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By: gwyned, gwyned
Jan 27 2016 12:00pm
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I. Introduction

Oath of the Gatewatch officially released this past weekend, and I know many players are anxious for this set to get released on Magic Online. Unfortunately, this won't happen until the first of February. But in the meantime, today I bring you the second half of my Standard Pauper review of this set. The purpose of this article to break down this unique set from the perspective of the Standard Pauper player. This set introduces three new mechanics alongside the major headliner - the colorless mana symbol, which may or may not have a dramatic impact on Magic moving forward.  It might not be a bad idea to brush up on these mechanics before continuing, as I will assume you understand how all these work. Last time, I looked at the "true" Colorless, White, and Blue cards. So today, I'll finish up with the Black, Red, and Green cards to complete my review.

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. But enough explanation - on to the cards!

II. Black

1. Corpse Churn is an interesting variant of Disentomb. Typically, devoting a whole card to simply returning a card from your Graveyard to your hand is pretty mediocre, particularly with the likes of Dutiful Return or even Font of Return in recent sets. But what sets this card apart is its synergy with the Delve mechanic. For a reasonable 1B, you essentially add three mana to your mana pool for any Delve card, and also get to return any creature to your hand, even one that you just pulled from the top of your Library. And since it's at Instant speed, you can even hold up mana for something else, then cast this at the end of your opponent's turn. At least for now, this is better than it looks.

Verdict: Borderline - I don't want to beat this to death, but with Delve this could be quite good.

2. At first glance Kozilek's Shrieker appears to be a variant of the Shade creature type often found in Black, and one with excellent stats as a 3/2 for 2B. Of course, it has two major drawbacks. First off, its activated cost only pumps Power and not Toughness, although it does give it a weak form of evasion by granting Menace. Second, it requires true colorless mana to activate, which as I have discussed previously doesn't appear to be worth the cost much of the time. This might be worth considering in a Rakdos aggressive build where its ability allows it to slip past your opponent's desperate attempts to stabilize the board, but such a deck really doesn't want to be splashing for a third color. All in all the setup cost is just too high.

Verdict: Borderline - I won't shriek if you play this against me, but overall it's not that great.

3. Much like Warden of Geometries, Kozilek's Translator is really just a bad variant of Kozilek's Channeler, which has the same converted mana cost, arguably better stats, and produces two colorless mana instead of one and doesn't cost you any Life to do so. Granted, the Translator doesn't tap to generate the mana, allowing you to attack and block with it normally, which certainly isn't insignificant. Overall though, in almost every situation you'd simply be better served playing the Channeler. And even then, it's an unusual deck that wants to use a five-drop to generate additional mana, particularly since there are so few spells at Common that cost more than five mana. As such, there's absolutely no reason to play this.

Verdict: Myth - I'm not sure what happened here; maybe something got lost in translation.

4. Long gone are the days of Doom Blade, where Black could expect to deal with most creatures at Instant speed for a mere two mana. But Oblivion Strike is one of the better unconditional removal spells we've seen at Black in some time, and it's only slightly weakened by the fact that you can only cast it at Sorcery speed. Even better, it exiles rather than simply destroying, permanently dealing with the creature or potentially allowing you to activate any Processor effects (none of which have seen much if any play unfortunately). While not quite as versatile as Scour from Existence, the fact that it costs almost half as much means that this card should see plenty of play moving forward.

Verdict: Hit - The only strike against it is being Sorcery speed; otherwise, it's quite good.

5. Sky Scourer joins Kozilek's Sentinel and Nettle Drone as the third card that cares about Colorless spells, and is about on par with those other two creatures. A 1/2 Flying for 1B is pretty typical at Common, and getting to attack with it as a 2/2 on Turn 3 if you cast any Colorless or Devoid spell is certainly good enough. While this isn't much of an incentive to build a dedicated Devoid deck, many of the Devoid spells are good enough already without having to prioritize including them in your deck. At the end of the day though, this card doesn't quite get there for me. It's best in an aggressive deck where you can get the most out of its ability before it gets overshadowed by more powerful cards.

Verdict: Borderline - After scouring the card lists, I wish I'd found more Commons that care about colorless

6. Slaughter Drone is essentially a non-Flying Fetid Imp, with an extra point of Power to make up for its lack of evasion. This is a great example of how little incentive you find at Common to play colorless mana sources. A 2/2 for 1B is about as unexciting as it gets at Common, and the fact that you can pay 1 Colorless to force it to trade with any other creature doesn't make it that much better. It is a decent blocker, but again requires you to hold up specific mana in order to keep your opponent's creatures back. The aforementioned Fetid Imp blocks more and is easier to activate, and yet it has only seen play on rare occasions as a Sideboard option. Based on that, I don't expect this card to do any better.

Verdict: Myth - Sorry to drone on and on about how mediocre Colorless mana really is.

7. Tar Snare is our other Black removal spell at Common in the set. It's relative cheap and Instant speed as well, but the fact that it only kills creatures with 2 or less Toughness is a pretty big downside, particularly given the higher than average number of defensive creatures in Standard Pauper. Worse, when you compare this to Complete Disregard for the same cost, most of the time you'd prefer that card over this (especially since both get around Regeneration effects). Granted, you can utilize this as a combat trick instead, allowing you to defeat larger creatures in combat and even have your creature survive thanks to reducing its Power by 3. But on the whole, I think the fact that Black has better removal options hurts this a lot.

Verdict: Borderline - This is not really what I want when an opposing creature is snaring me down.

8. Unnatural Endurance immediately makes me think of Butcher's Glee, which has become the de-facto auto-include combat trick for Black. But this card is two mana cheaper, gives one less Power, and most significantly, does not give the targeted creature Lifelink. The fact that Unnatural Endurance is so cheap makes it worth considering, as there is a huge difference between having to hold up three mana versus holding up one. However, in my estimation it is the Lifelink ability that makes Butcher's Glee so devastating, since it saves your creature, usually kills the opposing one, and gains you something like five life on average. That's a huge swing, and as such I don't see much hope for this card while they are both in the format.

Verdict: Borderline - It's unnatural to have such similar cards, as the metagame will only endure one.

9. Untamed Hunger is an interesting variant on the classic Black Aura Unholy Strength. In this case, you're paying an additional two mana just to gain Menace, which doesn't seem like a very good deal in light of cards like Gruesome Deformity, which grant a similar ability for only a single mana. And of course, there's the standard disclaimer that Auras come with all sorts of drawbacks, including the risk of being two-for-one'd when the creature is killed, either immediately as you cast the spell, or even within the next turn or so. But with all that said, Auras have proven to be pretty good in Red or Rakdos aggressive decks, so this might find a home there, especially given how useful Menace would be in such a list.

Verdict: Borderline - The format isn't hungry for more cards like this, so try to tame your enthusiasm.

10. In Battle for Zendikar, Kalastria Nightwatch proved to quite strong if you could reliably generate ways of gaining Life to activate its ability. Now with Oath of the Gatewatch, Vampire Envoy is the perfect solution. As a 1/4 Flying creature for 2B, it will be able to attack in a variety of board states, and instead could even incentivize you to build around the Cohort ability, which gives you a repeatable way to gain life every turn. In the past, Orzhov builds that slowly gain advantage over time have been pretty good, and in combination with the Nightwatch and other Allies, there just might be such a deck here. On the other hand, outside of such a deck, this card is fine but nothing special.

Verdict: Borderline - I don't know about the vampires, but for me this card speaks for itself.

11. Witness the End is almost a functional reprint of Mental Agony from Avacyn Restored, save that it exiles the two cards instead of simply forcing your opponent to discard them. That's clearly a big upgrade, since it prevents your opponent from using them to fuel Delve or return them to hand later. And, like Oblivion Strike, it also allows you to later activate any Processor effects, as minimal as they may be. Most of the time though, Black only wants Mind Rot-type effects against spell heavy Control decks, and typically Duress is a better option, since it allows you to specifically target the most troublesome spell in hand. So while I don't hate this card, it certainly doesn't excite me either.

Verdict: Borderline - We will never witness the end of Mind Rot variants at Common.

12. Zulaport Chainmage is our Black Cohort Ally, and probably the one that generates the most powerful effect. A 4/2 for 3B is unusually aggressive for Black, and the fact that this means it trades for many two- and three-drop creatures is definitely a liability. Clearly though, this synergizes well with the aforementioned Vampire Envoy, allowing you to tap two creatures every turn to effectively net a three Life advantage over your opponent. That's a pretty high setup cost though, and the Chainmage itself is vulnerable to just about every removal spell in the format. I still think it's worth testing in a dedicated Orzhov build, but outside of that this is just too vulnerable to see much play.

Verdict: Borderline - Chaining this together with other Allies is certainly tempting.

As so often is the case, the best card in Black is a removal spell - in this case, Oblivion Strike. Of the rest, I think Corpse Churn and Vampire Envoy are probably the next best Black Commons, with the rest being either fringe playable at best or absolute chaff at worst. I certainly don't see anything here that would be sufficient to push Black out of its role as mostly a support color for Rakdos, Jund Allies, or some form of UB Control.

III. Red

1. Akoum Flameseeker is one of two Red Cohort cards at Common, and while there isn't much to get excited about here, the card could be worse. At 3/2 for 2R, it's already almost good enough by itself to see play in an aggressive build. Further, the ability to "rummage" every turn is certainly a way to generate some decent card selection over the course of a long game. Unfortunately, Red doesn't typically lend itself to a Control archetype except as fuel for removal, and Allies seem even worse in such an archetype. While White and Black might be sufficient to create a viable Allies build, none of the three Red Allies look to be good in such a build. It's not terrible, but nothing here really incentivizes you to play it either.

Verdict: Borderline - I koum think of a lot better cards you should seek to play.

2. While the Blue Surge cards didn't really give you much of a discount for activating their secondary cost, Boulder Salvo gives you an impressive three mana discount if this is your second spell cast in a turn. 4 damage is usually enough to destroy just about any opposing creature, and seems reasonably priced at 1R. Sadly though, you can only cast this at Sorcery speed, which makes this an overcosted Bathe in Dragonfire that you sometimes can get a one-mana discount on and sometimes have to pay way more than the spell is worth. At least Arrow Storm lets you target opponents, but this can only affect creatures. All in all, I think the discount is actually just a trap, and this is a terrible card.

Verdict: Myth - Perhaps the biggest salvo against this is the memory of Flame Slash for a mere 1 mana!

3. Brute Strength comes into a card pool where Red already has several good combat tricks, with both Temur Battle Rage and Titan's Strength as the best of the bunch. In fact, the latter card is cheaper, and gives you Scry 1 instead of Trample, which is far more important in most aggressive Red decks due to their typical low Land count. A three point boost to Power is certainly impressive, but usually Red wants to use such effects to pump up an unblocked attacker rather than as a way of punching extra damage past a blocker. Once Magic Origins rotates out along with Dragons of Tarkir, this has the potential to fill that slot. But until such a time, this card is simply outclassed as a cheap combat trick.

Verdict: Borderline - It's strong enough, but isn't currently powerful enough to make the brute squad.

4. Cinder Hellion looks good at first blush. Creatures with native Trample are pretty unusual at Common, and this card is a very reasonable 4/4 for 4R that not only has Trample but also deals 2 points of damage when it enters the battlefield. One would be very tempted to try to slot this into an aggressive Red deck as your finisher, but most of the time those decks aren't suited to run any five-drop creature, no matter how good it might be. That fact relegates this card and others like it to a more midrange Gruul style deck, and generally speaking this aren't enough powerful high mana creatures to make that strategy viable very often. So while this card mostly has what it takes, I just don't see a good home for it in the current metagame.

Verdict: Borderline - It burns me up that such a good card will probably go to waste.

5. Consuming Sinkhole is an odd card. It's almost a Lava Axe that can target creatures, save that the only creatures it can target in the format are Lands that have been animated by means of Awaken. As good as the Izzet Prowess deck is in the metagame right now, I'm not sure this even warrants a Sideboard slot, since dealing with their animated Lands is hardly your biggest concern when facing down that deck. So despite its flexibility, I still think this is only really good in hyper aggressive decks where Lava Axe already shines and probably then only in the Sideboard. And, generally speaking, those decks historically just aren't viable in Standard Pauper; as such, I'm going to have to pass.

Verdict: Borderline - This sinks into a hole that I don't think the format is trying to fill.

6. Eldrazi Aggressor is nothing special as a 2/3 for 2R; however, if you're playing another colorless creature, the value of this card goes up quite a bit. Especially if you're playing an aggressive build, a 2/3 for 2R with Haste is quite good, if still not quite as good as Mage-Ring Bully, which seems to be the standard by which low-drop Red creatures are judged in the format right now. There certainly are plenty of solid Devoid creatures in the card pool currently, which means that the setup cost isn't too high for this card. If this had another ability, or if there were more cards that rewarded you for playing multiple Devoid creatures, this might be an all-star. As is, it's solid but still not impressive.

Verdict: Borderline - I wouldn't be too aggressive in putting this card into your deck.

7. There are a handful of one-mana cantrips like Expedite at Common in Oath of the Gatewatch, which are clearly designed to synergize well with Surge cards. And even better, they also potentially are quite good with Prowess as well. But as much as the Izzet Prowess deck wants to activate Prowess every turn, the effect of this card is pretty mediocre. Granted, it can be quite devastating to play a creature and then attack with it in the same turn. But other than that particular scenario, this card does absolutely nothing other than cycle. I don't think Izzet Prowess really is looking to be this aggressive, and I don't foresee any other decks getting a whole lot of use out of this either. It just doesn't do enough to make it worth including in your deck.

Verdict: Myth - This will only slow down your chances of winning over time.

8. Goblin Freerunner certainly has a lot going on. You get a two mana discount off its Surge cost, potentially giving you a 3/2 with Menace on Turn 3, which certainly has the potential to do a lot of damage before your opponent can deal with it. And even as a 3/2 with Menace for 3R, that isn't the absolute worst. It's also an Ally, although as I mentioned earlier I don't believe that Red will be the color to support an Ally strategy. That said, this seems like it deserved a spot in an aggressive Rakdos or RDW style deck, where the combination of cheap creatures, burn, and combat tricks gives you good odds on being able to cast this for the Surge cost more often than not. This isn't enough to build around, but it's decent value for what it is.

Verdict: Borderline - It's certainly not free, but it's cheap enough with Surge to be worth running.

9. Back in Alara block I was fascinated with Darklit Gargoyle, and Maw of Kozilek is surprisingly similar. A 2/5 for 3R is about right, since you're getting an extra point of Power and Toughness over your typical Horned Turtle for your one extra mana. Assuming you have access to multiple colorless mana, this can range from a 2/5 to a 4/3 to a 6/1. However, each time you pump mana into it, you're increasing its vulnerability to removal significantly, which is certainly a risk you need to keep in mind. And while the flexibility is nice, having to run colorless sources of mana is a big price to pay for that flexibility. I want to like this card, but ultimately I don't think it will see much play.

Verdict: Borderline - Something about this just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

10. Have we really reached a point where Shock now costs two mana, as it does with Reality Hemorrhage? If this was a true colorless spell, the extra point of mana would certainly be warranted. In no case should you ever play this over Twin Bolt, since that card gives you the exact same amount of damage while allowing you to at least split in up as you choose. Even in a very aggressive deck, I would probably prefer Fiery Impulse as well, since it makes up for not being able to target players by allowing you to squeeze out an extra point of damage. It's possible that once Standard rotates this might be the best cheap removal spell in Red, but I refuse to believe that Standard Pauper will actually come to that.

Verdict: Myth - I reject the notion that expensive removal like this is the new reality.

11. Speaking of Twin Bolt, Sparkmage's Gambit is yet another card that doesn't seem to hold up well against it. This forces you to split the damage up among two creatures, and what's worse requires you to play it at Sorcery speed. Of course, I would argue that this spell isn't really about dealing damage at all, but instead is about the secondary effect of preventing creatures from blocking. In that case, this is a pretty sad nerf to Magmatic Chasm and other Falter-like spells, which can affect an unlimited number of creatures. Granted, this card does allow you to keep (two) flyers from blocking. But overall, this card just seems like a bad version of two different cards that at least are combined into one card.

Verdict: Borderline - Calling this strictly unplayable is too much of a gamble for even me.

12. Zada's Commando is our other Red Cohort Ally in Oath of the Gatewatch, and I can't help but compare it to Zulaport Chainmage. Granted, it costs half as much, and the fact that it has First Strike definitely goes a long way. But its Cohort ability is quite weak, forcing you to tap two creatures just to deal a single point of damage to your opponent. However, unlike most of the other Cohort cards, this one is actually worth playing even if you never plan on activating the Cohort ability. Thanks to First Strike, this matches up quite well against most other two- and three-drops, and thus is playable in most Red-based aggressive decks for that reason alone. So I guess that means it's actually better than it looks.

Verdict: Borderline - This doesn't command much respect, but I won't say it will see zada play.

Red is probably my least favorite color in Oath of the Gatewatch, as it cards just seem too mediocre to make much impact in the format. For my money, I would rank Goblin Freerunner as the best of the bunch, with Cinder Hellion as a close second, even though I don't think the latter really has a home in the format. A few of the other cards are probably worth testing in some very aggressive builds, but I don't see any of them that are clearly better than cards Red already has access to.

IV. Green

1. Apparently Craw Wurm just isn't good enough anymore, as now we get Canopy Gorger, which for the exact same cost gets an extra point of Toughness over its classic cousin. It's fantastic to get 6 points of Power for 6 mana, especially in Green which is supposed to excel in this particular characteristic. Nonetheless, this is still not what you want to be doing for six mana, even in Standard Pauper. Perhaps if this had Trample or one of the new mechanics from the set, or was even an Ally, there might be some incentive to play this card. But as is, this is just a worse Segmented Krotiq, and that card hasn't seen any play at all since it was printed in Dragons of Tarkir. It's not terrible, but it's also nothing special.

Verdict: Borderline - While it may be able to gorge itself on creatures and players, it still doesn't rise to the top.

2. Elemental Uprising is the kind of effect you'd normally expect to see in Red, such as the classic Ball Lightning. On an empty board or defenseless board, this is virtually a 2 mana deal 4 damage in Green, but you have to remember that this also requires you to have an additional untapped Land. Even worse, if your opponent is able to block or remove it, you're down both a card and a Land, which is a pretty devastating loss. On the other hand, this can also be used as a surprise blocker or even to force your opponent into a disadvantageous block. Given all that versatility, I'm almost tempted to give this a better than average rating. But I think I'll stick with borderline but note that it's probably close to being a "hit."

Verdict: Borderline - Considering its diverse elements, this is definitely rising in my estimation.

3. Lead by Example is quite similar to Dragonscale Boon or the base ability of Earthen Arms, save that it's significantly cheaper than the former and an Instant unlike the latter. As a Sorcery speed card, this would be pretty mediocre. But as an Instant, this becomes a decent combat trick, allowing you to slightly boost two creatures, potentially turning two trades into a two-for-one in the best case scenario. Of course, it also requires you to split them among two creatures (although you can cast it and give a single counter to your only creature), and a single point of Power and Toughness isn't really a substantial boost. Still, it's a decent combat trick for Green, especially since you get to keep the counters.

Verdict: Borderline - This is a leading example of good design for a mechanic card at Common.

4. Long gone are the days of Borderland Ranger, Civic Wayfinder, and the like, all of which granted you a Land when they entered the battlefield. Loam Larva may look like those cards, save for the small but significant difference that the Land you search out is placed on top of your Library rather than into your hand. So you're getting a 1/3 for 1G, and you have the option of giving up your next draw to replace it with any basic Land from your Library. While this is better than the mediocre Ainok Guide, you really only want to draw this card when you're desperate for a particular Land. Thus, if neither the creature itself nor the ability to search up a Land are that good, I'm not optimistic about this card's chances.

Verdict: Borderline - While not terrible, most of the time you're better off burying this in your virtual binder.

5. Natural State is our necessary variant/reprint of Naturalize. For a one mana discount, you lose the ability to target Artifacts or Enchantments with a casting cost higher than 3. While playable Artifacts remain few and far between in the format right now, there certainly are some Enchantments that you might want to bring answers in from your Sideboard, and most of those do in fact cost 3 or less converted mana. But Green-based decks are rarely hurting for mana, so why would you take the risk of playing this card when you could just as easily instead play Naturalize and simply pay the extra mana so as to not have to worry about the mana cost at all? There really isn't much of an interesting choice here.

Verdict: Myth - If you want to return something to its natural state, play Naturalize instead.

6. While it was a sad day when Giant Spider finally saw its last reprint, Green has had some interesting variants since that time, including this reprint of Netcaster Spider from Magic 2015. Compared to its predecessor, you're only losing a single point of Toughness while being one mana cheaper to cast. And even better, the secondary ability all but guarantees that this card will at the very least trade with just about any flyer, and often will be big enough to hold your opponent's creature back entirely. While Plummet is still probably a better option to deal with pesky flyers, Netcaster Spider is certainly worth considering for that same role, particularly in a deck where you're playing a lot of combat tricks or similar effects.

Verdict: Borderline - I don't want to cast my net too wide; this is solid but not amazing.

7. Pulse of Murasa is an interesting variant on Reclaim and similar cards in Green. It's actually more like Disentomb, since there will be very few board states where you would prefer to get back a Land, assuming you even have one in your Graveyard. And unlike Reclaim, the card goes directly to hand rather than to the top of your Library. But the biggest factor in evaluating this card is the Lifegain. In general, cards that only gain you Life are fairly mediocre, no matter the amount. However, in this case 6 Life is quite a bit, and you're also trading the card for your most desirable card from your Graveyard in most situations. It's even an Instant, which might matter in rare situations. All in all, this is actually pretty decent.

Verdict: Borderline - I want to take the pulse of this card further, but at this point it actually looks tempting.

8. Saddleback Lagac is weird. At Green, you'd hope to get at least a 3/3 for 3G with a decent ability. Instead, you get a 3/1 that also allows you to place a permanent +1 / +1 counter on up to two target creatures. You're essentially getting 5 points of Power and 3 points of Toughness for your 3G, but spread among three different creatures, one of whom will end up with a very vulnerable 1 Toughness, which is a definitely liability. Still, in a Green Stompy archetype where you expect to have plenty of creatures on the board by turn 4, you could certainly do much worse. Even better, as long as Khans of Tarkir is in the format, this card synergizes well with Outlast. So how good does that make this?

Verdict: Borderline - I went back and forth, but it lagacs anything that really stands out to me.

9. Nest Invader is reborn as Scion Summoner, giving you 3 points of Power and Toughness for your three mana, albeit split among two creatures. Even better, the Eldrazi Scion potentially ramps and fixes your mana if you need Colorless, and is probably one of the best ways to generate Colorless mana in Oath of the Gatewatch. Green would gladly play a vanilla 3/3 for 2G, and while this isn't quite that good, the extra versatility helps make up for what it lacks in raw power. I would love to see a Green Ramp deck come back into the spotlight in Standard Pauper, and if such a deck is to emerge, Scion Summoner seems like it would be a natural inclusion. If you're playing Green, you should probably play this.

Verdict: Hit - Don't summon any contempt for my rating; this may be the scion of Green in this set.

10. Stalking Drone is another card that looks good if you have access to Colorless mana, but is otherwise fairly mediocre. The fact that you can give it a virtual Holy Strength for a single Colorless mana is a great deal, potentially allowing this to attack as a 3/4 on Turn 3. Better yet, since this would most natural fit in a Green Stompy archetype, getting access to Colorless mana isn't near as difficult as it might be in other archetypes. Clearly this synergizes well with the previous card, as simply the threat of being able to pump this up will often be enough to discourage your opponent from blocking it. At the end of the day, the only thing holding this back from a higher rating is the requirement that you have consistent access to Colorless mana.

Verdict: Borderline - Either this is sneaking into being almost good, or my standards are slipping.

11. Tajuru Pathwarden is the only Green Ally in Oath of the Gatewatch, and seems like it might be right at home with its cousin Tajuru Beastmaster. Even outside of a dedicated Ally build, a 5/4 with both Trample and Vigilance for 4G is pretty good value. It's big enough that your opponent can't easily get past it in combat, and Trample guarantees that they can't jump chump block it without serious consequences. However, this also is competing in the same slot as both Rhox Maulers and Stampeding Elk Herd, both of which are at least as good, and probably better in many cases. So for this to see play over those, I expect you'd only want this in a deck that values other Allies, which definitely makes this less than stellar.

Verdict: Borderline - I can see the path for this to be good; but I'd ward against making it an auto-include.

12. Vines of Vastwood this is not, but I doubt we'll see a card such as that printed at Common anytime soon. Instead, Vines of the Recluse turns any creature into a virtual Giant Spider, boosting its Power and Toughness and allowing it to untap and unexpectedly block one of your opponent's flyers. As strictly a means of dealing with flyers, I like this much less than both Plummet and Netcaster Spider. And as a combat trick, for just one additional mana you get Titanic Growth, which is better in most circumstances. The only real advantage this card has is the element of surprise when you untap a creature and block, but I'm not sure that's enough to make this better than the other cards mentioned earlier.

Verdict: Myth - I hate to exclude this card, but it needs to go be by itself elsewhere.

Overall I like the look of Green. While the creatures aren't amazing, they are quintessential Green cards, and I suspect that both Scion Summoner and Stalking Drone will see play. Elemental Uprising also caught my eye, and it may be that even Lead by Example and Pulse of Murasa may find a home. It's fairly well established that Green was the weakest color in Battle for Zendikar, so I'm glad to see that this set is helping to correct that balance.

V. Conclusion

And so that does it for my Standard Pauper review of Oath of the Gatewatch. 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 and Thursdays, 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 over on 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 for all the information and then come join us at 2:00pm EST / 7:00pm GMT in the /join MPDC room.

VI. Postscript

I apparently managed to miss a Blue card in my previous article. Whoops! I was under a pretty tight deadline, and not at my best, so I apologize for not only missing a card but a little bit of sloppiness in my article as well. But at least I can correct the first error here.

Abstruse Interference is our Cancel variant for the set, and it's pretty conditional. While Force Spike is good enough to see play in Vintage Cubes, paying 3 mana instead of 1 for the same effect is much worse. At least in this case, regardless of whether your opponent can pay or not, you do get the bonus of a 1/1 Eldrazi Spawn that can later be sacrificed for a Colorless mana. This card would have been so much better if it required your opponent to pay one colorless (as opposed to one generic), and that card would have at least been worth considering, even if it was still probably worse than Cancel. But as is, in Standard Pauper you often have more mana than you need by the mid to late game, making it trivial to pay the 1 mana.

Verdict: Myth - So that this intrusion doesn't interfere with my article, let's just say it's bad and call it a day.


I like your articles, but by laughinman at Thu, 01/28/2016 - 17:03
laughinman's picture

I like your articles, but aren't there way too many Borderline rated cards?

Review Utility by ComixWriter at Thu, 01/28/2016 - 17:30
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Thanks, gwyned, for your analysis of all the new common-rarity cards from Oath of the Gatewatch!

I'm having some difficulty understanding your rating system; in particular, the 'borderline' category confuses me. I appreciate the historical perspective of new cards, either by cmc value or re-prints. However, those cards did not exist in a vacuum, and their metagame may be quite different than that same re-print/similar card in the current metagame. I fear your reviews may exist in a vacuum.

As a casual, newer player familiar with Standard Pauper, I look to guides like yours for insights I may not initially grasp. I don't think anyone predicted how Izzet Prowess would dominate for a time with 60%+ win ratios. Therefore, I can accept and expect how some predictions may be way off base in the real metagame, and that's a tradeoff for being brave to speculate.

However, sometimes you list a lot of favorable traits for a card, and castrate it with a 'borderline' rating. For White, you listed NO Hits (and none for Red, either), with 83% of white cards listed as 'borderline.' At that ratio, I cannot find much utility of the evaluations; couldn't almost anyone say that 75%+ of the cards MIGHT be playable in the right deck? Blue, Green, and Red all had 75% of new cards listed as 'borderline.'

Instead, may I ask what primary archtype gained the MOST with Oath of the Gatewatch? Which archtypes, that we haven't seen (much) in Standard Pauper, got a shot in the arm with the new cards? How do you classify colorless cards- are they best suited for an aggro build, or would it be combo, or...aggro-combo? I appreciate the effort spent in reviewing the cards, but with a wide-open 'borderline' ranking, I feel these reviews exist in a vacuum with no impact on the metagame.

New ratings? by gwyned at Thu, 01/28/2016 - 18:19
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Appreciate the comments and feedback. This set in particular is fairly bland. Most of the cards aren't terrible, but they aren't great either. One of the reasons I discuss the cards and don't just give a rating is so that you can get some sense of which ones are better than the others. So I definitely encourage you to read the rationale, not just look at the rating.

But perhaps it would be better for me to try to distinguish a bit more in the 'borderline' cases. Either that, or stop doing a card-by-card analysis. Something to consider.

It's also very difficult to tell before you actually test cards exactly what their role will be in the metagame. That's why I spend so much time looking at previous cards. If a card was good in the past, it's likely to be good in the present, all other things being equal. If a card was terrible before, or isn't as good as an existing card, chances are it won't make much impact.

Finally, I don't see any of these cards having a big impact on any of the current archetypes or are automatic includes. As I mentioned, I think the Green and White are both good enough that we might see a resurgence of mono-colored versions of those decks (perhaps with the easy splash for Colorless). Again, these are things that I discussed both in the individual ratings and in the summaries.

Confused by ComixWriter at Thu, 01/28/2016 - 22:24
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I guess I am confused as a newer player.

Goblin Freerunner gets tapped as the best red common in the set, per your own blog.

In this article, you reference FIVE DIFFERENT good things about the card, including valuing surge and ally mechanics, possible archtype homes, and the importance of menace.

...and this card gets a 'borderline' evaluation?!?!

Sure, you also suggest how this card is not screaming to build around it, but with the NWO, what cards fit this bill in common?

What got a 'hit' from you? A LAND that produces colorless mana, while you (and seemingly, everyone else) bemoan colorless/devoid as a nice try but not really viable as hoped. You hype Goblin Freerunner and 'borderline' it, while dissing colorless and giving a colorless-producing land as a 'hit.' Can you see why I may be confused?

Honestly, I don't care about how accurate you might be. At this point, my confusion stems from incongruency.

I like pastries.
I like fruit.
I guess some people may like blueberry crepes, but I do not like them.

Again, thanks for the by gwyned at Fri, 01/29/2016 - 07:37
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Again, thanks for the feedback. I guess I need to clarify my ratings (and come up with two middle terms instead of just the non-descript "borderline"). A hit is a card that you will always play in that particular color or is a card worth building an entire deck around. A myth is a card that you should never play.

And therein lies the problem, I suppose. Almost none of the cards in the set fit into either of those categories.

Goblin Freerunner is the best Red Common. It has good stats for its cost. But the two major archetypes that are running Red are Izzet and Rakdos. It almost certainly doesn't make the cut in Izzet. And in Rakdos and RDW, it might be good enough, but it also might not - testing will be required.

Hence, while it is good, I wouldn't say it's good enough to build around or be played in every Red deck. So I note that its strengths and weaknesses, and then gave it the grade I did because I don't think it's amazing, but it's better than average.

It seems like you're not the by JMason at Fri, 01/29/2016 - 12:03
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It seems like you're not the only one finding this set won't fit into your grading system easily; Sheldon Menery on SCG graded 29 cards on the Definitely Play list, but then only used 16 in his EDH decks.
Logically you should be using a larger proportion of Oath since standard pool is smaller, so it may really be this is a bad set.

I know you put a lot of effort into these comprehensive reviews, so you probably are disappointed if I tell you I normally do a search on "Verdict: Hit" and just skim the rest. Sorry. Like you though I'm focused on 'playables'. Perhaps you should try only mentioning the hits next set, but do more theorizing / metacrafting on those cards?

Existential Crisis by ComixWriter at Fri, 01/29/2016 - 14:59
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Thanks, gwyned. I really appreciate your responses with candor and sportsmanship. I see you as the public face of Standard Pauper, so it's a little humbling to see you reply.

I agree that so many cards don't automatically seem to fit into any established archtype, yet still SEEM playable.

With smaller sets, AND the NWO castration of effective common-rarity cards, maybe you won't have to do complete set reviews.

I would elevate reviews that focused less on 'borderline' cards and more about 1) Best Creature in [Color], 2) Best Non-Creature Spell (or Land) in [Color], and 3) Sideboard Star in [Color]. Readers could evaluate their own choices in light of your proclamations. Readers can improve their evaluations before sleeve-up cards.

You've always provided lots of great rationale in your card descriptions, gwyned, so I wouldn't want the paragraph-length evaluations to stop. What I may ask to see is where - exactly - you see this card thriving. If Goblin Freerunner doesn't easily fit into Izzet Prowess, that doesn't help me, really, unless I strongly disagree. What would be more helpful is to suggest how a Mono-Red Aggro deck may emerge with some combination of (read: NOT A FREE DECKLIST TO CUT/PASTE):

Aggressive decks typically want to finish their game by Turn 5. Knowing this route, playing hasted creatures with evasion and support cards may help achieve this strategy. Goblin Freerunner - a new card listed as the 'Best Creature In Red' - can help, too. Here's what I think may also work in a Goblin Freerunner deck...

Kolaghan Stormsinger has haste, but its morph mechanic seems too slow. A great Turn 1 play also helps the deck avoid Celestial Flares, and at worst provides another target for buffering spells or chump-block defense.

Mage-Ring Bully grows large with non-creature spells cast. Any cantrips refill our hands, but any 'creature(s) cannot block' spells may be better than a cheap cantrip. I'm taking Sparkmage's Gambit more seriously, because it may both kill two early x/1 creatures of stop flyers from blocking. While I think it may be the best non-creature spell in red for this set, I also think some maindeck/sideboard combination of Magmatic Chasm and Barrage of Boulders may compete with this card for space.

Spidersilk Net/Bone Saw costs nothing to cast, but provides very little support because of the mana needed to equip them. I doubt I will want a full playset of either card, and maybe not even four total copies of both cards in any ratio. However, Spidersilk Net boosts toughness and adds reach, but I salivate over the idea of feeding Mage-Ring Bully's prowess, equip only as needed, and triggering surge to drop...

Goblin Freerunner as early as Turn 2 (Turn 1, anything but preferably Kolaghan Stormsinger; Turn 2, 0cmc equipment and Goblin Freerunner with menace). Again, Spidersilk Net may keep this menacing goblin ally alive longer, especially if I'm forced into a longer game beyond Turn 5.

Titan's Strength's scry mechanic should not be ignored. Beyond this non-creature spell buff, I expect I may want half-a-dozen buffing spells, with which red runs rampant.

Infectious Bloodlust provides haste, a small buff, and replaces itself upon death. For a deck looking to quickly field threats and draw more cards, this seems like an automatic 4x inclusion. Further testing will tell.

Looming Spires are good enough for a mono-red deck, especially since it can provide +1/+1 and 1st strike. Our menacing Goblin Freerunner becomes so much more dangerous. I prefer Looming Spires over Kindled Fury because of the mana generation, but I will try either it or Sure Strike if I seek dedicated first strike abilities.

Cinder Hellion get the nod as the Sideboard Star for this deck. It deal damage with a considerable body with trample. It provides both damage and solid defense when cast, and applies more trample pressure in the mid-to-late games. I'd prefer having two damage done quickly, rather than force the ally cohort route with too many fragile (alebit easier to cast) creatures. Knowing that I can do two damage without having to attack and stabilize my defense/later attacks is an attractive option...but suggest that I play past Turn 5, most likely.

The rest of the deck should address card drawing, which likely includes Tormenting Voice, and a few more creatures. Valley Dashers and dash-mechanic creatures apply pressure, but we may need to consider the mid-range game against some control or token decks. Other casual considerations for the mid-to-late game may include options like Hardened Berserker or Arrow Storm, especially considering the expressed intent of attacking often and quickly (and knowing we already have Mage-Ring Bully and Infectious Bloodlust requirements of attacking each turn if able).

This has been my Standard Pauper Review of Red in Oath of the Gatewatch. I've covered several cards that merit your serious consideration. Does Goblin Freerunner deserve a home in Izzet Prowess or Aggro Rakdos? Will Sparkmage's Gambit be as effective as I suggested? What sideboard options will mono-red aggro need against flying opponents' creatures? Am I right to largely ignore direct damage spells in the new set as functional copies of existing cards? Join us at, register, and play in Standard Pauper events regularly held on Sundays and Mondays, and prove you are NOT A COMMON PLAYER!

Does this make sense? I never needed to use 'hit' or 'myth' or any new variable. I showed some cards I think MIGHT be good, and defended those ideas by building a shell in which are housed my cards' strengths. Am I wrong? Hey, I probably am far off base. This is why *I* don't write Standard Pauper reviews, though ;)

There are different phases of by daogunta2016 at Fri, 07/15/2016 - 07:56
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There are different phases of life. It depends on your own way of dealing with it. - Mark Zokle