The Cards I’m Most Excited About in Theros Beyond Death

Magic the Gathering’s newest set has been fully spoiled. I’ve always been interested in doing a card review for a new set, and this is a foray into that. I’m not going to be discussing the entire set … instead I’m just talking about the cards that I’m personally most excited about. I don’t necessarily think that all of these cards are good, although some of them are. This is just a list of cards that I am most excited to play in constructed, and to a smaller degree, in limited.

I’ll be talking about the card in general and my opinions on it from a gameplay and flavor perspective. Then, I’ll dive into where I think this card will be played in both constructed (mostly standard) and limited.

I tweeted my list here: https://twitter.com/ExplosionPills/status/1216056930013196290?s=20

Anyway, let’s get started.

Elspeth Conquers Death

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After reviewing this card thoroughly for this article, I’m actually not very excited about it anymore. It probably doesn’t belong on the list of cards I’m excited about, and there are some other candidates that could replace it, but I do still think there’s a lot of interesting discussion to be had about this card. Thus, I’m still including it.

This card reminds me a bit of Conclave Tribunal or Epic Downfall. It’s a lot less efficient than either one since it doesn’t have convoke, and it costs more mana, but it’s also less restrictive since it can exile any permanent that fits its condition, and it does that permanently. This card also reminds me of a card that’s already rotated: The Eldest Reborn. I think the latter is better, though. It’s only an uncommon, it’s splashable, you can reanimate something from any graveyard, and its II is more impactful. It’s I is not quite as good since there may be circumstances where it only sacrifices a small creature. Elspeth Conquers Death can exile any problem permanent, but the nice thing about having the creature go to the graveyard instead of exile on The Eldest Reborn is that you can reanimate the creature that was sacrificed. You could architect a scenario where you kill your opponents best creature and get him back two turns later, or you could force it to be discarded. Control decks did this all the time when the card was still in Standard.

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5 mana to take away a permanent at sorcery speed is not super efficient, but since it can take away anything, it’s reasonable. The other two steps of the saga do make it more interesting, although it may be tough to justify its cost. II doesn’t do much — it may hose some of your opponent’s counter or other instant speed magic, and it may delay them from playing a 5 or 6 drop for a turn, but that’s definitely not worth 5 mana, and it’s hard for me to say that that’s always going to be very impactful.

For III, 5 mana to reanimate something is pretty reasonable. It’s also interesting that this is in White since that effect is usually in Black.

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The fact that this can also reanimate planeswalkers is nice, but the additional effect of a counter isn’t super great. This also depends heavily on you being able to get something worthwhile in your graveyard. There is some self mill in this set, but it also takes three turns to do this.

Overall, after analyzing this card more, I think it’s too inefficient and slow for what it does. However, I will be interested to see in what it actually ends up doing. I may be underrating it.

Limited

I don’t think this card is very good in limited. In order for it to be effective, you have to have a card worth reanimating in your graveyard when III resolves, and while that may happen once or twice in a draft, a lot has to go right in order for it to happen. If you can reanimate a planeswalker, that would be awesome, but it’s highly unlikely since there aren’t may planeswalkers, and they’re all at higher rarities, and this is also a rare. II practically does nothing in limited. It might hose a counter or flash deck for a turn, but this is a 5 mana enchantment. Having it resolve or stay on the battlefield in the first place is asking a lot.

5 Mana to remove problem permanents isn’t terrible, and it’s also nice that it’s a permanent (as in lasting forever, not permanent in gameplay parlance) exile rather than one that only works as long as this enchantment is on the battlefield. Even though it can only remove permanents with CMC 3 or more, since this is 5 mana, you’re pretty much always going to have a target for it, and it’s likely that you’d want to remove the most expensive thing your opponent has played anyway. Even though it’s inefficient, the fact that it’s flexible removal does make this playable, if not exciting. I think you hope you get a better rare in your packs, though.

Constructed

I’ll be curious to see how this functions in constructed. It might fit in some Azorius or Esper control decks. I compared it to The Eldest Reborn above, and while it’s far inferior, that card isn’t in Standard right now.

I think this may be too slow for constructed. 5 mana to reanimate a planeswalker is something control decks would be interested in, but taking 2 turns to do it makes this very fragile. You’ll probably want some sort of self mill alongside powerful reanimation targets. It seems like this wants to be in a reanimator deck, but it’s way too slow for that. We’ll see how it performs in control decks, but I think there are much stronger turn 5 plays than this.

Kiora Bests the Sea God

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This is one of the most powerful cards in the new set, perhaps only beaten by a couple of the gods and a strong creature that we’ll discuss later. It gives you 3 things that you would begrudgingly pay 7 mana for for a single investment. While you don’t get all of them at once, they’re each so powerful you don’t need them all at once. An 8/8 creature with hexproof is very difficult to deal with. It’s not the best win condition since it has no evasion, but it definitely requires an answer.

The II on the saga is very powerful alongside the I. Often, this means your kraken will get in 16 damage since it gets to attack on the turn the II triggers, your opponents permanents don’t untap, and then he gets to attack again on the next turn. Your opponent could play a blocker on their next turn of course, but 8 free damage is still really strong, and 16 damage seems likely since you’ll have mana open for counters or removal. This also taps all nonland permanents your opponent controls, so they don’t even get to activate some of their artifacts.

The III is unquestionably very powerful. Stealing an opponent’s permanent is always a powerful thing to do, and this is an unconditional steal — you can even steal lands if you need. You even get to untap the permanent, and that’s just nutty. If you’re too late stealing a permanent against more aggressive decks, you’ll steal a tapped permanent and die on the next turn since you can’t use it to block. With Kiora Bests the Sea God, you get to use your opponent’s best permanent immediately … at least as a blocker. 7 mana to steal any permanent without question 2 turns later might be playable on its own. The fact that this also comes with a huge body that’s essentially unblockable for a turn is just wacky. Your opponent may hold back their best permanent while this is on the battlefield to stop you from stealing it, but the tempo hit they’ll take from that is likely worth only stealing their second best permanent, more or less, and it gives you more time to prepare for a strong permanent they’re holding on to.

What’s more is all of the other things you can do with this enchantment. Agent of Treachery is a card that sees a lot of play, and this is pretty close — stealing anything. Agent has other things going on since it has a body and it steals immediately, but they’re both very powerful cards in their own way. Agent can be bounched and replayed, but you could also copy Kiora Bests the Sea God with something like Mirrormade. You can also proliferate and bounce this in response to its III trigger. Things will get really interesting then.

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I think this is a bomb in limited, is powerful enough for constructed — possibly even non-rotating formats if it has enough help, and it may be the card I’m most exited to play with in the new set.

7 mana is a lot, but this does what a 7 mana card should do. It can win the game for you by itself.

Limited

All of the Saga’s effects are powerful in limited. There’s not a lot an opponent can do against an 8/8 hexproof creature, and although it can be chump blocked, it practically demands an answer that’s not spot removal. Combined with the II on the saga means that 16 damage is quite possible from this card alone, and in a lot of cases, that’s enough to win the game. In case it’s not, the III will assure that you win by stealing your opponent’s best permanent.

Enchantment removal helps against this, but then there’s still an 8/8 hexproof that needs answering since it comes out immediately. It’s hard to imagine this one card requiring fewer than four or five cards to answer effectively. To make matters worse, there is graveyard recursion for enchantments and other things that give your cards escape. There are even enchantment tutors in this set.

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The one drawback with this card is that it’s 7 mana. There is ramp in this set, but not all limited games let you cast something for 7 mana. This will work better for more controlling or grindy decks. This does hold it back from being an A in my opinion. Instead, I’d rate it at an A-. You might not get to cast it every game, but when you do, you’ll win 90+% of the time.

Constructed

I think that this card is definitely powerful enough for constructed. An 8/8 with hexproof is still good (though not great) in constructed, even at 7 mana, at least in blue. That probably wouldn’t be enough to justify playing this on its own, but everything else the saga has going on does justify it. It reminds me a bit of cards like Realm-Cloaked Giant … an inefficient yet powerful creature that has the added flexibility of doing something control decks will be interested in. That being said, I don’t think Realm-Cloaked Giant is very good, and I think Kiora Bests the Sea God is amazing.

This will have a home in controlling and ramp decks. With the ramp available in Standard and in the new set, getting this out on turn 4 is plausible, and on turn 5 or 6 is likely. Copying it with Mirrormade (pictured above) seems interesting to me. You can recur it from your graveyard, and you can even bounce it in response to the trigger for III. You can proliferate it to trigger the III early. Stealing an opponent’s permanent alongside a giant body and tapping all of their stuff for a couple of turns is just super powerful, and it’s hard to imagine these effects not finding a home in decks that can really take advantage of them, and of course you can play multiple copies of this. I hope it’s as good as it looks to me.

Nadir Kraken

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A 2/3 for 3 mana is mediocre, but this has a lot more going on that turns it into a win condition on its own. The interesting thing about this card is that you can invest 1 to pump it any time you draw a card. This means that on the turn after you play this, thanks to your draw phase, you can spend 1 to make it a 3/4 and also get a 1/1. That’s definitely worth a 1 mana investment.

A couple of other nice things about this card are that it’s reasonable to trigger it multiple times on a turn, you can trigger it on your opponent’s turn, and it’s a may ability, so you don’t have to spend the additional mana when it’s not convenient to do so. 4 mana(ish) for a 3/4 and a 1/1 is much better than 3 mana for a 2/3. 5 mana(ish) for a 4/5 and two 1/1s is getting good, and it only improves from there.

This is kind of a weird card for blue which is typically not interested in going wide. I’m not quite sure where this fits in since it’s something we haven’t really seen before. Still, 1 mana for a repeatable 1/1 token is just too hard to ignore, and it pumps a creature permanently. We’re used to seeing this cost 4 or 5 mana when attached to a land or other enchantment. The trigger will happen at least once a turn because of your draw step, and that makes this very powerful. Overall, it’s a card with a powerful and unique effect that is triggered naturally many times and is highly efficient.

This reminds me a bit of Murmuring Mystic, but I think it’s much more powerful. It’s more efficient, it grows, and you can trigger it more consistently although it costs mana, and it’s cheaper.

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All that being said, this card does have some limitations. You have to pump mana into it to get its effect, and its default is very underwhelming.

Limited

Even though this is only 3 mana, I think this is a limited bomb. I would grade it at an A-… It’s held back by being a mediocre 2/3 for 3 initially. However, even if you untap with this, it suddenly gets a lot better. Doing so may prevent you from getting a 4 drop out, or you may just have to wait for a more convenient time, but curving out on turn 4 is not always possible in limited. This allows you to improve your mana efficiency. The fact that a 1/1 token and counter for 1 mana can happen naturally every turn is very powerful, and it’s also relentless. This is the kind of card that requires an answer in limited. Even after a couple of turns, the card itself becomes a threat, and the additional tokens create a sticky situation and make combat more complicated for your opponent. The fact that this can potentially be done at instant speed is also very powerful. Blue always has a lot of card draw spells, and Theros Beyond Death certainly does, and the Izzet deck is interested in doing things on your opponents turn.

A 3 mana card that demands an answer is good. If you get to pump 1 or 2 mana into this, it’s going to be worth it even if your opponent uses a removal spell on it because you’re still going to have 1 or 2 tokens left over that are going to annoy your opponent. This isn’t phenomenal or anything, but it’s still a 2-for-1 or 3-for-1. If this survives until turn 6 or so, it’s going to be out of control. There’s only one sweeper available at rare, and while it does clean this up, you may get to draw a card off of it too if you’ve created a couple of cards with the Kraken.

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Constructed

I think this is going to be an interesting card for constructed. I think it’s a good win condition for control decks, but its 3 mana cost is questionable. Removal and sweepers are always prevalent in standard, and since this effect is on a creature, that’s a limitation.

All that being said, I think that this is so unique that it will have a home somewhere. Being able to pay 1 mana per turn to get 2/2 worth of stats at a minimum every turn is very strong. Bant go-wide decks may like this guy. You can use the tokens to convoke or pump them with other spells or things like Heraldic Banner.

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There are no tier 1 go-wide decks right now. I think that the availability of removal and sweepers is just too limiting for this sort of strategy. Thus, I think that Nadir Kraken will be most at home in control decks that can bring him out at a convenient time, then keep mana up for additional card draw to pump him or countering or bouncing whatever your opponent does while the kraken and his (admittedly very flavorful) tentacles beat your opponent to death. Having this in multiples could also be big trouble for your opponent.

Since his fail case is so weak as a 3 mana 2/3, it’s hard to say that he’ll have a big impact on standard. However, his triggered ability is so unique and powerful that I just can’t count him out. I’ll be really curious to see how many waves it makes in standard.

Thryx, the Sudden Storm

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I think the design of this card is super cool. I also really like the art … he seems like a cool, powerful guy. He’s a sudden storm with flash. A 4/5 flyer is a reasonable win condition, and having such good stats alongside flash makes him pretty close to a removal spell as well. It’s very reasonable to ambush an opponent’s X/4 and then have a very powerful next turn. Making cards cheaper is always a powerful effect, and making high cost spells uncounterable can really open up the endgame for you.

One important question I have about this card is how his ability will work with 5 CMC cards. Since his ability reduces the CMC of a card at cast time from 5 to 4, it might conflict with his other ability that makes 5 CMC cards uncounterable. However, with the way the card is worded, I don’t think this is the case… The card gets a reduced cost and is uncounterable simultaneously, so 5 mana cards at a reduced cost are still uncounterable. I’ll assume this is the case with the rest of my analysis, although it may be wrong. If so, his power level actually goes down quite a bit in constructed, in my opinion.

Limited

This card is definitely a bomb in limited. It’s a strong win condition, and there is no individual creature card that can trade with it as a 4/5 evasive flyer. The fact that it has flash also makes it very likely that it’ll be a 2-for-1 since it can eat most creatures in the set and survive. Then, they have to deal with a powerful aerial attacker.

The interesting thing about this card is that its stats are what matters in limited rather than its ability. I think that in constructed, it’ll be the other way around. I don’t see its static ability mattering much in limited, but it might come up once or twice in a draft allowing you to cast your Kiora Bests the Sea God a turn early with the extra assurance that it’s uncounterable. Counter magic is not that common in limited, and hopefully you’re not running very many 5+ CMC spells, and you need to have 5 mana to cast this guy to begin with. Still, upside is upside, and you already have a highly efficient creature and win condition with this card.

Constructed

I do think this card is powerful enough in standard to enable some things. He’s a decent win condition for control decks where you can leave mana up to do various things and flash him in when it’s appropriate. A 4/5 flyer is always strong. He’s also effective against aggressive decks where he can eat a creature. He enables other win conditions as well by making them cheaper and uncounterable.

If he couldn’t be countered himself, I would be totally sold on him. However, you have to find the right time to bring him out, and that limits him somewhat. In control decks, it’ll be easier to bring him out since you can leave up so much mana for other things. In other flash decks, I don’t think he’s as good because they like to have such a low curve. He’s expensive on that curve, and he enables other expensive spells too, and there may not be many of those in flash decks.

I think he’ll also be effective in ramp decks. You can bring him out as early as turn 3 where he’ll be a huge problem for your opponent since he effectively ramps you and makes the rest of your turns uncounterable. Bringing him out on turn 4 isn’t bad either, and his ability to also ramp you into 6 or 7 mana plays that can’t be countered the next turn is getting close to nutty… and you still have a 4/5 flyer that might have eaten something. You can start bringing out your uncounterable Nissas and Hydroid Krases and Kiora Who Bests the Sea Gods.

Still, his cost is a limiting factor. I think he’s powerful enough and enables other plays so well that he’ll see play, but we’ll have to wait and see just how strong he is.

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Purphoros, Bronze-Blooded

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This is the first card in my list that I think won’t be playable in limited and will only be good in constructed. A 5 mana enchantment that gives all your creatures haste is unplayably bad. Getting the 5 devotion necessary to make this a 7/6 doesn’t seem super easy to me, although if you can do it, it will be nice to have a powerful, indestructible creature. His activated ability is definitely his most interesting feature, but it’s also his most questionable. You have to have a red or artifact creature that costs more than 3 mana and that you’re willing to sacrifice … that means it probably has to be powerful enough to win you the game off of this ability, and you’re going to have to have a ridiculous hand for that to be the case.

Limited

I’ll reiterate what I’ve said, but I think this is an F in limited since it’s practically a 5 mana enchantment that gives all your creatures haste. Getting to 5 devotion to activate him is not totally out of the question, but in spite of how it might feel, there really isn’t a lot of incentive for devotion in the set. There are the gods and demigods, but that’s it, at least in red. Even if you do manage to get him out with 5 devotion, you have to be able to untap with him since he doesn’t give himself haste, and he doesn’t have any evasion either. A 7/6 indestructible is definitely a problem, but your opponent can uncreaturize him by bouncing or removing other permanents. If you’re not mono red, I think it will be almost impossible to keep him as a creature unless things are already going really well for you. If you happen to draft a mono red deck, he may be better, but it’s still not a guarantee, and I don’t think the payoff is worth it. This set also comes with some efficient enchantment removal that will work against him.

What he comes down to is his activated ability, and I just don’t think this is effective in limited. This set has no artifact creatures at all, so you can rule that out. Bringing out a hasty red creature at a reduced cost might be nice, but since you have to sacrifice it, you more or less have to win with it that turn. There are really only a couple of cards where this cost reduction is even meaningful, and the sacrifice requirement is asking too much.

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It is cute that you’ll theoretically be able to pop out Dreamshaper Shaman for 3, swing for 5, and then sacrifice him to himself to get another permanent, but just straight playing him for 6 mana is probably good enough anyway since his stats are probably better than any permanent you could find by sacrificing him. None of the cards worth bringing out have evasion either, and that holds this ability back even more. If his activated ability were only 2 mana like some of the other gods, and/or if he also gave your creatures trample, or if he gave himself haste, he would be more reasonable. The potential to pop out two 7/3s which will also turn on Purphoros and swing for 21 is possible, but you have to have drafted a very specific deck, and it’s reliant on your hand to be set up in a specific way and your opponent’s board to be clear for you to win.

I’ll be shocked if I’m proven wrong, and he may be better than the unplayable grade I’ve given him, but I’m not excited for him in limited.

Constructed

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There is one card in constructed that really enables Purphoros: Fires of Invention. His ability allows you to get around the limitation of only playing two spells per turn. You could set up a turn where you cast Purphoros and Cavalier of Flame. With Fires, this is enough devotion to make him a creature. Then, use his ability to pop out Ilharg, the Raze Boar. Use the remaining two mana to pump with Cavalier, which also gives Purphoros haste. Attack, and Ilharg pops out End-Raze Forerunners. That’s 35 trampling damage.

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A lot has to go right for that turn, but it’s not super farfetched in a deck that’s running 4-ofs of these powerful cards alongside some mana dorks that can set you up to do this earlier and more consistently, and some cards like Thrill of Possibility and Escape to the Wilds that will help you hunt down the cards you need and discard duplicate Fires or legendaries.

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This could enable Gruul Fires of Invention decks which isn’t really something we’ve seen before. He could also function in Temur or Mardu Fires decks… pairing him with Kenrith to reanimate the creature you popped out and then sacrificed seems fun… and possibly some other creature-heavy Fires decks. Pairing him with Ilharg seems like the best option to me since Ilharg tucks himself and has additional value when attacking. Cavalier of Flame really enables Purphoros as well by turning him into a creature alongside Purphoros’ own devotion and Fires, and Cavalier is already heavily played in Fires decks, so Purphoros shouldn’t struggle too much to find a home in such decks. I haven’t forgotten about God Eternal, Rhonas either.

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Purphoros’ indestructibility is also nice since it can help him stick around for longer, although this set itself has ways to mitigate that. I don’t think he’ll be very good outside of creature heavy Fires decks, but you could do some silly things popping out other powerful, hasty creatures. You could pop out Niv Mizzet, Parun and use additional mana to cast a couple of spells and finish off by bouncing Nivvy back to your hand to do it again next turn with the extra cards you drew.

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Yes, Niv Mizzet Reborn is a red creature

The fact that he can pop out artifact creatures is interesting, but I don’t see it coming up in standard. If you have a way to bounce Meteor Golems or something you could do some work, but that seems way too fragile to me.

Overall, I think you have to build around Purphoros quite a bit for him to be effective, but Fires really does enable him by allowing you to get extra, powerful creatures onto the board in spite of Fires’ restriction. Your goal will be explosive OTKs on turns 4–6. Cards like Kenrith, the Returned King and Cavalier of Flame do come close to doing that in current Fires builds, but Purphoros could push them over the edge.

Destiny Spinner

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In a vacuum, this is the weakest card I’ve talked about so far and probably overall. However, I’m excited about it because of what it represents: a reasonable answer to Simic Flash and other control decks.

2 mana for 2/3 is actually not bad — there are no 1 mana spells that can remove it on their own, so you’re not likely to take a tempo hit by playing her.

Her activated ability is cute, but I don’t think it’s as relevant as the rest of her. The fact that you can do it at instant speed is nice, though, especially if you can get enough enchantments to really make the lands powerful, but it’s not that relevant. In creature and/or enchantment heavy decks, I think she works well. She’s good against control and flash decks that try to counter you constantly, and she even comes with an activated ability to make an attacker to punish your opponent for leaving mana up for counters if you didn’t have another play to make. Her stat line as a 2/3 is also nice since even though her static and activated abilities aren’t very relevant against aggressive decks, her stats make her an effective blocker that will either eat spells intended for your face and/or shut down aggressive 1/1 and 2/2 creatures. That’s not bad for 2 mana.

Limited

I think her stat line is what makes her most playable in limited. A 2/3 for 2 mana is efficient enough to make the cut in your green decks, and she comes with upside as well. I don’t think her abilities are super relevant in limited since counter magic is relatively rare, and her activated ability is too expensive to be worth building around. If you’re flooding out, you can make at minimum a hasty 1/1. That’s not super relevant, but if you build an imposing board presence with lots of enchantments and/or enchantment creatures, you can add a pretty powerful attacker to the board to help you push through. You also may not mind trading lands you’re using as attackers in the late game.

I don’t think that ability is very good, and a lot has to go right for it to be meaningful. However, stapling that to an efficient, splashable creature that also happens to make your creatures and enchantments uncounterable makes this a very reasonable card, and it’s an uncommon that you’ll want at least in any green deck.

Constructed

As I said in my introduction, I’m most excited by the fact that this is a good answer to the popular and persistent Simic Flash decks and other control decks in the current standard format. Simic Flash in particular will struggle with her since they don’t have a great way to remove her. Even if she gets countered, she’ll likely be trading up in mana. She may get bounced too, but that’s more spells you’re emptying from the Simic Flash player’s hand to fight an efficient creature. Teferi Time Raveler is much better at hosing Simic Flash, but the fact that he costs 3 mana instead of 2 is huge, especially if you’re on the play. Teferi can also be attacked to death, but Destiny Spinner can’t be removed directly by the tools the Simic Flash deck normally has.

I think she’s pretty good in the mirror too. As a Simic Flash deck, you’d much rather play Brineborne Cutthroat on turn 2, but keeping your curve low and playing her when you don’t have cutthroat available or when it’s a good time is a great way to hose other Simic Flash and control decks to help you resolve your wolves and your Frilled Mystics in the future — at least as a sideboard card. Simic Flash currently doesn’t have great other plays on turn 2 other than a panic Quench, or possibly a Petty Theft to hit your opponent’s tempo, and while Brineborne Cutthroat is great, you’re not going to have him available on turn 2 every game.

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I think she’ll be most at home in variations of ramp decks… mono green, Simic, and Bant ramp will all be happy to have her. Get her out early, and you can cast your Thryx, the Sudden Storm which makes Nissa, Who Shakes the World uncounterable. Then even if Destiny Spinner dies, suddenly your massive Hydroid Krasis is uncounterable, and Kiora Bests the Sea God is still uncounterable even though it already was thanks to the Spinner. You could refuel with Gadwick, the Wizened without fear of him getting countered too.

One thing to mention is that with her CMC at 2, she is competing with a slot for popular 2 CMC mana dorks. Ramp decks may be more interested in running them, but her static ability is so powerful, it may be worth it to skip the Incubation Druid or Growth Spiral to run her. She also enables an uncounterable Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath (which I’ll talk about later) or Risen Reef on turn 3 which can then ramp you into something like Thryx or Nissa on turn 4. The fact that we have Gilded Goose also makes me feel less guilty about replacing 2 CMC dorks with her. I also like the flexibility of her stats. Even though her static ability doesn’t do anything against aggressive decks, you’re probably going to be very hesitant to block with your Paradise Druid on turn 2, and Incubation Druid and Leafkin Druid can’t kill things. The former two are also more fragile and can be killed by 1 mana spells or creatures. It’s usually not exciting to talk about a stat line, but a 2/3 for 2 mana really does make a huge difference.

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Doesn’t Leafkin Druid look like it should have some power based on its art?

I don’t think that her activated ability will come up much in constructed, but the fact that it’s there, and it allows you to make a creature at instant speed is a nice bonus to have stapled to this card.

The combination of her efficient stats and her powerful static ability indicate to me that she’ll see play in various green decks. She might not go everywhere … I don’t really see a place for her in Gruul, but 2 mana to make a lot of your spells uncounterable alongside an efficient creature is just really good. I am excited about this card, and I could be overrating it a lot, but I do think it will see play. Veil of Summer got banned after all.

Nyxbloom Ancient

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There’s already a lot of buzz around this card with some people thinking it will break the game. I don’t know quite where I stand on this. A 7 mana 5/5 with trample is unplayable, so what it really comes down to is its static ability.

First off, people are curious about how it’s going to work with cards like Nissa, Who Shakes the World and Leyline of Abundance. I’m not 100% sure, but based on how those cards are worded, they add additional mana themselves. Nyxbloom Ancient multiplies the mana that is produced by a source that is tapped for mana. That means that if you have Nissa and the Ancient and tap a Forest, you’re getting 4 mana (3 for tapping the forest, 3 x the 1 from tapping it, and 1 additional from Nissa’s static effect — it’s coming from her, not the forest, and you didn’t tap her) rather than 6 mana.

What really pushes this card is that it triples the mana production of any permanent… That’s any kind of land, artifact, mana dork, or whatever else. If you get to cast him in Vintage with a Black Lotus in hand, you get 9 additional mana that turn. I don’t think we’ve seen a mana producing engine like this in Magic before. A card that does something so powerful and special on its own is definitely going to impact the game to a degree even if it doesn’t break it.

Limited

I think this card is unplayable in Limited. Getting to 7 mana and drawing this bad boy are not guaranteed. Even if you get to untap with him, it’s highly unlikely that you have much to do with all of that extra mana. There is the Intervention cycle, but none of those cards are going to win you the game with a high investment of X except possibly Thassa’s Intervention which can draw you a bunch of cards… but that’s a lot of setup. You have to have this card in your hand, be able to cast it, and then still have an X card or a card with a repeatable activated ability. Even if you do, you’re not guaranteed to get a victory out of this, and the Ancient probably isn’t going to win you the game on his own either. He’s just not very efficient.

In spite of all that, the fact that what he does in a vacuum is so powerful, it’s impossible to fully count him out. He may be better than I expect, and even if he’s not, he’s going to win some janky games here or there.

Constructed

I think the possibility of making him work in constructed is much greater. However, the focus is purely his ability. The fact that he’s a 5/5 trampler isn’t what you’re after, and he’s still quite fragile. He’ll only be used in ramp decks and decks employing big mana strategies like Wilderness Reclamation decks, and you’ll want to get him out relatively early… probably turn 5ish. You generally have to be able to untap with him. That’s a big initial investment. So what’s the payoff? Well, even by himself alongside permanents you used to cast him, you can cast a 19/19 Krasis that draws you 9 cards and gains you 9 life. You could have this on turn 5 or 6, and it actually doesn’t even require that much additional setup.

He is a bit fragile. Resolving an inefficient 7 mana creature is never a guarantee. But the payoff is so strong, he’s probably going to be worth it in the right decks. If you play him alongside Nissa, you could cast him and also still have one or two lands available. Even though he costs 7, in the right deck, you’ll still get 4–8 or even more mana left to use that turn. This does mitigate against the need to untap with him to really go off with him.

A card that has this powerful of a ceiling and such a unique effect will always see play in standard. He may have the potential for non-rotating formats as well, enabling more big mana strategies, although a 7 mana creature with his stats may just be asking too much. I’m really excited to see what nutty things people end up doing with him.

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Stessan Champion

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This is probably the card that I’m least excited about on this list. I’m mostly interested in it as a card draw engine. Drawing a card each time an enchantment ETBs wouldn’t be that great, but with the addition of a lot of enchantment creatures and other enchantment payoffs in this set, it gets a lot better.

This card is comparable to Edgewall Innkeeper — another card that draws you cards for playing a particular card type. I think the Innkeeper is just better mainly because he only costs 1 mana, but he also has the advantage of his trigger being on cast rather than ETB. The fact that this is just a 1/3 for 3 mana isn’t very efficient even though she can grow. It would help if she were an enchantment creature too, but unfortunately, she isn’t.

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Limited

Card draw engines are always powerful in limited. I think that this set has enough enchantments to make this a reasonable inclusion. A 1/3 for 3 is bad, but a 2/4 that draws you a card is much better. You need a few enchantments to make that playable, but I don’t think it’ll be too hard to make that happen in this set. If you trigger her twice, it’s definitely worth her cost.

Constructed

I think that this card is too slow for constructed. She doesn’t impact the board immediately, and she’s too inefficient when she comes down. Creatures that grow slowly with +1/+1 counters like she does are rarely impactful as you think they could be, especially at 3 mana, and while she does have something else going on by drawing you a card in addition to growing, I think it’s just too slow. I’d have fun playing her in some janky enchantment decks, but the fact that she’s also not an enchantment herself holds her back more. There are just much better things you can do for 3 mana in most cases.

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Allure of the Unknown

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I’m excited about this card because I think it’s very unique. The most important question I have that will determine its power level is whether or not it lets your opponent cast any spell when this resolves, or if they can only cast instant spells. This doesn’t include common text with this kind of effect like “for as long as the card remains exiled,” so it’s unclear to me. If they can cast anything when this resolves, or cast sorcery-speed cards for as long as they remain exiled, this card is unplayable since you’re just giving your opponent whatever the best card in your top 6 cards is. If opponents can only cast an Instant (let’s ignore circumstances where they happen to have Teferi or Vivien giving other spells flash), this gets much more reasonable since it’s essentially a 5 mana draw 5 in red+black with a typical black/red card draw spell drawback. That draws more cards more efficiently than any blue spell in standard right now except perhaps Into the Story. For the rest of my analysis, I’m going to assume that your opponent can only cast an Instant that they steal from you. Even if your opponent could steal an instant, you can build around this a bit to make free instants useless thanks to things like the Intervention cycle.

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I think that this makes the card very interesting since it gives your opponent some tough choices. They can pick out an instant speed removal spell to kill one of your permanents, but that might leave you with a powerful card in hand. Otherwise, they can exile your best card in the top 6, but then you may get to keep your own instant speed removal in addition to drawing 4 other cards. This is a bit build-aroundy, and it’s definitely something that control decks want. It’s too expensive for aggressive Rakdos decks. I think it will fit in with the always popular Grixis control decks.

Limited

This card is weird to evaluate in limited. Its effect is powerful in a vacuum as a 5 mana draw 5 that’s off color, but giving your opponent an opportunity to mitigate against that does hold the card’s power level down a bit. I’m not sure how easy it will be to play more than 2 colors in this limited format, but a 5 mana spell that doesn’t impact the board is rarely something that a black+red deck wants. You could also splash this in a blue+red deck or some other color combination since getting 5 cards with 1 is a real way to win a game. The drawback does hold this down a bit, but it’s hard for me to imagine that getting 5 additional cards from 1 in limited isn’t worth it.

I don’t think this goes in every deck, and I think that a lot of people will think that this card is garbage. I think that it will be a powerful card in the right deck and probably better than a lot of people think, at least if I’m right about your opponent only being able to cast instants that they exile.

Constructed

I think that this is a powerful card in Grixis control decks. Drawing 5 cards for 5 mana is just so efficient, and if you’re holding your opponent down like Grixis likes to do, taking a turn off to cast this is probably going to be worth it. You will likely be running enough powerful cards that letting your opponent kill one with an instant you’ve revealed or take away one of the powerful cards may not be enough to stop you.

I think that it’s a bit comparable to Drawn from Dreams, although that card gives you better selection by looking at more cards (well, 1 more card) and not having the drawback of losing the best one, but this card gives you more card advantage. It’s too hard for me to tell without actually playing with the card whether it will be better than some of the other card draw spells that control shells like, and this is at Sorcery speed which holds it back some more, but the efficiency is just too good to ignore.

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Even though the additional text on this card is a drawback, I think it will be fun. It puts pressure on your opponent, and you get the thrill of wondering what they’re going to choose. Even if the drawback winds up being too much to hold the card back from being competitive, it’ll still be fun. That’s why I’m so excited about it.

Ashiok, Nightmare Muse

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This is a powerful, but not broken, planeswalker being introduced for this set. A 2/3 token is actually not bad, and while it’s not as good as Garruk making multiple tokens a turn, it’s actually better than Liliana’s 1 2/2 a turn, and those are both 6 mana Planeswalkers. Ashiok reminds me a bit of Teferi, Hero of Dominaria (which has rotated) as a powerful 5 mana planeswalker. He/she’s not nearly as good as Teferi since she/he doesn’t draw you cards, but in controlling decks, his/her -3 is practically a removal spell, and it’s nice that it can target any problem permanent — even another planeswalker.

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Her/his -7 is a bit janky to me, but in the right deck, it might be better than you think. It’s not too hard to get to his -7 since he/she starts with high loyalty, so you could do it on turn 8 with no ramp. The Royal Scions is similar, and but their ultimate is a -8. It may sound like you have to hit your opponent with the 2/3 in order to make the -7 matter, or use the -3 to get another card in exile which delays the ultimate, but the text reads that you can cast any face-up cards in exile. That includes cards that you’ve exiled by other means, and as far as I can tell, it even includes adventure creatures or other cards that your opponent has exiled themselves with spells like Light Up the Stage and Escape to the Wilds. Hilariously, you can even cast Jump Start cards that your opponent has exiled, cards you’ve exiled with spells like Prison Realm, and cards that exile themselves like Midnight Clock. If you can cast even 1 spell of your opponent’s off his/her ultimate, I think you’re in business. That’s sort of like 5 mana and a couple of 2/3s that can mill your opponent and then steal a permanent. It does require setup, but I don’t think it will be a rare occurrence. 2/3 is just a nice stat line to have on a token you can generate every turn.

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It’s worth pointing out that you can bounce your own permanents with his/her -3, but then you have to exile a card. Flexibility is always nice in magic, and being able to retrigger an ETB or something could be worth exiling a land or cheap creature in some scenarios.

Limited

Planeswalkers are always powerful in limited. One reason for this is that they can effectively add to your life total. If your opponent doesn’t go after the planeswalker, it can be a big problem for them, and if they do, that’s damage that’s not going to your face. Ashiok can either make a 2/3 to defend her/him when he/she comes down, or bounce the most problematic permanent on the board. His/her loyalty also starts nice and high. If your deck is built to starve the opponent of resources, his/her -3 is essentially a removal spell that also happens to set up his/her ultimate, and that’s what you want a -3 to be doing. At the same time, his/her tokens can start milling your opponent to death on a clear board. There are other ways to mill your opponent in this set. I don’t think it’s worth building around, but at the very least, a 2/3 every turn is still pretty good.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Ashiok is a limited bomb. I think what she/he does is impactful enough to get up to the A- range… the only limitation being that he/she has some limitations when he/she comes down for 5 mana. If she/he sticks around for more than a couple of turns, though, you’re probably just going to win. Even bouncing and exiling two permanents and adding a 2/3 to the board could push you into victory territory (-3, +1, -3). If you happen to use the ultimate and nab something powerful, you’re probably going to win.

Constructed

I think that Ashiok could see play in the right deck. What really makes this possible is his/her convenient 5 mana cost. In Dimir or Esper control decks, there’s not a lot more you could be doing in one turn for 5 mana right now. Mainly it’s his/her -3 that matters. In very controlling decks that have other discard and exile effects, this will practically be a -3 removal which is good on a 5 mana planeswalker. Constructed decks are very powerful, so if you get to his/her ultimate, which is not that difficult to do, the likelihood that you steal at least 1 good permanent is very high. This would be worth the cost and setup alongside the other effects Ashiok has. Mill decks are also always floating around here or there, and being able to create a token every turn that can mill your opponent, even just a little bit, could be handy in such decks, and mill decks always love bounce and discard effects.

I just think that this is something that control decks could be interested in. Dimir and Esper control are not particularly powerful right now, and I don’t think that Ashiok makes them powerful enough on his/her own, but maybe in combination with some other new cards from this set they’ll be a force to be reckoned with once again. We do have Temple of Deceit after all. I just like cards that let me steal permanents, so that’s what I’m most excited about here.

Dream Trawler

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This card looks super cool to me. A 6 mana 3/5 with flying and lifelink is passable, but you really have to read the rest of its text box to get the card’s full impact. It gets +1/+0 any time you draw a card, and that includes your draw step. It also draws a card when it attacks, so that means that while it’s only at least a 3/5 blocker, it’s always at least a 5/5 attacker (unless your opponent has a Narset out). The fact that this can make itself immune to spot removal and the like is also very powerful, and it really doesn’t ask that much of you. Since Dream Trawler is drawing you extra cards anyway, you should have the fuel you need to make it hexproof as needed.

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This card reminds me of Niv Mizzet, Parun. It’s an expensive 6 mana creature that’s a card draw engine. While it’s not nearly as powerful as Niv Mizzet, it’s also less vulnerable than he is with its ability to go hexproof pretty much whenever you need. The fact that it’s a huge, evasive attacker that causes a 10 point or more life swing with each attack makes it a win condition on its own too, as you would expect for something that’s probably drawing you additional cards each turn.

What’s also interesting is that you can pump this creature with other card draw spells. Drawing a card at instant speed could cause a blowout in combat.

Limited

This is definitely a limited bomb, and I think it’s one of the most powerful cards in the set. In fact, I might go as far as to say it’s the most powerful card in the set, but a couple of the gods and a few other powerful cards might end up being better. It is held back only by its mana cost — you’re not always going to be able to cast this, but you’re probably going to win any game where you do. The only way your opponent can generally remove it is with a sweeper, and there’s only one of those in this set. I don’t think there are any 5 power flyers in this set, so there’s no individual creature that can trade with it. Evenan escaped Chainweb Aracnir can’t kill it, and you can of course make it hexproof anyway. There are edict effects as well, but those are always weaker in limited than they are in constructed since the probability that you have at least one other thing to sacrifice alongside Dream Trawler will be very high. The fact that it has lifelink makes it very hard to race, it has evasion and a big body that can grow, and that makes combat complicated for your opponent. It’s almost impossible to kill with spot removal. Discarding a card to make it hexproof isn’t a big ask — especially since this card draws you additional cards on its own… and that’s the final point. This is a card draw engine, and that’s always powerful in limited. You can only draw one additional card per turn with it, but that’s still a strong effect. Keeper of Fables was a strong card in the Eldraine limited format. Even if Dream Trawler can’t quite win you the game on its own… maybe your opponent also has one or something… it can at least help you dig for something that can.

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Constructed

Niv Mizzet, Parun is generally too vulnerable for constructed although he does have a place in Temur Reclamation decks. Otherwise, you’re mainly playing him for fun or as a sideboard card against flash decks if you’re running an Izzet spells matter deck or somesuch.

I think that Dream Trawler’s ability to protect itself makes it much better in for standard play, but sweepers are universal in constructed, and edict effects are a lot more powerful. It’s much easier for a control deck to keep you down to one creature at a time in which case your opponent can definitely trade up by forcing you to sacrifice this creature with an efficient edict spell like Angrath’s Rampage.

However, I think that this is a reasonable win condition for Azorius or Esper control decks. I don’t think that Jeskai or Fires of Invention decks will be as interested. You probably want to play this in a deck where you can bring it out at the right time and either counter a potential sweeper or set it up so that it can resolve safely. Since it’s so resistant to spot removal, this is much easier to do than with many other expensive creatures in the format. I think that grindier decks want this card… it’s not powerful enough in terms of stats for the explosive turns that Fires decks are after. It will play better in decks that are interested in drawing cards, delaying the game, and slowly beating your opponent to death with a threat that’s difficult to deal with.

I don’t think this card is a game changer by any means, but I do think it will do enough to see play in at least some Tier 2 control decks.

Enigmatic Incarnation

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There’s only one reason that I’m interested in this card, and that’s because I read about its potential for what’s probably the most powerful turn 2 you could have in Standard:

  1. Leyline of Abundance for free + Gilded Goose
  2. Cast Enigmatic Incantion. With the Leyline and Goose +2 lands, you have enough mana. Sacrifice the Leyline which has a CMC 4. This allows you to fetch a 5 mana creature such as Niv Mizzet, Reborn. Draw 10 cards?

While that’s super specific and janky, it’s by no means impossible, and I definitely want to try it just because of how hilarious it is. Other than enabling some wacky turns like that, I don’t think that this card is very good. It’s held back by too much. If you could sacrifice this enchantment itself, sacrifice a creature or an enchantment, or fetch enchantments with it in addition to creatures, or even fetch less expensive creatures with it, it would be much better. It would be a lot better if it could do any of those additional things, but this card, frankly, is just held back too much by all of its limitations.

Limited

This card is definitely something to avoid in limited. If you happen to have a three mana enchantment on the battlefield, the turn you play this, you can replace it with a 4 mana creature. You could sacrifice an enchantment creature, which is nice, but if you’re not running that line, then this is 4 mana to do nothing that turn, and there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to do anything next turn either. Your opponent can also blow up your enchantment targets in response to this. It’s just too fragile, janky, and expensive to do anything impactful most of the time, and it also relies on you having enchantments worth sacrificing and creatures worth tutoring. That’s way too many conditions coming together for this to be something that could work. That doesn’t mean it won’t be fun, though. But seriously, why can’t this sacrifice itself? That would be close to making this a limited bomb, putting a 5 mana creature on the battlefield for free.

Constructed

It’s hard to count out a card with this unique of an effect. It reminds me of Neoform and Prime Speaker Vannifar. The latter sees no standard play at all, and the former is floating around in some interesting builds here or there, but it’s much cheaper and requires much less setup than Enigmatic Incantation. The fact that this card has a repeatable effect that doesn’t cost any other resources is nice, but if you’re not fetching enchantment creatures, you can’t chain your turns together effectively. As with limited, I think this card just asks too much of you to be worth playing.

Still, the effect of this card is so unique that it’s hard to count it out completely. There are powerful enchantment creatures in this set too that could potentially tutor each other. This is the sort of card that can enable some things that wind up being really powerful. Since you can run multiples of this, you could have one sacrifice another to fetch a 5 mana creature. I’m not familiar enough with the set yet to see how this could go other than the wild and wacky line I talked about above, but if you could have a playable 3 drop enchantment like Oath of Kaya or something that resolves into a strong 4 CMC creature, then next turn cast a 5 mana enchantment with some powerful effect for the turn that you can sac to resolve Dream Trawler or Niv Mizzet or something, you may be in business. Still, I think this is held back to jank tier where it will be a ton of fun.

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Gallia of the Endless Dance

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From a design standpoint, this may be my favorite card in the set. I love the name, the art, the flavor, and even the mechanics of this card. Unfortunately, I don’t think this card is all that strong, so I don’t think I’ll be seeing as much of it as I might otherwise like. Regardless, this is probably the card that I’ve talked about the most with other people.

A 2/2 hasty creature for 2 is something that aggressive decks always like, but this is also a legendary creature. The fact that she’s a satyr lord means that her power does depend quite a bit on whether there are other good satyrs in this set, and from what I can see, there frankly aren’t. Her ability to give card advantage to aggressive decks is nice, and it’s actually one of her better features. Attacking with at least three creatures isn’t an uncommon thing for aggressive decks to do, Gallia doesn’t have to attack herself to trigger this, and it’s a may trigger, so you don’t have to do it if you don’t need to. Some people may be turned off by the fact that you have to discard a card at random, and it’s too bad that this ability doesn’t work if you’re empty-handed, but aggressive decks in top deck mode will be happy to discard the land they drew that turn to draw two cards.

Limited

A 2/2 hasty creature for 2 is always nice for aggressive decks. If you have an aggressive red+green deck, you’ll definitely want her, but I don’t think she’ll draw you into a particular deck herself. The main problem that I can see is just that there aren’t really any other good satyrs around… she’s actually probably the best satyr. It’s also really inconvenient that other playable satyrs are 2 drops since that makes it harder to curve out with her with satyrs, although you don’t need satyrs to trigger her ability or anything. The fact that she’s legendary is irritating since you can’t have multiples of her that pump each other which is something that typically gives lords more potential, but since she’s a rare that would be highly unlikely anyway.

I do think that her triggered ability is going to be worth it in the aggressive archetype that she fits into. Even if you have to swing in and trade her, drawing two cards off of that is still pretty good. Triggering this multiple times and ripping through your deck while beating down your opponent will be awesome, and I think that will probably happen once or maybe twice a draft with her, but I think you’ll usually only end up triggering this one or two times max in most games. It’s not bad, but practically speaking, you have to have a card in your hand to begin with, and if you have more than one, you have to be willing to give up any of the cards you have to trigger this. The idea of taking a gamble of discarding a good card you have to draw 2 is fun, flavorful, and feels very red to me, and maybe you do that in a desperate situation and win the game with what you draw. So yeah, this card is fun and exciting, but it’s honestly not much more than a reasonable creature for aggressive decks.

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Some satyrs are reasonable playables in limited, but a Satyr tribal deck doesn’t seem worth it to me.

Constructed

Gallia will only fit into aggressive decks. I don’t think that any other satyr is strong enough to see play in constructed, so the fact that she’s a satyr lord probably doesn’t matter. There haven’t been satyrs printed in any other set in standard right now which could have been cool. Maybe we’ll see some in upcoming sets that are worth playing.

To me, Gallia would fit in only one deck: Gruul aggro. However, she’s competing with a 2 drop slot with Zhur-Taa Goblin. I think the goblin’s ability to come in at a 3/3 makes him better, but it’s feasible that you could play both cards. I’ve seen people playing Wildwood Tracker in Gruul decks, and Gallia is definitely better than that. If you can curve out with a decent board and start pummeling your opponent, Gallia’s ability will also help you dig for cards that you’re after like Embercleave. I’m sure that occassionally you’ll be attacking on turn 4, trigger her ability and draw Embercleave which you’ll be able to cast since her ability triggers on the attack step, combat isn’t completed, and Embercleave has flash. That will be awesome.

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I think that Gallia’s usefulness in standard really comes down to how useful her ability is, and because there is so much removal in standard, attacking with three creatures at once is by no means a guarantee. It may be easier than I’m making it out to be, and the card advantage from her ability may be more valuable to Gruul decks than I think, but I just don’t see her as being impactful enough to see a lot of play in Gruul decks, and she just doesn’t belong anywhere else.

I think that because she’s such a cool card, people will play her a lot, and maybe she ends up being better than I think, but until we get some other, better satyr creatures, I think she’ll be held back to mediocre status.

Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath

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There is another card in this cycle of titans that you have to sacrifice if they entered the battlefield without escaping that also has an ETB trigger. This is sort of like a 3 mana growth spiral that also gains you 3 life. How powerful it ultimately is will also depend on how likely you are to be able to escape it. A vanilla 6/6 is meh, but at least the price is right, and if you play him to get the trigger, then escape him later, you do get the trigger again which is cool, and you also get the trigger each time he attacks. You will need to self mill or get lucky enough to have your opponent mill you to get him out on turn 4, but if you’re in a grindy game, you will probably be able to escape him at some point, and in the right kind of game and/or deck, you may get to escape him multiple times. Cards that can recur are usually pretty powerful, and although this asks a lot of you like other escape cards, the fact that it does something reasonable when you cast it initially anyway makes this worth running to me. I’m most excited to see just how good escape will be, and this card is sort of a stand-in for the escape mechanic as a whole on this list.

Limited

How good this card is in limited will depend entirely on how strong escape is. I don’t think that 3 mana for his ETB effect is worth it in limited, so you have to be playing a deck where escaping him is a reasonable possibility. If you do, he gets a lot better since a 6/6 is good in limited anyway, and he’s also a card draw engine which is great, and a life gain engine which is neat.

Keep in mind that having 5 other cards to exile in a limited game is a ton. You generally have to have at least 4 mana producing permanents to cast him, plus 6 cards in your graveyard, so at a minimum you need around 10 cards from your deck to escape him initially. Since your deck also starts with 33 cards in it because of the initial draw, that’s pretty much a third of your deck you need to have gone through to be able to escape him. Not all limited games go that long, but I don’t think it’s totally unreasonable either. However, this set also has a lot of graveyard hate, and he doesn’t have indestructible or anything when he comes back, and he doesn’t have any kind of evasion. Escaping him a second time gets harder, and escaping him a third time is probably out of the question unless you’re playing the grindiest of games.

I actually think that escaping him once a game, while not a guarantee, is a reasonable expectation. I wouldn’t try to build your deck to self mill just to empower him, but if you happen to have some self mill for other purposes like The Binding of the Titans, he does get better. I think he is strong enough to take with a first pick in weaker packs… something like a B- or a B. I may be wildly underrating him, though.

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Constructed

I think that his ETB effect is better in constructed than it is in limited since it’s much easier to build around… he will possibly have a place in ramp decks. You could run him over Growth Spiral now that Destiny Spinner may be occupying a 2 drop slot, and she also makes him uncounterable. However, he’s also competing with Risen Reef in the 3 drop slot for the same mana cost… but maybe you could play both in certain decks.

Again, his power in constructed will be similar to limited in that it will be based on how easy he is to escape. Once you can escape him, the payoff is probably there. I think this will be easier in constructed for a few reasons: games can be grindier, decks are bigger, so you have more resources to escape with, it’s much easier to build around since you can just put all of the best self-milling and other escape cards in your deck, and there’s always a ton of removal around, so things are going to your graveyard a lot more often which is advantageous for escaping in a way. However, all of the graveyard hate in this set is also a potential drawback here.

I do think he’ll see play in Simic and Bant ramp decks. He does have some competition for his slot, but he might be good enough to either be played alongside it or maybe even instead of it.

One important note: you can only escape at sorcery speed. If you could escape at instant speed, the stock of Uro and other escape cards would go way up, but the fact that it’s sorcery speed (well, it’s whenever you could normally cast the spell. There are instants you could escape) does keep things in check quite a bit.

Nyx Lotus

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I’m excited about this card because I see it as having a lot of potential, but I’m not sure how good it will actually be. 4 mana to do nothing for a turn in most cases is a big ask, so when you can untap with this, it better do a lot. Artifacts that ramp you always see play, but this is very conditional. In some cases, you may be adding 5+ mana to your mana pool with this one artifact. Sometimes, you won’t have any devotion at all and it will be completely useless. That’s very swingy for a 4 mana card that doesn’t do anything otherwise. It is nice that you can choose any color, but it can also only add mana of a single color which is another limiting factor for it.

This is another “fixed lotus…” a mana ramping artifact like Black Lotus that’s not supposed to be busted. Fixed lotuses usually see play, and a lot of times, they seem to be more powerful than they were intended to be. That may be the case here, but since this card needs a lot of help, it’s tough to see it being all that powerful. Good cards can always do enough on their own.

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The fact that this enters the battlefield tapped is a big limitation to me. It reminds me of Firemind Vessel… another 4 mana ramp enchantment that enters the battlefield tapped and is less conditional. That card doesn’t really see play, but I think the Lotus has a higher ceiling. However, the lotus doesn’t offer any fixing which is what often makes artifacts like this so strong.

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Limited

I think this is an unplayable card in limited. 4 mana that does nothing the turn it comes down is just too much of an ask. Having devotion in limited is not out of the question, but it does require some setup. The payoff is that you can possibly ramp a turn 6 or 7 play out earlier, but I just think that’s asking too much. You need to have a card in your hand worth using extra mana on and have taken a turn off to cast the lotus and have at least 1 devotion of the color that you need to ramp you. A card that has three requirements like that is just asking way too much. It reminds me of Nyxbloom Ancient in that way.

Constructed

Artifact decks are always popular, and while there are no Tier 1 artifact decks in standard right now, there are always artifact decks that are played here or there. However, this card actually doesn’t really fit into artifact decks since artifacts generally don’t provide any devotion.

With all of the removal that’s usually in standard, having a high enough devotion count to make this worth it seems very hard to me. To be honest, I don’t think this needed to enter tapped. The requirement of having devotion is enough. What I’m most excited about with this card is seeing how people end up abusing this. A card with this high of a ceiling is hard to count out, and in the right deck, it might be able to put in a lot of work. Regardless, I’m skeptical.

Shadowspear

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I’m excited about this card because it’s really nothing we’ve seen before. It’s an equipment, but it has an activated ability that you can use whether or not the equipment is equipped. It reminds me a bit of Umezawa’s Jitte. There’s not really much else that gets around hexproof and indestructible, and that effect only costs 1 mana. The spear itself is only 1 mana to come down. That’s really efficient to hose two of Magic’s most powerful keywords, and the effect is one-sided. That’s a lot of power in this little artifact.

Its ability to be equipped for some additional value is nice… 2 mana for the boost it offers actually isn’t that bad, but the spear’s activated ability is the most exciting thing about it for me. It’s colorless too, and I can’t help feeling that we’ll all get sick of seeing Elspeth’s equipment by the end of this format.

Limited

This isn’t a bomb or anything, but especially since it’s colorless, it’s worth first picking in weaker packs, and if you’re running a deck that has a lot of destroy creature and enchantment effects, it’s probably worth picking up too. You’re going to encounter a god at least a few times each draft, and for a very efficient 1 mana additional cost, you turn on your removal spells against them. Not only that, but the stats boost this offers in limited is pretty efficient too. It’s not incredible, but the combination of those two things together makes this a card you’ll be happy to run in many decks.

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Constructed

Because of the introduction of a lot of indestructible and hexproof cards, I think that this card will definitely see play in standard even if it wouldn’t have without all of the other cards in this set. I think this card is powerful enough to see play in non-rotating formats as well, particularly since there are very powerful strategies revolving around the hexproof and indestructible keywords in pretty much every format.

The thing is that hexproof and indestructible are both so strong, and the ability to turn it of all of your opponent’s permanents for a single mana is just really powerful. There aren’t many better turn 1 plays that many decks can do right now, and the fact that this offers a reasonable stats boost and lifelink means that it’s even useful against aggressive decks that might not be running expensive indestructible cards. 1 mana for this one-sided effect just seems really good to me.

What really sells this card for me is its efficiency. If this were 2+ mana to cast and/or 2+ mana for its activated ability, it might still be worth playing in some decks, but its efficiency and flexibility opens it up to be played in all kinds of decks. Its effect is one-sided and can be activated at instant speed, and that’s all pretty amazing. You can play this on turn 1, then several turns later you can equip it to your Kraken from Kiora Bests the Sea God to have a 9/9 hexproof, lifelinking trampler while you’ve been efficiently picking off your opponent’s hexproof and indestructible permanents. I think that this card will probably be played more than any other in this set, and that’s very exciting.

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