Dragon’s Maze Set Review – Part 1: White by Grant Hislop
Third sets in a block are always strange. On one hand, they’re full of interesting new cards (Coldsnap notwithstanding), but on the other, the formats that they’re coming into are already pretty well defined, and have been thoroughly explored. It’s interesting to consider that if all the cards in a Standard environment were released simultaneously, obviously the metagame would look radically different. The thing is, as a small set, being released into an established environment, it’s likely that only the most powerful cards will see the light of day.
Fortunately though, having given the spoiler a once over before starting writing this, it seems as though there are a decent number of cards for all of Mark Rosewater’s player demographics, so the fact that this is the first small set since Dark Ascension 15 months ago shouldn’t render this set as unimpactful.
Additionally, the way that Return to Ravnica block limited was set up, we’re looking at an entirely new limited environment, as Gatecrash and Return to Ravnica will be played together for the first time.
The best way I can think of to group these cards for review is to cover a colour, then the combination with the next two colours on the wheel.
My proposed plan is as follows:-
1. White, Azorius and Orzhov
2. Blue, Dimir and Izzet
3. Black, Rakdos and Golgari
4. Red, Gruul and Boros
5. Green, Selesnya and Simic
With an absence of Hybrid cards and non-guild affiliated Lands and Artifacts, there will only be five articles, rather than my traditional six, when completing set reviews. I’m sure those who I’m badgering into reading my articles on a regular basis (ie everybody who’s reading them) are grateful for the slight respite around this time of year.
If this were a Human, it’d at least be considered for an updated Naya Blitz deck. I checked again, in case I’d missed it, but I mastiff (read it like you’re a cockney) been right the first time – Hound is not a relevant creature type.
Even in the Lifegain slot, there’s a Human based option in [card]Nearheath Pilgrim[/card], and while [card]Electrickery[/card] is a real card, the Pilgrim just seems better.
In limited, it’s a Bear, not a Hound, and those are always solid. Just for curve considerations alone, this is fine. I expect the limited environment to be about two colour aggro decks, and 3-5 colour control decks, and this fits into either Selesnya or Boros aggro in an unexciting, but necessary way.
[card]Haazda Snare Squad[/card]
I don’t want to bang a drum just for the sake of it, but this doesn’t strike me as particularly good, even in limited. The body is very defensive, while the ability requires you to go on offence. I can’t say I’m overly optimistic regarding the Snare Squad’s chances of seeing much play, which is a shame, considering how nice the art is.
This has a touch of the jank about it. In RTR limited, [card]Azorius Arrester[/card] was better in Selesnya than Azorius, as the pieces just weren’t there to detain something every turn. I don’t see this being any different. The Selesnya deck won’t want it because it’s not a creature, and the effect is marginal, and on previous information, the Azorius deck won’t want it either because it’s pretty low impact.
There’s a card in standard that basically does the same thing, it’s call [card]Feeling of Dread[/card], and it does this twice. It doesn’t see all that much play at the moment. Take from that what you will.
I suppose it’s a decent curve topper in a Wxx Control deck, as it’ll hold the ground very well. That’s pretty much the nicest thing I have to say about Maze Sentinel, so we’ll move on.
[card]Renounce the Guilds[/card]
Sweet [card]Falkenrath Aristocrat[/card], bro. Nice [card]Boros Reckoner[/card], dude… This seems like one of the more impactful cards in the set. Sadly, it’s just narrow enough that it’s unlikely to be maindeckable, but there are certain decks against which this hits exactly the right creature, and almost none of the chaff. Obviously deckbuilding considerations can limit the impact this card has on the caster, and it’s aggressively costed enough that it’s worth thinking about over the more traditional options for control decks too, like [card]Devour Flesh[/card].
I’m very excited to play with this in Constructed.
In limited, it’s unfortunately less powerful, where people are likely to have multi-coloured toilet seats supporting their better [card]Carnival Hellsteed[/card]’s, etc, and it’ll be unusual to generate a board state that makes this anything other than a pretty underwhelming two-for-one on yourself.
OMG, Turbofog in every format! Sadly, Turbofog is a deck again, and this time, it’s actually quite good. This fights with [card]Clinging Mists[/card] for slots, but I think Mists is better, due to the Fateful Hour clause. It’s unclear how prevalent Burn based strategies will be, where gaining some life might be useful, as those strategies are almost never entirely creatureless. I could see a 3-1 split between this an mists to start with, and work from there.
In limited, this has exactly the same issues that both [card]Fog[/card]s and lifegain cards have, in that they’re not actually doing anything to stop the damage that’s necessitated you Fog’ing, or gaining life, and it’s probable that you’ll be in the same position again in a turn or two.
[card]Scion of Vhitu-Ghazi[/card]
This is akin to [card]Cloudgoat Ranger[/card], I guess. It’s fine, I suppose, though it doesn’t play well with two of the best cards in the format – [card]Unburial Rites[/card] and [card]Restoration Angel[/card], which helpfully are both (sort of) on colour.
The awkward clauses leads me to think that in R+D’s internal testing, this card was very good at being Flickered, either by the aforementioned Angel or [card]Cloudshift[/card], causing the card to be presented to us in this underpowered form.
It dies to [card]Mizzium Mortars[/card], which is unpleasant, but I think this might be Constructed playable. Not in a 4-of in every deck kind of way, but I can see a mid-range Naya deck wanting one or two of them at the top of the curve. Is it better than [card]Geist Honored Monk[/card] in that slot though? Probably not…
Limited bomb, etc. Bombs are bombs.
This costs at least two too much for either constructed or limited play. Why would I ever play this over a [card]Daring Skyjek[/card] or [card]Lyev Skyknight[/card]? Why would I pay five mana for a one-toughness creature? I just wouldn’t, and you shouldn’t either.
This whole Gatekeeper cycle is pretty meh. I’m not impressed. The body on this one is reasonably sized enough that it can hold the ground well enough, but the two gates clause is pretty underwhelming, and if you’re a deck that can reliably trigger it, you’d hope there were better options. Very unimpressed.
[card]Wake the Reflections[/card]
This isn’t very good, I don’t think. It’s a fringe card that requires something in play to actually do anything, and outside of Wurm tokens, most of the targets aren’t particularly high impact anyway. This isn’t a card that gets me excited.
However, it’s not the type of strategy I usually employ in Constructed, so it’s possible (probable) I’m just missing something. How wrong am I?
Well, I suppose it’s better than the Steeple Roc… The body is a little too small for my liking, but this is a fine limited card, as [card]Assault Griffin[/card]’s usually are. Hexproof is frequently obnoxious, and while I can’t see this instance being one of the more egregious offenders – [card]Thrun the Last Troll[/card], I’m looking at you, it’s not irrelevant.
Limited only, but it’s pretty good there.
[card]Beck // Call[/card]
The fact that there have been calls to pre-emptively ban this in Modern is pretty telling. In Modern though, we’re not interested in the Azorius half, it’s the Simic half that’s got people all hot and bothered, as a replacement for the already banned, hyper-fun card [card]Glimpse of Nature[/card] in the combo Elves strategy.
This isn’t one that I’m overly familiar with, but I’m assured it’s good. I think the fact that it both costs two, as opposed to one, and that it necessitates you splashing another colour means that it probably doesn’t need to be banned without allowing the format to test it out, but it’s going to be very much on the radar for a potential ban. Eggs just got banned this morning, so fans of non-interactivity will be on the lookout for a new deck that gets to take fifteen minute turns. Elves could be that deck!
For those interested in Magic finance, it’s seldom the new cards that you want to invest in. When I saw this, I bought as many [card]Cloudstone Curio[/card]s as I could find. Those are now worth more than double what I paid for them, and I can pat myself of the back, and think about how clever I am. You’ve got to take your wins where you can folks, and I seldom get them on the Magic tables.
[card]Council of the Absolute[/card]
This card is obviously reminiscent of [card]Grand Arbiter Augustin IV[/card], which is one of the more ‘fun’ EDH generals, with a dash of [card]Meddling Mage[/card] thrown in for good measure. The obvious application here is to name [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card] in a control mirror, especially in Block Constructed, where Azorius is at least 33% of the metagame, and this would be a house.
More outside of the box ideas would be Azorius aggro decks, as a way to fight sweepers, and against any kind of combo decks that emerge, to combat whatever stupidity your opponent is trying to throw at you. It’s an interesting card, but one that will only ever see play in sideboards, if it sees any at all. I would be surprised if this wasn’t a bulk mythic by the time M14 hits the shelves.
[card]Deputy of Acquittals[/card]
This card is insane. It’s solid in Limited, as [card]Grizzly Bear[/card]s always are, and the ability is just bonkers on a common. For whatever reason, this card reminds me of [card]Ethersworn Shieldmage[/card], but I’m sure, with all the ETB triggers in the current environment, this will see more play. The ability to both re-use ETB triggers, in addition to protecting creatures from removal means that this card is going to see a lot of play.
Just thinking about using this on a [card]Restoration Angel[/card] or [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] makes me feel all inappropriate.
Well, it says Sphinx, but it’s only an uncommon. Sadly, if [card]Belltower Sphinx[/card] has taught us anything, it’s that uncommon Sphinxes have to be 1/5’s. As a [card]Glorious Anthem[/card], I suppose this isn’t too bad in limited, for the aggressive Azorius deck that might be in the market for such a thing at the top of its curve. I like its Vigilance, as a way to eliminate the choice between offence and defence, as unless you’re swinging into Dragons, you’re unlikely to not want to attack with this.
It’s obviously way underpowered and overcosted for constructed, which is a pretty bad combination, all things considered.
[card]Lavinia of the Tenth[/card]
Is an aggressive Azorius deck likely to want many 5-drops? I can’t see this being more than a 1-of in one deck, which makes me think that even due to its legendary status, this has bulk rare written all over it. If you look closely, you can actually see it – right underneath the ‘Protection from Red’ line.
This is your generic limited combat trick. You need to know what this is, and how much it costs, but it’s not particularly good, and it’s certainly not going to see much play outside of Azorius, as both halves individually are not worth a card, if you can’t Fuse them together.
This is two already playable cards, stapled together – [card]Counterspell[/card] and [card]Silence[/card]. Both those cards already see play, all the way up to Legacy – Occasionally in the same deck. In Legacy though, the peace and quiet is used to do something most unpleasant to the opponent. I can’t see that being the case in newer formats like Standard, where it’s likely to be used as a normal Counterspell, or, at best, as a precursor to a Sphinx’s Revelation.
It’s solid, and it’ll get a lot better post-rotation, but for now, I like [card]Dissipate[/card] a lot better, due to Flashback and Snapcaster Mage. This shouldn’t cost much more than bulk pretty quickly, due to it being a buy-a-box promo as well.
[card]Restore the Peace[/card]
Seriously, Turbofog in every format!!!! (Not seriously). The fact that you have to let the creatures deal damage is unpleasant, and the fact that the M10 rules changes happened is even less pleasant. This is pretty underwhelming.
Half Signet, Half Mind Stone, this cycle is interesting. Obviously, the Blue ones are likely to be better than the non-Blues, due to the types of deck that would want artifact mana acceleration and card drawing typically being Blue, but it’s possible that these could see play in Rakdos and Golgari combinations, thinking entirely about decks that are already seeing play – RWB [card]Faithless Looting[/card], and Golgari [card]Predator Ooze[/card] / [card]Ulvenwald Tracker[/card], specifically.
Not overly exciting, as they cost just a little too much. Keyrune’s didn’t really see much play, and they strike me as being better anyway.
We’ve seen this before, and as it’s not a new addition to the format, I won’t insult you by repeating the obvious.
[card]Blood Baron of Vizkopa[/card]
People are comparing this to [card]Baneslayer Angel[/card], as people are often wont to do, with large lifelinkers. I think a more apt comparison is to [card]Serra Ascendant[/card], but even then, the costs alone render the comparison almost moot. This is a solid card in its own right, and the pedigree of cards that have come before shouldn’t matter when considering this. It’s an utter house against Zombies, assuming you live long enough to get it on the table, and White-base aggro decks will have fits against it as well.
This shuts down almost everything on the ground that’s seeing play at the moment, and I think only the fact that it’s four toughness renders it susceptible to a Mizzium Mortars will stop this from becoming an absolute nightmare to play against.
Protection from X roadblocks are always demoralising to play against, and I can’t see this one being any different.
Obvs totes limited bomb etc.
[card]Debt to the Deathless[/card]
This doesn’t compare favourably to previous limited powerhouses like [card]Exsanguinate[/card]. This is better left for the EDH tables, where you’re likely to be able to generate obnoxious life total swings, in addition to being more likely to get your sweet [card]Sanguine Bond[/card] / [card]Exquisite Blood[/card] combo online anyway.
[card]Maw of the Obzedat[/card]
‘Sacrifice a creature, do X’ is one of the most powerful abilities in Magic, and definitely one of the more under-appreciated ones. It’s only now, in decks like the Aristocrats that we’re seeing it adopted and embraced in the ways that [card]Fallen Angel[/card] and [card]Nantuko Husk[/card] never were. As an Anthem, this card interests me. At five mana, that interest is somewhat lessened. I wish this had been a rare, so it could have cost one less, or a mythic, and it could have costed three, and then we’d be looking at an utter powerhouse.
Sadly, it’s not to be. Admittedly, I never saw [card]Cartel Aristocrat[/card] coming, so take my opinion with a pinch of salt.
Reanimator will live on past rotation, I suppose… I don’t see this making much headway while Unburial Rites is legal however. I’d pick them up if you can find them for around £1 or so, at retail or trade, as this will be a popular EDH card, might see play post rotation, and at that cost, there’s very little chance of getting caught with your pants down.
Another combat trick, and nothing more. Really, was [card]Zealous Persecution[/card] so powerful that we couldn’t have got that, instead of this forced Fuse card? Utter jank, and a waste of a slot.
This one is a bit better, but it’s still not great. I see this as more of a limited card than one that will see serious constructed play. It’s just a little too expensive, as all the split cards have to be to see play, and the Junk decks aren’t sufficiently set up to really maximise this. It’s crazy on a [card]Craterhoof Behemoth[/card] turn, but really, that doesn’t need the help…
I like this better than its Shards block analogue – [card]Tidehollow Sculler[/card]. The fact that they never get the card back is very exciting, and the prospect of blinking this with Restoration Angel is certainly appealing. Sadly, there are enough decks that can blank this that it’s unlikely to see much maindeck play, though if a dedicated Orzhov aggro deck happens, it’s likely to contain this card.
It’s very interesting, but I’m not expecting it to see much more play that Tidehollow Sculler did during its time in Standard.
[card]Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts[/card]
It’s stupidly powerful, but costs just too much to see play. The fact remains, Mizzium Mortars is a card, and will end up being the litmus test for creatures sooner or later, and I can’t have my seven drop killed by it, even if I have cheated it out somehow. There are just too many things that can go wrong here to really get behind Teysa.
Sorry Teysa, I liked you better when you were only a Scion.
This is interesting. Primarily for limited, where it’s at least solid, due to its Extort ability, but it’s also not a million miles away from being constructed playable. I could see this in that aforementioned Orzhov aggro deck making good use of this, and using Extort as an element of reach to a colour combination that’s traditionally lacked it. This is very much on my radar, and will 100% find its way into my commons only cube.
[card]Orzhov Cluestone[/card] and [card]Orzhov Guildgate[/card]
See what I wrote re: their Azorius counterparts above. I have nothing to add.
Top 5 Constructed cards I’m interested in:-
1. [card]Renounce the Guilds[/card]
2. [card]Blood Baron of Vizkopa[/card]
3. [card]Beck // Call[/card]
4. [card]Deputy of Acquittals[/card]
5. [card]Render Silent[/card]