Last weekend marked one of the saddest and happiest times of the year for any Limited magician. On the one hand, Grand Prix DC served as an awesome going-away party for Theros Limited. We all got one last chance to play some sweet Heroic creatures and Bestow onto them to our hearts' content. But, alas, all good things must come to an end. Instead of dwelling on the sad part, let's focus on the happy!
Theros may be on its way out the door, but Magic 2015 is coming in hot right behind it. Ever since M10, Wizards has done a great job of making sure that Core Sets are fun and enjoyable Limited formats that have their own themes and intricacies. Sure, on a whole the cards a little bit simpler, but that's just part of what makes Core Sets great. When the cards are simple, it really gives the good drafters/technical players a chance to shine and best their opponents by eking out every last percentage point. It's true that Core Sets have their bombs, but most of them are of the Shivan Dragon variety and can easily be beaten by a card like Pacifism.
The important part we need to figure out is this: how do we approach this new format? Even though it is a Core Set, every format has its tricks and sleeper cards that don't seem good at first. I know that during the first handful of triple-Theros drafts I did people actively mocked the five Ordeals as being unplayable, and look how that turned out. The best place for us to start is by looking at what each color brings to the table and some of the key cards available in each.
Unsurprisingly enough, the first thing I notice when I look at Blue is a lot of powerful fliers. Most of all, it's good to see Welkin Tern along for the ride.
Just like Vaporkin in Theros, sometimes a turn-two two-power flier can be worth 10+ points of damage. I suspect a lot of blue-based decks will begin by aggressively drafting Welkin Terns and going for a fliers plan. It's a shame the supporting cast is a little weaker than it has been in the past. Although Nimbus of the Isles may be easier to cast, you're not getting as much bang for your buck as you would out of Air Elemental or Messenger Drake. At least we will have Illusory Angel to work with. It should be pretty easy to play it in conjunction with a two-mana spell and get at least an Air Elemental's worth of value.
So far blue seems to be in an interesting spot when it comes to interaction. In terms of hard removal, we've got Turn to Frog and Encrust. Although they both require jumping through a few hoops, it's always nice to have access to a couple of cards that can actually deal with an opposing threat, especially in a color that often goes without such an effect.
On the other hand, blue is filled with some serious tempo cards. Chronostutter, Peel from Reality, Void Snare, Frost Lynx, and Into the Void all provide ways to temporarily throw your opponent's creatures off kilter. I have to admit, it's pretty disappointing to see Unsummon get subbed out for Void Snare. Being able to bounce nonland permanents in exchange for being a sorcery is not a trade I was looking to make. As a result, I don't expect Void Snare to see as much play as its predecessor, unless of course you are looking to power out a turn-four Illusory Angel.
The blue commons and uncommons have the added benefit of working really, really well with each other - they can massively multiply the amount of bouncing going on because your Peel returns your Quickling which can again return your Frost Lynx as a mid-combat trick after you've gotten your block on.. Welcome to the Circus of Value! On its own, I would already expect big things from Frost Lynx. Creatures with strong enter-the-battlefield triggers will always have a home in Limited, and this one is no different. Add in a couple of sweet synergy pieces like Peel from Reality and Quickling and suddenly you're looking at a cat you're going to want to gun for early. It hasn't been that long since Kor Hookmaster and Kor Skyfisher were running wild over in Zendikar, and with these in your deck you may just be able to trigger Frost Lynx over and over and over...
Most powerful of all, we've got Into the Void. Bouncing one creature at sorcery speed might not be appealing, but bouncing two sure is. All you need to do is think of how great Sea God's Revenge was, and you'll know why I'm excited for this Avacyn Restored reprint. Not to mention, unlike Sea God's Revenge, you can even target your own creatures with Into the Void to free them from the likes of Encrust or simply rebuy an enters-the-battlefield trigger. Into the Void offers the perfect mix of power, versatility, and efficiency to make it an incredible first pick.
If tempo and fliers aren't your thing, it looks like blue is going to have a controlling side to it in M15 as well. With Jace's Ingenuity as a powerful draw spell as well as Cancel and Negate for counters, beating down won't be the only option if you want to play Islands. From what it looks like so far, the aggressive/tempo side of blue has more support, but that just means you'll have to look to another color to help supply some power.
Last but not least, let's take a look at the Blue Paragon.
It is safe to say that any of the five Paragons are going to be a great way to start off a draft, and the blue one is no exception. Not only does it pump all of your evasive creatures, but it gives flying to the few you have that aren't already in the air. Two thumbs up for Paragon of Gathering Mists.
At first glance, it is pretty easy to tell where Wizards wants white to be in this draft format:
Call up Craig Wescoe, because it is time to bring the beatdown with an army of tiny white creatures. Convoke is a very powerful mechanic, and it looks like white is going to be one of the hallmark colors for it in M15. As a result, not only will you want to have a lot of cheap creatures in your deck as the white drafter, but you're going to need a way to make them good. I predict that more than one person is going to die out of nowhere from a mid-combat Inspired Charge. I am very glad to see this card printed at instant speed, and I think it stands a good chance of being the one of the best cards for the aggressive white deck.
For the most part, white looks pretty linear. Other than the “little beaters” plan, the only card that really stands out is Serra Angel. Just like with any other core set it has been printed in, Serra Angel is going to be one of the best uncommons in the entire set. Sometimes you just can't beat a giant vigilant flier.
Surprise surprise, it's not going to be fun to attack into the white decks. As much as I loved playing with Divine Verdict for an entire block, I have to say I'm a little disappointed it is sticking around for another format. On the other hand, playing with Devouring Light again is going to be pretty awesome. There's nothing like a removal spell that you can cast with no mana up to really throw your opponent for a loop. Learning how to get a read on convoke spells is going to be a major contributor towards success in this format.
That being said, where the heck is Pacifism? Since Sixth Edition, Pacifism has been a staple of Core Set Limited. It's almost always the best removal spell, and is usually one of the strongest reasons to be in white. It is going to be very strange to play a Core Set without it. I mean, come on! Who doesn't want to play a Heliod's Pilgrim and search up a Pacifism? Value haters. That's who.
The white Paragon is somehow simultaneously the worst and the best of the five. Obviously when the color's plan is to play cheap creatures and cards that make a bunch of tokens, an Anthem effect is insane. But come on, vigilance? Talk about underwhelming. Even still, the merits of the Anthem effect alone should be enough to make Paragon of New Dawns a slam-dunk first pick.
I've got to say, I'm pretty pumped for green in this core set. Why, you might ask? The answer is simple:
In the world of simple creatures, the Trained Armodon is king. I was already pretty stoked to be casting Nessian Courser in Theros Limited, and that was a set full of pure power. Not to mention that Elvish Mystic is back for a repeat performance. Has anyone ever lost a game of Core Set Limited where they cast a turn-two Centaur Courser? I believe they have not.
Alongside the mighty Courser, green is filled with a lot of the usual suspects. A few fatties, a two-mana 2/2, and couple of cheap pump spells. Just like with white and Devour Light, green has Gather Courage to make things a little tricky. While not quite as stealthy as Mutagenic Growth, this Ravnica reprint is going to lead to some blowouts.
With Roaring Primadox and Invasive Species both at work here, there definitely seems to be a rebuy theme going on in M15, and green gets plenty of access to it on nice-sized monsters, fitting the motif nicely. It's a bit of a shame that Shaman of Spring costs so much, but it should provide some solid value all the same. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be much else in green worth replaying just yet, but luckily there are always four other colors to work with.
In the removal department, so far we're only looking at Hunt the Weak. While not the best card in the world, Hunt the Weak is a great card for Core Set Limited. Not only does it give some conditional removal to green, but it is a tried-and-true skill-tester. Finding the right spot to use it can be very tough, and if your opponent has a way to interact in response there might be no coming back from it.
Ah yes, the green Paragon gives trample. Everything seems to check out here. Paragon of the Eternal Wilds is very straightforward. It makes all your huge creatures huger, and gives them an easy way through the red zone. It's not flashy, but just like Centaur Courser, sometimes you don't have to be flashy to be good.
So far it looks like green might be a bit shallow, but that could easily be because we can't see the whole picture yet. Green has been traditionally strong in Core Set Limited, and with a base of Centaur Courser and Elvish Mystic it is pretty hard to go wrong. Not to mention I can only imagine there will be a couple of green slivers to give the color a boost.
That's all for now. Next week I'll take a look at red, black, and the rest of the set!