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By: gwyned, gwyned
Jul 18 2013 12:55pm
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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 at least a single 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

Last time, in Part One, I looked at the returning mechanic and the first half of the new cards.

Today, in Part Two, I'll be analyzing the reprints in this Core Set and discussing the second half of the new cards. Here we go:

II. The Reprints

All in all there are 66 reprints at Common in Magic 2014, not including the Basic Lands, out of 101 Commons. Of these, 28 are coming back into Standard after previously rotating out. In fact, some of these reprints are returning from the distant past, including one from as far back as Uzra's Destiny! Some of newer reprints are quite good, including Auramancer, Divination, Gladecover Scout, Shrivel, Solemn Offering, and Tome Scour. Given that these should be fairly familiar to my readers, I thought I would instead highlight a few worthy cards that are from further back which may be brand new to many:

1. Capashen Knight harkens back to a time when White received pump creatures at Common, such as the excellent Order of Leitbur. Having somewhere to sink your extra mana later in the game can be quite good, especially when that mana sink is pumping the Power of a First Strike creature. But a 1/1 for WhiteWhite, even with First Strike, is pretty miserable. If this Knight was a 2/2, or even a 2/1, this could be one of the better White creatures in the format. As it is though, most of the time this knight will only be an overcosted 1/1, and thus not worth playing even in a dedicated White Weenie build.

Grade: D+

2. Fortify is another oldie, harkening back all the way to Time Spiral. Of course, Anthem effects are nothing new for Standard Pauper. This particular effect is interesting, allowing the player the choice of boosting Power or Toughness, and targeting all of your creatures, rather than just the White ones, which is more typical for this kind of effect. While not as good as Guardians' Pledge, it is arguably better than (Glorious Charge), since a 2 point boost to Power or Toughness should always be more relevant than +1/+1, even though it's more expensive. While not amazing, I suspect this will see some play.

Grade: C

3. Goblin Shortcutter has reemerged from the world of Zendikar, and should be a welcome addition. A 2/1 for WhiteWhite is pretty typical in Red, and the fact that it has a relevant ability helps boost it from mediocre to good. While certainly not every Red deck will want this type of effect, any aggressive Red or Boros archetype should find a place for the Shortcutter. In combination with Master of Diversion,Court Street Denizen, Haazda Snare Squad, or even Azorius Arrester, one could even construct an aggressive Boros decklist dedicated to this type of effect.

Grade: C
 

4. Time Ebb is the final reprinted care that I want to highlight. While this effect existed more recently in the case of Griptide, four mana proved to be too expensive to really be playable. Time Ebb might be only one mana cheaper, and Sorcery speed as well, but that one mana makes a big difference. This card not only acts as an Unsummon effect, but also blanks your opponent's next draw step. While not amazing, this type of effect should be strong in the more aggressive mono-Blue builds that have been prevalent as of late. Given that, this card should certainly see play.

Grade: B-

Finally, while we are on the subject of reprints, it is worth pointing out that several other older cards have returned, but have been shifted from Common to Uncommon. These include Doom Blade, Spell Blast, Congregate, Darksteel Ingot, Accorder's Shield, and Shimmering Grotto. While some might be alarmed by this shift, I wouldn't read too much into it. All things being equal, Wizards prefers to keep Artifacts and non-Basic Lands out of Common in their Core Sets, and given that effects like those on the remaining three cards have been recently printed at Common, I doubt this signals any ongoing philosophical shift to weaken cards at Common.

Also, as a quick aside, if you're interesting in the rationale behind reprints in Core Sets, check out this excellent article by Zac Hill.

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. In case you missed it, be sure and check out Part One of this article for the first half of my review of the new cards.

11. Liturgy of Blood is one of the more interesting removal spells I can remember at Common. Generally speaking, a Sorcery speed removal spell that costs WhiteWhiteWhite is not very good, even if it is unconditional. However, in this case, you get most of the mana spent back in the form of WhiteWhiteWhite. While this means you still have to wait until your fifth Land drop to cast the spell, you effectively only spend 2 mana - like a Sorcery speed Doom Blade that also destroys Black creatures. Unfortunately for this liturgy, Black boasts better removal like Murder or Victim of Night, which means that this probably won't see much play.

Grade: C- 

12. Marauding Maulhorn is, at worst, an aggressively costed creature that attacks quite well and probably will trade off with a similarly costed creature, since a 3/3 is quite typical for 4 mana. At WhiteWhiteWhite, this beast is a bit harder to cast, but cheap enough to slot well into an aggressive Red deck. Being forced to attack each turn is a fair drawback for its mana cost, and the fact that you can sidestep this restriction simply by having Advocate of the Beast in play is certainly worth considering. I suspect that this beast will probably find its way into a Beast themed deck, and may also be worth considering in a Mono-Red build.

Grade: C

 13. Master of Diversion is surprisingly similar to Haazda Snare Squad, and to a lesser extent, Court Street Denizen. For the same mana cost as the Snare Squad, you get a 2/2 instead of a 1/4, and are not required to pay the additional White each time you attack. As a result, this scout will tend to be better on offense than the Snare Squad, but it also much more likely to be killed in combat. Along with the aforementioned Goblin Shortcutter, there should be a Boros build that can take advantage of Battalion effects to good effect. While it's too early to tell, such a deck might actually be good enough to be fairly competitive.

Grade: C+

14. Once upon a time, it was the norm to see 3/3 Flyers for 5 mana at Common, many of which also boasted a relevant secondary ability. Messenger Drake is another in this line of creatures, and a respectable one at that. While similar to Gryff Vanguard from Avacyn Restored, the extra point of Toughness is certainly relevant. And while this Drake does have to die before you get the card, in Standard Pauper a 3/3 Flyer is enough of a threat that an opponent will have to deal with it. While certainly Seraph of Dawn and Stitched Drake will keep this from being too good, I expect it will see plenty of play.

Grade: B 

15. I first learned about Regathan Firecat by playing Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014, where it proved to be fairly subpar save for those rare situations where you could actually get all of your opponent's creatures off the virtual Battlefield. While 4 Power is a great deal for WhiteWhite, the 1 Toughness is an absolute liability. While a decent blocker, its low Toughness means that it will rarely excel at attacking, since essentially any creature can trade with it. It's a shame this doesn't have Haste, since at that point it would be an underpowered Ball Lightning, which just might be good enough to make the cut. But as is, this probably isn't worth playing.

Grade: D

 16. If ever there was a vanilla creature that might be good enough for Standard Pauper, Rumbling Baloth is probably as good as it gets. Creatures at Common tend to be small in general, so anything with four Power and Toughness is certainly going to present a threat that your opponent must take seriously. And at the low cost of WhiteWhiteWhite, this Baloth is quite the bargain! In fact, other than Rhox Brute from Shards of Alara block, there has never been a 4/4 for 4 at Common without a drawback. Finally, since the Baloth is also a Beast, it is another strong incentive to craft a dedicated Gruul Beast deck centered around Advocate of the Beast.

Grade: B

17. While not quite as good as the original Falter due to being Sorcery speed, Seismic Stomp is surprisingly similar. Unfortunately, these type of effects are pretty narrow. They do nothing to help you when you're behind, and generally are not great either when you already have a sizable board advantage. However, despite the narrow range of this card, it is potentially quite powerful, allowing you to break through a stalled board state or to finish off your opponent with an unexpected alpha strike. In an aggressive Boros or RDW style deck, a couple copies of this card are probably worth playing.

Grade: C-

18. Sporemound seems like it somehow got misplaced during Zendikar block, since it essentially has the Landfall ability word, creating a 1/1 Saproling token each time a land comes into play. Sadly, while this ability is decent, the fact that this creature costs WhiteWhiteWhite for a mere 3/3 is quite underwhelming. Additionally, given that there are no other synergies that revolve around getting Lands into play, there is very little incentive to run such a card. Even in Standard Pauper there are certainly better things to do for five mana, and thus I doubt this fungus will be among us very often.

Grade: D

19. To evaluate Trained Condor, let's take a quick look at Wind Drake. For the same mana cost, you trade a single point of Toughness for the very relevant ability to give any other creature flying until the end of turn. Given that there are very few flyers in the format with a single point of Power, most of the time this lower Toughness won't be all that relevant. While Wind Drake and its ilk didn't see much play in the format, the ability to give other creatures Flying is probably enough to make this card worth playing in any almost any multicolor deck that can reasonably expect to cast it early. 

Grade: B-

20. Zephyr Charge is a card that I suspect will be played far more often than it should. On first glance, it seems quite good, allowing you to give any of your creatures Flying for the low cost of WhiteWhite. If this ability was attached to a relevant creature, this would in fact be quite strong. But the fact of the matter is that this effect, in and of itself, isn't worth the value of a card. On an empty board it does absolutely nothing, and only rarely will be good enough to prevent your opponent from killing you. Perhaps when Aura Gnarlid was a thing this might have been playable, but in this format I suggest you should probably never play this card.

Grade: F

IV. Conclusion

And that wraps up the second 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.

Thanks for reading. See you next time.

3 Comments

This looks like an incredibly by Psychobabble at Thu, 07/18/2013 - 19:23
Psychobabble's picture

This looks like an incredibly underpowered limited set and the fact that you don't really rate any of the cards even for such an underpowered format as standard pauper basically confirms that. Apart from baloth which is just about as boring a creature as you'll ever see, I think you rate trained condor as the best card in both articles, but you can already get that effect for one less mana (wingcrafter) with only the slight drawback of less flexibility. ugh.

Wingcrafter is definitely by gwyned at Thu, 07/18/2013 - 20:07
gwyned's picture

Wingcrafter is definitely weaker than Trained Condor. 1) The Condor attacks for more damage and always has Flying. 2) It can give Flying to your best creature rather than being tied to a single one. Still I would agree that the set in general is pretty underpowered.

These are really good cards. by ScottBivona at Sat, 07/20/2013 - 18:59
ScottBivona's picture

These are really good cards. I want to master this all. - TexasLending.com