With the full card image gallery of M14 available, I'm more excited for a set than I've been for a long time (despite the fact that Modern Masters was awesome). Perhaps it's time to take a serious look at the set for limited since I, for one, am going to be playing with it until my fingers bleed!
But what is there to be so excited about, it's just a core set? That's what I imagine some of you are thinking. I mean, it's not Ravnica, or filled with the sweetest deck archetypes in all of Modern's history (and Giants), or with complicated and intricate mechanics. Some of you might even be thinking that the Core Set is "too boring" to invest a lot of time on when it comes to limited, or complain about things like the disappearance of the M10 buddy duals or the massive makeover that everyone's favourite (formerly) faceless tribe, the Slivers, received. You might not even be very excited for the two new planeswalkers on their way (neither am I, though both look playable - something that Chandra, at least, should take as a compliment).
When it comes to limited, not only am I the kind of player who really enjoys the core sets for really focusing on your basic mechanics and skills, I'm also excited by several sweet cards and wacky archetypes that have already started popping into my head. It should be of no surprise to any of you that one of these is the Bogbrew Witch-deck, but there are other less obvious ones that I'll get to in a minute.
First, though, despite my fondness for limited, there are cards in the set that makes me excited to get into standard post-rotation. I'm a big enthusiast when it comes to Liliana of the Dark Realms, who is seeing her second print run in M14, now with great support from the now-uncommon (Doom Blade) (it's back!) as well as Corrupt. It's time to throw together a deck with a lot of Swamps in it (and perhaps a few Crypt Ghasts?)! And then there's the Black part of the new "hate"-cycle, Lifebane Zombie, probably the strongest of the bunch in standard (though they are all very good). Witchstalker looks like it will be annoying (but overrated), Tidebinder Mage looks more relevant in another format, Fiendslayer Paladin is ruthlessly effective in an aggressive white deck (or as a sideboard card against B/R beatdown decks, I guess), and Mindsparker looks like it might be best buddies with Ash Zealot in a creature-heavy mono-red deck.
There are other, less flashy cards and reprints that make me want to try them in standard: I would love to resolve Opportunity in constructed, even in a format with both Sphinx's Revelation and Notion Thief, and some sinister part of me is wondering whether we can do something degenerate with Congregate - is Vizkopa Guildmage going to be a serious constructed card? Why not? Speaking of which, Sanguine Bond is back. Go crazy!
Before I go all the way out on that limb and talk about the Burning Earth-deck, we should perhaps return to the main topic at hand: M14 limited. Starting at perhaps the most obvious part of the environment: Slivers are back, primarily in Naya colors (there's a rare sliver in each of Blue and Black but in limited I would say these are traps). It looks like a sweet deck if it comes together, though some of the crucial pieces (Predatory Sliver and Manaweft Sliver, among others) are decent even without other slivers and might therefore risk being picked up by people not aiming to draft "the sliver deck". Moving in on this deck in a draft should be done with caution for that same reason - and do try to keep it in two of the three Naya colors, unless you get a lot of Manaweft Slivers.
Speaking of conservative mana-bases: the mana-fixing outside of Green amounts to Darksteel Ingot and Shimmering Grotto. And that's it. Within green, things are a little better, but only a little. Verdant Haven at common is very nice, but Lay of the Land is definitely no Rampant Growth. You'll have to run it to make ambitious mana-bases work, but that fact alone should probably dissuade you from being too greedy with your colors.
There are rewards for staying loyal to two colors, though: White has powerful uncommons like Banisher Priest and classic Serra Angel, as well as some very solid commons in cards like Dawnstrike Paladin and Celestial Flare, not to mention the intensity of Capashen Knight's activated ability (which looks like a fine threat of activation but is unfortunately on a body small enough to just let through most of the time). In blue we have reprints like Claustrophobia and Archaeomancer at common costing double-blue, joined at uncommon by Phantom Warrior and Water Servant. The other colors are similarly equipped with cards new and old rewarding loyalty to them.
Instead of walking through all of those, though, I want to talk about cards in each color that I think are either pivotal to the format in some way, look like traps to me, or simply deserve a second, critical look at. Starting out with White again, Angelic Accord is a card that might strike some people as interesting - and it is. But getting it to work in limited is not going to happen often, and most of the time, it will either be a dead card or you're playing a deck filled with very unimpressive lifegain spells and might lose even if you get it online. Pillarfield Ox costs the same mana and while definitely not impressive is probably going to do more for you in most games. Blessing is a card I liked the looks of, initially, but the inherent risk of a creature enchantment really means you want something from the aura immediately, and activating Blessing in the same turn as you cast it is going to be hard outside of mono-white, which is probably not happening. Illusionary Armor on the other hand looks a lot better. (Dawnstrike Paladin) is one hell of a card. Whether you're actually attacking on the ground or simply following up a couple of fliers with it, it is going to be one of the best cards on the field. I'd go as far as to say that I'll keep the card in mind when drafting aggressive decks in other colors, it is a common after all: Ask yourself, "how does this deck deal with a Dawnstrike Paladin?", and if the answer is, "it doesn't", you're probably not winning that draft.
In blue, I'm very pleased to see Archaeomancer once again buddying up with Essence Scatter to make life miserable for people who let me have the mono-blue control deck, because casting four Essence Scatters before picking one of them back up and holding it up was a ton of fun last time around (for at least one of the players). Nephalia Seakite is back and while Innistrad had enough going on that it wasn't always going to be optimal, this set probably doesn't. It could probably say "draw a card" on it instead of the Flash part and it would not be a whole lot better than it is currently. Having a common flier with flash (last time it was Faerie Invaders) is also great if you do move in on the counterspell-strategy. There are fliers enough to make a more aggressive deck work in Blue too, though. Trained Condor looks a lot better than its old 3/3 for 5 drake version, and Warden of Evos Isle looks like it could up the W/U fliers deck to eleven.
In black, Blightcaster looks like an interesting uncommon (and was, after all, spoiled in a limited column on Dailymtg.com) that could be rewarding to build around without having much inherent downside in itself. Just don't start playing enchantments that do not merit inclusions on their own unless you've got several copies of it already sitting in your pile. Liturgy of Blood is no Doom Blade, but it is common and actually deals with stuff that Doom Blade doesn't. Its BBB overflow can quite easily be pooled into one of black's ample 2- or 3-drops. Lastly, black is also sporting a lot of cards like Blood Bairn or Gnawing Zombie that allow you to sacrifice creatures, with rares like Dark Prophecy and Xathrid Necromancer that further reward you for buying into that theme. Which is why one of the cards you should be looking out for if you want to move in on a wacky archetype should be...
(Act of Treason)! It's red, and it's common to boot this time around. It goes very well with the cards mentioned above, or with cards in Red like Barrage of Expendables. Dragon Egg is a nice shoe-in in this archetype as well, and if you have a lot of cards that benefit from sacrificing creatures, Young Pyromancer could earn a lot of mileage if you are playing a decent amount of instants and sorceries (such as (Act of Treason) or Altar's Reap...). The Pyromancer seems to combo with a lot of red cards; Molten Birth gets an extra kick with him out and is ridiculous if you can recur it even one time - and don't get me started on how Ogre Battledriver would make that look. It would be brutal.
I'm also a fan of the Marauding Maulhorn, even on its own, though of course it becomes a lot better (if nothing else because it becomes bigger) if you manage to pick up a couple of Advocate of the Beasts - who is a green common with perfectly decent stats on his own and a veritable ton of upside: Besides the Maulhorn in red, green has beasts at common ( Rumbling Baloth ), uncommon ( Kalonian Tusker ) and rare ( (Garruk's Horde) ), the common and uncommon both being very playable in a heavily green deck.
Oh, and on the topic of beasts in other colors, and on the topic of humans to sacrifice to Xathrid Necromancer, and on the topic of Slivers, let's talk about the elephant in the room.
Okay, technically that is the only elephant in the set, but the card I was referring to is actually a much more exciting reprint.
Mutavault is back! And if a colorless man-land wasn't good enough in itself in limited (hint: it is), there are ways to make its creature-typeness relevant. I think the public opinion is that the card will be an early pick mostly because of financial reasons, but I actually think it might beat most commons and uncommons P1P1 on limited potential alone; it makes every deck and is a "free" 2/2 - at worst.
I'd love to end on such a positive note, but I've noticed I neglected to touch on what I consider to be some of the "trap cards" of the set; starting off with Angelic Accord in white again, Planar Cleansing showed us last time around that it is just not nearly as exciting as 4-mana wraths. It might still be okay, but it's definitely not a slam-pick like (Day of Judgment) is. It should be obvious that Silence has nothing to do in your limited decks, and the same goes for Dismiss into Dream, Spell Blast, Traumatize, Artificer's Hex, Burning Earth, Cyclops Tyrant, Demolish, Bramblecrush, Fog and Vial of Poison. It should also be noted that Trading Post has gotten a whole lot worse without its Phyrexian Hulk buddy from M13. And Academy Raider is not good unless your deck needs a 1/1 intimidator for 3 mana, and few decks do.
Oh, I can't stay this negative. I just realized Wild Ricochet is also in the set. We're going to have a ton of fun!