For limited, the commons and uncommons of a set drive the pace and archetypes of a format so I’ll be focusing my set reviews only on those cards. The rares and mythics are splashy and exciting complements to the format, but they don’t come up often enough to drive the direction of the format. The rares may be dessert, but the commons and uncommons are the meat and potatoes of any limited format.
The Grading Scale
I’ll be following a convention similar to popular limited set reviews from the Limited Resources podcast, Channel Fireball and other set review articles.
A – A limited bomb. You won’t see an A in every draft, but it’s an easy first pick if you do. If you get passed one you’ll take it as a sign that the color is almost certainly open. You may even warp your deck building to try to play it. Very few of these are ever available in the common/uncommon slots.
B – A high pick and above replacement-level card. Seeing this is an incentive to be in a certain color or archetype. Get passed a card in this category is a signal that a color may be open, but the signal will need to be confirmed by future packs.
C – A playable card but mostly filler. Most of your deck will be comprised of cards in this category. They aren’t signals to move into a particular color or archetype, but they are decent playables to fill out the rest of your deck.
D – Below average cards. These are cards that I would expect not to play in most decks but I might have to resort to if I can’t find enough playables. Some of these are very situational cards that may be playable in some deck builds but aren’t powerful enough in general.
F – The best way to get value out of these is to pass them in favor of a basic land and hope that your opponent puts them in their deck.
Aerial Volley – D
This is a pretty efficient sideboard card against a deck planning to swarm in the air. I’m not against playing a main deck flyer removal spell in some decks if it’s flexible enough. This one is sideboard only though as it can’t take out a large flying threat and is only effective against a swarm of smaller flyers. Players often overlook the power of sideboard cards and this is a card I’d look to grab late in a pack because in the match ups where it’s good it could be one of your best cards.
Caustic Caterpillar – D-
A Naturalize attached to a body sounds great. Unfortunately the body is a 1/1 and if you want the effect to be available at instant speed you need to commit this to the board first. This tips your hand to the opponent so they can choose not to play their enchantment/artifact or wait until they’ve killed your Caterpillar. This is sideboard only and even then I’d rather have an old-fashioned Naturalize.
Conclave Naturalists – C+
If you don’t have a target for the ETB effect, you aren’t happy to have a 4/4 for 5. But it’s good enough to main deck if this format gives you a reason to want a Naturalize on a stick. Looking through the spoilers, the combination of creature auras and Thopter tokens I think gives you enough reason to make this a desirable main deck card in the format.
Dwynen’s Elite – C+
If you can trigger this it’s really good value, and even if you don’t it’s a fine curve filler. In the Elf deck this might be one of the lynchpin cards, but it’s good enough that non-Elf decks will want it even with just a few ways to trigger it.
Elemental Bond – C+
These effects are hard to evaluate. Paying for an enchantment that doesn’t effect the board is hard to swallow. However, this one looks pretty easy to trigger and once you get rolling it can generate a lot of value. If the format isn’t too fast, I can see this being a good build around value card. It’s either a C+ or unplayable.
Elvish Visionary – C+
The visionary is a very good 2-drop. It gets a body on the ground early and replaces itself which really helps smooth out your draws. The presence of the Visionary in the format makes x/1 ground creatures a risky proposition.
Gather the Pack – D
This can help you find your bombs, but I’d rather play another creature and build a deck that isn’t reliant on digging for one or two big spells to win.
Hitchclaw Recluse – C+
A 1/4 is a pretty big blocker. This can hold off a pretty good aerial offense. Between this and Elvish Visionary, it’s pretty tough to play x/1s against Green decks.
This looks like a pretty bad overrun. At 6 mana, this needs to win you the game. If you’re giving your team +3/+3, it’s likely your opponent is already going to want to block all of your creatures so that they don’t die. The only upside to the must be blocked clause is that your opponent can’t let a few creatures through planning to crack back for the win. Not giving trample is a big deal but if there’s a UG thopter/token deck maybe this works as a finisher. At 6 mana I think it’s just too expensive though.
Leaf Gilder – B-
Ramping is powerful and getting 2-power out of your 2-drop to boot is pretty nice. This should be one of the best green commons.
Llanowar Empath – C+
This is quite a bit of value for a creature. A 2/2 for 4-mana is certainly not a good rate. Scrying 2 is quite good and makes it very likely that you’ll be able to find a creature to draw off the ETB effect. Shaman of Spring was disappointing in it’s draft format, but the scry value here means you have a high chance to draw a spell, not just a random card. If the format is slow enough, this is a lot of value for 4-mana. And that’s not to mention any upside you can get out of this being an Elf.
Mantle of Webs – F
If I’m going to play an aura I want it to provide a quick clock. I don’t want to rely on creature aura’s to provide my defense. This may buy you some time but eventually your opponent will find a way to answer this and keep killing you.
I don’t place a high value on combat tricks, but this seems like a pretty good one in the right deck. It’s high variance, but if you’re generating a lot of small creatures or tokens this can be a large pump effect for the price.
This is technically card advantage but it’s expensive as a ramp spell and it doesn’t fix your mana. This format doesn’t seem like it’s going to be about big-mana so I don’t expect to be playing this.
Orchard Spirit – C+
This is a nice evasive threat mostly because thats hard to find in green. It can’t block flyers, but it attacks very well, acting as a green Wind Drake. In green you usually plan to win by casting the largest threats, but having a creature with evasion doesn’t hurt.
Pharika’s Disciple – C-
This one is fairly unique. Usually I prefer my death touchers to be small and cheap since deathtouch trades with anything anyway. At 4-mana a 2/3 will usually just trade with any reasonable body your opponent puts on the table. This looks over-costed and at 4-mana I’d rather just play a bigger creature that can contribute to a double-block rather than the deathtouch ability.
Reclaim – D-
It’s card disadvantage and shouldn’t be played in most decks. In the rare case where your deck is lacking in win conditions and you really need the ability to get back an important threat, you can play it as a last resort, but I wouldn’t be happy about it.
Rhox Maulers – C+
This guy looks pretty threatening – in art and in stats. A 4/4 for 5 isn’t huge, but triggering the Renown here is a big deal. Any combat trick or removal that gets him to connect once makes him a really big threat that’s going to be hard to deal with.
Skysnare Spider – C+
This spider is huge and can tangle with anything. It can come down and stabilize the board all on its own. Plus having vigilance means that it can start attacking profitably while still being available on defense which means you can turn the corner and kill your opponent pretty quickly. My only concern here is that by the time you hit 6 mana, one creature may not be enough to stabilize the board from a big attack and it leaves you very vulnerable to spot removal.
Somberwald Alpha – C+
Having an effect the turn it comes into play is a pretty nice upside. The power of this card isn’t obvious but it’s easy to underestimate these types of combat altering effects. This works well with Renown as it discourages your opponent from blocking but they’ll want to block to prevent the Renown trigger. Granting trample is nice upside but won’t come up all the time.
Sylvan Messenger – D
This is a meager body for the cost and you’d have to have a very high elf count to expect to draw any cards off of the ability. If it doesn’t draw at least one card you’d be pretty disappointed in your return on the 4 mana investment. I don’t expect this to be playable in many draft decks.
Timberpack Wolf – C
A 2/2 with upside is always nice. Don’t consider this a draft strategy unto itself, but grabbing a couple of these with your middle draft picks can lead to some decent opening hands. Just be aware of potential removal spells during combat that causes your wolves to shrink.
Titanic Growth – C
A fairly standard combat trick, this will be a format stable. This is one to keep in mind when doing combat math against any green deck.
Undercity Troll – B-
Any grizzly bear with upside is good value. The regeneration cost is expensive, but any bear that gives you something to do with your mana in the late-game is worth taking notice of. The fact that it attacks well early, especially after becoming Renown, and blocks well late, makes this one of the best options for the 2-drop slot.
Valeron Wardens – D+
I’m down on this card, but maybe just because it’s not my play style. If you are able to connect with your Renown creatures, you’re already getting pretty good value. Drawing a card on top of triggering Renown is nice, but it’s only good when you’re in a position where you’re already winning. If you’re behind, a 1/3 doesn’t do much to help stabilize.
Vastwood Gorger – D
For 6 mana this is a big dumb creature. Sometimes that’s enough to win a game but this is very replaceable. You can find any number of 6 drops to put in your deck that will do basically the same job. I wouldn’t want to play it, but if you do want one you should be able to pick it up late.
Vine Snare – F
Fogs are bad. Three mana fogs are bad. Three mana conditional fogs are bad.
Wild Instincts – C+
Fight effects have become the standard green removal. The +2/+2 will make your creature big enough to take down most of your opponents threats, assuming you have any reasonable body on board. However, a 4-mana sorcery means it will take your whole turn and it leaves you very vulnerable to instant speed effects from your opponent. I don’t like this card, but I think it’s a necessary evil as removal in green.
Yeva’s Forcemage – C
Think of the ability as a 4-mana burn spell. It will usually enable a 2-drop to attack when it normally wouldn’t have been able to. A 3-mana 2/2 that deals 4 to the opponent when it enters the battlefield is a pretty aggressive card. As such, it’s a good complement in a low-curve aggressive green deck.
Zendikar’s Roil – D
This is an engine card, but it’s pretty slow to get going. You’d have to make a lot of land drops late in the game to overwhelm your opponent with 2/2s. On 5-mana you usually need to make a big impact to advance your board and this doesn’t do anything. Even if you aren’t dead when you untap with it, your upside is to play a land and make a 2/2 which isn’t exactly exciting. If this card is playable, it will be in combination with Nissa’s Pilgrimage which ramps you to 5 mana and gives you the ability to trigger the enchantment for a couple of turns. I doubt this archetype will be competitive, but it could be fun to try at some point in the draft format.
Green doesn’t look to be as aggressive as I would normally expect. There are a couple of large bodies available at a decent rate, but for the most part green looks dense with utility creatures that will need to be drafted with synergy rather than raw power in mind. Might of the Masses may get a bump up in this set as Green looks better at going wide than tall.