Magic’s newest expansion takes us back to Ravnica once again, to a party at Karlov manor and the body of Zegana, former leader of the Simic guild. A new set means new cards, and we’re kicking off our review with the multicolor cards that serve as signposts to let you know what direction each color pair is trying to build in.
Last time we covered the mechanics, and this time as usual we won’t be looking at everything, and we’ll be doing this primarily but not exclusively with an eye for Commander play.
Alquist Proft, Master Sleuth
BPhillipYork: Potentially a lot of card draw if you have a lot of mana, but the problem with cards like Braingeyser is typically having the mana, not having the card. Nonetheless blue/white has a lot of ways to generate mad artifacts, mana, and deliberately profit off of card draw. There’s definitely ways you could loop this and draw out your deck into a empty library win.
FromTheShire: Cool nod to Sphinx’s Revelation. This is probably a downgrade since you have to play the creature and then wait a turn to be able to activate, and a big part of what made the original a great part of the control decks was being able to hold up your counterspell and then fire Revelation off if they didn’t play something that required being countered. That being said I won’t be surprised if this sees play, cards that gain a bunch of life and draw a bunch of cards usually do and some kind of control deck generally materializes.
Marcy: As the usual lone representative of not-Commander, we start of withhhhhhhhh…… a bad card. Well, ok, not terrible, but nothing on this card makes it fit to replace just about any other 3 cost card in the colors or types of decks that would play this guy. About the only thing I could see if putting him in an Esper Humans deck that wants maybe 1 or 2 of this to try and help generate card draw, but that requires you to have clues and a lot of extra mana. I feel like you lost by that point, if that’s your out.
Ezrim, Agency Chief
FromTheShire: First of all, hat game on point. Secondly, this seems great as the curve topper for that control deck as a difficult-to-impossible to remove threat if you can keep creating Clues, and it looks like the deck will be focused on it.
BPhillipYork: I was ready to start talking about how it was another weird Sphinx commander but it’s actually a weird Archon commander, so uh. Anyway, so much mana for a 5/5 beater that can sac artifacts to protect itself isn’t really enough in my opinion.
Marcy: I really like the ‘pay to protect’ aspect. I don’t really like about anything else on this card.
No More Lies
FromTheShire: Big fan of counters that exile, I said no to that for a reason, not so you could just recur it next turn! Less useful in Commander but 3 is enough that you can still get people if you ick your spot.
BPhillipYork: Decent counter spell, WU is obviously harder to come up with than 1U but not that much, also for decks that care about using multicolor spells just a usefully good multicolor spell.
Marcy: WU control is in a little odd spot in Standard at the moment because the return of Cavern of Souls has made counter spells like Make Disappear a lot less valuable, and so this card likely falls into that same category. There is an argument that in a WU or WUB deck that runs counters, this MIGHT be better than Make Disappear, because many of the current control shells don’t often run creatures, but I’m wondering how often you need to specifically deny an opponent a spell by 3 instead of 2 mana but requiring 2 colors instead of U and a colorless.
FromTheShire: Not sure on this one without seeing how the deck shapes up. In 60 card I don’t know if this is solid end of turn value, or just lets you make a bunch of Clues right before the aggro deck kills you. Likely to be useful in Commander where you can either get a bunch off of the token deck or pay for multiple players and get solid value.
Marcy: This card sucks.
FromTheShire: Outstanding signpost card, great art, immaculate flavor text. The lord effect doesn’t hurt but for now there aren’t a ton of them. The bigger thing is that the ones that do exist in these colors care about investigating, aka triggering the second ability. This probably makes for a fun tier 3 deck or solid limited card.
BPhillipYork: A Detective lord is uh, a thing. Maybe if there is a detective really worth connecting with or you have Coastal Piracy effects.
Marcy: This is one of the first cards in the deck that I like. A Detective Lord that provides evasion easily, and ‘Detective’ decks seem to be based on, or around, drawing cards. Also I gotta give it up for the flavor text.
Drag the Canal
FromTheShire: This seems okay but not great at baseline, if you can reliably make sure a creature dies it’s insane value.
BPhillipYork: I like the flavor but the taste is bad.
Marcy: Something about this card is odd. It does a LOT, maybe, but you have to do something to get it to do those things other than just making you a 2/2 token. You could think you are going to trade the token for an effect but they happen at the same time, so you need another way to remove a creature first. Spell wise, that means you’re looking at having 3-4 mana open for this card, and creature wise, it means you have to have something die on your or your opponent’s side. If you can get this to work, great, but I think it’s too much work.
Etrata, Deadly Fugitive
BPhillipYork: Oh good another Etrata, but this one is a more functional Assassin type deck leader, which seems like a fun archetype to experiment with. 3 for a 1/4 deathtouch that cloaks things into play for you is pretty fun, especially off the top of your opponents decks.
FromTheShire: Really like this, both because it steals stuff and because it lets you cast noncreature spells that have wound up in play face down that normally would be stuck as 2/2’s.
Marcy: I don’t see this card doing much in current Vampire shells, and frankly I’m getting a little worried. I don’t want to turn this into a rant, but did you all know Standard is in an absolutely miserable place right now? So many of these cards mean and will do nothing in the format because there are still cards in the format that have another 8 months before rotating. In a Standard that kept changing organically, maybe you could find new archetypes to play, but right now, Standard is just the same as it was nearly a year ago, adding or rotating in a few cards here and there into the same shells.
Lazav, Wearer of Faces
FromTheShire: Really wish this wasn’t until end of turn. The variance is high enough on what you’ll be able to exile that I’m not sure this gets there.
Marcy: You’ll never guess but hey! this card kinda sucks! There’s actually a LOT of graveyard hate in Standard now, so there’s a great chance you just are never going to find anything that’s worth stealing, on top of the ‘cost’ of having clues and sacrificing them somehow. This isn’t even a ‘fast’ way to ‘re-animate’ huge things tossed into a graveyard with this card quicker than you can in most of the other shells that allow that type of playstyle right now.
BPhillipYork: This is just too many steps with too many steps. Hoping to exile something useful to turn into and having to pay 2 mana, yeah you get a draw that’s okay. Maybe with Esper colors.
Blood Spatter Analysis
Marcy: Virtue of Persistenceis literally in these colors. Just play that instead.
BPhillipYork: Bloodspatter analysis has been disproven as a forensic science. And this card is just, meh. I like the idea of dealing 3 when it comes in, and really it’s support for a deck that cares about sacrificing enchantments, like Ghen, Arcanum Weaver.
Judith, Carnage Connoisseur
BPhillipYork: This seems super fun to me. Giving your spells deathtouch and lifelink means like a Hurricane clears the board for 2 mana, and gains you a bunch of life, and those Imps? Bonkers. Totally fun aristocrats style deck.
FromTheShire: Very cool abilities to give your spells. In Commander one of the problems red has is that it relies on damage based spells to clear the board and those struggle to scale with the size of creatures in the format and the number of opponents, and this is a fun way to rectify that. Admittedly in this case it’s paired with black so you could run actual board wipes but where’s the novelty in that? This also gives you the ability to chain together a bunch of cheap spells and make a bunch of Imps and sacrifice them for mana to cast more spells and drain everyone out.
Marcy: No way this is Standard playable. It doesn’t win you the game on Turn 5 and dies to immediate removal.
Rakdos, Patron of Chaos
BPhillipYork: I like this for cheating it out and then getting free card draw, in almost every game. A 6/6 flyer with trample in Commander isn’t powerful enough to be worth blowing up, but the card draw will net you a big advantage. Also you can Sneak Attack it out and then stack the triggers correctly.
FromTheShire: Generally I’m not a big fan of this type of card since it lets your opponent do what’s best for them at any given moment. In this case, since it doesn’t let your opponent off the hook with sacrificing tokens it’s actually not bad, and the body is solid too.
Marcy: The state of Standard when a 6/6 for 6 Demon does so little that you just don’t even care about him. This doesn’t win you a game, and honestly, I don’t know if drawing 2 cards at the end of my turn is going to do much for me, especially since I’m likely tapping out to play him with no mana open.
Anzrag, the Quake-Mole
BPhillipYork: I love this guy. It’s a big mole that rocks. Make a deck around this immediately. Give the thing haste. Make it invulnerable and trample. Win the game.
FromTheShire: Hell yes. I don’t know what madman put 8 power on this thing for 4 mana but I love you. They made the ability cost an extra mana so it’s not straight up a 2 card combo with Savage Ventmaw but if you can’t figure that out you’re not even trying. The untap ability is generically super powerful as well even if you’re not abusing it, and people will rapidly have no choice but to block so they don’t die even without being forced to.
Marcy: This is an interesting card. I can at least see this being useful in some other formats, but I don’t know if he’s going to be useful in, again, Standard. I do think that the Gruul decks that have been trying to make a stand in aggro might find this card as a great finisher on turn 4 or 5 depending on ramp, and if he lives that long.
FromTheShire: This is kind of interesting, either you get your best 2 drop in the top six with haste or you get the best creature of them into hand. Digging six deep isn’t too bad bad but it’s not whiff proof either.
Marcy: The irony is that in Gruul there aren’t a lot of 2 mana cards that don’t already have haste, so it feels like digging them up this way is just not cost effective. Dinosaurs might like this to put a big bomb in your hand after getting some of your ramp going, which might help that deck with consistency.
Yarus, Roar of the Gods
FromTheShire: Banger. Haste is a fantastic ability to have, your face down creatures are free to get aggressive because they’ll return to the battlefield even better if they die, and if the your opponent is too scared to block for fear of what might be revealed you draw a card.
Marcy: Gruul aggro might really be a force in Standard with cards like this, frankly. It’s been making some attempts, usually split with Dinosaurs, and there are some potential ways this could help combine those into a big nasty stompy deck. The biggest issue is the huge swath of removal spells in Standard right now.
FromTheShire: One of the signpost cards for Selesnya, this lets you know exactly what the colors want to be doing, which is naturally putting a counters twist on disguising creatures. Maybe this can be part of your morph/disguise Commander deck but more likely for Standard.
Marcy: I’m a little unconvinced at the moment about this particular card. I think it’ll rely on how it can best use the face-down cards in the deck in general, which I think is another gripe of mine: these sets come with mechanics that are only in these sets, so in Standard, it depends on how well that interacts with anything going on previously, and there’s no other face-down mechanic right now.
BPhillipYork: Not good enough for singleton probably but for sure for standard.
Tolsimir, Midnight’s Light
BPhillipYork: I like the idea of a Wolf/Elf deck and there’s a decent amount of support for it now, lots of Elves that make Wolves and you can ramp via Elves and lands and then make Wolves and attack, seems fun, if a bit slow and just a variation on go-wide.
Marcy: This feels like an oddly complicated Geist. It’s fine? I guess. The irony is he dies to…. *drumroll*…..Cut Down! Imagine paying 5 mana and dying immediately to a 1 mana removal spell. Not me though, I’m different.
FromTheShire: Fun to see Tolsimir back, especially with a lot of the characters we know having gone away. The actual card doesn’t quite get there for me, Tolsimir is not built for combat which makes their ability hard to take advantage of.
Trostani, Three Whispers
BPhillipYork: Giving up double strike that easily is fairly dangerous, a lot of creatures can do bonkers things with double strike, and having deathtouch on command also makes it super dangerous to block even weenies.
Marcy: I do like the ability to mess with how your opponents can, or can’t, interact with the things you are attacking with. You can certainly make this work, but I don’t know exactly if this is a wave maker.
FromTheShire: Really sweet suite of abilities, although having to pay for them per creature will get mana intensive quickly. I think this is more of a role-player in a go tall Voltron style deck, but it’s a hell of a piece.
Kaya, Spirits’ Justice
BPhillipYork: You could use this to make a copy of your commander and do neat things, 4 mana for a planeswalker like this seeems solid enough especially given the immediate triple exile option keyed to making a copy, you just need to build around it. Would also play really nicely with decks that care about exiling things, though that’s usually Azorius, but there are Esper commanders or partner combos that would work.
Marcy: I think the other Kaya is far superior, but this one has some interesting potential. The -2 exile costs you a creature of your own, but since it can hit multiple opponents that seems more valuable in commander than Standard. I think her extra ability, to turn tokens into copies, is where she’s really going to shine, potentially giving you a cheap reanimator target. The problem is it only lasts until end of turn, meaning that you may need to consider wanting things with strong ETB triggers.
FromTheShire: Not amazing but you can’t expect to get Thoughtseize all the time. I expect it to see a bunch of play in Standard as these effects are always good.
Marcy: Discard decks have started popping up a lot, and I don’t think this is going to be a huge include, but it is certainly obnoxious, and that’s what that deck does. The inclusion of white is what might make it difficult, because those decks really prefer to be monoblack.
Teysa, Opulent Oligarch
BPhillipYork: Yeah this is solid enough, works really well with Wernog, Rider’s Chaplain and cards that care about artifacts dying or being sacrificed.
Marcy: I think this might see some play. There is a WB life gain deck that has been making some rounds in Standard and I could certainly see this finding its way into the deck, because it allows for some of the weaknesses the deck has–card draw–to get taken care of.
Tomik, Wielder of Law
BPhillipYork: Another iteration of if guys attack you, which is nice for kind of pillow forty type things, it’s nice that this protects planeswalkers as well since typically these kinds of effects predate planeswalkers.
Marcy: This has to be for Commander, because there are a LOT of Planeswalkers in standard and only getting to cast him for 1 less mana feels very whatever. Also, I would absolutely pay 3 life to get rid of planeswalkers that are ruining my day.
FromTheShire: Three life is already a pretty damn solid chunk in formats other than Commander, and then drawing a card on top of that really puts this over the top. Flying and vigilance also means this rumbles well, and 4 power keeps it out of range of most red removal spells. Very good.
BPhillipYork: This is decent enough in the scale of black draw cards, works really well in Mardu with various Devils that ping when sacrificed.
Marcy: The fact you have to connect is what kills this one for me. It isn’t that you likely won’t, it’s just that I think this card is likely really telegraphed. Could be a little niche, but I don’t see it as a 4 of.
FromTheShire: Having to connect to even cast this is a definite downside but hot damn is it worth it when you do. A lot of the time you’re happy to pay 3 to draw 2 cards and lose some life at sorcery speed, drawing 3 while they lose AND you gain at instant speed is great.
FromTheShire: Great aristocrats piece, where a lot of the time you’re going wide with small tokens or recurring small creatures already, so you don’t have to change your deck construction at all, and this hits each opponent so it’s perfect for Commander. It also has relevant tribe types as well, and the activated ability can come in surprisingly handy down the stretch.
Marcy: This set has a lot of tokens, but honestly, WB already has a lot of token makers in Standard, and I could see this becoming a scary piece in decks that are already looking to take advantage of flooding the board with cheap creatures, turning those overwhelming numbers into just a drain to death option.
BPhillipYork: Super dangerous for 4-of, in singleton this probably isn’t going to cut it.
FromTheShire: Cheap flyer that you can drop early and then start growing into a scary threat with evasion, perfect for Standard.
Marcy: Ok so the bad news is here that while I agree in theory, this card doesn’t really currently have a shell. I am seeing some Izzet cards that could give it one, and there is also UBR decks that might appreciate using Oni Cult Anvil again with all of the free artifacts being made, but while this card IS pretty scary, I don’t know where it fits.
BPhillipYork: This is potentially a combo engine, letting you replace extra turn or extra combat spells into your deck repeatedly. Also it seems fun.
Marcy: Something I noticed here is that if you have the ability to do so, this might actually be a funny way to prevent yourself from getting milled out by an opponent. I think this card has some good potential for a few reasons, and ironically, I don’t think any of them involve it being a 4/4.
FromTheShire: Love that this gives you 2 ways to become a creature once you have a couple of spells under it, it’s actually able to fight solidly so you can do this repeatedly, and you can do some busted stuff with your free spells.
Kylox, Visionary Inventor
BPhillipYork: MMMM what now. 7 mana and you go off basically. Easily usable to generate a ton of attacks or turns, really dangerous to let him live though ward 2 helps protect. Yes it’s quite expensive but not unreasonably so if it lets you win the game.
Marcy: Ok, I like this card. I really like that it comes with so much protection. Menace to force unfavorable blocks, or no blocks, ward to stop removal, and haste to get immediate value for the 7 mana you just spent. I’m still not sure Izzet has legs in Standard, but this certainly seems like it might provide it. The biggest problem is needing stuff to fuel the X cost with, which Izzet doesn’t really have, but URB could have some fun with.
Melek, Reforged Researcher
BPhillipYork: Wow again this just seems tailor made to cast extra turn spells. I mean sure for fun cards its like totally fine. And its every turn, not yours, so lots of fun Izzet control and active play options. But your opponents kind of have to trust you won’t blow them out.
Marcy: I do have to point out that this dude is literally called ‘Weird Detective’, and like, alright sure. The cost reduction of 3 is pretty solid, but I’m not super convinced this is a game changer in Standard. Izzet kind of suffers already because mono-red is just better, and mono-blue tempo is also just better.
FromTheShire: I’m pretty surprised this is an uncommon, this would be extremely playable in Commander if it only had the ability to turn all of your tokens into Birds of Paradise. However, it also not only creates tokens but grows them as well? Crazy good.
Marcy: This like it has some potential for sure. I think the biggest issue is that this card requires you to also have something that takes things out of your graveyard. This set certainly offers a few, and Agatha’s Soul Cauldron likes these colors as well, so there might be some possibilities here.
Izoni, Center of the Web
BPhillipYork: Menace and 5/4 blah blah, collect evidence blah blah, create tokens blah blah. Izoni, Center of the Web is a token sac outlet, and that is valuable. There’s plenty of ways to make infinite things and need a no-cost way to eat them, and for Golgari aristocrats this is a being that can be cheated out usually through reanimation and then be a combo piece. Or build a deck around his web, spider, uh thing.
Marcy: I feel like I’m getting old but god I’m getting so tired of every set adding in like ‘Adjective X’ because after a while I’m like. What does this one do again? There feels like there might be some sort of slight recursion here but… for what, is the problem.
BPhillipYork: Solid multi-target removal at instant speed.
Marcy: This is a really strong removal card. In fact, I can see this card popping up much like Invoke Despair did, except only limited by the fact that you are going to need a lot of cards in your graveyard to pay for expensive things. That isn’t really a problem in these colors, but it is something to keep in mind.
Agrus Kos, Spirit of Justice
BPhillipYork: Solid enough and dangerous with additional attacks, double strike is a strange modifier on this creature to me, but it does mean buffing him can get dangerous rapidly and you can easily build around. I do like the trade-off inherent, you can Agrus Kos to make himself suspect but then he won’t be able to block and the value of his vigilance falls off.
Marcy: If you have a way to get things suspected before he comes in, I think the value here increases. He’s kind of expensive though, and the idea of him recurring this trigger over and over is unlikely if you’re looking to use it as removal. However, there’s no reason you can’t use it on himself to give himself menace, or other things you control, and worry less about it as a form of removal.
FromTheShire: I don’t know what happened to Agrus Kos, Wojek Veteran but he’s really serious about his job.
Aurelia, the Law Above
BPhillipYork: Really funsies Boros commander, fun for active tables, and can go off if you do extra combats with go-decently wide Boros.
Marcy: Yeah, these are great triggers for commander, but sadly she doesn’t do a whole lot for Standard. If you’re playing in Boros and getting wailed on by mono red or Humans, by the time they’re swinging with 5 creatures you’re dead.
BPhillipYork: Wow this is a super strong, like core card, get one.
Marcy: This card is insane. There are so many ways to generate tokens right now, and the cost is very low to get it on the field. Sure, it dies to Get Lost, but frankly, this is a card you either answer or lose to.
FromTheShire: Mini Purphoros that also has an anthem, love everything about it.
BPhillipYork: So for 5 mana make a target is fine, slightly over costed, 2 copies of 2 permanents will run you 8 mana so hopefully it is doing something really crazy for you, probably copying Doubling Season and another doubler if I had to guess which is pretty funny. Fun for a kind of crazy “double it” deck. Like that new ooze. Double that.
Marcy: The thing that just kind of spoils this for me is the extra X cost. It feels like the amount of mana you’d need to make something really impressive happen here is going to require far more mana than is likely worth the trouble without some other way to cheat out a big set of copies.
Kellan, Inquisitive Prodigy
BPhillipYork: I’m pretty sure adventures are deciduous now which is fine by me, fun to see this on a Commander potential card which means you could cast the adventure, then use the state-based action to return your commander to CZ to investigate again (with commander tax) if you want for some reason. Not super-exciting for investigate, but it has potential.
Marcy: Simic ramp seems like it might have some possibilities here, but the nicest thing on this card is probably the artifact destruction trigger. Artifacts have a hard time getting removed at the moment, so that might give Kellan a little extra value here. The issue is I’m not sure what deck needs him for that.
BPhillipYork: This is a neat counter spell, I like the idea of trade-off counter spells though in 1 v 1 they kind of move the needle towards blue control. But for Commander nice to see some incentive to actually run control and interaction cards that aren’t minimal.
Marcy: Again, in standard, there’s just… so many problems with counter spells at the moment.
FromTheShire: Really interesting counterspell that can possibly be fired off for 2 early, and then later you can dump all of your extra mana to making counters with your counter.
Vannifar, Evolved Enigma
BPhillipYork: This is a neat commander, and could be used for some weird tricks, like Wormfang Manta + Waterfront Bouncer and take infinite turns, but it’s just a fun kind of commander for a manifest / cloak / morph deck (and maybe some artifacts or even Eldrazi).
Marcy: I do like that you get the trigger whether you attack or not, which means that there’s an argument to be made that you could play to put something in your hand onto the battlefield solely for defensive merit, like adding a body to the field.
Voja, Jaws of the Conclave
BPhillipYork: This seems like a fairly good sort of mid-range commander. Elves for mana ramp and then Wolves for damage, start slamming away with Wolves and Voja, Jaws of the Conclave in mid game, the card draw replenishes your initial heavy ramp, and turns your Elves and Wolves big fairly fast.
FromTheShire: Interesting but I’m worried this is going to end up trying to do too many things at once, and you’re going to end up with the wrong half of your deck in hand at any given time.
Leyline of the Guildpact
FromTheShire: Really interesting piece of fixing and domain enabling, and messing with the colors of your permanents can lead to some shenanigans as well.
Marcy: Domain in Standard is going to run wild with this card, and I think it’s not going to be a fantastically fun time with non-Domain decks to deal with. Sure, you only get 4 and if you don’t hit it in your opening hand that’s less good, but this is still REALLY good.
Next Time: Colorless
That wraps up our look at the set’s multicolored cards. Join us next time as we review the sets colorless cards, picking out our favorites, and talking about the future build-arounds. In the meantime, if you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at email@example.com.