A realistic Dark Ascension Set Review – Gold, Silver and Lands by Grant Hislop

A realistic Dark Ascension Set Review – White by Grant Hislop


Hey hey hey!

While I write this, I’m listening to 96.3 Rock Radio, and you should too. Can’t beat a bit of Classic Rock in the afternoon.So here we are, having spent a stupid amount of time looking at the spoilers, and writing what I think of the cards, we’re finally near the end. Perhaps our Gold, Artifact and Land cards can offer something moderately exciting to whet our appetite for this set, because God knows the previous 5 colours haven’t had too much to offer.

Without further preamble, let’s take a look at the Gold cards.

Gold Cards.

Diregraf Captain
Drogskol Captain
Stromkirk Captain

I’m placing these uncommons together, as they essentially do the same thing. A bunch of Lords for the ‘monster‘ tribes from Innistrad, with a Merrow Reejerey-esque bonus attached.

I think the best of the bunch is the Spirit one. A lot of people are going to be running Curse of Death’s Hold in order to combat the Spirit Menace that’s running rampant across Standard.

The Zombie one seems pretty sweet in the inevitable UB Zombie decks, and seems a better direction to take than Rooftop Storm shenanigans.

The Vampire one is fine. The thing is, we’re not back in Zendikar block. There’s no Kalastria Highborn, Bloodghast or their ilk running around, and the push seems to have been to make Zombies the aggressive tribe, rather than Vampires, as much as cards like Bloodcrazed Neonate would suggest otherwise. It’s not a bad card, but I don’t think that the support cards are there, whereas if this was Zendikar block, they would have been.

The Werewolf one locks your wolves in their furry form, and I guess that’s a good thing, though again, the support cards aren’t there.

Drogskol Reaver

So this is a pretty powerful card. Sadly, it’s the same cost as Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite. It kind of acts as a cross between Wurmcoil Engine and Consecrated Sphinx, while being worse than both.

It dies to Dismember, which is absolutely something that a 7-Mana investment can’t do. Even if this is cheated into play, there are better things that you could be getting.

Once the Titans and Dismember rotate, it’s possible that this may get better, but for now, it’s going to exist entirely in 100 cards decks.

Falkenrath Aristocrat

This or Olivia? This or Olivia?


The only thing that this has going for it is Haste. There isn’t the support for this in Constructed, and it’s not actually that good. It’ll end limited games out of nowhere throughout its tenure in the format.

Havengul Lich

Heartless Summoning and Necrotic Ooze got a new friend. I can see this, in concert with Heartless Summoning and Perilous Myr causing FNM players problems for quite some time. That said, it’s a 3 card combo that doesn’t win the game immediately, so that’s probably where it’ll stay.

If you untap with it in Limited, congratulations on your win.

Huntmaster of the Fells

This is probably my favourite card in the set. I’m looking at a deck with this guy, Daybreak Ranger and Blue cards, because I like Blue cards. He kind of reminds me of Bloodbraid Elf. He’s definitely not as good, but doesn’t restrict your deck building as much as Bloodbraid Elf did. I really like that it does different things as it transforms. You’ll never be too unhappy if your opponent flips it back, as you’ll be getting another body to add to the team.

This guy and Daybreak Ranger are going to make quite a team.

Sorin, Lord of Innistrad

People always find it difficult to evaluate Planeswalkers, with good reason. At least Sorin makes it slightly easier by being somewhat similar to Elspeth, Knight Errant.

The downside to Sorin is that compared to Elspeth, he is really, really awkward to cast. Also, he goes in one deck, and that’s it. People are getting excited about playing him in control decks, when he’s nothing like what a Control deck wants. If you’re playing a Control deck with this guy, you’re doing it wrong. I’d play Lingering Souls over Sorin in my Esper Control deck before I’d even consider this guy.

Wizards obviously wants B/W tokens to be a deck, and they’re making it pretty obvious. But the thing is, Sorin goes in that deck, and he’ll do a reasonable Ajani Goldmane impression, but outside of that, his awkward mana cost will keep him from seeing any widespread play that he would have if he was mono-coloured, or indeed just about any allied colour pairing.

The thing is, he’s got all the things that the ‘good‘ Planeswalkers have, in that he can protect himself, and all of his abilities are worthwhile. Where he lacks is in that his ultimate doesn’t win the game, and he doesn’t protect himself particularly well. The second Sorin is much better than the first, so that is worth considering, but again, outside of that one deck, where he is admittedly one of the best cards, he isn’t that great.

Basically, Lingering Souls > Sorin, Lord of Innistrad. And that includes in B/W tokens…

Pretty good in limited though, I’d bet ;-)

Moving onto the Artifacts.

Artifact Cards.

Altar of the Lost

I’d assume this goes into Burning Vengeance decks in constructed and limited, and the Spider Spawning decks in limited, and not anywhere else. Lets you cast the off-colour flashback spells without destroying your manabase, which can only be a good thing.

Avacyn’s Collar

Oh look, something else for Invisible Stalker to carry, what fun!

In constructed, we can give our Humans Swords of X + Y, and we’re using Moorland Haunt to get more value out of them already, so this seems superfluous to requirements.

Chalice of Life

I won a PTQ with a maindeck Golden Urn. This is no Golden Urn.

Getting to 30 life is actually really difficult, outside of Life decks in older formats, who’ve got better finishers anyway. I guess I can see it as a 2-of in Martyr in Modern, as a non-creature way to end the game pretty quickly, but aside from that, it’s not going to get played.

Elbrus, the Binding Blade

There’s not a single Limited deck that I’ve ever drafted or opened that I wouldn’t have played this in. Nutty.

Constructed-wise, what are you doing? Batterskull is better with Stoneforge Mystic, and Argentum Armor is better if you’re getting your Quest for the Holy Relic on.

It’s obviously designed for EDH players, lets let them have this one, ok?

Executioner’s Hood

This screams 14th pick to me.

Grafdigger’s Cage

An obvious house in older formats. Turns off Oath, Reanimator, Narcomoeba and Green Sun’s Zenith, amongst other things. Seems like a default for the non-black decks to move to this as their Dredge hate of choice.

In Standard, I guess Trinket Mage means this can see play, but there’s not much in the way of a toolbox that he can actually grab that’s worth his inclusion. Shutting off Snapcaster Mage and most decks’ draw engines seems pretty powerful. It has the downside of being an Artifact in a block that features Ancient Grudge, however.

I can’t imagine playing this in many limited decks, as its parity is likely to hurt me as much as my opponent. I’d board it in the first whiff of a Burning Vengeance I got however.

Heavy Mattock

Sword of X + Y or this?

Will make the cut in most limited decks, I’d expect, and almost all of the Green or White ones, that have enough Humans to reliably make it +2/+2.


I can’t see anyone playing this over Karn, Liberated in a 60 card format, but by the same token, I can’t see anyone ever not playing this in limited. Again, Ancient Grudge is in this block, and this is an Artifact. 10 mana seems a lot to invest to get blown right out by the Grudge…

Jar of Eyeballs

I’d play this in almost every limited deck ever. It’s always castable, and lets you dig to your bombs as your guys die. Shrine of Piercing Vision does what this card does, but better for Constructed, which is a shame, cos this is a Jar of freaking Eyeballs!

Warden of the Wall

Seems pretty sick in Limited. Ramps you, while acting on defence pretty well too.

Pristine Talisman is better than this guy in Constructed, however.

Wolfhunter’s Quiver

There is an absence of pingers in this limited format, and I guess this gives each colour access to one. I wouldn’t be ashamed to first pick this. The Equip cost is pretty high, but I expect it’ll be worth it. There’s enough 1 toughness guys that this effect will always be useful, and the fact that it’ll kill most of the unflipped Werewolves can’t be bad either.

Rounding out the Artifacts, time too look at the Lands

Land Cards.

Evolving Wilds

We’ve all been complaining about how bad the mana in standard is for quite some time now, and this couldn’t have come at a better time. People are already running 5-colour decks, and this just makes them even more consistent, which can’t be bad.

All the enemy dual coloured decks now have access to effectively another set of dual lands now, which can’t be bad. Delver Burn was effectively 4 duals away from being a top deck in the old standard, and this should help bump it up. Makes the mana in B/W tokens less reliant on Isolated Chapel and hope which is, I suppose, a good thing.

Another thing, which seems to be under-appreciated, is that it provides Standard decks with a shuffle effect. Many decks are utilising Ponder already, and this serves to make that even better. Should make the U/W Delver decks slightly better as well, like they needed the help, right?

Grim Backwoods

So many creatures in Standard have Dying triggers right now, not to mention just getting some value out of a guy that’s going to die to a removal spell anyway. I really like this card, even if there’s not really a home for it at present.

Seems pretty spicy as a 1-of Primeval Titan target, if Conley’s Wolf Run Jund deck survives the rotation.

Haunted Fengraf

Can’t see this making any 60 card waves, but it’s an excellent way to mitigate flood in limited.

Vault of the Archangel

I wonder what deck we could play this card in?

Outside of B/W Tokens, it’s not going to see much play, so I guess it’s popularity depends on how good that deck is. Turning all your guys into Vampire Nighthawks is never a bad thing though.


So that wraps up our Dark Ascension set review. Now that you’ve had a chance to see the cards for yourself, what are your thoughts? and do you agree or more importantly disagree with any of the comments I’ve made about these cards?

Please share your thoughts by commenting below.

Thanks for reading, thanks for sharing.



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