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By: gwyned, gwyned
Jul 15 2013 5:23am
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I. Introduction

It's that special time once again, when the Magic community is abuzz with the upcoming release of a new set. Granted, such excitement is usually muted somewhat when it's a Core Set like this one, with its emphasis on reprints and lower complexity. Nonetheless, as the trusted Magic gurus analyze and review Magic 2014 for Standard and Limited, it is my purpose to break down this set as it relates to the Standard Pauper format. For those of you who follow my blog, I have already posted some of my initial thoughts. But, as in sets in the past, I prefer to submit a full-length article to really do justice to the set. So, to do this, I will be looking at the three elements that comprise any new Core set: the returning mechanic, the reprints, and the new cards.

Today, in Part One, I'll be analyzing the Returning Mechanic and discussing the first half of the new cards. Let's dive right in:

II. The Returning Mechanic

Typically, a Core Set brings with it a returning mechanic from the past. Magic 2011 brought back Scry; Magic 2012 gave us Bloodthirst; and Magic 2013 came with Exalted. However, for Magic 2014, what returns is not a simple keyword ability, but instead an entire Creature type - Slivers. Slivers are apparently one of the most popular creature types ever, no doubt due to their synergistic ability to share abilities among all of them. With the release of this set, there are now 39 Slivers that exist at Common, of which there are six in Magic 2014, plus an additional spell that summons two such creatures. Between them, the Slivers legal in Standard Pauper grant Vigilance, Haste, First Strike, Trample, and +1/+1.

So the obvious question is, how good are they? First, it is worth pointing out that they are divided among only three colors, with two in Red, two in Green, two in White, and one colorless. With the color-fixing provided by the Guildgates, it should be relatively easy for a deck to have access to all seven cards. Second, with the exception of Groundshaker Sliver, all of the Slivers cost three converted mana or less, making for a fairly aggressive curve. And, of course, the abilities they grant are certainly relevant, particularly First Strike and +1/+1. All in all, the potential certainly seems to be there to create an aggressive and potentially powerful Standard Pauper Slivers deck.

That said, there are some pretty strong caveats. First, each individual Sliver on its own is not very impressive. At best, you get a 2/2 for 2 with a semi-relevant ability (Sentinel Sliver). At worst, you get a 1/1 for 1 with First Strike (Striking Sliver) or even a vanilla 2/2 for 3 (Sliver Construct). While their cumulative effect may be quite powerful, individually these are hardly powerful cards. Second, given that their abilities can be removed at Instant speed by destroying the creature that grants the ability, the potential to get blown-out by an opponent is quite high. Losing First Strike or a point of Power and Toughness can quickly turn a good attack into a mediocre one or worse! Given the massive amount of removal spells that are such a hallmark of Standard Pauper, this situation will probably come up more often than not.

In my opinion, the closest analogue to the Slivers deck is the Allies deck of the past, while Zendikar block was in Standard Pauper. Of course, there were also 3 Expert Sets worth of Allies, instead of a single Core set's worth. And, despite that deck's inherent strengths, the simple strategy of removing the bulk of its Ally cards as they came into play was typically sufficient to win. Given that the Slivers deck will be inherently weaker than the Allies deck, I don't foresee that this will be a very successful archetype for Standard Pauper.

III. New Cards

Now, onto the best part: the new Commons for Magic 2014. Rather than spending the time to rate all 35 cards, I will instead highlight those that I believe are most significant. Today I will take a look at the first half, then analyze the second half in Part Two.

1. Accursed Spirit is in many ways an upgrade of Highborn Ghoul that is also easier to cast. It is also worth comparing to Blind Zealot, which for one mana less has accordingly one less Power, accompanied by a very relevant ability. Any 3 Power creature with Evasion is going to be strong in Standard Pauper, and thus Accursed Spirit should easily find a place in any mono-Black aggressive decklist. Even as a French vanilla creature, I expect this spirit to see quite a bit of play.

Grade: B-

 
2. Advocate of the Beast may be my favorite Common from this set. First, even as a 2/3 for WhiteWhite, it is playable, if a little under the curve for Green. But combine that with its very relevant ability, and you have a card that is worth building an entire deck around. It should go without saying that adding a +1/+1 counter for free to one of your creatures is quite good. There are currently 12 Beasts in Standard Pauper, 8 in Green. Interestingly enough, the card is also designed to pair well with Marauding Maulhorn, turning off its penalty of having to attack every turn. All in all I would say this is a strong card, and one that should even help generate a new archetype in the format.

Grade: B

3. Blood Bairn also appears to be an upgrade to an older Black card - in this case, Bloodthrone Vampire. For an additional Colorless mana, you get an identical creature and effect with an extra point of Power and Toughness. A 2/2 for WhiteWhite is certainly not noteworthy in the format, but in a deck designed around the Morbid-type effects from Innistrad, Blood Bairn might just be a welcome addition. Thus, while Bloodthrone Vampire saw almost no play in the format, this vampire may be enough of an upgrade to be worth testing out in a deck designed to take full advantage of its ability.

Grade: C-

4. Celestial Flare is a somewhat unique ability for White, giving it the ability to sidestep Hexproof by forcing an opponent to sacrifice a creature. The most obvious parallel is Devour Flesh, but of course Celestial Flare is not only harder to cast, but also requires your opponent to attack or block with the creature you wish to kill. In some cases it will act as a double-costed Smite, while others times more like a half costed Divine Verdict. Overall, the fact that White gets access to a sacrifice-type effect is interesting, and certainly will act as a silver-bullet verses Hexproof. But for the same cost, Pacifism might still be the better option.

Grade: C

5.Charging Griffin looks somewhat mediocre on first blush. A 2/2 Flyer for WhiteWhite is pretty miserable, considering that White typically gets a 2/3 Flyer for one mana less. However, the fact that it attacks as a 3/3 makes it a much better option. While not very good on defense, on offense a 3 Power creature with Evasion is almost always worth playing. This is yet another playable Griffin in a long line of strong Griffins in White at Common, making me wish there was some additional synergy to be gained by crafting an entire deck full of these majestic flyers.

Grade: C+

6. Corpse Hauler is an interesting card to evaluate. At minimum, it's a 2/1 for WhiteWhite, which is certainly not the worst all by itself. Then, for WhiteWhite plus sacrificing the Corpse Hauler, you get an overcosted Disentomb. While this might allow you to chump-block before firing off the effect, overall it is simply too expensive even for the flexibility of having a creature and a Disentomb on the same card. Sadly, Gravedigger disappeared when Magic 2012 rotated out, and cards like the Hauler or Driver of the Dead are simply not as good.

Grade: D

7. Cyclops Tyrant doesn't seem to warrant much attention. First of all, a 3/4 for WhiteWhite is pretty bad, even when you add in Evasion in the form of Intimidate. Second, as if that wasn't expensive enough, this tyrant also comes with the restriction that it can't block creatures with Power 2 or less, allowing smaller creatures to attack past it with impunity. If this had 4 or even 5 Power, that might be enough to push it to the point of playability. But as it stands, I doubt this will see any play.

Grade: D
 

8. Dawnstrike Paladin is perhaps the most powerful Common in the set, at least all on its own. Obviously the closest recent analogue is Seraph of Dawn, which is clearly better given that it has Flying (instead of mere Vigilance), and costs one less mana to boot. Nonetheless, if ever there were a creature that would be playable in Standard Pauper for WhiteWhiteWhite, this would be the one. While not particularly powerful on the ground, it can attack with impunity into much larger creatures, not only gaining you some Life but also remaining untapped to help out on defense. While not amazing, this paladin certainly should see play.

Grade: B- 

9. Deathgaze Cockatrice is better than it looks in my opinion. In Black, a 2/2 for WhiteWhiteWhite with Evasion is perfectly reasonable, especially if it has a secondary ability. Compare this to Bloodhunter Bat, which trades Deathtouch for a 4 point Life swing with your opponent. Bloodhunter Bat saw plenty of play in Standard Pauper, and while I don't believe this cockatrice is quite that good, it is a Black evasive creature with 2 Power that will trade with any creature it tangles with. One could certainly do far worse.

Grade: C+
 

10. Ignore all the extra text about Bogbrew Witch, and Festering Newt is nothing more than Festering Goblin reborn in Salamander form. A more recent analogue is Goblin Arsonist, which deals a comparable 1 point of damage instead of the giving the -1/-1 counter. Both Festering Goblin and Goblin Arsonist were playable in Standard Pauper, and for that reason I suspect that Festering Newt will be playable as well. It can trade up with a 2 Toughness creature, or can be used to chump-block a larger foe and then take out an annoying weenie. While I doubt most decks will run it, it should find its way into a couple different builds.

Grade: C-

IV. Conclusion

And that wraps up the first half of my Magic 2014 Standard Pauper review. Let me remind you that you can check out all of my previous articles here on PureMTGO by clicking here. I also publish over on my blog on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and encourage you to keep up with all my projects there. Also, you can get a sneak peek at my video content before it goes live here at PureMTGO.com over on YouTube.com. Simply search for "gwyned42," select one of my video-casts, and click the Subscribe button. Finally, you can also follow me on Twitter at the username gwyned42; check out my profile here and click on Follow.

I am already hard at work at Part Two of this article, and I hope to have it up very soon. Until then, feel free to leave comments below, and thanks for reading!

3 Comments

I like this one. Good job on by ScottBivona at Mon, 07/15/2013 - 09:52
ScottBivona's picture

I like this one. Good job on this. - KSA Kosher

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_FBc by Paul Leicht at Tue, 07/16/2013 - 01:18
Paul Leicht's picture

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_FBcI-JwPU6g/SpBgBE7BRDI/AAAAAAAAACc/AdW-4AEJ3G... <---not the image you probably intended to link to with Accursed Spirit...Or for that matter the other m14 cards.

Good catch. I copied the by gwyned at Thu, 07/18/2013 - 12:04
gwyned's picture

Good catch. I copied the .html code for the image from an old blog and forgot to strip back out the link. I fixed that for Part Two.