Tuesday, July 6, 2010

M11 Core Set: An EDH Set Review

Well, folks, it's that time! The folks at the rumor mill have completed the M11 spoiler and the whole set is now known, unofficially.

That means I get to review the set and evaluate the cards for potential use in the EDH format. Now, I'm of the opinion that almost every card printed can be good in the right deck or in the right circumstances, so this is pretty subjective, as are nearly all set reviews.

However, that doesn't mean some cards don't stand out as obviously good, and some will generally be better than others. I just want to get it out of the way up front, that these are pretty general conclusions based on A) a very generalized overview of the EDH format, and B) my own personal opinions. That said, let's get started.

Oh, one more thing before we begin, because this is a Core Set, a good deal of the set is reprints. I'll generally skip those, because by now you should pretty well know that Clone is good and Haunting Echos is terrible in EDH... I'll only address a reprint if it's something coming back that hasn't been reprinted in a while.

White is up first:

Ajani's Mantra: It's cheap and as an enchantment, it's not likely to draw hate. However, it doesn't do all that much for you either. This card will likely make it into some decklist, though. I can see where some really niche deck with a lot of life-gain focus might make use of it (perhaps as a companion to Seering Meditation?).

Angelic Arbiter: Hmm... I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that this card is probably pretty good. I don't like it though. I hate cards like this, because to me they slow the game down and limit interactivity. Yeah, it's a decent effect, but games where cards like this play a major role tend to be long, boring affairs. Another thing is that this is just going to eat removal every single time it comes down. Sure, the one time you drop this and your opponent doesn't have a Terminate handy, you'll probably win the game, but more often than not she'll be a waste of seven Mana. I'm not impressed, but she'll definitely see play.

Inspired Charge: Nope. Too small of an effect. This is EDH - the format of big, bad, broken! Overrun is the minimum effect of this nature you'd consider, but really you want something more like Titanic Ultimatum.

Knight Exemplar: I'm on the fence about this one. Obviously, if you have some sort of Knight tribal deck, then you want this. Generally, though if you only have two or three Knights in your deck, this is pretty underwhelming. However, she may find home in some Rafiq decks. Even if you don't run but one or two other knights, she might be worth a slot. Consider: many Rafiq decks rely heavily on having Rafiq out to win. Thus, opponents of Rafiq tend to focus a good deal of their removal on Rafiq himself. Even if Rafiq is the only other knight in the deck, the Exemplar might just be worth a look.

Leyline of Sanctity: Pass. You can't really make too much use of it's "leyline" ability, as in a 100 Singleton format, how often are you going to start with this thing in your opening 7? I guess if you play a lot of team-based multiplayer, you might want this, but otherwise, it seems like it'll be a dead card far to often.

Serra Ascendant: Uh, yes please! Okay, folks, lemme just say that this thing is NOT broken. Yes, sometimes you'll get a 6/6 Flying Lifelink-er on the first turn. That is broken. However, that should happen rather infrequently, and even when it does a good portion of THOSE instances your opponent will wind up having cheap removal in hand. Sure even getting one good attack is certainly worth the investment of a single White mana... I'll be playing this in Rafiq for sure. It's solid, but I don't think this card is a must-run in every White deck ever.

Sun Titan: This card is very good and will go in a lot of decks. I shouldn't have to back this claim up, it seems pretty obvious to me. However, I'm actually not super excited about this Titan, because in my experience, most of the stuff I'd really like to get back tends to cost 4 or more... but there are always exceptions, and I'm sure I'll end up running this guy in some of my decks.

Vengeful Archon: Damn, two seven-mana creatures with slow-down the game abilities? WTF Wizards? Still, this one seems more promising than the Angel. First of all, it's much larger at 7/7 instead of 5/6. Plus, while its ability largely is designed to discourage attacking you, the ability is far more proactive at winning the game. And obvious use for him is to pair him with something like Grand Melee or Gideon, so that your opponent has to attack you. You'll also need a shitload of mana, but that shouldn't be too much of a problem. Anyway, I think this card is probably weaker than it looks, but it also has more fun potential.

War Preist of Thune: Good, simple, cheap utility. This will see play, but I already have Quasali Pridemage and Indrik Stomphowler, so I'm afraid I don't have any work for him myself.

 Overall, White isn't to exciting. The Sun Titan is the only real standout, but the potential of a Turn 1 windmill slam means the Serra Ascendant will see play, too.

Blue is up next:

Air Adept: If you're already running Man-O'-War then you probably want this too for redundancy. If you're running Mono U or U/x Wizards, then you probably want this. Other than that, I don't like it much. The effect is too small for EDH. Even "fast" EDH decks tend to be much, much slower than regular constructed decks, so this kind of effect usually does next to nothing for you late game, and even if you bounce something turn 3, it's so early in the game it likely won't gain you any noticeable advantage.

Armory Owl: Hmm, yes this could be playable. I'd still rather run Cort Hussar because he actually puts a card in your hand. Still, Scrye 3 is not terrible.

Call to Mind: Not that great, but can be pretty playable in the right deck. Regrowth effects are good in EDH, but this one is too narrow for my taste. I'd rather pay full price for the Izzet Chronarch anyway. Regardless, it'll find homes in some Red/Blue decks I imagine.

Conundrum Spinx: Pretty good, if you cheat (Sensei's Divining Top, Future Sight, Crystal Ball (see below)).

Frost Titan: In my opinion, this is the weakest of the Titan Cycle over all, and in EDH that is even more true. Still, some Mono U decks might want a 6/6 for 6?
Foresee: I just had to mention this because I am in love with this card. It's fantastic, really. Never unhappy to draw it, and with Scrye 4, it's almost impossible to be unhappy with what I draw off it!

Jace's Erasure: Way too slow if you're going to try to mill a 100 card deck.

Jace's Ingenuity: Meh. Instant speed draw will fit in some decks. I'd rather play other things though.

Leyline of Anticipation: This is interesting. The leyline ability will be irrelevant 90% of the time, but the actual ability of the card is good enough that it might be worth paying the full four mana... go go Instant speed!

Mass Polymorph: This card will get played. It's more fun than it is good, but still the effect is pretty big and splashy and random. Perfect fit for EDH - fans of the format should like this card quite a lot. I still like Rite of Replication more, but this is quite fun as well.

Preordain: Another Scrye draw spell. I love Scrye and drawing cards, but this is too tiny an effect even for U. It's not that it's not worth the mana cost - it totally is - it's just not worth the card slot! I'd run Foresee over this any day.

Redirect: I like this card a lot, but I don't think it'll be too playable in EDH. I do have one deck that could make use of the effect, but I'm still not sure it's worth the slot.

Scroll Theif: A bad, common Shadowmage Infiltrator? This comparison makes me worry this will get played more than it should. I can only say this: Without evasion, this will likely only ever draw you one card per game - at most. Once again, I'd still run Court Hussar over this one.

Stormtide Leviathan: This is a pretty awesome threat creature. I like it alot, but unfortunately, there are better things out there in the format. Inkwell Leviathan, for example, has Shroud to protect himself. Still, if you have a somewhat limited collection, this is certainly playable in the right deck. A neat card that I'm glad to see in print, but I'm pretty sure I'll never use it myself.

Time Reversal: One of the big money rares of the set so far... This certainly is a great effect for EDH. However, you can get the MUCH superior Time Spiral for a fraction of the cost (about $5 online, but I've seen it as low as $2 at times). For one more mana, you get to untap 6 lands, making Time Spiral essentially free. Time Reversal has the downside that after you cast it,  you probably won't be able to do much else that turn, so your opponent will get to take advantage first. This card is still playable - if you happen to open one, go ahead and try it out. But if you're specifically looking for this type of effect, PLEASE, don't spend $30 on this card, when you could pick up a Time Spiral for much less, and cast it for (basically) free!

Blue comes off much like white - not too terribly exciting, but it has some decent stuff. Mass Polymorph is the most exciting, while the Time Reversal is possibly better than I give it credit for.

Black cards now:

Captivating Vampire: Ouside of a vampire tribal deck, this is worthless, obv. In a tribal deck, it might be worth running, but to use him you basically have to overextend right into their Wrath effect.

Blood Tithe: Not great. Even in a larger multiplayer group, three damage doesn't make much of a dent in a 40 point life total.

Dark Tutelage: HA HA HA NO!

Demon of Death's Gate: I'm sure some of you will try, but I doubt this will be any good. By the time you have 3 black creatures out, you probably will be close to being able to hard cast it anyway. Then when it eats a  Path to Exile, you'll be in really bad shape.

Grave Titan: Amazing! Not an auto-include but definitely can find a comfortable slot in many decks that run black. My Thraximundar and Vorosh the Hunter will both love to have this guy on their team.

Liliana's Caress: Not worth running, unless you're playing something very unusual indeed.

Liliana's Specter: Most of the specters with combat-damage abilities will be much better than this. This is pretty unplayable.

Necrotic Plague: An amusing, interesting and flavorful card. I admire the design. I don't think this is particularly playable though. In certain "theme" decks, it could find a niche.

Phylactery Lich: Even if this was just a 5/5 for BBB with no drawback, I don't think it'd be playable. Big dumb vanilla guys are rarely all that great in EDH, even if they're cheap. I don't know how many times I've dropped a Whooly Thoctar on turn 3 and been sorely disappointed I didn't have something relevant to do...

Viscera Seer: Maybe, just maybe this could work in a Savra deck. I doubt it even then, but that's the only chance this poor guy has.

Dang, black was extremely disappointing. The Grave Titan is one of the best of the cycle, fortunately. Unfortunately, it's really about all black brings to the table. As underwhelming as White and Blue seemed at first, having taken a gander at Black makes me want to revise my opinions on those two colors.

That's about all I can stomach for tonight. I will come back tomorrow night to finish out the set with Red, Green, and Colorless.

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