Magic 2014 (M14) Set Review – Blue by Grant Hislop
Welcome back. I’m hopeful that this article will go smoother than the last one. Half way through writing it, i.e. like 2000 words, my power went out, and I had a fitful 15 minutes where I wasn’t sure if I’d have to re-write like two hours worth of work. As anyone who’s written one of these set reviews before can attest, time is something that you can’t afford to waste while writing them, and the thought of re-treading old ground for a couple of hours was enough to make me feel quite nauseous.
In any case, we’ve finished White, and because I’m a sucker for punishment, I’m going to push straight on to Blue. Seriously, I’ve literally just uploaded the file for publishing, and I’m keeping going. That’s how important time is when writing these. I thought we still had another week, and I’m off this Monday, luckily though, I was planning on watching the second half of Season six of the Sopranos for the first time, and doing some stuff around the house. To surely very few peoples surprise, I’m going to end up sitting in front of a computer writing nonsense while it’s 30 degrees outside. Scottish summer is absolutely my favourite day of the year…
On the plus side though, now we get to look at my favourite colour, the one whose previous Core Set offerings in recent years have included Ponder, Preordain and Mana Leak at common. Fingers crossed we can get similarly innocuously powerful cards this time as well.
Magic 2014 (M14) Set Review – Blue
I like this card a lot in Limited. It’s easy to splash, often worth it, and provides a solid body with an excellent ability. This works incredibly well on both offence and defence, which is the mark of a solid card. It’s never really seen the leap over to Constructed though, and given what it’s competing with at the five slot at the moment, it’s unlikely that it will any time soon. Keep your eyes peeled though, because this is probably closer to playable that you’d think.
This is Archaeomancer’s second year in a row in the Core Set, and to be honest, I was somewhat surprised that he didn’t make more of an impact last time round. Sadly, I think he’s just a little too expensive for what he does to see play, but he’s probably on the cusp.
Lots of Blue Limited decks will have a use for him though, and the prospect of re-buying a Doom Blade, or something similar is certainly very enticing. I expect his run this time round to be confined to limited again, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if he made the jump. This is the sort of card that could possibly see play in older formats, though the cost is likely to be too prohibitive.
Total bomb. The more you have of these, the better. Splash them, steal your friend’s copies and play them all. 23 Armoured Cancrix, 17 lands, go. *
It’s fine, and does a reasonable job of holding the ground. Nothing overly exciting though.
The standard Counterspell now. It’s solid, but we’re used to getting better ones in the Expert Level sets. Dissipate, Spell Rupture and Syncopate are all currently Standard Legal, and seeing some fringe play, while Cancel, which is also legal sits on the sidelines. One or two copies in a very controlling deck isn’t unreasonable to expect, but for the most part, it won’t be seeing much play. I wonder what we’d have to do to get Counterspell reprinted. Probably get nude pictures of the same person that Sheldon Menery has, and is using to blackmail into letting him continue to do GP coverage.
I think this is the perfect version of this card. We’ve had similar ones like Encrust, Ice Cage and Narcolepsy in recent memory, but this one seems like the most Core Set of all of them. I liked this card a lot in Innistrad block, and it’ll be good to get to play with it in a Core Set. The art seems somewhat off contextually for Core Set though, as it looks pretty specific to Innistrad block, but that’s a minor quibble, all things considered.
With the introduction of the new cards from this set, comes the introduction of the new rules regarding legends. While many are taking that as a signal for a strong legend theme in Theros, I’m not one for speculation on the design themes of Wizards, as it’s irrelevant – I’ll play with the cards that they’ll let me, regardless of whether they appeal to me on any level independent of the game.
What is certain though is that Clones no longer kill legends. Even Hexproof ones. Thrun, the Last Troll got a lot better. Here’s the thing though – it’s only over the last year, since Phantasmal Image left us that straight up Clone started making any sort of headway in Standard, in spite of frequently being legal.
I understand the impetus behind the move – Wizards really don’t want Clones to be kill spells for peoples exciting legends, and realistically, it was used for that far more than any other purpose. Basically, all this means is that we’ll be stopping playing Clones in our Sideboards, which is kind of a shame, but at the same time, we’re just playing by the rules of the game, so it is what it is.
Glad I didn’t end up buying the beta Clones that I was considering last year, and that I managed to shift the majority of the forty odd that I had lying around before the rules change went live.
I could see this as a one of in a dedicated Reanimator deck, but it’s pretty fragile. Admittedly, that’s the old ‘Dies to Doom Blade’ argument, which helps no one. If there’s a reanimator deck, there’s better targets than this, and the cost alone is prohibitive enough that not even draft decks will just jam this in there.
If you get the right deck though, you’ll have a whale of a time in Sealed.
Master of the Pearl Trident, what could have been? This is fine for limited, but without a huge number of Lords, it was never going to crop up in Constructed. This time will be no different.
This Enchantment certainly does nothing on its own. It’s far too high cost for no immediate impact, and the support isn’t really there. I’d be surprised if this ever got higher than bulk prices. My apologies if it ends up being a tournament staple, and I’ve dismissed it out of hand, but I think those trying to make this work are dreaming.
Again, this card is a known quantity. It could see play in tempo decks, if those are a thing. I’d expect that BUG deck with Rapid Hybridization to adopt some number of these. Sadly though, Unsummon is probably better than this in most cases, due to the cost, but having an answer to non-creature permanents would be pretty useful to have access to.
The faster the deck, the better this is, in both Limited and Constructed, where it can frequently serve as a Time Walk. And we all know how good that card is.
This card continues to see far less play than it should. I’d expect the Azorius decks post rotation to attempt to make use of this, as I’d expect the control decks to continue to be more of the tap-out school than draw-go, where this would fit better, though probably only as a one or two of.
The faster the limited environment, the worse this card gets. I’d be aware of how fast my opponents deck is post board when deciding whether to run Divinations. Sadly, they’re too expensive to consider skimming lands for, so be aware that you’ll be spending most of a turn to get +1 card, and there are a lot of decks against which you just can’t afford to spend that time.
This used to be an Uncommon, but for whatever reason, now it’s a Rare. It was really good, and it was a staple of Core Set limited when it was called Mind Control and was an Uncommon. I guess people didn’t like getting their Dragons stolen all that much, so it’ll be happening less, and for not as long with Domestication.
This is still a huge card, make no mistakes. Think very carefully before passing this, as it’s just that good.
Functionally, this is very close to an Isochron Scepter with legs. The fact that it doesn’t have to be a cheap spell is pretty sweet too. This isn’t really my area of expertise though, so I’ll save it for someone who’s more into their fragile, non game winning combos than me.
Again, we know exactly what we’re getting here. We’ve had this spell for the last few years, and how good it is is entirely metagame dependent. I think it’ll get a lot better once Cavern of Souls leaves Standard, but given that everything changes then, it’s pure speculation.
I like these in Limited, and probably more than I should. Removal’s removal, and this is the Blue version of a Doom Blade. Pretty much anything that you’d want to counter will come down at a point in the game when you could feasibly hold up two mana, so it’s not the worst. As I said though, I probably like this card more than I should due to people in my LGS not really knowing how to play around counters properly, leading to me getting far more blow outs than I should.
Those who’ve played much with Modern Masters will be familiar with just how good Blinding Beam is. Obviously this isn’t quite up to par with Blinding Beam, but the comparison isn’t entirely unjustified. This is a solid limited trick, and I’ve seen it as a one or two of in Constructed before as well.
I think it’ll be primarily limited only this time, due to the almost disappearance of Tempo strategies, but it’s definitely one to be aware of when building decks in the near future.
Winged Sliver v2.0. This is another meta dependent card. If the skies are clogged, we don’t need a small body that makes our other Slivers fliers too, we’d rather have more pumps, but if the skies are clear, he’ll be a reasonable way to end the game. I don’t expect the Sliver decks to want to be Blue either, with Naya being the default colour combination, but I could be wrong.
Seems too underpowered for all but the most on-tribe limited decks too, and while it’s splashable, as it’s not really a turn one play, you’d be hard pushed to have a deck that thought it would be worthwhile.
The future looks pretty bleak for this card. The format would need to be glacially slow for a Sorcery like this to be worth the huge loss of tempo you’d incur by casting this. This is true for both Constructed and Limited. This is a shame, as the name is excellent, and unfortunate that it’s wasted on such a bad card.
Drake Umbra was one of the best cards in Rise of the Eldrazi draft, and while this is no Drake Umbra, it’s actually pretty attractive. In the colour of many fliers, this is very appealing, especially given that the vast majority of spells that target would kill the creature anyway, this is very exciting. It’s a little expensive, but I think the ability is worth it.
Elton John’s ‘I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues’ has just been offered up by my itunes DJ. Somewhat fitting given the subject matter, no?
As an aside, the thing I find most unappealing about watching Magic streaming is the streamers taste in music. I’ve very frequently clicked on a link, hoping to gain some insight only to have to turn it off after a couple of minutes due to the streamer listening to what sounds like an Anime movie soundtrack, horrible electro music, or stuff that a teenage girl would be embarrassed to admit to listening to. Is it too much to ask for a Classic Rock streamer, or just someone whose taste in music wasn’t completely woeful?
Third time round for emo Jace means that pretty much any value left in him is drying up. I’d expect him to drop down to the £5-8 shortly after the initial influx of M14 into the community. Again, we know what we’re getting here. It’s an alternative axis for control decks to attack from, and Planeswalkers have a habit of dominating a board if left unmolested – Jace is no different.
This isn’t a very good card. It’s a reasonable body, and the ability might be relevant sometimes, but I’d almost always take an Air Servant over it, as it’s just unlikely to be that great. Sure, sometimes you’ll get something solid, like a pump spell, or a removal spell.
When casting this, it’s probably best to break best practice and do so pre-combat, so you’ve got the best chance of getting something good, but still, this doesn’t impress me much.
I spy with my little eye, something beginning with ‘T’. This is a trap card. You don’t want to be playing this, as it’s just too low impact, and it gets outclassed way too quickly. You’d need to have like no other creatures to even consider it, and even then, I’d want a bunch of equipment to turn it into something more respectable. My kingdom for a Vulshok Morningstar or even a Trusty Machete.
I suppose this is fine. It’s more colour intensive than I’d like, though hopefully by turn five, you’ve got your mana sorted. This is better than, say a Runewing, for my money, as it’s more difficult to just ignore. I don’t see this seeing constructed play, as it’s a long way from Mulldrifter, or even Gryff Vanguard, but it’s solid in Limited, and should be a decent 5-8th pick level card.
This is another known quantity. It’s deplorable to great depending on the matchup, and that won’t be any different to the last five years that we’ve had access to this card in. Simple stuff guys.
I liked this better when it was a faerie, but this has always been a solid limited card, and it’s stats are at least real enough that it can shank a fair few creatures that are liable to be attacking into it.
Along with playable instants, you should know anything that has Flash, as for the most part, they’re all going to be playable, as that’s easily one of the top five most powerful keywords, and a real argument could be made for its taking the top spot.
Presumably this is here for the non-White control decks, ie Grixis, as a Sphinx’s Revelation proxy. It’s obviously not as good, due to its inability to scale either up or down, and the absence of lifegain, but beggars can’t be choosers, and we could see the Grixis deck make a splash in someone other than Patrick Chapin’s hands. I wouldn’t hold my breath though.
In limited, I’ve not had the opportunity to play this before, but I’d expect most Blue decks to be able to make use of one. It’d be a rare deck that could make use of more than one though, due to the somewhat obnoxious cost.
This seems pretty stock in Core Sets, having taken the last two years off, he’d been around since the mid 2000’s. Obviously, we know what we’re getting here, so there’s very little to discuss. I’m delighted that Phantom Warrior got the nod over Invisible Stalker for the Core Set, as I can’t accurately describe my disdain for the Hexproof mechanic.
It’s almost at Coldplay levels of dislike, and obviously, as my hatred for that bland, insipid, inexplicably popular group of ‘music’ makers is pretty much common knowledge among regular readers of my work, you’ll understand that’s not a level of hatred I throw about willy-nilly.
Anyway, this card isn’t that great, and I’d be surprised to see it in Constructed.
Presumably this is for some sort of stupid Omniscience + Enter the Infinite stupidity, but that’s not for me. Can’t say I expect too much of this, and even though it cycles at worst, at this point, we’ve moved along from those days where we could afford to spend a portion of our turn remaining card neutral, especially in a format with Champion of the Parish…
I remember, back in Scars + Innistrad standard, going round to a primarily casual players house for drinks. This was a friend of my girlfriend, and they were drinking, playing board games, and doing other pleasant things. They’d built a bunch of Magic decks, and were playing away. I didn’t bring anything with me, so asked if they had any spare cards that I could throw into a deck to join in the festivities.
I pulled out Scroll Thief, Neurok Commando and a bunch of removal and draw spells, and shuffled up. Every single one of their decks fell to the awesome power of my previously rejected common and uncommon, and illustrated the value of using your creatures to do something other than just being really big to them.
These creatures are always solid, and I remember a solid Scroll Thief deck or two from some Core Set previous, and they’re always strong when you get the pieces. A constant stream of creatures that draw removal spells when they attack are insane, and honestly, that deck was one of my favourites in recent memory, not just for the wins, but for the way that they made the guys I was playing with acknowledge a different way to look at the game, even if perhaps they weren’t fully able to understand why I was winning the games.
The problem with writing Core Set reviews is that it’s very difficult to muster something meaningful, intelligent or funny to say about a 1/3 flier for two. I won’t try.
This was fine in Innistrad block limited, and I see no reason that it wouldn’t be fine here. It’s not great, but a way to shrink an opponent’s bomb can buy a couple of turns, or make the ground safe for your guys to swing with impunity. It’s a solid roleplayer, but it’s nothing more than that. The more aggressive the deck, the better this card will be, as its primary role will be to allow your creatures to keep swinging.
I’ve got a set of Beta Spell Blasts, so it’d be lovely if this was actually playable, as the art is just awful, and I’d love to play it again. That said, the main attraction to counterspells is to pay less than what they did to negate the effect, not more, so I can’t see this seeing play, and certainly not while Syncopate is still with us.
Dungeon Geists isn’t seeing much play at the moment, and that’s a fair bit better. Were there a merfolk tribal sub-theme in this set, or in Standard, it might be different, but this has bulk rare written all over it.
If you’re Blue heavy, you could probably run this MD in limited, as it’s at least a Bear, but that’s not exactly exciting, is it?
There are a lot of similar option currently in Standard that don’t see play. I don’t see this breaking the mould, regardless of how the format ebbs and flows.
Solid limited trick, and is especially odious on a mana-screwed opponent. I’d advise you to be prepared to draw the same card a decent amount when playing against a Blue opponent, as this is a common, and multiples aren’t out of the question.
I’ve drafted the Tome Scour deck more times than I should have, and it’s very rarely worked. The problem is that up until the last card, there’s nothing that you’re doing that impacts them. Because you’re attacking on a completely different angle, they generally can’t interact with you, so they just race as fast as possible. I doubt there’s the support here to make fetch happen, so buyer beware.
This seems tailor made for a Simic coloured limited deck, though really anything is good. Any time you can grant something that otherwise wouldn’t have evasion some sort of evasion, you’re in for a good time. The fact that this is a reasonably costed body means a lot here, as similar cards such as Chasm Drake have just been too expensive to see play as more than a one of as a curve topper. This can actually be played in multiples, and the idea of jumping a Garruk’s Horde or even a Rumbling Baloth every turn is very appealing.
Obviously not on par with Constructed level cards, but this is a solid Limited card, for sure.
Again, this is a known quantity. Again, that quantity is bad. This isn’t a great card, at all, as it get progressively worse the longer the game goes, which is not really what we’re looking for. I suppose some sort of mill heavy Dimir deck might want this to speed up their Drownyards, but I don’t think so.
Probably best left to the one unfortunate at the table trying to make the Tome Scour deck come together (that’ll probably be me).
This is really solid for limited, as it holds the ground like nothing else. I don’t think anything at Common or Uncommon punches through this without help, which is nice, and only having to deal with a creature attacking every other turn is a pretty big game.
Wall of Frost hasn’t seen any Constructed play though, and I’d be very surprised if that was any different this time around.
In limited, it’d be lovely to get your dragon a turn earlier, but it’s seldom going to cost you the game if you have to wait a turn. In any case, the body is fine, but I wouldn’t rate it much higher than Wind Drake, and take all the usual suspects over it in draft.
Mini-Morphling returns, to noone’s delight. It’s a solid limited card, as mana sinks almost always are, but it’s nothing more than a curve filler. It’s one of the more solid ones, but I’d far rather have seen an Azure Drake reprint than this for the second time.
It’s too expensive for Constructed, clearly, and the body’s a little on the small end for Limited too. I’m not really impressed by this, not even a little. I don’t imagine me windmilling this P1P1, which isn’t the best sign for a seven-drop mythic. I’d be surprised if this got any higher than Bulk mythic prices in a couple of months.
There’s a very specific Limited deck that wants this. It’s the one with all the green beasts in it too. Other than that, enough of Blue’s creatures fly that you wouldn’t find it worth a card in most cases. Don’t be fooled by this, you probably don’t need it.
Top 5 Cards I want to play with in Constructed
Top 5 Limited Commons
Stay classy folks, and I’ll hopefully be back in black tomorrow.