If you’re like me, you tend to do a bit of research before a new set releases, taking in all of the spoilers and listening to set reviews before anyone ever gets to actually lay hands on the cards. This leads to a ton of speculation where people are flat out wrong about cards, or don’t understand mechanics or how different cards interact with each other or synergize with other cards within a given format. There’s always a wealth of information out there that’s undoubtedly useful when gearing up for a prerelease, but how do the cards stack up once you’ve gotten to go hands on with them? I’m going to lay out my FIVE favorite cards for each color, and then the best of the rest. I’ll let you know where I personally think they may make the most impact, or why they excite me. So buckle up and let’s get started!
Oath of Gideon – I wish Rally triggers were in full force in Oath, but unfortunately we get Support, and Cohort instead. I mean they’re grea…goo…er…they’re abilities! For the purposes of limited, Oath of Gideon is not going to be a good card. Due to the distinct lack of Rally triggers, you can’t take advantage of the two ally tokens. Plus you’ll be lucky to get a single Planeswalker AND this card. BUT! This will be a must play in any deck going with a superfriends strategy that’s playing white. There are a number of Commander players salivating over this card, and I’m one of them, even if I don’t have an immediate space for it.
Stone Haven Outfitter – I. Love. This. Card. I’m not going to lie, good equipment gives me a metaphorical stiffy. I’m really tempted to brew in standard with this card and build a solid white/red equipment deck with a share of allies. I also love this card for certain Commander strategies like Nahiri, the Lithomancer or Jor Kadeen. Ya know what? I ALSO have a modern deck to toss this guy in, where he’ll be best friends with Puresteel Paladin. Yes, I like the Outfitter and can’t wait to get my hands on a playset.
Linvala, The Preserver – Unlikely to be a star in Standard, but will undoubtedly be a one or two of in a few choice decks. She’ll always be a bomb first-pick windmill slam in draft. She also has a spot in Commander. My Kaalia of the Vast deck is cold and shivering, just waiting for this card to warm it up.
General Tazri – Five color tribal commander with built in search AND pump. There’s a reason this is already a $15 foil before her popularity in the format has really caught on. She’ll likely always be a $1-2 normal rare, but Commander players prefer to have their commanders in foil. Mediocre in every other format, but will have a long and healthy life in Commander.
Eldrazi Displacer – Blinks things for extra ETB triggers, best friends with Siege Rhino, will see play for a very, very long time in multiple formats. Great card.
Dimensional Infiltrator – Fun Fact: Frenetic Efreet has appeared in multiple world championship decks, and was a ridiculous, hard to kill card that gave control decks a threat that was difficult to deal with. This works fairly similar to the Efreet, but it costs one less mana, has flash, is mono colored, and will mathematically work roughly 1/3rd of the time as opposed to half the time. Mark my words: There will be at least one deck on the pro tour within the next year that plays four of these guys.
Crush of Tentacles – Look, I’m not much of a blue player. I never have been. But I LOVE this card. I’m gonna play it in just about every format. Watch me! I get to bounce everything, and I’m probably gonna get a big beater octopus at the same time! FEAR ME.
Sphinx of the Final Word – This is a bomb in limited, it’s a great card in the right commander deck, and it may even see play as a one of in Standard if control decks make a comeback.
Hedron Alignment – I’m not going to play this card. So why is it on my list? Because when it was spoiled, I laughed. Hard. Then I checked Reddit and saw people seriously brewing with this monstrosity, and I laughed even harder. I absolutely can’t wait to see what shenanigans people brew with this.
Slip Through Space – Such a simple card with a simple concept….for one mana that draws a card. Let me tell ya, back in my day we had to pay a mana just to draw a card! We got nothing else for that mana, and maybe if we were lucky we got to buy back the spell for five mana! AND THAT’S HOW WE LIKED IT! Seriously though, this is a phenomenal surge enabler, and it’s likely to see play in constructed formats for squeezing through that one creature that needs to hit, and get that nice cantrip to go with it. Watch this card.
Bearer of Silence – A 2/1 flyer for two in Black is already halfway decent, but then you toss on an edict effect for just two more mana and you’ve got a winner. I feel like mono black is poised for a comeback any time now, though it may have to wait for the upcoming Innistrad block.
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet – 3/4 Lifelink for four mana that exiles creatures that would normally hit the graveyard, gives you zombies when things die, AND you can sacrifice those zombies to make him bigger. Yeah, this guy has a bright future.
Inverter of Truth – He’s a bomb, and I think he’s going to impact a number of formats. Remember the card Leveler? This is basically a fixed leveler. If you can come out early, dumping advantageous cards into your graveyard, then drop this nasty 6/6 flier on the field, you will effectively make your deck incredibly lethal with just a handful of cards as a clock for both you and your opponent. Absolutely busted card in limited, and I have no doubt he will see Standard, and even possibly Modern play. Watch this guy be a breakout star once Innistrad hits.
Remorseless Punishment – A lot of people are down on this card, and I think it’s going to slip under the radar. I had this played against me in the prerelease, and my options were either lose five life and my sole creature that I was looking at to be my savior, or lose ten life. I chose to lose ten life, and then paid for it on the following turn. A friend of mine is brewing with this card in an Esper Dragons build, and though sometimes it can be a mediocre card, it can also be backbreaking if played at the right time. Watch this one, it’s going to sneak up on a lot of people. It’s like a mini Cruel Ultimatum.
Sifter of Truth – Great Commander card in the right decks. I’ll definitely be putting one in my Savra, Queen of the Golgari deck. A creature that replaces each one of my things that dies with other creatures that have a built in sacrifice effect? Yes please! I’m just going to chuckle to myself over here as a gently stroke a copy of Grave Pact.
Fall of the Titans – This is a card that I feel has some potential. This is likely to see about as much play in Standard as Crater’s Claws, which is to say…not much. I still like this card for Commander though, as it will undoubtedly score red mages more than a few kills, and I expect a number of pesky creatures to get a serious nuking.
Goblin Dark-Dwellers – True Story: I wound up at the final table of shame and played against a ten year old kid who managed to have a solid blue/red surge deck at the prerelease. I was down on this card until he played it, twice, burned out my creatures with a spell he already used, then swung for four a turn that I couldn’t deal with. People thought Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy wasn’t a good card. I had to remind them that he had a built in Snapcaster Mage. Now Jace is $70 and I walk around feeling permanent smug about that. Keep an eye on this card.
Devour in Flames – This is likely to see more play than Roast. Sure it costs one more mana, but it has strengths that Roast is severely lacking: the ability to hit fliers as well as Planeswalkers. So what if you have to bounce a land? That’s an advantage if you’re rocking some landfall triggers! Great card, be sure you own a playset.
Chandra Flamecaller – This is another card that the endless throngs of Debbie Downers in Magic forums are throwing in the trash. Magic players seem to have short memories, because Red historically has been a solid midrange color when properly utilized. Goblin Dark-Dwellers and Chandra are intent on bringing that back. I’ll be playing Chandra in Commander for her zero ability alone. If you check my previous article about the Daretti, Scrap Savant Commander deck, you’ll recognize just how powerful this Chandra could potentially be as she fills your graveyard with easily recurred artifacts and fills your hand with more enablers.
Kozilek’s Return – Cheap. Instant. Colorless. Nukes small creatures the first time, and nukes big creatures the second time when you cast it FOR FREE. Oh wait, you don’t technically cast it the second time, so it CAN’T BE COUNTERED. Even if they counter the fat Eldrazi you’re casting for 7+ mana, this card will STILL go off from the graveyard. This card is the allstar of the set. It really, really is.
Sylvan Advocate – Tarmogoyf Junior! Okay, so that may be exaggerating a little, but I feel like he has a lot of potential. If you’re playing a deck where you ramp quickly, he’ll easily be a 4/5 for two in no time. Let’s not forget that he’ll turn your Hissing Quagmire into a 4/4 Deathtouch, or your Lumbering Falls into a 5/5 Hexproof. That’s assuming you don’t use some awakening abilities to produce more lands to be beefy creatures to back him up. This card is quality, and I really believe that.
Seed Guardian – Great card in limited. At minimum he will always replace himself with a 1/1. But the sky is the limit! He’s got a sizable body as is, plus Reach to swat down a lot of those pesky fliers, but sometimes he’ll replace himself an even bigger creature, and he’s just a pain to deal with. In the right Commander deck this guy could be brutal. Birthing Pod will turn this card into something better, and considering we’re playing a deck with sacrifice effects, we’re probably gonna get a massive elemental as a bonus for our hard work. Play this card.
Oath of Nissa – This is the best of the Oath cycle, hands down. Basically you draw a card for one green mana, then it allows you to easily play out any Planeswalkers you may have. The second part is unlikely to come into play in limited, but this is a very superfriends friendly card. Expect this card to see a ton of play in many formats.
Nissa, Voice of Zendikar – Three mana Planeswalkers don’t come around often. She isn’t a bad card by any means, but I’m also not going to say she’s amazing. She has a spot in Commander in token or army strategies, and she’s also likely to see play in Standard, though I’m not sure where. Of course she’s solid in limited. Even if she doesn’t have a big effect immediately, Planeswalkers tend to make your opponents make bad decisions to try and get rid of them.
World Breaker – I came out of the gate in my second match of the prerelease. We were on game 3 and I was taking my opponent to task. Another turn or two and the game would have been done. Then he played Conduit of Ruin, and fetched this thing. He ruined my day and broke my world. This card is devastating. Absolute must play in limited, and this guy will undoubtedly see play in other formats.
The Best of the Rest
Sea Gate Wreckage – I feel that this is an underrated card that will find a home in many aggro oriented decks. I had this played against me in both prerelease tournaments I attended, and it allowed both my opponents to school me in card advantage. Tapping down four land to draw a card can be a big ask in a format like Standard, but I feel like this card will see a lot of play in Limited and Commander.
Thought-Knot Seer – This guy looks like the Soul Edge combined with an Eldrazi. It’ll use it’s big eye to peer deep into your soul…then deny you a card with the promise of drawing a different one later. A 4/4 for four passes the vanilla test right off the bat, but its abilities put it over the top. Thought-Knot Seer will definitely definitely see play in Standard, and is a bomb in limited, though I can’t speak to his long term prospects in other formats.
Reality Smasher – ELDRAZI SMAAAASH! *ahem* My apologies for that outburst. I tend to be a big fan of the Incredible Hulk, and Reality Smasher is very reminiscent of the muscle bound hero. This card will almost always be at least a two for one. I mean, he costs five mana for a 5/5 which is solid already. Then you add a pinch of haste, and a dash of trample, and you give it a ridiculous ability to protect itself. Expect to see it played in standard for the foreseeable future, he may squeeze into modern, and he’ll have a place in Commander as well. He’s an Allstar.
Stormchaser Mage – And here we have yet ANOTHER Allstar! Stormchaser Mage is certain to be the star of many an aggro deck. I’m positive a Temur aggro deck will come about to replace Atarka Red before long, and tons of people are experimenting with him in Modern. I know I’m planning to try a number of things featuring this card, including my Modern deck. He’s a Monastery Swiftspear with evasion. Come on, how is this not going to see an absurd amount of play?
Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim – I’ve gathered a lot of people’s opinions on this card, and much of it seems to be “meh”. But I disagree! Ayli will undoubtedly be the star of her own Commander decks, and I think she’s going to be a choice two drop in Abzan. A 2/3 Deathtouch creature for only two with tacked on upsides? Yeah, she’s solid. I like her, and will definitely be brewing with this card.
Thanks for reading all this way! I didn’t get to play as much with Oath of the Gatewatch prior to writing this article as I would have liked thanks to being buried under multiple feet of snow, but that didn’t dampen my excitement for this set. What cards are you excited to play with? What cards have you found to perform better than you expected, or worse than you expected? Drop a comment below and let me know what you think!