Magic 2013 review for my limited card pool, part 1
107 cards are new, but only a small fraction of those will make it. Many fall to the wayside for similar reasons. I’ll get to those cards first, in this part of my review. In the second part, I will talk about those cards which didn’t make it for more specific reasons, as well as to those which actually made it!
1. Functional Reprints
These aren’t really new, just given a new name and maybe other creature types:
Battleflight Eagle – I keep Welkin Guide, which is also a cleric.
Warclamp Mastiff – was once Tundra Wolves, but I run the superior Mosquito Guard.
Faerie Invaders – I didn’t use Spire Monitor (which is a fine card, but not essential enough to make the crunch among a plethora of blue flyers), and I won’t use them, especially since I retired the faerie tribal component from my pool.
Flames of the Firebrand – I keep Arc Lightning.
Krenko’s Command – I keep Dragon Fodder.
2. Slight Variations of existing cards
Close enough to allow for very easy comparison:
Ajani’s Sunstriker – While stronger isn’t always better, I see no reason to power down Knight of Meadowgrain.
Crusader of Odric – a colorshifted Scion of the Wild, made more splashable. I don’t see the need for colorshifting – admittedly, it’s no bad fit in White, but it fits even better in Green which has fewer interesting tribal synergies. The splashability does it in, anyway.
Hydrosurge – a colorshifted Shrink, which admittedly makes more sense in Blue, its confusing flavor notwithstanding, but in any color just too weak.
Master of the Pearl Trident – no longer boosting your opponent’s merfolk, but that was never my main issue with this card. The thing is that granting mass islandwalk just randomly wins games against some players while being useless against most others. I am happy with Merror Reejerey.
Craterize – An overcosted Stone Rain and at the same time a greatly weakened Demolish. This card has no right to exist.
Magmaquake – essentially a Fault Line variant, which was already too efficient scalable mass removal. Explicitly referencing planeswalkers, which I don’t use, doesn’t help.
Searing Spear – Lightning Bolt is fine, thanks.
Ranger’s Path – I didn’t use the superior Skyshroud Claim either. If players spend 4 mana for ramping in limited, they deserve something like Thran Dynamo.
Serpent’s Gift – I kicked out Lace with Moonglove for being too clumsy. The same card without the cantrip is really not cool.
3. Fulfilling similar functions
Comparison to other cards isn’t trivial here, but was still the thing coming to my mind first and the most important factor in my decision:
Faith’s Reward – In limited, this is mainly a trick, not an engine card, just like Second Sunrise. While it allows you to make an all-out attack and then recoup your losses (other than the symmetrical Sunrise), it will too often be an answer to removal which proves to clumsy.
Griffin Protector – Goldnight Commander does it better, synergizing with a lot of creatures both ways.
Show of Valor – while the bonus is correct for a white Giant Growth, the mana cost is not. Both Moment of Heroism and Mighty Leap give a much more interesting bonus than the extra +0/+2.
Archaeomancer – I want my Sorcery/Instant theme in Izzet, not just Blue, so I prefer Izzet Chronarch. Also, the 1/2 body tacked onto the Call to Mind effect is, while useful, too insignificant for me. That’s why I keep the narrower Anarchist and Scrivener.
Courtly Provocateur – I actually don’t want Alluring Siren more powerful for more mana. I like that 2-mana utility creature just fine.
Encrust – okay, Claustrophobia doesn’t stop non-creature artifacts and doesn’t stop activated abilities, but that’s just not as relevant as tapping the creature immediately. I’m quite wary of removal which doesn’t help you against blockers – it tends to bog games down.
Jace’s Phantasm – I don’t think Zephyr Sprite needs any bonus, especially not such a potentially large one.
Tricks of the Trade – yes, it does things slightly differently than Spectral Flight, but not different enough, and overall worse. Actually, I like that Flight doesn’t make the creature outright unblockable.
Watercourser – Blind Phantasm is a benchmark creature for me. Blue won’t get any clearly superior card in my pool. For comparable gameplay, I have Water Servant.
Blood Reckoning – For me, it’s Hissing Miasma – cheaper, not splashable, and not mentioning planeswalkers.
Bloodhunter Bat – This one, being splashable, is actually a bit too strong for my taste. Also, it steps on the toes of too many other cards I use: Highway Robbers (important Mercenary), Blind Hunter (important Orzhov creature) and Falkenrath Noble (iconic and elegant).
Liliana’s Shade – I don’t think Black needs a creature providing it with extra land. Other than that, I already have Nantuko Shade and Primeval Shambler, both of which I like more.
Goblin Battle Jester – even with the activation cost, this ability is just much more awesome on a 1/1 for 1 mana (Intimidator Initiate) than on a 2/2 for 4 mana.
Reckless Brute – I prefer the more solid Ronin Houndmaster and the more extreme Lightning Elemental. This is just in the spot in between with a drawback I don’t like, taking away a decision from you.
Rummaging Goblin – So, the red Merfolk Looter has to be inferior TWICE. Why? Well, good thing Mad Prophet exists!
Wild Guess – this isn’t card draw, just card filtering, and not nearly as useful as Blue’s See Beyond, although it does stock your graveyard a little more. I prefer Dangerous Wager, which, in the right deck, is actually card draw.
Bond Beetle – sorry, but Ironshell Beetle at least guaranteed you a decent creature as a baseline. This doesn’t.
Predatory Rampage – effectively an Overrun, and that is just too much power.
Roaring Primadox – in contrast to its predecessors (starting with Stampeding Wildebeests), it doesn’t require you to bounce a green creature, and is consequently splashable and a little less powerful, but I found that repeated self-bounce just doesn’t play well, being either too annoying for you or (with good bounce targets) your opponent, with little middle ground.
Spiked Baloth – War Mammoth is too boring by today’s standards, and while this switches around damage potential and durability a little, it is not an improvement.
Thragtusk – Much more powerful than Penumbra Kavu, which is already a strong card. This is too strong.
Gem of Becoming – Since the connection to Nicol Bolas is irrelevant when discussing this card’s play value, this is a really clumsy mana fixer put randomly into Grixis. Yes, it can find you a card more than Armillary Sphere, but only in this exact combination, and for 6 instead of 4 mana total. And I found even the Sphere too clumsy.
Hellion Crucible – after playing with Gargoyle Castle for a while, I realized that I didn’t actually like lands sacrificed for tokens instead of just becoming manlands, like Stalking Stones. It is, among other things, a question of elegance. Crucible requires you to use counters AND a token – and all that for a card whose function it just is to give you a creature in a landslot. Why not just use Ghitu Encampment? I see that the 4/4 is bigger, but the Encampment is more reliable in practically every way.
4. Exalted in Black
I’m not actually averse to exalted in Black. So far I have it centered in White, dipping a little into White’s friends Green and Blue, but a juxtaposition in White and Black makes sense to me as an alternative. The thing is, I need a critical mass of black exalted cards for that, and I just don’t like my choices that much:
Knight of Glory – admitted, it’s not black, but it only makes sense when paired with Knight of Infamy. Otherwise, Aven Squire and Sigiled Paladin are better choices.
Duskmantle Prowler – okay, haste in Black isn’t exactly an abomination, but a bit of a strange baseline for a black exalted creature. I could live with that card, but I’m not too impressed.
Duty-Bound Dead – sorry, this is just terrible! Why does the regeneration ability have to cost that much? Maybe I would even have liked that card more without it – at least it would be more honest, just providing an exalted bonus with little additional use.
Knight of Infamy – Makes only sense in an environment with exalted in Black and White, but that is exactly what it’s for! No extra incentive for me to want it, though.
Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis – just too powerful. This would have been impressive without the triggered ability, but it’s way over the top with it.
Servant of Nefarox – okay, but not especially attractive. Overall, the black exalted cards just fail to convince me that they would enhance a limited environment.
5. The friendly cycle
I like monocolor cards which get better when played with another color. In fact I keep a 40-card cycle of those in my pool, in addition to 10 cards with off-color flashback and lots of hybrid and multicolor cards. Thus, I was at first glad to see this cycle and began to determine which cards I would take out for them. It took me a while to realize that I wasn’t actually happy with these new cards; that I either liked the candidates I already had more or would have doubled up on quite similar effects. Also, I had made it a priority to vary the way these cards referred to their friendly color – mana spent, kicker, activated abilities, looking for basic lands, looking for permanents – and an influx of five cards doing things the Hedge Troll way (yes, originally Sedge Troll, but I kept the Selesnya version) upset that balance:
Prized Elephant – perfectly balanced, but too similar to Hedge Troll, which I prefer. Would have had to shove out Seed Spark (a no-go – I already have way too few non-creatures in this cycle) or Rhox Meditant (which is a very nicely balanced card itself).
Arctic Aven – actually too powerful for my taste to be part of this cycle, and too similar to the more elegant Sejiri Merfolk.
Harbor Bandit – I like this one, but I think I like Shoreline Salvager even more, and I wouldn’t take out Ribbons of Night for it.
Crimson Muckwader – a bit similar to Slavering Nulls, and would have had to push out a non-creature (Dark Temper).
Flinthoof Boar – too similar to Kird Ape.
There are a few more cards which can be grouped together and dismissed fast:
6. The rings
To my taste, they are just too unwieldy. Maybe they aren’t bad in a slow environment, but then again, slow environments usually play badly, and anyway they just don’t evoke the feel of a simple bonus for players using a certain color, which takes away the main incentive to use them:
Ring of Evos Isle
Ring of Kalonia
Ring of Thune
Ring of Valkas
Ring of Xathrid
7. Too expensive
I never use cards costing more than 8 mana – that is enough of a goal to reach via ramping and provides a player with enough power (note that the following cards aren’t even worth ramping into):
I never use those, because they have way too much impact on any limited game:
Ajani, Caller of the Pride
Liliana of the Dark Realms
I exclude alternate win conditions:
Sands of Delirium
Okay – 59 out of 107 cards down! I promise to tackle the rest soon.