Gatecrash Set Review Part 1/6 – White and Orzhov by Grant Hislop

Analysing the Modern Ban List – Spread the Sickness with Grant Hislop

Gatecrash Set Review Part 1/6 – White and Orzhov by Grant Hislop

Well folks, it’s that time of year again. This dust has settled on all our Christmas, Hanukkah  Kwanzaa etc celebrations. Hopefully whatever you did over the festive season was enjoyable, and hopefully the winter-wizard was good to everyone.

Now that it’s January, that means a new set (Gatecrash), and with that means a series of semi-incoherent ramblings about said new cards. As always, I’ve tried to avoid spoilers up until now, so these are, for the most part, my genuine first impressions of the cards. This also means I’m more likely to misinterpret what a card does, and people seem fond of correcting me, so why would I change that?

gatecrash magic poster

The order I’ll be looking at the set in will be as follows:-

1. White and Orzhov
2. Black and Dimir
3. Blue and Simic
4. Green and Gruul
5. Red and Boros
6. Hybrid, Artifacts and Lands

This seems to have a nice flow to it, and by including the Hybrid cards on the end, hopefully the articles will be:

a) around the same length and

b) Under 4500 words each. Fingers crossed it all works out.

Anyone who’s ever written a set review will know just how much of a commitment they are time wise. I’m planning to write one of these a day for the next week, so I can’t imagine I’ll be getting all that much else done this week, due to being locked in my living room thinking about Magic cards. It’s a hard life.

Anyway, onto the review! Fingers crossed for some [card]Thragtusk[/card] hosers, things to combat the stupid Bant Hexproof deck and maybe something to fight [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card], plus some sweet goodies for the older formats.

Aerial Manuver[card]Aerial Maneuver[/card]

However you maneuver around this card, it’s still pretty bad. Combat tricks remain almost entirely in the realm of sealed and draft, and it would take something a lot better than this to make the jump over to constructed. It’s too low impact for any serious consideration in any sixty card deck.

In limited, it’s frequently useful to have tricks like this, though typically, it’s going to be a very rare case when you’re able to generate more than a one for one with it, which isn’t ideal. It’s fine, typically decks will want a pump spell or two, but this is pretty low impact here as well.

Off to a bad start…

[card]Angelic Edict[/card]

Cruel and [card]Diabolic Edict[/card]s would be nice. Angelic Edicts not so much. It’s too expensive for what it does for constructed, though in limited, removal is removal. [card]Trostani’s Judgment[/card] ended up being one of my favourite removal spells. This doesn’t have the additional value of Trostani’s Judgment, but it’s still going to be very playable. It’s easily splashed, and might hit some stupid Bomb Enchantment like [card]Blind Obedience[/card], [card]Martial Law[/card], [card]Collective Blessing[/card] etc when we go to the full draft format.

Angelic Skirmisher[card]Angelic Skirmisher[/card]

This is a bit underpowered for constructed play, but it’s an absolute house in limited. The versatility of this card is insane. Racing? Race Lifelink. Need blockers as you’re worried about the back-swing? Vigilance takes any thinking out of the equation. Board stalled and looking gummed up? All my guys have first strike bro, you think about it. Beautifully designed limited rare, and I can definitely see myself losing to this a lot while drafting 3x Gatecrash.

[card]Assault Griffin[/card]

While personally, I prefer my Griffin peppered, it’s always pleasant to see [card]Snapping Drake[/card] [card]Clone[/card]s in a set. Typically, my enjoyment of a limited environment can be measured by how good Snapping Drake is in it, and I look forward to casting its formerly core set only copy come Gatecrash.

Obviously toilet-seats in constructed.

basilica guards[card]Basilica Guards[/card]

Ooh, ooh, our first Guild mechanic card. While it’s a bit of a stinker for constructed, I really like the Extort mechanic as a whole. ¼ Defenders for three have a place in limited though, and adding the bleeder mechanic onto it means it can provide a facsimile of an offense.

I think the danger of the Extort mechanic will be when less experienced players Time Walk themselves to make sure they’re hitting their Extorts, and the skill tester will be those who can understand when it’s right to just curve out, and when to hang back. It’s a lovely mechanic, easily one of the better ones in the set.

[card]Blind Obedience[/card]

This is a card I can get excited about for constructed. I’ve played with [card]Kismet[/card] and [card]Frozen Aether[/card] before, and this card costs half as much as those. Admittedly, Kismet hit lands, while this doesn’t, but this is still incredibly solid. I can easily see this one as a game breaker in a control mirror, where it sneaks under countermagic, and stunts their development over the remainder of the game. Having Extort on an Enchantment as well is very welcome, as those are typically a lot harder to deal with than creatures.

I see this one trickling into the older formats as well, as a sideboard card for [card]Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker[/card] decks, though obviously there are a lot of other options to consider there.

I’m really interested to play with this card, and it’s definitely one of my top 10 cards in the set.

boros elite[card]Boros Elite[/card]

From a grindy control card to an aggressive elite, this set’s got it all. Obviously this is more [card]Ardent Recruit[/card] than [card]Wild Nacatl[/card], but I think this has a place in Boros or Naya Human based decks, as those decks are typically only as good as their weakest one-drop. It’s clearly not as good as [card]Champion of the Parish[/card], but it’s probably on par with [card]Stromkirk Noble[/card].

The Boros Elite is definitely a lot more ‘all-in’ than any of the other one drops, but typically, if you’re blocking in constructed with your White based Weenie deck, you’re losing anyway. I like the Battalion mechanic on the whole, even though it does seem to encourage people to over-commit onto the board. The better ones, like this, the Medic and the Angel are worth the risk.

[card]Court Street Denizen[/card]

[card]Grey Ogre[/card]s with upside are seldom bad in limited, but are frequently streets behind in constructed, unless the upside is crazy good. This is not one of those Ogres. Anything that encourages people to over-commit to the board isn’t a good thing, especially now that the aggressive decks like Naya have better mana, and are likely to be more prevalent, causing an uptick in the number of [card]Bonfire of the Damned[/card] in decks.

I suppose it’s decent enough in limited, though it’s pretty unexciting. I can’t imagine this being all that difficult to cut in decks, but we’ll see.

daring skyjek[card]Daring Skyjek[/card]

[card]Blade of the Sixth Pride[/card] saw play when it was going through standard, and this is Blade with an upside. 3 Power is incredibly relevant in standard at the moment, as it lets you kill Thragtusk, but if you’re able to curve Champion into this, into pretty much anything else, by the time Thagtusk comes online, it’ll be too late. I’m far more excited by this card than almost any other common in the set for constructed.

Again, limited-wise, it’s got solid numbers on an aggressively costed body, which is never bad. Boros seems like it’ll be very strong post-Gatecrash, and this is very much one of the linchpin cards in that deck, in my opinion.

[card]Debtor’s Pulpit[/card]

Continuing the ‘Enchant Land’ cycle from Return to Ravnica, this is one of the weaker ones. It’s so expensive for what it does. It’s really good for limited, as a way to contain Bombs, but outside of that, it’s tough to see its applications.

[card]Dutiful Thrull[/card]

Well, I suppose it’s better than [card]Drudge Skeletons[/card] in Orzhov decks, but it’s my duty to point out that it’s awful. 1/1’s for one are practically never good. While regeneration is an interesting ability, it’s not enough to make it playable in constructed.

In limited, I suppose it’s a way to nudge in for some early damage before stalling the ground, but it’s really low impact, and it’s an awful topdeck in the late-game. Another one that should be an easy cut in most decks.

frontline medic[card]Frontline Medic[/card]

People have been complaining about the flavour of this card, asking why a Medic can counter spells. From what I can see though, the majority of X spells are burn spells, which is presumably what Wizards were going for. It’s amusing that it also hits Sphinx’s Revelation, though it’s quite difficult to expect people to fall into on-board traps, I guess for the first couple of weeks, you might ‘get’ people with it.

The indestructibility is really nice in aggressive mirrors, and will probably mean this trickles into constructed play-ability at some point over its lifetime in standard.

Limited wise, it’s really solid on a crowded board, and should be a way to push through a bunch of damage and/or favourable creature exchanges.

[card]Gideon, Champion of Justice[/card]

Some people love Gideon, some people hate him. I’m in the middle. I don’t think he’s good, but he’s not awful either. The first ability is pretty bad. Old Gideon at least forced creatures to attack him, while this one doesn’t. The second ability is good, and the ultimate is unrealistic for most decks.

If you view this Gideon as a 4/4 creature with some additional abilities, you’re probably up the right street. It’s in no way good in every deck, or a format staple like Gideon Jura, but it’s not as bad as the naysayers are claiming it to be.

Planeswalkers are always solid in limited, and this is no exception. He’s likely to ultimate a lot faster too, as it’s more common to see clogged boards in forty card land.

guardian of the gateless[card]Guardian of the Gateless[/card]

It’s five mana, and for five mana, you could cast Thragtusk on defence. The colours are irrelevant, as the mana in this standard environment is probably the best it’s ever been. This doesn’t compare favourably to Thragtusk, sadly, and it’s tough to see this seeing play in Standard.

Limited wise, it’s going to stall the board, almost indefinitely, and as an uncommon, decks with double copies will not be too rare. It’s easily one of the best limited uncommons in the set.

[card]Guildscorn Ward[/card]

An Enchantment that makes a creature into an [card]Enemy of the Guilpact[/card]. It’s interesting, but in no way worth a card, in either Standard or Limited. Play extra lands, folks, this is awful.

hold the gates[card]Hold the Gates[/card]

Oh look, another trash Enchantment. I suppose, for limited, at least it always grants Vigilance, even sans-Gates, but that’s not really worth a card. I’d want at least 5 Gates before I considered this, which is, I think 3 more than I’ve ever had in Return to Ravnica draft. Colour me unimpressed.

[card]Holy Mantle[/card]

Costs far too much for constructed, obviously, but in limited, you make a decent sized creature unblockable, which can’t be bad in board stalls. Again, it’s expensive, but at four mana, it’s not outside the realms of possibility.

[card]Knight of Obligation[/card]

A 2/4 Vigilance, Extort for four is a pretty big ask in constructed, and I can’t see it making a splash.

In limited, it stalls the ground, can attack frequently, and provides an end-game with extort. Probably one of the better cards for white based decks in the format, assuming things break how I anticipate them.

Knight Watch[card]Knight Watch[/card]

Four power for five mana across two bodies is certainly solid enough in limited. Presumably, this is a plant for Selesnya decks when we start drafting DGR in its entirety, though the power level is there without Populate.

Constructed is another matter. Again, it’s either this or Thragtusk, and all but the most dedicated of Populate decks will not be able to make enough use out of the Knight Watch to justify inclusion, which is a shame, because the art is probably my favourite in the set, and it always sucks when unplayable cards have nice art.

[card]Luminate Primordial[/card]

I suppose it’s nice when cycles spill over multiple sets. This one is part of the ‘Iconic spells on uncastable creatures’ cycle, along with [card]Runescarred Demon[/card] and [card]Sphinx of Uthuun[/card]. [card]Swords to Plowshares[/card] is solid, but not at seven mana, even with a 4/7 Vigilance attached. There are better things to reanimate, so this one’s probably a Commander only card, like the other two.

In limited, it’s a stupid size, and a removal spell of sorts as well, which is never bad. Fortunately, it’s got WW in its casting cost, which stops it being splashable, but this is absolutely the definition of ‘Bomb’ in sealed, and you’d do well to find a way to make it work.

murder investigation[card]Murder Investigation[/card]

There sure are a lot of stupid Enchantments in White in this set. This one is OK, I suppose, but I’m not a fan of cards that give my opponent choices, as those seldom work in my favour. The Bant Hexproof deck could use this as insurance against removal, though the fact that it doesn’t do anything on its own isn’t a point in its favour.

[card]Nav Squad Commandos[/card]

This is not a constructed card. Best case scenario, it’s a 4/6 pseudo Vigilance for five, which isn’t awful, but it’s not exactly setting the world on fire. It’s fine as a curve topper, I suppose, but I see Battalion as an aggressive mechanic, which this card obviously isn’t.

[card]Righteous Charge[/card]

Another limited combat trick, and this is a good one. I can see most Boros decks wanting one or two of these. Again, we’ve seen this type of effect before, so it’s unlikely to be particularly exciting to most players, but it’s solid, and is on the cusp of constructed play-ability.

shielded passage[card]Shielded Passage[/card]

[card]Fog[/card]. Bleurgh. There’s a drinking game at Spellbound Games in Glasgow, where every time someone mentions Turbo Fog, you mentally store up a drink for the next time you go out. Spend an afternoon in Spellbound, and you’ll spend an evening in Accident and Emergency to get your stomach pumped.

And this isn’t even Fog. Imagine how bad I think this is…


There doesn’t appear to be much in the way of removal in this set, which is unnerving (remember Avacyn Restored limited?), so I suppose this is pretty good in context with the rest of the set. Again, it’s not exciting, and extremely conditional, but it’s tough to play around, I guess.

[card]Syndic of Tithes[/card]

It’s a bear, with Extort. That seems pretty good. Solid place on the curve for both Orzhov and Boros decks, and I imagine these will be in pretty high demand during a draft. I’m a big fan of Extort, and this is one of the better cards with the mechanic.

urbis protector[card]Urbis Protector[/card]

See what I said about Knight Watch, but add one. I suppose four fifths of this one have evasion, but it’s just too expensive to play, even with [card]Restoration Angel[/card] shenanigans. This will be relegated to a curve topped in limited decks, and nothing more.

[card]Zarichi Tiger[/card]

Absolutely not worth it. 2/3’s for four haven’t been playable in limited since the changeover to the new card frame, and a mana sink isn’t really worth it when it’s just a gain two life ability. Pretty sucky.

Moving onto Orzhov now.

[card]Alms Beast[/card]

Four mana for a 6/6 is certainly enough to warrant consideration. What sort of deck would want all creatures blocking this to gain Lifelink? Well, if there was a card that made them lose life instead of gaining it, I guess that’d be pretty good. More likely, a deck that didn’t care about life totals, as a way to stall the ground indefinitely, or a deck that killed every creature an opponent played, so there was nothing to gain lifelink.

It’s interesting, but I don’t really think it’s quite good enough to make the leap into constructed. We’ll see though, but I can’t see it being anything other than a sideboard card out of [card]Nephalia Drownyard[/card] decks.

cartel aristocrat[card]Cartel Aristocrat[/card]

Personally, I prefer my aristocracy to hail from Falkenrath, as the Cartel variety are pretty poor. If she at least had the decency to have a decent power, it might be worthwhile sinking all your creatures into it, but as a 2/2, it’s pretty low impact, even for two mana.

I could see some sort of Magical Christmasland scenario where you curve this into [card]Geralf’s Messenger[/card] into Restoration Angel, but really, in that situation, you’re pretty far ahead anyway, without messing around with toilety Grizzly Bears.

[card]Deathpact Angel[/card]

This seems really solid to me as an anti-control card. The best removal spell is [card]Ultimate Price[/card], and the doesn’t hit either half of the Angel, which is a big plus. I’m very interested tp incorporate one or two of these into an Esper control deck, and see how it goes.

Limited Bomb, splash it in any black deck etc.

executioners swing[card]Executioner’s Swing[/card]

Yet more situational removal, though this one is certainly a lot harder to play around than Smite. At least this kills pretty much everything in the format, though having to take a hit isn’t ideal. Can it make the transition into Constructed? Possibly, but I personally prefer Ultimate Price. Interestingly, this is one of the only cards in Standard that can actually kill an [card]Obzedat, Ghost Council[/card], which seems like it’ll be widely adopted in the beginning of the format.

Premium limited removal, splash for it, assuming you’re in either of the colours.

[card]High Priest of Penance[/card]

[card]Vindicate[/card], this ain’t. Stalls the ground pretty well though, and bad players won’t be able to play around it properly. I expect to hear a lot of bad beat stories come pre-release time relating to this card.

Is it constructed level? Maybe. Worst case scenario, it’s a one for one against non-wrath decks, and for two mana, that’s pretty good. Again, it boils down to a card which is giving my opponent a choice, and I’m not entirely sure that’s worth playing a two mana 1/1 for. Time will tell.

kingpins pet[card]Kingpin’s Pet[/card]

Orzhov [card]Wind Drake[/card] seems solid for limited. Aggressive creatures with Extort are very appealing to me, and this certainly is one. I actually really like the look of Orzhov in limited, as it’s got the best removal, for sure, has evasive creatures and a real end-game with Extort.

[card]Merciless Eviction[/card]

This is awfully expensive, though I guess you have to pay a premium for versatility. Whatever ails you, Merciless Eviction will take care of it. Given the other solid Wrath effects in the format, I can’t see this being more than a one of, as I’d almost always rather have [card]Terminus[/card] or [card]Supreme Verdict[/card].

[card]Obzedat, Ghost Council[/card]

This seems to be the chase card from the set, if initial reactions are anything to go by. I don’t see it maintaining its current pre-order price, or even being that good. It’s powerful, for sure, but I can’t see a home for it in the current crop of decks, and I don’t really like it on offence as much as some.

One interesting situation is that both players could feasibly have an active Ghost Council at the same time, which is sure to cause confusion.

Limited house, play it if you can, etc.

Can’t see the hype around Obzedat being justified long term, though for what it’s worth, I thought [card]Angel of Serenity[/card] was rubbish initially too, and we can all see how that one turned out.

one thousand lashes[card]One Thousand Lashes[/card]

I could give you one thousand reasons why this wasn’t constructed playable, but I’m too lazy. [card]Pillory of the Sleepless[/card] is basically the same card, was one cheaper, and didn’t really see play. In a format with Restoration Angel, Enchantment based removal is too dangerous. Plus; [card]Arrest[/card]…

Decent limited quasi-removal, and another legitimate way to close out a board stall. Play, splash, win, etc.

[card]Orzhov Charm[/card]

The first ability probably exists on a card, but I’m too lazy to search to find out what it is. The second is [card]Vendetta[/card], and the third is sort of [card]Unearth[/card]. Both of those cards have seen play, so that’s a good sign. Importantly though, both of those cards cost one, while Orzhov Charm costs two, which is obviously a big difference.

I like the card a lot. All of the charm cycle has been played in Constructed formats, both Standard and Modern to date, and I’d be surprised if this was any different. It’s probably better in older formats, where utility creatures abound, but with many players having fifty life, perhaps taking eight to kill an Angel of Serenity isn’t the worst plan in the world.

This will definitely see play across multiple formats, and isn’t too far away from being Legacy playable, though admittedly my knowledge of that particular format is far from extensive.

purge the profane[card]Purge the Profane[/card]

I wish that I could purge all knowledge of this card from my brain, but sadly, it’s not to be. Making [card]Mind Rot[/card] cost two more, and tacking on some marginal life gain does not make a solid tournament calibre card. My kingdom for a [card]Blightning[/card]…

[card]Treasury Thrull[/card]

This costs way too much to be playable in all but the most dedicated of combo decks, and even then, it’s pretty fragile. Sure, it dodges Ultimate Price, and as soon as it attacks, it replaces itself, ideally with some sort of [card]Executioners Capsule[/card], [card]Nekrataal[/card] or [card]Seal of Doom[/card] sort of card to keep it swinging, but come turn six, there really are a lot more powerful things that we could be doing than casting a 4/4. The titans spoiled us, they really did.

[card]Vizkopa Confessor[/card]

I’ve got a confession to make; I think this card is trash. If I were to search for something vaguely positive to say about it, I’d say that it’s probably pretty good to blink with [card]Deadeye Navigator[/card] in EDH, but other than that, I’m struggling. We couldn’t get [card]Castigate[/card] again? Really?

vizkopa guildmage[card]Vizkopa Guildmage[/card]

This is part of an infinite combo in standard, which is immediately interesting. With this in play, and an [card]Exquisite Blood[/card], activate the second ability, then either gain life, or deal damage, and congratulations, you’ve just won the game. What makes this more interesting than most two card combos is that this can happen as early as turn 4 in standard, though I doubt that it can be made particularly consistent. Still, Johnnies love to Johnny, so I’d recommend picking up Exquisite Bloods whenever you see the opportunity, at least for the first few weeks after Gatecrash hits.

While the rest of the Guildmage cycle wasn’t quite Constructed quality, this one’s certainly likely to be experimented with.

They’ve all been proven excellent to good in limited, and this is no exception. Helps win a race, and provides a mana sink – both things that good draft decks love to have, and this is just one card. Very, very solid card, and well worth splashing for, assuming you’re at least one of the colours.

Top 5 Cards I Want to Play in Constructed:-

Orzhov Charm

1. [card]Orzhov Charm[/card]
2. [card]Obzedat, Ghost Council[/card]
3. [card]Blind Obedience[/card]
4. [card]Daring Skyjek[/card]
5. [card]Deathpact Angel[/card]

You can get all your Gatecrash singles here!

What are your top 5 cards pick from this guild?





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