tutor this up, but expect other lists to use this in greater numbers.
Constructed: 4Limited: 4.0
While this will bring some pain to the opponent in your 40-card deck, playing it in your 75-card deck will likely only pain you.
Constructed: 1Limited: 2.5
This card is really fun to think about and is actually just good in basically any deck that keeps its ability in mind when being built. Basically, this draws you a card when it dies, but if that card is a permanent with cost three or less, you can put it into play. That means that Matter Reshaper can turn into more Matter Shapers, or Wasteland Strangler, or Anafenza, the Foremost, or Nissa, Voice of Zendikar. While it can miss and not hit any of those, the fail case is a card going to your hand which is hard to be upset about.
A three-mana 3/2 is not that bad of a body to be running around with either. I actually want to slot this into all of my devoid aggro decks as it gives you some sweeper protection without being embarrassing up front.
Constructed: 3Limited: 3.0
Speaking of good aggro cards, this is like the second coming of Giant Solifuge, only the Eldrazi edition. Five hasty damage out of nowhere is a lot, especially when trample keeps you from chump blocking effectively. The protection clause on this is not nearly as good as shroud or hexproof, but it does mean this will usually net you some card advantage and there will definitely be times where you cast this into an opponent with only one card in hand, safe in the knowledge that they can't target this even if they wanted to.
Constructed: 3Limited: 4.0
For those that did not play during Lorwyn, Nameless Inversion was one of the best removal spells in Standard for quite some time. A big part of this was that it was a changeling, so it enabled and worked with tribal synergies, but at the end of the day, you still needed to be a black deck to play it. Spatial Contortion lacks the tribal nature of Nameless Inversion, but the fact that its colorless means it can theoretically be played in most decks, which might help it to see a similar amount of play.
Unfortunately, this does nothing against the likes of Siege Rhino or Savage Knuckleblade, or any of the Dragonlords, so it can't be your primary removal, but it does come with the versatility of becoming a Lava Spike when otherwise dead. Pairing this with Become Immense and Temur Battle Rage is especially flashy.
Constructed: 2.5-3Limited: 3.5
First of all, great name and one that will be punned throughout its lifetime. In terms of gameplay, this is one of the stronger four-drops we have seen since Siege Rhino and it will have a dramatic effect on games. Playing this on turn four out of your aggro deck and taking your opponents Languish or End Hostilities can just win the game. While Duress and Thoughtseize have always been strong against those plans, they have also always been black and at times, difficult to justify in your maindeck. It is much easier to justify playing a four mana 4/4 so long as you have a reasonable number of colorless sources. Now your White Weenie list or red/green ramp list gains access to hand disruption and that is huge.
This does have the Vendilion Clique feel to it where your opponent gets a random card in return, but because that is delayed to when this leaves play, the dream is that you win the game before ever returning your opponent's value. This also enables your various processors in a pain-free way, which is awesome. Expect this to be a big player for the next two years.
Constructed: 4.5Limited: 4.0
Walker of the Wastes
In theory, if you play nothing but Wastes in your deck, this card can be an absolute monster as it starts off a reasonable size already. I don't know if playing an all Wastes deck has enough incentives outside of this, but a five mana 10/10 trampler (or bigger) is pretty exciting. We also have more colorless stuff on the way, so look for this to get even better eventually.
Constructed: 2.5Limited: 3.5
Warden of Geometries
Some have compared this card to Solemn Simulacrum and while it is true that in a perfect world this can provide some of that utility, this is just so much less consistent. Losing the cantrip upon death is also a pretty huge loss. In general, expect to keep this one in your Limited decks only.
Constructed: 1Limited: 3.0
I am kind of in love with this card. It does three very different things, but they are all very relevant in very different ways.
The first ability is a niche but powerful removal spell. In Standard, this takes out Jace, Rattleclaw Mystic, Ashcloud Phoenix, Dragonmaster Outcast, and Bloodsoaked Champion to name a few. You would probably not play this mode were it a standalone card, but luckily this thing comes with two other modes.
The second ability is very powerful to grant any color. Red or white decks having the ability to counter an opposing sweeper is not something they are used to being allowed. Obviously a colorless card is not a free roll in this case, but some decks will certainly adjust their mana base to make it work.
The third ability is a makeshift ramp spell. This can be crucial when you need to get out a sweeper a turn sooner or are simply hurting on mana and need enough to cast a draw spell. The 1/1 can also attack an opposing planeswalker or chump block, making it a weak-but-versatile option.
Constructed: 3Limited: 3.0
White has a few powerhouses hidden amongst its ranks this time, such as Linvala who I am sure will be played, but might not be fully appreciated until Khans block rotates and dragons leave the skies. White also gained a lot of utility though, so expect some of these harmless looking commons and uncommons to show up in Constructed soon.
Overall, the colorless cards might have the highest average power level of any class and I am excited to see if these truly incentivize players to run colorless sources in their decks. I know I want to for cards like Thought-Knot Seer and Warping Wail, so we will have to wait and see if other deck builders agree.
Top 8 Cards for Constructed
This time around, I made a conscious effort to avoid any other person's list of Top 8 or Top 5 cards from the set. While I have never referenced one for my own, sometimes just knowing what others think can alter what I think. So, without any outside opinions, here is what I think will be the Top 8 cards for Constructed:
8) Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
7) Oath of Nissa
6) Crush of Tentacles
5) Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
4) Kozilek, the Great Distortion
3) Linvala, the Preserver
2) Kozilek's Return
1) Thought-Knot Seer
This list was extremely difficult to create as there was so much that I left off that I wanted to include. World Breaker, Chandra, Flamecaller, and Bearer of Silence are all going to be awesome cards, as is Oath of Jace and all of the creature lands. Truthfully, this is one of the most powerful and cool sets I have ever seen for Constructed and I am very excited to get to brewing.
There are many existing archetypes in Standard that pick up some awesome new tools. Rally decks get new synergies while control gains huge new finishers and all sorts of planeswalker toys. I also love to see the build-around cards like Surge of Tentacles which will likely bring about entirely new archetypes. Standard is not going to look the same, I will tell you that.
Thank you for taking time out of your week to join us on our journey through Oath of the Gatewatch. We will be back next time for Shadows over Innistrad so be sure to join us again for that. Until then, get out there and enjoy your release events and thanks for reading!