M13 2013 Core Set Review – Gold, Artifacts, Lands and TV Comedies by Grant Hislop

M13 2013 Core Set Review – Gold, Artifacts, Lands and TV Comedies by Grant Hislop


Whew, it’s been a long couple of days.

These set reviews seem to be going down pretty well, and I don’t think I’ve made any glaring mistakes yet. Here we are in the home straight, so we’ll try and keep the momentum. I’ve got something slightly different planned for later in the week, so keep your eyes peeled for that.

Hopefully you got a chance to play in a Pre-release at the weekend, so will have had some experience with the cards, and can tell me how off on them I’ve been so far. I didn’t play in any myself, so I’m writing this final stage of the review with absolutely no experience with the new cards myself. If I’m wrong about anything, please tell me. The whole point of these things is to generate discussion, and that can’t be bad, right?

Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker

We’ve seen Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker before, and he saw fringe play at best. I think that people might be underestimating him for his second time around. Grixis Control is already a strategy that I’ve had a decent amount of experience with, and strongly recommended in the past. Nicol Bolas is an interesting card to consider, in that while he clearly has a lot of competition in the deck, he’s going to do almost all of what that type of deck wants to do. He eats other Planeswalkers in the control mirror like nobody’s business, and isn’t completely dead against the faster decks.

I can’t imagine a deck that ever wants to see one in their opening hand, but Grixis has access to cards like Desperate Ravings and Forbidden Alchemy to get rid of inopportune cards like this. I could even see the deck adopting an Amass the Components or two to keep the dream alive.

As before, I don’t think anyone wants to have any more than one, but I think he’s likely to make a bit of an impact this time through Standard. I know I’m excited to start brewing with him again.

In limited, it’s a Planeswalker, and an absolute house if you can ever resolve him. I don’t play it unless I’m heavy black, obviously, and I’d really want at least 1 Evolving Wilds in my deck before I’d be fully comfortable with it, but I say ‘Go nuts’. Live the dream, and cast Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker in a draft. It’ll certainly be a story.

Akroma’s Memorial

It’s one for the Eldrazi Monument crowd. It’s not really got much in the way of Standard applications, given how expensive it is, and how little it does by itself. This has, for the most part, only been included in Hypergenesis decks before now, and I can’t see that changing.

In limited, it’s pretty sweet. If you get to resolve this, and have any board presence whatsoever, you should be winning. Breaks board parity apart, and, while it doesn’t do anything by itself, any sort of pressure you’ve already got can become back breaking. Solid card, and one that I’d play in just about any Sealed deck.


I wrote a whole paragraph about how good this was in Tempered Steel, as a replacement for Steel Overseer, but then I read it again, and realised it was just himself he pumped. If only I could turn back time…

Yeah, this doesn’t excite me in the slightest in constructed, but it’s going to be fine in draft. The earlier the better, clearly, but these aren’t the worst. I definitely play these in Sealed. An utterly horrible top deck in the late game, but still, you only actually need to pump it 2-3 times before you’ve got a pretty big creature on your hands.

Clock of Omens

I suppose two of these and a Gilded Lotus generates 6 mana… This is a combo card, but I can’t see it having much impact on constructed. It’s far too low impact in and of itself to do anything worthwhile.

I can’t conceive of a deck that wants this in 40-card land at all.

Door to Nothingness

You really can’t get any more final than ‘Target player loses the game’. I’ve had the extreme pleasure of Willbendering this activation from myself to the Door’s controller in a game of EDH before. That’s pretty much the only time I’ve seen it before now, and I’d imagine the only time I will see it. It’s so expensive, but the mana just doesn’t exist to make this anything close to reliable.

This is one to play in your 5 colour Battle of Wits deck in sealed, and never again. Don’t try it, it won’t work.

Elixir of Immortality

Glad to see it back for another year. This card sees far less play than it should. I’m really surprised that this and Trinket Mage haven’t been made use of in control decks. I experimented a little with a package of this, Hex Parasite and Grafdigger’s Cage, and was pretty impressed by it. It slows aggro down a fair bit, and ensures that control decks will almost never be able to Nephalia Drownyard you out.

Given that Trinket Mage is about to leave us, it’s difficult to see the Elixir making waves on its own, but with Wurmcoil Engine, Batterskull and Peace Strider all about to leave us, it’s possible that this is just the best universal life gain machine that Control decks need. We’ll see, but I’m not holding my breath.

Limited wise, it’s a sideboard card for the super aggressive decks, and nothing more. I don’t think I ever want to start this.

Gem of Becoming

Armillary Sphere saw some small amount of play, and while this does gain a slight edge by being able to get Hallowed Fountain and co come Return to Ravnica, 3+3 is a really awkward point on the curve for this, as you’re leaving yourself open to an awful lot by tapping out for this. It’s on my radar, for sure, but it’s so expensive that I’ll be surprised if anything comes of it.

P1P1 Nicol Bolas, P1P2 Gem of Becoming. I bet this happens more than once. It’s a decent way to thin your deck, and ensure you’re hitting land drops. The slower the format, the better this is.

Gilded Lotus

This is basically your Primeval Titan replacement. Jumps you a turn earlier too, but doesn’t have the massive body attached. Obviously, the reason Primeval Titan was so good was his ability to grab Kessig Wolf Run and Inkmoth Nexus, so it’s likely that this is one for the control decks, rather than Ramp strategies.

Limited wise, this is one best left to the ramp and 5-colour decks. I expect I’ll first pick this whenever the opportunity arises, as the chance to play 5-colour in limited is something that I find very difficult to pass up.

Jayemdae Tome

Far too expensive for what it is. Won’t see any play, again.

Fine in a control deck in limited. Good mana sink, and keeps the card advantage rumbling. I’ll always play this in Sealed.


The deck that wants this doesn’t exist. There’s better options for swarm decks that want some sort of evasion, like Odric, and the skies are pretty clogged up with Delvers and Lingering Souls at the moment anyway. It’s fine in limited, where decks might conceivably want a way to break through a ground stall, but it’s probably going to remain in sideboards.

Phyrexian Hulk

More like Phyrexian Bulk. Unplayable in 60 card formats.

Fine for limited control decks. It’s a realistic sized body for cost that anyone can play. I’d never be excited to pick this, but it serves its purpose reasonably well.

Primal Clay

While we can hopefully all agree that this is well behind the curve in constructed, I’m a big fan of this for limited. It does everything you want in a creature. It’s either evasive, a Hill Giant or a wall that holds the ground, whatever’s best for the situation. I fully expect that I’ll be making use of all of Primal Clay’s modes in the next few months.

Ring of Evos Isle

The ring cycle is all constructed unplayable. They vary in usefulness in limited a bit, so I’m only going to discuss the limited applications, to avoid repeating myself too much.

The blue one gives Hexproof, which is pretty good, but it charges for it, which is pretty bad. Putting +1/+1 counters is also pretty good. This is good enough for blue decks, but you wouldn’t play it if you didn’t have at least 5-7 creatures that could get the counters

Ring of Kalonia

The green one gives Trample, which isn’t as exciting as Hexproof, per se. Again, you’ll play this if you’re green, but not otherwise. Growing your green creatures and giving them Trample is pretty nice, as synergy goes, so I can definitely see starts of Arbor Elf into Ring + Equip being moderately common.

Ring of Thune

The white one grants Vigilance, and is, by far, the worst of the cycle. It neither offers protection or evasion of any description, unlike the others, so you probably won’t even play this if you’re in white.

Ring of Valkas

The red one, unsurprisingly grants haste. This is one of the more interesting Rings, due to the contrast. The other rings want to remain on the same creature, and grow them, but this one wants to be moved about, onto a fresh creature every turn. This is my favourite of the cycle, and I’d probably play this even if I wasn’t in red.

Ring of Xathrid

Regenerate is one of the more powerful keywords in limited, and 2 is a fair amount to pay for it. This ring makes your combat step slightly more favourable, and can save a big guy from a removal spell. Definitely solid, and I consider playing this even if I’m not black too.

Sands of Delirium

It’s an absolute bomb in limited. Exactly what you’re looking for, in that it’s an artifact, doesn’t require a constant commitment, and ends the game a few turns after you’ve cast it. Really impressive, and I can’t imagine passing this very often.

Back when Scars block constructed was just Scars of Mirrodin, I played a UB control deck using Grindclocks. This isn’t as far away from constructed playability as you might think, though it’s probably just not going to be good enough.

Staff of Nin

This is too expensive and too low impact to see any constructed play.

In limited, it’s a lot better. Pingers are always good in limited, and I’d even pay 6 mana for one that draws me a card a turn. It’s easy to throw off combat maths with this, not to mention the ability to just sit back and dome your opponent. It’s great that it doesn’t require any mana commitment as well, which you sometimes get with these things.

Definitely a first pick quality card.

Stuffy Doll

This doesn’t see much play outside of EDH, where people do all sorts of horrible things to him. He’s fine, but it’s not strong enough to warrant any serious constructed play.

In limited, again, it’s one for the control decks, but it’s pretty low impact. You’ll never actually kill your opponent with Stuffy Doll, assuming they’ve got all their mental faculties, and you’re not running the previous card in the list as well.

Tormod’s Crypt

A solid role player, for sure. We’ve played it before, and it sees play all the way up to legacy. Replaces Nihil Spellbomb in non-black decks, obviously, and should see a lot of play in sideboards depending on how the format progresses.

The limited environment isn’t graveyard based, so it’s unlikely that this warrants inclusion. I guess it’s a way to deal with Rancor, if you’re that worried about it.

Trading Post

It seems to make you do a lot of work to do not very much. I guess it’s kind of like a Forcefield, which isn’t a bad comparison, but I just don’t think it’s worth it in modern magic.

Does everything you want in limited, and just keeps the gas flowing. Another easy first pickable card. If you can pick up any other artifact, you’ve got quite the combo going, looping goats into recursion. It’s definitely a head scratcher, as it’s so hard to evaluate all that it does without actually playing with it.

Cathedral of War

This is definitely one for the mono-coloured aggro decks, as clearly decks with stricter mana requirements can’t afford colourless lands. I’m excited to pair this up with Mirran Crusader or Stromkirk Noble though. Exalted is just too powerful a mechanic for this to not see play.

I’m unsure about this one for limited. It seems like it’s almost free in traditional 2 colour decks, and it’ll probably always be good when you see it. It’s definitely one I’ll need to play with to get a feel for how good it actually is though.

Dragonskull Summit
Drowned Catacomb
Glacial Fortress
Rootbound Crag
Sunpetal Grove

I’ll group these all together to save time, and repeating myself. These lands are brilliant. They’ve seen play all the way up to legacy, and they’re almost flawless design. People were hoping for shocklands in this set, but I never saw that happening. I’m happy to see these again, and you should be too. Get used to them, as I wouldn’t be surprised if we were still discussing them in M20.

Solid limited cards, both for fixing and enabling splashes. These generally get passed around a lot later than they should. Be aware of them, they’re a lot better than you might think, especially if you open a Switcheroo in pack 3, and have picked up a Drowned Catacomb and a Glacial Fortress for your BW deck, for example.

Evolving Wilds

Evolving Wilds was sorely needed in the format, and we got it in Dark Ascension. Its inclusion here offers nothing outside of limited, where it should still be a 5-8th pick card, again for both fixing and enabling splashes. Solid card, and another one that usually goes far later in draft than it should.

Hellion Crucible

The red deck loves its spell lands, and this is certainly one for the red deck. Outside of the red deck though, I see very little application for Hellion Crucible. How good this is depends entirely on how good the red deck is.

Solid in limited, again for the red mage to limit their chances of flooding out, and providing a mana-sink. It’ll be a lot better in draft than in sealed, but I value this quite highly.

Reliquary Tower

I don’t think that there are any constructed uses for Reliquary Tower. Tamiyo grants a similar effect on going ultimate, and actually does something by herself while not worsening mana. I don’t think the deck exists that can take advantage of this. If you’ve got more than 7 cards in hand in the late game, you’re hopefully winning anyway, and hopefully competent enough to work out what to discard to keep it that way.

Has absolutely no limited applications for all the reasons above.


So, again, we end on a bad note. I would do a top 5 commons etc, but the only common is Evolving Wilds, and these are obviously different to evaluate to cards of the same colour. By now, you’ve probably played with these cards, so please, feel free to tell me if I’ve gotten anything glaringly wrong.

The Top 5 Bit

What I will do, for those who’re interested in Top 5 lists, is list my 5 favourite television comedies at the moment. If you’re looking for a laugh, and haven’t seen any of these, I’d recommend checking them out. I’m favouring newer shows though, because if you’ve not already seen Arrested Development, Seinfeld, 30 Rock and co , you’re probably not overly enthused by the genre anyway.

1. Parks and Recreation – I honestly think this is the funniest show I’ve ever seen. The characters are all, by now very well developed, and they have the best comedy character since Randy Marsh in Ron Swanson. The episode where he’s involved in a treasure hunt with Ben and Andy is absolute gold.

The first season isn’t the best, but the cast they’ve acquired along the way speaks volumes about how good the show is. Adam Scott is criminally underrated as a comedy character, and his character, Ben Wyatt riffs incredibly well as a foil to the rest of the casts zaniness.

2. American Dad – As Family Guy continues to get worse, American Dad is growing inversely stronger and stronger. Again, by this point, the characters are really well developed, but each episode continues offering something new. Easily the best of Seth MacFarlane’s almost identikit cartoons now.

3. Community – I’m moderately concerned about Dan Harmon’s removal from the show, but seemingly by all accounts, he was insanely difficult to work with. The third season was so completely unlike all the prior two towards the latter stages, it was almost like watching a difficult show. If you’ve not watched this yet, do yourself a favour, and watch the Alternate Timelines episode, and the Dungeons and Dragons episode. I’d love to disappoint Alison Brie sexually, and disappoint her I would.

4. Workaholics – This is a new one to me. They’ve done 2 seasons now, and I’m midway through the second. The chemistry between the cast is top notch. The episode featuring Alice’s down’s syndrome brother has been a personal favourite so far.

5. Modern Family – Absolutely one of the best comedies on TV right now. Ed O’Neill’s long been a favourite of mine, and even if he only ever plays the same character, it’s just such a hit in this show. He riffs incredibly off both Sophia Vergara’s Gloria and Jesse Tyler Ferguson’s Mitchell.

If I had one criticism of the show, it’s that Ty Burrell’s Phil Dunphy hasn’t really been developed over the 3 seasons, but really, the rest of the cast works so well together that it’s easy to forgive.

Stay classy mtgUK, it’s been a treat.



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