M13 2013 Core Set Review – Blue by Grant Hislop

M13 2013 Core Set Review – White by Grant Hislop


Hello again.

The last time we spoke, I told you what I thought of the White cards in M13. In a shocking twist, that I’m sure you didn’t expect, this time I’m going to tell you what I think about the blue ones. I’m sure you can’t wait.

As I’ve previously mentioned when writing these, I’d prefer if any discussion of the cards and my opinions on them took place in the forums at the bottom of the article rather than dotted around several places on facebook. Makes things easier to keep track of, sparks a bit more discussion as more people can see it, and I get a nice little email telling me that I need to look at something. That’s how we get to win-win-win folks. Please, please, please do it.

Without further introductory preamble, here’s the blue cards:-


I’ve always had a soft spot for cards like Mnemonic Wall and Izzet Chronarch  in cube draft, and while I think he’s powerful enough for that format, I can’t ever see wanting to play this mancer over Snapcaster Mage  while I’ve got the option to do so. It’s a pleasant effect, but Snapcaster’s effect on deck building has been to push out all but the cheapest instants and sorceries anyway, so you’re really not getting much benefit to being able to Regrowth  the card rather than just play it then and there.

To not even mention the number of times that Snapcaster Mage is just an Ambush Viper  would be doing it a disservice, and for these reasons, I think it’s unlikely that this will make the transition to 60 card decks. I’d be surprised of foil versions of these weren’t in demand at pre-releases though, for Cube and EDH enthusiasts.

Arctic Aven

The ‘other basic lands matter’ cycle continues, and I think this one is pretty good. The problem is that UW decks are leaning pretty heavily on the blue half, and using Seachrome Coast[card]  and [card]Glacial Fortress in high numbers. There’s also the small matter of another 3/2 flier that costs U to consider. How valuable is conditional Lifelink? Pretty valuable, I think, but we’re probably looking at a powerful card that just doesn’t have a home. You might think I’m ‘Aven a laugh when I say this is playable, but I’ve cast far worse cards than this before.

In limited, it’s playable in any blue deck, but clearly gets a lot better in white decks. Obvious observations aside, it’s fine as a Kelinore Bat, so I’ll almost always play it if I’m in blue, but it gains a lot of value if I’m UW skies, which is generally one of the better core set archetypes anyway.

Augur of Bolas

I loves me a Court Hussar, and this is one of the better ones. I’ve played just about every variant of this ability in the past, Sea Gate Oracle, Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas and all the rest. How much work do you actually need to put into making this work though? It’s probably somewhere around the 20 mark to be actually hitting this consistently, which is pretty much Delver of Secrets level numbers. I think this is far more of a control card than one for Delver decks, so it doesn’t just slot in there. I can certainly see myself playing with this Augur’s Balls for the next year or so in a UB shell.

Even if you’re just grabbing a cantrip, you’re getting a not unreasonable blocker to hold the early game, as his 1/3 body at least buys a turn against Strangleroot Geist, which is one of the best cards against UB. I know Gerry T and Brad Nelson have been messing around with a mono-blue Wizards deck for post-M13 standard, but I haven’t actually watched the video yet. Perhaps someone who has can let me know if the deck looks any good?

Battle of Wits

The best thing I’ve ever seen on the Star City Games open series coverage was where a guy was playing a Battle of Wits Zoo deck against a Show and Tell deck. The Show and Tell player casts his namesake spell on turn 2, plops an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn onto the table, and the Zoo player puts a Battle of Wits down. Absolutely hilarious.

That said, there’s really not enough in the way of tutoring to make this standard viable, and as cool as it is, I know that there’s no way that I could sufficiently randomise a 250 card deck sufficiently in the time allotted to make this anything more than a kitchen table card. I love that, when this card was spoiled, like the first comment in the MTGSalvation forums was ‘MORE COMMANDER GOODIES, YAY!!!’. People are idiots, and this card is far too much of a battle to get to work.

I expect that every single Sealed pool I open with M13 will contain at least 1 copy of this card.


Well, I guess after Scars block rotates, we’ll be able to play legendary creatures again, as this is far too expensive. Admittedly, we’re spoiled at the moment with the 2 and 3-mana Clones that are running roughshod over Standard at present.

It’s really good in limited, copying you or your opponent best card, usually for far less mana than they paid, but that shouldn’t be news to anyone. There really isn’t much to say about Clone that hasn’t already been said, and if I said much more, I’d just be copying what’s been said before.

Courtly Provocateur

I’ve played more than my fair share of Alluring Sirens in limited before, and while I’m sure we’ll all agree that this is an excellent limited card, I’m hopefully not provoking too many arguments when I say that this will not see any meaningful constructed play. It’s so fragile, it dies to everything, even Gut Shot and nobody really blocks in Standard all that much anyway, which all conspires to keep this out of all but the most casual of decks.


I’m experimenting with Divination at the moment in my control decks. I find I like it quite a bit better than Think Twice at the moment, as the format’s just too fast, nor am I able to play Draw Go decks, where Think Twice would be preferable. I’d advise anyone still actually playing Think Twice to switch over to a combination of Divination and Amass the Components, as you’re not really gaining anything by splitting the cost over 2 turns.

With that in mind, this card is already standard legal, as it was in Dark Ascension. Limited wise, this is almost always going to make the cut. Makes you more likely to draw your bombs, find your removal, or just find more cards to stall the board. Divination’s never the best card in your deck, but it’s never the worst either, and I’d be surprised if the M13 format had changed significantly from other core set limited environments that this wasn’t the case.


Frost Breath sees no constructed play, and I can’t see this being any different. If you’re in the market for this effect, Feeling of Dread can at least do it for 2 turns. It’s not that it’s bad, and there are certainly blue aggro decks that could make use of the effect, it’s just that there are better cards available.

Now that I’ve rained on your parade, we’ll discuss its limited applications. Again, outside of the most aggressive blue decks, this effect isn’t worth a whole card. Some decks will want it, but the vast majority won’t.


Premium limited removal, with marginal constructed uses. The fact that this says ‘Artifact’ as well as creature means this can hit Swords and Birthing Pods, and stop them equipping and activating, which certainly isn’t a bad thing. There are very few ways that blue has to deal with artifacts, and while it can pair with other colours to overcome this weakness, it’s nice to have access to a way to deal with these things in house.

For the most part, in limited, this will serve as a quasi-Pacifism, but obviously, that’s not the worst comparison to have. Easily one of the best blue commons.

Essence Scatter

The death of Mana Leak is here. We’ve got Essence Scatter and Negate here, and given that Cavern of Souls was just printed in Avacyn Restored, it seems unlikely that Essence Scatter will ever see play in constructed. In a great many decks, Negate was actually better than Mana Leak, and Dissipate is a bit on the steep side for wide spread constructed applications, so it seems like most of our spells will be resolving post rotation.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s good to have good permission in a format to keep everyone honest, but people have certainly been complaining about Mana Leaked spells quite a bit recently, and it’s possible that it’s a little too good in conjunction with Snapcaster Mage. So instead of general purpose answers, we’re left with these conditional spells. Well, we’re forced to work with what we’re given, but to be honest, it seems likely that control decks will be moving towards tap-out style even more than they already are.

As I’ve said before, UW Delver is basically the only deck where Mana Leak is actively good anymore, and even they’re trimming down on Leaks, which should be indicative of how the format is likely to progress.

Faerie Invaders

Spire Monitor, while cool, has seen no constructed play. Making it a better creature type won’t change that, so he won’t be invading the top tables of a constructed tournament any time soon.

Flash is one of the most powerful keywords on a card, so it’ll definitely see limited play. It’s solid, but not a first pick. I’d take these 5-8th as a pretty strong signal that blue is open, but blue would need to be the best colour by a large margin for me to be taking them much higher than that. I love the tension that your opponent is faced with; Can he really attack into your 5-open mana? It’s like the Restoration Angel of the limited environment. Wonderful limited card.

Fog Bank

Another card that holds off Strangleroot Geist really well. I think you’ll need to do some pretty heavy format analysis if you’re considering playing this, as it gets so much worse if people are playing Pillar of Flame. I think we can agree that this is a control card, and your opponent will feel like they’ve robbed the bank if they can turn on what is traditionally one of their worst cards against a control player.

In limited, you’ll be able to hold off Dragons, Angels and Demons all day long with this, and while it dies to every removal spell, who’s really going to want to spend a Murder or Searing Spear to actually kill this? For the most part, this will stall the board for a long time, while you chain your Divinations into better answers and trumps.

Harbor Serpent

While the Titans may have rotated, the 6-slot has far too much competition for this to warrant any consideration, however prevalent Islands might be.

In limited, he’ll stall the ground forever, and eventually be able to start swinging. Absolutely insane in any blue mirror, but still good enough to make the cut to the maindeck more often than not. I know there are people who don’t like him, but I’ve always been happy with him, in my Core Set experience. Your mileage may vary.


This is not worth a card. In constructed or limited. Cue the surge of criticism.


Ponder is gone. Sad face. This is what we get instead. Index certainly isn’t bad, and gets so much better with each shuffle or mill effect you have. Would be a staple if it had ‘draw a card’ on it, but it doesn’t, so it’s likely to just be a combo card, with no other applications.

I don’t think I’d ever want this effect in limited. It’s low impact, and the environment typically isn’t fast enough that being able to sculpt 5 turns worth of draws is actually worth a whole card. Generally, I’m happy to just take the cards as they come, and I’d rather not effectively mulligan any time I see this card in my opening hand.

Jace, Memory Adept

We’ve had Jace 3 for a year now, and just about every blue deck has played 1 at some point. He’s really good against control decks, giving the aggressive blue decks a way to have an element of reach out of the board. Milling 10-cards is not an irrelevant clock, but I see people using this far too aggressively. A lot of the time, milling 1 and drawing is the safer play. He’ll never be particularly widely adapted, as he’s low impact on the board, and doesn’t protect himself at all.

Of all the planeswalkers, this is the most frustrating to play against in limited. It’s really difficult to imagine ever beating a resolved Memory Adept, as the clock is just so fast. He’s very rarely included in cubes for these reasons.

Jace’s Phantasm

I’m intrigued by this card. I really can’t see where it goes, but it’s clearly quite powerful. Any deck that’s consistently able to get 10 cards into an opponent’s graveyard probably doesn’t want a easy-to-deal-with creature like this, but it’s a 5/5 if you do so, which isn’t an unreasonable clock. I don’t think there’s a home for it, nor is it good enough against Solar Flare to warrant running in the board.

Another interesting card without a home.

In limited, we’re looking at an evasive flyer who might get better if the game goes long enough. I don’t think there are many limited games that get to the point where 10 cards are in graveyards to be fair, but I’ve played Zephyr Sprites before, so it’s important to look at the whole picture. I think the more aggressive blue decks want this, but there’s probably not that many of them. Also, decks with 2+ Vedalken Entrancers can use this as a quasi-dragon, but I don’t think those will be happening too often.

Kraken Hatchling

I know you’re getting tired of me kraken all these bad jokes, but this one was too easy to pass up.

I liked drafting control decks in Zendikar block, so probably took this a lot higher than I should have. I don’t think the format is aggressive as Zendikar block (what is), so this is probably a lot worse. Still holds the ground all day, but probably isn’t as good as I remember it.

Master of the Pearl Trident

A strictly better Lord of Atlantis, outside of 2HG was quite a surprise to come across. I think this one will push Merfolk even closer to playability in Modern, where they’ve now got access to 16-lords, plus Adaptive Automaton, if they so desire (they won’t). This probably pushes Merfolk Sovereign entirely out of the deck, and using Lord, Master, Reejery, Adept and Cursecatcher as the creature based certainly looks pretty formidable for a lot of decks to deal with.

In standard, I don’t think there’s enough support for the Merfolk tribe, which is a shame, but Modern and Legacy applications alone have got me stocking up on my Merfolk.

Limited wise, there’s only 4 Merfolk in blue in the set, including the Master, and one of them’s a 1/1 for 1, so for the most part, he’s just going to be a Grizzly Bear. Again, that’s not bad, but it’s not particularly exciting either.

Merfolk of the Pearl Trident

How many Masters would I have to have to play this in limited? Probably 3. Master’s a rare. That won’t happen that often.

How many Masters would I need to have to play this in constructed? Probably 16. Master’s not a basic land. That won’t happen ever.

Mind Sculpt

Well, I guess it combos with Jace’s Phantasm pretty well. The Dimir guild in Ravnica had a milling theme to it, and this would certainly combine quite well with that. There’s probably a blue deck that uses these, Phantasm, Thought Scour etc and will win at FNM’s, but it’s just too low impact for serious play.

In limited, I can’t ever see wanting to spend a card on this. Vedalken Entrancer is good because it’s a creature, a mana sink and an alternative win condition. This is only one of those 3, ergo it’s bad.


I don’t want to negate any previous good will I’ve generated by making bad jokes, so I’ll decline to comment too much on this card.

We’ve seen it before, we know it’s good. Moving on.


This isn’t Dream Halls. You can cast Dream Halls. You can never cast this.

What are you doing with this in standard? What could you possibly want to do? Like, it’s clearly designed for some stupid combo, but the support isn’t there for it, and the set-up is just too excessive. Best left to the EDH crowd, who’ll do something stupid with it, and have fun doing so.


I really like this card in limited, where you basically get to copy a removal spell, Fireball etc, generally for less than was paid for it, and frustrate your opponent. It’s fine, but doesn’t seem like it’s going to be doing anything in constructed, given that we’ve had it for the last 2 years anyway, and haven’t ever been pulled in that mis-direction.


The last time Rewind was standard legal, its primary purpose was as a 1-2 of in Mystical Teachings decks, usually as a way to fight Dragonstorm through Gigadrowse. There’s a deceptive amount of support for this in standard at the moment, and while few decks can afford the tempo loss of holding up 4-mana for potentially no reason, there’s Restoration Angel and Yeva, Nature’s Herald which both cost 4, and could help regain the lost tempo.

The thought of Rewinding into a Restoration Angel’s pretty sensual, and it’s pretty tough to imagine many decks being able to handle that sort of tempo swing, especially if you’re flickering anything that gives you any sort of advantage, like say, a Blade Splicer.

Scroll Thief

We’ve seen this before, and I don’t have anything new to say. You can keep scrolling on down, and see what’s up next.


I’d call this a sleeper hit of the set, but someone might sleeper hit me. This is basically the Day of Judgment that Geist of Saint Traft decks will want to be playing. Thinking about casting Geist, then Sleep, and then Snapcastering the Sleep again has got me feeling all inappropriate. I’ll certainly be keeping a close eye on Sleep, as it’s a card that I’ve certainly considered in the past, and seems to have gained in stock quite a bit.

It was always insane in Limited. I don’t think I’ve ever lost a game in which I’ve resolved a Sleep, which has been quite a few, and I doubt that it’s going to be any different this time around. Such a beating, and so happy that it’s back again.


Bulk rare, for the Commander crew. Nobody serious about 1v1 constructed will cast this.

Sphinx of Uthuun

For some reason, there seemed to be a bug on MODO where people couldn’t separate the piles for this properly, so you practically always got to draw 5 cards when you cast this. Perhaps people will have learned how to do it properly the second time around.

Heartless Summoning makes use of these occasionally, but other than that, there isn’t really a place for it. Most of its play is going to come in commander and limited, where it’s easily one of the best rares in the set.

Stormtide Leviathan

Another one for commander, we’ve had this before, and outside of some slight legacy play in Reanimator, this hasn’t really found a home. 8 mana is a lot, but you do get an Island Sanctuary out of the deal, and a pretty fast clock. There are plenty of decks who couldn’t beat this if it ever resolved, but actually trying to get to that stage seems like catching a storm in a teacup.

Another fine limited rare. Will be too expensive for most decks, but occasionally, it’ll ruin peoples days.


The name for this makes me so sad. I really don’t want to have to say ‘Switcheroo’ at any point other than when I’m singing the Lonely Island’s hit song ‘Motherlover’, and now that the best uncommon in the set is called it, I’m going to have to.

Mind Control is never bad, and you don’t have to jump through too many hoops to make this just as good as Mind Control. It’s also much easier to splash than Mind Control, which is another massive plus. I expect to be getting Switcheroo’d plenty while drafting this set, and you should too.

Talrand, Sky Summoner

Again, this is in Gerry T and Brad’s Mono-Blue Wizard deck. I still haven’t watched the video, so I don’t know if it’s good or not. It seems good in theory, but it’s competing with Restoration Angel, and to a lesser extent Dungeon Geists, so I don’t think it’s an auto-include in Delver like a lot of people seem to think.

I’m not saying it’s bad, but Restoration Angel’s got some pretty big shoes to fill, and I can’t help but thinking that she’s going to do a better job ruling the skies than Talrand is. Sure, if you’re combining it with Cantrips and removal spells, it’ll be pretty sweet. Time will tell.

You’ll want at least 5-6 instants and sorceries to consider playing this in limited, and even then, it’s borderline.

Talrand’s Invocation

This, on the other hand, I can fully get behind for limited play. It’s clearly no Lingering Souls, but what is? 4 power across 2 bodies for 4 mana is nothing to be sneezed at, and I’d suspect this will be one of the best cards in the environment.

I can’t see it crossing over to constructed though. Lingering Souls makes a better creature type, and in a better colour for that type of thing, and you’ll be sorely disappointed the first time someone curves an Intangible Virtue into Lingering Souls against you if you’re Invoking Talrand’s drakes.

Tricks of the Trade

This or Rancor? I’ll give you a clue, and I’m not being tricky, it’s always Rancor.

I’ll trade literally any number of these for Rancor’s, if there are any takers? Anyone? No? Good.


While Vapor Snag is still around, this serves no purpose. I think Delver basically dies post rotation, as the entire Phyrexian Mana debacle rotates, and then we’re not exactly going to be calling out for an Unsummon when there’s plenty of more permanent solutions available.

Still good enough in limited, but you’ll seldom want more than 1.

Vedalken Entrancer

I’ve spoken about this card a couple of times above, and while he’s still too slow for constructed, he was an easy first pick in Ravnica block limited, and I’d expect something similar this time around. He’s a creature, a mana sink and an alternative win condition, and his body should ensure the ground is safe for quite a while.

I’ve found that milling in limited is far more frustrating for my opponents than normal, due to the small number of bombs and removal. You’ve never lived until you’ve seen an opponent at FNM’s face after you’ve milled his Serra Angel and Doom Blade with the same activation. I expect to be picking this highly while I draft this set.

Void Stalker

I really like this card. It’s an effect that blue very rarely gets, and it has some similarities to Mangara of Corondor, which is a legacy playable card. Obviously, the mana investment involved for the Void Stalker means that it’s not nearly as good, but consider how spicy activating this, then casting a Restoration Angel would be? There’s also Vapor Snag and Cloudshift to consider, which are seeing varying degrees of play.

Its body isn’t irrelevant either. I can see this being adopted as a sideboard cards against the ‘go-big’ decks, whatever form they may take for the next year or so.


It’s not constructed playable, but that’s pretty much par for the course by now.

It’s a good, tricky card for limited, where it’s difficult to block, and will almost always trade up. It’s a really big body for a blue creature to have, and with no drawback, it’s somewhat surprising to see.

Welkin Tern

Time for this Welkin’s Tern in the spotlight.

This was one of the best blue commons in Zendikar block, and is going to be a centrepiece of blue aggro decks in this environment too. Solid card, and you should take getting passed these as a strong signal that Blue is open.

Wind Drake

Again, it’s solid, but we’ve seen it before. It’s never going to blow anyone away, but it’s almost always going to make the cut in a draft .

Top 5 cards I want to play with in Constructed:-

1. Augur of Bolas
2. Void Stalker
3. Negate
4. Sleep
5. Rewind

Top 5 limited commons

1. Encrust
2. Vedalken Entrancer
3. Essence Scatter
4. Faerie Invaders
5. Scroll Thief

Thanks for reading, and thanks for sharing.







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