A realistic Dark Ascension Set Review – White by Grant Hislop

A realistic Dark Ascension Set Review – White by Grant Hislop


Dark Ascension is due to hit this Friday, and pre-releases have just come and gone last weekend. Hopefully this will get published in time for you all to bask in the accuracy of my predictions, or correct me in a timely, well-reasoned manner in the forums.

I’m starting writing this on Monday, the day when the visual spoiler went live on the mothership, but I’d expect it’ll take me a few days to complete, so I’m going to endeavour to avoid reading any other set reviews or the like so as to keep my opinions pure. I’m like that chyk that wouldn’t sleep with you in High School while you dated for like 6 months, saying she wasn’t ready, and then, when you broke up, she went out with this dude, and he nailed her on the first night. I’m just like that.

I’m not going to pretend this is anything revolutionary, it’s a set review. Today, I’ll look at White cards. Then Blue, then Black, and so on. You’re not a moron, I’ll not patronise you. I’m not going to use any scales, or anything like that, I’ll just run through each card, and tell you what I think of it. I’m sure you can’t wait.

Obviously, not all cards are created equal, and in fact, most cards that see print today are actively bad, so I’ll probably have very little to say on most of the cards other than ‘This is a bad card’, but hopefully I can flesh it out enough to keep your interest.


White Cards

Archangel’s Light

This is a bad card.

Bad start, try again.

This is a really bad card.

Yeah, this is tough. This card is super expensive, and is rubbish. 8 Mana for a bunch of life? No thanks. You can hardcast an Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite for 1 Mana less than this, and that should be enough to stem the bleeding against most decks that you could feasibly want this against. Also, as with almost all pure ‘Gain X Life‘ cards, the basic problem remains that you’re not actually doing anything to stop what’s caused you to need to gain life from stopping hitting you, so the problem is going to be there again in a couple of turns, if not immediately.

This is not even a ‘Good in EDH‘ card, a moniker which I really hate for describing big, toilety sorceries and creatures. If you’re actually playing EDH properly, you have no need for stupid crap like this.

Bar the Door

Pretty flavourful, but I’m not much of a flavour guy. This is a limited combat trick only, but the creatures in this limited format are generally big on toughness, low on power anyway, so I don’t know what deck you’d want this in.

If you play this in constructed, you’re doing it wrong.

Break of Day

The guy in the art is quite obviously based on Games Workshop’s Inquisitor game’s Duke Von Castellan. I haven’t played Games Workshop games since I was a nipper, but I remember this guy looking pretty bad ass.

The card itself seems a rehash of heaps of white combat tricks that we’ve seen before, offering a minor pump, with one of the set mechanics attached to provide some sort of further bonus, in this case utilising the Fateful Hour mechanic to make them Indestructible as well. It’s fine in limited, people will get caught by it, and they will feel sad. I don’t know how relevant the indestructibility will be. I’m going with ‘Marginal‘, to avoid having to take a stance.

Again, if you’re playing this in constructed, you’re doing it wrong.

Burden of Guilt

Bad quasi removal is still removal. The fact that you’re able to choose when to tap the guy is relevant, but I don’t see this being a first pick, except in really bad packs.

There is no reason that this card should ever see play in a 60 card deck.

Curse of Exhaustion

Yeah, I doubt this is good in limited, but I loves me an Arcane Lab effect in constructed. The fact that it’s one sided is excellent, meaning you can cast as many spells as you like, while reducing your opponent’s development to a snails pace. Probably only belongs in sideboards against stupid combo decks, and then, there are better options in the older formats, ie, I’d almost always play Ethersworn Canonist over this in Modern, but as the only effect like this in Standard, it’s worth having on your radar.

Elgaud Inquisitor

Seems to be relatively standard. When humans die, their ghosts come back to keep fighting. Again, it’s pretty flavourful, but I’m still not a flavour guy…

I’ll almost always play this in my 40 card white decks, but pretty much the only playable Ghost maker for 60 card decks are Moorland Haunt and Doomed Traveller, and this is nowhere near as good as either of those.

Faith’s Shield

This is a more interesting take on the Fateful Hour mechanic than Break of Day, while still being stapled to a common white card. This card is this sets version of Stave Off, but the Fateful Hour mechanic acts as a Brave the Elements as well. Now, I don’t know how easy it’s going to be to trigger fateful hour reliably, but I DO know that this sort of effect is super powerful in creature Mirrors. I can see this card ruining people’s days in limited, and finding a home in several creature decks as well.

Gather the Townsfolk

This is one of the top 10 cards in the set, for sure. Again, I’m not sure how reliably we can look to trigger Fateful Hour, but this card is fine as is. With mechanics like this, that offer something extra if you pay a little more, or jump through a couple of hoops, you have to look at what the card does on its lowest mode, to check viability.

Gather the Townsfolk puts 2 power worth of guys into play, for 2 Mana, across 2 bodies. This is well on curve. If it so happens that we’ve lost a bunch of life, we’ll get 5 power across 5 bodies instead. That’s so far ahead of the curve it’s not even funny.

The tokens are human, so can trigger Champion of the Parish twice, and it’s a spell, so you can flip Delver of Secrets. That’s 2 top decks in current standard that it would fit right into, not to mention the Black/White Tokens deck that ‘They‘ seem to want us to play…

Gavony Ironwright

This card shouldn’t see play, ever.

Hollowhenge Spirit">Hollowhenge Spirit

This guy exists purely to mess up combat maths. He’s almost always going to come down, remove a big guy, block another for tradesies, and upset your opponent. I think this is one of the most powerful combat tricks in the set, and you need to be aware of its existence. The fact that it costs 4 makes it quite easy to see coming, ala Neck Snap etc, but the effect is powerful enough that any deck running white will be looking to run this.

Increasing Devotion

Seems solid, if unspectacular in limited in its first mode, but the flashback mode is pretty powerful. Again, the tokens are human, so combos nicely with the Champion of the Parish, but I’m not sold that this is what a White based Human deck wants in constructed. I can’t see anyone packing this over Hero of Bladehold anyway.

Lingering Souls

This card is format defining. Better than Spectral Procession, not close. Wizards seem to really want B/W tokens to be a deck, and this is one of the Lynchpins of that strategy. It’s almost as obvious as the Faeries deck from Lorwyn block, but this deck is going to be big. It might not be good, but it’ll be everywhere. The only thing that’s likely to keep this deck from being absolutely everywhere is that Sorin, Lord of Innistrad is currently retailing for around £Eleventy Billion for a set, which should mitigate just how much of this deck we see.

Lingering Souls is going to be everywhere though, as it’s not just for B/W tokens. It’ll see play in control decks, aggro decks, and possibly in combo decks, like Burning Vengeance and/or Reanimator to buy time. The fact that the 4 power that it represents comes across 4 bodies is unreal. Definitely in the Top 5 cards from this set.

Loyal Cathar

This guy I can get behind. A 2/2 for WW isn’t especially exciting, but when he dies, you basically get him again is pretty exciting. I can see Grand Abolisher getting cut from the Human deck for this guy. I’m also expecting to see someone try to combo this with one of the ‘Sacrifice a Human‘ demons in their limited deck. I already felt like BW Humans was an underrated draft archetype in Triple Innistrad, as cards like Village Cannibals were so strong, yet so under-supported. I’d expect to see Village Cannibals going a lot higher in peoples estimations in their limited decks.

Midnight Guard

Yet another piece for the Splinter Twin decks that are already splashing White for Village Bell Ringer, but they don’t need to do that anyway, and this guy is so much worse.

This guy is fine in Limited, the 2/3 for 3 is fine, and you’ll attack, cast a creature and have him back to block enough that he’s almost always going to make your deck, though it’s unlikely that you’ll be excited about it.

Niblis of the Mist

2/1 Flyer for 3? Moderately useful ETB trigger? Must be a limited card then. I like the Ghost mechanic, where they mess with stuff on the battlefield, but this seems slightly underwhelming. That said, I’m almost always playing this in my White decks.

Niblis of the Urn

This guy is considerably better than his misty brethren. Sure, he’s smaller, but he gets to tap every turn, not just as an ETB. Stick a Dagger, or a Cleaver on this guy, and he’ll do a reasonable Invisible Stalker impression.

Ray of Revelation

I’m excited that this is returning. Seems like a Modern plant to me, in that it’s an effect that they really want to have in the format. I think this will help battle twin to an extent, in that it’s cheap, instant speed hate, and it comes as a built in 2-for-1, which I’m always going to be happy with.

I don’t think that Curses are at the level where you’d want to Maindeck this in your limited decks, but it’s always a useful sideboard card to have access to, in case of Curse of Death’s Hold etc.

Requiem Angel

Big, stupid Limited Dragon. Gets you a little extra value out of your guys, which is always welcome. Should be pretty stock by now, it’s a big, flying duder, and if you can’t kill it, it will kill you.

Sanctuary Cat

Oooh, a kitty!


Of all the ‘Do-Nothing‘ enchantments, this is definitely one of them. It definitely does nothing. The copies don’t have haste, so they can’t beat, and there’s not enough ETB triggers to make this worthwhile in limited. Chaff.

Silverclaw Griffin

This should almost always make your deck. It’s another quite big guy, that flies, and defends very well. It’s not exciting in the slightest, but a big guy that goes over the top should always make the cut.

Again, not much of a flavour guy, but the art on this is awesome.

Skillful Lunge

Oh look, another limited combat trick. White seems to have a lot of these for a small set, or is it just me?

Sudden Disappearance

This effect is interesting. Flicker all my guys, or more likely, flicker all your guys, and swing. Fine for limited, but I can’t see wanting to pay 6 for this effect in Constructed. Also, worth noting is that this wrecks tokens, but Day of Judgment, and other, cheaper cards, like Ratchet Bomb do so as well.

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben

This is more like it. I like the effect, I like the body, I like the ability. I don’t like 1 toughness, but they’re having to pay at least 1 for the Gut Shot to kill her, so I can’t object too much. She’s nutty in Eternal formats, I’d expect to see her in a Death and Taxes White Weenie deck before too long.

She’s no slouch in Standard either. You’re basically Time Walking your Control opponents when you resolve this against them, which is seldom a bad thing. She makes a Black Sun’s Zenith for 1 cost 2BB, which is pretty nutty.

I expect to see Thalia all over the place in a couple of weeks, once people realise how good she is.

Thraben Doomsayer

I like cards that make babies. This guy makes babies, and acts as an Anthem effect when you’re nearly dead. He’s considerably worse than Bloodline Keeper, but the comparison exists.

He’s presumably there to pull Forcefield duty against a lot of aggro decks for control decks that don’t want to play Black, for whatever reason. I think this guy is quite underrated at the moment. He’ll probably see play in some Sideboards throughout the season.

Thraben Heretic

Hatebear ahoy! This is going to see a lot of play in Innistrad Block constructed, and depending on the format, might trickle into standard as well. She makes Burning Vengeance much worse, laughs at Unburial Rites, and shuts off the Think Twice/ Forbidden Alchemy/ Desperate Ravings engines that make a lot of decks work.

I’m loving her work.



I thought this hit any type of card, but apparently it doesn’t . It obviously doesn’t work as I’ve described above. It’s fine, against the UG ‘dredge’ decks, I guess, and does a reasonable job of fighting the reanimation part of Solar Flare, but really, no-one plays Solar Flare any more…

It’s a niche card, will probably see some play in Sideboards, assuming we get some more reanimation spells that don’t cost the earth, or the Gravecrawler decks prove to be the real deal. How disappointing.

See you on the next one!



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