Before we get to today's color, it's Cycle Watch! Just when you thought there couldn't be any more of them, here they are. Let's see all the obvious ones:
There are also plenty of others. You can try this at home. About a third of the set is "pure" cycles, with one card in each color that fit together perfectly. If you get creative, you can get a lot more. The big change is that this time unlike Betrayers, the cycles do not have a higher power level than the rest of the set.
Now, on to Blue.
Cloudhoof Kirin 3UU
Legendary Creature - Kirin Spirit
Whenever you play a Spirit or Arcane spell, you may put the top X cards of target player's library into his of her graveyard, where X is that spell's converted mana cost.
A stream of pebbles becomes an avalanche.
The White model is designed to be a decent body while you take out everything in sight. The Blue model is an Air Elemental with an ability that can make a big difference if the game drags on. You certainly can't plan on winning the game by milling your opponent to death this way, or on setting up a win milling yourself. In neither case can you count on keeping him alive long enough, and if you can then you already have a solid body that often will win you the game. What it can do instead is give you an additional route to victory in a deck that already has reason to want a solid Blue creature. There also aren't all that many Blue creatures these days that have solid numbers, and this one has them. If a lot of your spells suddenly start eating away at your opponent's library, then you can start doing serious damage there on the very next turn. I sense this card ending up as a bit of an orphan by not fitting into any one person's plans enough to get played, but I do like the card and hope it finds a good home.
Cut the Earthly Bond U
Instant - Arcane
Return target enchanted permanent to its owner's hand.
Keep the mortal coil, it might come in handy.
It has to be frustrating to get hit by this card, but this has to be the most restrictive Unsummon in a long time. You are getting remarkably little for what you are giving up, which is the ability to return unenchanted cards, particularly creatures. Why would you choose this over a Boomerang or similar alternative? It is arcane, and it is cheaper, but those are minor advantages up against a gigantic drawback.
Descendant of Soramaro 3U
Creature - Human Wizard
1U: Look at the top X cards of your library, where X is the number of cards in your hand, then put them back in any order.
Know the present, know the future.
Given the cost and size of Descendant of Soramaro, the four mana needs to be thought of as an investment to gain the ability to manipulate your library. While there's no question that this can get out of hand quickly, both Scroll Rack and more recently Sensei's Divining Top make a mockery of this card. It is far too much work for a little bit of reordering.
Creature - Spirit
Whenever you play a Spirit or Arcane spell, you may sacrifice Dreamcatcher. If you do, Draw a card.
You don't catch a dream, you let a dream catch you.
Blue is desperate for one drops that don't make you actively wince. This won't put a stop to that trend, but a strong case can be made that it causes slightly less wincing than the alternatives if you have a bunch of arcane and spirit cards. It gives you a spirit, and later on you can cycle it away. If you can do it in response to its imminent death, it could become actively good for a one drop. I could also be a little bit too used to getting nothing out of this slot in Blue. Eventually we'll probably get thrown some sort of bone.
Erayo, Soratami Ascendant 1U
Legendary Creature - Moonfolk Monk
Whenever the fourth spell of a turn is played, flip Erayo, Soratami Ascendant.
/// FLIP ///
Counter the first spell each opponent plays each turn.
Cast infinite spells and avoid the competition.
At first I thought this card was very good, then I thought it worked differently and was worthless, now it has been restored to its original state. If you can flip this card, your opponent is in a lot of trouble, so the question becomes how easy it is to get four spells cast in a turn. It isn't easy if your opponent refuses to help, but if they're going to get into any kind of fight with you or even cast a spell on your turn, then it becomes remarkably easy to take care of the two or three remaining spells that are required. The trick is finding a deck that can cast all those spells without either losing the game or winning it before Erayo can get involved. Only in Vintage is this an easy requirement to meet, which makes this at least a little interesting there, but I still think the bar is set sufficiently high that this will fail to be anything special.
Eternal Dominion - 7UUU
Search target opponent's library for an artifact, creature, enchantment, or land card. Put that card into play under your control. Then that player shuffles his or her library.
Epic (For the rest of the game, you can't play spells. At the beginning of each of your upkeeps, copy this spell except for its epic ability. You may choose a new target for the copy.
If you get the spell of your choice from their deck and they get a random draw, you had better win the game if they don't have some sort of continuous bounce effect or a dominating board position. There's just this little problem of the casting cost that could have you casting spells like the Myojin of Seeing Winds. This is four mana more than Upheaval and the same as Sway of the Stars. Meanwhile, if you're going to fall behind early, there's a good chance that they don't have anything all that great for you to search out and it might take a while to stabilize. The white version lets you know you have good stuff coming to you and it is far cheaper. If you want a finisher, this block has many fine choices, and this is no way to turn around a game.
Evermind - N
Instant - Arcane
(Spells without mana costs can't be played.)
Draw a card.
Evermind is blue.
Splice onto Arcane - 1U
I'm sure I've got it around here somewhere...
I love the concept of this card. A spell that you flat out cannot cast! That's great. As with most neat new ideas, it takes a minute or two to settle in that it can be done and then it is time to start thinking about whether or not the card is worth playing. In this case, it offers to turn all your arcane spells into cantrips whenever you have extra mana lying around. Two mana is an excellent price to pay for cards on a continuous basis and this card requires no investment. The problem is that it can't be activated whenever you want to draw a card, only when you cast another arcane spell. For a dedicated arcane spell that always casts spells on its opponents turn, this seems like a right, but only if the deck isn't naturally efficient enough with its cards to never run out. It could also be good if you're relying on hands-full cards, since this will always sit in your hand while helping you increase your hand size even more. If this is too romantic we'll find out soon enough, but this seems like a fine way to spend all that mana you were wasting on silly little Tops.
Freed From the Real 2U
U: Tap Enchanted Creature
U: Untap Enchanted Creature
Remember, when you walk out of the tournament the spell ends.
You can get use out of half of this, shutting down their creature or going crazy with your own, but it's hard to benefit from both. Using it on them is a horribly inefficient plan but in an emergency I suppose it can sometimes get the job done. Using it on your own creatures means doing something horribly abusive. Kiki-Jiki is one card well worth untapping repeatedly, but even that seems like a lot of investment: You need a five-drop, a three-drop and something worthwhile to copy. These combinations never seem to work out, but it's just enough to keep this off the worthless list.
Ghost-Lit Warder 1U
Creature - Spirit
3U,T: Counter target spell unless its controller pays 2.
Channel - 3U, Discard Ghost-Lit Warder: Counter target spell unless its controller pays 4.
A spirit dies so a spell dies with it. Fair trade if it works.
This is not a creature, this is an uncounterable spell. Yes, technically you can put a creature into play, but I can't think of many reasons why you would do such a thing. Instead you get an unreliable counter that doesn't cost less than a hard counter should, and even that is miles ahead of the creature this is if it hits the table.
Ideas Unbound UU
Sorcery - Arcane
Draw three cards. Discard three cards at end of turn.
The truth will set you free... for a limited time only.
If this card forced you to discard the cards immediately it would still be a solid way to dig deeper into your deck. For two mana and a card you get to go three cards deeper, and I'm sure people will use this spell that way on turn two. Instead what we are offered is a deadly weapon. It is arcane with all that being arcane implies, and you get to keep the cards until the end of your turn. The obvious first option is not to have three cards in your hand when the turn ends. If you play one land, cast a spell and did this with your hand otherwise empty, you've gained card advantage and often you'll get to empty your hand outright. Having a Top on top of your deck can tell you both when you have cards you can get rid of and give you a one-drop to get onto the table. If you're planning to end the game this turn, that's another reason it could make no difference.
The only real drawback of this card is that it is a sorcery; if you could do this instead of a Counterspell or even Mana Drain, then it would be competing with Meditate and Thirst for Knowledge in Extended and Vintage. It might still make it to Extended. Then there's the second advantage of this card, which is that it temporarily increases your hand size by two for various hands-full strategies. A final note is that by drawing and discarding three this could be an excellent second turn setup card for Ire of Kaminari decks in particular, which benefit so much from having the right cards in hand, the right land ratio and building a graveyard for later in the game.
Kaho, Minamo Historian 2UU
Legendary Creature - Human Wizard
When Kaho, Minamo Historian comes into play, search your library for up to three instant cards and remove them from the game. Then shuffle your library.
X,T: You may play a card with converted mana cost X removed from the game with Kaho without paying its mana cost.
"Kawigawa looks to the past for its wisdom while Mirrodin looks to the future. If we are to work together to achieve peace and prosperity, they need to stop looking backwards and start looking forward. As long as old and arcane books hold the ultimate truth, modern times with all their benefits will pass these people by and they will grow resentful and strike out at us. Their elders mean well, but they are Thieves of Hope." - Kaldra
If Kaho is allowed to live, he will turn into a triple-tutor for instants over three turns and then he will leave behind a 2/2 body. As with most creatures that grant card advantage, this is great if a bit slow if it works but too often it will not. If they kill Kaho, you are left with a library minus three of the cards you need the most. It is an upgrade from a card like Archivist since three spells of your choice should be enough to secure most games, but it is doubtful that it will ever be enough to make him worth playing given the investment in both mana and time that this card requires. Cards like this are next to impossible to make good enough to play when they aren't made dirt cheap like Merfolk Looter.
Kami of the Crescent Moon UU
Legendary Creature - Spirit
At the beginning of each player's draw step, that player draws a card.
"Don't howl at the moon. It might howl back." - Isao, Enlightened Bushi
Howling Mine is not an effect that Blue decks want too often. Red wants it because it allows them to overload their opponents. Green wants it because they can deploy their mana fast enough to use both cards every turn. White wants it to force opponents into walking into mass removal. What does Blue want with this effect, especially with all its other card drawing? I do not know. This is also the Platonic ideal of a card that lives through your opponent's upkeep but not his main phase. All he has to do is draw the first extra card and then kill him to make this card a disaster for you. As an artifact Howling Mine is unlikely to be removed.
Creature - Spirit
When Kiri-Onna comes into play, return target creature to its owner's hand.
Whenever you play a Spirit or Arcane spell, you may return Kiri-Onna to its owner's hand.
High note, full of beauty.
Meishin, the Mind Cage 4UUU
Creatures get -X/-0, where X is the number of cards in your hand.
"This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but with a whimper."
This is what all your Reverence was building to, a complete shut down of all attacks. There are not many creatures that can attack into a fully operational Meishin. Getting a fully operational Meishin will take a while, and seven-drops are supposed to end games, but this is an excellent way to start an Enduring Ideal or to lay the lockdown on opponents when you're running control strategies. The problem is of course that it costs a ton of mana and leaves your opponent time to try and figure out what to do, but these days getting to seven mana is not an unreasonable goal and it is not all that hard to fill up your hand on the turn after if your hand was not full before. You can use Meloku as one solution, despite the anti-synergy involved in all of those tokens, on the theory that either one of them will win you the game. Once this is in place, your goal is to kill your opponent some other way and there are plenty of fine choices.
Minamo Scrollkeeper 1U
Creature - Human Wizard
Defender (This creature can't attack)
Your maximum hand size is increased by one.
Few guessed their true purpose.
That has to be the least important throwaway ability I've seen in a long time on a card I might actually use, set mechanic or no set mechanic, that was pretending to be the primary purpose of the card. You do not play this card to increase your hand size, although I'm sure there will be those who do it for exactly that reason because they think it is far more important than it is. Instead you play this card to get a 2/3 creature for two mana in a color that doesn't have much to offer in the way of two-drops until this set. The good news is that you also have another good two-drop in this set coming up later. If Scrollkeeper didn't get beat up by several of White's best two-drops that would have been a plus, but the 2/2s with bushido are a serious problem for this card; without them it would have received a third star. Instead I see this as a potential stopgap for a color that doesn't have many other options but is probably better off trying to cast some sort of counter on turn 2.
Moonbow Illusionist 2U
Creature - Moonfolk Wizard
2, Return a land you control to its owner's hand: Target land's type becomes the basic land type of your choice until end of turn.
Move along, nothing to see here.
This ability is probably at least as useful for its ability to let you return lands to your hand as it is for its ability to give you other colors of mana or mess up your opponents' access to his lands due to horrible inefficiency of both of these options. That is a sad commentary on this card, which is better thought of as a vanilla two-power flyer for three mana that every now and then you can activate because you have nothing better to do with your time.
Murmurs from Beyond 2U
Instant - Arcane
Reveal the top three cards of your library. An opponent chooses one. Put that card into your graveyard and the rest into your hand.
"Did you hear something? I think it might have been a howl."
"No, I'm sure it's nothing."
This will give you two cards in exchange for one, but its instant and arcane status is the only reason it isn't strictly inferior to Counsel of the Soratami and it is clearly far worse than Thirst for Knowledge, even if it might be slightly better for decks without artifacts. The card you most want is the card you are least likely to get and most of the time you will get one land and the lesser of two spells. That seems like a poor deal to me, and if you are looking to splice then I can think of several superior card drawing arcane spells that can go into your deck instead.
Oboro Breezecaller 1U
Creature - Moonfolk Wizard
2, Return a land you control to its owner's hand: Untap target land.
Buy two get one free!
There exist situations where you will want to use this ability for a reason other than returning cards to your hand, because you have an enchanted or legendary land. They won't come up often and if they do then you should be using a spell that untaps lands because they are far more efficient than this can ever hope to be.
Oboro Envoy 3U
Creature - Moonfolk Wizard
2, Return a land you control to its owner's hand: Target creature gets -X/-0 until end of turn, where X is the number of cards in your hand.
Something to see here, but you can't afford it.
You can't use this on a continuous basis because it uses a resource that doesn't renew fast enough, even if it was somehow worth the investment in a four-drop and then two mana per activation. As usual with these cards, the numbers are bad and the mana costs are too high without the ability having too much of an impact. This is by far the best of the bunch but it's still nowhere near playable.
Oppressive Will 2U
Counter target spell unless it's controller pays 1 for each card in your hand.
He vowed on that day that blue would never get another worthy counterspell again.
Three mana for a hard counter still has to be considered par as far as I'm concerned. Hinder passes the test, but this introduces a large element of potential uncertainty in exchange for a lack of colored mana. Good counters require UU because they end up overpriced on colorless if they relax the color requirement. In this case, the requirement that they be unable to pay one mana for each card in your hand is being treated as a minor restriction when this is compared to true blue counters, even though it is comparable to cantrip status if this has to stand alongside Vex. If your plan is to maintain a full hand or to only need this early then this could be a reasonable stopgap counter for block given the lack of good alternatives especially for decks based in green but I can't see using this over Mana Leak or Hinder.
Overwhelming Intellect 4UU
Counter target creature spell.
Draw cards equal to that spell's converted mana cost.
"It can't be! Their superior intellect is a match for our puny weapons!" - Memnarch
An interesting question is whether this card is better or worse due to the presence of Time Stop in the same block. Both are fighting for the six slot, with Time Stop generally a far more flexible weapon, but it provides excellent cover for Overwhelming Instinct. You can sit back on both cards, confident that you can deal with anything they throw at you. If they try to play around Overwhelming Instinct, you hit them with Time Stop. They also see you representing Time Stop and later even casting it, so they don't have any reason to suspect Overwhelming Intellect. The problem is that playing two different cards that each cost six is asking a lot and more cards is likely not to be your biggest problem if you make it to six mana with such a deck. Spelljack was better than this because it could counter anything and it then gave you tempo, often handing you the weapon you needed most to stabilize or even dominate the board.
Rushing-Tide Zubera 2UU
Creature - Zubera Spirit
When Rushing-Tide Zubera is put into a graveyard from play, if 4 or more damage was dealt to it this turn, draw three cards.
Try and stem the tide, but don't try to fight it.
This card threatens to leave your opponent in a difficult position. They will often be unable to kill it without overkilling it, and that will grant you three cards in addition to forcing them to kill it. The problem is that there are far too many ways to kill a 3/3 without doing four damage to it, and in those cases you have a lousy creature. The decks that want the cards the most don't get much out of a 3/3 creature, so they'd be better off with a solid and reliable Concentrate or similar spell. Etched Oracle wasn't the easiest card to get fully powered, but the fact that almost no one tried shows how good cards of this type can be without being anything special.
Sakashima the Impostor 2UU
Legendary Creature - Human Rogue
As Sakashima the Impostor comes into play, you may choose a creature in play. If you do, Sakashima comes into play as a copy of that creature,
except its name is still Sakashima the Impostor, it's still legendary, and it gains "2UU: Return Sakashima the Impostor to its owner's hand at end of turn."
If there is nothing in play, Sakashima does little but does still hit for three damage. If there is a creature in play then Sakashima acts as a kind of risk-free Clone (or an expensive-to-activate Vesuvan Doppelganger) that can copy legends and can upgrade to something better if the need arises or you're about to blow up the world. It does not target, so it can block Kodama. This is an improvement over past clones, but I don't quite think we're there yet...
Creature - Spirit
As long as you have more cards in hand than each opponent, Secretkeeper gets +2/+2 and has flying.
It's not all that good at keeping secrets, but finding them out doesn't make you less dead.
A 4/4 flyer for four mana is one of those things that tends to come with a large drawback, so this is one case in which keeping your hand full is a price you can consider paying. The big question will as usual be how consistently you can keep your hand bigger than your opponents', although you will probably only care on your own turn which gives you a one card boost when it matters. This seems excellent for a skies deck that tops out at four mana and will be bouncing its lands with Gush and Thwart or for higher range decks that will be drawing lots of cards to keep their hands full.
Shape Stealer UU
Creature - Shapeshifter Spirit
Whenever Shape Stealer blocks or becomes blocked by a creature, change Shape Stealer's power and toughness to that creature's power and toughness until end of turn.
He rarely loses but he never wins.
For two mana you get a creature that will block the majority of creatures effectively, either trading with them or bouncing off of them. Either way, Blue now has a defender to buy it time to get to the later stages that can even remove many larger drops at minimal inconvenience. This is likely to be the best way for Blue to deal with a Kodama or other such oversize creature and bounce is a cheap way to let it live to do it again. You can't stop an army this way, but you can delay it on the cheap and that counts for a lot.
Shifting Borders 3U
Instant - Arcane
Exchange control of two target lands.
Splice onto Arcane 3U (As you play an Arcane spell, you may reveal this card from your hand and pay its splice cost. If you do, add this card's effects to that spell.)
"Retaining these settlements is vital to the security of Mirrodin." - Memnarch
When Kjeldoran Outposts were running around and represented one of the primary ways players won games, exchanging lands was valuable. Right now, there are no good reasons to want to invest this kind of mana in exchanging lands even if you play to leave them with exhausted Ice Bridges or other such nonsense and you'd never want to do this over and over again when you could be doing something far more productive.
Shinen of Flight's Wings 4U
Creature - Spirit
Channel - U, Discard Shinen of Flight's Wings: Target creature gains flying until end of turn.
For when you know not to expose the wax to anything that shinens too brightly.
Once again, as a creature this is strictly Limited quality and as a spell it is the reincarnation of Jump. Excuse me if I'm less than impressed.
Soramaro, First to Dream 4UU
Legendary Creature - Spirit
Soramaro, First to Dream's power and toughness are each equal to the number of cards in your hand.
4, Return a land you control to it's owners hand: Draw a card.
This is more expensive than the standard Maro, and that is its undoing. It can put the game away by letting you draw cards and boost itself up with lands returning to your hand, but consider what a Meloku can accomplish for less mana. When you go from five to six mana, it requires an extreme bump in power to a card capable of lording over the board and this card doesn't even come close to making that jump. I don't even think it is as good on the table as several other cards in the cycle that cost five.
Trusted Advisor U
Creature - Human Advisor
Your maximum hand size is increased by two.
At the beginning of your upkeep, return a blue creature you control to its owner's hand.
"If he's so trustworthy, where does he keep going every upkeep?" - Sakashima the Imposter
You can't sneak this in on the first turn to let you play a waiting game because you need to keep recasting him every turn. You can't use him to buy time early on effectively... because you need to keep recasting him every turn. If there was something worth bouncing every turn, that would be different, but there isn't anything and even if there was you would need this to be valuable in its own right. It is not.
Copy target instant or sorcery spell. You may choose new targets for this spell.
It's back and this time it's in Blue. That is where it belongs, of course, although I think this would be a good time to raise a concern I have: I think they may have defined the color pie too well. I agree that it's a good idea to know what each color can do and what it likes and doesn't like, but I feel like the cards may be growing too predictable as a result. It's great to have those little quirks, those cards that seem like they're out of place but that in flavor terms make a lot of sense. Yes, of course when you think about it the ability to create a copy of a spell is a Blue ability, but it's also somewhat chaotic, destructive and lots of fun to do with offensive weaponry. In spirit it does often end up being very Red. In Blue this card is a lot less remarkable than the original.
All right, that's enough philosophical ramblings. Is this card playable in the modern era? I think that it is, but only in highly specialized situations. It is good in a counter war, it is neat to duplicate certain enemy spells and there are a few of your own spells worth casting twice, but the mana curves are tightly defined and that can make things tough. Two fours often add up to less than one six, and many decks play a lot of creatures and don't offer you many spells worth duplicating. Some don't offer any at all. The most obvious target for this is Tooth and Nail, which also offers several other spells worth copying. My guess is this won't end up seeing much play, but I'm happy to have it back.
Blue shows a lot of echoes of White. The cards are exactly what they're supposed to be. They're workmanlike, they're thematic, but too many seem uninspired. They seem a lot like the set I would have come up with if I was told that they'd lost the file and needed an expansion in 24 hours. When the cards break out of form, we get a few exciting offerings like the Mind Cage or Evermind and the star of Blue, Ideas Unbound. That card is going to sound like a grammatical error every time I see it for quite some time. Every time I say it or read it, I do a double take. What I can't shake is the feeling that too many of these cards are just the logical conclusion of things already set into motion a long time ago. I'm hoping the rest of the set can break out of what feels like a rut. Of course, by the time you read this I'll have already written the whole thing, but isn't suspense fun?