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By: gwyned, gwyned
Mar 30 2015 11:00am
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I. Introduction

Dragons of Tarkir will soon release on Magic Online, returning us to the world of ambitious warlords and cunning clans, now transformed by the rebirth of ancient dragons. If you're looking for superb analysis of this set's impact on Limited and Standard, I'm afraid you've clicked the wrong link. Instead, it is the purpose of this article to break down this unique set from the perspective of the Standard Pauper player. Last time, in Part One, I reviewed the creatures and spells that make use of these six mechanics. Today, in Part Two, I will analyze all of the reprints as well as the non-mechanic White and Blue Cards before turning to the rest of the Commons in the set in Part Three.

If you've read my previous set reviews, you should be familiar with my methodology. Rather than assigning a particular letter grade, I will instead note each card as a "hit or myth" and discuss why I believe this card will or will not be relevant. My reasoning is simple: unlike in Limited, you will never have an instance where you have to prioritize one card over another in any meaningful way, and thus a letter grade is not that helpful in actual practice. I also make use of a third category - borderline - for those cards that aren't great, but might see some play in the right deck. So let's jump back into the cards!

II. Reprints

1. Dragon Fodder returns from Shards of Alara, entering into a set that already has a significant presence of tokens. Getting two 1/1 s for the price of 1R at Sorcery speed is fine but not exciting, especially since we've gotten spoiled by the Instant speed of Raise the Alarm. While the Mardu tokens archetype was fairly good in Khans of Tarkir Limited, it never really got legs in Standard Pauper, particularly with Scouring Sands and its ilk so widespread in the metagame. Furthermore, the Boros Heroic deck has a stronger take on this particular strategy, doing what the tokens deck is trying to do but with greater consistency. All those factors lead me to believe this won't see much play.

Verdict: Myth - The dragons will have to forage elsewhere for sustenance.


2. Dromoka Warrior, while not technically a reprint, is simply Oreskos Swiftclaw with a different creature type. While White is the color best suited in the format to efficiently costed and aggressive creatures, even a vanilla 3/1 for 1W just isn't good enough to see play in Standard Pauper. In fact, with the release of Dragons of Tarkir, White has sixteen other contenders for this slot, with keyword mechanics, Flying, or other interesting abilities. As a 3/1, this card simply gets outclassed too quickly, and rarely manages to hit more than once before being relegated to blocking duty. On the other hand, it does make an excellent Bolster target, so that might be something worth testing out.

Verdict: Myth - It lacks both the drama-ka and the relevance to earn a card slot.


3. Duress is back with some sweet artwork, and with all of the Control archetypes as well as protection spells and combat tricks so rampant in the metagame, it seems like the timing couldn't be better. Very few decks in the metagame right now don't have good targets for this effect, and getting a peak at your opponent's game plan can prove vital to surviving the initial rush against most aggressive decks. Black Devotion (with or without the Blue splash) is already one of the better decks, and Duress should make it even stronger. Additionally, there might even by a sufficient number of Discard-type effects to craft an entire deck around. If so, Duress obviously deserves a spot.

Verdict: Hit - This effect puts most of the popular decks under great duress.


4. It's hard to say anything about Evolving Wilds that hasn't been said already. While it existed alongside Terramorphic Expanse for a brief time, Evolving Wilds has become the de-facto Common mana-fixer in Standard for a long time, and in combination with the Common Duals that continue to see print, makes running two and three color decks at Common easier than it ever has been. While I wouldn't be surprised to see the Common Duals disappear for a time from Standard at some point in the future, reprinting Evolving Wilds in this set guarantees we'll still have access to simply mana-fixing for some time to come. And that's always welcome in Standard Pauper.

Verdict: Hit - Its role hasn't evolved much, but it still sees play in almost every deck.


5. Gravepurge returns from Dark Ascension, where it saw very little play. It's an interesting variant on the classic Raise Dead, since for your extra 2 mana you can stack additional creatures on the top of your deck to draw on subsequent turns. The biggest problem with this card, however, is the time it takes for you to get those other cards. For one more mana, Dutiful Return gives you two creatures into your hand immediately; and for two more mana (paid over multiple turns), you can get as many as three creatures with Font of Return. Especially with Delve in the format still, this doesn't seem to be what Black is looking to do very often. So I doubt this will see much play.

Verdict: Myth - Purge any thought of this ever hitting your Graveyard.


6. Kindled Fury is a decent combat trick, giving you a small boost in Power as well as the very relevant First Strike for a very cheap cost. It might even seem like just the type of effect you want to include in a Heroic or Prowess deck. But as of late, we've gotten cards like Defiant Strike that give a similar effect and draw a replacement card, which this obviously lacks. While Kindled Fury did see some play in Standard Pauper last time it was legal, it remains to be seen whether the First Strike is enough to elevate this above combat tricks that already exist in plenty in the metagame. I fear that most of the time, you'd rather have Magma Spray than this card.

Verdict: Myth - Don't get too angry with me for this low rating.


7. Magmatic Chasm is simply a "palette-swap" of Seismic Stomp, a card that is itself a Sorcery speed Falter, from which these types of cards derive their name. It takes an extremely aggressive deck to want this type of effect, and it is quite narrow in application compared to White protection spells like Gods Willing, which can often give you a similar effect as well as having utility in several other situations as well. Still, RDW continues to be a real threat in the format, and this card certainly seems like a good fit for that strategy, especially when combined with something like Trumpet Blast to quickly ramp up the Power of your attacking creatures for an all-out Alpha Strike. But otherwise, this is not generally going to see play.

Verdict: Borderline - Only the most aggressive deck should be drawn to this.


8. Mind Rot is another Common staple, having been printed in every Core set since 7th edition. With this reprinting, we are guaranteed to have this same effect even after Magic 2015 and Theros rotate out of Standard. The utility of this card waxes and wanes with the rise of Control in the format, but typically even where it is good it starts out in the Sideboard and is brought in when you find yourself in a favorable matchup. Currently, we have several good creatures with discard abilities built in, which makes me much less likely to want to play this. Against decks utilizing Treasure Cruise to build card advantage, this might be worth bringing in. But otherwise, I don't anticipate this seeing much play.

Verdict: Myth - You're out of your mind if you think this is a great card.


9. Speaking of cards that can never seem to be reprinted enough, Naturalize survived the time warp from Khans to Dragons. This card has a particular role to play in Limited, and currently is a viable choice with all of the creature Auras being utilized by the Heroic decks. If Green can emerge as a viable contender in the metagame once again, this certainly deserves consideration for Sideboard slots, but most of the time even when it's worth bringing in it still won't have a dramatic impact on the game. Most of the time, Naturalize and its variants simply serve to remind us just how good cards in previous sets like Kor Sanctifiers really were, and how unlikely it is that such creatures will see print again at Common.

Verdict: Myth - By now it should be second nature just to ignore this card in your virtual binders.


10. Negate is another reprint that you should be delighted to see in Dragons of Tarkir, for the often-repeated reason that it gives us access to it for several more months to come. This has become the gold-standard when it comes to counterspells in Standard Pauper, and its position in the metagame is such that Blue-based decks can probably maindeck at least a couple copies without worrying about it being stranded in your hand. It might surprise newer players just how much better this is than Cancel, given that it hits such a smaller subset of spells. But it's the dramatic difference between holding up two versus three mana that makes Negate such a strong card. This should continue to see play, even if just out of the Sideboard.

Verdict: Borderline - I don't want to negate my praise of it, but it's still just a reactive card.


11. After a long absence, Pacifism has returned to Standard Pauper. This is premium removal, being cheap, effective against any creature, and nearly unconditional (save, of course, that it is vulnerable to Enchantment-hate). Pacifism harkens back to the day when removal at Common was cheap and plentiful. With those days now behind us, Pacifism is all the more valuable. Even better, with Heliod's Pilgrim still in the format, you'll even be able to search it up while still building your board presence. Put all these factors together, and you have a card that I expect will be an auto-include in every deck that's playing White once Dragons of Tarkir is released. Just don't be surprised when your opponent packs Enchantment hate after Game 1.

Verdict: Hit - Making your opponent make peace while you make war is a good stratagem.


12. We so rarely see Equipment at Common, especially not for "free." However, Spidersilk Net has such a marginal effect that even with a casting cost of zero it's not worth including in your deck. Yes, in some cases, it will allow your creatures to block opposing Flyers and survive the experience. But it's a terrible topdeck when you're looking for an answer, and it's too easy for your opponent to respond with removal to you spending the two mana to equip it. A simple rule-of-thumb for Equipment is that you want it to boost Power by at least two while still being relatively cheap to equip. Clearly Spidersilk Net fails that test, and as such I doubt see any reason to play it.

Verdict: Myth - Sorry, your nets are coming back empty.


13. Some things never change, and apparently that includes yetis living high in the mountains on Tarkir, as Summit Prowler returns from Khans of Tarkir unchanged. Big dumb creatures without evasion are plentiful at Common, and even in Green where you have the ability to ramp them out more quickly, they just don't have enough impact to be worth playing. Back in my Khans of Tarkir review, I pointed out how much worse this is than Ill-Tempered Cyclops, and that comparison still holds true today. I have never seen this cast in any Standard Pauper match, and things would have to radically change for this to ever be a card that you want to include in your decklist.

Verdict: Myth - No matter how much you prowl around, playing this is still the height of foolishness.


14. Territorial Roc is surprisingly weak for what is supposed to be a gigantic bird, especially since it's identical to the graceful Concordia Pegasus from Return to Ravnica save for its creature type. One Power Flyers generally don't do enough damage even in a long game to be worth a slot in your deck, and while it can hold off 2/2 Flyers for a time, it will never be able to trade with them without help. If this has been printed as a 2/3, even if you had to pay an additional mana, this would be quite good (I'm looking at you, Chapel Geist), but as is, the impact is just too low to be worth playing. White simply has so many better things it can be doing for 1W. This is not the card you are looking for.

Verdict: This territory is not worth fighting over.


15. Tormenting Voice has been a welcome addition to the format, giving Red some needed card draw and allowing it to discard excess Lands, and in the right decks, use those cards to fuel Delve. The change from costing RR with Wild Guess to 1R with Tormenting Voice went a long way to making this viable, and it has been a cornerstone of the Izzet Control deck ever since that decklist was created. However, I also believe it's worth a slot in an aggressive Red build simply for its ability to help you draw out of mana screw or mana flood. It's too bad this new artwork is so much worse than the previous printing, as there is otherwise absolutely no reason to acquire this version of the card.

Verdict: Borderline - I am much less tormenting now about giving this a playable grade.


All in all, we got a decent crop of reprints in Dragons of Tarkir, with Duress and Pacifism both being excellent additions to the cardpool. Most of the others are cards that we either already had in Standard or are too marginal to see any play.

III. The Rest of the Commons
A. White

1. Champion of Arashin is a 3/2 Lifelink creature for 3W. While Lifelink is always a welcome ability in the format, this card suffers from several problems. First off, getting a creature with only 2 Toughness for 4 mana, especially in White, is definitely below the grade. More than likely, this will only trade with your opponent's two drop, gaining you a few points of Life in the process. Second, this card really isn't that different from Child of Night, save that it costs twice as much and only nets you an additional point of Power and Toughness. Considering that Child of Night has seen almost no play in any Standard Pauper format it's existed in, Champion of Arashin should fare no better.

Verdict: It might be a champion hound, but it won't survive in this dog-eat-dog metagame.


2. Wizards continues to push the boundaries of what we can get at Common for a single mana. Dragon's Eye Sentry has a whopping 4 points distributed among its Power and Toughness, and even has First Strike as well, all for the amazing price of one W. Of course, with such a bargain, you should be expecting a downside, and in this case it also has Defender. White typically doesn't want such defensive cards, but out of the Sideboard, this seems like it would have some utility against very aggressive archetypes, particularly RDW, since so many of those creatures have a single point of Toughness. But otherwise, despite its cheap cost, this just isn't what White is generally looking to do.

Verdict: Myth - No need to keep an eye out for this card.


3. And after a long absence, White once again gets a solid tapper at Common in Dromoka Dunecaster. While not quite as good as the reliable Blinding Mage, the ability to tap down your opponent's best non-flying creature each turn is quite strong. Having to pay 2 mana instead of just one is a significant increase, so using this early will be a sizable hit to your tempo. Worse still, being unable to target flyers does mean that sometimes you won't be able to interact with your opponent's best creature. But even with all of those limitations, tappers are still quite strong, and thus this is a card I suspect will see quite a bit of play. Between this and Pacifism, White removal is getting a surprising resurgence.

Verdict: Hit - I'm casting my verdict in favor of this card.


4. Fate Forgotten is an Instant speed version of Revoke Existence, which is certainly a significant upgrade for only one more mana. One of the best ways to help counteract Auras is to remove them at Instant speed, then block with one of your creatures that can now tangle with its reduced size. Targeting the Aura also allows you to sidestep all of the protective spells like Gods Willing or Feat of Resistance, since they only protect the creature, not the Enchantment. Now with all that said, the number of significant Auras in the format is not that great. But with both Pacifism returning and some sizable Hexproof creatures in the cardpool, I predict that this will find its way into Sideboards more often than not.

Verdict: Borderline - While it's probably best as Sideboard material, don't forget about this card.


5. Glaring Aegis is strictly better than the classic card Holy Strength just in the boost it gives alone, and also comes with a surprisingly effective secondary ability that taps down one of your opponent's creatures. If this had Flash, this would be a premiere combat trick for the Heroic deck, but even as is, getting a boost in both Power and Toughness while simultaneously tapping down your opponent's best blocker seems like it plays right into what the various White-based Heroic decks are trying to accomplish. While the secondary ability isn't quite as good as your average card off the top of your library, this might just be better than Defiant Strike in a lot of different scenarios.

Verdict: Borderline - I may get some glares from ranking this so high, but it's pretty good for the cost.


6. Is Herald of Dromoka enough to make a dedicated Warriors build viable in Standard Pauper? With the release of Dragons of Tarkir, there will be over 40 Warriors in the cardpool, representing all five colors except Blue; of those, only 10 are exclusively White. However, what it really comes down to is that Herald of Dromoka isn't powerful enough to be worth building around. If it pumped Power or Toughness, that would be one thing. But simply giving all of them Vigilance isn't really much of an advantage, and certainly not enough to be worth playing less than optimal creatures in your deck. Furthermore, as a simple french vanilla 2/2 for 1W, there really isn't any other reason why you want to play this card.

Verdict: Myth - Hear ye, hear ye - this card isn't what you want to play.


7. Lightwalker is precariously balanced between mediocrity and excellence. A 2/1 for 1W with no abilities should almost never see play in the format. On the other hand, a 3/2 with Flying for 1W would be one of the best White creatures to see print in a long time, even with no other abilities. Between Bolster, Feat of Resistance, and a few other Green creatures and/or combat tricks, there certainly are some viable paths to generating the necessary +1/+1 counter without too much effort. Throw in Ainok Bond-Kin, and you've suddenly got a game plan. But it remains to be seen just how good that game plan really is. I have my doubts, but I believe it at least warrants testing.

Verdict: Borderline - This walks the line enough to intrigue me, but it could also easily be a lightweight.


8. Wizards really wants to find the line at which dedicated Lifegain would be worth playing, either in Limited or in Standard Pauper. And an Instant speed card that gives you six Life and replaces itself is actually worth consideration. Depending on what's going on in the metagame, at times even this sort of direct Lifegain spell has seen some play in the format in the past. Of course, in the case of Resupply, you're talking about paying 6 mana for this effect, which is outrageously expensive. For 2 or 3 mana, I would have been willing to possibly give this a playable grade. But for 6 mana?! There is simply no reason you ever want to spend Turn 6 (or later!) casting this card.

Verdict: Myth - You best look elsewhere for what you need.


9.  It is rare to find creatures with static abilities at Common anymore; rarer still do you find them attached to a creature with a reasonable body and casting cost. Student of Ojutai embodies both of these as a 2/4 for 3W that has the potential to gain you quite a bit of life in the right build. Several Heroic and Control decks are running a high number of cantrips or cheap spells right now, and this card is perfect for just such a deck, giving you a considerable Life boost while also presenting a relevant blocker. In many ways, this card harkens back to the Gatekeepers cycle from Dragon's Maze. While it won't see play in every White deck, it should still make a big impact.

Verdict: Hit - Study this closer, and I think you'll see why I gave it such a high grade.


B. Blue

1. Ancient Carp is one big fish, judging by the size of that boat. But sadly, it's just a meager 2/5 for 4U without any abilities. Even in Blue, 4U will get you so much more for your mana - like Aven Surveyor, Prescient Chimera, or Whirlwind Adept, all of which are better than Ancient Carp in almost every game state. Couldn't we at least get Islandwalk, or perhaps the ability to tap down a creature when it enters the battlefield, given that we're dealing with a gigantic fish? I understand that sometimes bad cards have to be printed, at that cards like this even have a role to play in Limited. But couldn't you at least make a card with such cool artwork be a little bit better?

Verdict: Myth - You won't tell the story about when this one got away.


2. Anticipate has probably been the Blue Common that has gotten the most buzz since it was spoiled. It's clearly not as good as Brainstorm, since the rejected cards go to the bottom of your library instead of the top. It also doesn't synergize with Delve, since once again the cards end up back in your library and not in the Graveyard. And at times you will have to make a difficult choice on which of two valuable cards you are going to send away. But with all that said, getting the card selection among three cards at Instant speed, and having the ability to shuffle them back up with Evolving Wilds, makes this card good enough to see play in a variety of different Blue decks.

Verdict: Hit - I anticipate that this will see widespread play.


3. Pairing countermagic with the ability to draw a card has always been a powerful effect at Common. Take Exclude, for example, which counters creature spells and replaces itself for a mere 2U. More recently, we got Bone to Ash, which did the exact same thing for one mana more. Contradict is even more expensive, but does have the advantage of unconditionally countering any spell your opponent casts, not just creature spells - a first for a Common. But the big problem here is the cost. Having to hold up five mana is quite prohibitive. Too often, this card will simply be stuck in your hand, as you will lack the opportunity to simply sit back and wait with so much mana unused.

Verdict: Myth - I hate to contradict anyone, but this is just too expensive.


4. Elusive Spellfist is another surprising find at Common. It's a 1/3 for 1U with pseudo-Prowess that only pumps Power instead of both Power and Toughness when you cast a non-creature spell. But even better, it also receives evasion in the form of being unblockable for the turn. It is increasingly rare to find good secondary abilities on creatures that aren't tied to any of the set's mechanics, especially on one that has a reasonable casting cost and stats. While it is vulnerable to removal, its low cost means you haven't invested much in it, and the requirement to cast non-creature spells is already right in line with what Blue is trying to do. It asks so little, and gives quite a bit in return. This seems well worth it.

Verdict: Borderline - The ability to decide just how good this is honestly eludes me.


5. Glint seems like the Blue version of Gods Willing without the Scry, allowing the targeted creature to not only dodge removal but also survive combat with anything that blocks it. That said, most decks that want this type of effect are running White anyway, and thus have better options available to them in the cardpool right now. Yes, it triggers Heroic. Yes, it's cheap enough to hold up on your opponent's turn and not fall too behind on tempo. But outside of the Heroic decks, this doesn't seem to play into what Blue is generally trying to do right now. So for the most part, I don't anticipate that this card will make much of an impact on the format going forward, especially given how crowded this card slot already is.

Verdict: Myth - Not all that sparkles is gold.


6. Mystic Meditation might look good at first glance, but in a block where we already have Treasure Cruise, it's actually quite mediocre. If you don't want to discard a creature, this is a double-cost Sorcery speed Anticipate that drops the rejected cards into the Graveyard. And even when you can afford to discard the creature, in the majority of situations you would rather have cast Divination for one mana less. Now if this instead allowing you to discard a Land in order to keep two cards (making it a Compulsive Research for one extra mana), this might be worth considering over Divination. But as is, this pales in comparison to other options available, and thus should not see play.

Verdict: Myth - You shouldn't have to think too hard about why this is bad.


7. When I first saw Palace Familiar I thought it was a variation on Sage Owl, which would make it a pretty terrible card. But in fact it's a flying Jeskai Sage without Prowess, which at the very least is probably equivalent. Similar to Typhoid Rats, this has the ability to get in early for some minor damage, since your opponent doesn't really want to remove it, and then later allows you to cash it in for the card. Even better, it synergizes perfectly with Exploit, giving you the perfect sacrifice target after it is no longer a viable attacker. The Dimir Exploit deck is looking quite potent once Dragons of Tarkir releases, and Palace Familiar certainly deserves a spot in that deck. I expect that this should see play in most Control-oriented Blue decks.

Verdict: Borderline - I'm familiar enough with this type of effect to recognize its value.


8. Reduce in Stature is a variant of the Aura-based Blue removal spells like Encrust. In this case, rather than tapping down the creature, you reduce it to an ineffective 0/2. But this is almost always worse, as it still allows your opponent to block with the creature, and also ignores any other Auras or +1 / +1 counters that it might have on it. Generally speaking, I would prefer this type of effect as an Instant, where you can use it as a combat trick to kill a creature rather than leaving it on the battlefield for your opponent to later interact with in some way. We haven't seen much of either Encrust or Singing Bell Strike in the format at this point, and that doesn't bode well for this card.

Verdict: Myth - It pains me to see good removal reduced to this.


9. Updraft Elemental gives us a robust 5 points of Power and Toughness in the air for only 2U, which is certainly above the curve when compared to the more typical Wind Drake for this same cost. But with only 1 Power, it's a surprisingly defensive creature. This will be able to defend the skies against most other flyers in the format, and its 4 Toughness makes it much harder for your opponent to remove. It would also make an excellent target for Power-boosting Auras. That said, its impact on the game isn't going to be very dramatic. In a tempo-oriented Blue deck, you might actually prefer the Wind Drake. So, this is probably best suited in a highly controlling strategy.

Verdict: Borderline - It's got all the right elements, but doesn't rise to the level of greatness.


10. Zephyr Scribe is an interesting variation on the classic Merfolk Looter. It costs one more mana for an additional point of Power, and costs one U every time you want to activate its ability. But the ability to untap it whenever you cast a non-creature spell grants it remarkable utility. You could loot multiple times in a turn, or even use it as a surprise blocker in a pinch (while still getting that second activation as well!). The one Toughness is certainly a liability, but the amount of value to be had with this card should not be underestimated, especially with Delve also still in the mix. Honestly I'm surprised to see this printed at Common, and that alone means it's probably worth playing.

Verdict: Hit - Write this one down, lest it get lost to the wind.

 
IV. Conclusion

So that concludes Part Two of my review of Dragons of Tarkir for Standard Pauper. In closing, 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, Thursdays, and Saturdays, and encourage you to keep up with all my projects there. You can get a sneak peek at any of my videos before they go live here at PureMTGO.com over on YouTube.com. Simply search for "gwyned42," select one of my videocasts, and click the Subscribe button. You can keep up with everything I'm doing on Twitter at the username gwyned42; check out my profile here and click on Follow. Finally, I am the host of Monday Pauper Deck Challenge, which is a weekly PRE featuring a Swiss tournament in the Standard Pauper format, with prizes awarded for the Top 8 finishers thanks to the sponsorship of MTGOTraders. As always, if you've never checked out MPDC, I encourage you to browse over to PDCMagic.com for all the information and then come join us at 2:00pm EST / 7:00pm GMT in the /join MPDC room.

See you soon for Part 3 of my review of Dragons of Tarkir for Standard Pauper!