July 12, 2013 / by Margot Martell

Friends, Romans, countrywalkers, lend me your eyes! Because you probably can’t hear a blog post. And if you can, that means you’re either a.) synesthetic, b.) using some sort of text-to-speech program or c.) on a ton of drugs, and I’ve got some serious issues with all of those.

I’m here to talk today about some of the standout cards from Magic 2014 Core Set — Blue Gets the Shaft Like You Can’t Even Imagine OKAY FINE THAT’S NOT THE ACTUAL EMDASH-SEPARATED DESCRIPTION OF THE SET BUT IT’S VERY CLEARLY THE SUBTEXT HERE.

Ahem. Anyway, because I like easy symmetries and weak themes, I’m going to spend this blog post talking about 14 cards from M14 that I think are worth drafting, trading for, investing in, etc. Please do bear in mind that a lot of this is purely speculative, and I will not be held responsible for you forking out several hundred pocket clams for Archangels of Thune if they eventually end up in the dollar bin (though let’s be honest, they’re a silver bullet in modern Birthing Pod lists so they’ll probably retain decent value).

Since there’s a pretty significant disproportion between colors, I’m just going to run down the list alphabetically (you can tell I’m not being biased with this particular organizational schema because a white card tops the list and there’s no blue cards in the top three).

Oh, and for those who don’t know/don’t care (SHAME ON YOU), Evolution — the biggest fighting game tournament of the year — is this weekend. And in honor of that TOTALLY HYPE occasion, I’ll be revising my FGC tier card rating system from my last set review for this article. Tiers are as follows:

SAGAT TIER – Completely bonkers and OP. PICK SAGAT HE’S TOP TIER.
Akuma Tier – Pretty damn insane, but not quite as godlike as SAGAT TIER.
Bison Tier – Solid normals, lots of bad matchups. A thoroughly decent card all around. Also, PSYCHO CRUSHER.
Chun-Li Tier – This isn’t Third Strike, so Chun Li stands for C-GRADE. Passable, but often just barely.
Dan Tier – The SHIT TIER of this review. Poor lil’ Dan…

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April 25, 2013 / by Margot Martell

Hey folks,

It’s the Drunken Planeswalker again. Sorry you all had to read my love letter to Ral last week… suffice to say I now may or may not have a restraining order placed on me, so you won’t hear me talking about him (publicly) again.

What I DO want to talk about today are the 10 guild champions who have been chosen to compete in Survivor: Ravnic—I mean, the Implicit A-maze-ing Ra—I mean… well, ugh, the Dragon’s Maze. What a terrible name.

BUT HERE’S THE TWIST: I’m not going to grade them on a one-to-five scale like some ACTUAL LEGITIMATE MAGIC WRITER. Instead, I’m going to be ranking them using a tier system a la the Fighting Game Community. S tier/top tier is, well, top tier. A tier is very good. B tier is passable but not impressive. SHIT TIER is exactly what it sounds like.

Alright, we clear on that? Let’s get going. I’m going to review the champions alphabetically by guild, because I don’t want to seem like I’m playing favorites or anything (spoiler alert: I totally am).

Azorius: Lavinia of the Tenth

Lavinia of the suspension of fourth amendment rights

So… Restoration Angel is still legal, right? Well that’s pretty goddamn unfortunate. Also is this Soviet Ravnica or something? Is the Azorius police force the KGB? Detaining the meek with no right to a fair trial seems a bit extreme, if you ask me.

Anyway, I guess this card is good. And also a bit fascist. But if that floats your boat, then you’ll probably enjoy sleeving up Lavinia once it’s standard-legal (because let’s face it, it’s a five drop that isn’t named Thundermaw Hellkite, Batterskull or Baneslayer Angel, so it’ll never be good enough for Modern). Incidentally, thinking Lavinia is a “fun” card also means you probably like punching kittens and puppies, but I’m just speculating here.

Limited Verdict: A TIER
Constructed Verdict: A (???) TIER

Boros: Tajic, Blade of the Legion

Tajic, Blade of the Freehand Artistry

So… he’s indestructible… but he dies to Dead Weight? And Death Wind? And Stab Wound? Okay, so the -X/-X Doom Blade argument is stupid, I know. But I can’t help but feel a bit underwhelmed here. I’m sure he’s going to be the bombiest bomb in draft/sealed, since an unkillable 7/7 for four mana is one of clearest definitions of VALUE in limited, but I can’t see him seeing play in constructed until at the very least after Innistrad rotates. And even then I’m not entirely convinced this card is better than Firemane Avenger, at least in the abstract.

That said, I’d like to be wrong about this. Tajic is super flavorful and really cool and his sword is warped enough to give Rob Liefeld the spins, so I’m giving him a thumbs up on radness, even if he isn’t necessarily up to muster for constructed play.

Limited Verdict: TOP TIER
Constructed Verdict: ???? TIER

Dimir: Mirko Vosk, Mind Drinker

Mirko Vosk, Not Even Comparable to Tog Drinker

Fine Wizards I see how it is DON’T EVER GIVE US A PLAYABLE DIMIR CREATURE FOR CONSTRUCTED OR CUBE I GET IT PSYCHATOG WAS A MISTAKE AND EVEN THOUGH SHADOWMAGE INFILTRATOR IS LIKE BARELY CUBABLE NOWADAYS YOU’RE JUST PROVING INFLEXIBLE ON THIS MATTER AND— …

(20 minutes later)

Oh… oops. I must have hyperventilated and passed out. Sorry about that. I just want more constructed-playable Dimir creatures. And their non-existence makes me a bit pouty.

That said, I can already tell I’m going to be flipping a lot of tables after losing to Mr. Vosk in limited. If you assume that you’re going on the grind plan for the kill, then this guy is effectively three-turn clock for five mana, and that’s what we like to call a Windmill Slam First Pick™ in essentially every single limited format ever in the history of Magic.

So yeah. Slam it. Force Dimir. Or just splash Dimir in your Boros deck, for all I care. This dude is nuts (both literally and figuratively) in limited.

Limited Verdict: (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻ TIER
Constructed Verdict: SHIT TIER

Golgari: Varolz, the Scar-Striped

Varolz, the Pinstriped

Oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooh yeah. Now THIS is a sweet guild champion. By now we’ve all heard about the sweet Modern deck that pairs him (I presume this is a male troll? Unclear…) with Death’s Shadow, so let’s talk about some of the cool things he can do in Standard.

For starters, he has the Sam Black seal of approval, since he has the words “sacrifice another creature” on him; so he makes all your Tragic Slips super live, he techs crazy well with Skirsdag High Priest, he goes hog-wild with Blood Artists, etc. But beyond that, I’m more interested in the second half of that clause, which describes how he’s absurdly difficult to kill. Varolz plus any other creature means Supreme Verdict is just a sad joke, and spot removal (barring Slip) is a super loose proposition against him. The first place I want to try him is a GB Zombies deck that uses him to pop Geralf’s Messengers at will and loop Gravecrawlers for many, many regenerations. He also makes your Dreg Manglers waaaaaaaaay easier to scavenge after they’ve slithered in to do their hasty bolt’s worth of damage, and that is what I call VALUE (can you tell by now that I REALLY like value????).

Oh yeah, he’s probably really insane in limited too. First-pick him and move on with your life.

Limited Verdict: TOP TIER
Constructed Verdict: A TIER

Gruul: Ruric Thar, the Unbowed

Ruric Thar, Who Serves the Horde????

Oh boy, reach on a big green fatty! We’ve never seen that before!

… but seriously why doesn’t this guy (guys???) have trample? I guess I can’t complain too much though; Ruric Thar is a big stompy creature that provides Gruul with everything they’ve ever wanted in a guild champion. I mean, being Unbowed is way less cool than being a Hate Seed, but I suppose that isn’t too much of a slight against this two-head ogre.

Side note: I’ve been watching a lot of Venture Bros lately, and I can’t help but imagine Ruric Thar as the two-headed council member from the Guild of Calamitous Intent. You’re welcome for that, by the way.

Aaaaaaaaanyway, slam this guy in limited, because BIG STUPID FATTY THAT DOES MEAN THINGS TO OPPONENTS. As for constructed playability, I’m honestly not sure? Maybe he’s good enough to be a high-end finisher in a Naya or Jund Midrange deck? The built-in anti-Sphinx’s Revelation clause seems reasonable for Standard at least.

Limited Verdict: TOP TIER
Constructed Verdict: LOW A/HIGH B TIER

Izzet: Melek, Izzet Paragon

Melek, Whose Sight is Far and Reach is Short

This card isn’t constructed playable… IZZET? LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL I’M SO FUNNY.

Sorry. I couldn’t resist. But no seriously, this card isn’t constructed playable. Six mana for a 2/4 just isn’t a good return on investment if you ask me. Forked Future Sight on instants and sorceries is a sweet effect, but Oracle of Mul Daya this is not.

For that matter, Six mana for a 2/4 isn’t a good return on investment in limited, either, so I think poor Melek will seldom make the cut for decks in basically any format. Props to WotC for finally making a “Weird Wizard,” though.

Limited Verdict: SHIT TIER
Constructed Verdict: SHIT TIER

(… it’s funny because he multiplied his shit-ness by two!!!)

Orzhov: Teysa, Envoy (Envy) of Ghosts

Teysa, Envy of GOOOOOOOSOTASDAFASDFSDDF

Seriously, this card was far cooler when it first appeared with its original typo’d title. But when I think of playable seven-drops featuring white mana symbols, I think of Angel of Serenity and Elesh Norn, and Teysa is envious of both of those. Protection from creatures is whatever, and I’m sure she’ll be a fine curve-topper in Sealed and Draft, but a 4/4 for seven that dies to Supreme Verdict AND Mizzium Mortars just doesn’t cut it for constructed if you ask me. If I want 1/1 flying spirits in an Orzhov deck, I’d much rather just cast Lingering Souls.

Limited Verdict: PROBABLY LOW A TIER
Constructed Verdict: SHIT TIER

Rakdos: Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch

Exava, Hollowed Blood Witch

Isn’t this an enemy from the Dark Souls DLC? Or a Cirque Du Soleil performer from one of my nightmares? I don’t even know…

Ahem. Okay, so, a 4/4 for four mana that has first strike AND haste. Okay, yeah, sure. I’m sold. Slam it in draft, etc. Pretty sure it just can’t compete in constructed right now thanks to beaters like Hellrider and Falkenrath Aristocrat being legal, but I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility that she’ll see play once Innistrad block rotates in October. Making your Rakdos Cacklers into top-decked Goblin Guides is probably enough of an upside for hyper-aggressive Rakdos archetypes to justify her inclusion in those decks post-rotation.

Limited Verdict: A TIER
Constructed Verdict: B (????) TIER

Selesnya: Emmara Tandris

Emmaraculately Huge Disappointment

I feel like Emmara needs to crawl back into whatever George R.R. Martin novel she popped out of and quietly die in a corner there like the rest of his characters. At seven mana, she just does not strike me as remotely playable in basically any format. She’s clunky and vanilla as a limited curve-topper, her effect is hopelessly underwhelming in standard, and in Commander she’s just straight up worse than Avacyn, Elesh Norn and a large number of other fat Green/White legends. Kudos to her for pulling off that Galadriel look, though.

Limited Verdict: SHIT-MINUS TIER
Constructed Verdict: STILL SHIT-MINUS TIER

Simic: Vorel of the Hull Clade

Vorel of the Azeroth Clade?

WHO LET AN ALBINO DRAENEI INTO THE SIMIC COMBINE????

I’m pretty sure this guy is “fine” in limited because at the absolute worst he’s a Horned Turtle, and his upside is pretty disgusting once you get the whole evolve/scavenge engine going with him. Mostly I’m just disappointed that he’s a Human Merfolk and not a legendary Lizard Frog. Absolute flavor fail there.

In terms of constructed, I just don’t see him being quite good enough for Standard play. He’s slow, clunky and underpowered on his own, and his synergistic upside requires way more effort than Zegana’s. He’s probably gonna be the nut-high in Commander, though. Sorta-kinda-Doubling Season on a body as a commander seems pretty sicko.

Limited Verdict: A TIER
Constructed Verdict: B TIER
Commander Verdict: TOP TIER

So there you have it—my take on all of the guild champions, just in time for all your Dragon’s Maze prerelease party times. May you all open sweet sealed pools and X-0 your prerelease tournaments!

CONCLUDING BONUS VERDICT: Magic cards are cool and all, but really you should all just pick Sagat for prerelease.

OTHER SUPER DUPER EXCITING NEWS: I’m delighted to announce that at this weekend’s Saturday prereleases at the Raygun Lounge, we will have Wizards of the Coast R&D member Ben Hayes on site as our first-ever spellslinger! Attendees will be able to play against him and win prizes, so even if you couldn’t make it into any of the prerelease flights, you’ll still want to swing by and say hi!